Monday, January 4, 2010


The province of Sindh has been designated after the river Sindh (Indus) which literally created it and has been also its sole means of sustenance. However, the importance of the river and close phonetical resemblance in nomenclature would make one consider Sindhu as the probable origin of the name of Sindh. Later phonetical changes transformed Sindhu into Hindu in Pahlavi and into Hoddu in Hebrew. The Greeks (who conquered Sindh in 125 BC under the command of the Alexander the great) rendered it into Indos, hence modern Indus.
The Indus valley civilization is the farthest visible outpost of archeology in the abyss of prehistoric times. The areas constituting Pakistan have had a historical individuality of their own and Sindh is the most important among such areas. The prehistoric site of Kot Diji in Sindh has furnished information of high significance for the reconstruction of a connected story which pushes back the history of Pakistan by at least another 300 years, from about 2,500 BC. Evidence of a new element of pre-Harappan culture has been traced here. When the primitive village communities in Baluchistan were still struggling against a difficult highland environment, a highly cultured people were trying to assert themselves at Kot Diji one of the most developed urban civilization of the ancient world that flourished between the year 25,00 BC and 1,500 BC in the Indus valley sites of Moenjodaro and Harappa. The people were endowed with a high standard of art and craftsmanship and well-developed system of quasi-pictographic writing which despite ceaseless efforts still remains un-deciphered. The remarkable ruins of the beautifully planned Moenjodaro and Harappa towns, the brick buildings of the common people, roads, public-baths and the covered drainage system envisage the life of a community living happily in an organized manner.
The earliest authentic history of Sindh dates from the time when Alexander the Great abandoned his scheme of conquest towards the Ganges, alarmed at the discontent of his soldiers. He embarked a portion of the army in boats, floated them down the Jhelum and the Chenab, and marched the remainder on the banks of the river till he came to the Indus. There he constructed a fleet, which sailed along the coast towards the Persian Gulf with part of his forces, under the command of Nearchus and Ptolemy, whilst Alexander himself marched through Southern Baluchistan and Persia to Seistan or Susa. At that time Sindh was in the possession of the Hindus, the last of whose rulers was Raja Sahasi, whose race, as is reported by native historians, governed the kingdom for over two thousand years. The Persian monarchs were probably alluded to, for in the sixth century BC Sindh was invaded by them, They defeated and slew the monarch in a pitched battle and plundered the province and then left. Eight years after his accession to the Persian throne, Darius I, son of Hystaspes extended his authority as far as the Indus. This was about 513 BC.
The Arab conquest of Sindh by Muhammad Bin Qasim in 712 AD gave the Muslims a firm foothold on the sub-continent. The description of Hiun Tsang, a Chinese historian, leaves no doubt that the social and economic restrictions inherent in the caste differentiations of Hindu society had however, gradually sapped the inner vitality of the social system and Sindh fell without much resistance before the Muslim armies. According to Al-Idreesi, the famous city of Al-Mansura was founded during the reign of Mansur (754-775 AD) the second Khalifa of the Abbasid dynasty. Khalifa Harun-al-Rashid (786-809 AD) was able to extend the frontiers of Sindh on its western side. For nearly two hundred years since its conquest by Muhammad Bin Qasim, Sindh remained an integral part of the Umayyad and the Abbasid caliphates. The provincial governors were appointed directly by the central government. History has preserved a record of some 37 of them.
The Arab rule brought Sindh within the orbit of the Islamic civilization, Sindhi language was developed and written in the naskh script. Education became widely diffused and Sindhi scholars attained fame in the Muslim world. Agriculture and commerce progressed considerably. Ruins of Mansura, the medieval Arab capital of Sindh (11 kms south east of Shahdadpur) testify to the grandeur of the city and the development of urban life during this period.
In the 10th century, native people replaced the Arab rule in Sindh. Samma and Soomra dynasties ruled Sindh for long. These dynasties produced some rulers who obtained fame due to judicious dispensation and good administration.
Sindh was partially independent and the scene of great disorders till late in the sixteenth century when it failed into the hands of Emperor Akbar, and for a hundred and fifty years the chiefs paid tribute, but only as often as they were compelled to do so, to the Emperor at Delhi. Later the Kalhora clan claiming descent from the house of Abbas and long settled in Sindh produced religious leaders of whom Main Adam Shah attained prominence in the 16th century. His descendants continued to gather large following and this enabled them to capture political power in the north western Sindh under the leadership of Mian Nasir Muhammad. This happened in the 2nd half of the 17th century. By the turn of that century, foundations of the Kalhora power were firmly laid in the northern Sindh under the leadership of Mian Yar Mohammad. During the reign of his son, Mian Noor Muhammad, lower Sindh with Thatta as its capital came under the Kalhora administration (1150 A.H).
Under the banner of Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur, the Balochis defeated the last Kalhora ruler Mian Abdul Nabi in the battle of Halani in 1782 AD. Talpur Amirs regained the parts of Sindh (Karachi, Khairpur, Sabzal Kot and Umar Kot) which the last Kalhora chief had conceded to the neighboring rulers. By eliminating the foreign interference, which had plagued the Kalhora rule, and by their essentially democratic way of governance, the Talpurs were able to take the people into confidence and thus achieved
Great many things within a short period of 60 years. They built up an excellent system of forts and outposts guarding the frontiers, extended the irrigation system, encouraged scholarly pursuits and educational institutions, and promoted trade and commerce internally as well as with the neighboring countries.
The British who came to Sindh also as traders became so powerful in rest of the sub-continent that in 1843 Sindh lost its independence falling prey to the British imperialistic policy. The Talpurs were defeated on the battlefields of Miani, Dubba and Kunhera and taken prisoners. The conquerors behaved inhumanly with the vanquished as they did with the Muslim rulers in India. Charles Napier who commanded the troops subsequently became the first Governor of the province of Sindh.
The British had conquered Sindh from their bases in Bombay and Kutch and their supporters were Hindus. Therefore, Sindh was annexed to the Bombay Presidency in 1843 and a constant policy to subdue the Muslim majority and to lionize the Hindu minority in Sindh was followed. Trade and commerce, Services and education became monopolies in the hands of the minority whom with the support of the rulers wrought havoc on Muslims. Within a few years forty percent of the Muslim land holdings passed on to the Hindu creditors. It was after a long struggle that the cause of Sindh was supported by the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah when he brought in his famous 14-points the demand of Sindh's separation from Bombay Presidency. H.H. Sir Agh Khan, G.M. Syed, Sir Abdul Qayyum Khan (NWFP) and many other Indian Muslim leaders also played their pivotal rule that was why the Muslims of Sindh succeeded in getting Sindh separated from the Bombay Presidency in 1936.

Thursday, December 31, 2009




The Sufis are not an ethnic or religious group, but a mystical movement that is found all over the Islamic world and that still has a deep influence on the varied populations of the Middle East.
Sufism grew historically as a reaction against the rigid legalism of the orthodox religious leadership and as a counterweight to the growing worldliness of the expanding Muslim empire.
One source of Sufism is to be found in the twofold presentation of God in the Qur'an: on the one hand he is described as the almighty creator, lord and judge, and on the other hand he is seen as abiding in the believer's heart and nearer to man than his own jugular vein.
Sufism searches for a direct mystical knowledge of God and of his Love. Its goal was to progress beyond mere intellectual knowledge to a mystical (existential) experience that submerged limited man in the infinity of God. It used Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, Hellenistic, Zoroastrian and Hindu traditions that were brought into Islam by converts from the many conquered populations. The name Sufi is derived from the Arabic word Suf which means wool. Early Sufis wore simple coarse woollen garments similar to those of Christian monks.
Sufism believed that the Qur'an and Hadith have secret, esoteric, meaning and symbolism (Batin). In opposition to the literal method of interpretation (Tafsir), Sufism used an allegorical method (Ta'wil) which looked for the hidden meaning and symbols in the holy texts.
Sufism had an important part in the formation of Muslim societies as it educated the masses and met their felt needs, giving spiritual meaning to their lives and channeling their emotions. Sufis were also great missionaries who converted new regions to Islam.
Its cultural contribution was a rich poetry in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Sindi, Pashto and Punjabi, which spread its mystical ideas all over the Muslim world and enriched local literature and identity.
Several techniques were developed to achieve the goal of a blissful union with Ultimate Reality. They were known as Dhikr (remembrance, mention of God) and Sama' (hearing). In the Dhikr Sufis would recite the many names of God and sing hymns of praise. Special forms of breathing were supposed to aid concentration and help them attain to an ecstatic state in which they actually felt they had reached union with God. During the Sama', poetry, music and dance were used as an aid to reaching the ecstatic state.
These informal groups later crystalized into Sufi brotherhoods gathered around famous leaders. In some countries even today most Muslims belong to one order or another. Around the Muslim world there are hundreds of orders and they are an important religious and political force.
Sufism is found amongst both Sunnis and Shi'a, being a movement within orthodox Islam. However it has many links with Isma'ilism and other extreme Shi'a sects (Ghulat) as it developed in similar times and circumstances.
Sufism developed in the 8th and 9th centuries in three major centres: 1. The cities of Basra, Kufa and Baghdad in Iraq. 2. The city of Balkh in the Khorasan district of Persia. 3. Egypt.
Muhammad is regarded as the first Sufi master who passed his esoteric teachings orally to his successors who also received his special grace (barakah). An unbroken chain of transmission of divine authority is supposed to exist from Muhammad to his successor 'Ali and from him down to generations of Sufi masters (Sheikhs, Pirs). Each order has its own Silsilah (chain) that links it with Muhammad and 'Ali.



Under the Umayads (661-749) there was a growing tendency to compare the wealth and luxury of the ruling class with the simple lifestyle of the first Caliphs. Devout believers were shocked by the worldliness and opulence of court life and they reacted with a growing concern for reality in their own personal relationship with God. Outward observance of the Shari'a laws could not satisfy their growing spiritual hunger, and they started to imitate Christian hermits who had discovered asceticism and poverty as a way to develop a close relationship with God.
The first Sufis were ascetics who meditated on the Day of Judgement. They were called "those who always weep" and "those who see this world as a hut of sorrows." They kept the external rules of Shari'a, but at the same time developed their own mystical ideas and techniques. "Little food, little talk, little sleep," was a popular proverb amongst them. Mortification of the flesh, self denial, poverty and abstinence were seen as the means of drawing near to God, and this included fasting and long nights of prayer.


Hasan of Basrah (d.728) was one of the first Sufi ascetics. He exhorted his followers against attachment to this evil world and encouraged them to reject it and to follow a path of poverty and abstinence.
Ibrahim b. Adham (d. 777) of Balkh in Khorasan taught his disciples the importance of meditation and of silence in worship.
Shaqiq of Balkh (d.810) taught that only a rigid system of self-discipline could lead to absolute trust in God (tawakkul) and to the mystical state (hal).
Al-Muhasibi (d.837 in Baghdad) taught that self-discipline and self-examination were the needed preparation for fellowship and union with God.
Dhu an-Nun of Egypt (d.859) taught that Ma'rifah (inner knowledge, enlightenment, Gnosis) was necessary to attain real union with God.
Abu Yazid al-Bistami (d. 874) taught that union with God is achieved through the annihilation of self (Fana'). This is done by a total stripping away of a person's attributes and personality and by rigorous mortification of the flesh. He was the first "intoxicated" Sufi who in his ecstatic state felt that God had replaced his own ego and now dwelt in his soul. This caused him to exclaim: "Glory to me! How great is my majesty!"
Junaid of Baghdad (d.910), stressed the importance of wisdom and sobriety in achieving both fana' (dying to self, extinction of self) and baqa' (abiding in God).
The first great Sufi martyr was Hallaj who was crucified in 922 in Baghdad for blasphemy. His offence was the statement "I am the Truth" which signified that he had attained union with God who now dwelt in his body instead of his own self. He saw Jesus as his great example of a holy man in whom God was incarnate.


A woman from Basrah in Iraq, Rabi'a al-Adawiya (d.801) introduced the theme of Divine Love into Sufism. She yearned to love God only for Himself, not for hope of any reward (paradise) nor out of fear of judgement (hell). Following her death the love theme became a dominant feature of Sufism. It expressed the Sufi's yearning for the development of a love relationship with God that would lead to an intimate experience of God and finally to a total union with God.
The love theme found its main expression in Sufi poetry in which the relations between God the Divine Lover and the man searching for his love were symbolically described. Early Sufi poems in Arabic express the soul's deep yearning for union with the beloved. Persian poetry often compared the soul's love relationship with God to that between a man and a beautiful youth. In Indian poetry the loving wife yearning for her husband symbolised the soul's yearning for God. Later poets developed the long mystical poems called Mathnawis ( Masnawis) which expressed in symbolical verse the manifold emotions of love to God and of unity with him.
Persia had the greatest flourishing of Sufi poetry, and most of its classical poetry has a Sufi content. One example is the Mathnawi "Mantiq al-Tair" (speech of the birds) by Farid al-Din 'Attar, an allegory which portrays the mystic on his pilgrimage from asceticism through illumination to union with God.
Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273), named "Mawlana" - our Lord or Teacher - was the greatest Persian mystical poet. His famous Mathnawi of 26,000 rhythmic couplets is a real encyclopaedia of Sufi allegorical and mystical thought and experience. Persian Sufis regard it as next to the Qur'an in holiness. Rumi also founded the Mawlawi (Mevlevi) order of whirling dervishes.
Sufi poetry uses the symbols of wine (God's intoxicating love), the wine cup (the Sufi's heart) and the cup bearer (the spiritual guide). The wine house is the religion of love and it is compared to the religion of law symbolised by the mosque. Learning the many Sufi symbols and their meaning is essential to an understanding of this kind of poetry.

Early Sufi masters gathered informal circles of disciples and transmitted their teachings orally. At first, the orthodox religious authorities were very suspicious of the Sufis and accused them of heresy and blasphemy. This led some Sufis in the 10th century to defend Sufism by writing handbooks of their teaching and practice in the hope of proving their orthodoxy. Al-A'rabi (d.952), Makki (d.996), Sarraj (d. 988), Kalabadhi (d.1000) and Hujviri (d.1057) were such masters who wrote in defence of Sufism. They also published histories and biographies of Sufism, trying to prove that it was based on the practice (Sunnah) of the Prophet and his companions.
Al-Qushairi (d. 1072) defended Sufism against the accusations of antinomianism (lawlessness). In addition to writing biographies of Sufi saints he wrote "Risala", a book in which he defined Sufi doctrines and terms. He defined the mystical stations (maqamat, a result of the Sufi's own labours), and states (ahwal, mystical states bestowed by God's grace).
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d.1111), called Hujjat al-Islam - Proof Of Islam, was a great Muslim thinker who found no satisfaction in his extensive study of theology and law. Turning to Sufism he found in it the certainty of God he had yearned for and failed to find in his previous studies. In his book "The Revival of the Religious Sciences" (Ihya' 'Ulum ad-Din) he attempted to reconcile Sufism with orthodoxy. It was immensely popular and finally guaranteed Sufism an official place in orthodox Islam alongside Law and Theology.


Theosophy is any mystical system of religious philosophy that claims a direct intuitive insight into God's nature. Theosophical speculations on the nature of God and man were introduced into Sufism by Sahl al-Tustari (d.896) and at-Tirmidi (d 898).
The greatest of all Sufi theosophical writers in Arabic was Ibn al-'Arabi (d.1240) who was born in Spain. He travelled to Tunis and Mecca and finally settled in Damascus. In his 500 books he teaches that all existence is but a manifestation of God, the one ultimate divine reality which is totally "other", an undifferentiated unity, but in whom the archtypes of all potential beings exist. This is the "unknown God" from whom emanates a hierarchy of divine beings (Names, Lords) the lowest of whom is the Lord of revelation and creation who is also called the First Intellect. The emanations are the mediating link between the unknowable, transcendent God and the created world. This teaching was the basis of the Sufi concept of the Unity of Being (Wahdat al-Wujud). The First Intellect, an emanation of the God was also called the "idea of Muhammad". He is the archtype through whom man was made. This emanation is incarnated in a Perfect Man in every generation - the perfect Sufi. This man most fully manifests the nature of God and he is the pole (Qutb, axis) around which the cosmos revolves. Ibn al-'Arabi saw himself as such a "pole" and he called himself the seal (the most perfect) of the saints.
Another theosophical system, that of illumination, was developed by Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi (executed in Aleppo in 1191). He taught that all things exist as varying degrees of light, beginning with the Absolute Light, the Light of Lights who is God himself. Light then spreads out from God in ever weaker degrees (angels), each reflecting the light above it to those beneath it. The whole world of being is composed of innumerable angels of light spreading out in geometrical patterns.
Indian Sufis were influenced by Hindu mysticism and strayed far from Islamic orthodoxy in their speculations. The Naqshbandi order founded in the 13th century in Central Asia to preserve true Islam from the ravages of the Mongol invasions, succeeded in keeping them within orthodoxy.
Ahmad Sirhindi (d.1624) taught that the Unity of Being was a subjective experience occurring only in the Sufi's mind - not the Hindu concept of total annihilation of the personal in the infinite.


Sufi orders began to form in the 12th and 13th centuries centering around a master founder and stressing companionship (Suhbah, fellowship) as essential to the Sufi spiritual path.
This was the time of the terrible Mongol invasions when the 'Abassid Caliphate in Bagdad was overthrown. Sufism was one of the forces that helped prevent the downfall of Islam. It helped convert the conquerors and had a stabilising influence on the community during those troubled times. This period was actually Sufism's golden age.
In its first stages Sufism had been the prerogative of a limited spiritual elite. From the twelfth century onwards it succeeded in involving the Muslim masses on a large scale in its network of orders. Sufi hospices, (Zawiyas in Arabic, Khanagas in Iranian, Ribat in the Maghreb and Tekkes in Turkish) were founded all over the Muslim world from Morocco to Central Asia. The Sheikh of each order, a successor of the original founder, presided over the hospice. In this centre he taught his disciples (Murids) and performed with them the Sufi rituals of Dhikr and Sama'.
There was an elaborate initiation ritual for the disciple when he was admitted into full membership (usually after three years). In this ceremony he received from the Sheikh a special cloak (Khirqa) which symbolised poverty and devotion to God. Sufis had no rule of celibacy and most were married. The orders received endowments from sympathetic rulers and rich citizens and some eventually became fabulously wealthy. Sufi orders had an extensive missionary outreach into Africa and into Southeast Asia where they are still very influential.
Each order developed its own specific set of techniques for its Dhikr and Sama', used by its members to attain to the ecstatic state. These rituals also had a social function, helping to unify people from widely varying backgrounds into a spiritual brotherhood.
The orders were thus a unifying force in society, drawing members from all social classes to their Dhikr and Sama' ceremonies as well as to their joyous celebrations of the anniversaries of the deaths of their founder ('Urs). They provided the masses with a spiritual and emotional dimension to religion which the hair splitting legalists could not supply.
The orders also established trade and craft guilds and provided hospices for travellers and merchants which were located along the great trade routes (such as the famous silk road). Between the 13th and the 18th century most Muslims belonged to some Sufi Tariqah.


There are more than two hundred known Sufi orders. Some are local, others universal. Some are rural and others are urban.

THE QADIRIYAH - the oldest and most widespread order. It has branches all over the world loosely tied to its centre at Baghdad. It was founded in Baghdad by 'Abd al-Qadir Jilani (d.1166), considered to be the greatest saint in Islam. It later became established in Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, the Maghreb, Central Asia and India. The Qadiriya stresses piety, humility, moderation and philanthropy and appeals to all classes of society being strictly orthodox. It is governed by a descendant of al-Jilani who is also the keeper of his tomb in Baghdad which is a pilgrimage centre for his followers from all over the world.

THE JILALIYA - a Qadiri branch in the Maghreb, worship al-Jilani as a supernatural being, combining Sufism with pre-Islamic ideas and practices.

THE NAQSHBANDIYA - was founded in Central Asia in the thirteenth century in an attempt to defend Islam against the ravages of the Mongol invasions. It later spread to the Indian subcontinent. The Naqshbandis tried to control the political rulers so as to ensure that they implemented God's will. They were politically and culturally active, the great poet Mir Dad (d.1785) belonged to this order. They were also connected to trade and crafts guilds and held political power in the 15th century in Central Asia and in Moghul India. A Naqshbandi branch, the Khaltawiyah, had an important part in efforts to modernise the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Naqshbandiya developed mainly as an urban order with close links to the orthodox hierarchy. They recite their Dhikr silently, ban music and dance, and prefer contemplation to ecstasy. Their "middle way" between extreme asceticism and extreme antinomianism seemed acceptable to the orthodox hierarchy. They have been involved in underground movements against Soviet rule in Central Asia and supported the Afghan Mujahedin against the Russians.

THE MAWLAWIYAH - this order was founded by Jalal al-Din Rumi (d.1273, called Mawlana), the greatest Sufi poet who wrote in Persian. Their rituals are aesthetically sophisticated, and their Sama' is famous for its exquisite combination of music, poetry and whirling dance (in the West they are called "Whirling Dervishes") which transports them into the trace like state.
The Mawlawiya were especially attractive to the educated elite of the Turkish Ottoman Empire and were widespread in Anatolia where they had close links with the authorities.

THE BEKTASHIYA - a syncretistic order whose ritual and beliefs are a mixture of Shi'ism, Orthodox Christianity and gnostic cults. By the sixteenth century the Bektashis were the order of the famous Janissary corps, the elite military unit of the Ottoman Empire. Their magic-like rituals appealed to the illiterate masses of Anatolia. Their clergy were celibate, they practiced ritual confession and communion and had a trinitarian concept of God similar to that of the 'Alawis.

THE TIJANIYA - founded by al-Tijani in 1781 in Fez, Morocco, extended the borders of Islam towards Senegal and Nigeria and founded great kingdoms in West Africa. They taught submission to the established government and their influence is still an important factor in these countries where it is associated with conservative businessmen.

THE DARAQUIYA - was founded in the early 19th century by Mulay 'Arabi Darqawi (d. 1823) in Fez in Morocco. It was the driving force behind the Jihad movement which achieved mass conversions to Islam in the mixed Berber-Arab-Negro lands of the Sahel. It is influential today in Mali, Niger and Chad and still widespread in Morocco.

THE KHALWATIYA - was founded in northwest Persia in the 13th century and spread to the Caucasus and to Turkey. It was closely associated with the Ottoman Sultans and had its headquarters in Istanbul. It has also spread to Egypt and Indonesia.

THE SUHRAWARDIYA - was started in Iraq by al-Suhrawardi (d.1234) who stressed serious training and teaching. They have many adherents in the Indian subcontinent. They were very involved politically in Iraq and Iran during the Mongol threat, seeking to ensure the survival of Islam.

THE RIFA'IYA - was founded in the marshlands of southern Iraq by al-Rifa'i (d.1187). They stress poverty, abstinence and mortification of the flesh, and are also known as the "Howling Dervishes" because of their loud recitation of the Dhikr. They focus on dramatic ritual and bizarre feats such as fire eating, piercing themselves with iron skewers and biting heads off live snakes.

THE SHADILIYA - was started by al-Shadili (d.1258) in Tunis. It flourished especially in Egypt under ibn-'Ata Allah (d.1309) but also spread to North Africa, Arabia and Syria. It is the strongest order in the Maghreb where it was organised by al-Jazuli (d. 1465) and has sub-orders under other names. The Shadiliya stress the intellectual basis of Sufism and allow their members to remain involved in the secular world. They are not allowed to beg and are always neatly dressed. They appealed mainly to the middle class in Egypt and are still active there. It is said that the Shadiliya were the first to discover the value of coffee as a means of staying awake during nights of prayer!

THE CHISHTIYA - were founded by Mu'in al-Din Chishti in Ajmer, India. His teaching was simple and the order is known for its fervour and hospitality. They helped in the islamisation of the Indian subcontinent.

THE SANUSIYA - are a military brotherhood started by al-Sanusi (d.1837) in Libya with political and military as well as religious aims. They fought against the colonising Italians and the former King of Libya was head of the order.

THE NI'MATULAHIYA - developed first in Persia and then in India as a specifically Isma'ili oriented Sufi order.

THE AHMADIYA - is the leading order in Egypt with its centre at Tanta. It was founded by Ahmad al-Badawi (d. 1276).

The orders helped spread Islam and their Sufi concepts in frontier lands such as India, Central and Southeast Asia, Sudan, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.


The Sufi orders grew steadily in wealth and in political influence, but their spirituality gradually declined as they concentrated on Saint worship, miracle working, magic and superstition. The external religious practices were neglected, morals declined and learning was despised.
In many areas Sufi orders succeeded in ruling the ignorant masses through a well organised and power hungry hierarchy. Their local saints were revered by the populace and worshipped after their death as mediators and intercessors. Pilgrim's flocked to the Saint's tombs, willing to pay for a share in the Sheikh's baraka. The orders became rich and powerful, and both politicians and theologians feared to oppose them and preferred to share in the profits.
Some sincere mystics still rose above the general decline. In Egypt, al-Shar'ani (d.1565) lived at the time of the Ottoman conquest and was a serious and comprehensive scholar.
In Iran Sadr al-Din Shirazi (d.1640), also known as Mulla Sadra, was a great thinker who continued to develop the theology of illumination founded by Suhrawardi and integrated it with Ibn-'Arabis Unity of Being. His impact is still felt on theologians and philosophers in Iran today.
In India in the 18th century Shah Wali-Allah of Delhi tried to integrate the various schools of Sufi thought, whilst Mir Dard contributed much to the formation of Urdu poetry.
In Iran the Safavid order gained political power for two centuries (1499-1720). The Sheikhs of this order claimed descent from 'Ali and they were favourably treated by both the Mongol and the Timurid dynasties. Based in Ardabil in Azerbaijan the order became a local power in the 15th century as it alternatively allied itself with and fought against the rulers of the Turkmen tribal confederations (Ak-Koyunlu, the White Sheep and Kara- Koyunlu, the Black Sheep).
The Turkmen Safavids of Anatolia and Azerbaijan were called Kizilbash (Redheads) from the red headgear they wore. In 1501 the Safavid Sheikh Ismail I defeated the Ak-Koyunlu and took the old Mongolian capital of Tabriz where he proclaimed himself as Shah. Later he instituted Twelver Shi'ism as the state religion of Persia and imposed it by force on the population. Many Sunni 'Ulama' and Sheikhs of other Sufi orders were executed.
The Sunni Ottomans felt threatened by Shi'a Persia, and in the ensuing centuries of warfare between these two powers they evolved an aggressive Sunnism within their own Empire. The Sultan Selim I massacred all the Shi'ites that he could lay his hands on, and until modern times the Kizilbash of Anatolia and other Shi'a groups collectively called "Alevis" by the Ottomans were forced to exist as an underground movement. Alevis still number some 8 million people in modern Turkey but they are officially ignored as non-existent by the authorities.
In Arabia the Wahabi puritan revival was extremely anti-Sufi, seeing their practices and doctrines as later pagan additions to pure Islam.
Colonialism, nationalism and secularisation had a negative impact on Sufism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The modern revival of Islamic learning was accompanied by a violent reaction against the superstitions of Sufism. It was accused as being the cause of the Islamic world's backwardness compared to the West. The two great Muslim reformers of the 19th century, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad 'Abduh, both campaigned successfully against Sufi orders helping to diminish their influence.
In Turkey, Kemal Ataturk abolished the Sufi orders in 1925 and confiscated their lands and property. He saw them as corrupt and backward forces that hindered the modernisation of Turkish society. In other countries too post-colonial independent central governments were often suspicious of the orders. They were suspected of being cells of political unrest and revolution who held the loyalty of the masses by their superstitions, religious emotionalism and outmoded power structures.
Despite religious and political attempts to eliminate them, the Sufi orders continued to exist, often underground. With the resurgence of fundamental Islam in the second half of the 20th century came also a Sufi revival. Sufism still flourishes in North Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Central Asia, Pakistan, India and Indonesia. In Soviet Central Asia their underground networks helped Islam survive until the reforms of the late eighties. The disintegration of the Soviet Union has allowed them to return to full public activity in the new republics.
Sufism today is still a formidable force in the Islamic world. It still touches and transforms the lives of Muslim people, giving them meaning and emotional support in a world that is increasingly unstable and full of economic woes, suffering and confusion.



Initiation into a Sufi order is seen as a necessary ritual that transmits the spiritual grace (barakah, spiritual power) of the guide (murshid) to the disciple (murid). This special grace goes back in an unbroken line to the Prophet himself. In Sufi thought it is likened to a seed planted in the initiate's soul, the equivalent of Christian baptism or new birth. At the initiation ceremony the Master who has experienced union with God and annihilation of self, in addition to giving the disciple the special garment also gives the him a secret word or prayer to help him in his meditation.
Sufis also believe in Spiritual Guides who reveal themselves to the Sufi in visions or dreams and help him on his path. Al-Khidr is one well known such guide who is sometimes identified as the prophet Elijah.
The initiate has to learn spiritual poverty (faqr) which means emptying the soul of self in order to make room for God. The illusion of the individual ego must be erased by humility and love of one's neighbour. This is attained by a rigid self discipline that removes all obstacles to the revelation of the Divine Presence.


Sufism is seen as a spiritual path of self knowledge that leads to a knowledge of God. God is seen by the "eye of the heart", not by intellectual knowledge or legalistic customs. The outward form of religion is a mere shell which hides the kernel inside it. The kernel is the real Truth, the Sufi's goal on his spiritual path.
The Sufi path contains many stages (Maqamat) and states (Ahwal). It begins with repentance when the seeker joins the order and prepares himself for initiation. The guide (Sheikh, Pir) accepts the seeker as his disciple by the ritual of initiation when he imparts his grace, gives him strict ascetic rules to follow and a certain secret word for meditation. The disciple's path is one of continuous struggle against his lower soul. He passes through a number of spiritual stations and states clearly defined by Sufi teaching.
These are the Sufi stations: 1. detachment from the world (zuhd). 2. patience (sabr). 3. gratitude (shukr), for whatever God gives. 4. love (hubb). 5. pleasure (rida) with whatever God desires. Linked to these stations are specific moods or emotions (ahwal) such as fear and hope, sadness and joy, yearning and intimacy, granted to the pilgrim by God's grace for a while with the goal of leading him to on to Ma'rifah (esoteric knowledge, Gnosis), Mahabbah (Love) and to the ultimate goal which is annihilation of personality and unity with God.
Beyond this stage the Sufi then enters the state of Baqa', or perseverance in God. He returns from his state of intoxication (Sukr) back into the world completely transformed - reborn.
The Sufi path has three ways: Makhafah, the way of fear of God leading to purification. Mahabbah, the way of love leading to sacrifice. Ma'rifah, the way of intuitive knowledge leading to illumination.


Dhikr and Sama' were based on words attributed to the Prophet: "Whenever men gather together to invoke Allah, they are surrounded by Angels, the Divine Favour envelops them, the Divine Glory (as-Sakinah) descends upon them, and Allah remembers them in His assembly." The hospices became centres where lay people from the countryside would gather together with the members of the order to obey the Quran's injunction to remember God often.
This was done in the celebration of the Dhikr, which involved the communal rhythmic repetition of a phrase, usually from the Quran, in which one of the names of God appears. Breath control and body movements were also used as techniques to aid in achieving concentration and control over senses and imagination. The rosary with 99 or 33 beads was used since the 8th century as an aid to counting the many repetitions (it entered Christian Churches from Sufism via the Crusades). This concentrated meditation can lead to a mystical trance and enlightenment which transforms man's whole being.
Sama' was first developed in the mid 9th century in Baghdad. It is another communal ritual practice, defined as a concert of music, poetry recital, singing and dance, which leads the participants to a mystical experience where they seem to hear the music of the heavenly spheres and the voice of God Himself. It attunes the heart to communion with God and is thought to remove all veils hiding God from man's inner vision. Drugs were used by some as an aid to reaching the ecstatic state, coffee by the Shadiliya in the 14th century.


Sheikhs who had reached the highest mystical stage of union with God, were revered by the masses as saints (Awliya') upon whom God had bestowed miraculous supernatural powers and grace.
A cult of living and of dead saints developed around them influenced by pagan customs. They were seen as miracle workers, healers, and intercessors for others before God. Their tombs became pilgrimage centres visited by many in order to partake of the Saint's Baraka (blessing, supernatural power) to meet their needs for healing and other help. They would make vows and pray for the saint's intercession on their behalf. Special celebrations which developed into folk festivals were held on the anniversary of their deaths ('urs). They were seen to be mediators between God and man, God answering their prayers on behalf of the supplicants.


Ahadiya - unconditioned unity.
Ahwal - mystical states.
'Aql - reason, Intelligence.

Baqa' - abiding union with God.
Barakah - transferable spiritual power of Saint.
Bast - expansive ecstasy.

Dhawq - taste, personal mystical experience.
Dervish - Persian for Sufi, meaning beggar, (faqir).
Diwan - collection of poems.

Fana' - mystical annihilation of self, union with God.
Faqir - Sufi disciple, dervish. (means poor).

Hijab - veil.
Hikmat-il-Ishraq - doctrine of illumination.

Ikhlas - absolute sincerity.
Al-Insan al-Kamil - the perfect man.

Khalwah - spiritual retreat.
Karamat - Grace, also miracles of saints.
Khanaqah - Sufi lodge.
Khirqah - patched cloak of Sufi.

Mahabbah - love.
Mathnawi - long mystical poem.
Mahfuz - protection of saints from serious sin.
Malak - angelic force.
Maqamat - stages in mystical journey.
Ma'rifah - secret knowledge, gnosis;
Murid - disciple;
Murshid - spiritual guide;

Nafs - lower soul;

Pir - Spiritual Master or guide;

Qalb - heart.
Qutb - pole, axis around which the world revolves, ÿÿÿÿÿÿperfected human beings, especially great Sufi Sheikhs;

Ribat - Sufi hospice, training centre.

Sahw - path of sobriety.
Suluk - the spiritual walk.
Shatahat - ecstatic utterances.
Sukr - path of intoxication.
Suhbah - companionship.
Silsilah - chain, spiritual lineage.

Talib - seeker, disciple.
Tawakkul - trust in God.
Tariqah - way, Sufi order.

Uns - mystical intimacy.
'Urs - festival celebrating anniversary of Saint's death.

Wahdat al-Wujjud - unity of being.
Wahidiyah - unity in plurality.
Wali - friend of God, saint.

Zawiyah - Sufi hospice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


June is never a good month on the plains. It was 46ºC in Fortress Islamabad a fortnight ago. The hundreds of security guards manning roadblocks and barriers were wilting, sweat pouring down their faces as they waved cars and motorbikes through. The evening breeze brought no respite. It, too, was unpleasantly warm, and it was difficult not to sympathise with those who, defying the law, jumped into the Rawal Lake, the city’s main reservoir, in an attempt to cool down. Further south in Lahore it was even hotter, and there were demonstrations when the generator at Mangla that sporadically supplies the city with electricity collapsed completely.
As far as the political temperature goes there is never a good month in Pakistan. This is a country whose fate is no longer in its own hands. I have never known things so bad. The chief problems are the United States and its requirements, the religious extremists, the military high command, and corruption, not just on the part of President Zardari and his main rivals, but spreading well beyond them.
This is now Obama’s war. He campaigned to send more troops into Afghanistan and to extend the war, if necessary, into Pakistan. These pledges are now being fulfilled. On the day he publicly expressed his sadness at the death of a young Iranian woman caught up in the repression in Tehran, US drones killed 60 people in Pakistan. The dead included women and children, whom even the BBC would find it difficult to describe as ‘militants’. Their names mean nothing to the world; their images will not be seen on TV networks. Their deaths are in a ‘good cause’.
More than two million refugees (‘internally displaced persons’ – IDPs in NGO jargon) have been driven out of the areas of the North-West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan by the army, and from the Swat Valley both by the brutalities of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the military response to them. NGOs, knowing this is where Western cash is headed, swarm around the refugee camps like flies. Here, too, corruption is rife, despite the presence of many dedicated volunteers. One of them told me that the only organised and non-corrupt presence was that of the army, which, if true, must be a first. The same volunteer, who worked in a camp near Mardan, proudly showed me pictures of herself on General Nadeem Ahmed’s helicopter – he commands the operation to help the IDPs – while informing me that the overwhelming bulk of refugees blame the United States and the army for their plight, not the ‘terrorists’ in their various guises. Listening to her, I wondered whether Samuel Huntington’s idea of moving peasants into ‘strategic hamlets’ in South Vietnam had been the model for this operation as well: remove the people from war zones and the enemy will have no one to recruit. It’s hardly a secret here that the US is paying the army to build new cantonments in the cleansed zones on the Pak-Afghan frontier. It won’t work, but it sounds good and it’s good for the army’s cashflow. Some in Pakistan seriously believe that a few hundred TTP heads in the basket will solve their problems, and are supportive of the army while distancing themselves from the US use of drones, but the two go together. Others gaze admiringly at the ruthlessness with which the Sri Lankan army rooted out the Tamil Tigers, regardless of the collateral damage.
In May this year, Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul, published an assessment of the crisis in the region in the Huffington Post. Ignored by the White House, since he was challenging most of the assumptions on which the escalation of the war was based, Fuller was speaking for many in the intelligence community in his own country as well as in Europe. It’s not often that I can agree with a recently retired CIA man, but not only did Fuller say that Obama was ‘pressing down the same path of failure in Pakistan marked out by George Bush’ and that military force would not win the day, he also explained to readers of the Huffington Post that the Taliban are all ethnic Pashtuns, that the Pashtuns ‘are among the most fiercely nationalist, tribalised and xenophobic peoples of the world, united only against the foreign invader’ and ‘in the end probably more Pashtun than they are Islamist’. ‘It is a fantasy,’ he said, ‘to think of ever sealing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.’ And I don’t imagine he is the only retired CIA man to refer back to the days when Cambodia was invaded ‘to save Vietnam’.
I left Islamabad on 1 July, a day before the Independence Day party held by the US ambassador, Anne Patterson. Probably the most heavily guarded event in the global social calendar, this is the modern equivalent of the viceroy’s garden parties in old New Delhi. The leaders of the political, military and economic elite jostle with each other and with favoured journalists for the attention of the ambassador. Observers note that Patterson spent more time talking to X from Baluchistan than to Y from Peshawar. Might this mean that the frontline is going to be shifted to Baluchistan? Less important guests peer over heads and shoulders to see who else is present so that they can determine the pecking order of flattery.
Patterson can be disarmingly frank. Earlier this year, she offered a mid-term assessment to a visiting Euro-intelligence chief. While Musharraf had been unreliable, saying one thing in Washington and doing its opposite back home, Zardari was perfect: ‘He does everything we ask.’ What is disturbing here is not Patterson’s candour, but her total lack of judgment. Zardari may be a willing creature of Washington, but the intense hatred for him in Pakistan is not confined to his political opponents. He is despised principally because of his venality. He has carried on from where he left off as minister of investment in his late wife’s second government. Within weeks of occupying President’s House, his minions were ringing the country’s top businessmen, demanding a share of their profits.
Take the case of Mr X, who owns one of the country’s largest banks. He got a call. Apparently the president wanted to know why his bank had sacked a PPP member soon after Benazir Bhutto’s fall in the late 1990s. X said he would find out and let them know. It emerged that the sacked clerk had been caught with his fingers literally in the till. President’s House was informed. The explanation was rejected. The banker was told that the clerk had been victimised for political reasons. The man had to be reinstated and his salary over the last 18 years paid in full together with the interest due. The PPP had also to be compensated and would expect a cheque (the sum was specified) soon. Where the president leads, his retainers follow. Many members of the cabinet and their progeny are busy milking businessmen and foreign companies. ‘If they can do it, so can we’ is a widely expressed view in Karachi, the country’s largest city. Muggings, burglaries, murders, many of them part of protection rackets linked to politicians, have made it the Naples of the East.
There is also a widespread feeling that the methods used to manoeuvre Zardari into the presidency after Benazir’s assassination were immoral. A documentary shown on the first anniversary of her death on the privately owned GEO TV raised a number of serious questions regarding her security and asked why the man responsible for organising her protection drove away when her car was held up. When she was hit, he was nowhere to be seen. This man, Rehman Malik, an old Zardari crony and one of the family’s principal contacts with Western intelligence agencies when it was in exile, is currently the interior minister.
For several months now, wild and unsubstantiated rumours linking Zardari to his wife’s death have swept the country. A woman I know who was once very close to Benazir is convinced that there is some truth in them and is much irritated by my scepticism. She provided me with an account, which, if true, would require Asifa Zardari, the couple’s younger daughter, to give evidence in court against her father. The same story has been repeated to me by many others, none of them paranoid or given to thoughts of conspiracy. Stranger things have happened in the country, but I remain unconvinced. What is interesting is not that these tales circulate, but the number of people who believe them – which indicates how the widower is generally regarded.
These rumours came into the open at the end of June, when the head of the Bhutto clan, Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, chairman of the Sind National Front, publicly accused Zardari at a press conference, alleging that ‘the killer of Murtaza Bhutto had also murdered Benazir . . . Now I am his target. A hefty amount has been paid to mercenaries to kill me.’ (Zardari is generally regarded as having ordered his brother-in-law Murtaza’s death. Shoaib Suddle, the police chief in Karachi, who organised the operation that led to Murtaza Bhutto’s death, has now been promoted and is head of the Intelligence Bureau.) Mumtaz Bhutto demanded an inquiry into Benazir’s assassination and pooh-poohed attempts by Washington and its local satraps to blame the crime on the TTP leader, Baitullah Mahsud. Bhutto predicted that Zardari and his cronies would soon be convicted of corruption or forced to flee the country, but this is wishful thinking, and assumes a great deal, including a shift in US policies.
Mahsud and his followers are specialists in sawing off heads, flogging women and kidnapping people. Grisly videos of informers having their throats cut are circulated by the TTP as a deterrent. Yet, only a few months ago, Mahsud could be seen at wedding receptions and press conferences. Today he has the distinction of being the first Pakistani with a price on his head. The US announced a $5 million reward, to which the Pakistan government added a miserly $600,000, for his capture dead or alive. Head money has also been offered for Mahsud’s junior commanders: $182,000 for Faqir Mohammed in Bajaur and $122,000 each for three others, much less than the Indian Premier League offers Pakistani cricketers. While welcoming back the Pakistan cricket team after their triumph in the Twenty20 championship this summer, the country’s token prime minister, Yousaf Gilani, insisted that we must follow the example of our cricket team and defeat the terrorists.
The refugees from the Swat Valley, where the TTP have committed serial atrocities, tell a different story from the Pashtuns displaced by US drones, bomber jets and Pakistani army forays in South Waziristan, near the Afghan frontier. They say they were abandoned for years by the government and left to the mercy of armed fanatics. This is true. And if you ask why the Pakistani state tolerated armed groups that openly challenged its monopoly of violence, the answer is straightforward. These groups were regarded in Islamabad as auxiliaries in the coming battle for Afghanistan. The decision to crush the leadership of the TTP was taken under heavy US pressure, which is why Mahsud and his deputy in Swat, Maulana Fazlollah, regard the assault on their positions as treachery.
Fazlollah’s reign of terror antagonised most Pakistanis, including those hostile to the US presence in the region. The public flogging of a Swati woman, captured on video and then shown on TV, generated real anger. For once the TTP was put on the defensive and publicly dissociated itself from the flogging. Making use of this display of weakness the government wheeled one of the country’s top religious scholars, Dr Sarfraz Naeemi Al-Azhari, in front of the cameras to declare the TTP an ‘anti-Islamic’ organisation, since Islamic tradition forbids suicide and by extension suicide bombings – for that reason often known as ‘martyrdom operations’. On 12 June, the TTP despatched a suicide bomber to take care of Al-Azhari. Both men were ‘martyred’. Earlier, the government had bribed, cajoled and bullied one of Mahsud’s lieutenants, Qari Zainuddin, to break with his leader and denounce him in public. Qari did as he was asked, though the eventual denunciation was characteristically bizarre. He accused Mahsud of being a triple agent and claimed he was working for India, America and Israel, as well as other enemies of Pakistan. That is why, Zainuddin said, he was targeting the Pakistan army and its security services. Some actually believed this nonsense and it irritated Mahsud. On 23 June, one of Qari Zainuddin’s bodyguards shot him dead. There will almost certainly be more of this in the coming months.
Meanwhile Mahsud’s parents have been picked up by the police and are in ‘protective custody’ – in other words, being used as hostages. On the day this was announced, Owais Ghani, the beleaguered governor of the North-West Frontier Province, warned on TV that if the US-Nato leaders don’t develop an exit strategy soon, the indiscriminate repression of Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line will lead to an uprising against the foreign troops. Mahsud wasn’t the only problem, in other words. The following day Pakistan air-force chiefs were paraded on TV with the Chinese (‘our all-weather friends’) government company that is building JF-17 Thunder aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. Might some of these be ready in time to track down Mahsud, something that US surveillance and reconnaissance missions have so far failed to do?
The TTP is a product of the recent Afghan wars, Russian, indigenous and American, its thinking a poisonous combination of traditional tribal patriarchy and Wahhabi prescriptions. It has been severely criticised by the Afghan groups fighting Nato for not participating in that struggle. Capturing and killing its leaders may make people feel better, but it will solve very little. The bulk of TTP supporters will simply melt away and regroup to fight another day. Attempts to destroy them will lead to even more civilian casualties. Many of Mahsud’s supporters are now leaving Swat and linking up with other Pashtun groups in Waziristan to fight the Pakistan army. There are reports that a new organisation uniting the previously competing mujahedin groups has been formed. Gul Bahadur, considered a pro-government Pashtun commander because he signed a truce agreement in February 2008, has reneged on the deal and joined the opposition. This new group claimed responsibility for the ambush of a military convoy on 28 June that led to the death of 15 soldiers in response to air-strikes carried out on villages the week before, in which a number of civilians were killed – their names were not released.
The longer the war continues, the greater the possibility of serious cracks within the army. Not at the level of the high command, but among majors and captains, as well as among the soldiers they command, who are far from happy with the tasks assigned to them. Religious divines have been found to pronounce that a soldier killed in fighting the TTP is a martyr and will go to heaven, but the potential martyrs know that most mullahs believe they will go to hell. Quite a few, no doubt, think they’re already there.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Democracy in Pakistan

Pakistan is fortunate to have returned to democracy after long periods of direct and indirect military rule. However, it would be premature to suggest that democracy has developed strong roots in PakistanIt has been less than a year since Pakistan began its current transition to democracy. Yet some political leaders and commentators have already started to predict its doom. Some such elements, known for their anti-PPP disposition, have predicted that 2009 is going to be the year of change, though they did not specify if they were talking about the PPP government or the democratic system or both.Democracy is a delicate system of governance that requires careful nurturing over a long period of consolidation. It faces more problems in a country that has experienced extended phases of authoritarian rule. Invariably, authoritarian rule creates beneficiaries who find themselves irrelevant when the country returns to democracy and thus engage in a whispering campaign against participatory governance. They exploit the lapses and weaknesses of the elected civilian government and question the viability of democracy in Pakistan.Democracy can succeed only if political leaders maintain a strong commitment to democracy in both theory and practice. Despite differences on policies, they must work together to sustain the system by respecting and practicing democracy and constitutionalism.A major weakness of democracy is that it can be destroyed through democratic means. For example, democracy functions on the principle of majority rule. However, winning a majority in the election does not give the government licence to pursue any policies. Majority rule can easily be turned into tyranny of the majority if the legitimate rights and interests of political minorities and the principles and spirit of democracy are violated.Political majorities and minorities have to function within the ambit of law and the constitution, and the majority must respect and accommodate the rights of the minority. Similarly, the minority needs to respect the right of the majority to rule, and should not oppose it for the sake of opposition. The hallmarks of democracy are tolerance, accommodation and the peaceful and constitutional handling of public policy issues.Pakistan’s return to democracy earlier this year after over 8 years of military-dominated authoritarian rule was a major triumph made possible by the coordinated efforts of societal groups and political parties. The military also contributed to this change by adopting a non-partisan posture, and the army chief held back the ISI from interfering in the electoral process.Pakistan’s experiment with representative governance is under pressure from the beneficiaries of the long years of authoritarian rule. These forces have no stake in the continuation of the current political process and are ideologically opposed to the present political and constitutional arrangements.Four factors have created doubts about the viability of the current arrangement: growing confrontation between the two major parties — the PPP and the PMLN; unsatisfactory performance of the government; the economic crisis; and the escalating threat posed by terrorism to internal security and stability.The most disturbing development is that many, including those who held top civil and military posts in the past, do not see militancy as a threat to Pakistan due to their ideologically tilted worldview, political expediency and linkages with various militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban.The PPP and the PMLN maintain a multi-track relationship dominated by mutual distrust and acrimony that often cancel out their efforts to strengthen democracy and constitutionalism. The Sharif brothers are cautions in commenting on the PPP government, especially on the latter’s refusal to restore deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.However, several close associates of the Sharifs miss no opportunity to take on the PPP. The November 12 National Assembly speech of the PMLN’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was a stinging censure of the PPP government and President Asif Zardari, alleging misrule and personalisation of power. Chaudhry Nisar maintained that there was hardly any difference between the Musharraf regime and the PPP government.Similarly, the PPP leadership is favourably disposed towards maintaining a working relationship with the PMLN. However, some leaders of the PPP in the Punjab have engaged in sharp criticism of the PMLN, and have tried to extract as much political dividend as possible to stay in the Shahbaz Sharif-led coalition government in the province. If the current working relationship between the two parties breaks down in the Punjab, they would literally be at each other’s throats.The periodic manifestation of distrust and acrimony between the two major parties is a major obstacle to the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan. Even if they continue to diverge in their political agendas, they need to recognise that unrestrained confrontation would equally undermine the interests of the two parties and threaten the future of democracy.Poor governance on the part of the PPP-led government is another cause of the current dissatisfaction. The high-flying people-oriented rhetoric of the PPP leadership has not been backed by effective policies to realise their promises. Two major examples of poor governance are the inability of the government to control the prices of essential items, and the raise in electricity rates that had to be lowered after protests broke out in many cities.The working of the federal government creates the impression that it lacks an operational plan to move in a specific political direction. The presidency seems to be commanding the government rather than the prime minister. This partly explains why the government has so far not initiated the promised constitutional changes, as they would clip the wings of the presidency. Similarly, the government has so far not given any indication that it will enhance the administrative and financial autonomy of the provinces.The economic crisis and the government’s helplessness to cope with it without foreign assistance limits the government’s capacity to cope with internal socio-economic problems. Pakistan’s dependence on external assistance limits its domestic and foreign policy options, reinforcing the impressing that the government is not the master of its own house.The economic crisis calls for a serious economic austerity drive by the government, however, it is doubtful if it is seriously working towards reducing unnecessary expenditures.The final challenge to the endurance of the current democratic order comes from religious intolerance and militancy that threatens internal security and stability. Militants based in the tribal areas are openly flouting the authority of the state and they have turned the area into a sanctuary for elements that perpetrate violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Democracy cannot flourish in a strife-ridden and violent socio-political context. However, several political leaders do not recognise this inverse relationship between terrorism and democracy. Some well-known parties are opposed to the government’s efforts to control extremism and terrorism, and demand the immediate suspension of military action against terrorists based in the tribal areas.Pakistan is fortunate to have returned to democracy after long periods of direct and indirect military rule. However, it would be premature to suggest that democracy has developed strong roots in Pakistan. It faces many challenges that cannot be addressed unless major political and societal groups work together within a democratic framework to deal with acute socio-economic issues, control religious and cultural intolerance and neutralise militants that are using violence to advance their agenda.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Culture and Imperialism

Since that day it has undergone countless changes of meaning in everyday usage, largely under the influence of Marxist-Leninist dogma. Not only has "imperialist" supplanted "imperial" as the adjective normally derived from "empire" but it has proceeded through a series of mutations, each more outlandish than its predecessor, until now it is no more than a husk of a word into which anyone may cram whatever tortured meaning he cares to. So it is with Edward W. Said, who in his new book subsumes under the heading "imperialism" virtually every contact Europe has had with the outside world since the eighteenth century. Not being an historian, he obviously feels himself absolved from any obligation to respect the imperatives of historical scholarship, and free to prosecute the Western world at will for the crimes he says it has committed against the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Culture and Imperialism continues and broadens the attack Said launched a dozen or so years ago in Orientalism, which argued that the very study of the Middle East by Western scholars was an imperialist act, for it furthered the aims of imperial powers and contributed to Western perceptions of the Arabs as inferior and of Islamic culture as secondrate. Now he argues, more ambitiously, that not only did the West lay Africa and most of Asia under the imperialist yoke, but it also forced its culture, especially its literary culture, upon the African and Asian peoples, at the same time deriding or denigrating their indigenous cultures. However, as opposition to imperial rule grew, eventually finding expression in nationalist struggles for independence, a literature of resistance and liberation developed among the native intelligentsia and their sympathizers in the West, which ultimately neutralized the pernicious influence of imperialist literature and paved the way for the downfall of European dominion in Asia and Africa.
At least this is what I understand Said's thesis to be. His writing is so diffuse, obscure, and overwrought that it is difficult to make out what it is he is trying to say - even though he repeats himself ad infinitum throughout the book. Take, for instance, this passage, on British histories of India.
Whereas these official versions of history try to do this for identitarian authority (to use Adornian terms) - the caliphate, the state, the orthodox clerisy, the Establishment - the disenchantments, the disputatious and systematically skeptical investigations in the innovative work I have cited submit these composite, hybrid identities to a negative dialectic which dissolves them into variously constructed components. What matters a great deal more than the stable identity kept current in official discourse is the contestatory force of an interpretative method whose material is the disparate, but intertwined and interdependent, and above all overlapping streams of historical experience.
There are interminable acres of prose like this - muddled, inflated, impenetrable - which testify to nothing more than the author's awesome capacity for self-indulgence.
According to Said, the English novel was "immensely important" in the formation of imperial attitudes. "The novel, as a cultural artifact of bourgeois society, and imperialism are unthinkable without each other." A dubious proposition at best; but let it go. He chooses four novelists whose work for him embodies and promotes the ideas current in their day about the British Empire - Conrad, Kipling, Jane Austen, and Dickens. Conrad and Kipling one can understand, especially as they knew the East at first hand. But Austen and Dickens? It seems that by casually referring to Antigua in Mansfield Park Austen revealed that she had the empire in the back of her mind most of the time, that she was nevertheless indifferent to the condition of the subject peoples ("in Mansfield Park [she] sublimates the agonies of Caribbean existence to a mere half dozen passing references to Antigua"), and that she dodged facing up to her true responsibility to denounce imperialism and all its works.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Ainay Kay Samnay
Atiya Dawood
Readership / Level
Students of Gender Studies / Women Studies, human rights researchers, NGO activists, government policy makers, legislators, political activists and feminist legal experts.
Ainay Kay Samne is the autobiography of a prominent Pakistani feminist, journalist, poetess, writer and women’s rights activist from Sindh. She wrote this autobiography, during her stay at Sanskriti Kendra Residency, New Delhi (an institution which supports artists). In this autobiography she has described the rural life of Pakistan as she belongs to a poor rural family. Ainay Kay Samne contains the detailed account of problems faced by a rural woman in Pakistan.
About the Author / Editor
Atiya Dawood, the celebrated Sindhi poet, writer, activist, has been hailed as the ‘most important feminist writer in Sindhi’ by Shaikh Ayaz, the renowned Sindhi poet. Through her writings she has highlighted the oppression of women in Pakistani society in the name of tradition. In her poetry she raises her voice against misogyny and bias and in support of women who fight for empowerment and equal rights with men. Atiya Dawood’s work has found appreciation in Pakistan and abroad. Her poems have been translated into German by Annemarie Schimmel, the noted Iranologist and scholar who wrote extensively on Islam and Sufism, and also into English and Urdu. A poem was published in Jane Goodwin’s Book The Price of Honour. She has published six books and articles on women’s rights, peace, justice, gender issues in the major national dailies and literary magazines. She is a recipient of the Sindh Adeeb Award awarded by Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli Ain Sahit Sabha, India.

Intikhab-e-Kalam: Ghalib
Compiled by Muhammad Reza Kazimi
Readership / Level
Students from secondary level to the students of Urdu literature at BA (Hons) and MA level, general readers, readers interested in Urdu poetry.
This book contains selections from Ghalib (1797-1869), widely regarded as the greatest poet of Urdu. Ghalib’s turn of phrase contributed to philosophical vocabulary and his assertiveness proved more realistic than the abject submission of the traditional lover of the tradition he inherited. On the other side, Ghalib was a sceptic grounded in pantheism. This created a tension which charged his poetry, and spilled over also to romantic themes. The present book does not aim merely at being handy and more accessible. Dewan-i-Ghalib now in circulation is actually a selection carried out by the poet’s friends. Here are included verses which were uncritically discarded, and excludes verses uncritically selected, cutting the gem of his poetry anew, so that Ghalib’s poetry can be seen in a new light, and in a format doubly attractive to students.

The Genesis of South Asian Nuclear Deterrence
Pakistan’s Perspective
Naeem Salik
Readership / Level
This book is an attempt to provide a complete picture of the dynamics of South Asian nuclearization. It covers the historical evolution of the technological developments of the Indian and Pakistani programmes and the nuances of the countries’ respective policies towards the international non-proliferation regime. It also covers developments since May 1998 in the two countries with respect to the development and articulation of their nuclear doctrines, setting up of command and control systems, and the creeping operationalization of their nuclear capabilities. It provides an overview of the rapidly developing nuclear delivery systems in India and Pakistan as well as their efforts at stabilizing the nuclear environment by agreeing on some significant nuclear and missiles related Confidence Building Measures. Given the controversies, myths and misperceptions surrounding the A.Q. Khan network the book attempts to provide a realistic and balanced view of the episode. It also addresses issues related to international concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

A Bad Woman’s Story
A Translation of Buri Aurat Ki Katha
Kishwar Naheed
Readership / Level
This book is Kishwar Naheed’s response to those who are quick to label a woman as bad. It is a searing indictment of a society that uses custom, religion and even brute force to keep women down. She hits out hard and fearlessly at social and political injustices and at the materialism and sham religiosity she sees around her. It’s what you would expect of one of Pakistan’s leading feminist poets, known for her defiance and outspokenness. Born to a conservative family in pre-partition India, at a time when women were in such purdah that they could not show their hand to a hakim without dipping it in flour, Naheed saw these same women turn into political activists in the run-up to Partition. She too learned to do battle early on—to go to college like her brothers, to express herself and, at the age of 19, to marry the man of her choice. The marriage turned sour and it is an indication of her refreshing candour that she doesn’t gloss over her hurt and disappointment. Rich in literary, historical and cultural allusions, A Bad Woman’s Story is written in a punchy, witty style that keeps the reader engaged and entertained from beginning to end.
About the Author / Editor
Kishwar Naheed was born in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, India in 1940. Her family moved to Lahore during the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. She is one of the best-known feminist poets of Pakistan. Her first collection of poetry, Lab-i goya, published in 1968, won the prestigious Adamjee Prize for Literature. This collection of traditional ghazals was followed by a collection of nazms, translations of foreign poetry, and many works in free verse. She also wrote for children and for the daily newspaper Jang, published her autobiography in 1994 (it appeared the following year in India), and in 2001 saw her collected poetic work released in a 1312-page volume entitled Dasht-i qais men Laila. Her daily columns in Jang were also collected and published in 1999. Her poetry has been translated into English and Spanish, and her well-known poem ‘We, sinful women’ gave its title to a path-breaking anthology of contemporary Urdu feminist poetry translated and edited by Rukhsana Ahmad, published in London by The Women’s Press in 1991. The Library of Congress has 25 works by Kishwar Naheed in its collection and she recorded for the Library in Lahore in 1977. She held the position of Director General of the Pakistan National Council of Arts before her retirement, edited a prestigious literary magazine called Mah-i naw, and founded an organization named Hawwa (Eve) whose goal is to help women without an independent income become financially independent through cottage industries and selling handicrafts.Durdana Soomro is the author of Karachi: Pleasure Gardens of a Raj City (2007) and co-author of Bengal Raag, an account of twins coming of age in Bangladesh in the period leading up to the 1971 war. Born in Dhaka, she spent many years in Amman, Riyadh, Istanbul, and London. Her peripatetic life has led to an interest in languages. She studied Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London and also speaks French. She has translated the work of prominent Pakistani writers from Urdu to English, some included in the anthology Fault Lines (2008). She lives in Karachi and is an avid golfer.

Combating Terrorism
Saudi Arabia’s Role in the War on Terror
Ali Saeed Awadh Asseri
Readership / Level
The book illustrates the history of terrorism starting as far back as one can and goes on to describe it in theory and in practice. The Islamic perspective on terrorism is an important component of the book highlighting the stress on peaceful co-existence. It then illustrates the root causes of terrorism and gives a broad outline of the three-pronged Saudi strategy to combat the scourge covering the domestic, regional and international dimensions. It also highlights the Saudi initiative with regard to Inter-Faith dialogue and its pivotal impact on the efforts to control the spread of terrorism in the world. The book concludes with a study of some cases that emulate the Saudi strategy and by revisiting the counter-terrorism efforts throughout the world.


Contrasts and Unity in Lycidas
Lycidas is a poem of contrasts. Milton switches themes constantly, disrupting the flow and making it a poem of parts, disconcerting the reader who expects a unified entity. However, if we consider Lycidas to be a work in which Milton himself is the central persona, then the disparate parts can be brought together in a multi faceted unity.
The opening section is replete with the imagery of unripeness ‘harsh and crude’ and ‘bitter’, which, although applied to evergreens and to the occasion, suggest the unpreparedness of the poet to undertake the task in hand. The first line, with its non-rhyming ending, warns the reader not to anticipate an accomplished poem. Indeed as we progress through the work, we find several unrhymed lines in an erratic rhyme scheme together with an irregular stanza pattern and eccentricities of meter. The intrusive six syllable lines amongst a majority of iambic pentameter have their origins in the Italian canzone but the occasional extra syllable must be regarded as a sign of the poet’s immaturity.
However the small eccentricities (they are too insignificant to be called errors) may well be deliberate. Take, for example, the case of the first line. The sentiment expressed is as out of place as the bachelor rhyme. Milton had at that time written verses on certain insignificant individuals but no one deserving ‘Laurels’ and therefore the ‘once more’ is inexplicable. This particular eccentricity can easily be rectified. Firstly the first line could be deleted. Then in the second line delete the words ’brown with’ and replace with ‘Laurels’. The first stanza is now balanced in rhyme and metre. Bearing this in mind, Milton’s eccentricities seem premeditated.
The death imagery of the second stanza seems to pertain more to the poet himself than the subject matter as the funerary appurtenances ‘urn’ and ‘sable shroud’ are his own. Milton identifies himself with King in the words ‘nurs’t upon the self same hill …Fed the same flock’. Milton grossly exaggerates his relationship with King in order to insinuate himself into his own poem. The death imagery continues into the fourth stanza with ‘killing as the canker to the rose’ and ‘never must return’. Here we see the poet’s fear of his own death. ‘The willows and the hazel copses green/ Shall now no more be seen’ express the viewpoint, or the non viewing point, of the deceased and the imagery of corruption in ‘canker, taint-worm, frost’ show the poet’s fear and loathing of death. The anticipation of death is made the more poignant when Milton considers its inevitability and the fact that even a poet cannot escape it as even Orpheus could not be saved by his divine mother Calliope.
The inevitability of death and the fragility of life expressed in ‘th’abhorred shears’ leads the poet to doubt the value of his mission. Milton fears that his voluntary celibacy which he has endured that he might perfect the poetic craft has been futile:--‘Alas what boots it with uncessant care/ scorn delights’. His limited time on earth might have been better spent in ‘To sport with Amaryllis in the shade’ rather than seeking ‘fame’ which ‘is no plant that grows on mortal soil’. It is Milton’s lost opportunities which are lamented here and not his late acquaintance as can be seen in ‘Phoebus ‘touch’d my trembling ears’.
The water imagery ‘fountain, flood, sea, waves’ of the seventh stanza recall King’s death in the chilly waters of the Irish Sea. However Neptune and other aquatic deities disavow all responsibility for the death and the poet is obliged to place the blame on ‘the fatal and perfidious bark/ Built in th’eclipse, and rigged with curses dark’. The ship is a metaphor for the soul, condemned by original sin to suffer death. The poet laments not specifically King’s death but the common death of all mankind with particular reference to his own fate. Milton links King’s death to his own by the introduction of the spirit of their shared Alma Mater, the reverend Camus who laments ‘my dearest pledge’ without naming him or ascribing to him any identifiable features. The ‘dearest pledge’ might as easily be Milton as King as the reference is as obscure as the ‘figures dim’ on his apparel.
The bishop’s passage (lines 108/131), a departure from the theme of the dead shepherd, a diatribe against the bishops of the Anglican Church seems to interrupt the flow of the poem and destroy its unity. The ‘Pilot of The Galilean Lake’ is identifiable as St Peter an account of the keys he carries recalling the New Testament passage ‘and I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven’ (Mathew 16:19). St Peter was the original pastor taking his authority from Christ ‘The Good Shepherd’ who instructed Peter to ‘feed my sheep’. Milton takes the opportunity to introduce into a pastoral poem, biblical allegories concerning contemptible shepherds. St Peter’s ‘Mitr’d locks’ give him the Episcopal status and authority but his outburst against bishops of the Anglican Church condemns the theological doctrine of apostolic succession by which bishops claim authority. ‘Creep include and climb into the fold’ refers to the gospel passage ‘he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber’ (John 10/1), undermining the bishops’ authority to act as pastors. ‘Swoln with wind....rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread ‘ brings to mind Christ’s denunciation of the Pharisees who as bad priests are ‘whited sepulchres’ (Matthew 23/27) lavishly dressed on the exterior but inside full of corruption. The ‘grim wolf’ a reference to the Catholic Church reminds the reader of the command to ‘beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves’ (Matthew 7/15). The passage culminates in a reference to a ‘two-handed engine’. This could refer to the two handed sword wielded by St Michael, imprecated later in the poem, or possibly to an individual man acting as the instrument of God’s will. Possibly Milton here refers to himself who volunteers to be the Divine agent, engineering the end of the bishops’ power with a single stroke (‘smite once and smite no more’) which will take off the head of the king and leave the bishops impotent.
The poem abruptly changes course with the apt introduction of Alpheus, a mutable stream, and also the announcement that ‘the dread voice is past’. The flowers which are ordered for the obsequities are somewhat ambiguous. They wear ‘sad embroidery’, ‘hang a pensive head’ and ‘fill their cups with tears’ as befit funereal floral decorations. However they are described as ‘honeyed, green, vernal’ which carries with it an implicit promise of new life. Death and its appurtenances are being sidelined and even the eponymous hero loses a syllable of his name in line 151 where the meter becomes more important than the titular subject matter. He finally loses his identity when his bones are cast to the extremities of the British Isles.
The dangers of the ‘Whelming tide’ are countered by the security which the ocean affords to Britain as an island. The ‘Angel’ alludes to St Michael, the legendary inhabitant of the ‘guarded Mount’ a look out post in Cornwall, who suspiciously watches the Spanish territories of ‘Namancos and Bayona’. This reference serves to tie together the disparate parts of the poem. The Druids ‘on the shaggy top of Mona high’ were unable to save a poet at sea but St Michael, a Christian symbol, has saved England from the Catholic ‘Wolves’ by defeating the Spanish Armada. He is urged to ‘look homeward now’ and look to the machinations of the bishops, perhaps with his two handed engine.
The poem which has previously been conducted on a baleful note turns again in the penultimate stanza when the watery imagery is intermixed with metaphors of light in ‘day-star, spangled, Flames’. Milton appears to have purged his doubts and fears through the medium of writing the poem and takes comfort in the anticipation of his eventual entry onto the ‘blest Kingdom’ where his alter ego has already obtained his apotheosis.
The poem has served as a catharsis for Milton’s feelings and in the final stanza he can refer to his former self as an ‘uncouth swain’. This stanza is a perfect ottava rima of regular rhyme and rhythm likening the writing of a poem to the passage of a day. The ‘various Quills’ of the shepherd’s pipe are analogous to the quill pens of a poet and the manifold forms of his poetry. Milton has merely been practicing so far, -- ‘tomorrow’ he moves on to ‘pastures new’.
Viewed as a tribute to the late Edward King, the work is a collection of fragments continually digressing from the supposed theme. But seen without reference to the eponymous hero, we discover a unity which serves to work out Milton’s inner psyche—an examination of conscience which will manifest itself in his forthcoming works.