Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Embedded in the Cultural DNA?

The extra-judicial killing of blasphemers may be embedded in Pakistan's cultural DNA.  I say so because I came across a poem by Pakistan's national poet, Muhammad Iqbal, that supposedly commemorates such events.

The poem is from Zarb-i-Kalim (The Rod of Moses), published in 1936.

The poem translated into English by Syed Akbar Ali Shah:

For Muslim true Death has no dread
To realm of souls, he straight is led.
Don't ask the rulers of this land
To grant blood price for martyred band.
Their blood is precious and divine
Like precincts of the Holy Shrine.
Alas! the Muslim has forgot
The lesson that to him was taught.
He was ordained to cry to none
Save to God Unique and One.

Syed Akbar Ali Shah's notes include the following, which leads me to speculate as I did above. Of course, it is contingent on the translator having correctly stated the context. Certainly there are some historical inaccuracies in the account below (e.g., the underlined section):

53. Lahore and Karachi
In this poem there is an allusion to two significant happenings at Karachi and Lahore. The Arya Smajists, according to some pre-planned scheme, started publishing books about the Holy Prophet that offended the feelings of the Muslims. An Arya Samajist of Lahore Rai Pal, published a derogatory book of this type in which he threw mud on the life of the Holy Prophet. 'He was sued, but Kanwar Dalleep Singh, judge High court at Lahore acquitted him.
The Arya Samajists were emboldened by the acquittal of Raj Pal and began to publish pamphlets and books in quick succession about the Holy Prophet, which aggrieved the Muslims very much. The editor of the 'Vertman' was prosecuted by the Government and convicted. The late Sir Mohammad Shafi pleaded the case on behalf of the Government. The Muslim-; lost their patience. An illiterate young man, Ilm-ud-Din, the son of a carpenter, murdered the publisher of 'Rangila Rasul' in broad daylight. He was executed in Mianwali, from where his dead body was brought to Lahore for burial. A very large crowd participated in the funeral prayer.
Similarly a Pathan, Abdul Qayyum, murdered the publisher of Karachi, Who had published a book, slinging mud on the chaste life of the Holy Prophet (A.S). He too was executed.
A book-seller of Calcutta had also published a similar book. Three young men of Lahore went to Calcutta to chastise that book seller. The third happening did not get the same publicity as the first two on account of the remoteness of Calcutta. Iqbal advises the Muslims not to beg for Blood Price (Kasas) from the English.
In the third verse, there is an allusion to an authentic tradition (Hadith-i-Qudsi) of the Holy Prophet which he uttered mlifle circumambulating the Holy Shrine. He said, 'The, blood of a true Muslim is more precious than Ka'ba even'. In the last verse, there is an allusion to the Koranic verse, 'Don't call others as partners of God. There is no god but He. Everything is sure to perish except God. He ordains everything and you have to return to him (last verse of 'The Spider)'.

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