School text forms the psyche of a nation and ours has a conspicuous omission of history and an overdose of religion. Our school text teaches pan-Islamism which Pakistanis have eagerly espoused but the concept of nationhood escapes us. Ethnic and tribal loyalties have Pakistanis bitterly divided over language and race inspite of the Islamic message of brotherhood. The nation state of Pakistan based on Islam never truly took root in the minds of Pakistan.
Unless we trace our history beginning from Mehrgarh and make sense of how we arrived as Pakistanis from our respective pasts, we cannot even reconcile on the notion of being one nation as Muslim Pakistanis.
Pakistanis trace their cultural and religious heritage from the Arabs as our school text conditions us to do so. They look up to Mohammad, Umar, Ali, Ayesha and Khadija when they make sense of their socio-political identity. The name their roads, hospitals, battleships after Khalid bin Waleed, the Islamic master strategist commander who remained undefeated in battle, a rare honor. They look upto Arab scientists such as Jabir bin Hayyan and Ibn Sina of the eighth through tenth centuries when lamenting of their glorious past. Iqbal, the national poet who heavily influences the Pakistani psyche, lived in a state of almost delusional militant yearnings of conquests of 1,300 years ago. In his socio-political commentary Shikwa-Jawabe Shikwa, he refers to the Arabs as the “aaba” or ancestors of Indian Muslims. This is a spiritual lineage and not a genealogical one, given that Pakistani Muslims are of mixed Indian and Central Asian blood.
Pakistan interestingly sits at a location that was the seat of the ancient pagan Indus Valley civilization. The precursor of this great civilization took root in Mehrgarh in Balochistan and then onwards to the head of the empire at Harrapa and Mohenjodaro in Punjab and Sindh respectively. Khyber Pakhtunkhua is equally blessed historically as the Ghandhara civilization was resident in Charsaddah all the way to Taxila. Pakistan has a rich heritage and it is a very pagan heritage.
The whole world has persisted in paganism since after Adam. If you look at the Mayans, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Babylonians, you would see they all worshipped the sun. Go to any archeological museum in the world and you would see idols of various shapes and sizes. Idols were even exported e.g the Greek god Adonis, who stands as a symbol of male attractiveness was the god “Baal” of the Phoenicians mentioned in the Quran w.r.t to prophet Ilyas in the Quran. The premis of Islam is that prophets were sent to guide people to monotheism away from idol worship and nature worship. Abraham is seen in the Quran first looking upto the sun as a god and later rejecting it as a god. Abraham then tells his father to believe in the unseen God and reject idols. He built the Ka’abah at Makkah circa 1800 BC but in circa 600 AD when Muhammad was preaching in Mecca, the Ka’aba that Abraham built, was a hotspot of idolatory as the annual pilgrimage attracted people from all over. Mohammad was sent to Arabia to lead the Arabs from idolatory to monotheism. Within a hundred years after Mohammad’s death the message had spread to India via Mohammad bin Qasim, to Roman Syria via Khalid bin Waleed, to Africa via Amr bin Al-Aas through his conquest of Egypt, and to Europe via Tariq bin Ziyad through his conquest of Spain. Makkah was literally the centre of the world and Muslim conquests radiated Islamic monotheism to all corners of the then known world from it. Islam thus spread in Asia, Africa and Europe.
Islam came to modern Pakistan via Mohammad bin Qasim in Sindh and Multan. There were few Arab settlers in Sindh, the Muslim population resulted from reversion to Islam. The other cities did not even begin to give up paganism to accept Islam till a good few centuries later.
The journey from paganism to Islam would also open our eyes to what in us is still antithetical to Islam. Racism, honor killings, denial of basic human rights to females and religious minorities, serfdom in tribal areas, militant tribal customs, shrine worship and the caste system would all be clearly identified as unjust and unislamic.
However, even as we ignore ancient history. Pakistan’s school history text does not even touch medieval Mughal history. Studying the splendor-prone Mughals Emperors would give us profound lessons. Their entire empire was defeated and humiliated by European invaders due to their weak statesmanship and their love of luxury. Our national priorities can be redefined from the lessons learnt.
History gives us a sense of direction and resolves issues of greater identity. We created Pakistan as a homeland for the Muslims. However, the political ramification of this religious identity was lost on most of the indigenous people who constituted Pakistan since they were geographically removed from the mainstay of the independence struggle from the imperial Raj. Existing at the peripheries of the empire the tribal cultures of Khyber Pakhtunkhua and Balochistan were far removed from mainstream India. Even during the year that the Quaid was alive Khyber Pakhtunkhua’s Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan opposed Pakistan and in Sindh the removal of Khoro caused tribal disenchantment. The narrative of the indigenous people was different from that of the founding fathers of Pakistan who hailed from UP, Delhi and Bombay.
Pakistan lost its Quaid in 1948 too soon to be able to develop a nation in the true sense under his charismatic guidance. His Indian counterpart Nehru instilled a lasting deep sense of nationhood in Indians. Boundaries were unsettled even in 1965 when Pakistan made a militant overture over Kashmir. A few years later we lost our east wing, Bangladesh. The 1971 political debacle was compounded by the attitude of the Pashtoon General Tikka Khan who ordered his simple minded soldiers that they needed to “purify” the people of Bengal by ravaging their women. In Tikka Khan’s mind dark skinned Bengalis were not Muslim Pakistanis but Hindu Indians. Tikka Khan did not think that he too came from pagan roots just like the Bengalis. In any case atrocities meted out to anyone cannot be justified on grounds of the victims being pagan or non-Muslim “others”. This concept of cruelty reserved for “the others” is part of the tribal code. The very classification of “the others” for perpetrating atrocities is ipsofacto antithetical to Islam. However, once it starts, it never ends and eventually comes full circle.
Even today this tribal mindset rules over religion, our reason d’être.
Muslims are a nation, much like the Jews. However, we are in denial of our genealogical and geographic history, focusing only on a religious identity-ironically when that identity has failed to serve as a glue to hold the various ethnicities together.
Isreal is the only other state in the world that derives its reason d’être from religion. However, the Zionists have successfully used religion to unite people by stressing upon the collective geographical history of the Jewish people where the narrative is of persecution. The eviction from Canaan and Egypt, the Spanish inquisition, the ghettos in Europe, the Czarist pogroms and Hitler’s holocaust has been woven together to condition the collective psyche of world Jewry into unison and political action. This fact alone has made a mere 14 million Jews a dominant race that controls the world through the United States corporations, government and media.
History has been murdered in Pakistan by Zia-ul-Haq. It is high time we undo his damage to Pakistan and bring back the lessons of our real history into our collective psyche through our school text and public discourse.
Peace be upon you!