Sunday 29 March 2009

Terrorists against symbols of love and harmony

Sow flowers so your surroundings become a garden
Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet

If you shoot arrows at others,
Know that the same arrow will come back to hit you.

Don’t dig a well in another’s path,
In case you come to the well’s edge

You look at everyone with hungry eyes
But you will be first to become mere dirt.

Humans are all one body,
Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.

Not many people in the west, living in a media savvy world of today where the North West of Pakistan is being portrayed as the hub of global terrorism and current head quarters of Al-Qaeda, would realise that these verses were written three centuries ago by Rehman Baba, eminent Pushto sufi poet. Rehman Baba lived his life, practised his personal form of sufi-ism and wrote his poetry in the same tribal belt where American drones are killing dozens of ordinary civilians every week while hunting for Osama Bin Laden and his cronies.

World as we see it today might have been significantly different had any in American CIA and Pakistan's ISI working with the then military Dictator General Zia paid heed to Rehman Baba's words "Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet" when gathering, creating and training a rag tag army of Jihadis from all over the Islamic world into a professional guerrilla fighting force to hit the final nail in the coffin of a dying Soviet Empire. These thorns that were sown in the rugged mountains terrains of Afghanistan and North West Pakistan have come of age and are now pricking the feet of the entire world, not only their creators.

But, a huge price is being paid by the historically self effacing Pashtun populations of these regions who have over the last three decades suffered material and human losses, at the hands of these imported jihadis and those who created them, and are now being inflicted with emotional torture by targeting of shrines. On 23rd March terrorists targeted the shrine of Rehman Baba - a place of reverence for Muslims across the ethnic divides.

Rehman Baba belonged to a long list of sufi scholars and poets who are credited for the spread if Islam in the Indian subcontinent through their literature and life. These sufi poets were did not follow or pursue the ways of established religious establishments. Three hundred years ago Rehman Baba’s "pursuit of God outside the mosque led to confrontation with the established religious hierarchy. His quest for God made him a solitary mystic with little interest in formal religion." Some historians believe that Rehman Baba’s unorthodox views inflamed the local religious establishment:

I got nothing from being a sheikh or from my righteousness
From now on it is my turn, to do whatever I can at the tavern
I washed my hands of piety when the musician picked up the rebab


Rather than the unacceptable worship of the hypocrite, I prefer to be drunk on Saqi’s wine.
Whether knowledge, rosary or recitation, I am happier asleep than awake with these.
I don’t like the Tooba tree’s shade, but prefer to be burnt like a kebab in the flames of your face.

Attack on Rehman Baba's shrine is another attempts to establish a religious hegemony upon the local population by invading Jihadi Mafia. A lesson from history that invading powers of all sizes and sorts have forgotten that Afghans and Pashtuns have never surrendered to invasions. I hope that the declaration of war by attempting to destroy the sanctity of Rehman Baba's shrine will act as a rallying cry for peaceful Pashtuns to stand up against what's trying to destroy the very roots of Pashtun traditions.

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