He was born a couple of years after the 1971 war, which disintegrated the then Pakistan into two countries. As a child, he used to be reluctant to attend primary school, always in search of a chance to leave his schooling for good but it was all thanks to a donkey that kept him enduring the teacher’s rod. On one such day when he skipped school, he came across a donkey on the way. Fearing the wrath of his parents, he decided to play with the donkey till noon to pass the time so that his parents might think he was at school. But the moment he accosted the donkey it spurred and plunged the boy. As a result, the schoolboy thought the teacher’s regular rod less painful than falling from the back of a wild donkey.
He used to learn the English alphabet in grade six and had once got 13 lashes of the rod because of his failure to rote all 26 alphabets in a day. He was, however, an enthusiast. Disillusioned with his school, books and the mosque’s imam where he used to go to learn to recite the Holy Quran, our hero found solace with the mild teachings of a relative who was a devout member of the Tableeghi Jamaat (TJ).
In his teens he became an equal Tableeghi (preacher) and never gave up saying the five daily prayers. Even on his errand to the jungle for firewood and cattle fodder in the snow he used to ready himself for offering his prayers in the snow.
Each morning the elderly preacher visited him and lured him with stories of paradise and lots other things. He began to ‘spend time as per the course’ in the Way of Allah by going for Serozas (three days), Ashra (10 days), Chilla (40 days) and the national and regional Tableeghi Ijtima (congregations of the Tableeghi Jamaat).
On his return from ‘spending time in the path of Allah’ everything else seemed irrelevant, even repugnant to the true religion. Quibbling with the neighbouring elderly men became a daily routine as they insisted upon what they had been taught in their childhood, while our young hero was hell bent to purify the religion from heresies of the ‘false’ faith.
Inspired by teachings of the Hadith, the teenager made it obligatory upon himself to cleanse the world from sins and prepare the people ‘on the path to paradise’.
The piously stimulated youth had even bothered his parents to quite a degree by imposing certain etiquette as how to eat and drink. He had memorised hundreds of dua’a (prayers) as he had been told that there was a specified prayer for every act, whether it was going to the toilet or going to a bazaar. He uttered these prayers in every allegedly relevant context. For sharpening his wits, and success in school and college examinations the young boy began to rely on prayers rather than on studies.
When he was still in college, an opportunity to raise his cadre of Imaan from the lowest to the highest presented itself. In the early 90s, the ‘celebrated’ Maulana Sufi Muhammad of Dir began agitation for the imposition of Sharia in the Malakand Division gradually turning the idyllic Swat valley as his base camp and battleground. As expected, the protagonist of this tale joined the campaign and attended his processions. He even took up arms during the high days of the movement for Sharia by Sufi Muhammad’s Tanzeem-e-Nifaaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadia (TNSM). Along with a few other youths, who were convicted during the last military operation in Swat in 2009 known as Operation Rah-e-Raast, the young boy agitated much but went dormant when the agitation was met with force during the second tenure of Benazir Bhutto’s government.
By that time, the young man has completed his graduation and cracks in his mindset had already begun to appear. During his ‘free study at the masters level’ — free in the sense that he was doing his masters as an external student and happened to read course books which are not usually taught at our universities as the main focus is to pass the examinations and get a degree — the young man began to develop some curiosity and critical thinking. The rebel as he was, our ‘hero’ announced his defiance of a certain public order wherein it was rumoured that a person who didn’t say prayer would be jailed for three months in the wake of the Sharia Bill by Nawaz Sharif’s second government. It is said that after that order the man was seldom seen at mosques.
Our hero was fortunate to have found the opportunity of free study without the help of a ‘teacher’. He happened to study a little of Russell, a bit of philosophy and anthropology. And for the last 13 years, our hero is among the most despised and controversial in his small society. Pleasantly enough, he has now a visible following as well. Upon inquiring how he feels when people speak ill of him, our hero replies,
“I have been in their ranks and used to be as orthodox as they are. It is really a painful angst to think differently but one must. One’s thoughts do make difference when one is upright in his public life so as to deny any ground for people to point fingers at your character. The progressives must take extra care of their dealings, personal or public”.
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