A not very originally-named dog called Fido was found dead in the backyard of one Yar Ashfaq Mazlum’s house.
He’d been lying there dead for over a day, but Ashfaq and his family simply refused to touch the dog’s body.
“It is paleet (dirty),” explained Ashfaq. “Call the Hindu bhangees (sewerage workers). They’ll pick him up.”
“They cost too much these days,” said Ashfaq’s neighbor, Qurban. “This was my dog, by the way.”
“Well, then you pick him up!” said Ashfaq.
“I can’t. I am Muslim like you, remember?”
“Then why did you keep a dog in the first place?”
“I didn’t know it was forbidden to keep dogs. I only got to know a week ago. I’ve been repenting ever since.”
“So you killed the dog?”
“No, I just let it go. I just threw a few stones at it.”
Another neighbor, Kamran, joined the conversation: “Isn’t that your dog, Qurban sahib?”
“Yes. It was. Until last week.”
“How did he die?”
“Who cares how he died!” said Ashfaq, agitated. “It’s a paleet animal and it deserves to die!”
“But it is one of God’s many creatures,” Kamran replied.
“Keeping dogs is forbidden. Period.” Ashfaq announced.
“How can you be so sure?” asked Kamran.
“Are you questioning God?” asked Ashfaq.
“Are you God?” replied Kamran.
“No! Of course not.”
“Well, then kindly answer the question.”
“I read it in a book.”
“The Holy book?”
“No, some book by an aalim.”
“And you believed him?”
“It’s also a hadith."
“But there are thousands of hadith. Not all are correct. How do you know this one is correct?”
“I just know. Now please help me get this paleet animal off my property. Some one call a bhangee!”
“Paleet Hindu bhangee, you mean,” Kamran sarcastically interrupted.
“Us Muslims can’t touch dogs, okay.” said Ashfaq.
Meanwhile, Qurban, who was listening to the scintillating theological dialogue between Ashfaq and Kamran, decided to pitch in: “You know, brothers, I think either the CIA or Blackwater agents killed him.”
He was serious.
“What?” Kamran reacted. “What the hell for?”
“Well, you see, I was trying to convert him, and …”
“Convert a dog?”
“Yes. I was trying to convert him into becoming a rooster,” Qurban explained.
“Wonderful!” Exclaimed Ashfaq. “What a superb thought. This neighborhood certainly needs a rooster who can wake us up for worship every morning.”
Kamran snickered: “Why not just get one, instead of getting a poor dog to turn into a rooster?”
“Ah, brother Kamran. There is more sawab in converting paleet things and people,” said Ashfaq.
“But why can’t a dog be a dog and a rooster a rooster? Why does a dog have to be converted into a rooster just because you don’t like dogs? Have you ever asked a rooster to turn into a dog?” asked Kamran, irritated.
“God forbid! What are you saying? That rooster would become an apostate. We would have to kill it then.”
“But we already kill roosters. We love their meat.”
“Yes, but a rooster eaten by a real Muslim actually goes to heaven.”
“Really? Who told you that. The aalim?”
“No, actually my grandmother, God bless her soul.”
All the while, Qurban was deep in thought, scratching his head: “Ashfaq bhai, had I been able to convert Fido into a rooster, would we have been able to eat it too?”
“Of course, Qurban. We can eat roosters. It is allowed.”
“But, Ashfaq bhai, he would still be looking like a dog, if you know what I mean?”
“Not if he was properly dressed,” said Ashfaq.
“Properly dressed?” said Kamran, shocked.
“Of course,” replied Ashfaq. “Can’t let a converted dog run around naked. Nudity is forbidden.”
“But roosters run around naked too!” said Kamran.
“Yes, but whereas you can see everything on a naked dog, you can’t on a rooster. They’re born covered.” Ashfaq explained.
“But you were born naked! Did your mother throw stones at you?” Kamran was now really losing it.
“What do you know, Kamran sahib?” Said Ashfaq. “You wear western clothes, don’t have a beard and, your wife and daughters don’t adorn the hijab!”
“Well that’s because I don’t want to turn into a rooster and ask my wife and daughters to become hens! I’d rather remain human.”
“You see, brother Kamran, there lies your problem. Wanting to become human before Muslim,” said Ashfaq.
“Oh, but I thought it meant the same thing. Doesn’t being a good Muslim amount to being a good human too?” asked Kamran.
“Oye, hoye! What have all those western books that you read done to you, brother Kamran? Here, read this instead. Get to know your roots.”
“My grandmother’s recipe for a mouth-smacking chicken burger.”
“What has a burger to do with my roots? And anyway, isn’t it a western dish?”
“Ah, that is what western propaganda has made you believe. Burgers were originally created by the Muslims 1400 ago.”
“And who told you that? Zaid Hamid?”
“Well, I should know. I have Arab blood in my veins.”
“Nonsense!” said Kamran. “You are clearly of sub-continental stock, like every Pakistani.”
Ashfaq smugly shook his head: “My ancestors were Arabs, my friend. We used to raise roosters in south Yemen”
“But, of course,” Kamran sighed.
Enter Qurban: “But, brothers, what about the poor dog?”
Ashfaq glared at him.
“I mean the dirty, filthy, paleet, forbidden creature from hell!” Qurban checked himself. “So what should we do with him?”
“Well, if you say you were trying to convert him then I guess the Hindu Indians, Israeli Jews or Christian Americans killed him,” said Ashfaq.
Qurban started to quietly sob: “My poor rooster. Dead.”
“Rooster?” Asked Kamran, baffled.
“Don’t cry,” said Ashfaq. “He died for a good cause.”
“But you used to throw stones at him, Qurban,” said Kamran.
“Yes, but only when I caught him fornicating in public.”
“But where else would a dog fornicate? In your drawing room?”
“Well, as long as he doesn’t do it in public.”
“But roosters fornicate in public too!” Said Kamran.
“Yes, but they are properly dressed. And are male.” Qurban replied.
“What farce! It’s wrong if a dog fornicates in public, but its okay to stone him in public?”
“It’s celestial law!” Ashfaq announced.
“Whose law, your spaced-out grandmother’s?”
“Hold your tongue, Kamran. Or you too will end up like that dog. I can’t have more dogs roaming around naked and fornicating in this neighborhood.”
Suddenly there was a 16.2 second silence. Qurban looked at Ashfaq: “Ashfaq bhai, so you … killed … Fido?”
Stumped, Ashfaq started to sweat: “Err … no, no, as you said, it must’ve been the Indians.”
“But there are no Indians in this neighborhood,” said Kamran.
“Then it must be the Jews.”
“What Jews?” ssked Qurban.
“I tell you it was Blackwater!” said Ashfaq.
“Blackwater killed a naked, fornicating, paleet dog. Shouldn’t you be thanking them instead?” said Kamran.
“Oh, right. But, you see, he had become a rooster. It wasn’t me, Qurban! Muslims don’t lie. It was him!” said Ashfaq, pointing at Kamran.
“But why him, Ashfaq bhai? He is Muslim too.” Qurban asked.
“No, he isn’t!” Ashfaq half-shouted. “He’s no Muslim. He is … he is … he is human!”
Photo illustration by Eefa Khalid
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Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com
He tweets @NadeemfParacha
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.