Goodbye seventh sky

June 17, 2010

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Last Monday (June 12) in the National Assembly of Pakistan, a member of a breakaway Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), Maulvi Asmatullah, suddenly rose from his seat and started to recite the azaan (Muslim call for prayer).

It didn’t matter to him that the muezzin of the assembly mosque had already sounded the call, and the fact that Asmatullah was not facing the qibla (Kabah) while reciting the azaan.

I am sure I would have burst out laughing had I been there, enough to burst the stitches I just got while playing football.

To me, this behaviour of Asmatullah is a classic example of what is called, ‘black comedy’ – a real life situation ripe with irony where something is done in all seriousness but ends up sounding or looking absurd.

I’m sure the self-righteous among my Muslim brethren (especially of the politico-religious kind),  just like the JUI man, actually think he did something stunningly pious.

But never mind the odd holy eccentric politico, I’ve always wondered how does one talk to a suicide bomber? No black comedy there, or is it?

With paradise on the suicide bomber’s mind, there is, of course, also that attractive matter of hoors awaiting him there – wide-eyed maidens pending for those who have done good deeds in this world.

How is one to reason with a person who exhibits the ultimate extreme of irrationality by willingly ready to blow himself up in public in the name of religion?

For one thing, one should try to talk to him in his own language and imagery. No need to talk to him about politics, economics and society. Talk to him about paradise.

Yes, but wouldn’t this further encourage him? Because after all it is paradise he thinks his soul is headed to after the body explodes into bits, taking along with its self-inflicted mutilation, all those who are still not ready for the seventh sky. And good (or better than good), is what this soon-to-detonate jihadi believes he is doing. Because you see, according to him, Allah wants him to explode. Preferably in public.

So, what to say to someone so demented and desperate?

Simple. Talk to him about rapture. But with a twist.

Tell him that paradise is running out of hoors. Thanks to so many recent suicide bombings, scores of bombers have already reached heaven and bagged all the blissful fair maidens. Tell him it’ll take a bit of time for the new hoors to grow (on trees, of course) and that it would be wiser for him to delay his dramatic, headless departure by, say, another twenty to thirty years.

Let him know that in the meantime, he can do a lot of good, for instance, by chasing away people celebrating basant, blackening ‘obscene’ billboards, delivering fiery, loud sermons from his favourite mosque every Friday and so on.

This way at least he won’t be murdering innocent people, at least not directly. All this we have lived through (even if with firmly-clinched teeth), but bomb blasts and the sight of severed limbs and quivering burned bodies that follow are something else all together.

You can also try appealing to the suicidal jihadi’s individuality streak by telling him how overdone and passé suicide bombing is and how the hoors are not impressed anymore with all this overkill of similar looking jihadis arriving in paradise, all speaking and looking the same way. Actually not speaking at all because they usually arrive without their heads!

I’m sure if he agrees to delay his martyrdom for those crucial twenty to thirty years, his stance will eventually soften.  At most, he will end up becoming an instructor at a madressah.

Who knows, he may also get the opportunity of being interviewed by Hamid Mir or even better, he could end up joining a politico-religious party and drive his very own Prado.

In fact, there is now a chance for our suicidal jihadi for bagging a career in television as well. As we all know there is always a lot of space for loud denouncers and jihadis on talk shows. Also tell him that hoors find TV personalities rather dashing.

As a talk show host on TV, apart from shouting down conspiratorial infidels, he can also add his bit to the conventional political gossip. And since this gossip on the news channels is treated as insightful political discourses, he too can become known as a “constitutional expert” or a “senior tajziya nigar.”

If news channels are not his style, there also are dedicated twenty-four-hour religious channels for him to join. Channels devoted to discussing intricate, serious and vital issues such as the status of the cow in Hinduism or whether a second cousin is na-mehram to a third cousin but only half-mehram to the first and conditionally mehram (or na-mehram or both) to the adopted first and second cousins, so on and so forth.

And if all else fails for our struggling jihadi, there is always a spot or two available on ‘Aalim Online,’ even if only for a fleeting moment of light comic relief.

Remember brothers, the idea is to explain to him in his own language and his logic, why he should delay the violent departure of his paradise-bound soul.

So, I appeal to the peace-loving tableeghi jammat brothers: don’t come to me, go to the jihadis instead and tell them about the impeding shortage of hoors in paradise. I mean, what’s a paradise without hoors, right?

NFP80
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.