So, Quran classes have become compulsory for children in Pakistani schools in the Arabic language. The state is regulating how religion is practiced among the people and making it a part of public life to enforce its own version of the religion. There’s nothing too surprising about it because the arabization of Pakistan has been a long, arduous process even when the likes of Saudi Arabia are themselves turning away from enforcing religion in the public life in such a strict way.
How did the Arabization of Pakistan happen and when did it start?
At the time of partition, the makers of Pakistan realized the diversity of the population that they were going to inherit. Selling an Islamic ideology to a population which was so culturally diverse was easy but creating a coherent identity through it was going to be difficult.
After the fall of Dhaka, it became very apparent that a binding identity needs to be created. Stuck in this difficulty, the state decided to adopt the pan-Islamic identity with some features of the Arabic society.
The next step was to target the history of the land. Textbooks were used to teach children that Islam came to this part of the world with the arrival of the Arabs and eventually the Muslims carved out a nation for themselves. All the other relevant information has been wiped from the textbooks.
We no longer acknowledge the extensive cultural history of our region, like the immense Buddhist and Hindu past of the subcontinent unless it is to look at them with an eye of discord
Our story begins with the journey of Muhammad Bin Qasim and praises emperors like Aurangzeb Alamgir – all because they are in line with the Arab identity.
We conveniently ignore the interfaith harmony of the past. Dara Shikow was a preacher of inter faith harmony. Instead we take about plunderers like Mehmud Ghaznavi to create a triumphant image of our faith.
What measures have been taken to bring evolve Pakistan’s own culture into a mish-mash by adding Arab elements?
Rubina Saigol is an education expert and she believes
“Our state system is the biggest madrassa. We keep blaming madrassas for everything, and of course, they are doing a lot of things that I would not agree with. But the state ideologies of hate and a violent negative nationalism are getting out there where madrassas cannot hope to reach.”
If you look at the result of how adopting an Arab identity has turned out for Pakistan, you will realize that it is quite evidently bearing fruit.
The abaya was not a familiar term in the Urdu language but now it has become a criteria of purity in the society. We have shifted to saying Allah Hafiz from Khuda Hafiz. The word Khuda has been replaced by Allah.
According to renowned scientist and thinker Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy here’s how the Arabization process evolved:
“Persian, the language of Mughal India, had once been taught as a second or third language in many Pakistani schools. But, because of its association with Shiite Iran, it too was dropped and replaced with Arabic. The morphing of the traditional “Khuda hafiz” (Persian for “God be with you”) into “Allah hafiz” (Arabic for “God be with you”) took two decades to complete. The Arab import sounded odd and contrived, but ultimately the Arabic God won and the Persian God lost.”
If you look at the constitution of Pakistan, Article 31/2 (a) has facilitated the teaching and learning of Arabic language via compulsory religious edication
The State shall endeavor, as respects the Muslims of Pakistan to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arab language.
This is despite the fact that only less than one percent of the Pakistani population understands Arabic.
The next step in line was to adopt the Arabic version of the religion. The Indian version of Islam was relatively different. It evolved with the culture of the society and embedded various doctrines in itself. However, we decided to adopt the puritanical version of Islam and we started importing it from Saudi Arabia.
Why is the Arabization not a desired evolution?
Kamal Azfar, a Pakistani writer, sums up this debate in a beautiful manner. According to him, “there are two concepts of Pakistan: the first empirical and the second utopian. The empirical concept is based on solid foundations of history and geography while the utopian concept is based on shifting sands. Utopia is not an oasis but a mirage… Samarqand and Bukhara and the splendors of the Arab world are closely related to us but we do not possess them. Our possessions are Mohenjo Daro and Sehwan Sharif, Taxila and Lahore, Multan and the Khyber. We should own up to all that is present here in the Indus Valley and cease to long for realities not our own for that is false-consciousness.”
Whatever the motivation, the arabization of Pakistan is a reality not hidden. But what about our own cultural identity that we may lose because of this rapid arabization?
Cover image via: osv.com