What our students get by way of history and social studies

By Zubeida Mustafa

Lubna was not even .four when Bangladesh was born in the midst of blood and tears. She was obviously too young to understand what was happening. Today Lubna is nearly fourteen and is appearing for her class nine examination this year. She still does not understand what happened in 1971. And you cannot really blame her for her lack of knowledge and understanding. Lubna is an intelligent and widely-travelled child who is definitely brighter than the average student of her age. All that her Pakistan Studies textbook tells her is that in December 1971 “half the country had been separated”. Fortunately she does not remember that in Class Five she had read in her Social Studies textbook, ‘Tne defeat of 1965 war did” not bring any change in the attitude of Bharat. It went on trying to harm Pakistan. This time it tried its luck on the eastern front. East Pakistan was surrounded by Bharat . . . A great number of Hindus lived there. Through its agents and other self seekers Bharat at first caused great troubles in East Pakistan and then attacked it from three sides .  The war continued for three weeks and ended in the creation of a separate state called Bangladesh.” Continue reading “What our students get by way of history and social studies”

Dr Schimmel & her sufis

By Zubeida Mustafa

“THE BEST ambassador Pakistan could ever have in Germany.” That is how a West German official described Dr Annemarie Schimmel. She is a lot more. In her quiet but keen manner she projects what is so beautiful and mystifying in the East. In Pakistan, Dr Schimmel needs no introduction though in West Germany her admirers are confined to a small circle of orientalists and, of course, those who are in any way interested in Pakistan.

Dr Annemarie Schimmel
Dr Annemarie Schimmel
The research she has carried out on Iqbal’s works and her publications on Mir Dard, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and on Urdu literature generally have made her a familiar figure in literary circles here and even otherwise. Her frequent visits to Pakistan – in November she was here on her fifteenth trip – have also brought her in close contact with the land and the people.

A visit to Dr Schimmel’s home in Bonn’s Lennestrasse is quite an experience. It is like a journey to the orient in the heart of the West. Her living room and study are full of big and small souviners she has carried back with her from the east. The huge rilli piece pinned on the wall, the silver scrolls containing her honorary degrees from the Universities of Islamabad, Hyderabad and Peshawar, the Kufic and Naskh styles of calligraphic inscriptions and the paintings by Chughtai and other artists give an oriental touch to her home.

As she enthused about Pakistani handicrafts, Dr. Schimme! brought out a Sindhi kurta embroidered in rich hues and held it up admiringly. This little gesture, more than anything else, revealed her love for all that is traditional here.

Dr. Schimmel lives in Bonn for six months, where she is busy writing books, and for six months she teaches in Harvard. But she draws inspiration from the East as was clear to me from the discourse she went into on the colour combinations used in Sindhi embroidery. Why has someone not researched on this fascinating aspect of Sind’s handicraft, she stopped and wondered.

Dr. Schimmel’s interest in Pakistan, its languages, culture, and religion is quite fascinating. It was the Turkish language which first attracted her to the East. Gradually she was so taken up by her study of mysticism that she soon found herself learning other languages – Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Pushto, Sindhi – to keep up with “her sufis”, as she calls them. It was not just the sufis who drove her but also a quest for knowledge.

A friend had asked her to write an introduction to his book on the Makli Hills. While looking for material to acquaint herself with the subject, she discovered that most of this was in Sindhi. She simply went on_to_ learn the language. And that introduced her to yet another Sufi – Shah Abdul Latif.

Islam is another passion with Dr SchimmeL She did her doctoral research in Islamic studies. Not only the religion but also Islamic art and calligraphy fascinate her. Blended with her deep interest in sufism, her insight into Islam and Islamic culture has helped her to produce some of the best literature on Islam. One of her most outstanding publication is Mystical Dimension of Islam which was published in 1975. Her works Islamic Calligraphy and Islamic Literature in India had appeared earlier. Then came books on Dard, Shah Abdul Latif and Maulana Rumi. Her latest works which have just been published or are forthcoming are Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, Mystical Poetry in Islam and Veneration of the Holy Prophet in Islamic Literature.

 Given her deep interest in Islam, it is not surprising when people, especially Germans, ask Dr. Schimmel what her own faith is. She replies without much. ado: “I am a moderately born Christian.” And then she goes on to explain how she can look objectively at Islam without being sentimental about it.


feels this absence of subjective involvement gives her greater credibility and she can project more convincingly than a Muslim can all that is good in Islam. And there she is right because Islam, Sufism, Iqbal, Shah Abdul Latif and others acquire a new meaning when seen through Dr. Schimmel’s eyes.

From Dawn Archives

Published in Dawn, February 17, 1982


Sister Mary Emily—building the ‘builders’

By Zubeida Mustafa

“IT is a wonderful thing to work with young people,” says the Principal of the St. Josenh’s Government College for Women. “What thrills me most,” she continues, ”is the awareness I have that I am helping to build the builders of tomorrow.”

Any one who has studied at St. Joseph’s can understand her feelfngs fully for every student of the college has heard the principal speak again and again about what the goal of college education should be. She repeatedly emphasises that a college should prepare its students to face life as mature and responsible adults.


St. Joseph’s has changed in many ways over the years. The building, although the basic structure remains the same, has been expanded in some places. And, of course, the enrolment has grown phenomenally. Continue reading “Sister Mary Emily—building the ‘builders’”

The Quaid’s tragic last hours

By Zuhair Siddiqui

geust-contTHE obscurity that still partly shrouds the childhood and earlier years of the creator of Pakistan is understandable. Some of the story will ever remain untold. The child who was destined to carve out a new State was born to an ordinary family of Khoja tradesmen practically unknown outside business circles in Karachi and Bombay.

The young Mohammad All was no prodigy and his name does not feature on the roll of honour of any school. The records of the schools that he attended tell us little beyond his registered date of birth and the dates of his joining and leaving. He left his last school, and the country, before matriculation. Continue reading “The Quaid’s tragic last hours”

Rape of the law

By Zuhair Siddiqui

geust-contThe sweep of events during the past half year has been dramatic and fast, and the Bhutto and Indira regimes already seem to belong to a distant past; but as their leaders desperately try to pull themselves out of the meshes of the law, one is struck by the contrast between their past contempt for “Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence” and their present determination to exploit its mechanisms to the full.

“Certainly no man can over estimate the importance, of the mechanisms of justice. There have been greater avenues to freedom than that beaten out by the writ of habeas corpus…

“What seem, on the surface, insignificantly procedural changes — as when a man becomes entitled to a copy of the indictment upon which he is charged, or is able, in the witness-box, to testify upon his own behalf, or may appeal from the verdict of a jury and the sentence of a judge to a body of legal experts beyond them — these, for all their forbiddingly technical character, are more nearly related to freedom than the splendid sentences in which Rousseau depicts the conditions of their attainment. Continue reading “Rape of the law”

Why Bhutto fell

By Zuhair Siddiqui

geust-contTHE despotic personality is immune from many “weaknesses” to which ordinary mortals are susceptible. One of these is a willingness to admit failure. The King can do no wrong, nor can he fail.

Even in the spring of 1945, as the Reich that he had built crumbled, most of Germany lay in ruins and Russian tanks rolled into Berlin, Hitler remained unshaken in his confidence that all that he had done was right. “From first to last,” says his biographer, Alan Bullock, his will and political testament shows “not a word of regret, nor a suggestion of remorse. The fault is that of others, above all that of the Jews, for even now the old hatred is unappeased. Word for word. Hitler’s final address to the German nation could be taken from almost any of his early speeches of the 1920’s or from the pages of Mein Kampf. Twenty odd years had changed and taught him nothing.” Continue reading “Why Bhutto fell”

Quaid for young readers: half-truths

Reviewed by Zuhair Siddiqui

Father of our Nation: Early Life Story, by Hamid Ahmad Khan. Pp. 35. Rs. 5.00. Published by the National Book Foundation for the National Committee for the Quaid-i-Azam’s Centenary Celebrations.

geust-contAPART from being a distinguished scholar and teacher, the late Prof. Hamid Ahmad Khan wielded a facile pen in English as well as Urdu. He was, however, never known for any interest in politics, and when he died a few years ago nobody knew that he had left among his literary remains an unpublished manuscript on the early life of the founder of Pakistan. This is presumably the first part of a full biography for the benefit of the younger generation which he had planned but did not live to complete. Continue reading “Quaid for young readers: half-truths”

Memories of a great scholar

By Zuhair Siddiqi, Viewpoint, September, 1977

geust-contDr. Wahid Mirza died in Lahore on September 5.

MOHAMMAD WAHID MIRZA was already in his late seventies, and slowly wearing away, when the country observed the 700th death anniversary of his beau ideal, Amir Khusrau, earlier this year. For nearly forty years, Dr. Mirza had been a distinguished figure in the world of Oriental learning. But outside the limited circle of Orientalists, he was not much known — thanks largely to his own retiring disposition and his inherent dislike of self-projection. During the last year of his life, however, his valuable work on Amir Khusrau brought him much wider recognition among the lay intelligentsia. In their search for authentic material on the fascinating character and amazing achievements of that great savant, writers and journalists inevitably had to turn to Dr.Wahid Mirza’s classic contribution, and many of them acknowledged him as one of the greatest living authorities on the subject. The National Book Foundation published a new edition of his Life and Works of Amir Khusrau, which has held the field as a practically indispensable work of reference ever since it was first published in 1935. And at the request of the Foundation,he produced within a few days, in spite of his old age and failing health, an English translation of Khusrau’s Khazain-ul-Futuh — a short history of the reign of Alauddin Khilji. As wider recognition, and fresh bouquets of tribute came to Dr. Mirza during the last year of his life one was reminded of the touching lines of Robert Blair : Continue reading “Memories of a great scholar”

The press: Thirty tortured years

 By Zuhair Siddiqui

geust-contTHE history of the first generation of Pakistan is strewn with mutilations of the rights and liberties that give meaning to political independence. Political activity and organisation, trade unionism, public speech, the people’s franchise, the gathering and publication of news, and press comment — all have been subjected during these thirty years to various kinds and degrees of restriction and control. The constraints have at times amounted to total suppression.

The denial of freedom to the Press, in a way, lies at the heart of the wider, perennial problem of authoritarianism and regimentation. The Press is the watchdog of the people’s freedom and, as an Englishman observed two centuries ago, its liberty is the “palladium of the civil, political and religious rights” of the individual.

Nearly a hundred and fifty years later, the truth of this pithy observation was elucidated by the great socialist political thinker, Harold Laski. He regarded an assertive critical spirit among the citizens as vital to the preservation of their rights, and the freedom of the Press as vital to the whole concept of responsible democratic government: Continue reading “The press: Thirty tortured years”