December 9, 2011

Literature — English is also a language of Islam and Pakistan

Pakistan isn't just the capital of global terrorism, the country can also be seen on the literary map of the world! Isn't it remarkable? 

By Habib R. Sulemani

Kamila Shamsie (left) and Bina Shah are among the new faces
of Pakistani English literature.  
ENGLISH is the “official” and Urdu “national language” of Pakistan. However, as a part of the dirty politics of the South Asian region, English has remained the lingo of a tiny unscrupulous ruling elite that exploits the poor and uneducated since 1947.

Pakistani rulers – politicians, generals and civilian bureaucrats – worship English and dollar like God! But they keep telling the uneducated lot to hate the language and money as symbols of “slavery” of the British colonial era and ongoing "expansionism" of the United States of America. The illiterate people are reminded through the military-controlled media to oppose the Americans and their language. They paint English as an “un-Islamic” and “language of the enemy.”

The poor are shown Urdu medium schools and seminaries (typical nurseries of extremism) while the children of the rulers go to English medium schools, cadet colleges, British and American universities. In this way, the rulers keep the masses in the dark and go on looting the country as well as the global community. Whenever the oppressed people cry, they're told to be patient according to the teachings of Islam... "Your suffering will lead you into eternal peace in the everliving paradise... Don’t care for money in this short-lived world as a shroud has no pockets!"

Thus the society has been divided into two major groups: the materialistic ruling class that loots for generations, and the religious poor being looted for ages. The ruling class, especially the military establishment, spreads religious and political confusion in the society so that people keep fighting, and no one creates any hurdle for it in its plunder game. With the help of the clergy and secret agencies, the military establishment has very cunningly entangled the nation of over 184 million people in useless debates of the 19th and 20th centuries—for example, there is a question of the Sir Syed Ahmed Khan-era: what to do with English and democracy in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?

It's not the time to debate over acceptance of English rather it’s the perfect time to get perfection in this global language. People should never fear English or consider it an "enemy language" or "language of the enemy" as the ruling class propagates it through its criminal brigades. The M4 military, mullah, militant and media should own English publicly. It's a universal truth that English serves Islam and Pakistan more than any other language in the Cyber Age.

Therefore, the government especially the powerful generals should accept English as a national language along with Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi, Pashto, Seraiki, Kashmiri, Potohari, Hindko, Brahvi, Gojri, Shina, Balti, Chitrali, Burushaski, Wakhi and other languages spoken within the boundaries of Pakistan. Don't hesitate to accept English as an Islamic and Pakistani language anymore!

English is easy and friendly: The Cyber Generation knows that English is the easiest and a user-friendly language. The cellphone and Internet made it a means of communication for the masses not only in Pakistan but also in other parts of the world. From South Asia to Middle East and other regions where people used to hesitate while talking or writing in English, the Cyber Age Revolution has given them new confidence. Those who still don't speak or write English, they at least use its (Roman) script or words in their chitchat or text messages. So, directly or indirectly, English is a part of everyone's life on planet earth.

Fiction writers Nadeem Aslam (first from left), Mohsin Hamid,
Muhammad Hanif and Daniyal Mueenuddin.
My observation says that the fear, hesitation and shyness of people regarding English is gradually vanishing in our language-conscious society. English is now a desi (South Asian) language. Therefore, the global demand for good quality desi literature is increasing (although the publishing world is going through a sea change!). That is why desi writers have accelerated keyboard-punching! This is amazing but history has yet to decide the net worth of Pakistani writers in the globalized world of literature!

When people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds communicate in a global language like English, ultimately the gaps are bridged! With the popularity of English at mass level, there is hope for a new era of peace and prosperity in this violent country, and it'll affect the world at large too. What politicians, generals and the corporate world have lost in the thoughtless and mismanaged Global War on Terrorism globally, could be achieved by writers! That is the power of the keyboard (longhand-guys read pen!)

Therefore, there should be an end to the traditional bigotry of our ruling class especially the generals the self-styled custodians of the ideological borders of Pakistan who have failed to defend the geographical borders of this country. The people of our terrorized land should now clear their collective mind that education in English will not lead their children astray! English protects the country and faith more than our pricy military (which only consumes our development budget).

A trilingual nation: Most of the people in Pakistan are trilingual. A person in Punjab speaks Punjabi at home, communicates in Urdu with the people of other provinces and uses English in official correspondence. English is also used for communication in the cyberspace and international level events etc.

Similarly, in the neighboring India many people in the South and Eastern parts use their first languages plus Hindi and English for communication. English is replacing Hindi gradually in the media. I can remember when a rare Southern Deve Gowda (from Karnataka) became Prime Minister of India in 1996, he used to speak in English on TV instead of Hindi. In those times some journalists used to say that as a Southern, Mr. Gowda hated Hindi, others argued that he didn't know the politically "union national language" of India just like other people of the region!

Pakistan's Founding Father M.A. Jinnah declared Urdu as the national language of the country but he used to speak English as his first language! It shows that English is deep-rooted in the fertile soil of the Subcontinent. Although it's really hard to speak three languages at a time for any normal human being but those who are well-versed in English are considered having an international passport. The English-speaking people get more chances of economic and social uplift than others anywhere in the world. So, the self-styled custodians of the vernaculars should think twice before speaking against the "international passport" in the global village!  

Desi and Islamic literature in English: There is a treasure of Islamic literature in English. The works of Quranic scholars like Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah (their life stories bring tears to eyes), and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (who was also a novelist and giants like E.M. Froster had recognized his creative genius) are historic in nature. After reading these Muslim scholars of the 20th century, intellectuals realized that English is also a language of Islam besides Arabic, Persian and Urdu. 

Alys Faiz (first from left), Bapsi Sidhwa, Daud Kamal and
Taufiq Rafat. The grand old men and women of Pakistani
English literature include poets and fiction writers.
In the present time electronic media, Islamic televangelist Dr. Zakir Naik has increased popularity of English among the religious population of South Asia. This shows that English has accepted Islam and Muslims have adopted English as their own language.

Similarly, the scene of desi English literature is becoming richer with the passage of time. Limiting myself to Pakistan, after the grand old men and women of Pakistani English literature like Professor Ahmed Ali, G. Allana, Alys Faiz, Taufiq Rafat, Daud Kamal, Zulfikar Ghose, Bapsi Sidhwa and other pioneers new writers and poets are mushrooming. Some writers have found their niche internationally. Pakistan isn't just the capital of global terrorism, the country can also be seen on the literary map of the world! Isn't it remarkable? 

The most interesting thing is that those young guys who write in English are from different social classes of the segregated society. Amongst the published writers, there are people like the Urdu-medium-Englishman Nadeem Aslam whose first story appeared in an Urdu language newspaper in Pakistan; anglophile Kamila Shamsie's mother Muneeza Shamsie is a well-known literary journalist; Bina Shah has a feudal background; city-boy Mohsin Hamid rocketed to stardom and big fame with small books; village-boy Muhammad Hanif is very famous in Pakistan who seems at ease both in Urdu and English; acclaimed short-story writer Daniyal Mueenuddin's father is a Pakistani and mother an American. The list is long and it includes some hillbillies too who love to express themselves in prose and poetry by employing this sophisticated language!

Don't fear English language writers: Those who write in the vernaculars and oppose the desi English  writers, they are advised to jump on the bandwagon instead of burning their precious blood in jealousy or otherwise particularly those writers who are no more young!

If you want to know the main reason why English has become a lingua franca in the world then listen calmly! Native English writers never opposed new things and absorbed good literature from anywhere and everywhere. Thus they made English an asset of the human race on planet earth! We make fun of Persian language in Pakistan [Parro Farsi, becho tail] but the history of English language says that the Englishmen adopted Persian classics as their own, and today, Khayyam and Rumi are among the most-read poets in the West.

Quranic scholars Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall
(first from left), Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali,
Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah, and Islamic
televangelist Dr. Zakir Naik.
The lesson is: don't care much about the language or medium of expression — rather concentrate on the content, which actually gives life to both the writer and writing!

Urdu and regional language writers should broaden their mind and canvas! In the globalized intellectual world, I think, those who have written both in Urdu and English or have translated their works into English, are also part of the Pakistani literature in English. Among these writers are (don't be surprised by some names) Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Professor Ralph Russell, Qurratulain Haider, Intizar Hussain, Abdullah Hussain, Muzaffar Ali Syed, Gilani Kamran, Dr. Anis Nagi, Dr. Saadat Saeed, Dr. Abrar Ahmad, Yasmeen Hameed, Sadullah Shah, Harris Khalique, Asif Farrukhi, Dr. Muhammad Ali Siddiqui, Dr. Rauf Parekh, Muhammad Umar Memon and others. 

Plus, those who have written in Urdu but their works have been translated into English, they're also a part of Pakistani literature in English. Among them are giants like Manto, Ghulam Abbas, Shaikh Ayaz, Enver Sajjad, Hasan Manzar, Kishwar Naheed, Fahmida Riaz, Farkhanda Lodhi, Zaitoon Bano, Dur Mohammed Kassi, Masood Ashar, Zaheda Hina, Amer Sindhu and many others. So, the typical narrowed perception of language and literature should change now! No matter what the traditionalists and conservative writers, poets, critics, linguists, philologists, political and social scientists say—change is eminent!

Change the syllabus: The policymakers at government level should change the current outdated syllabuses of English, Urdu and other languages and literature particularly at university level. Desi English writers should be included in the syllabuses properly. The vernacular writings must also be a part of the English syllabus. The traditional teachers/professors should also change their typical mindset and method of teaching in the changed world. In this way many languages and literature departments (Urdu, Punjabi, Seraiki etc) could be saved from total destruction!

To make a long story short — Pakistani and Muslim writers, along with other creative people from all over the world, are enriching English language and literature as their primary medium of expression. The once a language-of-the colonial-exploiters is now the pride of the whole world! Thus proper communication will reduce global conflicts. This is strategically and intellectually very important for sustainable peace and prosperity in the polarized world. The intellectual arena needs more attention than the military.

Message to the youth: I've a very simple message for the youth: learn English not as a "foreign language" but as your "own" language. Think in English, dream in English, talk in English, read in English and write in English...

To understand this very simple message, you should listen to the Pakistani man on You Tube, who tries hard to learn English with some helpful foreigners. Don't laugh at him... just see his devotion... no matter who makes fun of him, he is determined to learn the global language... he is armed with confidence and wants to adopt a "foreign" language as his own! With similar zeal and determination, people should send their children to English medium schools. Thus the whole generation will change! If you want to learn English, then make this funny-looking man your hero! Feel free to make mistakes... without errors, perfection is just a wild dream!

Let's revolt against the traditional bigotry of our rulers! The ruling class should stop cashing ignorance and poverty! The puppet politicians and almighty generals should pity the nation! There is a clear message from the people especially youth to the ruling class: like religious polarization, stop segregating the society on linguistic basis for your sinister motives! Let English be a means of communication at public level without any prejudice.

(From an unpublished essay of the author) 

THE UNSUNG HERO: If you want perfection in English, then learn from the zeal and determination of this man! 

Related Posts

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  2. Writers and poets are founders of globalization
  3. English language gives birth to Roman Urdu
  4. Delusion of communism: Pakistan Army uses leftists as weapon
  5. Global village — internet will play vital role in next elections 


  1. From cyberspace:

    Rehman: ‎"We make fun of Persian language in Pakistan but the history of English language says that the Englishmen adopted Persian classics as their own, and today, Khayyam and Rumi are among the most-read poets in the West," writes Habib Sulemani:


    این خانم پاکستانی چیزی گفت من ناراحت شدم و از طرف خودم جواب ایان را می دهم تا پاکستانی ها عوعو نکنند و بما نخندند:

    جواب:پاکستان یک کشور کاملا تقلبی است. هیچ چیز از خودش ندارد. زمینش مال هند است. زیانش مال ما ایرانیان. دین آنها هم مال عربستان.ضمنا پاکستانی ها ۹۸ در صد از حرفه ای ترین کلاهبرداران جهانند.
    پاکستانی ها مسلمانان بسیار بسیار خری هم تشریف دارند.

    کار های پاکستانی ها در خارج:
    مواد مخدر. پول تقلبی. چک . تراولرز چک دزدی.
    و انواع و اقسام حیله و حقه و کلک.

    اما درود بر هندی ها که ۹۸ در صد اینگونه نیستند...

    ترکیه هم یک کشور تقلبی است. این موضوع را چند سال پیش بهرام مشیری گفتند. اما بنده رفتم و دوسال روی این مسئله تحقیق و مطالعه کردم و صد ها چیز دیگر هم دستگیرم شد که در کتاب آینده راجع به آن مفصلا خواهم نوشت و به سه زیان.

    چقدر این وحشیان قمپز در می کنند.تازه از همسایگان ایران پاکستان خیلی دست ملا ها را رفته است. تروریست شیعه پاکستانی را ایران اجیر می کند ای هموطن گرامی.

    Rehman: ‎Marshall Shokouhi, sir, you got it wrong, please read the post to understand the context... thanks for the comment.

    1. constitution from british...

  2. Héctor Pro PalestinaDecember 12, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I think when someone who develops a foreign leanguage as a second one, he/she is always in a countinuous learning and to commit mistakes is natural and even healty. As a Spanish-mother tongue speaker and English and German student, I can state that learn foreign leanguages is the best way to start to know different cultures. Greeting to the pashtuni on the video and everyone who speak or wish to speak another lenguage!

  3. Yes Indeed... Khayyam and Rumi resembles the beauty of Persian Language and culture. Rumi's works has been translated into english by many. I wonder if the translations were able to touch the soul of the language. However, the West has done extremely good with the translation for the world to understand. If one is able to understand the depth of Khayyam and Rumi, their perspective point of view on Persia will be way much appreciated, like in the context above mentioned by Rehman Pak.

  4. I think pakistan is one and only one country who never like to work hard and learn new things. never want to do progress and never good thoughts spread all around. they are just spending their life as some one who waits to get chance. A chance that can become magical and change every thing in them. come o reality and accept and allow other to learn some thing new.

  5. Kamran Khan of Geo News TV says on his official Facebook page: "Very strangely, some friends suggested that Urdu system should be abolished? Alas! but we still have 'English' as a degree of measurement of 'Education'. Urdu is our culture and we must preserve and protect for our future generations. Zara dosri quomon ko dekhein apni history aur culture ko bachanay kay liye kia kia kertay hein?"

  6. You call Urdu our culture when it is actually an anti-national language which was the major cause of break up of Jinnah's original Pakistan. I can summarize the history of PaKISTAN in a single sentence: Jinnah's English made Pakistan and his ill-advised obsession with Urdu broke it.

  7. A leading journalist, who is one of the finest journalists in my opinion, recently levelled four accusations at Jinnah, which he described as the reason Pakistani democracy has not flourished. First, that Jinnah chose to be the Governor-General instead of prime minister; second, that he concentrated power in his own hands; third, that he dismissed the NWFP [now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] Assembly; and fourth, that Jinnah chose Urdu as the ‘national’ language. These were contrasted with Nehru in India.\12\19\story_19-12-2011_pg3_5

  8. Screenwriting contests-The sheer number of screenwriting contests accessible on the World Wide Web today will surely sweep you off your feet and place you in a perplexed situation where you will find it difficult to choose the right platform for your creative writing skill set

  9. I wonder if the author notices his/her own role in depressing the 'powerless masses.' Of course - ask the miniscule's language to be learned by the rest: that will obliterate the power dynamic. Or, you could get rid of the ridiculous bias for English and make it a fair playing field for everyone, not those who are most eloquent (for this will happen: see Lanaguage and Symbolic power, Pierre Bourdieu).