Dissection of a Trivial Argument: Ramadan or Ramzan?


*First published on the Express Tribune Blog.

Since the last few years, the arrival of the holy month brings with itself the ignition of a debate on social media in Pakistan; at the center of which is the usage of words for the month: the Urdu word Ramzan and Arabic word Ramadan.

Some tweets explain better:

“Beena Sarwar @beenasarwar:

You can call the holy month what you want. I’ll use Ramzan, rather than the corporatised, commercialised, Arabised, westernised Ramadan.

Fazeelat Aslam @FazleetAslam

If you’re Pakistani say Ramzan. If you enjoy continuing Zia’s mission and being a lemming, please say Ramadan. #lemmings

AM‏ @delhisultan

@AneelaBabar Today we say use Ramzan, not Ramadan. Tomorrow it will be something else. Where will these social dictates take us? @bdutt

Those on left side of this schism opine that usage of Arabic instead of Urdu words are a constituent of Arabic cultural imperialism and religious rigidity in Pakistan; commenting sarcastically how the country’s name itself should be changed to Al-Bakistan (The Arabic language doesn’t contain ‘P’ in it.)

While those on the right argue for using Arabic words to keep to ‘proper’ religious linguistics or holding onto Pakistan’s Islamic heritage; often ‘correcting’ other’s greeting of Ramzan to Ramdan.

An article in Guardian titled ‘In Pakistan, saying Goodbye can be a religious statement’ on a similar Khuda-Hafiz/Allah-Hafiz issue, says:

‘Until about 10 years ago “Khuda hafiz”, which means “God protect you”, was the phrase commonly used to say goodbye. But, in the past decade, “Khuda hafiz” began to be overtaken by a new term “Allah hafiz.

While languages change and evolve with time, and Pakistan certainly has bigger problems such as corruption and militancy, the alteration has unsettled liberals in Pakistan, who say it reflects a wider change in the country’s cultural landscape.

The promotion of “Allah hafiz” first began in the 1980s under the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq when Pakistan was involved in the US- Saudi-backed jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.’

The belief that this ‘religious linguistic propriety’, which included the introduction of ‘Allah Hafiz’ and ‘Ramadan’ in Pakistan’s lingual fashion, began with Zia’s campaign of cultural Islamisation does hold truth. It has inevitably led to these (words, phrases) to be seen symbolic of the infamous General’s Islamification drive or ‘Saudization‘ of Pakistan; which is the cause of many liberals and progressive-minded people objecting to their use today.

Although it is a question of precedence of subjects that needs to be reconsidered by them because Zia’s ideological influence is at its most dangerous when it exists from our madrassas, mindsets to our constitution, not in mere words or phrases.

Despite that, it is important to realize that with the flight of decades; these words became incorporated into the nation’s lingo and style of speaking in a manner that they are now viewed and used as ordinary as any other ones (for most); regardless or unknown of and removed from their background of Islamisation/Arabisation of the linguistic culture. This is particularly true for the young generation of today; that was either born in the 80s or grew up in an age where they were unable to notice the process of lingual transformation that was being attempted through a state-fuelled campaign.

It is questionable whether the application of a few phrases or words cause or be a testament to some ‘rampant Arabisation’ of  Pakistan presently and to assume that all who like using the Arabic word for Ramzan are proponents of degradation of Pakistan’s own, distinct culture, lingual establishment and imposition of an Arab one, is preposterous.

Many use either of the words out of pure personal preference or habit. To be fair, Urdu as a language faces more threat of perishing at the hands of the colonial era inculcated sense of inferiority amongst us which has manifested itself in the ’Angraizi complex’, or the paramount significance that this society grants the English language over Urdu.

On the other hand, to believe that the occasional usage of Arabic words lends one more religiosity or ‘Muslim-ness’ is equally absurd. Those possessing this outlook need to review it, too, because respect for religion rests not in a handful of words but in actions, behaviours and attitudes.

Does addressing Allah as God make one a lesser Muslim?

Intentions behind uttering something and its essence is what matters most; words and expressions may differ.

The aforementioned points, thus, should validate how trifling the apprehensions and perceptions and their basis are for both of the groups. To be so vehemently opposed to the usage of either ‘Ramazan’ or ‘Ramadan’ by any, on the account of the stated views or any other reasons, is irrational and in contrast with good sense.

Let everyone have the freedom and choice to pick their own unit of language up, without forcing or prodding others to conform to each other’s self-defined mediums of ‘appropriate’ expressions.

The people of Pakistan need to stop making a mountain out of this molehill and quit attaching such alarmingly grand nature to it; of cultural foist and religious inaccuracy.

While Pakistan gets mired in troubles of far great and disturbing kind, debate over ’Ramazan’ or ‘Ramadan’, only gives prominence to the penchant amongst this nation with its preoccupation with the trivial.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Jinnah and Iqbal’s Support For The Palestinians


Little light is thrown upon or reflected on the views of the towering personalities who helped to shape the reality that came to be known as Pakistan, over the problem of Palestine. With the recent attack on the Freedom Flotilla by Israel which was bound to take aid for the people of Gaza and also had 3 Pakistanis amongst its passengers of 600, many people have wondered what relation does Pakistan share with Palestine?

In this regard, I decided to search and gather through sources the thoughts of Jinnah and Iqbal over this conflict in the Middle East.

The content below is from my collection of different articles on this topic:

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From Roedad Khan’s  ‘So many questions: so few answers’ :

“On May 25, 1945, Mr. Jinnah declared:

“If Britain goes back even on the plighted word of hers, which is the barest justice done to the Arabs, it will be against the deepest sentiments and views of the Muslims of the world and it will constitute a breach of the solemn assurances given to the Musalmans of India whose sympathy and support were secured for the prosecution of the war on the basis of this promise… It is too dangerous a game to play and a bait to get the support… of the Jews for electioneering purposes, for it will certainly alienate and exasperate the Muslim world and lead to most disastrous consequences”.

Addressing a mass meeting in Bombay on November 8, 1945, Mr Jinnah said:

“We Musalmans of India, are one with the Arab world on this issue. It is not a question of a National Home for Jews in Palestine. It is a question of Jews reconquering Palestine, which they had lost 2000 years ago, with the help of British bayonets and American money. I have no enmity against Jews. I know they were treated very badly in some parts of civilized Europe. But why should Palestine be dumped with such a large number of Jews? If Jews want to reconquer Palestine, let them face Arabs without British or American help.”



Referring to the efforts made by President Truman to put pressure on British government to allow 100,000 Jews into Palestine, Mr. Jinnah said,here comes the President of a great country thinking entirely of Jewry and the interests of Jews. President Truman had the effrontery to put pressure on the British government to allow a million Jews into Palestine, while he has agreed, after a long period of vacillation, to allow only a 100 Indians to migrate to the United States of America”.
When a section of the audience shouted, ‘shame’, ‘shame’, Mr Jinnah turned around and exclaimed:

“It is not shame. It is monstrous and criminal. Why doesn’t President Truman take one million Jews into USA? The reason is that the Jews do not want a National Home in Palestine. What they want is to reconquer Palestine, which they lost 2000 years ago, with the help of British bayonets and American money”.

Mr Jinnah then declared that if the British government tried to violate the solemn pledge given to the Arabs in Palestine and allow the Jews into Palestine, as suggested by President Truman, there would be no peace in the Middle East and the whole Islamic world would revolt. The consequences would be disastrous.

“The Muslims of India would not remain as mere spectators. They would help the Arabs in Palestine by all possible means”.

The Palestinian cause continued to be championed by Pakistan after the emergence of the new state. In an interview with Duncan Hooper, Reuters’ correspondent, Mr. Jinnah warned that, if Palestine was partitioned:

“There was bound to be the gravest disaster and unprecedented conflict, not only between the Arabs and the Authority that would undertake to enforce the Partition plan, but the entire Muslim world will revolt… Pakistan will have no other course left but to give its fullest support to the Arabs”.

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The following is from ‘Iqbal and Jinnah on Palestine’ by Dr. Ghulam Ali Chaudhry:

Muhammad Iqbal asked them a question, through the answer to it he well knew:

“If the Jew had a right to the soil of Palestine, Why can’t the Arab lay claim to Spain? No, British Imperialism has other aims. It’s no tale of citron, honey or dates.”


In poem after poem, Iqbal attacked the two Mandatories, Britain and France, for their ghastly deeds in Palestine and Syria.

In the 1930’s the situation in Palestine became increasingly alarming. The British adopted ruthlessly repressive measures to quell Arab opposition, and the result was a general revolt. When in July 1937 the Royal Commission under Lord Peel recommended partition and further Jewish immigration, the whole world of Islam was left aghast.

Miss Farquharson of the National League of England requested Muhammad Iqbal to express his views on these shocking recommendations. Writing to her on 20 July 1937, he said:

We must not forget that Palestine does not belong to England. She is holding it under a mandate from the League of Nations, which Muslim Asia is now learning to regard as an Anglo-French institution invented for the purpose of dividing the territories of weaker Muslim peoples. Nor does Palestine belong to the Jews who abandoned it of their own free will long before its possession by the Arabs. Nor is Zionism a religious movement…. Indeed the impression given to the unprejudiced reader is that Zionism as a movement was deliberately created, not for the purpose of giving a National Home to the Jews but for the purpose of giving a home to British Imperialism on the Mediterranean littoral.

“The Report amounts, on the whole, to a sale under duress to the British of the Holy Places in the shape of the permanent mandate which the Commission has invented in order to cover their imperialist designs. The price of this sale is an amount of money to the Arabs plus an appeal to their generosity and a piece of land to the Jews. I do hope that British statesmen will abandon this policy of actual hostility to the Arabs and restore their country to them.”

Allama Muhammad Iqbal had insistently struck in his work this same note of mistrust of the presiding powers of the present-day world and prescribed this same remedy of self-reliance for the Muslim individual and the Muslim community. He hadn’t lived to see his dream of Pakistan come true or to watch the vile producing the last bloody act of the tragedy in Kashmir and Palestine. 

Allama Muhammad Iqbal passed away on 21 April 1938 but his call rang on through the Muslim soul.

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[Continued passages from Dr. Ghulam Ali Chaudhry’s work]
 
On 15 October 1937, in the course of his presidential address to the All-India Muslim League Session at Lucknow, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said:
  

“May I now turn and refer to the question of Palestine? It has moved the Mussalmans all over India most deeply. The whole policy of the British Government has been a betrayal of the Arabs, from its very inception. Fullest advantage has been taken of their trusting nature. Great Britain has dishonoured her proclamation to the Arabs, which had guaran-teed them complete independence for the Arab homelands and the formation of an Arab Confederation under the stress of the Great War.
After having utilized them, by giving them false promises, they installed themselves as the Mandatory Power with that infamous Balfour Declaration, which was obviously irreconcilable and incapable of simultaneous execution.
Then, having pursued the policy to find a national home for the Jews, Great Britain now proposes to partition Palestine, and the Royal Commission’s recommendation completes the tragedy. If given effect to, it must necessarily lead to the complete ruination and destruction of every legitimate aspiration of the Arabs in their homeland — and now we are asked to-look at the realities! But who created this situation? It has been the handiwork of and brought about sedulously by the British statesmen … I am sure I am speaking not only of the Mussalmans of India but of the world; and all sections of thinking and fair-minded people will agree, when I say that Great Britain will be digging its grave if she fails to honour her original proclamation, promises and intentions — pre war and even post-war — which were so unequivocally expressed to the Arabs and the world at large.
I find that a very tense feeling of excitement has been created and the British Government, out of sheer desperation, are resorting to repressive measures, and ruthlessly dealing with the public opinion of the Arabs in Palestine. The Muslims of India will stand solid and will help the Arabs in every way they can in the brave and just struggle that they are carrying on against all odds.”

 

On 26 December 1938, in his presidential address to the All-India Muslim League at Patna, Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared:

“I know how deeply Muslim feelings have been stirred over the issue of Palestine. I know Muslims will not shirk from any sacrifice if required to help the Arabs who are engaged in the fight for their national freedom. You know the Arabs have been treated shamelessly — men who fighting for the freedom of their country, have been described as gangsters, and subjected to all forms of repression. For defending their homelands, they are being put down at the point of the bayonet, and with the help of martial laws. But no nation, no people who are worth living as a nation, can achieve anything great without making great sacrifices, such as the Arabs of Palestine are making. All our sympathies are with those valiant martyrs who are fighting the battle of freedom against usurpers. They are being subjected to monstrous injustices which are being propped up by British Imperialism with the ulterior motire of placating the international Jewry which commands the money-bags…”

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah died with a thorn in his heart.

For barely two weeks before he passed away on 11 September 1948, he said in his Eid-ul-Fitr message on 27th August 1948:

“My Eid message to our brother Muslim States is one of friendship and goodwill. We are all passing through perilous times. The drama of power politics that is being staged in Palestine, Indonesia and Kashmir should serve an eye opener to us. It is only by putting up a united front that we can make our voice felt in the counsels of the world.

Let me, therefore, appeal to you–in whatever language you may put, when the essence of my advice is boiled down, it comes to this–that every Mussalman should serve Pakistan honestly, sincerely and selflessly.”

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In solidarity and support with the Palestinian people, Pakistan stands with you.

– Hafsa Khawaja