By Omer Farooq Khan
Jul 29, 2011
The visit of most Pakistani leaders to shrines has customary significance which continues unabated despite Saudi Arabia's investment in propagating their strict version of Wahhabi Islam across the country.
The construction of mosques and recruiting their preachers as "Imams" in these mosques on handsome salaries, the Saudis have so far not succeeded to overpower the traditional followers of Sufism which emerged in the seventh century as a reactionary force against the worldliness of the early Ummayad Caliphs.
In the sub-continent, according to historians, Sufis (Islamic mystics) played an important role in the spread of Islam. Hence, the Sufi saints have special reverence among its followers. Several Pakistani leaders, including former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto, had strong inclination towards the saints and shrines but for others visiting shrines could be merely symbolic. At Makkah, observers say, they will follow the Saudi line of Islam rather than what they practice at the shrines in Delhi, Ajmer or Lahore.
Pakistan's foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who visited and offered prayers at Nizamuddin Auliya's shrine in Delhi and Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti's at Ajmer, did not come from a family having any spiritual connection with the saints and shrines.
A thorough account of her family has been narrated by her aunt Tehmina Durrani in her book "My Feudal Lord". Durrani who was married to Hina's uncle Ghulam Mustafa Khar and now happens to be the wife of Punjab's chief minister Shahbaz Sharif explained at length the politics of the family, its values, mentalities and views on women and religion. She wrote that Khar ruled the house like a tyrant and his fists did the talking.
"Khar was the breed of the feudal system where women are no more than mere material objects. There are many reasons for that school of thought. The important ones are lack of education, the cultural values, and finally, one's family upbringing and personality."
"Khar was a man obsessed with power; that power had to be practiced to confirm its existence. The 'safest' domain was his own home, where no one dared to question his authority. He would beat up the servants if the food was not hot enough, me (Tehmina Durrani) if I was late after his first call and his children if they threw a tantrum," she wrote.
Luckily, Hina Rabbani Khar is exceptional to the ordeal of the womenfolk of Khar family as narrated by her aunt. To link her association or leaning towards saints and shrines, unlike PM Yusuf Raza Gilani or former FM Shah Mehmud Qureshi, would be an exaggerated narrative. Gilani and Qureshi claim to be the direct descendants and heirs of saints.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi