Qudrat Ullah Shahab, popularly known as ‘Q.U. Shahab’, was one of Pakistan’s most legendary civil servant and Urdu writer.
Shahab’s most notable appointments after migration to Pakistan from the Indian Civil Service were Principal Secretary to Governor Generals Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza and Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s regimes. In 1962, he served as Ambassador of Pakistan to The Netherlands and later as Secretary of Education.
During the early days of his assistance to Ayub Khan, renowned Urdu writer Mumtaz Mufti worked with Q.U. Shahab as his official assistant. In those days, the capital had recently shifted from Karachi to the newly-established city of Islamabad. Mumtaz Mufti who was so deeply moved by Shahab’s mystical personality that he eventually shared his observations and experiences in his acclaimed novels such as ‘Ali Pur Ka Ayli’, ‘Alakh Nagri’ and ‘Labbaik’, to name a few.
Few people know that it was Q.U. Shahab, then serving as Principal Secretary to Ayub Khan (a position considered as the second most influential after the Head of State), who ensured that the Constitution of Pakistan (1956) included the word ‘Islamic’ in its title. Islamic provisions derived from the principles of the Objectives Resolution were promulgated through Shahab’s efforts.
During the past decades, several historians, politicians and military dictators and academics have tried to present their own reasons for Pakistan’s creation. Some said it was to be a bastion of Islam, others said it was supposed to be a secular homeland for Muslims, whereas some others went so far as suggesting that Pakistan was created only so that Muslim industrialists and businessmen could exercise their economic rights and liberties without any hurdles.
For an in-depth understanding of who Q.U. Shahab was and what his beliefs/ideas were, readers are advised to read his timeless autobiography “Shahab Nama”. For this particular article, I am sharing a few special extracts (translated from Urdu) from the chapter ‘Chhota Moo, Bari Baat’ (Small Stature, Big Talk) in Mumtaz Mufti’s magnum opus “Alakh Nagri”. Mufti narrated two separate but inter-related incidents which shed light on Pakistan’s unique relationship and binding to Islam.
Any shortcomings in translating the original Urdu text is regretted; the national language of Pakistan is simply too rich and literary to be properly translated correctly to English, as indeed the depth of words expressed in Urdu cannot be truly realized in translations. Without further a due, let me present these specially-translated extracts.
Beginning of Mumtaz Mufti’s account
On my return from Lahore, I went straight to Shahab’s place.
Guddi (Shahab’s niece) said, “Mamoo (maternal uncle) is in a bad mood today”.
“Shahab, in a bad mood? I can’t believe it”, I replied.
“I’m serious”, she replied.
Shahab never has a bad mood. He is like still water, which has no movement at all; sometimes it shimmers, but in a different way.
“I know mamoo”, said Guddi.
She was right. Guddi was the daughter of Qudrat Ullah’s sister. Only she knew Shahab well in the house.
“How do you know Shahab is in a bad mood?” I asked her.
“Some people came to meet him”, she said, “They mentioned Pakistan. Mamoo said, ‘Pakistan has no worth. It is a small country that strayed from its path. We have not implemented Islam to this day and until Islam is implemented, Pakistan has no worth. Its significance is only with regards to Islam’“.
Guddi said that (despite these remarks), there was no element of anger in mamoo’s tone; however, the intensity of his sadness could be felt by all. She could easily feel when he was upset.
Guddi’s room was adjacent to Shahab’s. I was about to enter his room that Guddi stopped me and advised, “Please be careful while talking with mamoo today”.
I entered Shahab’s room, greeted him and, in a change of routine, sat quietly in a corner. Shahab spoke up, “You are quiet. Is everything alright?”
“Janab (Sire), I am being cautious, that is why”, I replied.
He looked at me with a puzzled look (on his face).
I said, “Janab, Guddi advised me to talk carefully today since you are not in a good mood”.
I narrated how Guddi had informed me of an incident earlier that day in which some visitors had come to meet him (Shahab) and talked about Pakistan; Shahab had scolded them.
“Yes”, he said, “People spread misconceptions. I have read your article on Pakistan”.
“Yes,” I replied.
“You spread misconceptions too and mislead people”, said Shahab.
“Shahab sahib (sir), can I remind you of something?” I asked.
He looked up at me.
I continued: “It was 1960, when you shifted the federal government from Karachi to Islamabad; back then I had just joined as an OSD (Officer on Special Duty). It was evening time when you were sitting in your home’s porch. I was present there as well. A needy person had come to you, most probably a newly-shifted mohajir (immigrant). He spoke very fine Urdu and began sharing his woes with you; he had no house to live in and no food to eat. He had been wandering here and there for several days to find a job but to no avail. No one was available to hear his pleas and help him. Shahab sahib, you showed considerable compassion for him. You gave him hope that Allah would create a way out for him. After that, you had directed him to visit you the next day in your office and bring along a written note containing details of the issues he faced. You told him to be optimistic, that his issues would be resolved the very next day and you also told him that periods of trial come every once in a while. Before he left, he snapped, ‘I am being humiliated and mistreated since I came here, curse be on Pakistan!’ Shahab sahib, you got up like a bolt of lightning, slapped him and told him to get out. Remember? I have spent 20 to 25 years with you. During all this time, you have only slapped one person, because he had cursed Pakistan. Later one day, you also caught hold of a member in Ayub Khan’s Cabinet by his collar because he was spying against Pakistan. Remember? We are your followers Shahab sahib, whatever you say is the truth. Whatever you do is haq (the divine truth). It is you who cultivated in our hearts the significance and might of Pakistan. And now you say that Pakistan has no significance without Islam?”
Shahab did not reply. A few days later, he went to Murree. He occasionally went there for worship (in seclusion).
Around 10 or 15 days after this meeting, a mysterious incident related to the Kuttya-waala Baba (the Old Man in the Shack) occurred.
As I kept moving forward, I looked up and noticed that the road was becoming less comfortable (to travel on). I kept going. The more distance I would cover, the more I felt I was going the wrong way. I thought of enquiring my whereabouts from someone. There was a huge fig tree on a side, near the road where a shack made of straw was also situated. Someone was standing outside it; I wanted to ask him about my location. As I was approaching his shack, I heard some whistling sounds and then my scooter’s rear tyre burst open. I stopped.
“What nuisance!” I thought to myself, “I will have to put on the spare tyre now”. When I looked at the spare tyre, I noticed it was also burst flat. What will I do? I was anxious.
I looked up and saw the same man standing next to me whom I had earlier seen outside the shack.
“What happened”, he asked.
“The tyre has punctured”, I replied.
“Park it here”, he said.
“Where does this road lead to?” I asked.
“Nowhere”, he replied. “There is a warehouse nearby. A truck comes from there everyday. When it does, I will repair your scooter’s tyre. Why are you standing in the heat? Go sit inside the shack. I will stand guard over your scooter”.
Inside the shack, a mat was spread on the floor. A cloak-like thing was also wrapped around in one corner. On the other, I saw a pot of water with a tin-box next to it. I drank some water then sat in front of the door.
I noticed movement in the cloak-like thing; a few moments later, a skinny, white-bearded face emerged from it.
“So you have come?” he said.
“Yes”, I replied, “I have come after losing my way”.
“Yes,” the old man murmured, “They give way whenever they want, and they block it whenever they want”.
I said, “My scooter’s tyre has gone flat, it is punctured”.
“Yes”, he said, “We will fix it and fill air in it ourself. The air goes out if they show benevolence”.
At first, I went mum on his words. Then I thought to myself the old man was probably a majzoob (self-absorbed gnostic) and was uttering nonsense.
He remained quiet for a while then spoke up again, in a frail voice, “The new idols which you are making… is that why you were given the pen, to make new idols?”
On hearing the word ‘pen’, I was alarmed. How did he know that I was a writer? But idols? Idols are not made from pens!
A few moments later, the old man went into a nerve and said, “What is Pakistan’s worth? It is a small and tiny country. Poor country!”
He remained silent for a while then continued speaking in anger, “And its people… one can hear their ‘may may’ like sheep from all four corners… keep on eating, they keep on eating from this cauldron of Allah. They are piling up their plates in this entire process as well. Filling up their bowels with lentils. (They) Don’t need to. (It’s) Greed, only greed. Even if others die of starvation, My plate should be filled. No one of thinks of the country. No one thinks of the nation. No one thinks of the Deen (Islam). No one thinks of the Hereafter… there are just random things occurring. The king says “Me, Me”. The needy says “Me, Me”. Cats are sitting guard over the offal. You are turning this country into an idol. You are giving glad tidings. This country deserves destruction! Do you understand!?”
With an extremely furious look on his face, he continued shouting, “Tell me, what do you say? Is that why you were given the pen, to write (false) praises? Tell me!?”
I was holding my head and had absolutely no idea how to respond.
He (the old man) again went silent for a while, then spoke up:
“Covetousness and nothing but covetousness… Greed and nothing but greed… (People) Have become so covetous that they have started to sell Allah’s Name for their interests. (They have) Started to sell Islam. (They are) Putting Islam at stake. (They are) Playing games with Allah. Liars, deceivers… when elders are like this, what will happen to the young ones? And here, you say that Allah’s Mercy is showering upon this country… (A country) Where Allah’s name is being sold for the cheapest prices. Such disregard! Tawba Tawba! Allah’s disregard, Deen’s disregard, will there be mercy (on such a place)? Tell me!” he shouted, “You have not been brought here to remain silent!”
“I have been brought here?” I asked in surprise.
“What else, you think you came here by yourself?” he said, “We had to wait here for you. We knew you would come, and you did”.
“But what is my fault old man?” I asked in anger.
“Yes, it is your fault”, he replied, “Things which you do not understand, do not know, why do you discuss them? Why do you misguide Allah’s Creation?”
“When have I (ever) claimed to understand, to know? I have no worth old man”, I remarked.
“If you are worthless, then stay so. Do not try to be all fancy by concocting things, stop showing off. But you are also like them. They are using the name of Islam to achieve their vested objectives and to maintain their status quo. You are also talking of Pakistan’s greatness simply to create a position for yourself”, he said.
“It is false, absolutely false!” I retorted, “I only write whatever I hear from babas (old men) like you. I have never added something from my behalf. I have never stretched or exaggerated things. I have never claimed to know (such things). You tell me, did the Salaar-wala baba not relate to 200 or 250 worshippers in the mosque after Friday prayers that a day will come when the UN (United Nations) will consult with Pakistan and take its consent before taking any step? And did he not tell (those people) to spit on his grave if nothing like this ever happens? Tell me, had that baba lied? Tell me baba, why are you silent now!”
For a long while, he sat head-down. Then he looked back up and said, “No, that baba was not lying”.
I continued, “Had the baba of Nurpur not predicted 250 years ago that an Islamic city will be built here (in this place), which will become the centre of the Islamic world? Tell me!”
After a brief pause, the baba replied, “He did indeed”.
I continued, “Have various babas not said since the past 200 years that a day will come when Islam will rule the entire world?”
He remained silent.
I continued, “Did the baba of Mareer, to whom I was sent, not invite the Shah of Deccan (Nizam of Hyderabad Deccan) before partition to come and be appointed as an emperor? Did the C-in-C (Commander-in-Chief) of Deccan not come to Pindi (Rawalpindi) to meet that baba? Had that baba not informed them about the second revival of Islam? Had that baba not informed them about the significance of Pakistan? Tell me!!” I roared.
“You do not understand”, he replied, “What the saints say is true, but you have a lack of understanding. You do not know the direction of their talks and you narrate them in a way which creates misconceptions in their (people’s) hearts. May Allah give you the opportunity to understand. Listen”, he said, “Pakistan has no worth at all. (It is) A small, ordinary and poor country. The actual worth is of Allah’s Deen. A day will come when the entire world will be illuminated by Allah’s Deen. And the Man of Allah, through whom (all) this will happen, will come to Pakistan. He will stay in Pakistan, Allah Willing. Pakistan’s greatness is attached to his sojourn here. Not otherwise”.
Then he went silent again.
A while later, he spoke loudly again, “Listen, it does not matter whether that person (awaited Reviver of Islam) is Pakistani. Who knows he might be European, African or of some other nationality. In any case, his sojourn will be in Pakistan and this is very fortunate for Pakistan, its greatness. Listen”, he continued, “No baba can say something definitively. No one has the authority to say things definitively. He (Allah) is the All-Potent. He will do as He Wills. The final verdict rests in His Hands”.
Again, the old man went silent for a while.
He continued speaking, “Next time, do not pick up the pen (to write down) what elders say, understood!?” he asked.
After a brief pause, he spoke in a frail voice, “We will give you two words. Keep reciting them”. (After this) He picked up a piece of paper from nearby.
“I cannot stay pure”, I told him.
“No issues at all”, he replied.
“I cannot read Arabic”, I told him.
“I see”, he paused. “Alright”.
Then he started writing something on that parchment. When he was done, he put that piece of paper in an old plastic bag and handed it to me.
“Recite this (what is written in the piece of paper) 11 times in the morning and 11 times before sleeping. Now go, May Allah give you the opportunity to understand”, he said.
I got up, went out, kicked-on my scooter and went back.
When I had covered a considerable amount of distance on the way back, I suddenly remembered that my scooter’s tyre was flat. I stopped the scooter and got off. I observed it (the tyre); it was perfectly alright. I then looked at the spare tyre, it too was fine. How did this happen? I was bewildered. I kept driving slowly in a state of amazement. When I looked up towards the road, I noticed it was normal.
When I reached home, I kept thinking about this incident over and over again. I could not figure out what was going on. The next evening, I took my scooter out again to visit the same place I had accidentally gone to the day before. After quite a while of searching, I managed to find that road. I felt at ease on noticing the fig tree but the shack next to it was nowhere in sight. Someone was praying underneath the tree. I went and sat beside him. When he finished praying, I asked, “There was a shack here”.
“Shack?” he asked with a surprised look on his face, “Not at all. There was no shack here”.
“When did you come here?” I asked him.
“Babu (Mister), I work at the warehouse. I pass by this place twice every day. I have never seen a shack”, he replied.
“I had come (just) yesterday”, I said, “I sat inside the shack for quite a long time”.
He looked at me as if I had escaped from a mental asylum.
This incident occurred in the days when I had just recently published my article on Pakistan. Not much time had passed since its publication.
I am a Muslim by name. My life is devoid of any good deeds. Four such (mysterious) events have occurred in my life which convinced me that there is a spiritual system running parallel to our worldly life.
Fundamentally, however, I am a writer and thinker. My inner self is replete with doubts and suspicions. I am heavily affected by such incidents then become a non-believer later on.
For several days, I kept thinking about this incident; doubts and suspicions eventually anchored themselves in my mind. I dispelled the incident as a dream or figment of my imagination. How was it possible that no passerby saw that shack? It must certainly have been a figment of my imagination. This is how I satisfied and secured myself (from the constant stream of questions and thoughts).
After a month or so, I put my hand inside my waistcoat’s inner pocket to find that old plastic bag. There was a piece of paper inside with “Bismillah” written on top of it. Below that was written “Recite this 11 times in the morning and 11 times in the night”. And beneath that was written, “Chhota moo, bari baat” (Small Stature, Big Claim)”.
End of Mumtaz Mufti’s account
featured image: bigstockphoto.com