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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

From Khuda Hafez to Allah Hafez

The rise of radicalism has made a dent in the secular fabric of society
The Muslim festival celebrated on the occasion of Hajj is Eid-ul-Azha, with the customary sacrifice of cattle all over the Islamic countries, as well in hundreds of other countries where there are followers of Islam.
While tens of thousands on social media and writings in print, the nation seems to have awakened to find that the traditional words heard for centuries in Bengal -- “Eid-ul-Azha” -- have been renamed “Eid-ul-Adha.”
Earlier, our grandfather taught children to say “Roza” and the conventional social salutation was “Ramzan Mubarak.” What they want us to hear now is “Ramadan Kareem.”
wwaBengal, the land of Sufis and Bauls, a unique place in ancient India where Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians -- the ethnic and cultural minorities -- lived in harmony along with nature.
When we were in the Pakistan era, the existence of orthodox or radicalized Muslims was not visible. There was a significant rise of progressive Muslim writers, poets, lyricists, and musicians.
In post-1947 -- liberal spaces encouraged cinema, theatre, folk music, and traditional Jatra. Cultural activities thrived with the resurgence of a new generation of creative people in society.
Suddenly the Jatra and folk music were attacked by Islamists, coupled with civil administration refusing to give permits to hold folk festivals in rural areas.
The rise of radicalism is a new phenomenon, which has made a dent in the secular fabric of society. Such peculiar development has been noticeable in Bangladesh for more than three decades.
Presently, the bauls, cartoonists, writers, and sculpture artists are unable to exercise their profession. Firstly, they are physically attacked and secondly, they are slapped with the controversial Digital Security Act.
Nowadays, the bigots scoff if somebody says namaaz and corrects it to salaat. They have changed “Milad-un-Nabi” into “Siratun-Nabi” and gradually everything which is Persian is being changed.
Most importantly, our goodbye greeting -- “Khuda Hafez” -- has been forcibly converted to “Allah Hafez.” Most Islamic practitioners in the country do not realize that long ago, Khuda Hafez arose at the authoritative Islamic learning centre at the Al-Azhar, Cairo.
Everybody knows “Allah” is Arabic and “Khuda” is Persian. The great blind scholar of the Qur’an, Taha Hussain said: “A child calls his mother by so many names and also ‘coins’ new words and she invariably responds. Does she ever say why haven’t you called me mother?”
“Allah Hafez” was first imported from Pakistan during Khaleda Zia’s pro-Islamist regime in 1991. Well, in Pakistan, liberal and secular intellectuals, academics, and mainstream media have squarely rejected “Allah Hafez."
In Pakistan, experimenting with neo-Islamic culture has become a national activity of the military regime in converting whatever was Persian to Arabic.
Of course, the first step in the Islamization of the country had taken deep root when General Ziaur Rahman, through a military proclamation, amended the 1972 constitution and inserted “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim” (In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful) in the preamble of the constitution.
The principle of secularism was removed from the constitution in 1977 by the Fifth Amendment. Furthermore, another military dictator in 1988 declared: “Islam as the state religion” to appease the conservative Sunni Muslim majority.
In public events, the political speakers begin with the salutation Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim and end it with Allah Hafez.
Writer and researcher in war crimes Shahriar Kabir debated that the Charter of Medina signed by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not write “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim."
He asked the Islamic zealots why they deleted Khuda Hafez and coined Allah Hafez? Well, goodbye in Arabic is Fee Amanillah.
The followers of the Wahhabi sect, which advocate strict Sharia laws, were hailed by the Taliban and IS; the orthodox groups consciously deleted Persian words from Muslims in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.
This geopolitical shift occurred after the so-called Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Arab states felt threatened that regime change would jeopardize the Islamic ummah.
The pro-Wahhabi Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami first introduced the endnote slogan Allah Hafez which was adopted from Pakistan Islamist conglomerates.
The Islamist party was able to influence leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to adopt Allah Hafez, while the Awami League leaders in the 1990s were still saying, Khuda Hafez.
In a major shift after 2009, gradually, Awami League leaders, MPs, and bureaucrats picked up the end salutation Allah Hafez and it is now established as Muslim etiquette.

First published in the Dhaka Tribune, 4 August 2020

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at Twitter @saleemsamad

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