Oriental Magick

The ads were in the magazine section of Pakistan News – an Urdu weekly for diaspora desis in NY, Chicago etc. In breathless prose they invited broken hearts and spirits to have their problem solved within “two and half minutes”. One promised a reward if not successful, another lauded his experience of 55 years. In tone, or in content, these ads were apace with any psychic, Dionne Warwick-style salespitch that you may encounter elsewhere. Except for one garish detail – all three ads were explicitly selling services of Kala Jadoo, black magic.

Lost in the noise of “wahhabisation” of the Pakistani publics, are some really interesting changes which accompanied the seasonal migration of Pakistan’s labor force to the Gulf since the 1970s. Broadly understood, “wahhabisation” denotes the growth of parties/philosophies in Pakistan who share the stringently narrow-minded Sunni sectarianism from Saudi Arabia, along with some attendant thoughts on anti-imperialism of a local or global kind. Often, the calls for a resurgent Caliphate, or destruction of Israel become à la carte additions.

But one particularly pernicious long term side-effect of this seasonal migration has been the disruption of the varied local traditions of charismatic and spiritual leadership in Pakistan – specifically the heterogenous sufic traditions. The explicitly “local” site – whether a shrine, a seat or a house of a Sufi – where the community would go for counsel, help, adjudication and spiritual growth was rapidly overwhelmed by a new generation of preachers. This new breed was freely entrepreneurial – tying the remittances to moral panics in the domestic sphere. How do you know if your wife was faithful to you?. The cash-for-salvation business has many, many facets. Clerics like Hafiz Saeed, etc., have done wonders within this ‘emerging market’.

The “Black Magic” industry is another, less-frequently mentioned, outpost of this wild capitalism. It operates through a network of intermediaries in the foreign city (be that Doha, Qatar or New York, USA) who identify the marks and get them hooked through a nominal fee. A local payment, in dinars or dollars, gets the troubled soul a special phone number to call. On the other end, is another intermediary who will solicit all your sordid details. The client is usually strung along for months, doing mind-numbing spells and sacrifices and paying small amounts. Eventually, desire and despair forces the client to ask for the ultimate – a direct audience with the ‘Amil (Knowledge Bearer). It is perhaps needless to point out that this ultimate round of communications has its own price bracket.

The practitioners use specialized constructions to lure in their clients. They situate themselves, explicitly within the Islamic cosmology, as “outsiders” and mimic a parallel genealogy of filth, as sufis have a genealogy of pure. Alistar Crowley would easily understand. Note that the ads above name the practitioners as either “Massih” or “Bengali” – that is, Christian or Bengal (it has a long history of being associated w/ the darker arts in certain traditions). Additionally, they explicitly name “demonic” beings – some are standard (Kali, Churail, Nag,جیسے ہنومان ،کھیترپال ،بھیرو، ناگ دیوتا ، لوناچماڑی، چڑیل، لکشمی دیوی ، کالا کلوا ، پاروتی دیوی ، کلوسادھن، پیچھل پیری ،ڈائن ،ہر بھنگ آکھپا etc.), and some rather inexplicable (Hanuman!). Graveyards, become the counterpoint to the sufi shrine. Lest we think that this is merely defrauding money from suckers, there are constant reports in the media of child abductions and mutilated corpses being used in such rituals.

What to make, then, of these ads which tout their particular other-ness with such aplomb? How do we fit this utilitarian embrace of the Christian and the Hindoo within the same fold as the shrine-hating “wahhabisation”? Theoretically speaking, we have to conceive of a landscapes that accommodates spirituality post modernity. Second, we have to discard the notion of a uniform process of “wahabbisation” (I am tired of putting in the quotes).

Things are way more, um, diabolical.

Below the fold, the actual ads.

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Additional Reading: A fascinating report by Muhammad Haroon Abbas on Black Magic as well as a report from Dubai where police arrested an “Asian” who was fleecing hundreds of immigrants by promising them riches through black magic.

PS. Do note that I have translated bits of the ads on the Flickr site. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal the notes.

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sepoy

what is the vertiginous chapati saying to me?

15 thoughts on “Oriental Magick”

  1. But there are no Sufi shrines in Brooklyn, so where does the lonesome desi with a troubled heart go? Although couched in Islamic epistemologies, i.e. the idea of the jinn, such phenomena might have a lot more in common with South Asian tantra. You can find similar adverts for tantriks and mystics in almost any Indian public space. But the global networks are interesting. And as part of the same ideological world as tantra, such “outsiders” might have a lot more in common with heterogenous Sufism (which moves the center of worship from the mosque to what is essentially a graveyard) and other South Asian traditions that stress some kind of eclectic ecumenism, and probably do not belong in the same class as shrine haters.

    Children being kidnapped and mutilated? They said that about eunuchs in South Asia as well. Who had their own graveyards and networks. And who also had to fight a particularly modern onslaught when they were said to engage in dubious rituals and belong to networks that bypassed the colonial state.

  2. call me romantic, but a shrine seems to me vastly different from a graveyard. and second, check out hanuman, the monkey god of tuesday (or is it thursday?), doing time as an all-purpose super being in one of those adverts…

  3. I find it most curious that all the three have Maseeh as the surname. They could be related, but more curiously Maseeh is the most common surname for Pakistani Christians. Are they Christians then? Extremely doubtful. Too risky a game for them to play. Could it be that by hinting at a past non-Muslim association these characters make themselves appear as more experienced in black arts? More sinister? That helps too in their business.

  4. Naim Sahib: “Being Christian” is another one of those key signifiers that denote one’s awesome black magic powers. Branding oneself a “Massih” is to set oneself up as an “outsider” who will have no compunction in doing blatantly “unislamic” practices. Whether they are _actually_ Christian is highly unlikely.

  5. This is actually a relatively new fad that’s started back home as well. Apparently,the go-to guys for “Kala Jadoo” are all “Maseeh”s, while the “Sufaid Jadoo” lot (whoever they are) advertise themselves as “Jaddi Pushti Musalmaan” …
    Go figure !!

  6. There’s been a big increase in both sides of this sort of thing in the Arab world as well, with a lot of overlap in the ways practitioners differentiate themselves to readers.

    In South Asian communities here and there it seems to me that the Pakistani media channels have been a few steps ahead of the Indian Muslim ones. (With ads for the more Islamic `amils getting more and more elaborate in their claims, and eventually giving way to this sort of thing which only seems to have appeared in the past two years or so.)

  7. I’m Sana From Lahore. I use to work for the Daily News for few years. I have been researching Black Magic for few years now and meet hundreds of hundreds of people. People have no idea what really black magic is and what are it’s effects. People who pretend to say they know black magic or they do black magic is a total lie. Only 27% of people in the whole world know how to do a really black magic and rest of them are just faking it. We muslim have a very low faith in Allah or you can say no faith at all, believe in black magic in seconds. After a few years of good study and research I also found that, there is a person called ” The Guru ” lives somewhere in Pakistan who teaches Spiritual Healing, Power Of Chi and Mind Power to 80% of the peer saab in Pakistan. For the last 3 years I been try to track this person and was getting no where. 3 months ago I received a phone call from a person stating that he wanted to see me regarding the information about ” The Guru “. So I called my friends and told them about the call and wanted them come with because i didn’t wanted to go alone. So finally we got there as we were advised. First didn’t wanted to believe him because for the last few years i been searching for this guy and all of sudden now he is willing to give the information about him for free ?. Came to find out that he use to work for some famous peer saab just out side from lahore. That Guru use to visit that peer saab on a monthly bases, this guy use to be the peer saab assistance and one day he decided to leave peer saab and start his own business. He contact ” The Guru ” and got refused because ” The Guru ” said that he cannot provide services because his Peer Saab is his clients. The information that he provided us, we verified it and here it is:

    ” The Guru ” real name is Kamran Khan. Worked with many famous names including Criss Angel & David Blane in magic for over 15 years now. Recently we also discovered that he has a website with name of ” Kamran Khan Store “, from where he deals with clients. He travels in most of the asia. You have seen the magic show on Star One, Those are also his clients including that Franz Guy. If you see this guy he is only 35 Years old and people of his double age sits below him because He is there teacher. There is not a single Peer Saab specially in Lahore who are not his students. He only stay in Pakistan for 15 days and then he travels again.

    After discovering all this I was shocked to see the result, there are hundreds and thousands of people go these Peer Saab every day and spend thousands and thousands of Rupees. All that money is really going to the ” The Guru ” Kamran Khan. The more these Peer Saab makes the more he makes money.

    So in other words if you really wanted to see a Peer Saab just go the ” The Guru ‘ it’s more cheaper way i guess.

  8. You search in google ” Kamran Khan Store ” or you can simply click on my name and it will take you to his website. On his website you will his a link for the facebook. Where he talk to his clients.

  9. You worked for Daily Times, eh?

    Standards really have fallen since Messrs Sethi, Haider and Ahmed left and Khalid Hassan passed away…

  10. i tried everything nothing ever worked at all. all my money and time got wasted.

    i was having trouble with strength, talking to people even feel ashamed to talk to my wife. my family wanted me to divorce my wife due to no kids. all due to black magic effects. i was surfing on the net and found kamran khan store website. read through articles, got interested so i called up and order the lucifer power costed me £360 each for me and my wife + shipping charges to pay. by the time i got it. the same time is start working for me. today it’s been over 7 months i had it and i never go out without it. i can’t explain it how it works. but just simply works even works in my sex life what else you want in your life..i’m becoming a father … and now my family is happy with my wife to and all the magic effect is gone for good.

    thanks …

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