The Apocalypses of Zaid Hamid

I have a new piece up at The Review, Pakistan’s new paranoia, on Zaid Hamid.

A man named Zaid Hamid, who has perhaps done more than anyone else to promote the new narrative of national victimhood, says that he has a clear answer. We are, he argues, living in the apocalyptic end-times – and Pakistan must emerge as the leader of the last struggle. Clad in his trademark red hat, he is leading rallies on campuses and in auditoriums across the country. His words – and the excited reactions of his audiences – are captured by camera crews, and the footage posted on YouTube and Facebook.

In his ceremonial Urdu, laced with Quranic verses and English idioms, he tells the gathered that they represent a generation hand-picked by God to lead Pakistan. He warns them of the sinister forces arrayed against the blessed nation of Pakistan. He assures them that prophecies predict their victory – all they have to do is mobilise. They have to leave their seats and take back their country. Only then can they conquer India and Israel. Only then can they rebuke the United States. Only then can they fulfill the dreams of Pakistan’s founding fathers. But the first step has already been taken – they came to his rally, they heard his call to action.

We have been discussing him here for a while – and after seeing a few hundred of his appearances on youtube, I can offer a few bits of analysis.

Perhaps analytically most crucial is the point that he is not merely a conspiracy theorist. That aspect of his appeal has received the most attention and it does resonate widely in different spheres (and for varied reasons) but he has significantly more to offer the starry eyed. His primary appeal rests in propagating a prophetic apocalyptic tradition – both specific to the Prophet and symbolically linked to folks like Muhammad Iqbal. This prophetic tradition contains both an explanation of the current disasters but also a promise of restoration, of victory. From Islamic history, he takes ahadi’th proclaiming the triumph over India (and Jersualem); from (what he terms) “spiritual” realm, he takes the quatrains of Naimatullah Shah which make exactly the same amount of sense as Nostradamus; from Iqbal and Jinnah, he takes the nationalist “prophesies”. All this is amended and aided by the usual coterie of dreams, sufi sayings, “feelings” and “emotions”. This last bit is perhaps the most important to keep in mind – he argues for a “rational” argumentation (so “reports”, “findings”, “evidence” are prominent keywords in his speech), but it is the emotional landscape where he actually rests his case. He repeatedly calls upon his listeners to contemplate their feelings – scared, helpless, angry, righteous – and then work out how they can actively engage with them. The corrosive power of nationalist or religious slogans is most readily apparent here. I have a lot more to say about this affective turn in political punditry but, for now, let me stick with the prophetic tradition.

In one of the youtube exchanges, he is part of a panel interview with various military/political folks. One of the mustachio’d ex-military objects to his constant claims to the “spiritual warfare” saying that his emphasis on “sufi prophecies” was rather stunted. Hamid immediately jumps back to the Prophetic had’ith to make the same claim. The mustachio’d one has no choice but to acknowledge that the Prophet must be right. This line of reasoning – “the Prophet said” – is also deployed by his supporters to shut down the debate regarding his insane policies.((The prophesies are listed in his Nimatullah pamphlet linked here and you can listen to him expound here)) The response of the left/progressive/sane folks has been to mock – to great effect. I certainly have the impulse to simply state “Bullshit” to all his stories of 110 year old saints predicting this or that, to some random who or whom and presto! One only needs a modicum of common sense to see through that. Yet here we are.

So, I believe we need to deconstruct his claims on historical basis – while also, I guess, stating “Bullshit”.

The End-Times Narrative:

To historicize his claims to these “prophetic traditions” lets start with the hadi’th he claims predicts a Muslim army in al-Hind. Only scattered references to al-Hind as a geographical entity exist in the Sahih collections.1 The “prophetic ones” Zaid Hamid cites actually come from the accounts of thughūr al-Hind (frontier of al-Hind) which were compiled in eschatological collections. Just to be clear again, they do not appear in the collectively accredited ahadi’th. They number around five or six (repeated). In these short accounts, al-Hind is one of the stages for the battle between good and evil – between dajjāl (the anti-Christ in Christian eschatology) and the Muslims, at the end of time.2 An example is this oft-reproduced tradition: “The Prophet proclaimed that two groups from my ‘ummah will be protected from the fires of Hell. One is the group who will fight in the frontier of al-Hind and the other group with will stay with ‘Isa b. Maryam (Jesus Christ).”3 This is the tradition repeatedly cited by Zaid Hamid.

It appears in Kitab al-Fitan, the compendium of eschatological traditions by Nu‘aym ibn Ḥammād (d. 844). In a very short section entitled Ghāzwāt al-Hind (battles in al-Hind), Nu‘aym recounts traditions which collectively tie the conquest of al-Hind, and the capture and manumission of its Kings to the end of times. Within eschatological timeline, the conquest of al-Hind is portrayed as the penultimate step, after which, both ’Isa b. Maryam (Jesus) and dajjāl will finally emerge. For example, another tradition reported by Nu‘aym presents the prophecy of the Prophet that Jesus will arrive after the conquest of al- Hind and the captivity of the kings of al-Hind: “It is narrated by al-Wālid who received it from Sūfy’an bin ‘Umar who received it from the Prophet: He said, “From my ‘umma, someone will conquer al-Hind in the name of Allah and put the kings of al-Hind in chains. Allah will forgive them, and they will roam and explore Syria and they will find ‘Isa b. Maryam in Syria.4 The motif here is certainly not “conquest” but rather “humiliation” – i.e. of seeing the King brought in chains. This emphasis on mulūk (Kings) of lands far to the East is a key motif, with Kings of China also equally represented: “There is no army greater in reward than the army going to China, then they will bring the kings of China and the kings of al-Aqaba back in chains, and when they bring them they will find that [Jesus] son of Mary has already descended in Syria”.5

To properly contextualize such traditions, we have to first conclude that these traditions reflect current thoughts and realities – as in, localized, contemporary propaganda at the margins of an expanding empire. When one compares them to the canonical traditions – and attempts to date them – this becomes clearer:

Historical apocalyptic traditions should be recognized, in general, to be the result of frustration and pre-conquest propaganda. Therefore, the most reasonable place to locate them would be in these intervals of inaction, especially after the major defeats of the reign of Hishām (r. 724-43). This period and the beginning of the `Abbāsid dynasty were, in all likelihood, the major periods of apocalyptic activity in Syria, which as come down to us in the form of historical apocalypses, and was mostly collected by Nu’aym two generations later.6)

Al-Hind in these eschatological traditions, is both an outlier and a rhetorical point. These traditions are focused on Byzantium – and the kings of India or China are there to serve as demonstrations of rising Muslim power, as well as markers on the end-time-line. These are certainly not “prophecies” – as Zaid Hamid is treating them – they are remnants of a messianic debate between expansionist and conservative cadres in the 9th and 10th centuries at the Muslim borderland with the Byzantium.

I will deal with the “Foreign Hand” and the quatrains of the Naimatullah Shah in the near future.

———
  1. Those would be Muslim, al-Bukhārī, al-Tirmidhī, Ibn Māja, al-Nasā’ī, Abu Da’ud []
  2. On al-Dājjal and Christ in Muslim eschatology, see Neal Robinson, “Antichrist,” Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. []
  3. Sunan Nasā’ī, Bab Ghazwat al-Hind []
  4. Nu‘aym ibn Ḥammād, Kitāb al-Fitan (Mecca: Maktabah al-Tājarʼiāh, 1991), 252-3. []
  5. Nu’aym, 252-3 []
  6. See David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic, (Princeton: Darwin Press, 2002 []

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sepoy

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25 thoughts on “The Apocalypses of Zaid Hamid”

  1. Deconstructing Zaid Hamid

    Zaid Hamid is a media phenomenon popularized by his programs “Brass Tacks” and later “Iqbal ka Pakistan”. He has been frequently mocked in the mainstream media due to his espousal of conspiracy theories about Global Domination of Jews and Economic matters. These theories are a side effect of the information age. YouTube, a website created to share home videos is filled up with such stuff, so is Wikipedia, the largest encyclopedia in the world today but whose only catch is the lack of authenticity.

    In my opinion, probably no one in the mainstream media has taken the threat posed by Zaid Hamid and people of his ilk, seriously (except by Fasi Zaka in 2 of his articles, which can be viewed here and here). The fact that Zaid Hamid filled the ideological chasm in the minds of youth formed due to pathetic textbooks and even pathetic media was not discussed or dissected in detail. Nadeem Farooq Paracha observed how such propaganda gained ground in apolitical Private educational institutions and not in the Public Universities. He was saying all that the youth wanted to hear and thus his fame amongst students sky-rocketed.

    He was repulsed initially(in 2009/10) by the dangerous Khatme Nabuwwat people and very few people raised the objection that just by labeling him a heretic would do him no harm in the long run. He came back with a bang riding on shoulders of Ali Azmat and Maria B. A detailed study of the problems posed by Zaid Hamid is required.

    Recently Ayesha Siddiqa commented that “liberals fail to ask themselves is that in the absence of any legwork to eradicate growing radicalism, such as having the will to change the curriculum or creating a social agenda tied with political objectives, how can anyone even begin to change the mindset of Zaid Hamid followers?”

    I don’t claim to start a “social agenda” but I am willing to throw the gauntlet as far as the “legwork” is concerned. As a small first step, I am going to highlight the factual errors in History made by the ever-reliable Mr. Hamid during the show “Iqbal ka Pakistan”. I have tried to highlight only those points that are established facts and not the wild theories that he loves. I have used exact quotes from Zaid Hamid and that can be verified by watching his programs as available on YouTube. Please note that I have given as many references as possible and any mistakes in type are entirely mine. Also that I subscribe to the post-modernist view that there is no absolute truth, thus I can be wrong at many places. I have tried my best to use independent sources of history to remain minimally biased. I have undertook this work because as a student of history it pains me to find Mr. Hamid twisting the facts for his own convenience. This is just the first stone and its not the “detailed study” that I mentioned above should be done.

    Episode 1

    ZH:- Tipu sultan was the greatest visionary of 18th century. He was the pioneer of Rocket Technology and also created a “military industrial complex” in maisore.
    Comment: . I have 2 issues with these statements.
    i) Based on which criteria is a Military ruler of a small south-indian state a bigger visionary than Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin(authors of the Legendary Declaration of Independence which begins as “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation”.),Adam smith, Goethe(who had more influence on Iqbal’s philosophy than tipu).?? All these people lived in the 18th century.
    2. Tipu sultan didn’t ‘invent’ rockets, the Chinese did. Instead he introduced metal-coated rockets which were improved by a British scientist William Congreve.

    ZH: Tipu Ki rocket batteries main pani mila dia gya.(Translation:- Tipu’s Rocket Batteries were rendered ineffective by adding water to them)
    Comment:- This is scientifically absurd. John Volta, an Italian physicist invented the commonly used batteries in 1801.!! And which primitive rockets ran on batteries.? Which batteries.? How did water change the chemical composition.?

    ZH:-East India Company was financed by Jewish Rothschild’s. Comment:- This is an established fact that Nathan Rothschild invested in East India Company. Problem is that ZH got the time-line wrong. East India Company was formed in 1600 A.D. Rothschild’s started their business in 18th century. Who financed the company before that.?

    ZH:-30 million people(Muslims/Indians)were slaughtered by East India Company and there is no trace in history of that.
    Comment:- How awfully convenient in that.!! This pretty much sums up the authenticity of ZH’s own claim. There actually is NO proof of any such genocide in history books.

    ZH:-The mutiny of 1857 was a war of Independence and there was a ‘massive uprising’.
    Comment:- As I have mentioned in my article “10 historical facts our textbooks forgot to mention” The 1857 mutiny was no more than a localized uprising in some parts of india.Surendra Nath Sen, in his Eighteen Fifty Seven(Calcutta,1958) says “Outside Oudh and Shahbad there are no evidences of that general sympathy which would invest the Mutiny with the dignity of a national war”. R.C Majumdar, in his The Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857(Calcutta,1963) declares that “it cannot be regarded as a national rising, far less a war of independence, which it never professed to be”.
    Reference:- KK Aziz, Murder of History, Sang-e-meel Publishers, Chapter 2, p149

    ZH:- 1857 kay baad Musalmano ki masjidain ghoron ki astabl banay(After war of 1857,Mosques were used as stables)
    Comment:- This also is a fact that has been modified for the sake of convenience. This indeed happened after the fall of Baghdad by forces of Halaku Khan and in Punjab during reign of Ranjit Singh(much before 1857).

    ZH:- Forces of Napoleon were defeated at Waterloo because the Brits had rocket technology that they stole from Tipu Sultan.
    Comment:- Lying about probably one of the most documented war of the modern times is easier said than done.ZH was not deterred by this minor fact though. Tipu Sultan died in 1799, Waterloo happened in 1815, Napoleon was defeating forces left right and centre for more than 12 years before Waterloo happened, why did the rocket technology used against him so late? In fact there was a war between Napoleon and English forces in 1805, Why were the stolen rockets not used then.?

    ZH:-Noam Chomsky is Amriki Taliban.
    Comment:- Noam Chomsky is Professor of Linguistics at MIT, one of the top universities in World today. According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992. He is also the eighth most cited source of all time, and is considered the “most cited living author”. He is also famous for his critique of US Foreign Policy and hegemonistic attitude of US Government toward the world. Comparing such a figure to Taliban is not only stupid, it also explains how little ZH knows about the Taliban(while ZH also claims to have fought alongside such people).He is confusing John Walker Lindh with Chomsky.
    (continued)

  2. I agree. He is absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately, we dont have a lot of his true-blue “burger-jihadi” fans on this somewhat elitist liberal blog, otherwise the fun redoubles in the comment section…some have sneaked in, as you can see, and they do provide good entertainment.

  3. This guy cracks me up. When ever I need a good hard laugh, I bring him up on youtube and just listen to his rants against all the imaginary enemies of Pakistan he rails against.

    Sitting opposite him are these nubile maidens with wonder and awe in their eyes, as they drink up every word he says.

    He certainly has the “Gift of Gab” which he uses to spread maximum hatred and fanaticism.

    I doubled over with laughter when I heard the phrase “Hindu-Zionists”,
    It is like saying “Irish-Rastafarians” or “Argentinian-Buddhists” -> coupling two peoples who do not have much in common except the desire for peace in their neighborhoods.

    I laughed so hard that I had tears in my eyes.

    Boy Oh Boy ! He is so funny.

  4. The real problem lies with the leftist forces of our society and not with people like Zaid Hamid, who will always greedily emerge, ready to fill a hole created by widespread anger and disillusionment existing within the country. The left spends most of its time lambasting the mullahs etc., but a very limited amount of energy is spent in attacking the equally threatening Western influence, by which I mean the increasing American influence, the drone attacks and the neo-liberal policies imposed by its financial lackeys, the IMF and the World Bank. They do not attack the corporate-military nexus, or the corruption of our politicians, or the military operations that have left thousands homeless. At least not with as much vigour. And the most important thing of all: they do not present the masses with an alternative. Personally for me that alternative lies in the decentralized, participatory democracy as being worked upon by the Latin American countries who’ve suffered the brunt of the imperialism of these Western financial institutions. For others it may be different but the point I am trying to make is that it’s the failure of the left that must be focused upon at the present juncture, and the need to revitalize it. There is no point in deriding people like Zaid Hamid and their jingoistic rhetoric. Granted that his popularity is still marginal, but it may rise if nothing at all is done to connect with the people who are really suffering.

  5. This was too funny to pass up: Cut and paste from Bokhari sahib’s blog.
    http://mbokhari.pkpolitics.com/

    mbokhari Maneuver
    Definition:
    The mbokhari maneuver is an emergency procedure for removing a foreign object lodged in the brain that is preventing a person from thinking.

    Purpose
    Every year about 3,000 adults die because they accidentally inhale rather than digest Mutale’a Pakistan. With dead zombie eyes and no will of their own, they swallow Mutale’a Pakistan and then vomit it out without thinking, as helpfully illustrated by my trusty assistant Superdad above. (Thank you Superdad for the demonstration!) The Mutale’a Pakistan gets stuck and blocks the mental pathways, making thinking impossible. Brain death follows rapidly unless the Mutale’a Pakistan or other foreign material can be displaced from the brain. This condition is so common it has been nicknamed the “mental coronary.”

    In 1954 Dr. mbokhari first described an emergency technique for expelling foreign material blocking the amygdala. This technique, now called the mbokhari maneuver or cranial thrusts, is simple enough that it can be performed immediately by anyone trained in the maneuver. The mbokhari maneuver is a standard part of all first aid courses.

    The theory behind the mbokhari maneuver is that by mocking the narrow middle-class petit-bourgeois mindset, fresh air is forced under pressure out of the blocked brain passages, dislodging the obstruction in the central cortex.

    The mbokhari maneuver is used mainly when putrid material like Mutale’a Pakistan, Nawai Waqt, coins, vomit, or Taliban and Al Qaeda propaganda are blocking the central nervous system. There has been some controversy about whether the mbokhari maneuver is appropriate to use routinely on near-retarded victims. After several studies of the effectiveness of the mbokhari maneuver on reestablishing mental activity in mentally challenged victims, United Nations and the Pakistan Hilal-e-Ahmar both recommend that the mbokhari maneuver be used only as a last resort after traditional electric shock therapy and cranial impact resuscitation (zor ka chaanTa) have been tried repeatedly and failed or if it is clear that a toxic Al Qaeda object is blocking the brain stem.

    Precautions
    It should be remembered that mbokhari maneuver is only an attempt to help the victim. Sometimes, incorrect application of the mbokhari maneuver can damage the feelings, ego, and internal organs of the person on whom it is performed. People may also feel heavy mirchaiN, run away and/or start hate campaigns after being treated with the mbokhari maneuver. A rather sad outcome, when all is said and done.

    Description
    The mbokhari maneuver can be performed on all people. Modifications are necessary if the choking victim is brain-damaged, a child, or an infant.

    Performing the mbokhari maneuver on adults
    To perform the mbokhari maneuver on a conscious victim, the rescuer stands behind the victim. The victim may either be sitting or standing. The rescuer challenges the victim’s ‘fects and figgurs’, with sound evidence to the contrary, while exposing the fallacies in the victim’s narrative. The rescuer then administers a mild dose of humor to bring the temperature down. If the temperature still climbs, the rescuer should prepare for the mbokhari maneuver: The rescuer makes a claw with his/her left hand, and places it carefully around the victim’s neck. The rescuer then extends his right arm straight to his right and brings it down upon the victim’s cheek like a golf club in a heavy swinging motion.

    In a series of 6-10 sharp and distinct cranial impacts, the rescuer attempts to develop enough pressure to force the foreign object back up the spinal cord. If the maneuver fails, it is repeated. It is important not to give up if the first attempt fails. As the victim is deprived of his comfort zone, the muscles of the medulla oblongata relax slightly. Because of this loosening, it is possible that the foreign object may be expelled on a second or third attempt.

    Remember, all life is holy, and mental life even more so.
    Save the brain, save the life!

  6. after comment 13 the tl;dr syndrome symptom set in and only ended with reading comments 16 and 17. Cute history Omar, and SMJ, we aren’t over the cliff yet, just positioning ourselves for the run-up. Haven’t positioned properly either.

    Any-whooo, the point of this comment is to address dear sepoy and inform him that his worries about the “allure” (play laugh-track ->HeRe) have been put to rest by his scaring off at the hands off some weird Khatm-e-Nabuwat-And-the-Prophethood-is-REALLY-OVER gang. So I guess my request would be please stop worrying about brain farts like Hamid (worried enough that you wrote up in an Emirati magazine here) and maybe focus on a real issue. Like why a portion of our “educated” youth (a segment of society into whose education our society has indirectly and directly Sunk A Lot of resources) was deluded by such a charlatan.

    Maybe focusing on this segments mis-education, a fact all the references to Pak Studies textbooks must remind you off would be a better way to move forward.

    And maybe a recommendation on how this significant quantity of resources can be better dispensed with.

    And Now As You May All Be Aware:

    An Eulogy For The Zaid Hamid “Movement”

    Let’s Celebrate

  7. Couldn’t put it better, Omar. I think you have given a good insight into possible army mentality as well as the CIA/US. I may be wrong but I believe that everyone pursues its own national interest. Whatever the Americans or the CIA are doing presumbly serves their interest. Major powers have always sought control and do conspire. There is no debate in my mind about that. The question is: what are we doing as a nation? Given the economic and mental crisis most of Pakistanis are caught in, I think it’s the job of the leaders to show vision and direction. Unfortunately, as you have rightly pointed, the country’s army, being the most powerful political entity in the country arguably since its birth, is still showing little vision and maturity. They have put these spin doctors out now to both avoid spotlight on their own performance as well as stress on the Americans that, look, there is a massive negative public opinion against your presence in the region as well as interference in Pakistan, so let us handle it.
    It’s a shame that after mismanaging and looting the country for over half a century, the army is still trying to have its cake and eat it too. But what’s even more shameful is that the so called free press and media is not even talking about it. There is perhaps some positive discussion on websites like these but it hardly reaches the masses who, from what I understand, are distraught at best. Agents like Zaid Hamid and Shireen Mazari are having a ball on the other hand because no one dare question their baseless conspiracy theories. If you do, then get ready to be dubbed as a ‘CIA/Mossad/RAW agent’. That’s the sort of mess we are in after seventy years of turbulent existence as a state.
    I am a believer in Pakistan unlike many others who argue that this was an unworkable state from the start. I think this country could have worked if only our leaders had the vision and had promoted freedom of thought, dissemination of advanced education, welfare state policies. But what we received is just the opposite; focus on defense, enemies, radicalism, cronyism, corruption, economic and political mess and an endless manouvering by the country’s army. The spread and promotion of people like Zaid Hamid, Ahmad Qureshi, Imran Khan and Shireen Mazari shows that no lesson has been learnt. Our army has certainly decided to push the country over the cliff in a final attempt to keep its fatal grip on the state affairs. So, yes, you’re right. More carnage, chaos and anarchy is certainly on the horizon because the Americans are not going anywhere this time. The question is : will the army finally step back and begin to love this country ?

  8. SMJ, your comment gives me a chance to post a note from my own email list. And yes, I agree that this lot has emerged as ISI’s latest effort to recapture lost ground in Pakistan. Fortunately for us, its a losing proposition. This is the emptiest bullshit possible. Anyway, read the note:
    Some friends suggested I should post two comments from today as a note, so here goes, without any editing, but the context is pretty clear.

    I wrote the following comments on an op-ed by Dr. Manzur Ejaz (http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default…4-3-2010_pg3_3)…

    I agree with Dr. sahib and I think that Pakistan’s army also knows much of this. Where they may still be mistaken (and we dont know because they continue to avoid transparency like the plague; another sign that their modernism is not as modern as they themselves believe) is in thinking that they can control their old proxies. I think (and this is a bit of a convoluted argument, so please bear with me):

    1. The army is a more modern institution than others in Pakistan, but not as modern as they themselves imagine. They will have a hard time controlling both their old proxies and the new forces unleashed by ongoing development in Pakistan.

    2. Their fatal flaw is institutional and it is aggravated by negative selection at an individual level. Institutionally, their interests are not always the same as the interests of the majority of the Pakistani people. Their own short term economic interest is in making money as a “rent an army” operation. THEY like to imagine that they are more like the PLA in China, a vast economic enterprise engaged in “nation building”, closely intertwined with the ruling elite, historically respected by the people as a revolutionary army. The last two obviously dont apply to the Pak army (but not surprisingly, they dont seem to notice), but even their multiple economic holdings are not close to being the PLA of Pakistan. Most of their economic holdings are economically unsound and are actually subsidized by taxpayers or by foreign aid (“rent an army” operations). This pushes their policy making in a “rent an army” direction even when they imagine otherwise.

    3. The individual negative selection is less important but not without consequence. I invite you to take a close look at any group photo of senior army officers of today. Better yet, meet them in their clubs and golf courses. I rest my case.

    4. The army seems to believe that they are “winning” in Afghanistan. If this is victory, then one shudders to think what defeat would look like. The narrative on the internet is that America is pulling out and Pak army are the gatekeepers and they will make the Americans pay throught their nose and bloody indians will get a black eye and whatnot. I think the only part of this theory that is correct is that America may pay them for the next 2-3 years. If India is foolish enough to get into a proxy war with them in Afghanistan, then India will bleed too, but if sardarji is smart enough to keep his head and work at a lower key, then Pakistan will end up with a marginally friendly regime in Afghanistan and a continuing civil war at home as well as in Afghanistan, with attendant costs for Pakistan.

    5. Indian hawks (who are at least as dumb as Pakistani ones) will whine and cry about strategic setbacks and whatnot, but if they dont get into a shooting war with Pakistan, they will become a mid-level power in a few years and the hawks will make better money too, so the bitterness will be less painful with time….the old 19th century paradigm of “strategic interests” will be quietly buried somewhere in kalapaani.

    6. I don’t know what Kiyani sahib is thinking (he certainly seems smarter than his buffoonish predecessor) but the army fans on the internet seem to have convinced themselves that Pakistan has successfully moved from nineties style salafist jihadism to a more india-centric, modern Pakistani nationalism (Zaid Hamid lite) that is compatible with American aid, yet fully energised against any attempt to reverse military domination of Pakistani policy. I guess when they meet their friends it looks like EVERYONE in Pakistan is with them on this ridiculous journey. But it looks to me like this new concoction has no future at all. Nineties jihadism was wedded to salafist Islam, which is a real ideology, a religious movement with a 1400 year old history. This mashup of 8th grade islamiyat, pakistan studies and conspiracy theories is the emptiest of empty shells. There is no there there…Army fans will be repeatedly disappointed by the Pakistani “public”, who will vote in “looters”, indulge in “indiscipline”, get distracted by “provincialism”, produce far too many criminals and will generally behave much like any overpopulated third world country in transition, instead of holding fast to “Unity. Faith, Discipline and the rule of the blessed army”…..

    I happened to write a somewhat tongue-in-cheek history of this glorious war in a comment to a friend today and I will share it here so that readers can catch up on the background. Kindly excuse the flippant tone…
    It would be more accurate to look at recent history as:
    1. CIA arms and trains mujahideen to fight Soviets, Saudis pitch in with dreams of salafist empire, Pakistan army accepts contract in exchange for money, lots of money, chance to rule Pakistan forever, salafist empire dreams of its own.

    2. CIA finishes its “task”, lots of Afghans dead, Soviet Union humiliated, end of story.

    3. Pakistan expands CIA initiated jihadi machine and points it East towards India. Thinks its proxies also occupy Afghanistan now (but the tail is actually wagging the dog; but the general staff is too moronic and blind to notice). Dreams of Central Asian empire. Dreams of humiliating India. Dreams of lots of cash. CIA joins in with pipeline dreams. Saudis contribute like crazy to the new Islamic wonderland being built by their students.

    4. Saudis and CIA SLOWLY (painfully slowly) figure out that their students have ideas of their own. Pak army (bless the general staff’s IQ) still clueless, still dreaming of Srinagar, Red fort, Samarqand and Bokhara….

    5. Students go berserk, bomb New York. CIA involved? probably not, but its a fun conspiracy theory and it will grow and grow….

    6. Pak army switches sides. Does it REALLY switch sides? who knows. General staff wargames 5 years of American presence, lots of cash…

    7. General staff wrong as usual. CIA still around after 8 years. India not conquered yet. Samarqand and Bokhara pretty much out of reach. But of course, lots of cash. Also lots of dead Afghans and random Pakhtuns (especially poor khasadars, poorest and most upright and honorable soldiers in the country). To the army’s dismay, also a few dead brigadiers and colonels….

    8. Kiyani sahib becomes chief. Probably the highest IQ person to ever do so (not saying much, this is the army…just kidding, just kidding). Army will now fight its creations, maybe even allow civilian rule. Maybe stop playing “regional power’ and start building country. then again, maybe not. …

    9. Obama is president. Wants to stop wasting money in Afghanistan. Willing to pay Pak army in exchange for services rendered. Who knows what the hell is going on behind the scenes….Unfortunately, more dead people in Afpak.

    10. Pak army declares total victory. Giant celebrations to be held in Minar e pakistan, OOPS,moved to Alhamra hall 2, double OOPS: end in fiasco (http://kalakawa.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/schadenfreude/)….

    11. unfortuntely, more dead people in the days to come. fortunately for some, also more cash….kasb e kamal kun, key aziz e jahaan shwi (Achieve excellence and you will be the beloved of the world)

  9. Interesting article and fair comments ! Why is no one asking where such jokers or conspiracy mongers have come from ? Why don’t we probe the situation in which such twisted characters have emerged ? In Pakistan there has never been a shortage of religious fanaticism, thanks to a long term state policy of promoting Jihadist culture by Zia. But apocalyptic conspiracists have never had a field day or at least on a national level as this chap. I believe this man and others like him only emerged when the all-powerful Pakistani military establishment, specially the ISI, came under the US pressure for clandestinely supporting pro establishment Taliban inside Pakistan. I think this man and others such as Shirin Mazari are deliberately or inadvertently advocating the cause of the military establishment. They are not only projecting the US, India and Israel as the ultimate enemies which prevents the general public questioning the ruling elite that governed Pakistan for most of its existence but also providing it with a defense against the US that if they are messed with, then Pakistani public will turn even more anti American and that will be the end of the strategy of winning the hearts and minds of the Pakistanis in the war on terror. So, I believe there is a pattern to this chaos that we are seeing. But it’s a dangerous and bloody chaos all the same. I hope common sense prevails on all sides and as a nation, we come out, bruised but more wise.

  10. Manan, I will play devil’s advocate and say that this phenomenon is very interesting, but not that important in “real life”. It seems bigger than it is because the people lining up to cheer “Sir Zaid” are OUR class, especially in Punjab. But I think his 15 minutes are almost up and he will soon be replaced by some other figure.
    Hardcore jihadi ideology existed before Allama Iqbal and Zaid Hamid (yes, you heard me right; I did put this ass and the great poet in the same sentence) and will pretty much exist after the ISI decides to dump “Sir Zaid”. For those people who are exploding in markets and mosques the anjuman e himayat e Islam verses of Allama Lahori and the rants of Zaid sahib are really just the icing on the cake, not a cause of the problem. Then you have the mummy-daddy jihadis who flock to lectures by Zaid Hamid. Well, I am sorry, but I am not too impressed with this lot. They are not capable of exploding or even doing something moderately dangerous like harboring a terrorist. They are just filling in time between dates at “Tea-coffee and me” and A-level superexams (in which they do almost as well as the Indians). Allama and this Zaid Hamid nonsense is just entertainment and emotional release. Sure, some will go nuts like that fraud Qudratullah Shahab and invent stories of spying in Israel without sleeping for ten days (he actually believed that…reminds me of “a beautiful mind”, but without the beautiful mind). They will get some degraded version of western education, do tech level jobs or get rich fleecing medicare (OK, I am kidding, they will do all kinds of solid real work and bring up their families and pay their mortgages, good solid middle class lives await most of them)…they are not a serious threat.
    I am NOT claiming that everyone in Pakistan is on the verge of some kind of middle class utopia. I am just saying the “sir zaid and sir azmat” crowd is a small middle class phenomenon with NO resonance in the larger mass of Pakistanis. And I am happy to lay a bet on this with anyone who thinks Sir Zaid will become some kind of serious player in Pakistani politics. Even Imran Khan (whose ideology is a more sensible version of Sir Zaid’s ranting) has more real support than this joker. And I am one of those who think HE (the great Imran, who I really do think is a “great hero”) has no serious future in Pakistani politics either.

  11. @Qalandar: “who “need[s]” this?”: Historians. My interest in Zaid Hamid started when I became aware of his historical programs. I refuse to secede this space to the likes of Hamid.
    @Nikolai: I think the same ball-park.
    @ ottawamysteryman: thanks. al-Hind does not appear in the Qur’an and in early sources represents the land EAST of Indus. It’s conjugate Al-Sind would be present day Sindh up to Multan, maybe Lahore.
    @tsk: danke.

  12. ‘So, I believe we need to deconstruct his claims on historical basis – while also, I guess, stating “Bullshit”. ‘

    gold.

  13. This is a beautiful post and a most excellent deconstruction.

    BTW, and just as a matter of curiosity, doesn’t the al-Hind of the Koran [and the contemporary Arabic usage of the time] refer to lands immediately astride the Indus river, i.e., present-day Pakistan? As a further aside, I know that Arabs of today routinely refer to Pakistanis as al-Hindi.

  14. I ask you guys after you have done away with Zaid Hamid, do you think you will be ever ridden of apocalyptic messages floating around.

    Zaid Hamid is not the first man who is saying what he is saying. Zaid is simply introducing some of the thoughts already thought-out in the west. Watch the movie “Zeitgeist” available on youtube and it will tell you everything about Economic Terrorism via banking system. Zaid repeats a lot of the stuff from this. Besides this there are many analyst in USA who have talked about the possible demise of USA as the world power. And then we have Shaikh Imran Hosein, Shaikh Hamza Yusuf etc who talk about Islamic version of endtimes. Shaikh Imran Hosein’s interpretation so far are the most well researched.

    Rest assured Zaid Hamid is not the only one.

  15. Manan, I’ve been waiting for this post for SO long. Finally, an initial decontruction of the Zaid Hamid phenomenon. Will be waiting for your upcoming posts on the subject. And yeah, I’m a lurker on your blog-my first comment here. You write very, very well.

  16. Informative post. My knowledge of Pakistani media and politics is very limited, however I suspect cries of anti-Semitism in the USA when critizing Israel may be similar to cries of “But the Prophet says so – are you going against what the Prophet said?” in Pakistan. Fair comparison?

  17. “My lecture was about Shi’i and Kharajite developments and I had thought it would be fun to read some traditions about the occulted Imam Mahdi and Dajjal. Instead, I stuck with the lecture points. Didn’t go into Syrian Christian eschatological tribes during the Umayyad period and the various traditions about the anti-Christ. Didn’t talk about the end of times, fear of Dajjal (anti-Christ) as common themes. Nary a word about the wild scares of escaping Gog and Magog.
    Syria under the Umayyads was a funky place. The fear of renewed invasions by the Byzantines and the uncertainty of support from the local Christian tribes created a paranoid atmosphere. Everyone was freaking out that the world was going to end. Led largely by Hadi’ths that gave 100 years as the period of “Islam” [that Islam originated as an apocalyptic faith is quiet the hot topic in the last 10 years]. Jesus was the messiah in the earliest traditions in the various kitab al-fitan but the Mahdi soon overtook him as the savior. al-Masih al-Dajjal was the one-eyed opponent. He was generally considered to be a human and a Jew and did represent, I think, strong anti-Jewish feelings. Though, his legend must have borrowed heavily from the Jewish Armillus as well as the anti-Christ. His appearance was imminent as there are traditions that cite the Prophet saying “some of those before me will see the Dajjal”. Several times we have mention in Umayyad sources of blind or deformed people suspected of being Dajjal. Luckily for us, when Dajjal does come, he will have kaffir tattoed on his forehead.”
    http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/univercity/apocalypse_then.html

  18. Re: “Qalandar, if it wasn’t today – this day – I would have an answer for you. But now I don’t. I don’t know what the point is, of this.”

    I wasn’t sure what you were referring to, until I checked the news sites and saw your twitter feed. Sorry about the Lahore stuff bro, nothing really to say.

    [I might be wrong, and perhaps you are simply referring to my first comment on this thread, without more — in which case let me know and I’ll try and articulate the point I was trying to make better, without any promise that such articulation would rescue it from pointlessness :-)].

  19. Re: “The “prophetic ones” Zaid Hamid cites actually come from the accounts of thughūr al-Hind (frontier of al-Hind) which were compiled in eschatological collections. Just to be clear again, they do not appear in the collectively accredited ahadi’th. ”

    I actually missed this point on my first reading, this is valuable (vis-a-vis an interlocutor who sees himself as Hadith-bound)…

  20. Qalandar, if it wasn’t today – this day – I would have an answer for you. But now I don’t. I don’t know what the point is, of this.

  21. Re: “So, I believe we need to deconstruct his claims on historical basis – while also, I guess, stating “Bullshit”. ”

    I thought both the piece on Hamid in The National, and this post, were very well done. But one problem — and I admit I don’t have any solution to this — is this question of “need to deconstruct”; the question is, who “need[s]” this? i.e., surely those of us who see ourselves in some kind of liberal, secular mould, presumably don’t need the hadith-based deconstruction. And those who do subscribe to the hadith are not likely to accept the sort of contextualization that calls into question the authority and veracity of the Hadith. So who is the target of this deconstruction? Again, not intended to be a rhetorical question: one possible constituency might be socially liberal folks, netizen-types, who aren’t religiously observant but who theoretically concede the primacy of religious categories (to put it crudely, those who might drink and party but concede, if pressed, that it is “not okay” to do so). I am not familiar enough with Pakistan’s elites (or at all) to know if there is a real danger of this class being susceptible to Zaid Hamidism. If yes, then I think your deconstruction might be what the doctor ordered (it disturbs uncritical acceptance of certain Hadith, but leaves the wider structure of Hadith-dependence undisturbed, which I think bolsters credibility with those who see themselves as Sunni, even if not observant).

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