BOOK REVIEW: Mullahs and wars in Tribal Areas by Khaled Ahmed
Daily Times, May 18, 2008
Frontier of Faith: Islam in the Indo-Afghan Borderland;
By Sana Haroon; Hurst & Company London 2007;
Syed Ahmad Shaheed of Rai Bareilly has finally won his battle in 2008, albeit at the cost of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embraced the Deobandis in the hope of making itself acceptable but to no avail
Sana Haroon has written an excellent book that will help us understand the killing fields of the Tribal Areas of Pakistan today. This month (April 2008) the local Al Qaeda warlord and alleged killer of Ms Benazir Bhutto, Baitullah Mehsud of Wana, convened a big conference of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Aurakzai Agency near the tomb of Haji Turangzai to proclaim that his emirate had come to stay. He was himself not there for fear of being killed by an American drone but his deputy representing Bajaur was there as were warriors from all other tribal areas including Malakand in the NWFP.
The book explains the role of the local mullah in Pakhtun society and traces his journey from mystical faith to the hardline Deobandi one which was actually more suited to the stark highlander’s life of challenges rather than the quietism of the sufi from the plains. Haji Turangzai actually stands at the axis of change in the spirituality of the Tribal Areas and his war against British Raj fits him for the homage of those who are fighting the global hegemony of America and punishing with suicide-bombing such American allies as Pakistan.
Historically the Pakhtun of the Tribal Areas were ruled by their tribal code Pakhtunwali intertwined with faith through the agency of their mullahs. The mullahs were mostly a part of the chain (silsila) of mystics — mostly Qadiriya — who decided the matters of sharia in the light of their jurisprudence and in deference to the tribal code. Gradually the mullahs all changed to the Mujaddadiya chain of mysticism, which meant they became militant rather than quiescent in the qadiri tradition. We at least have one evidence about when the change actually began.
Ahmed Shah Abdali had induced descendants of Mujaddid Alf Sani to move to Kabul after his raid of Delhi in 1748. On their arrival, and with patronage from the court of Ahmed Shah, and later Timur Shah (1772-93) and Shah Zama (1793-1800), they gained pre-eminence at the Afghan court. The were also granted lands in Kabul, Kohistan, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Herat where the influence of the Naqshbandiya-Mujaddidiya line grew to its strongest (p.41). It is Alf Sani’s majuddadi militancy that informs the Pakhtun personality.
The piri-muridi tradition was strong among the Pakhtuns till another great man in the tradition of Naqshbandiya-Mujaddadiya chain became their patron in chief, Shah Waliullah. The big tradition of the warlord mullah in the Tribal Areas must begin with Abdul Ghafur (1793-1878) of upper Swat who got his early education at Hazrat Ji of the Mujaddadiya silsila in Peshawar who found him in violation of the tariqa, after which he joined a Qadiri-Suhrawardiya-Chistiya teacher of a multiple order. Ghafur became the akhund whose line was to be the owners of Swat because he fought on the side of Amir Dost of Afghanistan against Ranjit Singh and won for his Yusufzai followers the lands of Swat and Mardan. The ‘Miangul’ descendants of Ghafur were first known as akhund but were later called wali.
Akhund Ghafur set up the throne of Swat and in 1849 put Syed Akbar Shah on it as Amir of Swat, the Syed being a former secretary of Syed Ahmad of Rai Bareilly, but after his death took the throne himself. He kept his line with the Mujaddadi chief mullah of Kabul open and derived a lot of power from the Kabul throne through the mystic silsila. His military might was respected in the region surrounding Swat, but his authority spread far and wide when he accepted, as murid, Mullah Najmuddin of Hadda, a khalifa or appointed deputy of Syed Ahmad of Rai Bareilly. (Syed Ahmad of Rai Bareilly had come to the Frontier from Delhi to defeat the Sikhs and establish an Islamic state, but was killed at Balakot in today’s Hazara district in 1831.)
The new Mujaddadi wave rolled back the earlier maverick mysticism fitfully represented by such ‘heretic’ saints as Pir Roshan Bayazid Ansari (1525-1560) who united the Pakhtuns against the Mughals and remained true to the reputation of warrior mystics. The Mujaddadis rejected Pir Roshan’s cutting down of the namaz and other central tenets in the tradition of Mansur Hallaj. (Former cricket captain Majid Khan’s son cricketer Bazid Khan is named after the Pir-e-Roshan.) The great tradition that came to Swat was given in the hands of the Hadda Mullah of Mohmand. He came to Swat and proclaimed an eclectic silsila led by the Mujaddadi school.
Hadda Mullah fought Amir Abdur Rehman Khan of Kabul on the one hand and battled the British on the other. As a pupil of Syed Ahmad Shaheed of Rai Bareilly who fought South India’s most immaculate jihad in the Frontier, Hadda Mullah created a stronghold in 1897 when he saw his follower from Kabul Sadullah Khan Sartor Faqir fighting the British at Malakand. The Miangul line of Akhund Ghafur was soon disenchanted by the politically suicidal but heroic strategies of Hadda Mullah and broke from their family silsila to go to the less warlike school of Manki Sharif.
But the Akhund Ghafur-Hadda Mullah legacy was moved forward by one Fazl Wahid Haji Sahib of Turangzai (1842-1937), which was really the teachings of Mujaddid Alf Sani and Shah Waliullah. Turangzai is supposed to have gone to Deoband in India’s Saharanpur to learn the Quran where he saw the most militant of all clerics Maulana Mahmudul Hasan preparing a group of pupils to go to Hijaz in Saudi Arabia. He insisted on going to haj with Maulana Mahmudul Hasan and seemed to have repeated the experience of Shah Waliullah himself when he came under the Wahabi influence of Haji Imdadullah in Makka. Haji Turangzai’s first bayt was with Imdadullah, the one he took at the hand of Hadda Mullah was his second.
Although the descendants of Akhund Ghafur like Miangul Aurangzeb the Wali of Swat greatly revered the great Mujaddadi tradition their rule in Swat was less stringent than in Mohmand and Bajaur where Haji Turangzai left behind a strong Deobandi-Wahhabi influence that was to coalesce with the Arabs who arrived in the region with Al Qaeda. Baitullah Mehsud is claiming from the Mianguls the legacy of Akhund Ghafur while the family of the Wali is keen to take the governance of Swat away from Peshawar and reactivate the soft shariat of the Wali. The Pakistan army could therefore be facing the tradition of the Wali and the larger challenge of Haji Turangzai legacy represented by Baitullah Mehsud.
But if the Pakistan army loses, the next rout will be that of the representatives of the Wali who are in the habit of quickly leaving Swat after indirectly supporting Maulana Fazlullah of TNSM. The legacy of Haji Turangzai is in the ascendant. Syed Ahmad Shaheed of Rai Bareilly has finally won his battle in 2008, albeit at the cost of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embraced the Deobandis in the hope of making itself acceptable but to no avail. *