By Yasser Latif Hamdani (courtesy Daily Times)
The truth is that we are living on a prayer in sport, in politics and even in our economy. And prayer usually means a handout, which itself is a reprehensible thing for any self-respecting people and, may I remind the self-styled Islam-pasand types, a clear violation of the dignity with which a Muslim ought to live his life under Islamic injunctions
As I write these lines, editorials and blogposts all over the blogosphere are full of euphoric scribbling on how the unpredictable Pakistani cricket team has brought down the mighty Australians by bowling them out for 88 on the first day of the second Test match for our home series, which, ironically, is being held abroad in fields of the erstwhile colonial master who gave us cricket. There is a certain pride that our writers have in the unpredictability of our cricket team. It would almost be cute if it were not so tragic. Need I remind you of the heartbreak when indomitable Mr Hussey pulled the rug from under us at the World T-20 Championship?
May I remind the readers of a time, not too long ago, when the Oxford blue Mr Imran Khan Niazi captained our cricket team to cricketing glory in both the Test and limited overs versions of the game. We were known as unpredictable then as well, but there was a method to our madness and one person was never unpredictable, the great Khan himself. I have deliberately mentioned Imran Khan’s alma mater because while the increasingly senile and reactionary politician who uses the same name might not admit it, much of Khan’s confidence and discipline was derived from the first rate education he received at Aitchison and then at Oxford. In his biography, Imran Khan wrote that unlike his other teammates in the Pakistan cricket team, he would not take nonsense from rude waiters and was embarrassed when he had to hear the Pakistani manager speak about how the British taught us to eat with the knife and the fork (which they did, mind you!). Imran Khan had a sense of self-confidence and pride, which, he may argue, came from his Pathan-Muslim heritage but, as the contents of this article will show decisively even if between the lines, were entirely the products of his brown-sahib Aitchison and his gora-sahib Oxford education.
However, I digress, though the digression is very deliberate in this case. When Imran Khan led our cricket team, we beat Australia in Australia, India in India and England in England. At the time, West Indies were considered the giants of cricket. Undaunted, Imran Khan and his tigers took them and held their own against them. There was something extraordinary about Imran Khan, be it with the bat or the ball. In a One-Day International, which was a no-hoper, he solidly stood up against the entire might of the West Indian bowling attack and single-handedly tied the game. He was already well past his prime then. By the time the 1992 World Cup arrived, Imran Khan was already many years into his ‘born-again Muslim’ phase. Yet, he was not the sort to wear religion on his sleeve nor do I think he believed that by praying God would decide in his favour. His belief in God only complemented his faith in himself. This was the kind of man Imran Khan was on the cricketing field. He trusted God, but he always tied his camel. This is what made him stand alongside other greats of this game and maybe above them, for otherwise, even Imran Khan himself admitted, his talents did not compare to the talents of other better cricketers. Yet, by sheer hard work and belief in himself, he was able to outshine all of them.
The reason I said that this could not be because of Imran Khan’s Pathan-Muslim heritage was not to drive down this great heritage, but because the Pakistan cricket team today is full of Muslims and Pathans, and yet there is no Imran Khan to be found. Unlike Imran Khan, most of our self-conscious Pathan-Muslim cricketers believe that if they pray hard enough, they would not have to work hard and that God would automatically side with them. It is a national ailment. For example, one telecom company has been putting up televisions advertisements with our top female track star who hears the azaan through her cell phone and wins the race consequently. The message: buy our cell phone connection so that you may hear the azaan in a foreign land and win the race. Are we really going to exploit Islam in this manner? Frankly, I doubt that Islam allows such obsessive-compulsive control freakery on the part of the believer. The eternal lesson of Islam is of hard work and effort. In this, one could argue, the Australians today are better Muslims than Pakistanis, at least when they play cricket. This lesson is better learnt on the green fields of Oxford and Cambridge than in Deobandi seminaries masquerading in the name of faith in our land, misguiding the people and creating false religious frenzy.
The truth is that we are living on a prayer in sport, in politics and even in our economy. And prayer usually means a handout, which itself is a reprehensible thing for any self-respecting people and, may I remind the self-styled Islam-pasand types, a clear violation of the dignity with which a Muslim ought to live his life under Islamic injunctions. So, when Allah obviously does not help us (primarily because we cannot help ourselves), we turn to the US with the begging bowl and when the US kicks us around like the beggars we are, we abuse it, forgetting that there is no free lunch in the world. And then we complain when David Rothkopf insults us like he did in his latest piece appropriately titled ‘A tea party made in heaven: should Islamabad be the next stop Angle & Co.?’ The article greatly upset me as well, but mostly because it was true.
So, then, what shall we do? Should we continue living on a prayer or should we modernise and rationalise and realise that when J-man spoke of ‘faith’, he spoke of self-belief and confidence. At least one Pakistani proved him right abundantly but, regrettably, only in cricket. Shall we not hark back to that original lesson of our founding father? Or do we prefer, instead, being misled by the witchdoctors from Raiwind and other places, just like many of our cricketers from the lost decade of our cricket?