A Blind Drummer Becomes A Motto For Pakistan
The novel by Salman Rushdie about Pakistan’s greatest poet and most hated dissident, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, is one of the best novels ever written. Rushdie uses modern day events to portray a clash of civilizations. Instead of the Islamic faith and the “puritan” Islam of the Arabs, Rushdie paints a depiction of modern time in Pakistan in which the sharia law rules supreme and the only place of worship is the mosque. A blind guy and a “nigad” are given equal status as well as good citizens.
The beginnings of the novel are about a young Muslim girl named Ayesha, who is shocked to see a teacher in her mosque get beaten by preachers for something as trivial as dancing too loudly to the music. When she asks them about it, they claim that dancing is haram (forbidden) for women and as such, Ayesha’s parents sent her away from home to a madrassa (school). At the madrassa, she meets a blind teacher of her age named Khalid who tells her that he was once a drummer in the army and that he can hear songs but has no ears.
This sight of a drummer who could hear the sounds of hell, when her friend’s father was killed in hell, might have confused her. She later realizes that she had met this blind guy before in a similar situation. When Ayesha’s father is murdered, this blind drummer stands up to go into battle. He fights bravely and is soon killed. Ayesha and Khalid, both blinded and with opposite opinions, form a bond of friendship that will change their lives forever.
One common theme of the novel is the story of a blind man who is blind because of a crime he committed. For Ayesha, who has been brought up believing that a deaf person cannot hear, this man is a hero; and Khalid, who is blinded by the eyesight of others, becomes a role model.
The novel is based on Mehr, a traditional type of Pakistani poetry which is still read and enjoyed today. It is said that there are twelve different Mehr poems which can be translated into different languages. Mehr is a blend of two literatures – namely, the mysticism of Qadisiyat-e-Razi and the orthodoxies of Khurasani poetry. Its basic theme is the relationship between God and humanity.
Qadisiyat-e-Razi is considered to be the first well known Persian writer and is highly respected in Islam, where he is called Razi. It was he who introduced Surah Al Fatiha, the opening verses of which is often quoted in Pakistani Urdu poetry. The best known passages of the Mehr poem are those found in Surah Fatiha.
Qadisiyat-e-Razi and Khurasani poets claim that the story of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is a fabrication and that his words were actually revealed to him by God. However, most of the people today in Pakistan, the Muslim majority country, still believe in the Quranic stories about Muhammad. This is the reason why they love to read Mehr.
A novel about a blind drummer becomes a story about an eminent Pakistani poet. A book which is very rich in culture and history would have lacked something without this beautiful tale.