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POST' MARK

Dawn, The Review


November 8-15, 2001. History articles

It has been almost a month now and The Review has not published any piece by Khurram Ali Shafique. He is an outstanding writer and the first thing I look for when I pick up The Review is his article. His style is great and I really like his articles. Among all his pieces, the ones I liked best were on Quiad-i-Azam and Alexander the Great. The one about the night of August 14 and 15 was also very good. I suggest that he must compile all the historical sketches that he has done in a book and I will be the first to buy it.

Sumair Kidwai, Karachi


May 17-23, 2001. Suhandi

Khurram All Shafique with his usual candid style returns with a brilliant piece on Suhandi: the forgotten queen of Sindh.

His article provides an insight into our attitude against women in our society. The last sen­tence says it all; "In her own right, she was most certainly a women with nerves of steel, and she didn't commit any crime for which, if she were a man, posterity wouldn't have praised her". Even history does not do jus­tice to women. What a pity.

Ameer Hamza, Karachi


April 5-11, 2001. Discovering the destiny of man

The imaginary interview of Iqbal was an excellent piece. The writer has maintained the essence of all the quotes from Stray Reflections  and designed his questions around them. For a student like me who has to memorize Iqbal's verses to pass the exams, Khurram All Shafique has presented him in a totally different light. For me now, Iqbal is much more than a poet. My friend and I went to the library and dug up quite a lot of stuff on Iqbal — something we never previously thought about.

Salman Aslam, Karachi

(2) 

The articles by Khurram Ali Shafique are simply great. I am a student of tenth grade and throughout my school years, I never thought that history could ever be interesting. Now, thanks to his informative and entertaining articles, history is my favorite subject.

Naveed lqbal, Karachi


January 25-31, 2001. Romantics rule

(1)

Three cheers for The Review's brave attempt at peeking into a phenomenon that knows no human bounds: Romanticism has indeed served as the essential catalyst for the process that is human progress which reached its crystallization in the 20th century.

Taking K. A. Shafique's observations further, I would like to add that had it not been for literary giants like Sir Rider Haggard and James Fennymore Cooper, who subsequently carried their predecessors' mantle, the beautiful marriage of human imagination and action could not have occurred. Haggard and Cooper, to name a few, in their works dared to put human imagination to the test of action and ended up inspiring millions of lives with the belief that to dream is not enough.

To go after your dreams is what needs to be done in order to know who you are and what you stand for. Success and failure, thus, become a matter of fate: what is worthwhile is a life lived rather than merely passed away. The age of the Romantics cannot be subjected to historical time frame. True, it was given a definition and terminology at a given time in history. But in reality, it began with the beginning of human civilization and it's still going strong, thanks to the likes of Indiana Jones and Napster!

Ammara Durrani Karachi

(2)

The topic selected by The Review for the cover story was great. Romanticism is a part of our lives; how we learn to live with our mistakes and how we cherish little moments. Romanticism teaches one to appreciate the inner depths of one's soul. I think the best part was the correction of the dichotomy between the people of action and people of imagination. 

Sibtain Hashmi, Hyderabad

(3) 

Khurram Ali Shafique's analysis of what constitutes a romantic was wonderful. It felt great to realize after reading the piece that I just might be bordering along the same lines. For I too, have started to believe in myself (if only recently) and this belief is becom­ing stronger by the day. I myself experience oodles of energy and boundless imagination but, yes, I am no psychopath or serial killer. Just utterly romantic and why not!

Tasmeera Khan, Karachi


Dec 14-20, 2000. Khanzadeh Begum

It was pleasure to read Khurram Ali Shafique’s write-up on Khanzadeh Begum. If we look into the books, they are all filled with the accounts of wars fought for the crown but a gentler and more subtle role played by the women in history is usually ignored.

I would love to read more pieces about such forgotten women of history. All credit to Mr Shafique for writing a series of such fine pieces.

Naheed Azmi, Quetta


December 7-13, 2001. Babur

The  write-up on 'Babur' (The Review, Nov 23-29) was simply marvelous. It was a historical account in its own league. The persona of Babur was viewed from diverse angles. Moreover the incidents included, pro­vided sufficient food for reflective   thinking. Thomas Carlyle rightly noted, 'History is the essence of innumerable biographies'. Truly speaking, history is the window to the world now non-existent.

I would be too glad if such works of writing are produced on Rumi, Napolean Bonaparte, Mao Zedong and Winston Churchill for I always have been an ardent student of history.

Munira Qazi, Karachi


November 16-22, 2000. Tamerlane

This is in reference to Mr. Khurram Ali Shafique's write-up on Tamerlane (The Review Nov 9). It was an excellent piece. However, he must be corrected with regard to the after-effects of Taimur's battle with Bayazid. He says, "The Ottomans couldn't recover from this trauma," which is historically incorrect. The House of Usman became great after the battle of Ankara (1402). When defeated by Taimur, the Ottoman empire consisted merely of southern Balkans and parts of Anatolia. It was later under Salim the Grim and Sulaiman the Magnificent that the Ottoman Empire spread over three continents. It ruled the entire Middle East, including Hejaz, the entire N. Africa, eastern and central Europe as far as Vienna; in the east the Caucasus and Ukraine. Besides, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea became Ottoman lakes. Based in the Red Sea, the Ottoman navy patrolled the Arabian Sea and guarded Muslim pilgrim ships against being looted by Portuguese pirates. In the Atlantic, the Turkish navy was raided as far north as Greenland and Iceland. 

It is wrong to say that the Ottoman kings never married again. How could the house of Usman perpetuate itself? Actually, what they did, following Taimur's humiliation of Bayazid's queen, was to abolish the institution of empress. Instead, the empress was known as Valide Sultana or mother of the heir-apparent.

It is a matter of academic debate whether you can blame Taimur for the excesses against women. War is a hideous phenomenon. Victorious soldiers do diabolical things (in modem times as in mediaeval times). You cannot blame Taimur for what his soldiers did in their camps anymore than you can blame Kennedy and Johnson for what American soldiers did in Vietnam; or blame Stalin for the sexual orgy that followed the Soviet entry into Berlin.

Jamil Ahmad, Karachi


November 16-22, 2000. Tamerlane and Ibn Khuldun

It is always a pleasure to read Khurram Ali Shafique's articles on history. He is rendering a great service to its cause in Pakistan. In his enlightening piece on Taimur-e-Lang, (The Review, Nov. 9-15, 2000), there is a reference to Taimur's meeting the great historian and political philosopher Abdur Rehman Ibn Khuldun. The reference casts doubt on the meeting of these two great personalities, which, according to evidence available, throws the doubt itself into doubt.

There are several reliable sources (as reliable as historical sources go) which testify to the meeting of Taimur and Ibn Khuldun. One is the Aja'ib al-maqdur fi akhbar Timur of Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Arab Shah completed in 1435 AD. The book is a biography on Taimur and the author, the latter's captive turned court biographer. This book includes a short account of Ibn Khuldun's visit to the camp of Taimur, outside Damascus and their conversations during the conqueror's siege of that city in 1401 AD. Several other eminent 15th Century Arab historians, such as Ibn-e-Furat, Qalqashandi, Maqrizi, Ibn Qadi Shuhba, Ibn HaJar al-Asqalani and Badr ad-Din al-Aini, to name a few, have all confirmed the meeting between Ibn Khuldun and Taimur. However, the most authentic, which should remove all doubt is Ibn Khuldun's own autobiography, at-Ta'rif bi Ibn Khuldun, in which the historian has given a graphic account of his meeting and conversations with Taimur. The manuscripts, three in number, of the complete work, are preserved in Egypt. Eminent scholar Walter J. Fischel, translated, as the first step to translate the whole work, that portion of the Ta'rif pertaining to the historic meeting (titled: Ibn Khuldun and Tamerlane -- University of California Press, 1952).

Mr. Shafique, has wondered, whether the historian, if he indeed had met the conqueror, enlightened the latter about his "Four dynasties" theory. Well, according to the Ta'rif, politics did not figure in the several conversations. Mostly eminent personalities like Nebuchadnezzar and geography were discussed. In fact, Taimur got the historian to write a treatise on North Africa for him, which was completed in "twelve small books," during Ibn Khuldun's sojourn in camp.

A. M. Shah, Karachi

November 16-22, 2000. Biographies of politicians

I have never been interested in historical essays, as I have been lately due to the very brisk and fluent style of Khurram Shafique. All hats off to him as he really knows how to make boring stuff interesting. Our universities need lecturers and researchers like him. I would also like to see articles by Mr. Shafique on the history of Pakistan after its creation and biographies of our politicians, perhaps.

Fatima Bashir


October 26-Nov 1, 2000. Cleopatra defended

This is with reference to Qasim Durrani's letter in The Review dated October 12-18. His comments on  the article 'The Doomed Pharoah' by Khurram Ali Shafique which appeared in the previous issue obviously revealed that he had disregarded the diligent efforts with which the writer had portrayed Cleopatra. Shafique had examined the character of Cleopatra with as much brevity as could possibly be used to describe such a multi­dimensional personality as this Egyptian queen. He had also managed to analyze certain fabricated stories that were conjectured about her over a period of time. This article was a real treat for history connoisseurs and therefore, I strongly advice Mr Durrani not to bother his intellect by reading articles that put him to sleep.

Faiza Shuja Khan, Karachi

October 5-11, 2000. History revisited

I have been reading The Review for quite some time now and what regularly interests me is the history section which you have recently begun. You’ve published comprehensive pieces on Babur and Jehangir and I hope that these will continue. I would appreciate it if the author went further than 1707, because it is really the period till 1857 which is missing from most history books written by local authors and many are unaware of it.

Nasir Khan, Islamabad

September 21-27, 2001. Setting the record straight

I would like to thank Mr Rehman Azhar for correcting the typo in my article on Humayun. Indeed the second Mughal emperor was born in 1508. I apologize for that careless mistake. However, I cannot agree with the other points raised by Mr. Azhar, as I find them a mere difference of details. Obviously, the authors chosen by the critic drew upon the same primary resources as myself (I hope!), but while they picked up details that suited the college syllabus, I picked up the ones that suited my purpose: i.e. the lessons learnt by the souls of these famous personalities.

My sources for the article on Humayun were his sister Gulsbadan's account Humayun Nameh (in original Persian) and his father Babur's autobiography Babumameh in an English translation. Babur categorically told Humayun in a letter, copied in Babumameh that Kabul was the king's personal property and no prince should ever covet it. When Kamran asked for that province, Humayun reminded him of Babur's wish but gave in when his ungrateful brother persisted. Again, it was Kamran who orchestrated the ambush of Afghans who killed Hindal. Gulbadan calls Kamran "birader kush"(or brother-killer) on this count.

As regards Humayun's defeat at the hands of Sher Shah, I mentioned Humayun's procrastination but I didn't mean to exclude the possibility of Sher Shah's surprise attack (as mentioned by Mr. Azhar). It's sad that the teaching of history in our colleges and universities doesn't encourage the students to become familiar with the primary sources which are not only so much authentic but also a lot of fun to read. The textbooks, obviously focused on the limited range of syllabus, leave out the elements of human interest.

On a personal note, I am quite flattered to see that my writing was read in such detail. I would be only too happy if Mr. Azhar keeps reading them (with a red pen!).

Khurram Ali Shafique, Karachi

September 14-20, 2001. A regal revision

Recently, I read an article on the Mughal emperor Humayun in The Review dated September 06, and found the historical flaws given under:

1. In the first column of his article the date of Humayun's birth, according to the writer Khurram All Shafique was March 06, 1606. The actual date of Humayun's birth, according to historians, is March 06. 1508 (ref. Sheikh Muhammad Rafiq, Ahd-i-Mughlia. page 35).

2. The writer further mentions that Humayun gave his brothers whichever provinces they asked for, and 'if the ghost of Babur were to appear like King Hamlet of the play, he would have advised Humayun against making this mis­take'. Fact is that Babur himself had advised Humayun. before death, to give those provinces to his brothers and it was his will that his territory be divided among his sons (ref. Prof K. Ali's A New History Of Indo Pakistan. Part It page 18).

3. Moreover, the writer says that the reason of his defeat at Chausa was that Humayun 'waited for a month, trying to perfect his war strategy'. But according to my knowledge, it was not so. The fact is that Sher Shah took him unaware at Chausa (ref. A New History of Indo-Pakistan. Part II; page 24). Humayun hastened towards Agra and was caught by Sher Shah on his return march.

4. The writer again says that Kamran killed many of Humayun's followers including their stepbrother Hindal'. Let me tell you that Hinda) was not a follower of Humayun and at the time of Humayun's return march he was in Sambal. It was later that Hindal was killed by Afghans of that area during a rebel­lion (ref. Sheikh Muhammad Rafiq, Ahd-i-MuqhIia, page 45). As a student of Indian history, I think it's my duty to bring the real facts to the knowledge of the writer.

Rehman Azhar, Government College, Lahore

August 31- September 6, 2000. Historical musings

Khurram Ali Shafique's historical critiques are a fresh and most welcomed addition to an otherwise average The Review. His methodical, yet aesthetic, approach is a feast for the mind. To date, I have read all his articles with great interest and I admire his topic-selection.

I would like to make a humble suggestion, for whatever it's worth. His readers would benefit greatly from his obvious scholastic talents if he broadens his subject matter, both in terms of time and space. A focus on the mediaeval time frame, for instance, would capture a wider readership. I, for one, would appreciate a piece on Babur the romantic warrior or Richard the Lion Heart. Till then I would not mind a piece on Cyrus the great!

Ammara Durrani, Karachi.

August 24-30, 2000. Aristotle's Alexander

Khurram Ali Shafique's article on Aristotle was a treat to read outlining what he taught Alexander in his formative years to become the greatest conqueror of all time. Alexander went on to conquer the known world but not only in Persia. also in Egypt. Mesopotamia and far away Punjab, he treated the vanquished as his equal. The distance Alexander traveled is equal to that between North and South Poles.

We expect Khurram Ali Shafique to shed some more light on the glory that was Greece and how 'barbaric' Persia eventually destroyed it.

Dr S.M. Ismail


August 3-9, 2000. Another dimension

This is with reference to the article by Khurram Ali Shafique in the issue of July 27-Aug 02 on The Fourth Dimension.

Mr Shafique only provided readers with an outline. May I add that the reputed telepathic scholar J.K. Lagemann has called the sense of hearing the fourth dimension? The writer must have consid­ered this vital subject, because without it, The Fourth Dimension seems incomplete.

Also, before reading Khurram Ali Shafique's article on Alexander the Great (July 13-19), I was of the opinion that Alexander was a tyrant. But after going through the article, my views about him have changed.

Ameer Hamza, Karachi

(2)

On life and death

It is with great interest that I read the cover story articles on The Fourth Dimension. I have been interested in the paranormal ever since I heard of out-of-body and near-death experiences from people whose sincerity and integrity I have had no reason to doubt.

Recently I read an interesting book called The Scale Experiment — Scientific Evidence for Life After Death, by Grant and Jane Solomon. The reasons for carrying out these 'experi­ments' were based on the premise that if we can unveil the mysteries of death we will better understand life as we know it.

The website address on this book is http://www.psisci.force9.co.uk

Nafisa Choudhury Karachi


July 27-August 02, 2000

With regard to The Review, there are two things I would like to comment on.

The cover stories are so long that I lose interest in them. I feel the scope of these stories should be narrowed down, so that they can be more focused and crisp.

The article on Jehangir was very good. There were many aspects of his personality that I had never read about; they were in deep contrast with what my history teacher told me. It’s time we brought out those parts of history which for some weird and unexplained reason have been kept hidden from us.

By Azlan Shah, Karachi


These comments appeared in verious issues of Dawn, The Review from 2000 to 2001