[Reader-list] Allah Hafiz to Khuda Hafiz: A road better not traveled

Kshmendra Kaul kshmendra2005 at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 9 14:11:25 IST 2010

Dear Samvit 
This was shared on sarai on 24th May 2009
A connected article in two parts which might interest you, was shared on 31st May 2009.
"Khuda Hafiz versus Allah Hafiz: a critique" By Mahfuzur Rahman

--- On Tue, 11/9/10, Samvit <samvitr at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Samvit <samvitr at gmail.com>
Subject: [Reader-list] Allah Hafiz to Khuda Hafiz: A road better not traveled
To: "reader-list" <reader-list at sarai.net>
Date: Tuesday, November 9, 2010, 12:43 PM

A very interesting read. It talks about the road that radicalization
has taken. Most of us, inspite of our religion would love to say khuda
hafiz but the fanatics now want us to change the way we address each
other. Sad!

Allah Hafiz to Khuda Hafiz


The first time Allah Hafiz was used in public was in 1985 when a
famous TV host, a frequent sight on PTV during the Zia era, signed off
her otherwise secular show with a firm ‘Allah Hafiz.’

As most Pakistanis over the ages of six and seven would remember,
before the now ubiquitous ‘Allah Hafiz’ came ‘Khuda Hafiz’.

The immediate history of the demise of Khuda Hafiz can be traced back
to a mere six to seven years in the past. It was in Karachi some time
in 2002 when a series of banners started appearing across Sharea
Faisal. Each banner had two messages. The first one advised Pakistani
Muslims to stop addressing God by the informal ‘Tu’ and instead
address him as ‘Aap’ (the respectful way of saying ‘you’ in Urdu). The
second message advised Pakistanis to replace the term Khuda Hafiz with
Allah Hafiz.

The banners were produced and installed by Islamic organisations
associated with a famous mosque in Karachi. Ever since the 1980s, this
institution had been a bastion of leading puritanical doctrines of
Islam. Many of the institution’s scholars were, in one way or the
other, also related to the Islamic intelligentsia sympathetic to the
Taliban version of political Islam and of other similar fundamentalist

However, one just cannot study the Allah Hafiz phenomenon through what
happened in 2002. This phenomenon has a direct link with the
disastrous history of cultural casualties Pakistan has steadily been
suffering for over thirty years now. Beyond the 2002 banner incident,
whose two messages were then duly taken up by a series of Tableeghi
Jamaat personnel and as well as trendsetting living room Islamic
evangelists, a lot of groundwork had already taken place to culturally
convert the largely pluralistic and religiously tolerant milieu of
Pakistan into a singular concentration of Muslims following the
“correct” version of Islam.

The overriding reasons for this were foremost political, as General
Ziaul Haq and his politico-religious cohorts went about setting up
madressahs in an attempt to harden the otherwise softer strain of
faith that a majority of Pakistanis followed so they could be prepared
for the grand ‘Afghan jihad’ against the atheistic Soviet Union with a
somewhat literalist and highly politicised version of Islam. The above
process not only politically radicalised sections of Pakistani
society, its impact was apparent on culture at large as well.

For example, as bars and cinemas started closing down, young men and
women, who had found space in these places to simply meet up, were
forced to move to shady cafes, restaurants and parks which, by the
mid-1980s, too started to be visited by cops and fanatical moral
squads called the ‘Allah Tigers’, who ran around harassing couples in
these spaces, scolding them for going against Islam, or, on most
occasions, simply extorting money from the shaken couples through

Then, getting a blanket ideological and judicial cover by the Zia
dictatorship, the cops started to harass almost any couple riding a
motorbike, a car or simply sitting at the beach. Without even asking
whether the woman was the guy’s sister or mother (on many occasions
they were!), the cops asked for the couples’ marriage certificate!
Failing to produce one (which in most cases they couldn’t), hefty sums
of money were extorted as the couples were threatened to be sent to
jail under the dreadful Hudood Ordinances. The same one the Musharraf
government eventually scrapped.

Some of these horrendous practices were duly stopped during the
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif governments in the 1990s, but the cat
had long been set among the pigeons. Encouraged by their initial
successes in the 1980s, Islamist culture-evangelists became a lot more
aggressive in the 1990s. Drawing room and TV evangelists went about
attempting to construct a “true” Islamic society, and at least one of
their prescriptions was to replace the commonly used Khuda Hafiz with
Allah Hafiz.

This was done because these crusading men and women believed that once
they had convinced numerous Pakistanis to follow the faith by adorning
a long beard and hijab, the words Khuda Hafiz would not seem
appropriate coming out from the mouths of such Islamic-looking folks.
They believed that Khuda can mean any God, whereas the Muslims’ God
was Allah. Some observers suggest that since many non-Muslims residing
in Pakistan too had started to use Khuda Hafiz, this incensed the
crusaders who thought that non-Muslim Pakistanis were trying to adopt
Islamic gestures only to pollute them. The first time Allah Hafiz was
used in public was in 1985 when a famous TV host, a frequent sight on
PTV during the Zia era, signed off her otherwise secular show with a
firm ‘Allah Hafiz.’ However, even though some Islamic preachers
continued the trend in the 1990s, it did not trickle down to the
mainstream until the early 2000s. As society continued to collapse
inwards — especially the urban middle class — the term Allah Hafiz
started being used as if Pakistanis had always said Allah Hafiz.

So much so that today, if you are to bid farewell by saying Khuda
Hafiz, you will either generate curious facial responses, or worse,
get a short lecture on why you should always say Allah Hafiz instead —
a clear case of glorified cultural isolationism to ‘protect’ one’s
comfort zone of myopia from the influential and uncontrollable trends
of universal pluralism?

I’m afraid this is the case.

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