Tales of pre-globalization superheroes
In these times when the war on terror is raging high and western analysts are looking for bright spots in the Muslim world, to pin their hopes onto, Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s recently published English translation of Dastane-e-Amir Hamza (translated as Adventures of Amir Hamza) has been received with gusto. This translation has given western scholars a thick body of work to analyze and answer many questions.
“Are these people really evil? Were they always savages like they presently are? Are their folklores full of jihad lessons, misogynic themes, triumphant beheadings of infidels, and of older men getting married to underage girls?
Commentators such as William Dalrymple are exuberant that that is not the case. Reviewing Musharraf Farooqi’s translation, Dalrymple writes:
“At this perilous moment in history, the Hamza epic, with its mixed Hindu and Muslim idiom, its tales of love and seduction, its anti-clericalism (mullahs are a running joke throughout the book), its stories of powerful and resourceful women, and its mocking of male misogyny, is a reminder of an Islamic world the West seems to have forgotten: one that is imaginative and heterodox — and as far as can be from the puritanical Wahhabi Islam that the Saudis have succeeded in spreading throughout much of the modern Middle East.”
Dalrymple’s sigh of relief aside, Dastan-e-Amir Hamza has (or had at one time) the ultimate merit of entertaining early readers. Ten volumes of Amir Hamza were what children of my age read as their first collection of books. Amir Hamza was our first hero; to be like Amir Hamza was our dream –we wanted to go to distant places and conquer new lands, pretty much like how Amir Hamza did. Dastan-e-Amir Hamza gave us a chance to imagine a different, mesmerizing world, and it cemented in our value system the virtues of bravery, loyalty to friends, truthfulness, and steadfastness.
Toronto based Musharraf Ali Farooqi has been touring cities of North America, promoting ‘Adventures of Amir Hamza’. His recent talk at the Stanford University was arranged by the Center for South Asia and other sponsors.