Khomeini and Firdausi Ki Sarzameen by Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi & Khanum Farhat Bugvi

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Book Review of a Travelogue about Iran

Khomeini and Firdausi Ki Sarzameen by
Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi & Khanum Farhat Bugvi

An extremely informative book which gives details about Iran,
its culture, Holy Places & the Iranian Society after Islamic Revolution

LAHORE: Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi who graduated from King Edward Medical College retired from the Provincial Health Department after a long distinguished service in 2006. He along with his wife Khanum Farhat Ahmad Bugvi visited Islamic Republic of Iran for eleven days in 2007. Dr.Bugvi has compiled his observations about Iran during his visit which is extremely informative. I have always admired doctor’s contribution to the Urdu literature apart from serving the ailing humanity. Many doctors have made commendable contributions to Urdu literature and poetry. Dr. Bugvi was kind enough to send me a copy of this book and since I have been to Iran visiting their various cities, I enjoyed it a lot. My visits were merely in connection with my professional assignments with major focus of visiting medical universities, healthcare establishments but it also provided me an opportunity to visit many families during my visits which was an extremely useful source to know more about the Iranian society and public in general.
However, since Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi had visited Iran as a tourist, being a keen observer he has compiled lot of information about the history of Iran, its major cities, various holy places like QUM and Mashhad, Shea Maslak in detail and the book makes an interesting reading and provides in depth information about Iran, its culture, society and day to day life in this neighboring country. The couple spent four days in QUM, stayed for a day in Isfahan which I feel was too little keeping in view the rich history and lot of important historic places to see in this city which is also known as Isfahan Nisaf Jahan, three days in Mashhad and then three days in Tehran. While compiling his observation Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi has also tried to compare it with the situation in Pakistan throughout the book highlighting the glaring disparities seen in Pakistan may it be the efficiency and working of civic bodies, institutions, cleanliness on the roads, in the cities, at shrines, religious places and even at Railways Station and Bus Stands. He has been very fair in his comments while he has appreciated the good values of Iranian society, he has also mentioned about their weaknesses, hence the reader will find it a very balanced viewpoint in this book. Mr. Azhar Javed Editor of monthly Takhleeq has rightly termed as an Iman Afroze Travelogue. In view of the current geopolitical situation, many people are reluctant to visit Iran because of fear that they may be refused Visa to America or European countries. Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi in his Preface has also expressed some other reservations which people might have because when you write the truth, you are likely to end up annoying some but Dr. Bugvi has taken this initiative.
It is interesting to note that area wise Iran is twice the size of Pakistan but it has a population which is just 50% of Pakistan. Iran has twenty eight administrative units and two hundred fifty seven cities. He is very critical of the VIP culture in Pakistan and believes that when people with authority start playing with the constitution and national institutions, their cronies play havoc and thus constitution and national institutions lose their dignity and respect that we often witness in Pakistan. In Iran, only Iranian can become religious teachers and they can alone open religious institutions no one else is allowed to do so.
Before exile in 1965, Imam Khomeini lived in QUMM. King Reza Shah Pahlavi sent him first to Turkey, then Iran and then to France in Exile. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, Imam Khomeini did not stay in QUMM but stayed in the neighborhood of Tehran in Jamran till his death. Those religious scholars who are Syed have Black Gown while non-Syeds wear White Gown. Hazrat Masooma sister of Imam Raza is buried in QUMM while Imam Raza’s shrine is in Mashhad and these are the two most sacred cities which attract Sheas from all over the world in great number every year. Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi has referred to the meticulous cleanliness at the Shrine of Hazrat Masooma in QUMM as well as at Imam Raza’s Shrine at Mashhad and then compared it with the situation at the Shrine of Hazrat Data Gunj Baths Hajveri at Lahore. However, when we visited QUMM, we did not see the cleanliness in this city which is seen in other cities like Tehran, Mashhad and Isfahan. We could see lot of litters on the roads and near the shrine of Hazrat Masooma. When we enquired we were told that the local government officials spend all the funding on religious places and very little is left for civic agencies. May be the situation has now changed. Despite the fact that Auquaf department earns lot of money from here every year, still the arrangements are very poor. Even visitors have to pay for leaving their shoes while no such things is seen in Iran where there are adequate arrangements for leaving shoes without any charges while the Zaaereens visit the shrine. Iran has preserved its culture very well and one can see numerous museums in almost most of the big cities.
Yet another important observation regarding Iranian society he makes is that people respect their houses and keep them as clean as religious places. Shoes are kept outside the house in the corridor before entering the house. Buses being used in public transport are clean and quite comfortable which shows that the department looking after public transport is aware and performs its duties efficiently unlike the situation we see in Pakistan. Some people and families in Iran are very religious and conservative hence the ladies will be seen fully covered with a long Chaddar but there are enough people with moderate or liberal ideas and the females belonging to this section just wear Hijab. A large majority of the young people both men and women are against Hijab and too much interference in their lives by the religious people. They are also against the way Hijab and the authorities insist on getting it implemented. Dr. Anwar Bugvi feels that it is the failure of the Iranian religious leadership which has not been able to bridge this gap. There is one thing common between Iran and Pakistan as in Iran too Eid is not celebrated on one day throughout the country and the problem with Ruwaeeat-e-Hilal exists in Iran as well. Education is almost free and students get admission on merit after national examinaiton. During the early days after the Islamic Revolution, there were very strict restrictions for women by the religious police but now the situation has eased much and young boys and girls are seen roaming together. It is neither objected to by their parents while the religious people also do not object it with the same enthusiasm they used to do in the past. Military rule of General Perevez Musharraf, Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi like many other Pakistanis believes has pushed Pakistan behind by many decades. Had he not toppled the elected Government in Pakistan in 1997, the country could have progressed a lot and the situation in the country would have been much different today.
Foreign visitors to Iran face lot of difficulties when they find that all the instructions, names of places even at Railway Station, Bus Stand and at the Airports are in Persian language. Most Taxi Drivers do not understand English hence movement becomes quite difficult. Dr. Bugvi has rightly suggested that the Iranian Government should ensure the availability of literature, brochures and sign boards in English language to help the tourists and visitors. Some Taxi Drivers do not hesitate to cheat the visitors but they are afraid of Police just like General Musharraf in Pakistan is of Constitution and Judiciary. While Pakistan is not only self sufficient but also exports Wheat whereas Iran Imports wheat but bread is cheaper in Iran as compared to Pakistan which is quite surprising. Pharmaceutical trade and industry in Iran do not indulge in bribing and presenting expensive gifts to the healthcare professionals which is seen in abundance in Pakistan.
Holy City of Mashhad has many important places apart from the shrine of Hazrat Imam Raza. It includes the resting place of Abul Qasim Firdousi, Khangah Imam Ghazzali, and Shrine of Khaleefa Haroon-ur –Rasheed Abbasi etc. After Islamic Revolution, the compound area of Hazrat Imam Raza’s shrine has been widened five times and the number of buildings is now over forty five. These buildings also house a big library and Islamic Research Foundation. Imam Raza University and numerous museums. Sunnat and Nawafal are not considered as part of prayer by people from Shea Maslak that is why people offer just Faraz and finish their prayer. On the whole people in Iran people follow discipline and no one tries to push and pull others to move forward so commonly seen in Pakistan. Shahnama Firdausi is a masterpiece by Abul Qasim Firdausi which consists of sixty thousand couplets and it has become a national asset. Traffic police is rarely seen in Iran and almost 60% of world Zaafran is found in Iran and its 90% in one province Kharassan. Dr. Anwar Bugvi also visited the residence place of Imam Khomeini and describes it as a very simple where all the things used by Imam Khomeini are preserved in their original shape in the waiting room, study room and living room of the Imam. Tehran city has a most modern underground Railways system built with the assistance of Chinese Government. Authorities have allowed Ladies Taxi Service in Tehran for the last few years and visit to Tehran is not complete without visiting the Saadabad Palace. It has impressive collections in Shah’s living room, dining room and drawing room. In one room, where the Shah used to receive foreign dignitaries one can see the pictures of some well known world leaders, the picture of late Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Z. A. Bhutto is also seen here.
The twelve Imams of Sheas include Syedna Hazrat Ali, Syedna Hazrat Hassan, Syedna Hazrat Hussain, Syed Zainul Abideen, Hazrat Mohammad Al-Baqar, Hazrat Jaffar Sadiq, Hazrat Moosa Kazim, Hazrat Ali Raza, Hazrat Mohammad Al-Taqqi, Hazrat Ali Al-Naqvi and Hazrat Hasan Al-Askari. Out of these Hazrat Hassan, Hazrat Zainul Abidin, Hazrat Mohammad Al-Baqar, Hazrat Jaffar Al-Sadqi, are buried in Madeena Munawara, Hazrat Ali Raza’s resting place is in Mashhad, while the remaining six Imams are buried in Iraq. Hazrat Imam Abu Haneefa and Hazrat Imam Malilk Bin Uns, both were students of Imam Jafar Saadiq but they differ in their Fikhi principles from their teacher.
America Dr. Anwar Ahmad Bugvi writes is considered as champion of democracy, liberty and equality but in fact it is a Western Power whose main aim is to protect its own vested interests and to achieve this, it does not hesitate to use force anywhere in the world. First it was Europe which used to exploit the Muslim countries and now it is being done by the Americans who are all the time planning how to make sure that the Muslim countries keep on fighting among themselves so that it can capture its oil wealth and other resources. It is with these objectives that the Americans promote some leaders in the Muslim World in the name of liberalism, democracy and the so called Roshan Khialli. The English, Americans, French and more recently the Russians have all proved they are dangers to the Muslim world. They have all exploited the Muslims for too long. The Islamic Revolution in Iran was a great miracle. As soon as the names of the Revolutionary Council were announced by Imam Khomeini on his return, the Army high command stopped protecting the Shah who left Iran in December 1978. It was on February 2nd 1979 that the last faithful Government of Reza Shah Pahlavi came to an end in Iran. Dr. Bugvi has also written about Rationing of Petrol in Iran, non-existence of Child Labour and the exploitation of Zaaereens by Pakistani agents who wish to visit the holy places in Iran in detail. Education, good governance and one national language which is Persian, Dr. Bugvi concludes has played a vital role in making the Iranians a Nation blessed with unity amongst its ranks.
The readers will find this 192-page book highly informative and interesting particularly those who intend to visit Iran, must read it as they will benefit a lot. It is published by Shahkar Book Foundation Lahore and is very economically priced at Rs. 300/-.

By Shaukat Ali Jawaid