Wednesday, Dec 07, 2022
A Review Essay

The Mothers Of The Lashkar

Lashkar's jihad is claimed to be almost exclusively on behalf of Kashmiri mothers and daughters. For they know they must have the mothers in Punjab and Sindh on their side in order to succeed in their recruiting efforts, as we learn from these propag

The Mothers Of The Lashkar
The Mothers Of The Lashkar
Ham Ma'en Lashkar-e-Taiba Ki Vol I-III
By Umm-e-Hammad
Dar-al-Andulus, Lahore 381, 377, 262 pages

The book is titled Ham Ma’en Lashkar-e-Taiba Ki (‘We, the Mothers of Lashkar-e-Taiba’); its compiler styles herself Umm-e-Hammad; and it is published by Dar-al-Andulus, Lahore. Its three volumes have the same garish cover, showing a large pink rose, blood dripping from it, superimposed on a landscape of mountains and pine trees The first volume, running to 381 pages, originally came out in November 1998, and was reprinted in April 2001. The second and third volumes, with 377 and 262 pages, respectively, came out in October 2003. Each printing consisted of 1100 copies. Portions of the book—perhaps much of it—also appeared in the Lashkar’s journal, Mujalla Al-Da’wa.

Here is how the publisher, Muhammad Ramzan Asari, describes the book’s contents and purpose.

The book at hand, Ham Ma’en Lashkar-e Taiba Ki, is a distillation of the tireless labor and far-flung travels of our respected Apa (‘Elder Sister’), Umm-e-Hammad, who is in-charge of the Lashkar’s Women section, and also happens to be an Umm-e-Shahidain (‘Mother of Two martyrs’)…. [I could be misreading the text, for I found no reference to any of her sons except one, whom she described as a very much alive mujahid.] Her poems are on the lips of the mujahdin. Numerous young men read or heard her poems and, consequently, set out to perform jihad, many of them gaining Paradise…. Our workers should make this book a part of the readings for the ladies at homes to awaken the fervour for jihad in the breasts of our mothers and sisters. (I.13.)

In her preface, Umm-e Hammad describes her own conversion to the cause at some length.

Once I was among those who considered jihad the root of big trouble [fasad], and vociferously called it that. I hated the Markaz. I considered it to be the den of a gang that lured innocent boys away from their homes and schools only to throw them into the inferno of battle in Kashmir, making them a sacrifice to its own end of collecting Riyals and Dollars from foreign sources. Then I noticed that my husband, Asif Ali, whose organizational name is Abu Hammad, had grown closer to Hafiz Muhammad Sa’eed Sahib. He had known the latter fairly well for many years, but now he would often remark at home: ‘I’m raising my children with prohibited money because I work in a bank.’ I immediately knew that something was not right. Realizing that the man had fallen into the clutches of the so-called ‘saviours’ of Kashmir, I quickly took some counter-steps to protect my family. I took every loan offered by the bank to make the man’s burden of debt heavier. In brief, there was Abu Hammad, suffering because he felt he was earning an illegitimate living, and there was I, ensuring my own comfortable future by adding to the load he carried. I would constantly tell him, ‘We eat of only what we actually earn. We work hard. We meet our duties.’ But, while Satan helped me find arguments and excuses, Allah, the Almighty, was determined to open the doors of His help and guidance to one of his guileless, well-intending servants. And so, one morning that simple man left home for the bank as usual, and handed in his resignation. On the way out of the bank, he paused at the threshold and vowed never to cross it again. He then went to the Markaz, and from there proceeded directly to Afghanistan, to the very first training centre of the Lashkar at Jaji.  

It was as if some monstrous calamity had hit the family. There was no abuse that I didn’t throw at the Markaz and its director, and no crime I didn’t charge them with. Still dissatisfied, I consulted with the family, obtained the address from Hafiz Muhammad Sa’eed Sahib, and showering curses on that ‘gang of frauds’ went to the Muzaffarabad office of the Markaz.

What I did there must have pleased Satan a great deal. May Allah forgive my sin.

But after I had seen how the mujahidin lived—their hard training, their fervour, their deep faith—I soon began to examine my own ugly past, when I had lived as if I were blind, deaf, and mute. A deeply humiliating sense of remorse came over me. I listened to the lectures given by the teachers at the Markaz, and realized that I had been totally ignorant of Jihad fi Sabil-allah (‘Jihad in God’s Path’), which endows any Muslim with all the dignity and power in the world. I asked myself: how is it that Muslims everywhere are victimized by infidels? Why are they brutalized and humiliated despite the prayers, fasts and pilgrimages they perform? I now turned to the Qur’an. I read Surah Anfal (chapter 8), Surah Tauba (chapter 9), and other verses on jihad; I listened to discourses on these verses; and I came face to face with that resplendent aspect of Islam which in our history recalls the mothers of Salahuddin Ayubi, Tariq bin Ziyad, Muhammad bin Qasism, and Mahmud of Ghazna. All praise to Allah, for His great kindness. That was the first miracle of that journey in jihad. Our hearts were transformed…. May the Almighty forgive us the nineteen years of disobedience—our eating the bread of usury from the bank….

In a second introductory note, Umm-e Hammad throws some light on the genesis of her book and of the Lashkar. The group, according to her, started its militant activities at Jaji, in Afghanistan, where it joined hands with the Salafi Afghans of Nuristan in their battle against the Soviet forces. (In the book itself, several ‘martyrs’ are described to have received military training and seen action in Afghanistan. In one account the future ‘martyr’ even describes how the Arab mujahidin made fun of the Pakistanis fighting beside them.) Subsequently, the Lashkar entered the Kashmir valley, with ‘less than 700 mujahidin ranged against 700,000 satanic forces.’

After a rhapsodic paean to the mujahidin’s alleged successes, Umm-e-Hammad continues:

Then the wielder of this broken pen noticed that the mothers and sisters, whose hopes and desires, dreams and wishes, provide the blood that colors the shattered bodies of the Lashkar mujahidin, live in purdah [and can’t be seen]. And so this humble woman, considering it a duty to unveil [their feelings], presented the idea to Hafiz Muhammad Sa’eed Sahib, the Amir of the Markaz, who strongly encouraged me. A few days later, Zakiur Rahman Lakhwi, the Amir of the Lashkar, and Abdur Rahman Al-Dakhil, the Amir of the Occupied Valley, set out to meet with the families of the martyrs who lived in Punjab. When my son Hammadur Rahman learned about it he decided to be my mahram—[legitimate male companion]—and obtained the permission from [Hafiz Sa’eed]. [On 16 December 1995] our group set out for its first meeting, with the mother of the Shahid Imran Majeed Butt of Faisalabad…. After collecting the blood-drenched words and the stars-like sentiments of the mothers and sisters of more than one hundred martyrs of the Lashkar, our caravan returned home on January 11 1996. (I.19.)

Subsequently, Umm-e-Hammad travelled to Karachi and parts of Sindh in a similar manner. Again, while the men talked with the male members of the families, she met with the women to take down their recollections of their ‘martyr’ sons or brothers. Chiefly the book is based on her notes, but on occasion she fills in gaps from the files of the Lashkar’s journal, Mujalla Al-Da’wa.

While the first volume of the book was clearly compiled by Umm-e Hammad, the two subsequent volumes, while carrying her name, seem to be the work of male party hacks. Particularly the third volume for it badly lacks all the little personal touches that Umm-e Hammad adds to the stories in the first volume; much of it simply brings together the overblown prose that first appeared in the Mujalla.

The first volume of the book describes 81 ‘martyrs’, the second 58, and the third 45. Taking into account a few repetitions and unlisted additions, the rough total of comes to 184. In this small sample—the Lashkar claims to have sacrificed many times as many—most of the families appear to be rural and not terribly well-off, and most of the ‘martyrs’ seem to have been in their early twenties or less. Most of them seem to have studied only up to the secondary or matriculation level. Only a few went to a madrassa.

Each chapter of the book consists of two parts. The first, longer, section delineates the life and character of the ‘martyr’, mostly through the words of his mother and sister, though comments from the male members of the family are not necessarily left out. Here we learn about the youth’s background, his family and his neighbourhood, his life before and after the ‘conversion,’ ending frequently with some details of his death. The second, shorter, section presents the ‘last testament’ sent home by the ‘martyr’. Stiffly formal and predictably formulaic, these statements nevertheless often reveal quite a bit about the individual mortal behind the generic ‘martyr’.

Below I give a reasonably fair translation of one complete entry from Volume I. It is quite representative of the others in tone and narration, except for one feature: the ‘martyr’ does not have a jihadi name in addition to his own. (More on names later.)


The Martyr Imran Abdul Majeed [Butt], May Allah’s Grace be upon him.

In the two-storied house in the neighbourhood called Khalidabad in the city of Faisalabad, there is a room on the ground floor. It contains a bed, a table, and a chair. A pile of jihadi books and copies of the Mujalla lies on the table, also some ‘stickers’ inscribed with jihadi expressions and Qur’anic verses. There is an armoire filled with the Shahid Imran’s clothes and other possessions. This room is now the only abode of his parents. His mother says, ‘I sleep here, and I also say my prayers here. It’s here that my heart finds comfort.’

The Shahid Imran Majeed was older to his four sisters. There is also another brother, younger to the sisters. Imran’s mother is a college graduate. She is sober, patient, and uncomplaining. Lost in the memories of her son, she told us:

‘Imran always dressed well. He was also sober and refined. He would ask for nice clothes and pullovers, and make a point to get them. Not one to spend much time with friends, he was, however, very fond of cricket, and an all-rounder player himself. He was invited to every tournament, and always took great interest in them, playing with one team here then captaining another team some place else.

‘He was also a fine student. He studied hard, and got his B.A. degree with distinction. Then he started preparing for the ‘CSS’ examination. His relatives have much influence in Faisalabad. Imran got some nice job offers, and important people were willing to recommend him, but Imran declined. He wanted something much better.

‘Then a cricket match was announced between India and Pakistan. Imran said to me, "Ammijan, you must buy me a TV. I’ve got to see the match." We have several relatives living nearby. I told Imran to go and see the match with them, but he kept insisting.

He wanted to watch the match on his own set. So eventually, we got him a set. Whenever there was a match between India and Pakistan, Imran would be so impassioned you’d think a war was about to start.’

As I listened to her, I realized that Imran had felt nothing but hatred for the enemies of Islam, but it found its true expression much later. He watched cricket matches to relieve himself of that hatred, and eventually God directed his feelings on to the paths of Truth and Honesty. Who knows how many young men there are who vent their disgust and hatred for India through these cricket matches? They would discover the path of jihad if only someone correctly guided them and their hatred. The storms raging in their breasts would sweep away all the Indian boasts like so much rubbish. But I digress. We were talking about Imran Majeed.

By now his three sisters had also joined us. The older sister described to me how Imran changed after finishing his B.A. Maulana Irshadul Haq, the Imam/Khatib of the nearby mosque, would often say to the congregation: ‘There is a boy here whose devotion and fervour when he prays makes me very happy.’ It was in the Maulana’s company that Imran obtained his jihad consciousness. [During Ramadan,] when Imran would lead the taravih prayers at home, his sisters would often exclaim, ‘Mani Bhai, you make us stand too long in the prayers. We get tired.’ But Imran would only smile and say nothing.

Imran’s thinking had started down the path of jihad. Now there was only one step left to take. He asked his mother to let him go for the initial training of twenty-one days, and left for the Lashkar’s camp when she agreed. From the camp he wrote a detailed letter. The spiritual refinement and firm faith he obtained there enriched him so much that now he was bent upon destroying the same TV set he had earlier insisted on buying. Faith is miraculous; when it finds its way into someone’s heart, his breast shines with purity, his eyes see beyond this small world, and his thinking reaches the ultimate heights of action. Imran Majeed now demanded that the TV set should be smashed to bits, for Allah had now put the strength in his arms to pick up a gun, to enter the battlefield and destroy those who rejected Allah. That instrument of false delight now disgusted him. Blood ran faster in his veins, and his falcon spirit was ready to pounce upon its prey.

When Imran returned home, everyone was amazed: his face was adorned with the Prophet’s sunnah. The family asked him, ‘Is it for good, or just seasonal? You won’t shave it off a few days later, will you?’ But his decision was permanent. Then one day, Imran disclosed to his mother his intention of going to Afghanistan and taking part in the jihad. His mother became very upset. She had watched the revolutionary change happening in him, and knew what to expect. But she quickly recovered, and said to Imran, ‘The road you have chosen for yourself is glorious, but I too have my responsibilities, and they hold me back.’

Imran had a tender heart; he couldn’t bear to give the slightest pain to his mother, and so he fell silent. But he would often talk about jihad and its importance, and the great rewards that followed from it. Imran’s mother told us, ‘I always told him to raise his voice against tyranny and injustice. I too hate injustice.’

Then Imran Majeed went off to Afghanistan, and joined the Afghan jihad. He would return once in a while, stay with the family a few days then again disappear. The family never learned about the places he visited, except for his mother’s sister Safia, who is the headmistress at the Government High School at Barki.

She was Imran’s confidante; she also continuously encouraged him.

Imran’s mother had some idea of what Imran was heading toward. She tried to dissuade him, but only indirectly. She said to him, ‘Imran, you have four sisters. They are growing up. You should first fulfil your responsibility toward them. Once you have done that you may devote yourself to jihad.’ Imran would mostly remain silent, but if she persisted, he would say, ‘Ammi, your daughters live within the walls of your house—in peace and safety. Our relatives live nearby. And yet you worry about them so. Shouldn’t you also think of those "daughters" who are surrounded by enemies, who are in harm’s way and waiting for us to help them?’ His mother couldn’t give him any reply, for her heart told her he was right.

Imran was trained in Communication and Action, as well as in other branches. A fast learner, he soon became an expert in every wireless technique. In fact, that was the reason he was selected to go into the Valley. In those days the mujahidin in the Valley couldn’t easily communicate with each other, and badly needed an expert’s help. And so Imran was chosen. As in cricket earlier, in jihad too he proved himself to be an all-rounder.

When, before going into the Valley, Imran came home to see his family, he appeared silent and withdrawn, and not relaxed and playful as he used to. In his mother’s words: ‘It seemed that all the sorrows of the Kashmiri victims had permeated his soul, and he had deliberately made himself indifferent to any kind of affection and happiness. That is how he was when he submitted his life to Allah.’

I then remembered what had happened when, only two or three days after Imran’s martyrdom, we had gone, with Imran’s aunt, Umm-e-Talha, and other women, to meet with Imran’s mother at Faisalabad. That day, when food was served, Imran’s mother invited us all to start by saying, ‘Please begin. It’s Imran’s walima [wedding] feast.’ We stared at her in amazement, but she calmly uttered ‘Bismillah’ and began eating. We had to follow her example. Now when I heard her remarks I realized that Allah had set aside special abodes in eternity exclusively for people like her, so accepting and so totally reconciled to His Will.

Besides Imran’s mother, his sisters, his father, and above all his Aunt Safia are worth all praise. The latter continuously encouraged him, and gave him much help. Then she improved the minds of his mother and sisters, and made them understand how superior Imran’s feelings and intentions were. Even now, after Imran’s martyrdom, she remains devoted to jihad, and whole-heartedly helps the mujahidin with money and with prayers. May Almighty Allah reward her greatly. May He make her a rightful claimant to the promised, unfailing intercession by the martyr on the Day of Judgment. Amen.

Imran Shaheed’s mother put her feelings into verse too. One can see in her poem an effective blend of Imran’s memory and her own feelings for jihad. Consider here only her emotions. Ignore the matter of artistic worth; consider only what her heart felt.


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