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Zaavia – A Lifetime Treasure – Noushah Arshad

By: Noushah Arshad

ashfaq ahmad

22nd August, a day when a life was brought from heavens to the earth. No one knew that one day he will become the mentor of thousands of people all over the world; he will bring luck and happiness into the lives of depressed ones. He was named Ashfaq Ahmed Khan, the most respected and beloved Baba Ji of many of us.

His play “Mann Chalay ka Sauda” was the first introduction, of his magical personality, to me. At that time I was quite young to understand his immense knowledge of philosophy and spirituality which was explained in the play. For many years I considered him just a writer who writes somewhat unique and different plays.

In December 2004, three months after his death, my father brought his book Zaavia-1 for me. Before reading that book, I never knew that I was going to dive in an ocean of love and care. It proved to be a powerful healer for me. As I kept on reading the book, my problems gradually disappeared and I started feeling blessed. It was as if I was getting a new life from the book. Every page that I turned, every chapter that I read, opened a new world for me. I learned to live a happy, blessed and satisfied life. I learned to deal with my sorrows and to celebrate every moment of my life as it was a precious gift of God for me. Baba Ji taught me to respect God�s creatures and be humble to them.

In last four years I have learned a lot from the three volumes of Zaavia. The way Baba Ji has expressed his thoughts embedded in beautiful stories and words, it has no match. His way of expression is very soft and caring. While reading his literary works or watching his dramas, it seems as if he is teaching his reader or viewer. He teaches something that is not a piece of cake to teach for everyone. It requires special care to advise people and specially youth. Most of the people can’t do this easily. Baba Ji is blessed with this gift that he understands the psychology of people and knows the human nature very well. That’s why we never feel that he is giving us pieces of advise somewhere hidden in his stories and beautiful thoughts.

I feel him very close to my heart and I am sure that most of us do so. His words, his literary works and his teachings will always keep him alive in our hearts. . . Great people never die. They breathe in beauty of their great deeds.

*Author is Studying Business in a local University.


  1. Societies where the process of intellectual evolution is frozen for centuries and which prefer a tunnel vision based on faith over the infinite diversity of life and the universe do not yield wisdom; for the creation of wisdom, it is imperative to have freedom of thought and freedom to ask questions. In the Islamic republic, soon after the birth of the child, all efforts are made to curb these fundamental attributes; hence societies like ours are rendered an open playing field for the mediocre.

    It is rare that scientists, philosophers, artists, inventors and innovators are born in such societies; however if they happen to be part of these, they are generally disgraced and declared heretics and traitors. So to fill this gap, the state artificially manufactures scholars portrayed as “national heroes”. Hence Iqbal becomes a philosopher and Qadeer Khan a scientist; however both have no recognition as such. Similarly Mumtaz Mufti, Qudratullah Shahab and Ashfaq Ahmad are brought to the forefront as “thinkers”. Of the three, Ashfaq Ahmad was the greatest “actor”, born on August 22, 1925 in Garhm-ukteshwar village,Ghaziabad, India, he migrated to Pakistan shortly before independence, and completed his master in Urdu literature from Government College, Lahore.

    He greatly impressed the common man as he was well conversant with the art of story-telling. He would articulate the script as if it was all based on facts. And even there was no need to have continuity in the narration; he would simply conjoin unrelated events and would try to derive some spiritual meaning out of it. This knack of his would greatly impress the already “spiritualized” mind.

    Ashafaq Ahmad rose to new highs during the reign of General Zia as it was Zia who promoted religiosity at every level; right from sectarianism and extremism to “jehadism”, to Ashfaq-style “spiritualism” every move was made to gain ground. As a consequence everybody from literate to illiterate to rich and the poor were influenced by steps taken by Zia.

    However the educated lot was very much affected by Ashfaq’s “stories” and “philosophy”. During Zia’s time he came up with an interesting thesis which said that Pakistan’s destruction was not owed to the un-educated but the educated. Now apparently it looked rational but it also contained a sinister message; very cleverly he glorified ignorance and downgraded education. In other words he was holding the educated lot, which runs the affairs of the state, as corrupt. The fact is that since majority of the people in this country comprised the uneducated, they could not hold the corrupt as accountable unlike the developed countries where majority of the people are educated and could hold anybody answerable. However Ashfaq was painting the “wrong” picture. Similarly he would also portray an extremely negative picture of the rich. He would say that being rich was a curse as the rich were too involved in accumulating wealth and as a consequence suffer from so many ailments like diabetes and cardiac problems.

    On the other hand Ashfaq would glorify poverty. He would say that the life of the poor was simple and straight, hence the poor were saved of so many troubles in life. There were no worries and God himself liked poverty as the poor were nearer to God. Look how Ashfaq was targeting two birds with one stone; he was protecting the capitalist mindset and at the same time giving out hollow dreams to the poor through the glorification of poverty.

    The famous English columnist Mr. Khalid Hasan wrote the following about Ashfaq;

    “During Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s rule, Ashfaq came under fire as he came to be seen by many as being supportive of military rule. What lent it strength was his constant advocacy through his radio and television programs of the message that everything that happened to man was the will of God and it was not right that it be questioned. His critics and those who were struggling against the ferocious military rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s executioner saw Ashfaq’s philosophy as a blatant effort to divert criticism of the regime. If acceptance of whatever happened was what God wanted man to do, then there could never be change or revolution. Ashfaq’s view seemed to be that one should leave it to God to do justice. In other words, if Zia was unjust, then the people should leave the matter in the hands of God. The corollary of this thinking was that in the meantime the people should let their bare backs be whipped. I am perhaps exaggerating but that was how Ashfaq and what he was writing was seen by some people in those days, including myself”.

    In the final analysis Ashfaq was a regressive status quoist opposed to any change or development. He promoted “hypocritical spirituality” and would subtly give the lesson of conservatism to the common and not so common man.

    One of his dialogues became an instant hit which said “May Allah make things convenient and comfortable for you and enables you to dish out the same”; a feature typical of Western secular societies while the situation here happens to be entirely different.

    Ashfaq Ahmad and the like never bring about a substantial change in the society rather the nation further plunges into hypocrisy, intolerance, obscurantism and feelings of guilt.

    The greater the efforts of the state have been in “making” the people pious the greater has been the crises of conscience among the people.

    To survive in the modern world, Pakistan will have to get rid of fake philosophers, fake scientists and fake thinkers. The only alternative is to promote scientific thinking.

  2. Maashaalah, thanks for the excerpt. I wish there was a version of Zaavia with English subtitles so i could share it with my friends

    He was such a gentle soul. May Allah grant him peace in the hereafter.


  3. I like your comments about Zavia.

    But it is not a smooth read. I believe the reason is that it has been transcribed word by word from Ashfaq Sahib oral narration. There is a differene when you speak as opposed to when you write. So despite being an aid reader and a great fan of such writings I could not bring myself to finish Zavia since it was never written. it was never meant to be read. Its beauty is in its listening, the words of the artist spoken in a soft tone to an enthusiastic audience. The whole facet of zavia gatherings is covered when you are with the narrator, observing his body language, the subtleties and nuances of his tone etc. That’s why i could not bring myself to love Zavia books. If only they were not written word by word but someone probably Banu Qudsia Sahiba would modify it to make it a piece of reading, Zavia books will become an everlasting treasure.

    What do you think? If you agree please pass on my request to Banu Appa for rendering this beautiful program into smooth, flowing urdu reading.


  4. Prince Muhammad Bilal

    Very nice book to read i really like it

  5. A great tribute to great personality Baba Ji Ashfaq Ahmed. Beautiful words that spell bounded me. No doubt Zavia books are one of the greatest assets on self help & ethics in Urdu.

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