On October 3, I posted my forecasts of the next 20 years on my blog. Many friends thought them unlikely to happen.
I had stated that Pakistan will become increasingly distanced from the world, especially the West, and from 2010 will begin a period of isolation. Even that seemed unlikely to some in those days amid all the hype about the forthcoming Obama, and so on. Five months later, sadly, it doesn’t seem very far-fetched (Read what everyone is saying after the tragic attack on Sri Lankan players in Lahore yesterday).
I was asked to explain what I meant by isolation, and I referred to Shikral, an imaginary landscape in the works of Ibne Safi (arguably the greatest Pakistani novelist). A dear friend commented that Shikral was modeled after the tribal regions of Pakistan and hence it is unlikely that the rest of Pakistan could ever come even closer to that sort of thing. Well, we now have our democratic government sanctioning the enforcement of rigid Shariah laws in Swat, the tourist haven once considered to be a mini-Switzerland in Pakistan.
I am not a soothsayer, nor clairvoyant. Yet in this newsletter I have been bringing up the issue of forecasting because, odd as it might sound, Pakistan came with a roadmap. Its destiny was foretold in the writings of Iqbal, and in the speeches of Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan.
Forecasting is not only to fulfill your curiosity. It is about preventing disasters and steering your ship in the correct direction (“The future isn’t the same once you’ve seen it,” Nicholas Cage says something to that effect in Next, a movie I recommend strongly if you haven’t watched it already).
I have now done enough research to become bold about things which so far I have only suggested as hints (that’s why I was away). I shall begin by saying that one of the key themes in the works of Iqbal was forecasting the destiny of one’s nation, and ultimately the destiny of the humankind.
The theme is so dear to Iqbal that when he meets God “face to face” at the highest point in his journey, his single request to the Almighty is, “Let me see the destiny of the humankind.” There are quite a few methods for forecasting the future, and most of them are nothing more than pleasant pastimes. What I am talking about (and Iqbal was talking about) is different.
It is a kind of intimacy with God. It is “interpretation of stories and events”, which God describes as His special boon to Joseph in the Quran. It is to develop our thought to such perfection that we can analyze history and Nature to see not only what is visible but also what lies beneath: the current of Life which is ever flowing through our lives, sweet and low, singing a song so faint that we need to shut off so many noises in order to hear it.
“Listen to the flute,” says Rumi. “How it complains and narrates the story of its separation.” So far you’ve wondered if Time is a dimension of space. I am inclined to perceive space as a dimension of Time.