Was Shakespeare really Sheikh Zubair?

In Summary
One of the most remarkable facts about Shakespeare’s writing is its profound knowledge of the culture, history, language, legal systems and politics of southeastern Europe, northern Africa and southwestern Asia, writes Philip Ochieng.

Was William Shakespeare a member of the Mijikenda communities? Did the great playwright pen at least some plays in Kiswahili?

That thought excited me greatly when I saw the following headline in the Saturday Nation: “Shakespeare’s Kiswahili play on tour of India.”

But the story below soon disabused me. The headline was a syntactical error. The sub-editor was referring only to Wanawake wa Heri wa Winsa, a Kiswahili translation of The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of the Bard’s most delightful comedies.

Yet the thought that the man reportedly born at England’s Stratford-upon-Avon might have been a native of Kenya’s mwambao may not be too far-fetched.

Culturally and linguistically, the Swahili are basically Bantu, consanguine with the Mijikenda, but with an imposing Hamito-Semitic — mostly Arabic — superstructure.

For, if East Africa’s Indian Ocean littoral has been literate for 10 centuries, it owes it to powerful and protracted cultural-linguistic currents from the fateful peninsula almost totally surrounded by the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

And one of the most remarkable facts about Shakespeare’s writing is its profound knowledge of the culture, history, language, legal systems and politics of that world region — southeastern Europe, northern Africa and southwestern Asia — knowledge which no other coeval European seems to possess.

Perhaps that is why certain Middle Easterners keep claiming Shakespeare for themselves. An interesting claim was made a few years ago by an Arab called Muammar Gaddafi, whose mother-tongue has powerfully influenced the thought content of Kiswahili, East Africa’s lingua franca.

In a fascinating statement, the Libyan leader informed the world that the name Shakespeare was an English corruption of Sheikh Zubair, the name — said he — of an Arab poet-playwright of classical antiquity.
The fact that I had never heard of Sheikh Zubair did not prove Gaddafi wrong, I thought.

For I had never heard of Ibn Sinna either. Only later did I learn that Ibn Sinna was the original form of Avicenna, the Greco-Latin corruption of the Arabic name of a Persian physician whom Europe has long ago appropriated as one of the founders of “European” medicine.

Thus, though I cannot stick my neck out on it, it is not impossible that the English name Shakespeare was a European corruption of the Arabic name Zubair with the honorific Sheikh prefixed to it. For Shakespeare played a leading role in introducing Western Europeans to important Nilo-Semitic words.

The plethora of such words that English subsequently “nationalised” includes Al Kohl (alcohol); Al Jibr (algebra); Al Sifr (cipher or zero, known in Kiswahili as sufuri); Amir-Al-Bahr, “lord of the sea” (admiral); and Al Khem, one of classical Egypt’s Afro-Semitic names (root of both alchemy and chemistry).

Alchemy was instigated along the Nile by Pharaoh Tutmosis III as a method of combining and recombining the atoms of various chemical elements to produce the elixir — the panacea known as “the philosopher’s stone,” whose latest form, nanotechnology, is poised to dramatically revolutionise medicine.

The alchemical tradition to which Shakespeare belonged was an aspect of the pursuit of knowledge known as Hermetic Gnosticism, which, in Europe, runs underground in opposition to the official Church and worships the ancient Nilotic pantheon of Isis, Osiris, Horus and Thoth.

For Shakespeare was a Rosicrucian, one of the subterranean movements.

To be continued

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Seize Kashmir

The recent developments in Kashmir and India offer Pakistan a fresh opportunity to redesign policy. We put Kashmir on the backburner for a decade, with very little return.

The Indian army’s aggressive posture at the Line of Control in Kashmir, the Kashmir-related recent executions in India and New Delhi’s failure to move on resolving even minor border disputes, all point to the need for a robust Kashmir policy by Pakistan.

Our new Kashmir policy should be based on three pillars:
alignment with Kashmir’s younger generation,
smart advocacy, and
UN resolutions.

The mantle of Kashmiri resistance to Indian occupation is passing on to a younger generation. Young Kashmiris are impressive. They are well-educated, bold and connected to the global e-village. A couple of years ago they forced a Pakistani flag atop a main building of the university in Srinagar.

In March 2011, teenager Aneesa Nabi arrived at the United Nations in Geneva to brief diplomats and NGOs on how the Indian army killed her parents. Younger Kashmiris launched the Kashmir spring in late 2010 as a prelude to the Arab spring. No wonder then that Tunisian and Libyan activists invited Kashmiris to join them during a seminar on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council session held in early 2011.

Pakistan’s Kashmir policy should keep pace with the activism of young Kashmiris. The movement for political change in Pakistan is also the work of our younger generation. There is a need to establish more links between younger Pakistani and Kashmiri activists.

The methods of Kashmir advocacy employed by the government and politicians in Pakistan need to change. Maulana Fazlur Rehman should do us a favour and relinquish his chairmanship of our parliamentary panel on Kashmir.

His successor should be someone who can demonstrate sharp advocacy skills and offer new ideas. Social media activism should become a strong component of our Kashmir policy. The old methods won’t work. The Kashmir-focused broadcasts of PTV and PBC networks have a lot of room for improvement.

One of the major flaws of our Kashmir debate is the underlying assumption that resolving the international dispute in Kashmir is purely a Pakistani need. That is incorrect.

Kashmir is a huge burden on India’s military, security and diplomacy. For all its global ambitions, most of India’s guns point at Pakistan and are positioned on our borders. Kashmir continues to bleed New Delhi’s military resources.

India is wasting vital resources on Kashmir and Pakistan that could go a long way in solving the problems of a poverty- and disease-ridden population. Kashmir continues to inspire nearly five dozen insurgent groups that have wreaked havoc across northeast India.

And a festering Kashmir will continue to pose a threat to the security of India’s major cities as they face a blowback from Indian army’s heavy-handed tactics in Kashmir that include rapes and mass graves.

It is a deeply flawed argument that Pakistan should be desperate to resolve Kashmir at any cost. The biggest service Islamabad can do to Kashmiris is to stop paying attention to out-of-the-box solutions coming from American think-tanks.

India should be left to deal with this problem in accordance with the available roadmap – the UN Security

Council resolutions. Economic and social turmoil inside India, the security threat coming from a prolonged Kashmir military occupation and other pressures are all factors that play on the side of Pakistan and Kashmiris.

This leaves another important question: What about trade with India? The MFN status that India granted Pakistan some six years ago is largely on paper, not fully functional on the ground. There is no harm in granting India MFN status, but the recent public and secret steps taken by the Zardari government to boost Indian trade to Afghanistan is not in our favour.

Even before the MFN and the new Pakistani concessions, Pak-India bilateral trade has been at comfortable levels. The notion that there’s no trade between us is wrong and exaggerated. This level of trade can continue for several years to come without any problems or losses to Pakistan’s consumers and economy.

Generous one-sided Pakistani trade concessions to India defy logic. These concessions are lucrative and New Delhi is dying to get them as soon as possible. Islamabad should openly link these concessions to visible Indian cooperation in resolving border disputes and water issues, and to easing repression inside Kashmir.

Article By: Ahmed Quraishi

Faith or Belief

How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed ?
And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard ?
And how shall they hear without a preacher ?
So, the faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
(Romans 10:14)

Say ye: “We believe in Allah (God), and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (Quran 2:136)
The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His apostles. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles.” And they say: “We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.” (Quran 2:285)
The desert Arabs say, “We believe.” Say, “Ye have no faith; but ye (only)say, ‘We have submitted our wills to Allah,’ For not yet has Faith entered your hearts. But if ye obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not belittle aught of your deeds: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Only those are Believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the Cause of Allah: Such are the sincere ones. (Quran 49:14&15)