Warriors of a Different Kind

Title: Yeh Tere Pur Asrar Bunday (These Fascinating Servants of Yours, Urdu).
Author: Mufti Muhammad Rafi Usmani.

Pages: 445. Price Rs 165.
Publisher: Idaratul Maarif, Karachi, 1995.

The prize was a 200 meter long telephone cable that connected Zama Khola post to Fort Alam Khan. It was 4.0 p.m. on Friday, September 30, 1988. The three mujahideen who were given the task to sever the link between the two Communist held posts had to crawl through an open field in broad daylight, in front of the enemy posts. One enemy mortar would have been sufficient for all three of them. But they had a job to do. So they moved. Inch by inch. Till they covered the several hundred meters that took them to the telephone cable. There they stood apart from each other. Then, within seconds they snapped the cable and took it as a souvenir on the same arduous journey back to their position. The success of their mission would play a key role in the conquest of the Zama Khola post that evening and open the door to the mujahideen victory over the important city and military camp at Irghun.

The book describes the entire operation in painstaking detail. We can almost hear the mujahideen breathe! We see the map of the battle front. The hills, the ravines, the dry stream beds. And mines, mines, mines. They are everywhere. But here we encounter them in person. The two deadliest enemies of the mujahideen have been the helicopter gunships and the land mines. We see them kill and maim. We also see the mujahideen face them with incredible valor and a spirit of jihad that we have previously found only in history books.

The author is president of the prestigious Darul-uloom in Karachi, founded by his father the late grand Mufti of Pakistan, Mufti Muhammad Shafi. He is known as a religious scholar, speaker and author. But in this book he also comes across as a brilliant reporter. He stared writing the book in 1988, after a brief trip to the battle front. That is when he realized that the newspaper accounts of the jihad even in Pakistan were not telling the real story of the great jihad that would change the history of the world.

A two line report that a post was conquered or so many mujahideen were martyred, does not tell you exactly what was going on. He realized the need for informing the world about this earth-shaking event with its true human color. Five years later the current (fourth) edition of this book was prepared. Most of the reports are based on his own investigations. For every incident reported he checked and rechecked the accounts given by the witnesses. He also has independently verified the accounts taken from other published sources, like the newsletters of mujahid organizations. One finds plenty of references throughout the book. All the quotations from Quran and hadith are also fully referenced.

The book is not a comprehensive account of the Afghan jihad. Only an important part of the big story. It mainly highlights the role of Pakistani mujahideen, many of them students from Pakistani religious schools (not Taliban). Their role is brought to light for the first time by this book. We meet Irshad Ahmed a final year student at the Darul-Uloom who founded Harkatul Ansar. We meet Zubair Khalid, who had memorized the Quran at the age of 7, and who, at the age of 25, was one of the most respected commanders in the Afghan jihad. Then we see him leave this world in a Peshawar hospital after getting wounded by land mines. He is reciting the hadith: 'Whoever dies while saying La-ilaha illal-Allah will go to paradise.' We meet Nasrullah, 25, who single handedly took on six Russian gunships. We see them standing up in prayers at night, reciting Qur'an day and night, and accomplishing incredible feats in the battle. We see their humbleness, their compassion, their patience, their spirit of sacrifice, their brotherhood, their devotion. These are gentle and strong people. These are the best people that humanity has produced today.

They have been molded by the jihad, and in turn they have shaped this jihad. We see the extra-ordinary face of this jihad as well. We see miracles happening before our eyes. Yes, white birds did use to come out of nowhere minutes before the Russian bombing runs. They acted as their natural early warning system. Yes, mortars failed to explode when they mistakenly hit fellow mujahideen. Each such incident is recorded with full details and references of witnesses. We come back with the full realization that the mujahideen won because of their patience, perseverance, and their unshakable faith in Allah.

Since the departure of Soviet forces, there has been a concerted effort by big powers to deny the mujahideen the fruits of their jihad. By removing President Zia-ul-Haq, and his elite group of generals who had always helped the mujahid organizations rise above their centuries old tribalism, they succeeded in fomenting the unfortunate in-fighting that threatens to become the lasting image of Afghan jihad. Afghan leaders are not above criticism in this but we should not lose sight of the fact that the big power involvement in the jihad had given them unbelievable access which they utilized to the best of their ability to turn the jihad into a civil war. The book also deals with some of these issues in a way that helps us keep the proper perspective.

Despite the unfortunate post-Soviet developments, the Afghan jihad remains the most important jihad in the latter part of this century. It certainly has inspired other jihads, like those in Kashmir, and Bosnia. Because of its unique importance it has been the special target of the western propaganda machine, which has been diligently working to turn both 'Afghan' and 'Jihad' into dreaded and despised words. Their task is made easier with puppet Muslim regimes in many countries openly moving against the veterans of Afghan jihad. Jihad and Anti-Jihad come in strange juxtaposition in today's Muslim world. But the real tragedy is the distance between the Muslim masses and the faces and the forces of Jihad. This book bridges that gap. It would be good if it could be translated into other languages, including English.

By Khalid Baig

This book is available at the Albalagh Bookstore.