A sitting with Mashallah Shakri: The Ambassador of Iran

 By Raja G Mujtaba Correspondent/Editor Veterans Today and Opinion-Maker

 On Monday, I was given the time to be at the embassy at 4 PM. I had asked the time to interview the Ambassador of Iran, H.E. Mashallah Shakri therefore I went prepared with my team of cameramen and photographers to cover the event. There was some confusion to the purpose of my visit, the ambassador was of the view that I was making a courtesy call on him as such he was not prepared for the interview thus it was put off to some other date but we did sit and talk for about an hour or so.

 During the sitting, many things came up. We covered a wide range of topics but mostly remained confined to Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), Afghan war and the Philosopher Poet Allama Iqbal who is no doubt the greatest binding force of the present era. If Pakistan can only give him his due place in our scheme of things, Pakistan can truly become a respected country amongst not only the Muslim World but other countries too.

 Iran is no ordinary country and Mashallah Shakri is no ordinary person. The Ambassador has lots of wisdom to share. His life and professional experience, his knowledge about various subjects but all can not be covered in one sitting. It would need more meetings and that too not surrounded by official protocols but more like a brother at home.

 Mashallah Shakri is a befitting person to represent Iran in a country where he is more than at home and has lot of friends both in the official circles and in public. As it is our belief being a Muslim, that the name of a person does have an effect on his personality and other character traits, it surely is visible here. Seeing him one just feels like calling out Mashallah, all praise be to Allah.

 When I referred to Allama Iqbal, the poet philosopher of Pakistan who is equally claimed by Iran, Turkey, Central Asian Republics, Germany and other Muslim countries it struck a chord of unanimity. I could see a spark in his eyes and a

  Roshanai, The Ambassador and the author

glow on his face. This chord made him more relaxed and comfortable talking to me. But ironically it hurts me to say that at home of all the people his son, Dr Javed Iqbal is sparing no effort to negate his father who stands much taller even from his grave. Pakistan was obtained through the vision of Iqbal. It is on record that Mr. Jinnah addressing a public meeting said, “If I have to choose between Pakistan and Dr Iqbal, I will go for Iqbal.” This was the vision of the father of the nation about Dr Iqbal but now his son has provided the opportunity to those ungrateful people who want to project their cult leaders in his place that can only be possible if they down play Dr Iqbal and his achievements in the contemporary history. Dr Iqbal’s vision and message of Unity, Khuddi (Philosophy of Self), Negation of Democracy and Nation State are the stumbling blocks in their motives and agendas.

 At the University of Heidelberg, Germany, for his PhD. thesis, he was given to write on “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia.” The selection of the topic in itself indicates Dr Iqbal’s deep rooted attachment and affiliation with Persia.

 Persia has had very deep historical linkages with the Indus Valley and beyond. Persian also became a known language in Bengal. The Mughal Kings had it as the court language thus it was taught in all places of learning. Those who knew Persian were regarded as men of knowledge and taste; they were also accorded special status in the Royal Courts.

 As it goes, seventy five percent of Allama’s works are in Persian therefore Iran owns him as much as we do in Pakistan. If I say that Iran not only owns but also owes him to demonstrate practically the vision where it transcends all frontiers and works a uniting force of the Ummah, it would not be out of context as tribute to that great personality.

 When I quoted one verse of the Allama, ‘Fard qaim rabte millat say hai tanha kutch bhee nahee, Mauj daryia main hai beroune daryia kutch bhee nahee,’ meaning that an individual without his roots is insignificant like a wave of water that falls out of the sea or river and dies a sudden death. This verse had a magic effect on the Ambassador thereafter he narrated a couple of verses in Persian that I could not follow to the full but the gist was that we should not be talking as Persians, Turks, Afghans etc. but as Muslims only.

 Thereafter he went into more details of my mission, objectives and motives. I told him I have a singular motive, objective and mission i.e. to see the vision of Iqbal seeing its light. It’s realization is the moral obligation of every Muslim, we all should unite and strive to realize what he visualized. Thus in that context, I have chosen to work on (ECO) that comprises of ten Muslim states that are not only contiguous but have all in common. Like the European Union that stands united on Christian culture, ECO could unite on Muslim culture. EU members had fought many wars that drove them blood thirsty for each other’s blood ECO has no such history but all of friendship and brotherhood.

 This had the Ambassador moved and offered to do whatever he possibly could to bring about this change.

 Of course in its realization, the only real hurdle is the American presence in Afghanistan where not only CIA but Mossad, RAW, MI 6, Blackwater and other such notorious organizations have found a foothold. All these countries namely Israel, India, etc. are sucking America’s blood for their agendas. How far and how long can the US let them breed and grow on her blood only the American people can tell.

 These clandestine organizations are responsible for cross border terrorism in the neighbouring countries more so in Pakistan and Iran. The Jundullah attack on the Iranian Check Post is one such example. It was conducted by RAW and Mossad, the involvement of CIA cannot be ruled out, had multiple objectives. One was to sow a seed of distrust and enmity between Iran and Pakistan and the other was to further destablise Pakistan, the only nuclear power that would come to Iran’s help should the Zionist Forces attack her.

 The arrest of Riggi who has been executed only recently has divulged lot of information regarding his backers and who all aided him. Since his arrest was in Pakistan’s interest also, besides helping a brotherly Muslim country, Pakistan did whatever possibly she could but never made tall claims about it.

 Iran is one such country that takes a strong pride in her civilization and Muslim heritage. This has made her a unique country not only in the Muslim world but the world at large. Her enemies though they see her with hate but do carry a certain respect for her also.

 What has made Iran such a unique country is well recorded in history. One needs to study Iran to really find it’s depth in it’s culture and other metaphoric achievements, the extent of the Persian empire during different times in history. I cannot go into the details of history but just a bird’s eye view for an ordinary reader to understand the moorings, and intricacies of its culture, religion and other factors that really shape the destiny of any society; it’s history that enables us to understand the psyche of the people. Without knowing this, we just cannot function or understand a country, its people, culture, temperament and other behavioral traits. The geography too does play some important role in defining the behavioral pattern of a society.  For this purpose, I will divide Iranian history in three parts. One is the ancient periods of time that go as far back as the BC era, second is the Shah period and the third is the revolution and post revolution era. All these eras I will sumarise in brief words to keep the paper short.

 In ancient times, Iran was called Faris that’s how the language was known as Farsi. Over a period of time, Iran got be known as Persia and the language got to be known as Persian. But this journey of name change is over some centuries. The influence of Iran was so strong that the sea south of it got to be known as Persian Gulf. The Arab states on the south of the Persian Gulf have been attempting to rename it as Arabian Gulf but with no success. To do so is nothing short of historical betrayal and dishonesty. The names that have been associated from times immemorial must continue to be accepted and respected.

 Presently the official name of Iran is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Prior to the revolution, it was a symbol of royalty and carried royal touch. Iran is a country that falls in multiple geographical regions but most commonly its taken to be part of Central Eurasia and Western Asia.

 The name Iran has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was widely known as Persia. Both Persia and Iran are used interchangeably in cultural contexts; however, Iran is the name used officially in political contexts. The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means “Land of the Aryans”

The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km², Iran has a population of over 74 million. It is a country of particular geostrategic significance owing to its location in the Middle East and central Eurasia. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. As Iran is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, which is an inland sea and condominium, Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran’s direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, on the west by Iraq and on the northwest by Turkey. Tehran is the capital, the country’s largest city and the political, cultural, commercial and industrial center. Iran is a regional power, and holds an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

 Persia/Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations. The first Iranian dynasty formed during the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BCE. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into an empire in 625 BCE. They were succeeded by the Iranian Achaemenid Empire, the Hellenic Seleucid Empire and two subsequent Iranian empires, the Parthian and the Sassanid, before the Muslim conquest in 651 CE. Iranian post-Islamic dynasties and empires expanded the Persian language and culture throughout the Iranian plateau. Early Iranian dynasties which re-asserted Iranian independence included the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids and Buyids.

 The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and art became major elements of Muslim civilization and started with the Saffarids and Samanids. Iran was once again reunified as an independent state in 1501 by the Safavid dynasty—who promoted Shi’ite Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in the history of Islam.

 “Persia’s Constitutional Revolution” established the nation’s first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy. Iran officially became an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979, following the Iranian Revolution. As Iran was struggling with its revolution, the two super powers aided Saddam Husain to attack Iran. This war was given the colour of Arab war with an effort to draw a deep divide between Arabs and Iran. However Iran stood firm on her feet and fought Iraq for eight years but it galvanized the revolution and further strengthened the state.

 Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. The political system of Iran, based on the 1979 constitution, comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The highest state authority is the Supreme Leader. Shia Islam is the official religion and Persian is the official language.

 With this brief of history, it becomes clear for the reader to know as to why the Iranians carry so much of pride and are not prepared to accept hegemony of any sort. A civilization that has ruled for a very long time and exported its influence far beyond its borders can never be subjugated.

 Raza Shah Pahalavi, the last Iranian king though a Muslim got more into westernization of the Iranian culture and the religious base that was strongly resented by the clergy and the conservative members of the Iranian society. Raza Shah had become very oppressive and a tyrant to strengthen his hold on the throne. His secret service Savak would remove the people in a manner never to be seen again. All this along with some other social injustices, the public got very resentful and found a spiritual leader in Imam Ayatollah khameni. He was the man who was exiled by the Shah who built his following sitting abroad for some period in Iraq and then he shifted to France.

This ouster of Raza Shah should be a good lesson for the ruling class of Pakistan; Musharraf also got a kick for his Enlightened Moderation that was strongly resented and rejected by the conservatives and the clergy. Benazir could never muster a popular support for her westernized ideas and no other leader would ever find a popular support on these issues. Pakistan will have to go by its ideology on the basis of which it was obtained.

 The year 1979 was the turning point not only in the history of Iran but that of the region too. Iranian revolution primarily inspired by the message and philosophy of Dr Allama Iqbal spread in the region like a fire. It started to have more profound effect in the Arabian Peninsula with strong ripples in Pakistan. Afghanistan also got its share of the revolutionary ideology from Iran.

 These developments made the rulers of the Arabian Peninsula more apprehensive and resentful about Iran. This did push them more in the American camp thinking that America will protect their rule. This analogy may be true for some time but it cannot hold good for indefinite period of time. In the formative days of Iranian revolution, Pakistan also got worried but managed to stabilize after some initial rocking of the boat. Imam Ayotollah Khameni never wanted to destablise other countries but wanted a profound relationship of brotherhood.

 Of course an onus lies on Iran to dispel the fears of her neighbours and more so the Arab kingdom/sheikhdoms in the south. At this critical time, when sanctions are being imposed on Iran, it’s in her interest to muster as much trust and confidence as possible. If Iran can display this act of diplomacy, it would certainly be regarded as a very positive step that would go a long way to build that unity of Iqbal.

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