Owning disowned ones: Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi

Afghans stormed particularly on social media when the news broke out that Turkey and Iran showed interest to register Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi’s masterpiece ‘Masnavi-Ma’nvi’ as their heritage in United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list of heritage. Ironically, otherwise, political rivals Iran and Turkey boded well when it came to grabbing others’ pride that is where their interest converges.


Iran has been largely blamed in Afghanistan for ‘Persianization’ of Afghan culture and intellectuals. Iran has disputed ethnicity of the renowned founder of Islamic modernism and pan-Islamism Sayyid Jamaluddin Afghan, who had challenged imperialism and inspired Muslim intelligentsia across the world.

Afghans social media savvies are now rigorously campaigning to ‘own’ Maulana Balkhi’s identity. They started a petition calling on UNESCO to stop registering ‘Masnavi Ma’anawi’ from being identified as a joint intellectual heritage of Turkey and Iran.The petition has gained around 6000 signatories’. Afghans react emotionally and quick but procrastinating due actions i.e. they should have left no room particularly in such vulnerable environment of ethnicity.

Intellectuals such as Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi and Sayyid Jamaluddin Afghan whose thoughts, ideas and worldviews had inspired and acknowledged better not be confined in geographical or ethnic parameters. Let their ideas prevail. The question is why some countries deliberately provoke to confine globally renowned legends. The answer may rely largely on they want to show how rich their history and culture. However, such rich culture, if true, does not need to absorb others ones.


The government of Afghanistan throughout its history so far has not done enough to at least avoid disputing such intellectual ethnicities, origins, and birthplaces let their thoughts be materialized and optimized alone.  A blogger on Facebook website rightly questioned not only Afghan government but Afghan nation as a whole whether how many experts on Maulana Balkhi and his works do we have? How many institutions do we have to explore his thoughts and works? The same goes about Jamaluddin Afghan as well. This is negligence and should not be justified in any case. This is what we termed disowning; a deliberate marginalization of intellectual to the extent that other can claim their ownership. Afghan statesmen play ethnopolitics with verses of Masnavi Ma’navi. These verses are common in Afghanistan but are used to bank sheer political support and lure audiences.




Owning such intellectuals is unfortunate, the last, but not the best resort. The Afghan government and its nation had better invest in exploring and universalizing MaulanaJalaluddinBalkhi’s and Sayyid Jamaluddin Afghan’s thoughts and views. Let their thoughts cross geographical borders, ethnic lines and inspire everyone and everywhere.




Bahar is a young writer with exclusive political, security and intellectual thoughts. Hazrat Bahar tweets at @hazratbahar.

The Afghan Tribune | Hazrat Bahar | Published: June 13, 2016,  08:25 AM


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