My father and I have done our best to provide the kahani in English for those who can't read urdu. This is the famous Kahani of Bibi Fatima as. Many question it's origins, but I have seen it's great miraculous effects. Even a sunni family that my dad suggested the kahani too, did manat and said they would read the kahani if the prayer was answered and their prayer was answered.
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These represent two locally recognised distinctions, although individuals may apply the term story kahani in slightly variable ways. The two types of narrative have commonalities, such as layers of framing utterances and repeated similar incidents, yet are associated with different performance contexts.
The story I initially present exemplifies such a milieu. Household life still moves at a relatively relaxed pace, but anticipates the emotional charge that will heighten after the fifth of Muharram. The accommodation is not luxurious — he has to negotiate his way through the inner lanes and up a set of narrow stairs — but for him, the two-room flat is warm and welcoming. It also safely houses his widowed daughter and three grandchildren above a courtyard, away from prying eyes.
Her own demure daughters, Sadaf and Najaf, are eighteen and thirteen years old respectively. Nana : I remember a woman in Pindi who had cancer, mouth cancer.
Nursing her in her terminally ill state was beyond them. And they left her. Night fell. The place had very, very, very high walls. Rahat : The rider loosed her bonds.
Sadaf : exclaiming NO! Sadaf : NO! There was no conversation… and the bonds fell apart themselves. Nana : They came and found her in the morning. She explained it to them: that a rider on horseback had come, jumped the wall, the bonds fell away.
That spot is still there. They put a plate of glass above the spot,… the hoofprint. The same thing happened to him, a miracle. He was also cured. People go there. Sadaf : People SAW it, too! He also explained what happened, exactly: that a rider on horseback had come, jumped the wall, the bonds fell away. Sadaf : The next day! That is, they encourage the unfurling story with murmurings of assent and appreciation.
Ritual niyaz kahanis provide little room for such negotiating of authenticity. Frank Korom has carefully analyzed such layers of reception as far afield as the Caribbean in his work on the polyphonic Muharram Hosay commemorations of Trinidad, which have roots in Iran and India. The transcendent power of devotion to Allah and family manifests itself locally at Lahori shrines, the deathbeds of the Lakhnavi devout, and in household rituals throughout the subcontinent.
They also influence other tale-telling, however. They may err, but then thoroughly learn their lessons through the consequences of their lapses. Haughty and arrogant characters, whatever their backgrounds, are often beyond redemption or must work harder for it.
No text, but many debates about whether recitation of the kahani is permissible in Islam. One should make sure all the utensils to be used in the preparation of niaz are clean and Pak [ ritually pure ]. The petitions and pledges conjoined with these kahanis put one in mind of mannats , vows to unbind amulets or decorative bands, or to make a charitable offering, when a plea to the divine is fulfilled, and Hindu vrat kathas , narratives linked to periodic fasts in honour of one deity or another.
Interestingly, anxieties over the Islamic legitimacy of sponsoring kahani recitations and their associated rituals see Table 4. She nonetheless has the good fortune to hear the tale via a second encounter, now in a waking state, with the veiled niqabposh woman.
This, in turn, converts dozens of Jewish onlookers to Islam. These wonders are accomplished by a humble, modest Fatima who displays exemplary obedience to her father and husband, yet exercises an authority of her own. The two girls are lost in a storm during a royal hunt but rescued, through the intercession of Janab-e Sayyida, by a neighbouring ruler. Once they weep themselves into an unconscious state and make contact with a veiled lady, they realise their grave error, recite the story to one another, and all is restored.
The pamphlet text then closes with the darud. The separation and death of children; mourning that opens a path to communication with the family of the Prophet; marriage celebrations that turn funereal; and imprisonment scenarios recur.
Just as A. Formal kahanis illustrate a counter-trend: they feature characters similar to the kings, vazirs , and princesses so conventional in the medieval romances of the subcontinent — Urdu dastans , Hindavi kathas , or sufi masnavis — but lack direct generic links with Persian or Arabic antecedents.
Some in the diaspora as well as in India, facing the problem of Urdu script illiteracy, have created a market for kahani pamphlet and internet texts in Devanagari and Roman script. When these texts in turn pique further interest, even if they come under reformist scrutiny, it is to the oldest living generation that family members often turn to learn more about miracle kahanis. In the instances I cite below, the main teller of casual miracle tales is a maternal grandfather.
Yet a significant dark side bedevils this agency: one of the most consistently punished characters in the kahani is the proud, imperious woman maghrur aurat. Parhna to study, or read, or recite aloud is here the less important word. In practice, the widespread use of pamphlet literature, available for about five rupees in either Urdu or Devanagari not to mention internet sources , has tended to produce fairly standardised recitations of the ritual kahanis.
My observations suggest that recitations range from a droning, monotone reading of the text to a consciously performative style, entertaining, if somewhat subdued. Devotees also render poetry — quatrains, couplets, and longer marsiya laments — in chanting, melodic, or declamatory styles, but the printed text would seldom reveal what form any given performance might take. The kahani reciter is invariably either obscured or anonymous.
These anecdotes can be told by nearly anyone. The narratives also extended to more general Islamic stories of the miraculous, such as that of a virtuous child who died as a result of his insistence on fasting during Ramzan, but was raised from the dead. Many of the stories have the rough-edged ring of half-remembered family history, while others turn out to have been recast from religious cassettes or the authoritative words of a maulvi or zakir in a mourning assembly sermon.
Over a year or more, his family shared at least twenty of these stories in Urdu, with some parenthetical Panjabi commentary. This was the way of it: Anis and Dabir used to compete. Consequently, two parties were formed, and there was always a fight going on. Anis was a Sayyid, a descendant of the Prophet, like us. Whether our prayers are answered or not, whether we are provided with comforts or not — we believe.
The reason they appear and show miracles to others is so that they will believe in the imams. Nevertheless, it is our heritage to do so. This reflected the social situation in much of Pakistan at the time, when tensions between the two sects were high.
His little story features the dream vision that marks the more formal kahanis , but unlike most of those kahanis , makes geographical allusions to cultural and religious centres.
And, finally, it provides an interesting case of what is at least presented as an oral tradition arbitering the quality of canonical Urdu poems. Nana became acquainted with the grandson after he heard his virtuoso performance of a marsiya. On the way, he met a buzurg [an elder] who helped him find his way there.
After staying there six years, one night he was woken up by a voice in the middle of the night telling him to go to attend a mourning assembly. He was baffled, not sure if he was awake or dreaming, but agreed to go.
He recited it and sat down. Dabir stood up and recited a marsiya about Akbar. Then, still not knowing if he was conscious or asleep, he took the tabarruk the food distributed at the end of a mourning assembly , and departed.
In the morning he woke up to find the tabarruk was in his hand. Like them, Anis and Dabir turn out to mediate transformative powers, but in their case their role hinges on their local, historic cultural credibility. There was a buzurg who lived at a place a few miles from Karbala who would go there every Thursday after ablutions. He would perform namaz and spend the night there, and come back the next day. Where am I going to get anything else to wear?!
So he went back home, changed, set off again for the imambargah. He got up to leave the next morning, but realised he had forgotten to make a complaint to the imam. Kill the daku? The man was stunned, and determined to search for this mysterious daku. And the imam had to acknowledge and help the daku , because in his hour of need he beseeched him so devoutly.
There is no way the imam could punish the daku , he was obliged to him for his devotion. Consigned to the wilderness, the daku attains a bond with Husain that eludes the elder who already lives near sacred Karbala, and strives so desperately to get physically closer. The day for darshan came, he wanted to offer a niyaz for Husain.
The couple cleaned the house, locked the door and went, just the two of them. The boy came and jumped over the gate and was about to assault the girl. As it happens, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that the formalisation and popularisation of niyaz kahanis burgeoned in the decades just after Partition.
I am very familiar with Bibi Syeda ki kahani and it is a big favourite in our family when there is a difficult situation. But interestingly, I did not grow up knowing it.
I did not know about it till I was almost 20 [which would be in the mid s] and no one in our family knew it or read it till then. All of a sudden it was in vogue. Before this, my bari Phuphi older aunt used to use beri fruits for mannats , which was also Bibi Syeda ki niyaz , but without the kahani. In more general and often implicit ways, instances of miracles the world over elicit socially or spiritually particular responses to the same event.
In the case of casual miracle anecdotes, the status, age, or personal history of a narrator have some capacity to enhance or situate a story.
Nana-jan could almost always attribute his story to a named, local person or a relative.
Tellings and Texts