Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Islam Bibi

Islam Bibi as per Wikipedia: in this version Islam Bibi was a Hindu girl, who eloped with her Muslim lover, and converted to Islam. However, because she was a minor, she was ultimately returned to her parents; her lover went to jail for kidnapping a minor. Her case led the Faqir of Ipi, Mirza Ali Khan, to declare jihad against the British in 1936.

However (and these are notes I've added to Wikipedia and am putting here, for further research whenever I next pass the university library) -

This work, available on books.google.com The Origins of Conflict in Afghanistan By Jeffery J. Roberts Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003 ISBN 0275978788, 9780275978785

provides a rather different synopsis. Quote: "The worst outbreak of insurrection in the history of the NWFP plagued Wazirstan in the late 1930s, when Haji Mirza Ali Khan, the infamous "fakir of Ipi", led his followers in a guerrilla campaign. The war originated in the so-called "Islam Bibi" incident of 1936. Following a Sikh attack on a mosque in Lahore, Wazir tribesmen abducted a Hindu girl in Bannu, forced her to convert and marry a Muslim, and renamed her Islam Bibi. Her original husband brought the case to court, where the jury ignored hostile protestors and favored him, ultimately reuniting the couple. The faqir, whose hatred for the British was enormous, seized the incident. Citing the irrevocability of Muslim conversion, he called for jihad. He raised a lashkar and engaged British forces even before the trial had concluded."

In the footnotes, Roberts notes that "Rittenberg presents a curiously different story, in which the girl eloped with a Muslim lover, took the name Islam Bibi, and her parents regained custody of her.

It appears that there has been some myth-making over this incident. However, in February 1947, there was a similar incident in which a Sikh woman was abducted, converted, but ultimately reunited with her husband. Quote: "A case that was to gain considerable notoriety was the forcible conversion to Islam of a pregnant Sikh girl who was also coerced into marrying one of the gang members reponsible for the murder of her husband. As a result, the Sikh evacuees threatened not to return to their homes, a move that was bound to slow down any reversion to normal conditions.... To silence the critics, she was produced before the district magistrate where she swore she wanted to rejoin her faith. To squash wild rumors that this was false and that she was being coerced, the premier had invited Abdul Qaiyum and other League leaders to hear her testimony. Even though persuaded of the truth, they refused to yield the political high ground they now occupied. Khan Sahib, they charged, was not behaving as a true Muslim. Having allowed his own daughter to marry a non-Muslim (her husband, Jaswant Singh, who was a pilot in the Royal Indian Air Force, was actually an Indian Christian, not a Hindu, as the League charged) he was now privy to a Muslim girl reverting to her Sikh faith!" (Parshotam Mehra, The North-West Frontier Drama, 1945–1947.)

--- Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam By Zahid Hussain Published by I.B.Tauris, 2007 ISBN 1845112660, 9781845112660 220 pages

also available on books.google.com says this:

"In 1937, the tribesmen rose in rebellion against the British forces, in response to a call for jihad by the Faqir of Ipi, a tribal leader who exercised both religious and temporal powers. The tribal insurrection started after the British forces engineered the escape of a Hindu girl kidnapped by a young Pashtun and taken to Waziristan. The girl had reportedly converted to Islam and taken the name of Islam Bibi before marrying the boy. The British authorities somehow managed to whisk away the girl and the incident was taken as an unforgivable insult to the tribal elders. Fiercely hostile to British rule, the Faqir of Ipi whose real name was Mirza Ali Khan, made an impassioned call for holy war."

Note, the "Transfer of Power" papers has nothing first hand on the Faqir of Ipi, but says in a footnote that the appeals court restored Islam Bibi to her parents.

PS Roberts' citation is as follows:
37. Mitchell, Sir George Cunningham, pp 60-61; Miller, Khyber, pp. 357-358;
Dupree, AUFS, 1/4, p.17; Barton, India's North-West Frontier, pp. 17, 90, 99, 176-
177, 186, 245, 225. Forty to fifty thousand troops were needed to occupy a territory
one third the size of Switzerland. Rittenberg presents a curiously different story, in
which the girl eloped with a Muslim lover, took the name Islam Bibi, and her parents
regained custody of her (Ethnicity, p. 160, citing Official History of Operations on
the Northwest Frontier of India, 1936-1937, Delhi, 1943).