BLASPHEMY is a poignant story of a teen-age girl, Heer who is married to Pir Sain at the age of 15 in a false hope of her mother, Ma to raise her social pride. Ma is a disciple of Pir Sain who turns out not only to be a bad husband but a fake Pir as well. Pir Sain is ironically a devilish character.The very shrine he patronizes is founded on a fraudulent appropriation. He is a source of dehumanization for Heer, nay, the whole family.This is evident from the obnoxious prevalence of incest among his family members which he not only condones but even himself indulges in. Heer stands brutally dehumanized when this fake Pir popularly believed to have a divine sanction to act, forces her into adultery. Heer's denunciation of Pir Sain is heart-piercing.."His ablutions turned water into blood. His prayers to Allah hailed Satan. The devil in him hid behind the ninety-nine names of Allah engraved on a shawl he always wore……a parasite nibbling on the holy book". The story appears to have reached its climax when Pir Sain dies, an unavoidable wish of Heer torn by his exploitation. But it turns into an anti-climax when Heer too meets her death and in her death tries to reclaim her lost moral self only to realize that her grave was soon going to be an another shrine, a center of exploitation like the one that was responsible for her nemesis.
The story weaves many mini-themes together–rampancy of faith-healing and the resultant exploitation, dowry, domestic violence against women, patriarchy and above all, blasphemy. When Heer is married, the marrige gifts Ma gives Pir Sain are recieved by him in a manner as if they are too little for his insatiable lust or the treasures of his unearned wealth. The dowry given is a life-long collection of Heer's deceased father. Her marriage to Pir Sain is not a union arranged in Heaven but exploitation legalised. She is subjected to a severe torture. She is beaten like a beast of burden.Her patriarch, Pir Sain forces her to do extra work so much so that " never had she felt inadequacy of two hands before". While he condones incest in his family, Pir Sain strictly enforces purdah among women of his family.The taboo of not showing one's face before non-mehrems while he attentes his disciples is strictly enforced. This is a classic case of patriarchy and the attached hypocrisy.
The poignancy of the story touches a new height when Toti's Baluch lover is falsely accused of robbery. When she comes to his defence, she is beaten to death by the "holy" men.The reader cannot believe when the rumour-mongering followers of Pir Sain spread the word that Toti had committed blasphemy and everyone starts justifying the murder. People said," the girl dared to defile our Prophet. We heard her speak of him in a derogatory way. She laughed and joked about him. We heard her with our own ears. Others swore," She burnt the Holy Book. She blasphemed. We saw her. We were there when she was burning the holy pages". These lines are an apt depiction of the malaise of blasphemy charges in Pakistan where the novel is set.
Set in South Pakistan, Tehmina Durrani, the author claims that the novel is based on a true story. Through Heer- the narrator, the author bemoans that "middlemen and salesmen had converted Muslims into grave worshippers." The author sends a powerful message by declaring that this corruption of the faith had "led us back to the time of jahiliyah, back to the conditions our prophet had freed us from, back to the very reasons that had called for Islam".
Syed Shafiq Ahmad is a Teacher at Govt High School, Wani Doursa Lolab