Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

Distortion of Information regarding Islam and High Profile Religious Muslim Personalities Inside Oral Pashto Literature

Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

Distortion of Information regarding Islam and High Profile Religious Muslim Personalities Inside Oral Pashto Literature

Article excerpt

Introduction

Religious sentiments of educated Muslim audience get mortified, when as opposed to what they have read in books, they find information that seems to them doubtful and untrue, about the history of Islam, the Holy Prophet, Mohammad (may peace be upon him!) and His companions (Raziallah Anhum: may Allah be happy with them!), inside Pashto oral literature. Oral Pashto literature is replete with such instances where one can find contradictory information about an Islamic personality who, otherwise reported for upholding a high standard of moral behaviour, is shown to engage in deeds that are below the high standard of behaviour and character cherished by Islam. The Muslims are offended, most particularly, when they find the companions of the Prophet, Mohammad (PBUH), depicted as engaging in deeds that are unbecoming of their pious reputation. They feel alarmed; as such contradictory information may render the strong foundation of established knowledge of Islam seem shaky. Deeds like their falling in love with females, getting impressed by their physical beauty or fighting to get them etc as mentioned in oral traditions, among various other exaggerated accounts of their battles and power, are not corroborated by the established knowledge reaching the audience through written literature. The information reaching through the written medium confirms that they have set a high standard of moral behavior, which, according to the injunctions of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), the successors are supposed to follow and emulate with religious devotion. This contradiction in information due to two different mediums, compels them to think whether these characters were actually so as reported, or has something gone wrong in reporting facts about them. The question worth inquiry is that if the orally reported information about them is admitted as true and if the holy characters are supposed to be so, then how come the written medium, which is a relatively surer and safer means of transmission, has provided different information or has failed to provide the information transmitted through oral traditions. The researcher hypothesized and then confirmed it through inquiry, that the inappropriate information is not factual but rather distorted information, and that the use of oral medium of transmission has been one of the major factors responsible for its emergence.

Theoretical framework

According to Jack Goody (1987) without writing there is no history but only myth and no historians but only story-tellers. The common assumption is that non-literates have better memories than the literates, which makes it possible for oral story-tellers and minstrels to recite accurately hundreds of lines of text. Goody demonstrates, with anthropological and psychological evidence, from many parts of the world, that this assumption is mistaken. It is literacy that ensured and facilitated word for word memorizing, as literacy depends on a text for reading. Before the appearance of literacy on the scene, word for word reproduction, inside oral traditions, could not be accorded the status of accuracy and reliability. As compared to oral medium, writing is a word-perfect record. When Bards were asked to reproduce a freshly heard oral piece, they insisted that they reproduced it, word for word, but their practice went against their claim. (Goody 1987; Hunter 1984, 1985; Lord 1960). Lord carried out a study of singers of tales, Sulejman Makic and Avdo Medjedovic, who were illiterate and belonged to the modem age. It came to surface that a significant change occurred in the text, each time it was re-narrated, by the same storyteller, whereas the storyteller insisted that it was, a word to word, exact reproduction of the original text. It came to be seen that instead of reproducing the original story, they reproduced the story every time in a different form by just filling in a rhythmic pattern and a famous plot with stock constituent material (Lord 1960). …

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