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Hamza Ali Abbasi and Naimal Khawar tied the knot on Sunday in Islamabad. Image Credit: Supplied


  • What is baffling as hell is to see a person’s harmless personal act turned into an incendiary propaganda thesis that must be broken down to its last full stop and be issued judgments on.
  • The repeated comment on Hamza’s post is that here is an announcement of marriage that downplays the importance of romantic love.

There is nothing that is not merely a nothing anymore. In a world functional on terse communication, there is an increasing display of responses that despite their power to reach beyond the immediate leave a niggling feeling of unease. Impervious to the imperativeness of a balance of detachment between the personal and what is not, a sense of irrationality starts to worm its way in, undetected. Very soon, in a bizarre entanglement of the right and the wrong, it shapes into an attitude that, without so much as a forewarning, becomes the expression of all that is said out loud. Most of the time, it is cynical. Very often, it is just ugly. And almost always, it is simply unnecessary.

I see it on Twitter. In person-to-person interactions, most people still adhere to societal notions of courtesy and not-crossing-a-line verbal decency. On twitter, all bets are off. Strangers judge strangers, and pass verdicts. They ascribe motives to words of those they don’t know. Characters are dissected, absolute labels are seared into public psyche with permanent tattoo pliers. In abundance, personal opinions are presented as rational critiques, deep biases indent even a superficial commentary, and any difference of opinion is marked as offensive. En masse, in a show of solidarity for the like-minded, the right to be and the right to say is condemned for not being in line with their way of the world. Strangely, they present themselves as the liberal, the enlightened, the tolerant.

What I see is an almost frightening degree of cynicism, a dark refusal to budge to give the other side a chance to exist in its own space. Unless it is about red lines of bigotry and hatred that are used as an incitement for creation of harder borders and violent other-ing of the world, for which all who have a voice must speak without indulging in any whataboutism, I fail to comprehend the absoluteness of views vis-à-vis words and deeds of others, and categorical labelling of those who don’t affect your life in the least. Wallowing in arrogant intellectual superiority that in most cases is not beyond the academic realm, and the ability to word arguments in highbrow dismissiveness is neither enlightenment nor freethinking. It is merely being a jerk, pardon my French.

The outpouring of commentary on the wedding announcement of Hamza Ali Abbasi –a wildly popular, very good looking celebrity, known for his deep voice, an effusive expression of patriotism and support for Imran Khan, and voicing of opinions that have a wide and varying audience–is the latest instance of how intolerant are most of those who pat themselves as the torchbearers of liberal values in their nightly rituals of mirror-mirror-on-my-social-media-wall. Hamza announced that he was getting married to Naimal Khawar, a stunning 25-year-old actress and model. Twitter erupted into a gratuitous bedlam.

It is one thing to have an opinion on a social media post, it is a free world and everyone has an opinion and a keypad connected to a screen. What is baffling as hell is to see a person’s harmless personal act turned into an incendiary propaganda thesis that must be broken down to its last full stop and be issued judgments on. For crying out loud, what is eating you?

Hamza announced that he is giving it all up for Allah. That his religious convictions collide with his worldly choices. That his lifestyle has been an impediment in his attainment of spiritual contentment. That his salvation is in following Allah’s path.

The attack

Needless to say that it was beyond excessive: the reaction of Pakistan’s ‘liberal’ twitter to Hamza’s statement. It is the very same horde that goes into a collective orgasmic bliss on no-holds-barred public statements about very personal acts – could be anything: not caring about society, living a rules-less life, dissecting sexual partners and sexual idiosyncrasies, breakdown of relationships and marriages, trashing of former partners, systematic demonisation of former spouses, expletives-ridden expressions of anger. Is it because the subject is not to their liking? Is it because Hamza’s views don’t match theirs? And hey, theirs are the only ones that carry weight? Ain’t that unfair? A tad?

The repeated comment on Hamza’s post is that here is an announcement of marriage that downplays the importance of romantic love. And that a marriage that is not based on passionate love is a mockery of the very idea of the institution of marriage. Seriously? In a Pakistan where almost every marriage is arranged, where multiple boxes are ticked in the suitability index of the perfect spouse for young women and men, and where even the very smart and the high achievers in their 30s and 40s settle for an arranged marriage, Hamza’s announcement has been taken like a biochemical threat that must be tackled in a full hazmat mode. What happened to tweet and let others live?

In any case, my dear world, I find it all futile: attributing romantic longevity to a social and legal bond that seals the institution of marriage. Institution–the very word is a turnoff, and I say it with much SMH, with a bit of eye-rolling thrown in for some 3-D drama.

Mission-Trashing Hamza had another target: Naimal. Stripping her of her agency, and her autonomy to make her own choices, Naimal, a 2019 independent and a strong young woman, has been reduced to a Barbie doll of a bimbo who is mentally inadequate to even choose her own spouse. For both Naimal and Hamza, falling in love with a friend has been turned into a social stigma. Not sleeping with the person you love has become a topic of mockery. The word platonic – as if Hamza and Naimal, are the first couple in the world to not engage in premarital sex – has become a slur. Take a bow, twitter liberals; you continue to astound.

Countless posts of those-who-consider-themselves - liberals and those-who-think-they-are-feminists – sorry guys, if you are liberal or feminist, I’m Elon Musk – in a further display of petulant nit-picking opine that Hamza is marrying a woman he doesn’t love. Good gracious? Is it just their refusal to see anyone happy or are they just physically unable to see beyond their carefully cultivated, often paid-for, hatred of all who support Imran Khan? Despite their claims of giving opinions in line with their self-declared intellectual, anthropological, sociological, academic and moral superiority, don’t they all realise the transparency of their attack-everyone-who-support-Imran Khan agenda? Rational, unbiased and constructive opinions make this world bigger, better and nicer. What these folks spew is personal venom. A helpful tip, dearies: don’t think for a tweet anyone takes it for anything more than that.

Back to Hamza’s loveless declaration of marriage... Now what was it that he said in his post that to me was a heartfelt, vulnerable expression of very personal stuff: “.... now we can’t even breathe without each other.” If this isn’t being in love, The Notebook is a sci-fi film.

The thing that made me write is not to defend Hamza, not that he needs any defence or validation of his statements or actions. It was about what he wrote. His constant struggle with his actions that didn’t coincide with his beliefs, his failure to find peace in his choices, his need to reprioritise his life, it is all stuff that I can relate to in my own way. More times than I dare to remember, my life has been marked with the disharmony of my values and my actions. To be one way and to act the other way, I know how that feels.

My faith, my values

My humanity is beyond the set of values given to me by my family and most importantly, my religion. What I’m also deeply aware of is that my life, over the years, has being shaped in a form that finds its mooring in my faith in God, my Creator, Allah. I don’t think I’m overly religious, but every day, I pray five times, I recite different surahs of the Quran, and I fold my hands in gratitude to Allah many times.

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What I noticed, all along my life, was a never-ending feeling of restlessness, a gnawing uneasiness. That something was missing, something was askew. My choices, some my own, some forced by circumstances, shaped my life. I went on, at times happy, often content, mostly restless, and occasionally witnessing a noisy boxing match between my heart and mind.

One thing was a constant: my belief in Allah, and my certainty of the hereafter. And my very real fear of the account-taking, hisaab, by the Only Entity I’m accountable to: Allah. My moral dilemmas connected to my romantic relationships, beyond my humanity, have always been interwoven with the lines drawn by religion. Have I always followed religious injunctions? No. What I’ve never been able to be: indifferent to the existence of divine instructions for the right way to live, the reality of the transience of this life, and the certainty of a final day of reckoning. My lifelong struggle to find the perfect juxtaposition between the mortal flesh and the immortal soul has been a solo journey. It continues even today.

So I, sort of, get what Hamza tried to say in that Facebook post, and the one written as an explanation of the first one. And even if I don’t, I wouldn’t judge. I’m judged but I don’t judge. Simple.

Hamza Ali Abbasi and Naimal Khawar make a stunning couple. Yesterday was their nikah. In the photos and video clips of their simple wedding, Hamza and Naimal looked radiant, were seen laughing, holding hands, and seemed to be very much in love. I wish them a lifetime of togetherness of love, happiness, and many more beautiful walks, coffees and watching films in cinema.

Mehr Tarar intro, Mehr Tarar shirttail, Mehr Tarar
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