My observations and experience in Iran

TEHRAN, Dec. 07 (MNA) – The cost of an air ticket from Lahore to Mashad was around 38000 rupees in March 2019, but as soon as Imran Khan came into power in Pakistan, the price of the same ticket jumped up to 70 000.

I did not want to pay so much money. So, I decided to go by road. Everyone who heard of it warned me that the journey by road from Pakistan to Iran was very dangerous.

They also scared me that the people on the Pakistan-Iran border were very aggressive and I may be looted.  I relied on Allah and joined 3 strangers in a private car from Islamabad to Pakistani Balochistan.  The strangers were Balochi who first kept chatting among themselves, but at one stage during the journey, they asked me to introduce myself. I told them I was a Kashmiri writer, but when they became friendlier, I told them I was also a political activist who served a long time in prison for the reunification of Kashmir.

The friendly Balochs became sympathetic.  They entertained me during the 14 hours long journey. I recalled Sardar Muhammad Aslam Kashmiri who was a custom inspector in Quetta. He booked a hotel for me and paid for all my bills.  He then made sure that my next journey from Quetta to Taftan was fully comfortable and it was.  It took me 12 hours to reach from Quetta to Taftan.  I didn’t know why but the driver paid for my lunch. 

I knew only a few words of Farsi.  An Iranian immigration officer looked up at me and asked if I was a Punjabi, Pathan or Kashmiri? I said: Kashmiri. Did he ask for education? I said, Master. Did he ask occupation? I said, writer. He smiled and put an entry stamp on my passport.  I took a taxi from Taftan to Zehaidan and a coach from Zehaidan for Mashad. It was another 14 hours journey during which I had no Iranian sim card, but when I asked the coach driver if the wi-fi was available, an Iranian student offered me the wi-fi connection. 

He was very friendly and helpful during the whole journey chatting with me about pan-Islam.  I reached Mashad at half-past two in the morning. I failed to get a hotel room, but I left my luggage in the Amanatkhana of Imam Raza holy Shrine.  I was very tired of 50 hours journey from Azad Kashmir to Mashad, but as soon as I entered Imam Raza Shrine, I felt as if I had woken up from a sweet dream. I prayed and read the Holy Qur’an.

My next priority was to buy a sim card and ring my wife and daughters.  They were very worried about my safety, but I told them that the Iranians were guiding me like angels on both of my sides.  I felt of Imam Raza Shrine as the safest and most comfortable place in the city. This holy shrine was named after the 8th Shiat Imam.  Many people have either misunderstanding or misperception of Shiat lineage and the hierarchy of the Imams.  The misunderstood people think that Shiats are deviants or self-projected dissenters, but in fact, the Shiats are Alhe-Bait.

The Prophet (PBUH) had no son and his dearest daughter Hazrat Fatima married to Hazrat Ali Alaisalam who was the first Imam and Imam Raza was the 8th one in the line of Shiat Imams.  Imam Raza was born on 1st January 766 CE in Madina and martyred on 6 June 818. It is said that The Abbasi ruler Mamoon conspired the invitation of Imam Raza to Mashad, where he poisoned him in a pomegranate.  The previous name of Mashad was Khorasan.  The meaning of Mashad is the place of Shahadat result of the martyrdom of Imam Raza.

The total area of Mashad is 267079 square meters and the population is three million.  600 000 people can pray at a time in this holy shrine, which has 16 main gates and 41 meters high 8 minarets.  Imam Raza Shrine houses Astan Quds Library with 1.1 million books. This library has 35 branches including one in India.  I was honored with several visits to this wonderful library.  There are several other departments in the shrine. This is a place where one never feels lonely.

My accommodation was arranged in Ferdowsi University, but it was closed for a few days on my arrival. I met with an Afghan shopkeeper whom I requested him to find me a reasonable hotel, but he took me to his house where I stayed for a few days until the University was reopened.  His mother looked after me like a brother. I joined the Ferdowsi University on 6th of July 2019 where I spent 3 months with very compassionate staff and friendly fellow students from all over the world.  The Persian and Arab students were very hospitable.

Most of the lectures were delivered by cool minded Dr. Zahra Hamadi, a sportive and inspiring Dr. Elham Ikhlaqi and very diligent, meticulous, brisk and considerate Masha Azmoodehe.  The head of department was Dr. Zeinab Moazenzade assisted by her competent Assistan Ms. Merghadi, who spoke excellent English. Although I met with several decent people in the department of Adbiyat, Muhammad Karimi was the most considerate Iranian, who gave me so much of his time.

On occasions, he lent me money as my cash was kept in my department where I had no access at weekends.  A number of students took me to historical places such as Tuss, which is the resting place of Imam Ghazali and Abu al Qasim Ferdowsi.  I felt so satisfied and elated while standing by the graves of these spiritual personalities.  The city of Tuss had been destroyed by the anti-knowledge Mughual invaders, but they failed to destroy the thoughts and ideas left behind by the Persian thinkers.  Abu al Qasim Ferdowsi is credited with protecting and promoting the Persian language and culture.

The Ferdowsi University is named after him, while Imam Ghazali is followed globally.  I was introduced to a Dr. Hosseini, who asked me to teach him journalistic skills and I subsequently connected him with the Tehran Times becoming a regular contributor.  He introduced me to two Muslim brothers Muhammad Sabri and brother Rajee, who among other things guide people on al-Mustafa Education system set up at the instruction of Imam Khomeini, the Father of Islamic Revolution.  These two brothers are very well-versed with English. Brother Sabri also speaks Urdu. 

Before I went to Iran, I was told the minorities were oppressed, mainly the Sunni, but the Iranian Sunnis denied it. I attended once a big Sunni mosque near the historical Park-e- Mellat, where hundreds of people do exercises in mornings.  I was also invited to Iranian weddings, which were similar to Kashmiri weddings in many ways. 

My plan was to keep low profile in Iran and concentrate on Persian language and research, but the Iranian government and students reacted very strongly against Indian government’s decision to revoke Jammu Kashmir’s special status.  I joined several activities.  The spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei issued a number of statements against India correctly terming the Kashmir tragedy as a British conspiracy. 

The Iranian parliament passed a resolution in support of Kashmir. The Iranian Foreign Office made 3 briefings and students were allowed in all major cities to protest against India and the United Nations.

I had a special meeting with a member of the Iranian Parliament, Dr. Nasrollah Pezmanfar arranged by Fareedon Zindadil and Tehmina Muzafari. The Iranian press nationally highlighted the Kashmir Issue and the daily Tehran Times published several of my articles and Khorasan published an interview.  I also had an opportunity to attend a meeting of a Peace and Reconciliation Organisation headed by Dr. Arabshahi.  A Khanum Moeeni in Shiraz is also very active on human rights abuses in Kashmir. I spoke over the phone but not met with her as Shiraz was a full day journey from Mashad.

Despite 40 years-long economic sanctions on Iran as an unfair reaction to Islamic Revolution, the Iranian infrastructure is still remarkable and inflation balanced. The roads are big and cities clean.  The main complaint I heard in Iran was about the immigration law because of which many Afghan refugees children born and brought up in Iran had no right to a nationality. I met with a number of Afghan social workers, including an active and acclaimed lady Tehmina Muzaffari, who helped so many vulnerable Afghans.  She is well connected with influential Iranians and get things done for the Afghans.  

The most important thing in Iran is the wealth of knowledge and rich culture and heritage. The people are very polite, positive and well-mannered.  It is the Iranian scientific knowledge, natural beauty, and friendliness of the people that pulls a stranger like me back though there is something internal that binds me with Farsi as well.  While Pakistan is importing a un-Islamic syllabus in the name of modern education with western funding as well, there are many people like me who want to tie together Farsi, Arabic, and Urdu for this is the only way to bring the Muslims closer.  For this specific purpose, I wish to improve my Farsi and desire to visit the resting place of the great Saadi Shirazi whose wonderful poem titled “Bani Adam” hangs on the main gate of the United Nations.

 In Bani Adam, Saadi Shirazi describes that all human beings are from the same essence.  May Allah give me a chance to visit Shiraz!

MNA/TT

News Code 153118

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