Book review: Sindhi Studies Culture and History

Jiskani, Lal Baksh, Sindhi Studies Culture and History, Karachi, Peacock Publishers, 2020, 264 pages.

Book review by Saba Sindhri (CEIAS-EHES)

Sindh Studies Culture and History is a recent publication (2020) by Peacock Publishers, Karachi authored by Sindhi historian, Lal Baksh Jiskani. He has worked with other Sindhi scholars like Dr. Hamida Khuro and Dr. N. A. Baloch and started the academic journal Grassroots, published from the Pakistani Study Center at the University of Sindh. He is associated with the Pakistan Study Centre as a professor.There have been many national and international scholarly works produced in the field of Sindhi Studies to which the current book by Jiskani attempts to contribute as well. The book is a careful effort to compile useful sources and includes a general introduction to a few personalities, movements, customs, and books on Sindh.

The author’s position as a Sufi leftist (the term denotes an approach reflected by Sindhi scholars who are politically inclined to the left and reject orthodox Islam), is interesting and helps clarify the scholarships of Sindhi scholars working on Sindh. The book is divided into three parts: National Biography, Historical Perspective, and Book Review.The first part (National Biography) contains sketches of different figures. First, Bulle Shah, a poet from Punjab region is discussed, portrayed as a Sufi poet and spreader of universal love and this does not tally with a book dedicated to Sindhi Studies. However, other than Bullhe Shah, the rest of the personalities discussed in this part are either Sindhi or linked with Sindh. There is, for example, Hyder Bux Jatoi, a leftist leader and the founder of the Hari Committee (peasant committee), who ran a peasant movement in Sindh. Among other figures, there is a Kalhoro ruler, Mian Noor Muhmmed (1719-1753), believed to be a “successful” king in the author’s view because he dug canals and irrigated barren lands and patronized arts and crafts. After him, Dr. Hamida Khuro, Dr. N.A Baloch and Shams-Ul-Ulema Mirza Qaleech Baig are discussed for their literary contributions. The personality of Darya Khan (15th century) is also mentioned as a war strategist who fought against the foreign invasions of the Arghuns in Sindh during the time of last king of the Sama Dynasty, JamFeruzudin. Moreover, the first part also discusses the Khakhsar movement and socio-political culture under Talpur rule. This part of the book is composed of reflections on personalities which are already well-known in Sindh. It is somewhat disappointing that there were no introductions to figures who contributed to Sindhi society who had not been discussed before. The second part of the book begins with Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan as a separate homeland for Muslims and praise of his vision by the author. This is followed by a section about the peasant resistance (1520-1577) against the Arghuns led by Darya Khan and other tribal chiefs. The third section of the second part is titled “The Post 9/11 Environment: Extremism Violence Terrorism and Bigotry.” It is an entirely new theme and has little or nothing to do with the previous themes and content of the book. This whole part of the book lacks in the coordination of the themes and their relevance with each other. The final section is within Historical Perspective and the articles within are an attempt to reconstruct Sindh’s past as an autonomous kingdom in history. Overall, the themes and sections of this part of the book are very interesting, but they don’t connect with each other. For example, the author starts the section with Quaid’s vision of Pakistan and goes on to discuss the post 9/11 environment ending the section with constitutional dynamics and provincial autonomy. None of the articles share the same theme. The second part disappoints by not sharing any knowledge as the articles lack new findings, detailed analyses, and coordination or continuity of themes, arguements and conclusions.

The third part of the book is titled Book Reviews and includes the reviews of One Unit and Sindh by Professor Aijaz A. Qureshi and some books of Dr. Nabi Bux Baloch on Sindh culture. The reviews by the author shed some light on very important work done in Sindh.

Notwithstanding the lacks in coherence, coordination, relation, and relevance of themes with each other, the book, to a limited extent, helps understand the changes experienced by Sindh in different periods of history. However, due to the author’s enthusiasm to cover various subjects in one book without focusing deeply on any, the reader will find that the book has very little to do with its title, Sindh Studies, Culture and History and contributes equally minimally to Sindhi Studies. As evident from the nostalgic introduction of ancient Indus civilization, overall, the book lacks the coordination of themes and flow of arguments.

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