‘Nazar lagna’ or evil eye refers to the curse afflicted by the malevolent stare of someone who, intentionally or unintentionally, summons enough hate or anger while simply looking at someone to induce harm that could be physical or psychological. Scholar Javed Ghamidi while answering a question on the issue of ‘nazar’ gave a heartening reply. He spoke about the existence of two distinct realms, physical and spiritual. The material world and the physical laws it operates under constitutes the physical while the latter is hidden and can only be experienced once you unravel your soul. He spoke of abilities buried deep in the recesses of the human mind that can only possibly be awakened with special exercises. The knowledge of this realm is more anecdotal, borne of personal experience and observation. Ghamidi was explicit in separating both the physical and spiritual realms from religion, and said that any person belonging to any faith could unleash magical abilities with enough practice.
His answer indicates the existence of a world, a supernatural one, with its own rules. The idea that the physical world may be a mathematical construct of extreme elegance is intriguing and that there is more to this world than the quantifiable, verifiable and predictable numbers and physical laws is not just enthralling but supremely sublime. Our whole existence is an odyssey from unknown to known and it is precisely the pleasure of discovery that makes living in a mysterious world worthwhile.
Some physicists believe the universe is a giant clockwork and everything that happens has a reason. This argument kills the idea of free will and introduces predictability. It may all be clockwork but one with an infinite number of cogs and wheels. I believe my life is a function of infinite number of variables. Some I know, most I don’t. Perhaps the example of weather can illustrate the complexity we are dealing with. Despite phenomenal advances in computation power and technology, we can’t predict the weather patterns. And then there is the ‘Butterfly Effect’, which means a butterfly flapping its wings in Lahore contributes, by way of an inscrutable chain of ‘cause and effect’, to a storm in Karachi. The variables are frighteningly many and some are extremely small and interlock in a most mysterious manner. I believe prayer is a variable too and interacts beneficially with the mundane forces on earth in a manner beyond human comprehension.
Qudrat Ullah Shahab in his magnum opus, Shahab Nama, talks about his experiences of the spiritual realm in detail in the last chapter. From the meditative trance to the out-of-body experience while chanting, Shahab delves in detail on the sights and sounds of this remarkable dive into the nether world. His narrative of the quest for a ‘murshid’ (teacher) to enlighten him is instructive on the existence of forces beyond our grasp. Ashfaq Ahmed, Bano Qudsia and Mumtaz Mufti, giants of Urdu literature, were spiritual disciples of Shahab who also declares that science is busy conquering matter and not the soul. It is, therefore, silent on a world that defies human understanding primarily informed by the experiences of a physical world. We can all recall some bits of our lives that remain unexplainable, ascribing them to chance, luck and prayers but without any understanding of how and why it happened.
I had the opportunity to accompany a family friend to the shrine of Pir Syed Meher Ali Shah. We offered the usual prayers for the departed and then the friend sat down to meditate. He was chanting verses from the Holy Quran and looked ecstatic as if conversing with a beloved. I was sitting right next to him when I saw his shirt throbbing right above his heart. His heart was responding to the chant and praying, he later explained. It was a jaw dropping experience. Now many would dismiss this as hocus-pocus but I ask: why be closed to possibilities when the world as we know it was once equally unknown and baffling?
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2017.