The other day I was chatting with an old friend on Facebook and then she had to leave suddenly. The good-bye message on my screen read: “AH”.
The “AH” – short for Allah Hafiz – surprised me because she usually signs off with “tata” or just “ta”.
I am all for the good old Persianised “Khuda Hafiz” and hate it when people correct me with “it’s Allah Hafiz”, underlining the “Allah” in the Arabised and, therefore, more pious and religious version.
In the two years we’ve been in Pakistan, the switchover from “Khuda” to “Allah” has become more prominent and I’ve had several people correct me.
As a kid, I was taught to say “Khuda Hafiz” and it just seems so odd when people expect me to say “Allah Hafiz”.
I remember for days and weeks after my mother passed away about two years ago, I regretted not having said “Khuda Hafiz” to her. We were both laughing over something during a chat on the phone and I just told her that I would speak to her later. Of course, I never did because she was dead a few hours later.
Even though “Allah Hafiz” is fast gaining currency in India too, my father is one of the few people I know who still ends his conversations or signs off his emails with “Khuda Hafiz” or “KH”. He even uses “Khuda” liberally – “Khuda chahe toh ho jayega…” or “Khuda na kare aisa ho…”
Some days ago, I found that a group called “Bring back Khuda Hafiz” had been floated on Facebook, pleading Muslims to stick to the good old Persianised “Khuda Hafiz” instead of the new Arabised version “Allah Hafiz”.
“Support Pakistan's innocent, historical goodbye – Khuda Hafiz. Stand against the essentialist ideology working to remove it from our colloquial discourse,” read the note by the creator of the group.
I immediately joined the group, and persuaded some others as well, yet the going has not been easy for the group.
Facebookers have joined in to make a case for Allah Hafiz. “The word Khuda means God which can also be used while referring to deities...,” argued a member.
A couple of Pakistani columnists have been writing about the shift from Khuda Hafiz to Allah Hafiz. Khaled Ahmed wrote about “the rise of the Allah Hafizites” a few years ago. More recently, another columnist wrote that when he was growing up he never heard anyone say Allah Hafiz and that now “Khuda Hafiz” has few takers.
Even as I will continue to say “Khuda Hafiz” (more so, because my ancestors came from Persia), I know that soon, as a Pakistani writer famously remarked, “Khuda Hafiz ka Allah hee hafiz hai”.