The portrayal of Islamic standpoints in the novel “The Red Rebel”
Many of the celebrated Muslim writers have carefully tried to stay away from meddling with topics pertaining to Islam. Opposite to this, however, is the most-sought-after historical novelist Ali Ahmed Bakatheer (1910-1969), a distinguished writer from his contemporaries because of his outstanding works on Islamic issues. Assaerul Ahmar, or The Red Rebel, is his Islamic historical novel which takes readers to the supposed worthlessness of communism and socialism in this modern epoch.
The novel mainly depicts a historical war, waged between the Karamits and the Muathazidh’s armies, which ended with the victory of the former and the establishment of a dynasty in the southern part of Iraq. Bakatheer in this novel unveils the bogus face of ideologies like communism and socialism in a subtle but powerful way. The novel is also all about the history of the Karamit period and reveals the presence of secret movements with lurking agendas that fight against Islamic state of Abbasid dynasty.
Despite the Abbasid ruler Muathazidh being well armed with enough armaments to conquer the Karamits, he never came to conquer them as he foresaw the short life destined for their ideas and ideologies. Muathazidh couldn’t be falsified in this regard, because what he foresaw about their decline really did come true. Bakatheer is trying to convey that to ensure justice for all under an Islamic rule, it is enough to make the Karamits’ concept of comprehensive justice weak. They remained poor in terms of ideology, although they are known for sincerity and dedication while upholding concepts of ‘comprehensive justice’.
In the novel, a farmer, Hamadan Karamit, transforms himself as revolutionary after being exposed to ignited experiences and callous atrocities. But later in the novel, he fails to hold fast to his morality and becomes a dictator. Finally, he begins to show signs of collapse, owing to his inability to do justice with his own concept of ‘comprehensive justice’. He was too late in admitting the mistake he had committed.
From the very beginning, the Karamits were hostile to the capitalists, but at the march of time they started to express enmity towards Islam as it was the one and only ideology capable of ensuring comprehensive justice for all strata of society. The concept of socialism attracted wide acceptance at the outset of the nineteenth century, gaining currency in the closing period of this century by the advent of Marx and Engels. Bakatheer indirectly laments on the failure of socialism to ensure comprehensive justice, by mentioning the history of those who held on to a similar ideology a thousand years ago.
Islam puts forth “equity”, whereas the Karamits lay emphasis on “equality”. The former is meant to let people enjoy proportional equality according to their needs (distributive equality), and the latter means to bring the whole world to the same standard of equality. A healthy social structure must be based at slightly varied equality levels that exist in any society.
When the character of Hamid’s son inherits the governance after his demise, there rose questions against their basic ideology itself. Even though people were keen to question measures, taken by the concerned authority in favor of capitalism, nobody dared to do as they were fearful of its consequences.
The novel is made up of four sections, and each section consists of numerous chapters. Each and every section commences with a Quranic verse which outlines the essence of that section. The first section begins with the sixteenth verse from “Sura Israe”, indicating the core theme of the novel, whereas the second section, commenced with 175th and 176th verses from “Sura, A’araf”, sheds light upon the history of the protagonist who deviated from the righteous path. The third and fourth sections are similar in the narration.
The author undoubtedly was endowed with a subtle sense of humor which is helpful to induce readers to go through history without making it dry or heavy. History, heritage, and the realities of life always find a place in Bakatheer’s works, and the richness of this thus leads to many of his works being adapted into theatrical productions. Bakatheer’s novel The Red Rebel has been read with immense delight by generations all over Arabic-knowing world.