Thursday, April 8, 2010

Miss the good old ‘Khuda Hafiz’…

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”. 


  1. HI...

    Nice post and very thoughtful one... even though I am a hindu, i had also realised the change... in india, used to hear khuda hafiz wen i used to be friends... but lately i also heard many of them saying allah hafiz...

    neways nice post....

    take care nd hav a safe stay....

  2. Oh My God has this also taken hold in India - oh no!!!

    I am totally with you on this one... its so irritating, i often argue with family members over the Khuda/Allah Hafiz thing... now even on PIA they say Allah Hafiz... as a Pakistani i find the Allah overload in our country more stifling than the monsoon heat...

    As an Indian Muslim you must find it a bit much... keep up the fight for Khuda Hafiz, i too joined that facebook group... hope you're not suffering too many power cuts...

    Khuda Hafiz

  3. Why do you think Allah Hafiz has gained more prominence? I have a few Muslim relatives from my mother's side and as a kid I remembered they said good bye with Khuda Hafiz. When we met recently after a long gap, they said Allah Hafiz.

  4. Though I am a Hindu, but I think Khuda Hafiz is the correct term and should continue. Allah Hafiz was a term coined by Zia who wanted to suck up to the Saudis. The best way to get rid of his ghost could be to get rid of Allah Hafiz and use and promote Khuda Hafiz.

    Khuda Hafiz!!!

  5. Wordsmith

    i think its the 'i-want-to-show-i-am-more-religious-than-you' group that have caught on... aajkal showing 'piety' is such a fashion!

    it irks me no end!


  6. I so agree with you.. khuda hafiz somehow sounds sweeter.. that's what I remember my friends at Lucknow using too.

  7. Growing up in India, I never thought of 'Khuda Hafiz' as a religious greeting. I never took it literally - it was just a way to say 'Goodbye'. But, if you really think about it, then even 'Goodbye' is religious in origin: "Good-bye" is a shortened form of "God be with Ye".

    So the solution might be to stop thinking of the literal meaning of 'Khuda Hafiz', and same with 'Allah Hafiz', it's just a goodbye. But if you think of 'Khuda' as the Persian word for (I assume) the monotheistic entity, then your objection to 'Allah' is weakened. Just as 'bismillah karna' simply means 'to start something', not the literal prayer. Just as 'sriganesh karna' means to start something, not necessarily by explicitly recalling the pot-bellied deity. Just as when the man in the street says 'Jai Ram ji ki', he is just saying 'Hello' in a way he grew up with. He's not thinking of the incarnation of Vishnu with bow and arrow and etc.

    If you look closely, you find that much English idiom and usage is also of religious origin. When you say 'God knows' in answer to a question, do you literally mean that the Christian God actually knows? No, you mean, "I don't know, and I don't think anyone knows either." So, rather than modify the idiom, the solution has been to gradually stop explicitly recalling the religious context. A similar solution may await us here.

    "Pakistan mein logon ka 'Allah Hafiz' kehnaa Sriganesh ho gayaa hai" :)

  8. Soch, thanks.

    A, just four, and that's not too many yet :)

    Wordsmith, piety!

    Anonymous, yes to that.

    Tulika, it is. Just like the "aadaabs". Nobody says them anymore.

    Ottawamysteryman, as always you have a point :)

  9. :) It's the feeling that count want the other person and yourself safe in the hands of's all in your neeyat, right!

  10. 9, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    Guess people should be free to say whatever they want .............

  11. Do people in India are contemplating on the change

  12. When I was a kid going to school in Hyderabad with a large Muslim student body, I used to hear the Muslim kids say, what sounded like "Khudoffis" when saying goodbye. As a youngster struggling with both English and Hindi, and loath to consult anyone, I worked out that what was being said was that, God was at his office, which made sense to my mind. Only later did I learn the correct term, though to this day, I am not sure what the "Hafiz" part is supposed to actually mean. I still like the "office" meaning.

  13. But I still don't get why the shift is necessary. Doesn't Khuda also signify God? I have nothing against Allah Hafiz, but Khuda Hafiz sounds so very beautiful. Why change?

  14. In Kerala,in colleges or schools if you bring anything religious to your conversation,you are branded as weird who needs help."Hello" is mostly used for greeting and for goodbye.."Poyittu varatte"(will go now & come later..since ppl superstitiously believe that saying I'm going..u will meet with some unfortunate incident..).Religious type Muslims here use "Aslam valekum" & we return "valekum Islam" or we pre-emptively strike with "Aslam valekum" & gets reciprocated with "valekum Islam"..I havnt heard any Huda/Allah Hafiz here.

  15. Ottawamysteryman

    I feel in Pakistan at least, the Allah/Khuda Hafiz thing is more to do with those wanting to preserve their culture and way, and also those not wanting to give in to fundamentalists etc. against those who are more fundamental and outwardly at least appear to be more 'religious' and 'pious'.

    Its almost as if nowadays by saying Khuda Hafiz you're making a statement!


  16. Aadab Arz

    Long back renowned Urdu writer Surender Prakash had written a famous story about a poor Hindu mithai-wala who doesn't leave Lahore after partition and decides to become a Muslim, changes his name to Khuda Baksh.

    As a convert he tries to do everything to ensure that he is seen as a Muslim. Goes to meat shops, marries his son to his niece.

    The story takes several twists and turns until one day someone tells him that the use of the word Khuda is no longer legal. The protagonist's name was Khuda Bakhsh...

    Anyway. These things happen. I still say Khuda Hafiz, if someone says Allah Hafiz. Gulf-returnee's trend.

    But such things keep happening everywhere. May be KH will be back in fashion a few decades later.

    If you remember in India, in the 80s [1986-89 onwards], suddenly across North Indian, even villagers began addressing each other with 'Jai Sri Ram', the more aggressive assertion of their politico-religious identity when Rath Yatra had surcharged atmosphere.

    Now it's back to Ram Ram and Jairam ji ki among Hindus in same villages though it took nearly 20-25 years and a whole generation for that to happen.


  17. A New Beginning, yes eventually it does boil down to that.

    Ashu, I'd always vote for KH.

    Anonymous, @Khudoffis :)

    Rupa, KH does sound beautiful.

    Jay, that's interesting :)

    Indsribe, your story reminded of Garhi Khuda Baksh!

  18. Hi, I'm vehemently against the Allah Hafiz Brigade.

    The series of postings on this topic, on a Facebook site below is quite interesting;

    Let me know what you think.

  19. Ibraar,
    I am aware of the postings on Shahvaar's FB page. That plug is by us :)

  20. and the downward spiral towards violence and religious extremism , and indeed non tolerance of other relegion continues.... @ author check out Ashok bankers new book "the gods of war" raises some really interesting theological questions

  21. So Muslims in india are of persian descent ? then y pakistani muslims consider themselves close to arabs ?

  22. Well, @a4ashu, I dont know where are you getting this notion that Pakistanis considered themselves closer to Arab culture than Persian culture (Our national anthem is in Persian!). The cultural background and one's tangible ties to it, from what I understand, are more or less non-existent for the present day generation of most Pakistanis. However, this more arab-centric behavior has to do with religion, rather than a bigger association with a culture.

    However, the KH/AH annoys me as well, but I tend not to mind it when I realise that someone just said Allah Hafiz out of habit. However, I do ask someone back about why did you say one thing rather than other. It is more fun to see them explain the difference between Khuda and Allah (and then a bit of Socratic dialogue follows in order to screw with their heads). It's an issue if we make it an issue, though.


  23. what is the big deal?

  24. Strangely, in America, I've heard people argue against the KH and I've heard those same people tell non-Muslims that we're all people of the book, etc., and that Allah is just the Arabic for God. Why is it okay to equate Allah to the language of one continent and not the other? No thanks, I agree with you & I'm a staunch Khuda Hafiz-er also.

  25. Premal, I will. Thanks.

    Ashu, check your mail for details :)

    dishoomdishoom, you are right about how they struggle to explain the difference between AH and KH.

    The Gori Wife, known you for a while :) and glad to know that you are a Khuda-Hafiz-er too!

  26. OK, if I might jump in again. 'Hafiz' is already Arabic - for 'guardian' or 'protector', and if used in Urdu, as in 'KH' it means the same. And given that 'Allah' is already used so often in Urdu, arguing against 'Allah Hafiz' because 'Allah' is an Arabic word is a bit weak. What I feel we should argue for instead is the secularization of the term 'AH', and the use of 'Allah' in a sense wider than just the Islamic sense.

    'KH' does have the history of usage behind it, it has been idiomatized (so that people like me never took it literally), and in that sense, it is also 'secularized'. It also combines Persian and Arabic explicitly, therefore also has the goodness that syncretic things do. Someone mentioned 'Khuda Bakhsh' - but 'Allah Bakhsh' is also a common name, combining Arabic ('A') with Persian ('B'). So do we ask all the ABs to become KBs?

    And what about Allah Rakha, a nice name which combines Arabic (A) with Sanskrit (Rakha - rakshaka)? Do they become Khuda Rakha? And what happens to Harbaksh and Gurbaksh and the less common Rambaksh (which combine Sanskrit (H/G/R) with Persian (B))?

    Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian are all beautiful, wonderful languages! Secularize the term, celebrate syncretism, don't be literal!

    BTW, there's a fun and educational video Ya Allah, Ya Allah by a Christian Arab young lady settled in Italy, which I came across after I posted my first comment above - on all the different ways that 'Allah' is used in Arabic-influenced milieu. Masha'Allah!

    BTW2: May I request all Anonymous commenters to please choose a pseudonym?

  27. @dishooomdhishoom i was concluding based on empirical data,on my prsnl interactions. But u have summed it well for me thank you :-)

    @Me i have DM u my email id on twitter, :-) thanks for your time bbbye

    hav fun, and Stay safe

  28. Your post reminded me of a friend who used to correct me over Khuda Hafiz, saying Khuda is used for god which can be many. Hence you must use Allah which signifies the one-ness.

    This happened to me like a decade ago. Then I used to hush his rational saying that it all depends upon "neeyat" i.e. intention. But he never agreed with me.

    Till today, I know a lot of people who emphasis on Allah Hafiz when somebody uses Khuda Hafiz. I consider it nothing more than than a rhetoric act. We Muslims are stuck in these minor acts which doesn't even to Allah himself. But what matters most to HIM, matters least to us.

    These people who correct people you and me are mere souls who are self - entitled to fix Islam by correcting people their good byes.

  29. allah ke liye 'khuda' ko hi hafiz rehne do....hehe...Seriously man, Allah Hafiz just seems like the most artificial thing ever...and Khuda Hafiz just sounds beautiful....Btw awesome blog...just wanted to ask you?As far as the (mughlai)food is concerned,is Lahore/Isloo better than Delhi?

  30. Kulsoom thanks for reading :)

    Amit, a post on Pakistani food is very much on the agenda :)

  31. Khuda hafiz or allah hafiz or whatever, those who have such inferiority complex, why dont just completely switch from urdu to Persian or arabic. If you choose farsi as your language then continue with khuda hafiz and if its arabic then keep calling allah hafiz.

  32. “Khuda Hafiz ka Allah hee hafiz hai” is hilariousi!

    OTH, Shia people in Pakistan are being killed everyday in target killing which are linked with Persia so one sense its good to start with KH, soon we will condemn their genocide as well.
    KH. RN

  33. "Khuda Hafiz" was the word I heard all along my life in India. During the last decade in Canada I came across may Indians and Pakistanis using "Allah Hafiz". However, I continue to use "Khuda Hafiz" so do my kids.