Dastan-e Amir Hamza and the Uncanny Resonance of New(s) Stories

Conference: The European Conference on Arts & Humanities (ECAH2020)
Title: Dastan-e Amir Hamza and the Uncanny Resonance of New(s) Stories
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Mariam Zia, Lahore School of Economics, Pakistan


This paper seeks to make a comparison between stories from Dastan-e Amir Hamza (The Adventures of Amir Hamza) and news stories from Pakistan and by virtue of this comparison, explore the uncanny ring of a repetition of concerns which can be traced and linked to either the Islamic or the cultural aspects of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent. Hailed as "the Iliad and Odyssey of medieval Persia", The Adventures of Amir Hamza is an ahistorical and areligious narrative built around the life and times of Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad who lived in Arabia (566–625 C.E.). The first historical references to stories venerating Hamza date back to the times of the Prophet. However, through centuries of being adapted into narrative traditions and art forms, especially through the Indo-Persian oral storytelling genre known as dastan, history and fact have been subsumed into the fantastical. The comparative analysis in the paper is not aimed at making the Hamza narrative contemporary or detracting from the significance it holds within its specific historical, cultural and religious framework. Neither is this to suggest that the Hamza narratives be contemporized. I argue that thinking about resonances between stories that are spatially and historically diverse – and removed – will enable us to stress the importance of storytelling as a space for debate, power and conjecture in the Muslim world. Storytelling spaces, I contend, should remain areligious and ahistorical hence allowing for debate that remains unfettered by religious dogma and from the self-righteousness of secularism.