Local Shiah religious leaders and lecturers (zakirs) acknowledged Naseem and visited her regularly. Of the three most regular visitors one, Sakhawat Hussain Jaffery, was particularly favoured. Naseem claimed that she had been specially ordered by the Imam to single him out. They were often alone for long periods. Naseem began to organise azadari regularly. These meetings were charged with emotion and created devout ecstasy in the participants. They were held next to the local primary school; so many people attended, with such noisy devotion, that the school had to close down. Naseem now completely dominated the life of the village. Before moving to the next phase of the case, let us pause to examine the effect of the revelations on some of the main actors in the drama. Naseem was a shy, pleasant-looking girl, with an innocent expression on her face, who had a history of fits. There was talk of getting her married. Although she had only studied up to class five, her teachers recall her passionate interest in religion, especially in the lives of the Imams. She had a pleasing voice when reciting nauhas (poems about Karbala), many of which she composed herself. After her revelations, there was a perceptible change in Naseem. She began to gain weight, wear costly dresses and use perfumes. She became noticeably gregarious and confident. In a remarkable gesture of independence, especially so for a Sayyad girl in the area, she abandoned the parda (veil). According to Shiah’s belief, any believer may become the vehicle for divine communications. Naseem turned to the dominant person in her life, her father, upon receiving communications, and he interpreted them in his light. Willayat Shah now reasserted himself in village affairs after an absence of years. His daughter’s religious experience had begun soon after his retirement from Arabia. He had an older brother to whom, because of the traditional structure of rural society, he was subordinate. His period in Saudi Arabia had enhanced his economic, but not his social position. Because of the miracles and revelations of his daughter, he gained a dominant position in social life. Sardar Bibi, Naseem’s mother, was influenced by her husband and daughter and identified wholly with the latter. She was said to have been a Sunni before her marriage, and this created an underlying tension in the family. In an expression of loyalty to her husband, she severed relations with her parents and brothers because they disapproved of her conversion. She unhesitatingly obeyed her daughter’s revelations. People freely equated Naseem’s physical appearance with her spiritual condition. She lost noor in periods of despondency and regained it when receiving revelations. Another actor in the drama was Sakhawat Jaffery, a Zakir of Chakwal. He was not a Sayyad and his father was said to be a butcher. He had, thus, risen in the social order. Willayat Shah rewarded him for his loyalty with gifts (refrigerators, televisions, fans etc). When he needed money for a new business, he was presented with about 20,000 rupees. With this sum, he opened a small shop selling general goods. He was given such gifts on the specific orders of the Imam to Naseem. In turn, he was the only one of the three zakirs who personally testified to the authenticity of the miracles of Naseem. Naseem was regularly visited by Sakhawat Jaffery. She also visited his house. In a gesture of affection, contravening social custom, Naseem named Sakhawat’s male child-a few months old-Rizwan Abbass. Such names, deriving from the Holy Prophet’s family, were traditionally reserved for Sayyads. Most people were cynical about the relationship between Naseem and the Zakir. Sakhawat’s wife, who had complete faith in Naseem, said people had spread “dirty talk” (gandi batey) about Naseem and her husband. In spite of his belief in the revelations, Sakhawat Jaffery did not join the pilgrimage to Hawkes Bay. He had recently opened his shop and explained that abrupt departure would ensure its failure. Naseem was understanding: “This is not a trip for zakirs. We want to see you prosper.” After the visions, Naseem’s followers bestowed on her the title already used by the Imam, Pak Bibi (pure lady). The transformation in her appearance and character was now complete. She radiated confidence. Her following spread outside the village. In particular, she developed an attachment to the people of a neighbouring village, Mureed, who were recently-converted Muslims (Sheikhs) and who wholeheartedly believed in her. Most of them were kammis, belonging to such occupational groups as barbers and cobblers. Naseem, as a Sayyad, represented for them the house of the Prophet while her father, being relatively well-off, was a potential source of financial support. 17 of the villagers of Mureed would follow her to Hawkes Bay. The normal life of the village was disrupted by the affair. The Shiahs, in particular, “wholeheartedly accepted the phenomenon” but, not unnaturally. “The regular routine life of the village was paralysed.” In particular, “women stopped doing their household jobs.” Some placed obstacles in Naseem’s path, teasing her family members (especially children on their way to school), and dumping rubbish in front of her house. Sayyads who did not believe in her ill-treated her followers from Mureed. Meanwhile, a series of miracles were taking place, which riveted society. Blood was found on the floor of Willayat Shah’s bedroom. Naseem declared this to be the blood of Hazrat Ali Asghar, the male child of Hazrat Hussain, martyred at Karbala. On another occasion, visitors were locked in a room and told that angels would bear down a flag from heaven. When the door was opened, indeed, there was a flag. On one occasion, four children disappeared, to appear again later. But the greatest miracle of all remained Naseem’s constant communication with the Imam. Supplicants would pray in front of Naseem’s room, expressing their demands in a loud voice. The Imam would be consulted not only on profound matters but also on trivial ones, such as whether a guest should be given tea or food. Naseem, who received many of her orders during fainting fits, would then convey a reply on behalf of the Imam. There came a time, however, when Naseem’s authority was disputed. Doubts arose first from the failure of certain of her predictions and, second, from the public refusal of her kin to redistribute their property according to her orders. Naseem had been making extravagant predictions regarding illness, birth and death. Some of these came true, others did not. In one particular case, she predicted the death of a certain person within a specified period. He did not die. In another case, the elder brother of Willayat was asked to surrender his house for religious purposes, which he refused to do. A cousin also refused when asked to hand over his property to Willayat. In yet another case, Naseem, perhaps compensating for a Sunni mother in a Shiah household, ordered the engagement of her cousin to a non-Shiah to be broken. It was not. Naseem and Willayat responded to such rebellion with fierce denunciation. The rebels were branded as murtid (those who have renounced Islam and are, therefore, beyond the pale). Their relatives were forbidden to have any contact with them. In some cases, parents were asked to not see their children and vice versa. While taking firm measures against those who did not believe, the followers were charged with renewed activity, calculated to re-enforce group cohesiveness. The frequency of religious meetings increased as did visits to shrines. Participation was limited to believers. Naseem’s physical condition now began to correspond with the revelations: she lost weight and her colour became dark when she was not receiving them. She glowed with health when she was. People freely equated her physical appearance with her spiritual condition. She lost noor (divine luminosity) in her periods of despondency and regained it when receiving revelations. For those who believed in her, it was a question of light and darkness. But the crisis in Naseem was reaching its peak; so was the tension in the community. Exactly to the day, two years after the first communication began, Naseem asked her father a question on behalf of the Imam: would the believers plunge into the sea as an expression of their faith? The question was not figurative. The Imam meant it literally. The believers were expected to walk into the sea from where they would be miraculously transported to Karbala in Iraq without worldly means. Naseem promised that even the 124,000 prophets recognised by Muslims would be amazed at the sacrifice. (To be Continued) The writer is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies (School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC) and a Wilson Center Global Fellow.