Allah Hafiz or Khuda Hafiz, which is older?

The evidence at the desk of a historian tells that Allah Hafiz was in usage at least since the early 19th century.  

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Allah-Hafiz ahl-e-haram muh se bol ke

Kubra ke gird rone lage baal khol ke

The above couplet is recorded in Mars̲iyahʹhā-yi Mirzā Dabīr written by Mirza Dabir (Mirza Salamat Ali Dabeer), one of the most famous Marsiya writer of the Urdu language. Dabir died in 1875 and the couplet must have been written before that. 

Mirza Dabir
Mirza Dabir

For years, we have seen a debate on social media where several scholars of Urdu language and culture argue that Allah Hafiz did not exist in the Urdu speaking regions of India and Pakistan before the Arabisation which took place in the late 1970s. Nadeem F Paracha in an article published in The Dawn in March 2020, The Journey from Khuda Hafiz to Allah Hafiz, also claimed that Allah-Hafiz did not exist in the subcontinent before the influx of the Saudi petro dollars and Zia ul Haq regime in the 1980s.

A few scholars also claim that the usage of Allah-Hafiz is ingrained in anti-Shia or anti-Persian sentiments. 

Interestingly, Mirza Dabir, a Shia poet was using this term in a marsiya. Meer Amman, another giant of Urdu who predates Mirza Dabir by almost a half century, has also used the term Allah Hafiz for bidding goodbye.

In the 1901 edition of Bagh-o-Bahar edited by Lt. Colonel Ranking we can find at page 35, in Pehle darvaish ki sair, “Maine Fatiha khair ki padh kar kaha tumahra bhi Allah Hafiz hai. Maine qabool kiya, waha se nikal kar ghoDe par sawar hua.” We can find the word in other previous as well as subsequent editions of the book as well.

Sadaa Aun ne di ye Allah Hafiz

Pukare Muhammad ke Allah Hafiz

The above couplet which used the term Allah Hafiz twice is by another late 19th century poet Syed Husain Mirza Lakhnavi and recorded in his compilation of Marsiya, Gulzar-e-Gham published in 1883. 

Colonial administrators compiled dictionaries to understand the language and culture of the colonies. In India, scholars still refer to the studies carried out by colonial surveyors and consider them authentic.

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S. W. Fallon edited the New English-Hindustani Dictionary with the help of Lala Faqir Chand in 1880. The dictionary printed by Medical Hall Press, Banaras has an entry at page 55 for the word, “bid good-bye”. The Hindustani meaning given is – Khairbad kahna, bandagi kahna, Salam kahna, Allah Hafiz kahna. The absence of Khuda Hafiz here is quite noteworthy. On the same page, the dictionary gives the Hindustani words for “bid God-speed”. These words are – Allah Hafiz kahna, Ram ko saumpna, Khuda ke supurd karna, Allah nigehban kehna.

Interestingly, a dictionary compiled in 1880 also records Allah Hafiz as the term to bid goodbye but fails to mention Khuda Hafiz. 

Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency published in 1885 also notes Allah Hafiz as the term which means “God protects you. Expression used at parting”.

Evan Stanton’s Ruhainah: A Story of Afghan Life also mentions the term twice. The book published in 1886 notes at page 69, “Allah Hafiz! God is our protector ! ” said Hasan” and on page 100, “Allah Hafiz, God is protector ! ” exclaimed Bernard”

The evidence at the desk of a historian tells that Allah Hafiz was in usage at least since the early 19th century.  

(The views & research is personal to the author)

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