Un­wanted Di­vide

Southasia - - Book Review -

Ti­tle: Sec­tar­ian War - Pak­istan’s Sunni-Shia Vi­o­lence

and its links to the Mid­dle East

Author: Khaled Ahmed

Pub­lisher: Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, Pak­istan (2010)

Pages: 402 pages, Hard­back

Price: PKR. 995

ISBN: 9780195479560

Rightly did Faiz say on Pak­istan’s in­de­pen­dence, “This is not the one, the long-awaited morn,” be­cause, for one, com­mu­nal ri­ots of united In­dia gave place to a blood­ier sec­tar­ian war in the new coun­try.

Be­fore in­de­pen­dence it was Hin­dus ver­sus Mus­lims. But with Pak­istan’s birth Mus­lims be­gan to fight Mus­lims. It started with the Sun­nis at­tack­ing Ah­madis in 1954. Twenty years later the govern­ment threw them out of the pale of Is­lam (in Pak­istan).

But the most en­dur­ing and the blood­i­est con­flict in Pak­istan has been be­tween the Sun­nis and Shias. Dur­ing early Mughal rule, par­tic­u­larly be­cause Iran had of­fered sanc­tu­ary to Em­peror Hu­mayun, Shias en­joyed much in­flu­ence at the court. “The anti-Shia trend in In­dia,” pi­o­neered by Sheikh Ah­mad Sirhindi, “came as a re­ac­tion to Ak­bar’s pol­icy of tol­er­ance to Shias.”

Dur­ing Au­rangzeb’s reign an­tiShia tilt be­came more pro­nounced in his Fatawa-i-Alam­giri, on which the Deobandi School in Pak­istan later based its fut­wahs of apostasy against Shias.

The two com­mu­ni­ties co­ex­isted peace­fully not only in Bri­tish In­dia, but even in Pak­istan for many years. Pak­istan’s founder Mo­ham­mad Ali Jin­nah, and its first pres­i­dent, Iskan­der Mirza and an­other pres­i­dent Yahya Khan, were Shia. More­over, Shias not only sup­ported the Mus­lim League in In­dia but also the Ob­jec­tives Res­o­lu­tion in Pak­istan.

None­the­less, dif­fer­ences sur­faced quite early, lead­ing to sep­a­rate Shia and Sunni funeral prayers be­ing of­fered for Quaid-e-Azam and Miss Fa­tima Jin­nah.

In his book “Sec­tar­ian War,” re­puted jour­nal­ist Khaled Ahmed not only dis­cusses Sunni-Shia vi­o­lence in Pak­istan and the Mid­dle East, with metic­u­lous de­tail, but also traces the very gen­e­sis of the Shia-Sunni split from the time when the Prophet (S.A.W.), be­fore breath­ing his last, asked for pen and pa­per (to dic­tate his will). But Omar did not al­low it. Shias be­lieve that the Prophet was go­ing to will Ali as his po­lit­i­cal suc­ces­sor which Omar de­lib­er­ately pre­vented, and there­fore re­vile him bit­terly.

Shias and Sun­nis dif­fer from each other in prac­ti­cally every­thing ex- cept their be­lief in Al­lah as One and Mo­ham­mad as His Mes­sen­ger. Their prayers (tim­ing, num­ber and process), fast­ing, mar­riage and funeral rites, za­kat, fi­tra and haj; even their azan and kal­ima are dif­fer­ent.

And yet in In­dia, they had lived to­gether for cen­turies and even in­ter­mar­ried. The drift started when in the eigh­teenth cen­tury Nawab Asa­fud Daulah’s chief min­is­ter be­gan build­ing sep­a­rate mosques for the Shias in Luc­know and giv­ing “currency to the rit­ual of tabarra (abuse) ….,” that led to the “first in­ci­dence of vi­o­lent Shi­aSunni en­coun­ters in the city. ” (p.103)

In Pak­istan “Sun­nis and Shias grew up as one Mus­lim com­mu­nity” up to the 1980s. Things changed with the rise of Zi­aul Haq in Pak­istan and Imam Khome­ini in Iran when the clergy of both sects be­came ag­gres­sive to cre­ate aware­ness about their re­spec­tive dif­fer­ences.

It was un­der Zi­aul Haq’s “plan to teach the Shias of Jhang a les­son for hav­ing op­posed his za­kat laws that Si­pah-e-Sa­haba (SSP) was founded in 1985” and Sun­nis started is­su­ing apostasy fut­wahs against Shias. In fact

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