PAK­ISTAN & THE CASE OF MOD­ER­ATE IS­LAM

The Financial Daily - - NATIONAL - Mustafa Ka­mal

The bru­tal as­sas­si­na­tion of 146 chil­dren in Pe­shawar on 16th De­cem­ber 2014, the at­tacks on the French news­pa­per on 7th Jan­uary killing 11 peo­ple and in­jur­ing 10 and the flog­ging of Saudi blog­ger Raif Badawi has again gen­er­ated a hard de­bate about mod­er­ate Is­lam and Is­lamic mil­i­tancy.

The opin­ions vary widely among those who be­lieve the is­sue is of the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Qu­ranic verses and those who be­lieve the di­vine source it­self con­tains texts openly invit­ing Mus­lims to kill the apos­tates.

Soon af­ter the Paris at­tack, the Bri­tish evan­ge­list An­jum Chaudhry was quoted by The In­de­pen­dent say­ing that ' Mus­lims don't be­lieve in free­dom of ex­pres­sion'. Sim­i­larly, af­ter the at­tack on Army Public School-Pe­shawar, the Lal Masjid cleric openly re­fused to con­demn the Tal­iban who claimed the re­spon­si­bil­ity of killing 146 chil­dren.

This is the lethal in­ter­pre­ta­tion and mind set of Mus­lim cler­gies. Hav­ing nu­mer­i­cal strength in al­most 50 coun­tries, Is­lam today is the sec­ond largest re­li­gion. Its growth is mul­ti­ply­ing fast in Europe. How to un­der­stand it all? Ra­tio­nal­ism de­feated: The ear­li­est Is­lamic tra­di­tion was based on the teach­ings of the Prophet Muham­mad. It was a time when re­li­gion and govern­ment was un­der the com­mand of the Prophet in a very tra­di­tional set­ting suited to the Arab world pri­mar­ily based on Oral Cul­ture that had still to wit­ness the read­ing and writ­ing sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to Wal­ter J. Ong. Ong has writ­ten in de­tail about as­pects of oral cul­tures in his fa­mous book Oral­ity And Lit­er­acy.

The re­li­gious de­crees were con­cep­tu­al­ized and im­ple­mented by the Prophet. Richard Os­borne notes that such teach­ings were not philo­soph­i­cal but 'a sim­ple monothe­ism full of the chival­rous Be­douin sen­ti­ments of the desert - kind­li­ness, gen­eros­ity and brother­hood.'

Af­ter the demise of Prophet, the in­ter­nal clash­ing among Mus­lims caused a het­ero­ge­neous Is­lamic so­ci­ety de­riv­ing its im­pulse from mul­ti­ple in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the holy text. Verses from Qu­ran were in­ter­preted on sec­tar­ian foot­ings. Large Ha­dith cor­puses were de­vel­oped un­der var­i­ous Is­lamic dy­nas­ties for their own po­lit­i­cal mo­tives. Dr. Ghu­lam Ji­lani Barq has shown in a very de­tailed way the pol­i­tics be­hind Ha­dith lit­er­a­ture in his works.

Ex­pos­ing prophetic or­ders and the Qu­ranic text to mul­ti­ple in­ter­pre­ta­tions caused a huge frag­men­ta­tion among Mus­lims. The emer­gence of Is­lamic or­tho­doxy: the Ashar­ri­ats, and Is­lamic re­formists: the Mu'tazilites, shaped the Mus­lim so­ci­ety's in­tel­lec­tual and tra­di­tional nar­ra­tives both of which are equally ap­peal­ing to the Is­lamic so­ci­eties cur­rently.

Both the Or­tho­dox and Ra­tio­nal­ist mo­ment com­peted for sur­vival. How­ever, for a num­ber of rea­sons, the ra­tio­nal­ist move­ment that started with Kundi in 830 ended soon in 1100 with Aver­roes (Ibn-e-Rushd).

The philo­soph­i­cal world that emerged in Arab lands ended in Arab world. Un­for­tu­nately, the deep philo­soph­i­cal ideas emerg­ing from Arab world could not get the at­ten­tion they de­served in other Is­lamic coun­tries.

On the other hand, the Or­tho­dox in­ter­pre­ta­tions also emerg­ing from the Arab lands were ac­cepted much rapidly by other Is­lamic coun­tries. The most no­table among were the ideas of Muham­mad Ibn-e-Ab­dul Wa­hab and Has­san-al-Banna. Both these thoughts - deeply or­tho­dox in their man­i­fes­ta­tion -- deeply af­fected the so­cial, re­li­gious and eco­nomic rubrics of the Is­lamic world. Mod­er­ate Is­lam was re­placed by or­tho­dox Is­lam, which fur­ther played a sig­nif­i­cant role in cre­at­ing all the Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ist groups in Mus­lim coun­tries like TTP, AlQaida, ISIS, Boko-Haram. They all have a global agenda of the Is­lamic Sharia sys­tem. There are also lo­cal mil­i­tant out­fits that have lo­cal agen­das of up­root­ing Is­lamic mi­nori­ties.

While the ra­tio­nal­ist Mus­lim thoughts in the Is­lamic world sur­vived for a very brief time pe­riod, the or­tho­dox thoughts were suc­cess­fully ex­ported/im­ported among the Is­lamic coun­tries en­thu­si­as­ti­cally for a greater time pe­riod.

Whereas the Greeks were for­mu­lat­ing ways for a sus­tained democ­racy in the 6th cen­tury BC, the ma­jor­ity of Mus­lim so­ci­eties are still gov­erned through monar­chic rule and limited democ­ra­cies. Thus deal­ing with a wider so­ci­ety that lives in the 21st cen­tury but lacks the re­fine ideas of gov­er­nance and democ­racy of the 6th cen­tury BC, needs a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Today, Mus­lim or­tho­dox schol­ars are try­ing to con­trol women. This could be wit­nessed in the case of Boko-Haram's kid­nap­ping school­go­ing girls; Tal­iban's bomb­ing girl schools, and Laal Masjid's at­tacks on 'sex work­ers' in Is­lam­abad. Such teach­ings were fre­quent dur­ing the dark ages. Chris­tian mis­sion­ar­ies wrote sim­i­lar treaties to force women. For ex­am­ple St. Jerome penned down de­tailed trea­tise about de­cent liv­ing of women.

Mod­er­ate Is­lam --- as ar­gued by many schol­ars--- in fact is ei­ther the in­di­vid­ual quest of a few ra­tio­nal­ist Mus­lim in­di­vid­u­als who paid the high­est price for their pro­gres­sive at­ti­tudes or dy­nas­tic pa­tron­age of in­tel­lec­tual tra­di­tions in Is­lamic so­ci­eties. The two im­por­tant fac­tors that led to fall of this in­tel­lec­tual tra­di­tion were the grad­ual de­cline of Is­lamic rul­ing dy­nas­ties and the per­se­cu­tions of Mus­lim in­tel­lec­tu­als.

Many of the Mus­lim sci­en­tists and ra­tio­nal­ist thinkers were de­clared heretics and they were pun­ished ac­cord­ingly. Just imag­ine in the con­text of Pak­istan the case of Syed Sibt-e-Has­san, who spent most of his life in jail un­der the Zia regime. Like­wise, Dr. Fazl-ur-Rehman and Dr. Ab­dus Salam were forced to leave the coun­try. In more re­cent times, peo­ple like Ji­bran Nasir de­mand­ing Madres­sah re­forms are be­ing de­clared western stooges and Ah­madi agents. Such is the price for tak­ing steps to pro­mote ra­tio­nal­ity and mod­er­a­tion. It is not only in Pak­istan, but the case of Mus­lims who stand and speak for moder­nity, lib­erty and sep­a­ra­tion of state and re­li­gion is the same all over the Mus­lim world: in­tim­i­da­tions, threats, per­se­cu­tion and what not! Blurred case: The case of mod­er­ate Is­lam is blurred. The Qu­ran is in­ter­preted in line with sec­tar­ian, po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal at­tach­ments. Aha­dith are con­tro­ver­sial, each Is­lamic sect be­liev­ing in a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of them. Minute de­tails of prayer meth­ods, fasting times, Azans word­ings are cre­at­ing greater con­tro­ver­sies. Ac­cep­tance of each other is erod­ing and li­cense to kill the lesser Mus­lim is get­ting dra­matic pop­u­lar­ity.

The schol­ars who have writ­ten ex­ten­sively on re­for­ma­tion and en­light­en­ment at­tribute four main fac­tors to its orig­i­na­tion: (a) grad­ual ero­sion of the church and monar­chial power-re­la­tion, (b) North Euro­pean Chris­tian's ag­i­ta­tion against church ex­ploita­tion, (c) the rise of hu­man­ism in Italy, and (d) sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies and philo­soph­i­cal de­bates against the Chris­tian teach­ings.

Can these four con­di­tions ap­ply to Is­lamic coun­tries today? The an­swer is a sim­ple 'No'. The power nexus be­tween states and re­li­gious cler­gies is stronger. In cer­tain Is­lamic coun­tries, in fact, state af­fairs are dic­tated by re­li­gious cler­gies. Their power is max­i­miz­ing with the pas­sage of time. Chal­leng­ing their mo­nop­oly leads to death. As far as chal­leng­ing the in­doc­tri­nated false teach­ing is con­cerned, even a modest de­mand of cur­ricu­lum re­form in sem­i­nar­ies cre­ates a storm. The re­cent 'Re­claim Your Mosque' cam­paign in Pak­istan shows the dan­ger­ous con­se­quence of such de­mands. A re­cent re­port in Pak­istan's lead­ing news­pa­per Dwan notes that even the sem­i­nary teach­ers con­fess their grad­u­ates' in­volve­ment with ter­ror­ist out­fits, yet the re­form is un­ac­cept­able to the ma­jor­ity of these teach­ers.

On a par­al­lel side, we have the most dan­ger­ous fat­was com­ing from the noted Mus­lim schol­ars hav­ing a large fol­low­ing. The fat­was in­clude Saudi Grand Mufti's con­cept of 'The Sun re­volv­ing around the Earth', Con­vict­ing 15 Men, Women for Min­gling at Party, breast feed­ing the co-work­ers, 'Necrophilia to be Ha­lal', and the Ira­nian fatwa blam­ing 'scant­ily clad women for earth­quakes'.

The schol­ars com­ment­ing on re­nais­sance and re­for­ma­tion, how­ever, ig­nore the com­mon peo­ple in this in­tel­lec­tual process. With­out their ac­cep­tance of the philo­soph­i­cal de­bates; the re­for­ma­tion would have per­ished away. The com­mon masses in the West also dis­posed of their me­di­ae­val thoughts and ac­com­mo­dated the on­go­ing philo­soph­i­cal de­bates. The western ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tutes highly ap­pre­ci­ated teach­ing phi­los­o­phy as a sub­ject. These two fac­tors are also miss­ing in Is­lamic so­ci­eties where a ma­jor­ity of peo­ple still be­lieve their re­li­gious ideas to be the fi­nal source of truth. Phi­los­o­phy is a highly ig­nored sub­ject in Is­lamic coun­tries. In the case of Pak­istan, phi­los­o­phy is taught in 9 out of 49 uni­ver­si­ties in which so­cial sciences and hu­man­i­ties is be­ing taught. Is­lamic stud­ies is taught in 29 uni­ver­si­ties, by con­trast.

Today, the glo­ri­ous Is­lamic pe­riod of sci­en­tific rev­o­lu­tion has been re­placed with the or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­mote a my­opic and tun­nel vi­sion of both Is­lam and the world. Hope for a mod­er­ate, re­formed Is­lam is hard to en­ter­tain. - Cour­tesy: View­point.

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