Religion and politics | By Askari Raza Malik


Religion and politics

1958-59, Islamia College Peshawar, the topic for Urdu debate was, “Juda ho Din Siasat se to rehjati hai Changezi”. (The separation of religion from politics results in tyranny).

No prequalification was necessary. Religion was not the forbidden domain open only to the Madrassa worthy.

The British had recently left Pakistan. Pakistan was still more liberal than suggested by the draft Constitution presented by Liaqat Ali Khan.

The legacies of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulvi Chiragh Ali and justice Amir Ali still lingered in the intellectual corridors. Religious philosophy and theosophy stood distinctly apart from theology.

That allowed the mere college students to debate the issues like religion and politics without scorn from the religion owners.

Rituals according to many renown religious scholars, including Maulana Moudodi are the outward images of Islam, ‘the body’.

‘The soul’ appears in the value system enshrined in the Quranic code of human and social relations practiced by the Prophet (PBUH) to perfection leaving behind the best model for us to adopt. That is Din. It cannot be separated from any activity in life.

Theology is personal. Din is universal. Every conscious Muslim is historically wedded to some basic assertions in religion.

The foremost is the doctrine, ‘There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet’.

The first part is an unparalleled source of strength and steadfastness among the true believers.

During his trying umpteen years in prison, Nelson Mandela whenever on the verge took inspiration from Imam Hussain’s patience and fortitude to stand fast for his just cause.

The second part of the doctrine is the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) demanding his absolute obedience. All other assertions seem to emanate from Muhammad (PBUH) as the focal point.

The reverence for his (PBUH) progeny, consorts and companions, Hadiths and Sunnah are bound in one enormous package of sheer devotion to him (PBUH).

Unflinching love for the Prophet (PBUH) is our common denominator regardless of sect or intra-sect antagonism.

Slight aspersions on his (PBUH) person could evoke extreme emotions including violence. That is what IK has been trying to tell the non-Muslim world.

The Righteous Successors of the Prophet (PBUH) painstakingly discharged both their temporal and pontifical obligations.

As the monarchs slowly drifted away from their public religious commitments, the pious and the learned filled the vacuum. This prompted the unintended emergence of clergy in Islam.

The Ummayeds ruled ruthlessly. They felt no need for the clerical support. The Abbasids deliberately used the Ulema to legitimize their rule in the face of Fatimide concern.

The Ulema obliged obsequiously. Thus, the most consequential contribution of the clergy in politics came as a lavish application of the Quranic ‘Verse of Obedience’, (4:59), whereas anyone with the brute power to rule was the Uli al-Amr and entitled to the same exclusive obedience that was due to God and His Prophet (PBUH).

This blanket sanction gave the Muslim rulers the Divine right to demand unconditional obedience from their subjects as done by the medieval European monarchs, ushering an era of unending slavery for the Muslims.

As deadly was the clergy’s invention of sects, mutual hate and divisions in open defiance of the very concept of Muslim brotherhood ordained in the Quran.

During the entire period of Muslim rule, religion had never played any worthwhile part in politics.

Undue emphasis on fervent indulgence in rituals, called Islam, helped build a beautiful façade without substance. The clergy relished its leading role in ritualistic glamour.

The monarchs enjoyed absolute power at the insignificant cost of placating a compliant clergy.

Famous names like Nizam ul Mulk and Ghazali wedded to ‘Predeterminism’ did frame some high-sounding governess principles for ‘the kings’ but had no mechanism to offer to either ensure justice or accountability.

The dynastic rule had no taste for such delicacies. The clergy supported rulers, dead and alive. It never dared vie for power.

It was only after the demise of fantasy Caliphate of Ottoman Empire that the thinkers and the Ulema began to search for a truly Islamic State.

In the 20th century the hard-line conservative Muslim scholars, mostly of Wahabi beliefs, unlike their mentors, Ibn e Tamiya or Ibn Abdul Wahab, aggressively sought political power to implement their concept of an Islamic State.Syed Qutab, Allama Moudodi, Muhammad Asad and Shiite Khomeini proposed more or less identical dispensations based on Sharia.

At the same time the modernists of Aligarh School and Dr. Ali Shariati forwarded their own perceptions that saw traditions more in metaphorical rather than literate light. Syed Qutab was hanged.

Maulana Moudodi’s JI is gripped with a severe leadership drought. JUI (F) is a victim of its leader’s unscrupulous politicking. Elsewhere also the extremists are losing ground.

The Ikhwan of Saudi Arabia were completely wiped out by King Saud. Bangladesh is weary of the extreme right.

Extremism was forced out of Algiers and Egypt. It is bound to meet the same fate in Africa and Iran.

Pakistan provides blooming meadows for the religious mediocrity to flourish. The ability to create chaos is Islamists’ shared strength.

The latest is TLP (Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan) which claims to be the sole custodian of the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

That claim is not only ludicrous; it constitutes a naked insult to the loyalty of rest of the Muslim Ummah.

The reasons provided to the enemy for abuse are of our own creation. The sensually obsessed mindset of the pre-Islamic Bedouin deliberately implicated prominent Muslims in the web of fanciful notions.

When Brigadier Hamid Saeed Akhtar (retd) published his research paper on the age of Mother of the believers Hazrat Ayesha (RA), his own Ale Hadith community vehemently condemned him.

The predisposition of the religious to resort to violence on the smallest pretext creates chaos at home and aggravates Islamophobia abroad.

This propensity to act a state within the state must be firmly eradicated whatever the cost.

Pakistan’s political landscape, already oversaturated has no space left to accommodate a theocratic dream.

— The writer, a retired Maj Gen, is Rawalpindi-based contributing columnist and author of book, “Pakistan in search of a Mesiah.

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