By Rabia Ahmed
November 4, 2015
The country’s already struggling to survive
Do we really need the Council of Islamic Ideology?
At a time when what Pakistan needs most is unity the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), along with many of our other religious institutions and personalities, is focused on promoting divisiveness, and negativity.
The chairperson of the CII, Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, can be found on Facebook where he expresses in particularly vituperative terms his displeasure with the media and political analysts, accusing the “munafiq” media of distorting his words, and the “liberal” “mulhideen” analysts for presuming to comment on Islam “although” he says “they do not even know how to perform ablutions.”
In a similar vein, he singles out Hassan Nisar and Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, dismissing Nisar with an adjective which I will not repeat and Dr Hoodbhoy with the term ‘Pervezi’, which has come to mean a person who attempts to rationalise religion.
It is interesting how the word ‘liberal’ and the concept of a rational religion hold such derogatory connotations for people like the Maulana, whose comments are reproduced here, translated from Urdu:
“Are all religious scholars dead in Pakistan that you (the media) invite such persons to debate upon religion? Has it ever happened that you have sought an opinion on medical or scientific matters from a religious scholar? No! Then why do you subject deen to such injustice?”
The chairperson of the CII has clearly forgotten the occasions on which the CII offered opinions on medical and scientific matters. An example is when the CII ruled that DNA results cannot be used as primary evidence in rape, adding that they could be used as supporting evidence alone.
For the purpose of debating the above point let’s examine the word ‘deen’ which is defined as ‘submission, following and worship by man for the Creator, in a comprehensive system of life with all its belief, intellectual, moral and practical aspects.’ Given this definition, any person has a right to speak on any sphere of life and to be heard with due respect.
Islam leaves it to Allah to judge each individual’s intentions, recommending ‘beautiful preaching’ not disdain and abusive labels. (‘Invite all to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for the Lord knoweth best who have strayed from His path, and who receive guidance. ‘ Sura 16, The Bee, verse 125).
Our ulema tend to forget this, lost as they are amongst questions regarding women.
The CII currently has three items on its agenda which its chairperson is seeking to debate if supported by the other members of the council. These items are: 1) The question of Ahmadis and whether they should be classified as non-Muslims as they are at present, or as those who have left the fold (murtad) 2) Jizya, whether this tax which was once levied on non-Muslims should now be levied on non-Muslims in Pakistan 3) Determination of which sects come within the umbrella of Islamic ideology and which fall outside.
In an unstable atmosphere such as exists in Pakistan today is there scope for deliberation over such volatile matters? Should we not instead concentrate on strengthening our values and institutions paying attention to education, tolerance, patience, peace, peace and peace again? Ahmadis, already labelled ‘non-Muslim’, continue to endure discrimination and violence. The mind boggles at the consequences if they are now labelled as murtad since according to the anti-rationalist mindset the punishment for leaving the religion is death. In any case they cannot be murtad since they call themselves Muslim. Besides who are we to judge otherwise? Remember the words of the Quran quoted above.
We are already witnessing a mass migration of people around the world, refugees who have been driven out by those in whose creation we have a hand. Do we really wish to add to that? Do we really wish to add to the murders that already weigh on our conscience?
Jizya is levied on the non-Muslim population of an Islamic country, which segment is then guaranteed protection. We are neither an Islamic country, nor are we capable of guaranteeing protection to anyone, Muslim or otherwise, nor can the poverty stricken people of this country afford more taxation.
The question of who falls within the jurisdiction of Islamic ideology and who falls outside it has no bearing on the problems currently being faced by this country. What we should really be pondering is: How can we, all the people of Pakistan together, best work towards peace and progress in this country and around the world?
Should our legislature be advised by a body such as the CII, a body that was brought into being by a man who became head of state without constitutional sanction? Are we willing to debate matters which will undermine a country already struggling to survive?