16 November 2018
I am receiving calls from agitated readers of an original NewAgeIslam.com article published on 2 August, 2018, reproduced by Urdu daily Inqilab today, of course, without acknowledgement, as is the custom with Urdu Press in India. This was written by our regular columnist Mr. Ghulam Rasool Dehlavi and is titled: How Imran Khan Will Set Up Medina-Like Islamic Welfare State? The paragraph which is troubling readers is the following:
“Some would argue that Meccan Islamic principles, as compared to the Madinite period of Islam, was more pluralistic, peaceful and inclusivist, though under compulsive circumstances. However, the Islamic state in Madina witnessed an aggressive phase including Ghazwas (Islamic battles), enactment of blasphemy laws, extradition of Jews and Christians, abrogation of the peaceful verses of Qur'an such as La Ikraha Fid-Deen (“No coercion in matters of Religion”).”
I am being asked the following questions: How can a New Age Islam columnist say that verses such as La Ikraha fid Deen which are the fulcrum of moderate Islam were abrogated in the Islamic State of Madina, when the Prophet (saw) himself was running its affairs. Were blasphemy laws indeed enacted in Madina during the Prophet’s time, when New Age Islam has been maintaining that blasphemy laws have no basis in Islam? Does New Age Islam now believe in the Doctrine of Abrogation, when it has been almost for a decade saying that none of the verses in Quran has been abrogated, though some war-time verses may not be applicable to us today? What is the meaning of “compulsive circumstances” under which the pluralistic, peaceful and inclusivist verses of Quran were revealed at Makkah? Does this mean that Quran ordered Muslims to remain peaceful only because they had no other option? If these contradictions between inclusivist and xenophobic instructions of Quran arose during the Prophet’s time itself, how can you blame later Islamic theologians like Ibn-e-Taimiya as is your custom for the present-day confusion? If Prophet himself changed from being pluralist and inclusivist in Makkah and early Madina to being intolerant and xenophobic who later evicted all religious minorities from the land of Islam, what is wrong in Pakistan starting as a secular and pluralistic nation as propounded by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and then later turning intolerant of minorities?
I would simply like to ensure people who have called me to put these and similar questions that New Age Islam remains consistent in its approach, though we allow our columnists complete freedom of expression. Even in this case, I do not think Mr. Dehlavi holds the views expressed in the offending paragraph. He did start this paragraph with the words “some would argue.” It is possible to argue that this “some” includes him too, but I don’t think that would be correct. The tone and the tenor of the entire article gives a different view. As I understand, he is merely wondering if Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan would go by the early vision of Prophet’s Islamic State in Madina or by the later policies which are supposed to have abrogated the previous policies in the view of Islamic theologians followed by the terror ideologues of Pakistan. He seems to be merely seeking clarification as to which Madina model will Mr. Imran Khan follow: the early Madina model of Meesaq-e-Madina when multi-culturalism ruled or the policies of the time when “the Islamic state in Madina witnessed an aggressive phase including Ghazwas (Islamic battles), enactment of blasphemy laws, extradition of Jews and Christians, abrogation of the peaceful verses of Qur'an such as La Ikraha Fid-Deen (“No coercion in matters of Religion.”
In any case, NewAgeIslam.com has always believed in debate and discussion on a non-sectarian and neutral platform. Readers are welcome to express themselves on the contentious issues raised here. Primarily, what is agitating readers is that an author associated with New Age Islam for long is implying that Islam changed its policies from inclusivism and pluralism of Makkah and early Madina days to exclusivism and intolerance of religious minorities during the Prophet’s time in Madina itself. I invite all interested readers to put forward their views on the subject.