Slogans cannot turn Pakistan into an Islamic State

Developing Just Leadership

K M Azam

Jumada' al-Akhirah 10, 1419 1998-10-01


by K M Azam (Features, Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 15, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1419)

There is a strong emotional resurgence in all strata of Pakistani society for the re-establishment of Islam in their lives. However, there is no consensus on the outlines of the Islamic system. To desire a return to Islamic polity is one thing; to visualize that reality in all its concrete forms is another.

Mere slogans for an Islamic revolution will not solve the current dilemma nor will Pakistan attain the status of an Islamic State by simply introducing hijab for women and shari’ punishments (hadud) for certain crimes. The usurpation of governmental powers by a group of self-appointed ‘guardians of Islam,’ who conceive of themselves, against all Islamic tenets, as a body of ordained clergy, will not help either. Such ulama find ready support among certain powerful factions in Muslim countries who, while fully aware of what the real Islamic order implies, cleverly resist it because they regard it to be against their own vested interests.

The problem with some religious leaders and scholars is their pedantic attitude of concentrating not on cardinal issues but on spurious detail. Usually their opinions are so indecisive, contradictory and controversial that they can hardly be useful to public policy formulation. These ulama and fuqaha have focused attention on discovering doubts rather than removing them, resulting in volumes of indecisive literature.

Little do they realize that it is their rigidity, inflexibility and insistence on

hair-splitting details that have given the ruling classes in Pakistan an excuse in not promulgating the Shari’ah. In the last 50 years, whenever a religio-political movement has demanded implementation of the Shari’ah, the secular rulers of Pakistan have excused themselves on the pretext that conflicting opinions of the religious establishment prevent them from doing so.

What is needed today is a constitution, which while being genuinely Islamic, takes all the practical requirements of the time into consideration. This is fully in accord with our belief that the socio- economic system of Islam is valid for all times. However, having said this, we immediately come across a dilemma. The classical Islamic literature, overlaid as it is by centuries of scholarly accretions, offers few practical guidelines on this issue.

A thousand years of kalam (Theological Philosophy) and fiqh (Canonical Jurisprudence) have made the original simplicity of Islam largely illusory. Between them, these two disciplines have produced not one but many systems and Schools of Thought. There is

practically not a single problem of law, great or small, on which various schools fully agree. As regards kalam, the divergences are much more pronounced and, as a rule, much more violently expressed than in fiqh.

Thus, the Shari’ah, which is the life-breath of Islam, has been made wholly inaccessible to the understanding of an ordinary Muslim. The natural result is his estrangement from the true spirit of faith. In view of the intricacies of fiqh, the Muslim is left with little choice but to rely blindly on the opinions of the fuqaha (jurists). In other words, he has to practise taqlid (imitation) which is anti-thetical to a Muslim’s duty to think and reflect, aspects repeatedly stressed in the Qur’an.

The practice of taqlid into which the Muslim community has been driven opened the way to a most unfortunate development: namely, the blind following of authority which has since pervaded Muslim society. Locked in habitual taqlid, Muslim intellectual and social life fell into complete stagnation from the fourth century AH onwards. Whatever error of thought the early, pious generations (ahl as-salaf as-saleh) might have committed was unquestioningly incorporated into the structure of conventional fiqh, and hardly a door was left open for later corrections. This proved to be particularly disastrous for the Islamic civilization which had been built solely on religion.

The trouble with some Muslims is their great capacity for self- deception, unconsciously confusing their self-interest with that of Islam. The institution of a true Islamic order in the Muslim world will not be an easy task after centuries of external domination which has sapped the strength of the Muslim community, corrupted its intellectual vigour and undermined its moral fibre.

As a result, a large section of the contemporary Muslim elite find it difficult to think outside western political and social terms. Most of the present day conceptual problems in the Muslim world are the result of attempts to amalgamate western concepts with notions of Islam. Contemporary Muslim thinking on the subject suffers from too great a readiness in accepting western social and political concepts, many of which are diametrically opposed to Islamic ideology.

The only way open for us is to turn to the original sources of Islamic law - the Qur’an and Sunnah - for delineating the outlines and contents of a truly Islamic system. It is a great pity that such an obvious truth had remained obscure for so long: that the Medina Caliphate was truly Islamic in that it fully reflected the pristine teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, free of all later-day theological accretions and speculations.

Standing up boldly against mere conventions to free the eternal law of Islam of all that goes beyond the self-evident ordinances of the Qur’an and the Sunnah represents the first step towards a full-fledged adoption of the Islamic system.

Islam is a complete and integrated code that cannot be implemented partially. In fact, its partial application will enhance zulm (tyranny) rather than falah (welfare). The Shari’ah represents a total way of life based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It cannot be introduced as a mere penal code for penal code alone cannot make a man moral or cure social ills in a society.

The objective of the Shari’ah is to establish justice and truth in society. The application of Shari’ah is simply not possible in a non-Islamic system of politics, economy and administration. Islamic laws related to punishments were revealed to protect the society in which Islam was being applied. How can Islamic penal laws be applied in a capitalistic society, which thrives on exploitation of the masses?

Muslimedia: October 1-15, 1998

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