“When I go to the West, I see Islam without Muslims. But when I come back to the East, I see Muslims without Islam.”
“When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favoured beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.”
Why does one write, is a question I have often asked myself. It is said that by writing one communicates to others and proffers a committed opinion since that opinion is now permanent. Great people and renowned thinkers have committed their views in the past as well, with good effect on individuals, communities and societies.
Aristotle taught us that pathos (emotional feeling), lagos (logical appeal) and ethos (ethical values) define communication in its true sense. Plato was convinced that oral lessons were far more effective than written scripts and he feared that his deepest beliefs would be read by people unable to understand the truth and worse still, fall prey to misinterpretation. Those were the Greeks who developed a civilization 500 years BC. Yet there were the Romans, the Chinese and the Egyptians too who developed communication, values, and social principles.
A person such as I can never fall anywhere near the category of such thinkers or philosophers. People such as I write from our own experiences and our own observations. These are not always totally correct but neither are they totally wrong – they are just opinions. Some can generate a discussion, others a debate, maybe even an argument but hopefully, after dissection of the substance and criticism of the thought, we manage to arrive at a constructive outcome.
This paper is not intended to be a religious expose, but it does have religious matter because we in Pakistan have decided to call ourselves ‘The Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ and it is appropriate to examine what such a label/title really implies. How do our lives get affected by being an Islamic Republic, how does our wellbeing stand out as better than those who are not such a Republic?
So to begin with, what civilization do we belong to? It has been a lingering question in my mind. From where can we draw lessons to life and living, that have inspired us to become who we are or what we are not? Some say it is Islam, but we as a people, as a nation, as a civilization surely we pre-date Islam as an ideology, by thousands of years – what were we before Islam gave us this precious principle of conscience to govern our lives? Were we lesser people before and have we benefited by adopting the salient dictates of Islam; but did then we actually adopt such dictates or simply juxtaposed a title awarding ourselves with a name that we never deserved to have?
So, I have compared ourselves to the multitude of mankind, those who are all around us and everywhere, so-called unbelievers, neither Muslims nor from Islamic Countries – are we really better than them?
Pakistan’s Islamic Identity
We proudly claim that Pakistan was a country that was made in the name of Islam, though I do not necessarily agree with it, since in my understanding, Islam is too big a phenomenon to be integrated into nation-building or civilization structuring. The conventions, traditions and resolutions of societies governed by worldly principles shall always be subordinated by divine doctrines. It is these doctrines, evolving through history that inspire the social order we live in, but reason and rational is an applied human measure that balances the spiritual with the material. However, religion should never be relegated to the level of mundane administrative and organizational systems that govern the world in general and societies in particular.
For instance, dress or how we wear it should not become a symbol of religious identity, just as language has nothing religious about it, or on which side of the road we drive establishes our faith. Custom, social norms, tradition and culture can never be a reflection of one’s divine beliefs since these are evolved practices over time and usually neither contradict ideology nor challenge it. It is why Islam was famous for its inclusivity, embracing cultures from Europe, Asia, and Africa and was never threatened by diversity but instead welcomed it. Culture can live side by side with an ideology – adjusting, adapting, and modifying how it’s applied in preference to social norms and practices.
I shall not expand upon my reasons for disagreeing with the popular analogy that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam since it would not only distract the substance of this paper but become an unnecessarily lengthy document. I shall leave that for another time and a different occasion.
Pakistan as an Islamic Republic: ‘Objectives Resolution’
For now, to further my argument, I shall thus accept the general belief that, that is how it was and take it forward from there. So Pakistan supposedly won recognition for being a unique ideological State then set out to structure its constitution in accordance with its sacred beliefs. It started with the insertion of the ‘Objectives Resolution’, declared Islam as a State religion and changed its name from the Republic of Pakistan to Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
I am still searching for how the country benefited from these stated positions, ideological alignments, and strong commitment to faith in the individual and collective sense and remain challenged in discovering what good it did to us as a nation. Did we become a better people? This did not happen, but as we busied ourselves in politicizing our religion, making Islam a political agenda for scoring points, we screamed rhetorical slogans, and learnt to value form over substance. Obsessed with form and not substance, we forgot Almighty, busy in pursuit of displaying the motions of us being a good Muslim to society while remaining indifferent to the dictates of Allah.
Our society thus gradually became more and more confused between a sin and a crime, and in our quest to demonstrate our piety we filled our mosques with humanity, yet no child was safe on our streets. Our measure of being a Muslim is not in the practices we undertake but more in what we can display to others – as a society we are more obsessed with what people think of us than what Allah knows what lies in our hearts and minds.
Our understanding of Islam does not focus on what really makes a Muslim and how does Islam direct every individual to divide one’s divine obligations, though the concept stands out clearly and unambiguously – let the Almighty deal with what lies in his domain (hukook-ul-Allah) and let man deal with what lies in his domain (Hukook-ul-abad), explained appropriately later on in the paper. When such clarity between the divine and the worldly clearly exists, yet differentiation between the spiritual and the material is still not understood in general. This terrible lack of understanding gives license and space to preachers to spew their venom. Every uneducated firebrand demagogue takes it upon himself to represent the divine amongst us lesser mortals while he mesmerizes the masses with his personal knowledge of hell and heaven.
These people invent religious matter to suit their arguments and to serve their own purpose and with feigned solemnity, the appropriate decorum, and practiced dignity, we declare ourselves as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – for all to see, observe, and suffer but which no one wants to emulate.
Comparison with Other Islamic Republics
The other States that have decided to call themselves Islamic Republics are Mauritania and Iran, making a total of three such nations, including Pakistan, to have chosen to identify themselves with the Islamic Ideology. The former, Mauritania, is recognized for its total indifference to human rights and the only country in the world that still tolerates slavery; the latter has a problem with the world in general but because their Islam is derived from a different sect than the one that is in Pakistan, it is generally on a collision course with our own great divines here in Pakistan. So Iran and Pakistan define Islam in different ways, which is why ‘Sharia’ is called into question – whose Sharia?
My highly unqualified and humble suggestion to those who wish to establish an Islamic Order is to first equip themselves with the appropriate understanding and knowledge of how to go about it, that is if they already have not done so. If they have, then most stand in violation of the dictates of Islam as ordained. Here I would refer to ‘Allamah Abu al-‘A’la Mawdudi al Tawhid Journal, vol. IV No. 3 Rajab- Ramadhan 1407’, and other such terms of reference that is available everywhere.
Principles of Islamic Governance
The Islamic system of governance, evolves around four basic principles: individual and collective liberty/freedom, Justice, establishing of peace and stability and an equal opportunity to all to earn for their well-being. This defines an Islamic Republic and not the mambo-jumbo that our own divines come up with; it is also the only four things Moses asked of the Pharaoh.
In Islam, it is Allah who has bestowed human rights upon mankind and no one take that away from an individual or a community regardless of their colour, caste, creed, or beliefs. Those who violate this, for them, ‘those who do not judge by what God has sent down are dis Believers (kafirun). 5:44. The Quran is very clear about how one should conduct oneself, human rights and governance, taking or a saving a life, helping society etc. that one can go and on but again, it would be a digression from what this paper really wants to discuss.
Nevertheless, it would still be appropriate to draw one’s attention towards some selected but relevant passages from the Quran in matters that affect us deeply: “Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression” (5:2). “And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness” (5:8). Stressing this point, the Quran again says: “You who believe stand steadfast before God as witness for (truth and) fairplay” (4:135). Finally, I would be amiss, if I did not mention the following: “Do not spy on one another” (49:12). “Do not enter any houses except your own homes unless you are sure of their occupants’ consent” (24:27). Though such directions, guidance and instructions are so clearly stipulated in our scriptures, yet there is a daily but proud display of videos and phone tapping, screaming, ‘Eureka, I have found it!’, and then the regular raiding of houses and homes without warrants, the total lack of fair play, violation of the constitution and law etc. etc. Where does this then finally leave us and how can we with a straight face call ourselves an Islamic Republic?
Contradictions and Hypocrisy
The popular perception that remains in vogue and continues to grow, is that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam, that it is the only country (other than Israel) to have come into existence because of its ideology – thus effectively making it an ideological state. However, with claims to being an Islamic State with a Muslim majority, then there is a huge obligation on the part of the nation to demonstrate the high standards of justice, social norms, life and living inspired by this commitment towards divinity.
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A commitment that has been so proclaimed and chosen freely by the people themselves, without force or fraud. By this measure, Pakistan is now obliged to demonstrate to the world what an Islamic State looks like and should be. But, with our people engrossed in empty rhetoric, high on slogans and lacking in substance, we are recognised to be the most shameless people on earth. What’s worse, it does not matter to us or anyone amongst us, as to what our reputation is – we just bravely march on.
Devoid of honour, self-respect or pride, we set out to demonstrate to the world at large what an Islamic country must never be: corrupt, dishonest and deceitful. Our proudest moment is when we secure a loan from unbelievers in the west, we enslave our own people, who amazingly, are joyfully willing to be enslaved, our corruption is directly proportional to the access we have to where we can practice it; no one in this Holy land can claim innocence from corrupt practices – one does whatever one can in this Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Our judiciary is recognised to be amongst the worst in the world, our passport is the least acceptable, our corruption stands amongst the highest rated, our human rights non-existent, our education system fake and flawed and not recognised anywhere – we wait for the world to throw scraps at us that everyone tries to get his hands on, and having gotten it, devour it in a feeding frenzy like starving animals.
No laws apply, nothing is regulated, standards are never established in what we produce. Our children have stunted growth because of adulterated milk and people die drinking polluted water. Carrion is served in the streets, road-kill cooked and sold along the Grand Trunk Road. With such an unfortunate outlook, yet ours remains the loudest protest when our Holy Book is desecrated, we aggressively demand satisfaction when someone tries to/insinuates anything against our Holy Prophet. Yet no one anywhere in the world can insult Islam or Muslims more than we do on a day to day basis, in our routine, in the lives we live, by the conduct and behaviour we display.
There is no greater desecration to our divine beliefs because of the low values we have reserved for ourselves, the lack of equality amongst our people, justice that does not exist and the total absence of humanity. There is nothing Islamic about our bearing, posture or attitude and none of us are Muslims by definition, thought, deed or practice. We need to fix this first before we go on to change the attitude of some loan lunatic in Sweden or Norway; by this classification, we ourselves, collectively, show a far greater range of lunacy than any individual who is miles away, can ever do. No one and nothing on this earth, can ever desecrate our belief more than we do ourselves and it is we, the people, of this so-called, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, who need to stand trial for the disservice we do to Islam.
Mohenjo-daro and Regress in Pakistan
Mohenjo-daro existed 2500 BC and had a planned layout with rectilinear buildings arranged in a grid pattern. With a population of 40,000 people, it covered 300 hectares. It had a water supply system, a sewerage and solid waste disposal arrangement, and a granary. When attention is drawn to this historical site, one’s head can only hang in shame when one compares it with our cities and towns in the ‘land of the pure – Pakistan’.
Yet the rhetoric one comes across on television from the so-called administrators and managers of our affairs is so akin to the senseless barking of a mad dog where one experiences – all noise and no action. The gross indifference towards basic responsibilities and functional obligations or duties is conspicuous and widespread. People gleefully settle into the cradle of leadership, hooting on their way up to nowhere, in which they and they alone are the sole beneficiaries of the high office they hold.
Here is where material issues are first identified that need to be shaped in line with financial benefits of those who rule and then laws are made to cultivate those issues in accordance with those benefits they seek. And those who are ruled; they jeer and cheer, applauding the travesty of false legislation unfolding before them in broad daylight as if they too will somehow benefit from such a mockery of governance, that a bone maybe thrown their way too.
As these thieves, burglars, and swindlers merrily aspire for high office, accruing the pomp and panoply reserved for kings and queens, they fail in every single department of governance. Their lack of will and incompetence shines as they cannot even implement zonal laws, improve the electricity services, provide essential gas for industry or domestic use, manage the garbage on the streets, or protect the people or show even an iota of compassion. But our people are satisfied with this, they are happy with their lot, it’s what divinity ordained for them and it’s what they expect. Who then are they to argue with the inconsistencies of destiny – let the show go on!!
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where fate governs life, a new meaning is given to the famous idiom, ‘man proposes – only God disposes’. A bypass built to avoid busy areas to facilitate traffic soon needs a bypass itself as it too becomes congested. We build motorways and find people driving on the wrong side of it, we throw our garbage on the streets, we steal when we can and destroy what we cannot steal. Our people defecate in the open, proudly swaggering down the street in public with one hand inside the shalwar.
Our leaders are just like the people and the people so similar to their leaders that it is now just a marriage of convenience, where one cannot live without the other. The basic concept of life in Pakistan is to keep doing what you are doing, without regulation, rules, or procedures. No one can enforce the law, no one can show the way forward as if everyone has resigned to his own low standards of life and living, drawing satisfaction in the misery that he is wallowing in.
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Not one, from the top or the bottom, would have ever been accepted, by any chance or measure, in a town like Mohenjo-daro, as a citizen of that civilized society. There is no corrective measure or education in place, now or even in the distant future, to move this society towards civilized, enlightened, and cultured behavior. Nothing to teach, and had there been anything to teach, there is no one suitable enough to teach such matters to this uncouth, uncivilized, foul-mouthed, vulgar society.
There is no end to our indignant whining as we recall how we were colonized by the British, yet anything that ever existed was only built or structured by the British, that we dismantled and destroyed without rebuilding anything in its place. Whether it was the railways or Common Law, we managed to drag it down to our own level of the cesspool we are so used to and that we proudly call home.
No one anywhere in the world recognizes our educational certifications, and the only jobs that are thrown at our people are those that need no skill or learning – like a donkey meandering down the road, our people are satisfied to remain reduced to being a beast of burden, joyfully expectant of the occasional whip or stick, just so that they too are noticed. We call it mazduri with an air of reverence.
People are in search of relief and look towards the unbelieving west where they think they can live a better life; everyone wants to escape and go elsewhere – anywhere!!! However, a Pakistani passport, the least acceptable in the world, is documented testimony to the fact – that no one wants us. Every country feels they are better off without a Pakistani component – our people have nothing to offer and even lesser to contribute other than deceit, dishonesty, and treachery – credibility as a nation, as well as a country, lies at the lowest ebb, yet we never tire of announcing ourselves as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Consequences and Future
So now I come to the question that I need to ask. Why do the people of Pakistan want to call themselves an Islamic Republic when they do not want to follow Islam or draw any inspiration from Islamic values? There is a huge contradiction here. Our population is Muslim in name only, and we draw great satisfaction by saying that we are Muslims. Yet if there was any way one could measure how much Islam lies embedded within our breasts, then the only method to such a measure is through Hakook-ul-Allah and Hukook-ul-Abad.
In the former, the Almighty says, ‘ask for forgiveness and I shall forgive’. He, The Almighty, being Rahim, has an infinite measure to the depth of His generosity or mercy, Surah Az Zamur, 39:53. There are many other references to the Almighty’s compassion and clemency, but there are seven specific instances of it in the Holy Quran. Implicit, in these revelations, is the fact that no such authority has been extended to any human where he may pass judgment on another on matters of belief. Yet here in our Islamic Republic, every bearded scoundrel becomes a judge, jury, and the executioner; passing judgment on divine matters. People have been beheaded by unruly mobs, others lynched or murdered.
However, in the latter case, when the Holy Prophet was asked, who is the best Muslim, He replied, ‘He is the one from whose hand and tongue all Muslims are safe’ (Sahih Bukhari). Social conduct in Islam forms the basis of basic human rights in the Islamic paradigm. Islam accepts, acknowledges, and institutionalizes the fundamentals of rights to life, freedom, security, and justice. Punishments for social misdemeanors are therefore much more emphasized and punishable by courts, e.g., theft, murder, slander, indecency, sexual assault, etc. The same, however, is not true for haqooq-ul-Allah where negligence, abstinence, and violation are spiritual and personal dilemmas. Thus there is a clear distinction between a sin and a crime, where a sin is a personal crisis to be dealt with by an individual, and a crime is the violation of a social order where the Almighty has clearly stipulated he will not forgive, and it has been left for mankind themselves to forgive or vindicate the crimes committed against humanity.
Fundamental rights evolve around life, dignity, justice, and these are given to each individual by Allah himself and cannot be transgressed against or violated by another human being, authority, or government. This then is the measure of a Muslim. So look around yourselves, do you see any Muslims in this Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
So for those in Pakistan who think that the Almighty will descend down one day reeking vengeance on those who deserve to be held responsible and establish order finally in our Holy Land, where equality, dignity, and justice would prevail – well, you cannot be more wrong. In my unsolicited and unqualified judgment, I find us all guilty: this civilization, this society, deserves no leniency, clemency, or relief for the crimes against humanity that we perpetuate, for the hypocrisy we demonstrate, and for the duplicity we practice. We are cursed and shall suffer the consequences of being the manafiqs that we are and the shirk that we do.
It is why I would like to suggest to my country, its people, and the nation that we belong to – it is time to stop insulting our precious ideology, stop abusing the beauty of our religion in the manner in which we live our lives, conduct our business, and demonstrate to the world at large what we really are and stand for. We have collectively forfeited the right to call ourselves Muslims or that our country was ever Islamic. We cannot simply defame Islam by accrediting ourselves with such a noble label as ‘Muslim’, because we are not – we are simply imposters, a nation of pretenders.
Since it’s not possible to change the people in this country and this land is unfortunate to have such a populace, from whom it will never be free considering our only prowess which lies in our unprecedented breeding, that multiplies our numbers, producing even more like ourselves – one strongly feels, one must, instead, change the country’s name back to what it was, “The Republic of Pakistan” so that it is more relevant and is closer to the characters of those who inhabit it. This would allow the people to do what they do best and be morally and spiritually liberated from any ideological dogma restraining them from the rape of this land and each other for anything one possesses.
So, people left to their devices, with free rein and no qualms, to loot, pillage, and plunder will be what is left; for that alone appears to be what the future holds for those of us who, instead of leaving, have chosen to die here – in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
“Religion and government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.” James Madison “Why hast thou made me born in this country, the inhabitant of which is satisfied with being a slave.”
Lt. Gen (retd) Tariq Khan retired as head of Pakistan’s Central Command and has led Frontier Corps to victory against TTP. He has written and lectured extensively on the issues related to Afghanistan, the United States, and the Taliban. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.