Stand up or Perish as a Nation

Without a vision, Pakistan has no way out from the multitude of problems it is facing. However, a clear sign of almost everyone groping in the dark is a notice inserted in Dawn (April 21) by the ruling party member of the National Assembly, Minoo Bhandara, which reads:

“Quaid-i-Azam’s Speech of 11th August 1947. A Constitutional (Amendment) Bill has been moved in the National Assembly, which purports to include the famous speech of the Quaid or its salient features, as a substantive part of Article 2 of the Constitution.”

The next day, Ardeshir Cowasjee wrote in Dawn: “May I suggest to friend Minoo that while this is done (hopefully, it will be done), he may add to it two other most relevant sentences. From Jinnah’s speech to the people of Australia on February 19, 1948 : ‘But make no mistake, Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it,’ and from his speech a few days later to the people of the United States of America : ‘In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission.'”

We seem to be making something up that is not there in the first place. No one wanted and no one wants Pakistan to become a theocratic state. In fact, theocracy has no place in Islam, where a special or privileged class of priests or any other particular ecclesiastic class would run the show. There are no infallible religious Divines in Islam. Instead, it refers to the fact that, just like an individual Muslim, the Islamic State must not transgress the limits set by the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

One of the great strengths of Islam in the political realm lies in the clarity of its moral vision, which holds rulers accountable to justice and the rule of law. In an Islamic entity, rulers cannot come up with new laws overnight, such as Bush’s Detainee Treatment Act.

The word Islam, conventionally translated as “submission,” implies no subjugation of one person to any other. The word implies rather a recognition of God’s ultimate sovereignty–a sovereignty that places all people on equal footing before the divine Majesty, not a cable of generals or “democratic” dictators.

In this background, the original vision for Pakistan was Islamic renaissance, not Islamic theocracy. From that perspective, the August 11, 1947 or any other such statements of Quaid-i-Azam were not out of place. However, we need to find out how did the pioneers of Pakistan hoped to fulfill the vision of Islamic renaissance in the broader context.

“Pakistan would be a base where we will be able to train and bring up Muslim intellectuals, educationists, economists, scientists, doctors, engineers, technicians, etc. who will work to bring about Islamic renaissance. After necessary training, they would spread to other parts of the Islamic world to serve their co-religionists and create awakening among them, eventually resulting in the creation of a solid, cohesive bloc – a third bloc – which will be neither communistic nor capitalistic but truly socialistic based on the principles which characterised Caliph Umar’s regime,” the Quaid spelled this out to a sceptical young politician, Sardar Shaukat Hayat (d.1998) in April 1943.

Presenting a couple of out of context statements from Quaid-i-Azam is misleading. Two weeks before his death, in his message to other Muslim States’, on August 27, 1948, Quaid-i-Azam said:

“We are all passing through perilous times. The drama of power politics that is being staged in Palestine, Indonesia and Kashmir should serve as an eye-opener to us. It is only by putting up a united front that we can make our voice felt in the counsels of the world.”

The drama of power politics has intensified manifold in which the Commander in Chief of Pakistan armed forces never stops reiterating his loyalty to occupiers and his support to their occupations. Sixty years down the road, it appears the highest ambition of the military rulers of ‘the greatest Muslim State of the world’ is no higher than pleasing the occupiers of Muslim countries.

The country which was supposed to be in the forefront of Islamic solidarity, is now passing through a crisis of identity and incapable of surviving without the blessing of Washington. The time for a second movement for independence of Pakistan is now. We can either make it truly Islamic or amalgamate it in greater secular India.

Making Pakistan Islamic does not mean making it a theocracy. What actually makes a state Islamic is not hard to conceive. Democracy literally means the rule of the people. However, the level to which the imperialist-colonial adventures have reached in the twenty-first century, clearly proved that democracy has been used a tool to ensure continued gains for the colonial centres. It means rule of a few who decide what is good for the majority.

To the contrary, the essence of Islam lies in its basic meaning: submission to God, or more felicitously, recognition of God’s sovereignty. Submission to other standards and false gods could be anything but Islam. Submitting to God and not His laws and prescribed Deen (way of life) simply doesn’t make any sense.

It become irrelevant as to what Qauid said or did not say when looked from the point of view that either the people or God could be sovereign. Either man’s law or God’s law will prevail, but not both.

Allah’s sovereignty must not be something new, unexpected or an affront for the secularists in Pakistan. None of the secular, democratic schemes acknowledge that the people are sovereign in the sense of having the last word on every question. Similarly, constitutions, bills of rights and charters of rights all over the “democratic” world suggest that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. An unalienable right cannot be eliminated even if the people vote to abrogate it.

The theory of unalienable rights in itself places a limit on the sovereignty of the people in the much-vaunted secular democracies. If some rights come from God, and the people cannot alienate or override those rights, then isn’t God sovereign and not the people? And if that sovereign God can send rights, can’t he assign men some responsibilities as well? Despite recognizing the sovereignty of God in a different way, no one argues that the U.S. Declaration of Independence, for example, is undemocratic because it makes God sovereign and places a limit on the sovereignty of the people.

All discussions about compatibility of Islam and democracy have been launched to restrict Muslims from exercising their right to self-determination and self-rule according to Islam,. Acknowledging God’s sovereignty does not require believing that God has absolutely left no room for people to rule themselves. A Muslim can believe that God allows humans to rule themselves so long as they adhere to the basic rules and principles on which He has spoken. It is un-Islamic on the part of Muslims to believe that God is sovereign only in the sphere of the personal, not the collective, and that they need to practice Islam only in private.

Islamophobes make us believe that democracy is not possible without separation of church and state. The reason given to us is that democracy cannot impose one vision of the good life.

Therefore, it requires government to remain neutral about what values matter most, and to leave that decision up to the individual. If religion and the state do not remain separate, the state will inevitably impose or at least encourage the version of the good life preferred by the official religion.

These Islamophobes ignore that Britain, for example, has no separation of church and state. The queen is Defender of the Faith — one of the subsidiary titles of the English (and later British) Monarchs since it was granted on October 17, 1521 by Pope Leo X to Tudor King Henry VIII of England (some other major Catholic Kingdoms have obtained similar pious titles, such as Apostolic King).

The Queen is also head of the Church of England. Anglican bishops sit in the House of Lords, and anyone who wants to change the Book of Common Prayer must go through Parliament to do it. The Book of Common Prayers is foundational prayer book of the Church of England first produced in 1549.

Yet, Britain is presented as the cradle of modern democracy. The national churches of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Orthodox Church have a status protected by law. The special legal position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is also codified in the constitution of Finland. Both churches have the right to levy an income tax on their members and every Finnish company as a part of Corporation Tax. The tax is collected by the state.

In the German state of Bavaria, the schools are religious and almost every classroom displays a crucifix. No one argues that this makes modern Germany into something other than a democracy.

Similarly, all “democratic” governments support and impose one particular view of the good life. They have faith-based initiatives; give money to Churches; give medals to heroes who die for values these governments admire; proclaim religious holidays; celebrate things they care about; and teach students in public schools what the governments mean to be acceptable and honest. The schools even teach homosexuality because the governments claim this amounts to teaching civility despite the fact that this kind of values differ from place to place and even family-to-family. These governments sponsor some art and not other art, and they use their resources to put some books in their public libraries but not others.

The secularists do not say that this kind of segregation is wrong because it causes some people to feel excluded. All these government activities in the West are considered neutral. However, Pakistan must not become truly Islamic because it will presumably impose certain values on people. Does it not mean that only Islamic values are not acceptable?

If it is argued that the secular democracies do not force anyone to adopt religious beliefs that he or she rejects, or perform religious actions that are anathema, so is this the basic rule of Islam that there should be no compulsion in Deen. Unlike the modern-day fascists, reshaping the Muslim world in their image by force, Islam has no record of forced conversions or imposing its way of life on others with the barrel of a gun. It has not violated the basic right to religious liberty. To the contrary, almost every act on the part of secular governments imposes one or another kind of value upon their citizens.

The time for Pakistanis to stand up to the global onslaught and fight for a truly independent Pakistan is now because the target of the onslaught is the existence of Pakistan. Pakistan would not have been a high-value target since its inception if its founders were faking their intentions about “Islamic renaissance” and establishing a “third bloc” to imperialist adventures.

Let us be clear: The proposed, seemingly trivial changes in Pakistan’s constitution are directly aimed at robbing Pakistan of the very reason for its existence. Stand up to this scheme or perish as a nation.