And God Knows Best

Alama, Professor, Doctor, Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri’s long march came to a most unremarkable end having accomplished nothing. Qadri to me symbolizes the arrogance and spiritual confusion of our educated classes in Pakistan. In our middle class’ world view, Pakistani people are illiterate masses with no sense or subjectivity to know what is in their best interest. They must be lead by our middle classes–whose answer to all social ills is right wing religiosity and extreme market capitalism. The deeni (religious) Jamaats in Pakistan are some of the main beneficiaries of our middle class and middle class diaspora’s largess. I think some contemplation of the role of these deeni Jamaat’s in Pakistan’s polity is in order and what better place to start than the the landmark event in the history of our country, the assassination of Governor Salman Taseer almost two years ago, in January 2011.

I noted with some satisfaction that Mumtaz Qadri the murderer of governor Salman Taseer was finally convicted and sentenced to death. As a death penalty opponent, I hope he is not executed, but worse, spends the rest of his biological years incarcerated, to finally find his place in hell, where he belongs. I was however, shocked and dismayed at the site of Sunni Tehrik–the supposed moderate Islamist movement’s activists, amongst the predictable contingent from assorted other deeni (religious) outfits protesting his conviction.

We Muslims do not tire of the old mantra in front of non-Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace. Yet somehow, the execution of a poor Christian woman, the murder of a distinguished public figure for defending that woman, and the acquittal of the person’s murderer, as insisted upon by the deeni Jamaats (religious parties) is supposed to further the credentials of Islam as a religion of peace?

I used to think that some in the mullah brigade, e.g., the Taliban and company are misguided, who must be resisted to save our religion from them. But now I am increasingly of the view that perhaps the whole deeni jamaat concept is flawed. Khaled Abou El Fadl, a distinguished professor of Islamic law at University of California Los Angeles, speaking of the sources of Islamic authority, helpfully reminds us that:

In formulating Islam law, it has become common in the modern age to use the authority of the Author (God) to justify the despotism of the reader. In effect, by claiming that the only relevant consideration is the Will of the Author, the reader is able to displace the Author and set himself as the sole voice of authority: the reader [in committing the ultimate shirq (blasphemy)] becomes God, as it were.The replacement of God’s authority with that of the reader is an act of despotism and a corruption of the logic of Islamic law.

Islamic law is founded on the logic of a Principal who guides through the instructions set out in the texts. . . . Searching out for the instructions is a core value in itself–regardless of the results, searching is a moral virtue. This is not because the instructions are pointless, but because the instructions must remain vibrant, dynamic, open and relevant. It is impossible for a human being to represent God’s Truth–a human being can only represent his or her efforts in search of this truth. The ultimate and unwavering value in the relationship between human beings and God is summarised in the Islamic statement, “And God knows best”

But in case of the deeni jamaats it is not God but the mullahs that know best. Claiming to know God’s will and supporting and in case of some, even crossing the ultimate moral barrier of taking a human life is a supreme act of moral certainty to which, only God and then perhaps His prophets are entitled. In Pakistan, however, seems like verbal declarations of prophethood are tantamount to apostasy, but actions proclaiming de facto prophethood and even divinity by standing in as the final interlocutor for God’s Will and hence God is a symptom of piety!

Why do some people in Pakistan, give in to such blatant despotism? Do they share the blood lust of the mullah brigade masquerading as loyalty to the Prophet (PBUH) or Islam? I believe that the religious right’s appeal in the middle classes and then disenfranchised youth in Pakistan is more a symptom of intellectual laziness and hypocrisy than any substantive allegiance to the mullah ideology. They could not be bothered to search for the meaning of God’s will themselves. Instead they have subcontracted it to the mullahs. They would engage in all sorts of perverse behavior from lying in business, to profiteering, to being unjust to their women. As long as the mullah gives them a few ritual talismans to save their souls–why not?

The silence of the wider Pakistani polity in front of the deeni jamaat’s is criminal. One must recognize that in proclaiming to be authorities on God’s will they become more shaytany (devil’s) than deeni jamaats. Their intellectual arrogance is worthy of our animosity and our contempt.