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Basic Contradictions in Pakistani Society?

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    Basic Contradictions in Pakistani Society?

    Below is a cut and paste from an opinion piece from Dawn 6th May. What percent of Pakistanis would more or less agree with Siddiqui analysis? Are the divisions in the Society as stark as he portrays them?


    Our basic contradictions
    by Tasneem Siddiqui
    we are living in two worlds - in the modern times and the mediaeval ages - at the same time. Not only in physical sense but at intellectual level as well. On one side is the use of modern gadgetry in everyday life, exposure to post-modern societies, latest scientific knowledge, challenges of information revolution, democracy, human rights, separation of religion from state, and, on the other side, is the regimentation, and a mindset which refuses to accept new social and political realities.

    the ordinary people and the clergy are very clear on major issues. First the common man. While he is deeply religious in his own way, he wants an improvement in life and for that, whenever given a chance, he has chosen the progressive, forward looking, secular leaders and parties.

    In 1946, he rejected the Majlis-i-Ahrar, Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind, Khaksar Tehreek and followed Mr Jinnah who, by all standards, was a westernized man. In 1970, once again he rejected all religious parties and voted for Mr Bhutto in West Pakistan, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in East Pakistan, both of whom were secularists. It is another thing that both of them did not come to the expectations of their respective constituents. In the last decade also, the common man either voted for the PML or the PPP at national level and the ANP and the MQM at regional level, once again rejecting orthodoxy and obscurantism.

    Doesn't it clearly show that the common man in Pakistan keeps religion and politics in separate boxes and believes that worldly affairs are too important to be left in the hands of the clergy.

    So far as moulvi is concerned, he is not confused either. He is very clear on important issues like democracy and the electoral process viz-a-viz selection of Amirul Momineen; place of minorities and women in an Islamic state; role of ulema in society, Islamic code of conduct; sets of punishments for various offences e.g. Hadood, Qisas etc. Whenever they found a chance to establish Islamic states (and we have seen three in recent times: Sudan, Iran and Afghanistan) mullas have practically demonstrated what an Islamic state would be like. To this list, we can also add religious kingship of Saudi Arabia which is a model of Islamic state of its own kind.

    The real problem lies with our middle classes. They are confused about everything. They are confused about the difference between an Islamic and a Muslim state. They are confused about the place of minorities in an Islamic state, and the rights of the Muslims in a non-Muslim state. They are confused about Khilafat-i-Rashida and democracy. They are also confused about 'riba' and interest, and about the rights of women in respect of marriage, divorce, inheritance, weight of their evidence, purdah, the right to education, etc.

    Their problem is that on the one hand they want to go along with modern concepts of nation-state, sovereignty of the people, equal rights for all citizens, rule of law, principles of economic management based on interest, modern concepts of crime and punishment, codified civil and criminal laws, modern institutions to impart justice based on Anglo-Saxon system (the list can be endless). But at the same time in their heart of hearts they want the revival of Khilafat-i-Rashida, imposition of Islamic punishments to control crime (Saudi style), a judicial system based on Qazi courts, lower status to minorities, interest-free economy, and creation of institutions like 'Amar bil Maroof, wal nahi anil munkar'. If any evidence is needed, one should go to Dr Israr's lectures where a large number of educated people throng to listen to him on the above issues and seem to be appreciative of what he says.

    Our educated classes are caught in between the cross-currents of modernization and obscurantism. On one side they see the old values, traditions and social system being eroded by the universal phenomenon of change, and on the other, the slogan of 'back to fundamentals' by the reactionary forces.

    One can see they are neither here nor there. They do not fully subscribe to what the mulla says, but try to interpret holy Quran and 'ahadees' in their own way, and end up rationalizing most of the things they are unable to understand, or find mullas' pronouncements too irksome or irrational. But the question arises how can they be better interpreters of the holy book than Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Maulana Maududi, Mufti Shafi or Dr. Israr Ahmed, who spent their life time studying Quran its 'tafsir', 'hadees' and 'fiqh'. Scholarship of Maulana Maududi is not only accepted in Pakistan, but all over the Arab world. We have to accept his word against anybody else's as far as Islamic interpretations are concerned.

    Finding no satisfactory answer to their questions, these educated people emphasize the need of 'ijtehad'. Yes. 'Ijtehad' is very much needed because the life has become very complicated, and is changing very fast, but the question is who can be a 'mujtahid'? Allama Iqbal who wrote 'Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam' and was a great supporter of Islamic revival, or Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi who declared that there was no place for modern democracy in Islam? Will it be the parliament, the Supreme Court or a body of ulema who will re-interpret Islam? If it is the parliament or the Supreme Court, will the ulema accept its interpretations and verdict, and conversely, if it is the body of ulema, will it not negate the concept of supremacy of the people's will? The current conflict between the parliament and the ulema in Iran on 'vilayat-i-faqih' should be an eye-opener for us.

    .... Why our downslide started? Why have we not been able to stop the slide? Is there any hope that we will be able to catch up with the West and be able to talk to them on equal terms? These are important questions. For an answer, we will have to admit that Muslim rulers having reached the pinnacle of glory, simply continued to enjoy good life. They did not pay attention to acquiring knowledge about the world they were living in, and the changes that were taking place around them. They also ignored the importance of modern education and the universities where research could be carried out. Nor did they open up societies for free discussion and scientific enquiry. This resulted in a regimentation which in turn started fossilizing the minds. In later years, conformism which is the antithesis of rationalism and enlightenment became the norm in Muslim Societies. It stifled creativity and innovation.

    ..... Lack of clarity in our intelligentsia's mind on major issues. Let us take democracy as an example. Most of our educated people (liberati, salariat, industrialists, professionals) keep on vacillating between virtues of dictatorship and democracy. They are not convinced that of all the systems of government so far tried, democracy is the best. They have little patience with the trial and error process which is sine qua non of democratic dispensation. Nor do they have any faith in the slow, evolutionary process of institutional development. Tired of the loot and plunder and incompetence of their leaders, they start rejecting the very concept of democracy and prefer an authoritative individual to run the affairs of the state single-handedly. They are obsessed with the notion of strong centre led by powerful people. They look for 'messiahs' who would descend from nowhere and solve all their problems.

    Even our national poet Allama Iqbal decried democracy when he said: Jumhuriat ek tarz-i-hukumat hai ke jis main/ Bundon ko gina kartey hain, tola nahin kartey. But the irony is that very soon they realize that other systems create more problems than they solve. Once again their yearning for democracy starts, and so on.

    Similarly, our thinking elite refuse to appreciate the reality of nation-state, and continue to be emotive and rhetorical about 'ummah' which is nothing more than a myth. Nation-state of course is a new phenomenon, but for the last over three hundred years, it is the bedrock of modern political system. When Islam came, there were only clans, tribes, 'khanates', warlords, fiefdoms princely states and very few empires.

    But now when the world is divided into nations (whatever be their basis), we still find it difficult to control our passion for 'ummah'. This puts us in a difficult situation viz-a-viz other nations, for example the Muslims living in non-Muslim states do not adjust easily and continue to harbour extra-territorial loyalties. Another problem is that if we treat the minorities as 'zimmis' in our own country, how can then we claim equal rights for ourselves in non-Muslim states?

    interesting questions..

    the problem is that there is no movement in the two extremes to which the people are pulled... western style secularist rule and autocratic theocratic ulema rule..

    If you look at the mode of rule esposed in Quran.. you will realise that Khilafat was not ordained to be a theocracy.. highly influenced by Religious thought.. but not a Theocracy..

    The problem is that when there was khilafat.. there was evolution in the midset of the ulema as well.. since the colonial rule.. the mindset has not evolved.. there has been no new thought by the Ulema... the kind of philosophical books written in the years pevious to colonial rule..

    since then. it is only regurgitation of the old.. trying to take the people back to circa 1700.. an era the Mullahs understand.. not to complex for them.

    as long as we don't get a new breed of ulema.. people coming to learn the religion from other branches of education.. we will be stuck in limbo..

    We want to move forward with time.. while keeping our faith with us.. the problem is .. the religious order see their power waning if that happens.. and the western secularists see their hold on us waning if that happens.. so it is in the best interest for both.. religious and secularists not to have any progress in the religious understanting..

    The religious code evolved during the muslim rule... as and when it was required.. why has it not changed/evovled over the past 100 years?

    Pakistan.. people want to live a life which conforms to the religious requirements.. while having a representative rule - something which is espoused in Islam.. but it would lead to religious parties losing power.. so they do everything to prevent this message from getting across.


      BZ: Everything was making sense till I got to your last sentence. I thought the religious parties have never had formal power in pakistan. It is only street power.
      So what is it that they actually do to prevent the message from getting through. Muslims are going to have to move forward and mordernise while keeping their faith.