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The Question Of Narratives

Militants believe that the entire world must come under the fold of Islam. Individuals can live as non-Muslims, if they choose to; but the system of governance must submit itself to the Islamic law

There is a general agreement in Pakistan that the war on terror has two dimensions: military and ideological. At the ideological level, there appears to be a dire need for a counter narrative that would effectively thwart the militant discourse which has a potential to convince many naive believers that good Muslims are at war against both non-Muslims and fellow Muslims who are stopping them from enforcing the Shari‘ah in Pakistan and elsewhere. Those who espouse this belief contend that God commands Muslims to implement His Shari‘ah in the entire world, starting from their homeland, and if anyone dares to stop the process, he should be fought against and, if needed, killed.
The sense of urgency for a counter-narrative has already seen a narrative in the print media recently which in turn has invited many dissenting views in the form of counter-counter-narratives. I will briefly present here the three narratives that are a subject of discussion among Pakistani scholars and intellectuals these days: the one presented by the militants, the one presented as a counter to it, and the one presented to counter the counter-narrative.
The militants believe that the entire world must come under the fold of Islam. Individuals can live as non-Muslims if they choose to, but the system of governance must submit itself to the Islamic law. If God’s will is prevented from being implemented, all conscientious Muslims must fight all those who block the process of its implementation. Democracy is an anathema to Islamic Shari‘ah. A Muslim Khalifah of exemplary piety should be the head of the state. His job should ensure strict adherence to the Shari‘ah in the society; he should consult good Muslims whenever he feels the need for it. If his close associates feel he is giving indications of going seriously wrong, he should be forcibly changed. But generally speaking, a Khalifah, once appointed, should remain in that position for his lifetime, ruling over his subjects as a caring dictator who is fully devoted to the idea of ensuring adherence to God’s word in the society.

It is wrong to contend that a state has a religion. All countries reserve the right to come up with their own respective laws. There is no Islamic justification for resorting to the use of force for the purpose of introducing Islam

The counter-narrative to the above views that appeared in recent years challenges the popular understanding that Muslims have a duty to implement Islamic law over the entire globe. It is wrong to contend that a state has a religion. The validity of the Objectives Resolution of Pakistan that declared Quran and Sunnah as supreme sources of Pakistani law is questionable. All countries have a right to come up with their own respective laws. The expectation that Muslims will introduce Islamic law is an obligation only when they are at the helm of affairs. However, a more important task for them is to introduce genuine democracy in the society. If good Muslims are in the majority, they will introduce what they think are the best laws for their country. And most certainly they will prefer God’s law over other alternatives. However, they will pursue a path of gradual implementation of Shari‘ah if the society is not prepared for it. And so long as people are not prepared to have Shari‘ah laws implemented, conscientious Muslims would preach their religion, educating people wisely to pave the way for introducing Islamic laws in the country. There is no Islamic justification for resorting to the use of force for the purpose of introducing Islam. This narrative has been presented by the famous scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi.
No sooner than the above narrative was published in local newspapers, several rebuttals of it appeared too. Mawlana Taqi Usmani is one of the scholars who have written to point out its flaws. Most of the writers have expressed their strong opinion that Pakistan is indeed an Islamic state whose preamble of the constitution declares it to be one. A democratic process was undertaken to reach that conclusion. Any attempt to challenge the Islamic nature of Pakistan’s constitution is outrageous. The writers expressing these views believe that the correct strategy to counter the threat of militancy lies in convincing everyone, including the militants, that there was nothing un-Islamic about the Pakistani constitution. The only thing lacking was the willingness among the country’s political leadership to implement it in letter and spirit.
The militants’ view seems quite similar to the third view except that the latter believe that since Pakistan is already an Islamic state by the pronouncement of its constitution, use of force is not justifiable here. Many of them do admit even though mostly implicitly that use of military power for the purpose of enforcing Shari‘ah elsewhere is a viable option if not absolutely binding.
Is Mr Ghamidi’s narrative promoting the cause of an un-Islamic society as alleged by some of his critics? The fact is that he appears to be suggesting a peaceful and morally and religiously justifiable way of introducing Islam in the society. If there is genuine democracy in a society that is in line with the Qur’anic principle of mutual consultation, and knowledgeable Muslims are practicing Islam and communicating its message properly, it will allow Islamic teachings to be introduced. However, if a majority of people are not interested in allowing Islamic laws to be enforced, they will first need to be convinced about its merits. Thus Islam will be introduced in the society only to the extent that Muslims are true to their ideology. The other two narratives would like Islamic laws to be introduced in the society forcibly, no matter whether the majority is prepared for it or not.
The proponents of the other two narratives need to answer a few questions: What would be the status of non-Muslims in a country that has been declared an Islamic state? Why shouldn’t then every person of the world who is a Muslim and interested in becoming a Pakistani be given the citizenship of the country? What kind of state is Saudi Arabia: Is it not primarily a Saudi dynasty with unequal rights for one family and rest, where the monarchs have chosen to follow the Islamic law? If that is true, then Mr Ghamidi is asking for morally and religiously a far more convincing arrangement: Let Pakistan be a state where all citizens are equal in status as citizens; make it a truly democratic state following the spirit of the Qur’anic expectation of mutual consultation; and let its Muslim parliamentarians introduce Islamic law in the society by following that principle.
“The article by Dr Khalid Zaheer was published at dailycapital.pk on 06-FEB-15.”