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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Respect the Law

The following is my article published in Dawn on October 29, 2010, as Friday Feature, 'Respecting the Law'. Some of the wording might be slightly different from the printed version.
With the birth of Pakistan, the Muslim community of the sub-continent not only created a new country but also a new nation. The first goal of this nation was to achieve a kind of organic unity, and Pakistan itself was the tool for achieving it. Respecting the law was the ideal to be kept in front. Studying the history of Pakistan in this light, one finds many indicators suggesting that the goal was achieved by 1966.

Obviously, this requires us to understand three concepts first. They are (a) organic unity; (b) Pakistan as a tool for achieving it; and (c) the significance of respecting the law in this special context.

The organic unity intended here is based on a portion of Verse 28 of Surah Luqman (Chapter 31 of the Quran). It is translated by Iqbal as, “Your creation and resurrection are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul.” Creation and resurrection are biological concepts, and hence the kind of unity implied in this verse is a biological unity, as if entire humanity was a single organism and individuals were its parts. If such a connection exists between all human beings, then obviously it is moderating the worldly and spiritual power of each individual, whether he or she knows it or not.

Giving us awareness of this connection is the aim of religious thought, according to Iqbal. However, thought alone cannot be sufficient. We need a practical tool as well. Hence, in the preface of The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930), Iqbal wrote, “A living experience of the kind of biological unity, embodied in this verse, requires today a method physiologically less violent [than the methods devised by the past masters] and psychologically more suitable to a concrete type of mind.”

The same year, while presiding over the annual session of the All-India Muslim League at Allahabad, he seemed to be suggesting that the achievement of a Muslim homeland in the region could become, somehow, the new method through which this kind of organic unity would be realized. In his presidential address, after proposing and predicting the birth of a Muslim homeland, he went on to suggest, “One of the profoundest verses in the Holy Quran teaches us that the birth and rebirth of the whole of humanity is like the birth and rebirth of a single individual. Why cannot you who, as a people, can well claim to be the first practical exponent of this superb conception of humanity, live and move and have your being as a single individual?”

Hence, if we could “live and move and have [our] being as a single individual,” we would experience what is meant by the Quran when it says that the creation and resurrection of the humanity is like the creation and resurrection of a single soul (and it seems that neither Iqbal nor Jinnah meant to exclude the non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim homeland, since according to the Quran, this organic unity is a biological fact that moderates the existence of every individual on this planet).

If Pakistan was the tool – “a method psychologically suitable to a concrete type of mind” – for discovering this organic unity, how was this tool going to be used? The most logical answer was, by respecting the law. This was how the homeland had been achieved in the first place, and even against the bitter opposition by powerful and unfair adversaries.

The first twenty years of Pakistan present a curious case study when visited in the light of this ideal. It seems as if the educated elite and the intelligentsia were on one side, often ignoring the significance of the ideal and the implications of the recent history. Apparently, due to the one hundred and fifty years of British domination, much power had been left in the hands of the liberals and those who favored secularism in some form. Quite often they were found to be guilty of abusing that power, for instance when Chief Justice Muhammad Munir, a self-proclaimed believer in secularism, upheld the decision of Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad to abrogate the elected parliament. Conservatives and socialists, perceiving that the just demands of the people were being suppressed, would often invite the masses to agitation and direct action. When the masses chose to ignore such calls, they were accused of lacking in political awareness.

Hence, the unschooled masses of Pakistan seem to be standing on the other side, clearly distinguishable from the reactionary educated elite and the intelligentsia. At least three successive events in the last three years of this period should have vindicated the masses against the widespread accusation of being politically unaware. These were the tremendous unity displayed in supporting Fatima Jinnah against Field Marshall Ayub Khan in the presidential election of 1964, the display of patriotism during the 1965 War and the general outcry against Ayub Khan after the signing of the treaty at Tashkent in 1966.

These are some indicators in terms of the broader current of history only. Understanding and experiencing their deeper meaning requires us to revisit our literature, politics and religious thought with a new approach, which has never been attempted (and unfortunately, our education offers us little preparation for such a task). However, in terms of the general outline of the story of our ideals as a Muslim nation, the year 1966 seemed to be the moment when the ambiance of being a ‘new country’ had ended, and the nation seemed poised for starting a new stage, together.

4 comments:

Connie L. Nash said...

As always, I'm intrigued by your notice of such passages as you quote above such as:

"...thought alone cannot be sufficient"

And items related to the organic unity of all individuals on the planet...

Your title, "Respect the Law" also reminds me how we must learn to embed the law of love, justice, tolerance, mercy, forgiveness and respect for ALL humanity within our souls' depths as well as in our law books, treaties and charters and conversations.

Nevertheless historian-writers such as you are give us a huge jump-start.

Thinking said...

hmm...how come one can respect the law when finds categories in it...

Poor have different category of LAW while Rich/ educated/ intelligentsia has another.

People would respect the law only when they know that there would be no difference in punishment to them and the rich.

While I believed that the difference first created by Ayub Khan who although knew about Fatima Jinnah's popularity in common masses used all the unfair means to get over her in elections.

While thats also very intresting fact that common masses killed the person who shot "Liaquat Ali Khan"...how come we expect such barbarism from common masses who when migrating to Pakistan couldn't even safe their own families?

So...respecting the law is not enough...we should also have an eye on others who disguised as common but are very un-common....

Khurram Ali Shafique said...

Connie and Thinking, thanks.

In principle, the law applies equally to the rich and the poor. If the reality on the ground is different, it is our common reponsibility to change that reality according to our ideal.

In Pakistan, this should have been easy but it has been difficult mainly due to the intellectual dishonesty of the intelligentsia.

The nation was founded by a barrister, who was known for respecting the law and the masses were willing to follow his example, as is evident from the extraordinary interest they displayed in the works of Ibne Safi soon after the independence.

Unfortunately, the liberals, the conservatives and the progressives did not want the supremacy of the law, since they had all been rejected by the masses in the election of 1945-46.

Obviously, these lobbies had no other means for gaining power except through subversion: democracy would never bring them into power (and it never has in Pakistan).

The intelligentsia of Pakistan comprised almost entirely of these schools. Consequently, respecting the law could never become a value to be reflected in the academic discourses and the curriculums, although it was the main substance of all "consensus lietarture".

The result is what we see today.

By the way, the lynching of the assassin of the first Prime Minister may not have been an act of the general public. The widespread impression was, and is, that this was a pre-meditate plan of those who were behind the assassin, so that they could forever remain in the dark (as a young man, my father was also present in that historic gathering at Company Bagh, Rawalpindi, and I have known his eye-witness account as well).

Thinking said...

hmm...thank you Shafique Sahib for your reply...

Thats what I believed that this barbarism can not be from common masses....there were other disguised...

And...we are not taking any lessons out of these events....

In return...or in revenge(I would rather say) they had mislead the masses and traped them in the conviction of not following the law properly...

Disregarding...Ibn-e-Safi is one of the steps they took to mislead the nation although he was read by masses he didn't get any of his work published in course books...

Because...if his work has been in the course books pupil/future generation would have different views/refined views about law.

hmm....