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Monday, 3 January 2011

Islamic State (1)

Allama Iqbal, Qauid-i-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan believed that the features of an Islamic state in modern times would include the following.

  1. SOVEREIGNTY: Sovereignty belongs to God, which means that the people as well as the state must treat the entire humanity as family and cannot adopt policies that refute this organic unity of the humankind.
  2. DEMOCRACY: Democracy is the most important aspect of Islam regarded as a political ideal, and therefore the state must be ruled by representatives chosen by the people.
  3. EQUALITY BEFORE LAW: Non-Muslims can also become executive heads (such as prime ministers) as long as they get themselves duly elected. However, the state may restrict the office of the ceremonial head (such as President without any real power) exclusively to Muslims.
  4. SOCIAL JUSTICE: Not only illegal means of acquiring wealth should be outlawed but also all forms of economic exploitation: the state must ensure economic equality through “Islamic socialism”.
  5. INNOVATION: Islamic state is constantly evolving through history, and it may take some other form in future (possibly where government is not needed anymore). However, the development can only be towards more empowerment of the people, and greater democracy, rather than the other way around.
Is this really Islam? Did Iqbal, Quaid and Liaquat Ali Khan actually believe this? If so, why didn’t we know? These are the most common questions that come up whenever I discuss these ideas.

Usually, I do not answer the first question. I believe that every Muslim has the right to interpret religion in their own way, and also has the right to consult a religious scholar out of free will. I am not a “religious scholar” as such, and my role as a historian ends on telling whether or not a certain idea was shared by some people in the past.

I know it as a historical fact that Iqbal, Quaid and Liaquat Ali Khan were unanimous on the above-mentioned concepts but whether they were right or wrong is not for me to judge.

The good news is that all three questions (and many, many, more) have been answered – elegantly and at length, with all the supporting evidence needed for the discussion – in Secular Jinnah and Pakistan: What the Nation Doesn’t Know by the distinguished researcher, Saleena Karim.

In the previous post I shared my observation that contrary to some other interesting studies about the Quaid, this one doesn’t make a painful reading for an average Pakistani. You may or may not agree with the author, but nowhere shall you feel as if she is unsympathetic to your religious sentiments, or trying to impose her views. Besides, the enormous amount of archival material presented here is valuable for its own sake. This includes excerpts from the writings, speeches and statements of the founding fathers; passages from parliamentary debates; arguments from Quran, and much else beside.

In the presence of this book, it shall become increasingly difficult for anyone to prove that the above-mentioned five points about an Islamic state were not shared by the founding fathers of Pakistan (just for record: the statements here are worded by me, but I hope that I was correct in inferring them from the book).

So, let’s move on to the last question: if this was the founding fathers’ idea of an Islamic state, why didn’t we know? This shall be discussed in the next post, but here is a hint: the answer is in the five statements themselves. Look again.

1 comment:

Connie L. Nash said...

INNOVATION - by meaning - goes beyond the kind of knowing which is merely passed down rules, facts and 1-2-3 instructions.

Thus such evolving which involves more empowerment of the people would need to be done by those people who are given the space and resources to envision.

The greater democracy could only be hinted at by sketches yet inspired by solid principles UNTIL the true innovators of each age (our age?) come forward.

Instead of asking: Where are the true followers of past (founding) leaders, perhaps these past leaders were sending AHEAD this question: Where are the true INNOVATORS in YOUR time?

Surely copy-cats were far from the founders minds?