By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
Recent terror attack at Mumbai has reminded us once again that Pakistan Army, or one of its agencies Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) at any rate, is determined to change the very character of Islam, turning it into the pre-Islamic religion of the Jahiliya (Arabia in the Dark Ages). It had indeed given us ample evidence of its anti-Islamic character during the Kargil war by reminding us of the Battle of Uhud where a woman of Jahiliya, Hinda, had mutilated the dead body of Prophet Mohammad’s uncle, Hazrat Hamza. The Prophet [peace be upon him] had not only forgiven her but had made it a point to forbid the practice in every Muslim gathering thereafter for fear that the Muslims, too, might do something similar in retaliation. Blood feud and vengeance was rampant in the Arab world of the Jahiliya. One couldn’t help being reminded of that when reports came that one of the terrorists mentioned vendetta for Gujarat and demolition of Babri masjid by Hindutva forces as the justification for the killing of innocents at Mumbai.
Pakistani “Islam” would indeed appear to be completely unrecognisable as Islam to a Muslim in any part of the world. Slowly but surely what appears to be a completely new religion seems to have caught the imagination of many people in Pakistan. Its followers don’t, of course, consider it a new religion. Indeed this religion insists that it is Islam; in fact it calls itself true Islam or real Islam. But it can best be described as Jihadism, as its central belief system is based on a wilful misinterpretation of the Islamic concept of Jihad. It can also be called Talibanism, as the Taliban of Afghanistan, who studied in Pakistani madrasas run by the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan are its most avid practitioners.
By and large, the western-educated liberal Pakistani intelligentsia, as I found out during several visits, hates this religion and is frightened of it. But as one by one all institutions of governance are succumbing to its growing power and its capacity for evil, they are getting scared to death. Some of them are simply planning to migrate to some non-Muslim majority country. No one is really fighting this malignant force, though some journalists and human rights activists still have the courage at least to express their horror and outrage at grave personal risk. The new democratically-elected government’s commitment or that of President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent plea in a New York Times article rings as hollow as did that of President General Musharraf before that despite their seeming cooperation in the US-led war on terror. The reason is that Pakistan’s moderate secular class has never had the guts to stand up to obscurantist Mullahs right from the beginning of the establishment of the country. Pakistan was carved out of a united India in 1947 by the secular Muslims – almost all religious parties were against the idea of Partition and Two-Nation Theory – but in independent Pakistan the latter were soon able to force the former, the real architects of Pakistan, to pass an Objectives Resolution declaring the country as an Islamic republic to be run by a narrow, sectarian interpretation of Islamic Sharia.
One only needs to read the report of the Justice Munir commission of enquiry into the anti-Ahmadiya riots of early 1950s to learn about the shenanigans of the secular, Westernised class of Muslim Pakistanis and how they surrendered before the then isolated Mullahs and conceded to them centre-stage in policy-making. If they could not do it then, it is very doubtful if they can do that now by arresting a few Jihadist Mullahs and putting them under comfortable house arrest.
It is Islamists, however, the true practitioners of Islam, if any in Pakistan, who should have been fighting this malignant growth. It was their primary duty to keep Islam from being maligned and turned into a religion of the Jahiliya. Some of them indeed are. (One prominent name is that of Maulana Haider Farooq Maudoodi, the son of Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi.) But they don’t have the resources to counter the powerful Jihadist rhetoric backed by vast petrodollar resources. Muslim masses are by and large ignorant and poor. It is not difficult to either sway them emotionally using Jihadist rhetoric based on Islamic terminology or even to buy them with promises of goodies on earth and in Heaven. The terrorists and killers of around 200 innocent people in Mumbai are no doubt doomed to be consigned to Hell, as even Indian Islamic scholars have testified in their unanimous judgment, but they had clearly been brainwashed into thinking, as one of them is reported to have revealed that they were destined for Heaven.
What is Jihadism?
The basic belief of Jihadism is that all non-Jihadists are kafir and deserve to be killed. As a result, they have so far killed about a million Muslims in Afghanistan and at least 50,000 Muslims in the Kashmir valley. They have also killed non-Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir. But their present and main long-term target is the Muslims of India. Beginning from the Bombay blasts in 1993, they have made several attempts to provoke massive anti-Muslim violence in the country. The recent Mumbai massacre is the latest in this series.
Indeed a prominent ex-militant Kashmiri leader told me just after Zuhr prayers in the Shah Faisal mosque in Islamabad that the first person to attack the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992, was a Jihadist from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) who had joined the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) some time ago and was part of Mr. L. K. Advani’s rally along with several of his co-religionists. My informant was also a Jihadist once, but perhaps not completely devoid of the milk of human kindness and thus not a true Jihadist. He retained affections for his wife and kids stranded in the valley and his Hindu and Muslim classmates in Delhi where he had studied up to graduation. He was clearly not happy with the visions of an impending holocaust in India and tried to warn me.
Another warning came to me from a Jihadist during the Kargil war (May-July 1999) on a brief visit to England. I met him outside London’s Finsbury Park mosque after the Friday prayers. Exultant after the Pakistani Jihadists had reportedly downed two Indian planes in Kargil, he was more direct: “You Muslims (Indian) are cowards. Rivers of blood will flow in India soon and you will have just two choices: either become a true Muslim (i.e. Jihadist) or perish.” Revealing future Jihadist plans, he said: “You are completely devoid of leadership. We will provide you leadership under which you will become true Muslims (i.e. Jihadists).”
It is not some anonymous Jihadists alone who have been giving me these warnings, though they were more forthright than the so-called responsible leaders of this group. Prof. Khursheed Ahmad, vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan, for instance, told me in Islamabad in a recorded interview that Indian Muslims have been shirking their duty on Kashmir and they will have to answer before God on the Day of Judgement as to why they did not support the “Jihad” in Kashmir. Hurriyat Chairman and Kashmiri Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani has, of course, been taunting Indian Muslims regularly for their supposed cowardice on Kashmir.
I believe Providence would like me to convey these warnings to the nation. Muslims in particular must beware: they should take care not to allow any one to provoke them into any indiscretion, particularly at a time when the country is involved in a bloody fight with the enemy. It must be clearly understood that in the present case, the enemy is not only the enemy of our country but also the enemy of our religion. As realisation seems to be dawning among larger sections of people in Pakistan that Jihadism is their enemy as well, it is possible that we are able to fight it a little better.
Muslims must remember that they have to consult the Holy Quran for guidance in their day-to-day affairs. The model they have to follow is Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and not terrorists like Ajmal Amir Qasab or destroyers of mosques in Kashmir like Mast Gul. Islam did not allow its followers to pick up a weapon even in their defence for the first thirteen years even though they were facing the worst possible persecution in Mecca. They were “permitted” to defend themselves for the first time in Medina when they were facing aggression from Meccans. Had they not defended themselves even then they would have been surely wiped out from the face of the earth, thus sounding the death-knell for the religion of Islam as well. But only a few years later, when the Prophet had become powerful enough to wage a war with Meccans, he chose peace even on terms that were considered humiliating by most of his followers. He signed a peace agreement known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya. And then when he entered Mecca victorious, a year later, facing no resistance, he chose to grant a general amnesty for all, even for those who had mutilated the dead bodies of his close relatives like his beloved maternal uncle Hazrat Hamza.
Vendetta, vengeance, blood feud, mutilation of dead bodies, etc. are mediaeval pre-Islamic practices of the Jahiliya, practices Islam came to fight against. Those who perpetrate such acts in this day and age cannot claim to be Muslims. They must give some new name to their Faith. In any case Muslims cannot accept them as their co-religionists.
Note: This article is based on an earlier write-up published in 1999.
13 December 2008