By Muhammad Yunus, NewAgeIslam.com
(Joint Author), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.
In an audaciously dramatic assumption of divine authority, the Pakistan parliament back in 1974 passed a constitution amendment (Bill No. 29, 7th September) that virtually expanded the expression of ‘Shahadah’ [‘I testify that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.’] with a declaration regarding ‘the absolute and unqualified finality of Muhammad’ (PBUH) as God’s Messenger. Since Ahmadis’ interpretation of the Qur’anic expression ‘khatam an nabiyin’(33:40) does not accord with the superimposed statement, the amendment expressly revoked their religious status and declared them non-Muslims. Thus, in a single constitutional stroke, every individual Ahmadi Muslim was stripped of his/her most cherished spiritual possession – faith in God and the Prophet and the Qur’an. The agony and trauma that it must have caused the Ahmadis is beyond imagination. At the moment of the declaration of the constitutional amendment all the inter-sect marriages between the Ahmadis and the mainstream Muslims stood abrogated, the young men and women of the mixed community entertaining softer feelings for one another were inexorably pulled apart, all the devout Ahmadis were barred from ever performing hajj or even entering a mosque, and all their womenfolk were virtually reduced to mushrikat or fasiqun– the ultimate disgrace a Muslim lady can suffer. In a word, it was tantamount to a spiritual genocide that only people with a satanic soul and schizophrenic mind can commit against fellow believers.
The tendency of the Muslims to dub their rival sects as kafir goes back to the early centuries of Islam. Given the generic definition of this word (kafir) as a denier of truth, one group can, in theory, call its opponent as such. But redefining a Qur’anic fundamental notion to expel a sect from the pale of Islam is playing God on earth – evil, abominable and satanic.
The Pakistan parliamentarians will defend the constitutional amendment as their Qur’anic right to exercise consensus (Shura), but if so, they will only be distorting the message of the Qur’an as the verse enjoining consultation (Shura) is preceded by an exemption verse that limits the scope of Shura:
“…(God’s reward is) for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord (42:36), and who avoid grave sins and abominations and forgive (even) when they are angered (42:37), who respond to their Lord, keep up prayer, (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation (Shura), and spend (in charity) of what We have given them” (42:38).
The prohibition of grave sins and abominable deeds in the verse 42:37 limits the scope of mutual consultation or consensus: it cannot justify a grave sin such as questioning one of the fundamental dicta of the Qur’an – the definition of ‘a Muslim’.
How does the Qur’an define a Muslim?
From the Qur’anic perspective all faith communities – Christians, Jews, and others – regardless of whether or not they are mentioned in the Qur’an (4:164, 40:78), who submit or orient themselves (asslama) to God and are under covenant to do good deeds are all Muslims. Accordingly, the Qur’an declares:
“Indeed! Whoever commits (asslama) his whole being to God, and does good deeds - will get his reward from his Lord. There will be no fear upon them nor shall they grieve.” (2:112).
“When his Lord said to him (Abraham), ‘Submit (asslim)’, he said, ‘I submit (asslamtu) to the Lord of the worlds’. Abraham enjoined his sons to do so, as did Jacob: ‘O my sons, God has chosen the religion (din) for you; so you should not die unless you have submitted (muslimun). Were you witnesses when death came to Jacob? He said to his sons, ‘What will you serve after I am gone?’ They said, ‘We will serve your God; the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac - the One God; and to Him we have truly submitted (muslimun)’” (2:131-133).
“They say: become Jews or Christians and you will be guided. You say, ‘(Ours is) the creed of Abraham, who was truly devoted to God, and did not associate anything with Him’ (2:135). You say, ‘We believe in God, and in what was revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isac, Jacob, and the tribes and what is given to Moses and Jesus and to the Prophets from their Lord, and We make no distinction between any of them and we have truly submitted (muslimun)’” (2:136).
“Say: ‘We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us, and in what has been revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and to Jesus and Moses and (other) prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them; and surely to Him do we all submit (muslimun)” (3:84).
“And who can be better in religion (din) than the one who orients (asslama) his whole being to God, and does good deeds, and follows the way of Abraham, the upright one, and God took Abraham as a friend” (4:125).
“And do not debate with the People of the Book (the Christian and Jews), but more graciously, except with those of them who oppress (others); and say ‘We believe in what was revealed to us, and what was revealed to you, for our God and your God is One (and the same), and it is to Him that we (all) submit (muslimun)’” (29:46).
“Whoever orients (asslama) his whole being to God, and does good deeds, has taken hold of the most trustworthy support, as the outcome of all affairs is up to God” (31:22)
“And who is finer in speech than the one who invites to God, does good deeds and says: ‘I am of those who submit to God (muslimun)’” (41:33).
[See also 3:52, 3:64, 3:80, 3:83, 28:53, 46:15]
As the Qur’anic revelation was coming to a close, the followers of the Prophet needed a religious identity. The Qur’an chooses the name ‘Islam’ for their religion:
“…This day, those who reject (this Qur'an) despair of (ever harming) your religion. Therefore, do not fear them; fear Me. This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor on you, and have chosen Islam for your religion…” (5:3).
Thus, in a specific sense, anyone who believes in the divinity of the Qur’an and in Muhammad (PBUH) as its conveyer belongs to the universal faith of Islam that espouses submission or orienting oneself to God and doing good deeds. The Qur’an remains immaculately consistent in its definition of the notion of Islam/Muslim through entire revelation period (610-632). At one stage, the Prophet’s opponents put enormous pressure on him to alter some wordings or contents of the revelation. This is how the divine voice retorted:
“If he [Muhammad] attributed to Us anything other than what is said (ba‘ad al aqawil) (69:44), We would seize him by the right hand (45), then We would sever his aorta (46) and none of you could prevent it” (69:47).
And some fourteen centuries after the Prophet’s death, we have a house of Pakistani parliamentarians, altering the Qur’anic definition of its core term, ‘a Muslim’ – how whimsical, how immature, how scandalous, how preposterous and how blasphemous!
Conclusion: It goes without saying that it is not for any human court to strip any person who declares the Shadah – as the Ahmadis do, of his religious identity as Muslims. Nowhere does the Qur’an connect a singular interpretation of the term ‘khatama’ in a given verse (33:40), or, for that matter, any theological or doctrinal interpretation or orientation of a Muslim sect with the religiosity of its individual members. Thus, to enact a law that effectively condemns each and every Ahmadi as a non-Muslim because of theological, interpretational or doctrinal differences is no less than a grand mockery of constitutional process - a spiritual carnage that is ultra-vires of law. The author may only say, that were ‘Allama Iqbal to come alive today, he may readily recall this poetic imagery of his epic poem, ‘taswire dard’: ‘zamin kiya asmaan bhi teri kajbini pe rota hai - ghathab hai satre Qur’an ko chalipa kar diya too nein’ [What to speak of this world, even the heavens cry at the crookedness of your vision – It is a curse that you have distorted the lines of the Qur’an.]
Given the growing violence and sectarian fragmentation in Pakistan, it is high time for its Parliament to revoke the clause redefining a Muslim, before it may be forced into it by the Big Brother or historical realities. The writer, of course, is not an Ahmadi, but he does not have the audacity to think of each of them as a non-Muslim.
November 10, 2011
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.