By Abdul Majeed Abid
The project of historical revisionism in Pakistan, with an ultimate aim to ‘Islamise the past’, has been going on since the foundation of the country. Following the secession of East Pakistan in 1971, a new Pakistan (with its own identity) came into being. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto appointed leading historians to write a history for this ‘new’ Pakistan. This project was derailed under the Islamist military dictator, Ziaul Haq and a new project was started: Islamisation of the society itself. In this particular programme, Zia was aided and abetted by Islamist political parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). This project focussed on different spheres of the society but the fields of communication and education were affected the most. History was a major target of these efforts.
Brookings Institution recently published an article as part of its ‘Islamists on Islamism today’ series by Asif Luqman Qazi, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader. His account is littered with outright lies and falsehoods that provide a glimpse of an Islamist mind. Following is an overview of some of those lies and some brief points regarding what actually took place in history.
Mr Qazi mentioned that soon after Partition of India, Maududi (founder of Jamaat) was ‘invited by Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to deliver five lectures on the foundations of an Islamic system of life’. This claim is an oft-repeated myth and for the correct version of this story, one might consult Vali Nasr’s book ‘The Vanguard of The Islamic Revolution’. This story is mentioned in the book in the following words: ‘The Nawab of Mamdot was a powerful member of the landed gentry of Punjab and was at the time [1948-49] embroiled in a struggle with Liaqat Ali Khan and his chief ally in Punjab, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, over the control of that province. The chief minister was eager to enlist the support of Islamic groups such as the Jamaat to stave off Daultana’s challenge. Mamdot, therefore, not only welcomed the Jamaat’s offer to assist with relief work among the refugees, but invited Maududi to deliver a series of talks on Radio Pakistan.’
The author has mentioned passage of Objectives Resolution in Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly during March 1949 as a foundational document in Pakistan’s constitution-making. During the proceedings of the assembly, Leader of the Opposition had quoted Mr Maududi from one of his books thus: “Islam is not democracy; for democracy is the name given to that particular form of Government in which sovereignty ultimately rests with the people, in which legislation depends both in its form and content on the force and direction of public opinion and laws are modified and altered, to correspond to changes in that opinion. If a particular legislation is desired by the mass of people, steps have to be taken to place it on the Statute Book. If the people dislike any law and demand its removal, it is forthwith expunged and ceases to have any validity. There is no such thing in Islam which, therefore, cannot be called democracy in this sense of the term.”
To this, Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan had replied: “There are some people here who are out to disrupt and destroy Pakistan and these so-called Ulema who have come to you, they have come with that particular mission of creating doubts in your mind regarding the bona fides of the Mussalmans of Pakistan. Do not for God’s sake lend your ear to such mischievous propaganda. I want to say and give a warning to this element which is out to disrupt Pakistan that we shall not brook it any longer. They have misrepresented the whole ideology of Islam to you. They are in fact enemies of Islam while posing as friends and supporters of Islam.”
Mr Qazi then went on to write that ‘Muslims of the Subcontinent remained masters of their own destiny for 800 years.’ This is a simplification of Muslim rule over India starting from the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Dynasty. Muslims were a minority in India and ruled over India through force. In that era, not all Muslims were equally ‘masters of destiny’ and many non-Muslims were employed by the rulers to serve as their representatives.
This ‘masters of destiny’ spiel is a no more than a revivalist’s dream. He then mentioned the golden age of Islam and that Muslim scientists and thinkers could’ve won Nobel Prizes if these existed during that time. He probably forgot to read that works of various Muslim philosophers and theologians, including both al-Ghazali (d. 1111) and Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), were publicly burned in the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Cordoba during that ‘Golden Age’. During the reign of Saladin, the great mystical philosopher Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi (d. 1191) was executed (by crucifixion) for dissenting from the established ‘orthodoxy’ and the Fatimid libraries of Cairo, repositories of hundreds of thousands of works, were destroyed and looted by his troops.
This ‘Golden Age’ theory has been debunked by numerous historians but it still persists among a majority of Muslims, especially ‘Islamists’ like Mr Qazi.
The ‘Political Islam’ movement spearheaded by Maududi and people like Syed Qutb has culminated in the form of the barbaric ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria. However, the grand ambitions harboured by Islamists like Mr Qazi appear to be unaffected even after this epic failure of the movement. Brookings Institution, by giving a platform to Islamists, is invariably amplifying a vocal minority among Muslims. A rational debate would consist of presenting at least some facts from one side, instead of a propaganda lesson.
Abdul Majeed Abid is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. He writes on History, International Relations and Culture