By Asghar Ali Engineer
The recent attack on Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old tribal girl from Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan shocked not only Pakistan but the whole world. There was near unanimity among the people of Pakistan that attack was not justified and there were demonstrations against it and collective prayers were organized for her recovery. Even tribal leaders from her town condemned this outrage. This news was carried prominently by the international media. Fortunately she survived and is reportedly stable in Birmingham hospital where she was flown by air ambulance provided by the Government of Dubai.
The Taliban of Pakistan claimed that attack was carried out by them and their leader Maulana Fazlullah is hiding in Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan has requested the Government of Afghanistan to hand over the Maulana and his colleagues. It is a matter of shame that a religious leader should be involved in the attempted murder of a teenage girl. Her ‘crime’ was that she was campaigning for education for girls.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan has justified shooting Malala on religious ground and described her as ‘spy of the west’, justifying the attack the Taliban further said “For this espionage, infidels gave her awards and rewards. And Islam orders killing of those who are spying enemies,” Second reason they gave was “She used to propagate against Mujahideen (holy warriors) to defame (the) Taliban. The Holy Quran says that people propagating against Islam and Islamic forces would be killed.”
As it is obvious it is an extremely weak defence of attack on her. Firstly, if Taliban know Islam, a child cannot be punished unless he/she attains adulthood. Only those who can understand the consequences of what they are doing (people with reasoning power) are liable to punishment in Islam Even prayers, fasting or hajj are not obligatory on children. Secondly, niyyah (intention) is necessary for performance of an act in Islam. Even prayer or fasting without niyyah will not be acceptable.
The weakness of the argument is obvious from the fact that Taliban have equated campaign for education of girls with ‘spying’. It is quite ridiculous. And before trying to execute somebody the crime has to be proved in the court of law. And Islamic punishments cannot be executed by anyone but one has to take the case to the court of Qadi who would hear that case, demand proof and ask for witnesses. Even as grave a crime as zina (illegitimate sexual intercourse or adulterous relationship) requires four witnesses who have witnessed the act of penetration itself for imposing the Islamic punishment of hundred lashes (or stoning to death though there is controversy about this punishment).
No one can take law into one’s own hand and execute anyone who has committed the crime. There will be total anarchy in the country. Only a duly constituted government can appoint properly qualified Qadi in Islamic law who can try the accused and pronounce appropriate sentence. There can be mitigating circumstances also which a Qadi has to take into account.
Not only that Taliban are not government, they are not even fit for being called Mujahideen. A Mujahid fights only in the way of Allah (fi sablillah) which itself is an act of great responsibility and it means that there would be no selfish desire involved or no arbitrariness at all. Taliban’s acts are far from Islamic or in the way of Allah (fi sabilillah) but more often than not, they are oppressive, exploitative and totally arbitrary besides being inhumane.
How strange that Taliban are describing campaigning for education as an act of ‘spying’. Can there be more irresponsible and arbitrary judgment than this? Do Mujahideen act so irresponsibly or since they had decided to murder an innocent teenage girl and are trying to find lame excuses and labelling it as ‘Islamic’? They can deceive themselves but not those who are experts in Islamic law and method of dispensing Islamic justice.
The Taliban should know that a Qadi or a mufti, while calling something ‘Islamic’ has to quote from Qur’an or Sunnah or both and where there is any ambiguity, to quote opinion of some Imam or founder of anyone of the school of law and not just describe anything one wants to do as Islamic. It is a gross error to do so and much more so if done intentionally which is what the Taliban have done in this case. Just by calling something Islamic does not become Islamic.
There is total unanimity among all Islamic scholars that ‘ilm (knowledge) is obligatory on all Muslim men and Muslim women (Muslimah). The Prophet (PBUH) did not use the word Muslim which would have included both men and women but mentioned Muslim men and women separately so that Muslim women are not left out in the matter of acquiring knowle4dge. And the Prophet (PBUH) made acquisition of knowledge for both men and women obligatory. Do Taliban deny this hadith?
Can then acquiring knowledge be equated with spying? The Prophet is also reported to have said that a man who has a daughter and educates her and marries her with an educated man will enter paradise. The Prophet (PBUH) even goes to the extent of saying that I take guarantee for his entering the paradise. The Qur’an makes us pray that O Lord! Increase me in knowledge (Ya rabbi zidni Il man) and all commentators agree that this applies to both man and woman. Qur’an calls knowledge as light and ignorance as darkness and again Qur’an makes us pray O! Allah take me out of darkness into light.
All this clearly shows that what Taliban have done is patently un-Islamic and must be strongly condemned. All those responsible for the dastardly act must be tried in court of law and of found guilty must be given stringent punishment.
Asghar Ali Engineer is an Islamic scholar who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.