By Hussain Amir Farhad,
Editor, Urdu monthly magazine, Sawt-al-Haq, Karachi
(Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam)
The controversy surrounding Rimsha Masih has died down but the situation is still volatile. I am giving an account of another incident in its context. Though the incident occurred in April 1994 but has lessons in it. I am reproducing it so that the religious fanatics could learn from it and such incidents are not repeated. I want to say to the Christian community that we are all the citizens of this land ( the holy land) and so we have to live here in harmony and this can be possible only when we respect each other’s sentiments, each other’s prophets, holy scriptures etc. The Christians should have no grudge against us as we recognise their prophet Jesus Christ first and along with him the last prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (PBUH). We cannot speak ill of the gods of other religions as God ordains us in the Quran:
“And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. (Al An’am; 108)”
No Muslim takes the name of the beloved prophet of Allah without saying ‘peace be upon him’ and this is our attitude towards the prophets whom the Jews and others follow, rather we believe our prophet (PBUH) to be among the descendants of Abraham and Ismail. Therefore, the differences are not from our side. Has anyone heard or observed any Muslim blaspheming against Hadhrat Abraham, Hadhrat Ismail, Moses, Jesus or Mother Mary? Or has someone burnt the Gospel or the Torah? So, you should also not do anything that makes it difficult for us to live together. We will also ensure that no one frames a false case against you people like what happened in Rimsha’s case or like the one that I am giving the account of as follows. Such incidents also become a cause for shame and disgrace for our country. God says:
“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” (Al Hujurat: 6)
A community whom God guides and gives instructions at every step can never believe in hearsay. But it is also a truth that this ordainment begins with ‘O those who believe’ that is this ordainment is for those who believe in God and therefore who do not obey his ordainments are among the disbelievers. Moreover, He says:
“And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind (They investigate).” (Al Furqan: 73)
The research work that is done in our mosques is, was the prophet (PBUH) a human or Nur; is the son of Mary dead or alive? What happened to the meat of the animal Hadhrat Abraham had slaughtered; what was Hadhrat Ayesha’s age at the time of marriage? If God asks us these questions and if we are not able to answer them, will He say, woe to your faces, you lived on earth for so long and still you could not find out if the prophet was a human or nur or the age of Aisha? No, we will not be asked these questions. He will ask us, “Did you lead your life according to the book I revealed to my prophets?” So, if this is the question, why should we waste our time on irrelevant issues? But believe me, in many mosques, this is exactly what is discussed. If you oppose or protest, you are killed with bullets or bombs.
A man called Dr Sajjad Farooque lived with his six children and wife in Khayali village in Gojranwala. He was a hafiz-e-Quran. He would also teach his children the Quran. He had some differences with his neighbours. On April 21, 1994, he was reciting the Quran while his wife had gone to buy incense sticks and milk with two of her children. The tea that was put on the hearth boiled and spilled over. He rushed to handle the tea pan and in the process the Quran inadvertently slipped off his lap and fell on the fire. He quickly lifted it up but not before two pages of it got burnt. In his own words, he said, ‘oh my God, what did I do? I burned the Quran?’ The woman next door who was watching this from over the boundary wall heard this. She told the people in her house that the doctor had burnt the Quran. In the neighbourhood, people had gathered to observe Quran recitation rites for the dead (fateha khwani) under the shamiana. On hearing this, they rushed to the spot.
When the doctor’s wife returned with incense sticks and milk, she saw a crowd in the courtyard and his husband was trying to give explanation to them through the window of his house.
The matter reached the police. In the meantime, an announcement was made from the mosque that a Christian doctor had ‘martyred’ the Quran. People kept coming in. The police arrived, gave assurance to the angry mob and took him to the police station. At the same time, an announcement was made from the mosque (which Dr Farooque would not visit) that a Christian doctor had martyred the Quran and so killing him was lawful. Later the maulvi said that he had said ‘Atai (blessed) doctor’ but people mistook it for ‘Isai (Urdu for Christian) doctor’.
The angry mob reached the police station where the doctor was sitting handcuffed. The mob pulled him out and began beating him. His pleadings went unheard. A trolley carrying bricks was passing by. The boys stopped it and they started battering him with bricks. They broke his hands. Most of them did not even know what the matter was. They were just passersby and had joined the mob only to earn sawab. When Dr Farooque died, they poured oil on his dead body and put it on fire. The preserver of the Quran was burnt. Two youth tied his dead body to a motorcycle and dragged it on the street. Then only the police intervened taking the dead body in their custody and arrested the youth. According to newspaper reports, the Commissioner watched all this from inside his vehicle and did not alight. Later a Quran recitation ceremony was held in the doctor’s condolence in the same mosque and the maulvi who had issued fatwa of his death was in the lead.
The whole locality testified that the doctor was a pious and righteous man and it could not be expected of him that he would martyr the Quran. His wife said there was only some acrimony with the next door woman for which he was killed. It is surprising that during all this period the government remained silent. On May 5, the Assistant Commissioner Gojranwala submitted his report which said that Dr Sajjad Farooque had indeed burnt the Quran. The woman who had reported to the mosque went missing.
Dear readers, it is the duty of the government and not of the people to administer punishment after inquiry and the order of the court. All the ordainments and instructions regarding crime and punishment in our religion are not for the individuals. For example, if the hands of a thief are to be cut off, it is not the right of an individual (to do it) not even of the person whose property has been stolen. It is the responsibility of the judiciary, not of the individual.
The main purpose of punishment is reformation and rehabilitation of the criminal and not revenge. (It should be noted that in this case also, the mosque, maulvi and loudspeaker were involved)
Now let us see how the Quran guides us on this issue. First of all, we should bear in mind that making false accusations against anybody is a sin which should be avoided. And if an allegation is brought against anyone, it should be investigated. God says:
“And do not insult one another” (Al Hujurat: 11)
On another occasion God says:
“Woe to every sinful liar” (Al Jathiya: 7)
“Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, "This is an obvious falsehood"?(Al Nur: 12)
This is God’s ordainment. And I think the people of the mosque know about this ordainment of God better than the common Muslims.
Hussain Amir Farhad is Editor, Urdu monthly magazine, Sawt-al-Haq, Karachi
Source: The Sawt al Haque monthly, Karachi