Fazal Muhammad Khan
In the follow up of my articles “Why Balochistan’s Mama Qadeer is on Long March” published in The Laaltain on November 27, 2013 and “My Name is Khan and I am Not a Talib” published in Pashtun Women Viewpoint on December 15, I received several disparate responses in social media wherein the nationalists’ narrative was reprimanded and dubbed to be secular and anti-Islamic. I wish to continue the conversation about the quandaries of Baloch and Pashtun people by replying to the feedback I received in the social media.
My approach would primarily be to appeal to the rationality of the readers. By rationality I mean a fundamental faculty of utilizing reason and logic to resolve any issue. The people who were too quick to discredit my opinions by calling it anti-Islamic should know that Islam rouses in man the faculty of reason and encourages him/her to ponder deeply in matters that he/she comes across. It instructs man to realize issues in the light of reality. In the Holy Quran, God Almighty denounces the act of not using one’s faculty of reasons in Surah Al-A’raf in the following words:
“They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.”(Verse 179)
Viewed from a broader perspective, Islam underscores more on Ijtehad which denotes the exercise and application of one’s reason or logic (rationality) to matters concerning one’s own self or social sphere and less on Taqlid, the (blind) following of the tradition.
Ill-starred, however, turned out to be the Muslim Ummah when by the 10th Century AD, the rationality was almost barred in the public matters because authorities of the day believed that ijtehad was the privilege of only a few great scholars who had died by then. As a result, all that was left for the Muslims to rely on was Taqlid or the following of the judgments and principles set by the likes of Imam Abu Hanifa and his contemporaries in the 8th century AD. The application of one’s own reason and logic on the issues which sprouted from continuously evolving culture, ever-increasing knowledge and advancements was rejected.
This was beginning of the death of rationality among Muslims. The Golden Age of Islam which lasted from the mid-8th century till the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258 AD has continued to collapse since then. During the golden period, however, Muslim world was an intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine and education. The House of Wisdom (Baitul Hikmah) was established in Baghdad where scientific knowledge was assimilated from ancient Chinese, Roman, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Phoenician, Byzantine, and Indian civilizations. However, with the consequent death of rationality which jammed the knowledge, Muslims could no longer produce geniuses like Bu-Ali Sina, Khwarizmi, Jabir Bin Hayyan, Ibn al Haisam and others. Here began the era where Muslim Ummah went into perpetual reliance on the West for knowledge.
Coming back to Pakistan, factors like unnecessarily extensive and powerful role of religious clergy in state affairs, Zia’s Islamization and his extensive revamping of the educational syllabi with the prime purpose of Islamizing education have bottled up rationality and deeply instilled the concept of Taqlid in the sociopolitical fabric of the nation. The attitude of Taqlid has developed an uncritical support, no matter rational or irrational, to whatever is uttered from the mouth of or written from the pen of some self-proclaimed religious scholars and preachers.
Because of this attitude of Taqlid, we as a nation have ignored the great achievements of people such as Prof. Dr. Abdus Salam – the only Nobel Laureate of Pakistan who is highly revered throughout the world but not in Pakistan. So star-crossed was he that we condemned him only for his belonging to the minority Ahmadiyya community and so ill-fated are we that we failed to benefit from what he achieved. One wonders that Har Gobind Khorana (1922 – 2011) who was born in pre-partition Pakistan and won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1968 might have anticipated our discriminatory attitude and decided to leave Pakistan and acquire a naturalized citizenship of America.
Similarly our attitude towards Malala Yousafzai is another reflection of our irrational mindset. Devoid of any concrete reasons and proofs, we are too quick to chastise the poor child. Too many of us blindly follow the opinions and writings of ideologically driven Malala haters. And when questioned on rational grounds, we tend to end the conversation by blaming liberals and seculars for all the ills in Pakistan. Let me recall what she has done. She is a girl of sixteen, shot in head by the Taliban, the one who talks of peace and education for all. She is the one who has shown to the world that Pakistan does have the talent, courage and the people who think progressively and speak against all the odds and oppressions in the society. If this is in fact the case, what is then wrong with her? Has she done anything distasteful either to Islam or to Pakistan? Of course not! But the death of rationality makes us think otherwise.
Such mentality has also by and large implicitly hampered research in both social and basic sciences. As an example, Tablighi Jamaat, a staunch propagator of Taqlid, discredits science by equating it just with technology and does not consider it an important knowledge. Likewise, the incumbent course content taught in our educational institutes requires students to read scientific literature with jaundiced eyes resulting in social stagnation and hampering the development of social values. The attitude of Taqlid proves out to be a monstrous blockade to the exchange of ideas in research in social sciences, in particular. It is probably the same mentality of Taqlid that has blocked the inclusion of scientists, both social and basic, in important public policy decisions. A case in point is the irrationality of the Council of Islamic Ideology in saying that DNA evidence cannot be taken a conclusive proof in rape cases.
On the basis of these premises about Taqlid and rationality, let us go back to the discussion of nationalists being termed as seculars and ant-Islamic. Nationalism is defined as a belief or creed or political ideology that involves an individual identifying with one’s nation. This definition is very much in sync with the words of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in his famous last sermon:
“O’ ye people! Allah says, O’ people We created you from one male and one female and made you into tribes and nations, so as to be known to one another.”
Nationalism, however, should not be confused with ethnocentrism which is defined as the judging of another’s culture by the norms, mores, standards and values of one’s own culture. And the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) has denounced ethnocentrism, and not nationalism, when he said in the same sermon:
“Verily in the sight of Allah, the most honored amongst you is the one who is most God-fearing. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab or for the white over the black or for the black over the white except in God-consciousness.”
In the words of Mahmood Khan Achakzai, ‘where in the Holy Quran, Hadith or Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) has it been mentioned that one should not raise one’s voice on the control of natural resources which exist in one’s area of residence?’ Albeit being only a question, these words explicitly define nationalism.
To conclude, let me put here the question: Does decrying the killing of 70 innocent people by a brutal army operation in North Waziristan a few weeks back make any Pashtuns an ethnocentric (Read nationalist)? So let us be rational in our critique of the ‘nationalists’.
Fazal Muhammad Khan is a graduate of GC University Lahore- He is General Secretary of Institute for Development Education and Advocacy (IDEA) – He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.