Source Daily Times:
Fauzia Wahab’s statement and the resultant reaction have exposed our religious-political confusion. Religion is a private matter whereas politics is public. The constitution is the mother of all laws. All man-made laws that is
The entire nation is in an uproar. The ruling party’s spokesperson, Ms Fauzia Wahab, an active student and practitioner of politics since her student days and now a member of parliament, is being discussed right, left and centre. It is tragic that the three political sides, namely the right, left and centre, have competed against each other to vehemently ask for an apology. The honourable parliamentarian was quoted by the media as having stated, “During the times of Hazart Umar (RA), there was no constitution, there was only the Quran. Now there is a constitution that gives immunity to the president.” For this remark she has been asked to apologise as it has been taken to be disrespectful to the spirit of religion. Religious, political and constitutional experts have come forward to condemn the statement and have been at pains to explain that the Quran is superior to the constitution and that Fauzia Wahab has attempted to equate the two. Hence the call for an apology for the alleged blasphemy. I suggest that Fauzia Wahab does not apologise.
Fauzia Wahab’s statement and the resultant reaction have exposed our religious-political confusion. Religion is a private matter whereas politics is public. The constitution is the mother of all laws. All man-made laws that is. Fauzia, in her statement, has essentially pointed out that now we are governed by a framework of laws that are man-made. According to the Objectives Resolution of 1949, it is stated that no law will be enacted in Pakistan that will be against the spirit of Islam. Thus, all our laws, as well as the mother of all laws, will have to be within the broad framework prescribed by Islam. However, within that framework, we will draft constitutions and will make amendments, for it is man-made.
The very act of framing a constitution is, in fact, a secular act that is political in nature. According to religious scholar Dr Jamal Badawi, “The Quran and prophetic tradition are the ultimate constitution, which is different from the secular constitution because it cannot be changed. In the secular system the constitution can be changed whenever needed because it is human-made and there may be better words than the ones that were put in the first place. Whereas, in the case of divine constitution, one cannot say, ‘I know more than God’. In addition, it is quite clear that democracy seems to go with systems that are basically secular, where the legislation of churches or temples or any religious body has nothing to do with the actual political system.” The fact that we have a constitution means that we are actually governing ourselves according to a secular tradition.
If students of religion believe that there is no immunity in Islam, then let there be a change in the country’s constitution for the constitution clearly lays down presidential immunity. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) should take up the issue and give its judgement accordingly and parliament can make the necessary changes.
However, to blast a politician for correctly differentiating between man-made political law and divine law is to actually exhibit an irrational extremist mindset that is quick to judge and slow to act. What is the difference between the mentality of the Taliban and our intelligentsia who have been quick to judge, condemn and execute Fauzia? This is ironic as the religion that is being defended itself cautions against being judgmental and overly critical. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Should you become eager to mention another’s faults, recall your own” (Ar-Rafi). He also warns us, “O you who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! Some suspicion is a sin” (Surah al-Hujurat:12). Ali ibn Abi Taalib (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “If the people knew what is involved in judging, they would not judge concerning the price of a piece of camel dung.” Al-Dhahabi, speaking about the mistakes of the scholars, said the following in Siyar al-A’lam al-Nubala (14/374), “If we were to discredit every person who made mistake in judgement or declare those people as innovators — people who are essentially of good faith and sincerely seek the truth — then scarcely would any of our scholars be spared.”
In fact, if extrapolated further, one would like to caution the people who have taken it upon themselves to call for apologies after terming it as a slight against Islam. There is no monopoly over Islam. Everyone, including Fauzia, according to their personal interpretations has the freedom and responsibility to understand, interpret and, to an extent, defend religion. According to Dr Jamal Badawi, “The political system of Islam is not theocratic because the term theocracy implies two basic elements. The first element is the assumption or acceptance of the principle that God alone is the Sovereign of ultimate power. The second part of the definition of theocracy is the assumption that there is a certain priestly class or clergy who claim to be representatives of God on earth, who alone have the right to interpret the will of God, and who, in some certain cases, are the ones who are supposed to enforce the divine law.”
Religion consumes us. It is devouring our political, social, economic and even personal lives. While we plummet in terms of development, we hang on to religion oblivious of future needs. Instead of defending ourselves against poverty, illiteracy and terror we are defending a religion that has God Himself as the ultimate defender. Pakistan is the only country that has infringed on its citizens access to information, entertainment and ever-personal freedom by blocking social networking and other sites. This is because of the alleged slight on Islam. The militant and extremist websites that propagate hate speech, intolerance, radicalisation bigotry and misinterpretation of Islam are active and easily accessible. These websites, with their incorrect interpretations of religion, are not blasphemous but a statement differentiating between political and religious lives is. I am no fan of Fauzia but have to admit, knowingly or unknowingly, that she has spoken sense. Apologising for a sensible understanding of religious-political life would be cause for an apology.