Wednesday, December 28, 2016

India Cannot Become a Modern State

December 25, 2016

By Saeed Qureshi

Four major irritants will hinder India from becoming a modern developed state. The first roadblock is the poverty and huge galloping population of 1.27 billion and to provide jobs, houses and social inputs like health and education to the teeming millions. The second roadblock is the insurgencies or liberation movements. The third obstacle is the territorial disputes with neighboring countries and the fourth is the Hindu Nationalism and treatment of the minorities.
India has to go a long way before it can claim to be a modern nation where poverty and starvation, hunger and poor living conditions would have been stamped out or minimized. A modern India has to modernize its run-down infrastructure and stamp out social vices marginally or wholly.
Prime minister Modi with laudable record of developing the State of Gujrat as the chief minister may stumble in fruitfully addressing these grave issues. The steps such as banning of big currency notes and issuance of passports to those citizens who make latrines in their houses are not the lasting or worthwhile recipes to take off the robe of a third world country and join the rank of modern states such as Europeans.
Let us take a stock of the catalysts and factors that would wreck India and not only destabilize her but may keep her perpetually poor and backward. Admittedly, India is a great democracy and one of the leading countries with unbroken democratic traditions and institutions. But democracy alone is not the antidote to various festering sores that are distinctly visible on the body politic of India.
India’s huge burgeoning population and her lack of corresponding measures for the welfare and catering socio-economic needs of the people would explode into a downward economic backlash and a drift that would be utterly difficult to stem. India is dotted with shabby roads, a primitive railways system, disorderly traffic, dirty lanes and heavily polluted environment. It is bedeviled with appalling health and educational systems, it civic mess, its rampant corruption, and rabid bureaucracy, the culture of bribery and so one, may be compared with Pakistan but not with China and other modern and developed societies of the world.
With the grinding poverty and rather slow expanding industrial and manufacturing sectors and a saturation point reaching in agricultural produce, India would face an explosion that would be fatal to its economy. After all, when there is a wide gap and incompatibility between the resources and the countless mouths to feed, the outcome is certainly going to be dismal.
It would take several decades for India to create the infrastructure that the Chinese have created in barely three decades starting from the Deng Xiaoping era. As in China, India does not have a monolithic society that remains under a fixed order or discipline for the progress and advancement of their country. India religiously and culturally is a diverse society.
India is an energy deficient country, as Japan is. But can we honestly make comparison between the rapidity and consistency of growth of Japanese economy with that of India? Moreover, Japan’s population is much smaller than India’s. India cannot fully exploit her manpower and industrial potential because of the power outages, bureaucratic tangles, rampant corruption. The inadequate and decrepit infrastructure would remain a stumbling block to enable her to shape up as a modern developed country.
If expatriate Indians stop sending their remittances, which make a sizeable bulk of Indian foreign exchange, India might not be able to accumulate even this much of foreign exchange that it presently possesses.
India is beset with various secessionist or liberations movements. Since partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan in 1947, roughly there have been 9 secessionist movements striving to secede from India. These are Khalistan, Kashmir, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
The separatist movements in various parts of India cannot be exterminated and would explode with full force as the time passes. Either India will have to grant these rebellious regions independence or these will wrest forcible separation from India. That may happen sooner or later. That would be in simple words the beginning of the disintegration of India. Even if these regions may not be able to separate, the simmering discontent against the Indian federation would remain there.
As long as India can manage to contain those breakaway movements through her army, these may remain in a low key. But the moment her oppressive and tight control loosens, there would be mayhem let loose against the Indian Federation in those turbulent regions. The most vigorous self-determination movement is being steadfastly carried out in Kashmir, a Muslim majority land whose future is yet to be decided by a process of plebiscite by the Kashmiris under the United Nations’ supervision.
India will have to resolve the territorial disputes with neighboring countries: on Tibet with China, on Kashmir and Kargil heights with Pakistan. water dispute with Bangladesh and liberating landlocked Nepal from stringent conditions.
It would be instructive to remember that if the powerful Soviet Socialist Empire can fall apart, how India can save itself from such an eventuality if she does not take far reaching remedial decisions. One is to give self-determination or self-rule or complete freedom to the ethnic populations demanding independence or self-determination. It will have to sincerely embark upon a friendly relationship with Pakistan and other regional countries.
The third factor is the Hindu nationalism which brooks no competitors in the realm of religion or faith. in 2002 the world had seen what happened to the Muslims in the state of Gujarat. In those bloody riots 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed. Independent sources put the death toll at over 2000. Approximately 150,000 people were driven to refugee camps. Numerous women and children were among the victims; the violence included mass rapes and mutilations of women.
The lowest caste called Dillats or untouchables are treated worse than an animal. Hanuman (ape), Ganesha (elephant) cow, serpent and other animals are the most revered gods than a human with a low (also called Shudara) caste. Muslims and Christians are treated at par with despised Shudara.
The other is the caste system that breeds hatred and divisions and undermines the unity and is out of sync with the norms of equality and freedom being the hallmarks of modern societies. Despite Bollywood galore, the inhuman caste system, and imaginary mythologies would remain stumbling blocks in making India a modern state.
There had been at least three major wars between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir and the India’s military intervention to create Bangladesh in 1971. The dormant hate and venom oozes out between the two people when a match is being played and at times of border clashes or when similar tensions mount between these two neighbors.
The Indian media pours out venom and scorn on Pakistan, its leadership and the very genesis of Pakistan. Vice versa Pakistan’s media traverses the same track. Unless there is a veritable change of heart on both sides, the peace in the region as well as the dream of good neighborly and cordial relations between the two neighbors would remain elusive.
There ought to be a real change of heart on both sides of the partitioned lands of India and Pakistan.



Monday, December 19, 2016

The Hacking of 2016 American Presidential Elections

December 18, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

Unlike other countries, the votes casting by the citizens to elect the American president doesn’t take place on one day. There is an option of the early voting that continues until the last day of voting which this years was November 8.
It is perplexing and rather incredible that till the midnight of November 8, the issue of election hacking had not surfaced as it did later and is still continuing. The main blame or onus of this hacking episode has fallen on Russia with focus on the Russian president Vladimir Putin who purportedly ordered for this hacking to pave way for the Republican candidate Donald Trump to win against the Democratic Nominee Madam Hillary Clinton.The 2016 elections have been enormously influenced by the alleged Russian hacking resulting into stealing of thousands of pages of documents from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington and made available to the press and the public.
In his last press briefing before the end of his term, held on Friday November 16, President Obama categorically pointed at the Russia for hacking the Democratic votes and thus paving way for the victory of the Republican candidate Donlad Trump. 
He stated that in the backdrop of reports circulating prior to the planned hacking of the 2016 presidential elections, he warned and asked the Russian president Mr. Vladimir Putin to “cut it out”. at a Group of 20 summit meeting in Hangzhou China held in September this year.
 He conveyed to him a strong American response in case there was continued effort to influence the elections or manipulate the votes. He said that he was weighing a mix of public and covert actions against the Russians during the period of his last 34 days in office, elaborating those actions as “very costly for them”.
However, in his press conference, he stopped short of revealing those stringent measures that his administration aims at carrying out against Russian in retaliation. All that he specified was that “Some of it we will do in a way that they will know, but not everybody will,” However he wants to do so without setting off an escalating cyber conflict.
The president said that “We did not see further tampering of the election process. But the leaks of D.N.C. emails, and those of John D. Podesta, the Clinton campaign manager, continued, because they were already in the hands of WikiLeaks, which doled them out to an eager news media until the last days of the campaign.”
He outlined that, “Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do the stuff to you”. “But it is also important to us to do that in a thoughtful, methodical way. Some of it, we will do publicly. Some of it we will do in a way that they know, but not everybody will.”
Prior to Mr. Obama’s farewell address to the press, Hillary Clinton in her address, on 15 December, to  a group of donors in Manhattan stated that “the hacking attacks carried out by Russia against her election campaign and the Democratic National Committee were intended to sabotage the American Democratic system. She claimed that this hacking was ordered by Vladimir V. Putin. 
Castigating Russian president for personal rancor against her she accused him of   having a personal beef against her. “He had never forgiven me for the accusation she made in 2011, when she was secretary of state, that parliamentary elections in his country held that year were rigged.” She exclaimed.
There are is a litany of retaliatory proposals one of which is to cut off leaders in Mr. Putin’s inner circle from their hidden bank accounts in Europe and Asia. An option is already there to use sanctions under a year-old executive order to ban international travel for senior officials in the G.R.U. (Russia’s main Intelligence Agency)
Mr.. Brennan the CIA Director said that he had met with FBI Director James B. Comey, as well as the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, and “there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.”
Mr.. McFaul, the former ambassador to Russia, called upon president Obama that he should focus on “declassification of intelligence to lay bare the Russian hacking,” during the remaining period of his presidency. 
Following Mr. Obama’s comments, the Democrats have demanded further action from president Obama. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee called for “additional economic sanctions along with our allies, and clandestine means of exacting a cost on the Russians for their flagrant meddling in our election.”
He said that “I have little confidence,” that the incoming president Donald Trump will take the actions necessary to make the Russians pay any price for the most consequential ‘active measures’ campaign against us in history.”
According to NYT’s report “The Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) is of the view that the Russian government deployed computer hackers to help elect Donald J. Trump.” However, Trump has rejected the findings of the intelligence agencies calling it as “ridiculous,” He insisted that the hacker may be American, or Chinese, but that “they have no idea.”
It appears that the cold war that was abandoned some decades from Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev onwards is going to be revived that might divide the globe into two rival blocs. Even if that doesn’t happen because of the newly elected American president Donald Trump’s soft corner for Russia, the friction on other levels such as between the intelligence agencies and cyber war may erupt.








Thursday, December 15, 2016

12 Rabiul-Awwal Festivities and Poverty in Pakistan

December 13, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
This year too, the Muslims all over the world celebrated the 1447th birthday of the prophet of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa(SAW). It is interesting to note that this year December 12 in Christian calendar and 12 Rabiul-Awwal in Islamic calendar coincided with each other. On this auspicious occasion, Pakistan, has been awash with fairy lights and a galore of festivities on the birthday of the prophet of Islam which falls every year on the 12 of the third month of the Islamic calendar.
However, the first paramount question that comes to mind of a less orthodox Muslim or a secular or non-Muslim that how the birth day of the prophet was figured out to be 12 Rabiul-Awwal. The tradition tells us that Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) was born in a secluded place when his mother Amina Bibi was traveling. How would a woman of those primitive times capture in his mind the day of the birth of her child which even in the present time would not be possible to remember for village females faced with the similar tough conditions.
Hazrat Muhammad was born two months after the death of his father Abdullah. So, there can be no question for the father to keep in mind the date of the birth of his son upon whom God almighty bestowed the prophethood at the ripe age of 40 years. His mother Amina also died after sometime.
Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa at the age of 40 years received the first divine revelation or message through arch angel Jibril in the “Cave of Hira”, situated in the hills near Mecca city. When his mother died, he was barely three-year-old and may not have known about the circumstances of his birth. According to the then prevailing customs Hazrat Abdul Muttalib the affluent grandfather of Hazrat Muhammad sent him, for living and learning, to Bibi Hajira a caretaker who lived in the desert.
During all these years from his birth and his stay for six years in desert how someone would have remembered and written his correct birthday. He couldn’t do it by himself as he was an infant and remained unlettered throughout thereafter.  Under these circumstances one would imagine how the birthdate of Hazrat Muhammad was determined as 12 Rabiul Awwal.
One would also be curious to know if there was a foolproof system of remembering or writing the dates including the birthdays in those times. I would be obliged if someone from among my readers throws light about the 12 Rabul Awwal as the correct date of birth of Hazrat Muhammad.
Chronologically till the age of 22 years, prophet Muhamad grazed the sheep of his uncle Abu- Talib, the son of Abdul Muttalib. But the marvelous turning stage came in his life when he managed the business of Hazrat Khadija one of Mecca’s wealthiest woman. Later he married her in 595 CE after the death of her previous husband. They remained wedded from 595 CE to 619 CE. He inherited the enormous wealth of Hazrat Khadija.
But his association with Khadija as his first wife was enormously instrumental in propelling his divine message as prophet of God starting from his first revelation in 610 CE. Both lived together as wife and husband for 24 years. In 622 CE, he migrated to Madina where he spent rest of his life in consolidating Islam and shaping the State of Madina After 610 CE, all the phases and details of his life are clearly chronicled.
Besides, this assertion or prologue, I want to discuss another subject that the Muslims may like to ponder.
I wonder if prophet Muhammad were alive he would have approved the ostentations, profusely colorful and expensive decorations and lighting of the mosques, streets, houses, official buildings, processions. public and private buildings, markets. All these manifestations are superficial and have nothing to with living a life of piety and honesty and good character.  Islam exhorts simplicity and frugality. Islam goads fulfilling one’s essential needs and give away alms and a part of one’s honest earnings to the poor and needy in the society.
The prophet would have liked to see the Muslims building their character, inculcating unity instead of delving in racial, sectarian and regional discords. He would have preferred to see the Muslims, not to be divided in various sects killing and opposing each other.  He would have been delighted to see the Muslims not suffering economically, socially and instead presenting the best examples of the governance. He would be pleased to see the Muslims excelling in the scientific and material fields. The Islamic societies are most backward and despite having enormous resources are poor and ready to become cronies of the strong nations from other religions.  
Prophet Muhammad who spent his life in complete austerity and self-abnegation would be displeased with the money and time spent on adorning the mosques with expensive fairy lights and taking out large processions in every street, bazars and lanes. There could have been a sober and modest way of celebrating the birth of the prophet such as giving charity, feeding the poor, silently praying and contemplating and seeking the blessings of God.
The amount of money collected in every village and city by the activists of these processions and gatherings at the mosques could have been better utilized on helping the teeming poor and countless needy people and families in the society.
That would have been a truly Islamic and humanitarian way of remembering the prophet who despite all the material resources at his disposal fasted most of the time, ate what was needed to sustain the body.
 We Muslim believe and excel in showoff and ostentations and shy away from treading the path of the real Islam which offers the best model and pleads a simple and modest life. The amount of money spent on decorating and adorning the mosques, abodes of Sufis and Saints and graveyards with fairy lights, buntings and banners should be in millions. With half of that money many children could be educated and many poor and hungry people could be fed.
We have seen through television and social media the religious demagogues and fiery orators spewing out eloquence and fuming verbosity about the life and the sublime message of prophet Muhammad and profusely applauding his service to the mankind by passing on the message of God almighty to the humanity of at large. These religious orators excel in mobilizing the crowds with mesmerizing deliveries and awesome sermons and that is all what we have seen in all the mosques and religious sites.
Yet did anyone of these religious stalwarts thought for a moment that besides collecting funds and donations for celebrating the Rabiul-Awwal, they should also devote their time and talent of oration to weed out poverty, murders, environmental degradation, adultery and adulteration, sectarian hatred, child sex, abuse of women and a whole range of other crimes that bedevil Pakistan ad rest of the Islamic world.
Instead they fan sectarian divisions from the pulpits and emphasize on mere rituals such as cramming and reciting the Quran but not tailoring their lives in accordance with its message and contents. They are hypocrites and the onus of pitiable conditions prevailing in various Muslims societies devolves both the corrupt leaders and hypocritical and vision-starved religious Imams and demagogues.
They are the enemies of progress, enlightenment, egalitarianism and fundamental rights to the people. They want the people to remain like frogs in a well, just reciting and memorizing the Quran, learning and practicing certain basic obligations and blocking the creation of a modern Islamic state in Pakistan.





  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Islam as I Understand it

December 6, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

Let us first of all admit that Islam is a religion just like Christianity and Judaism; that it is a monotheistic religion like Judaism. That it shares its divine ancestry with Judaism and Christianity, even if the latter two religions don’t accept it, because they claim to be the forerunners of Islam. It is in the same way that Judaism doesn’t accept Christianity which came much after Judaism.

Let us also acknowledge that Islam has a rich heritage and culture like other faiths. The Islamic religio-social traditions and customs teach how to dress up especially for the women, what to eat (meals from legitimate income and in case of meat the animals to be slaughtered in a religiously defined way). The Islamic ethos also spells out the ways to celebrate the religious days and how to host feasts. It also includes the circumcision and the marriage ceremonies. Islam does not encourage the kind of music and modes of entertainment that arouse sexual, carnal and lecherous sentiments.

Islam like other religions has symbols also. These, inter-alia are the mosque, rosary, holy water (Zam Zam), beard, moon, black stone placed in one of the walls of the House of the Lord (Khana Ka'ba), the green color, the curved sword, minarets and turban. Like many other religions, the Muslims too have a holy book Qur’an. It is our common knowledge that this religion sprouted in the Arab land whereas the Christianity and the Jewish were born in the North of the Arab peninsula.

Islam has a package of five basic beliefs. These are: belief in one God or Allah, belief in Angels, belief in Holy Scriptures (Torah, and Bible), belief in the apostles or messengers of God, belief in the Judgment Day, belief in God’s omniscience, prior knowledge and determination of all things.

Islam has also five pillars of Observance or obligations. These are Shahada (declaration of faith) that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. The second is Salat or prayer with face towards Haram Sharif or Khana Ka'ba five times a day. The third is the Zakat or alms which ordains giving a percentage of one’s income to the poor and underprivileged. The fourth is Fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan. The fifth is Hajj or pilgrimage once in life time if possible financially or health wise.

There are two sources of Islamic Sharia or law in Islam. While the Quran is the primary basis for the Sharia, it is in the second source the Sunna or the life of the prophet as recorded in the Hadith that has been a major source of information for the details of the law only hinted or omitted in Koran. The Sunnah or Hadith of Prophet Muhammad comprises his actions, silent approvals, decisions, utterances, sayings and edicts. The decisions and sayings of the four successors of the prophet called caliphs are also used as precedents for making decisions on matters concerning Muslims or non- Muslims.

Sharia covers the entire body of Islamic law as it developed since the time of the prophet (six hundred legal references in Koran and Prophet Muhammad’s statements contained in the Hadith). Sharia clarifies if there is confusion on a certain matter. It interprets rules and regulations, decisions and edicts of the prophet and Quran. 

The constituents of Islamic Sharia are not confined to Quran and Hadith alone. The other sources are some of the Pagan customs from the Bedouins like Muta and dowry and also the traditional commercial/agrarian practices. A select number of Roman and Byzantine laws have also been incorporated in the Islamic Sharia. For instance, the plaintiff must produce evidence and witnesses otherwise defendant can swear and clear himself. Jewish, Persian and Greek traditions and laws also form part of Islamic Sharia.

The Quran narrates parables and stories of the ancient prophets, nations, societies and civilizations and warns as to why they prospered and why some of them received divine wrath and vanished. It gives vivid and detailed information about the life after death, the Day of Judgment and the final destinations of the Heaven and the Hell.

Islam judges or evaluates the temporal and the ecclesiastical matters and the deeds of a Muslim faithful through five parameters or commands. These are: absolute duty, (Fard), commendable (Mustanjab), permissible (Mubah) reprehensible but without punishment (Makruh) and forbidden (Haram). These five criteria also fall under Sharia. As already explained, the Sharia that governs the conduct of a person or group is derived from the text of Qur’an and also from the practical life of the prophet.

The Islamic state was headed by Prophet Muhammad in the city of Medina in 622 - 632 A D. This was the actual period when the fundamental contours of a Muslim state were laid down. Since prophet (SAW) himself was the ultimate authority on all temporal and divine affairs, his words, decisions and verdicts were unquestionably accepted as the commandments of God conveyed to him through divine revelation (Wahi).

But when the Muslims in subsequent times, through their conquests and preaching missions came into contacts with other civilizations and religions, they faced enormous doctrinal and administrative challenges that had to be resolved rationally if these did not have the precedents within the Quran or the life of the founder of Islam. It is in the wake of such intellectual and doctrinal dilemmas that several schools of jurisprudence for elucidation of Sharia to the outside world and even to the inquisitive Muslim came into being.

The four such orthodox schools of Islamic law that dealt with the application and expansion of Sharia in the subsequent times are:

Abu Hanifa: analogies, parallels or Qiyas gleaned from Quran if there is no order or injunction in Quran or Sunna.

Imam Malik: His collections of laws relied on local traditions of Prophet Muhammad and his companions in order to fit into the customary law.

Al Shafi: Stipulates compromise between tradition and independent thought, restricts use of common sense as done in Imam Abu Hanifa’s Qiyas practice. He founded the science of Muslim jurisprudence

Ibn Hanbal: He was ultra conservative. His legal philosophy is called Nass. Nass is the binding ordinance explicit in the Quran and Hadith. It means sanctified opinion derived from only Quran and Hadith and no other source. While he rejected human reasoning adopted by other three Islamic scholars, he preferred even Shaky Hadith to determine a law or decision.

These schools operate within the framework of Ijtihad that means reinterpretation of Sharia or Islamic laws. The decisions arrived at are ordained to be with Ijma or consensus and not to be a single opinion (Raye) of an individual.

Besides these schools, the Muslim thinkers also tried to answer many philosophical contradictions through intellectual scrutiny and rational explanations. Such questions were about the predestination, the free will, mysticism, religious truths and intellectual truths, role of reason in relation to the theological truths and so on.

Apart from these intellectual and religious debates ranging since the passing away of the prophet till now, the simple principle on which the entire Islamic religious philosophy and precepts boil down is that man should live like a servant of God and accept him as the only creator who not only governs the universe and all the existence but also watches the Muslims in the light of their good and bad deeds or intentions.

Based upon the nature of a deed in this world, God, on the judgment day, will give reward and punishment accordingly. The obedience to God has not only to be professed verbally but practically demonstrated through five times daily and one time weekly prayers. A faithful’s virtuous life and personal good conduct is also a testimony to his submission to God as his subject.

Thus, Islam wants man to be an embodiment of all positive and good virtues such as humility, charity, peace, chastity, kindness, tolerance, love for fellow believers, respect for elders, and women and so on. The crux of all these noble traits is defined in one phrase that, “a good Muslim is that whose tongue and actions are not harmful to others”. Islam means submission and Muslim means who practices Islam and is unconditionally obedient to God.

Prophet’s Muhammad’s period of leadership is deemed by the Muslims as the ideal model both from mundane and spiritual standpoints. To a lesser degree, the caliphs’ life of piety, self-denial and untainted dispensation of justice is also taken and followed as beacons for Muslims. The Shia sect in Islam believes only in the spiritual leadership of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali, who was the cousin brother and son in law of the prophet also.

The ideological cleavage between the Shias and the Sunnis is the incurable wound inflicted on the body of Islam. Although, they share major common elements of faith, yet the Muslim nation is irredeemably and rather irreconcilably divided into two distinct factions forever. Their mutual antagonism is as deep rooted and chronically as bitter as the religious animosity between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. This festering fissure resulted from the claim of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali as the rightful successor of the prophet for the caliphate.

As for fundamental beliefs, Islam brooks no compromise, nor tolerance nor any deviation. As for the rituals, these are subject to certain conditions that apply keeping in view the physical, social and financial status of a faithful. For instance, pilgrimage is essential for those who can afford it monetarily. The religious tax (Zakat) is also contingent upon the economic position of a member of Islamic fraternity. The fasting is also not strictly applicable to those with infirm health, pregnant women or during traveling or for similar reasons.

Islamic culture goads moderation, sanctity, piety and sobriety. It shuns or discourages the indecent extravaganza, the morbid exhibitionism, or lewd show off. For instance, Islam allows feasts on weddings and merry making on joyful occasions but exhorts serenity and no lavish spending.  In matter of dresses or costumes, it is not necessary to dress up like Arabs by wearing a big long rob but one is ordained to cover the nakedness of certain parts of the body. 

The purpose is to maintain sanctity of one’s body which is more rigid in case of women for being an object of amorous eyes from the impious or sexually pervert people. Understandably, such conditions can be met by wearing even western, Chinese or African dresses if these fulfill the basic criterion of covering the body and maintaining modesty.

Mindful that the religious teachings and dogmas would not remain rigid for all times and in different societies, the prophet kept the door for amendments and changes open in Sharia but without deviation from the main corpus of Islamic teachings. This is called Ijtihad (literally means exertion). As such, all the interpretations or alterations in the Sharia worked out by the succeeding Muslim philosophers and religious scholars were done in the light of that provision.

When we compare the western democracy with the Islamic political system and the choosing of the leaders in the primitive Islamic societies with that of the modern times, we tend to forget that it was only after the Renaissance and Reformation that the Europe started embarking upon the democratic path. Otherwise, the Christendom was afflicted with bloodletting conflicts between old Roman Church and the proponents of reforms throughout the Middle Ages. So, to paint only Islam as undemocratic is not a pragmatic or truthful approach to the Islamic system of government.

Democratic system functions in a closely-knit world with fast communications as we have in the modern times. Otherwise the Greek democracy that was prevalent even before Christ was confined to the cities. Beyond the city states, it could not be expanded because an integrated system of voting or conducting elections in the length and breadth of the vast empire was not possible. Moreover, those were not the ages of enlightenment and therefore the true democratic culture even if conceived could not be practically followed during the present times.

The Sharia that was prevalent during the time of Prophet Muhammad and four caliphs (632-661) can still be applicable if it is suitably modified to bring it in conformity with the phenomenally different world of today. The consensus can be brought about, if the narrow concepts and beliefs affected by sects and denominations, contrary to the age of prophet, are set aside. Or at best these sects can still function but the main consensus code should remain supreme.

Which means that the symbols are just a window dressing and have no pronounced bearing on the life of a Muslim faithful? The rituals are relative and are strictly obligatory for those who have the capacity to observe them. The beliefs are confined to the individual and are personal. What matters most is the resolution or dealing with the crimes, anti-social practices and destructive actions of the citizens.

Islam presents a general framework for dispensation of justice. The cardinal principle that Islam lays down is the strict fair play, administering absolute justice in complete disregard of someone being poor or rich, influential or obscure, a common man or a man of authority. It should be acknowledged that the modern judicial system fulfills all these conditions if applied by such a government that would respect and sincerely promote law and justice.

It means that the punishment to the convict is imperative but the choice of the punishment and the mode of dispensation can be improved or reformed for such punishments as beheading with a sword. For instance, the theologians and Islamic jurists must acknowledge and therefore incorporate it in a new Islamic code that covering of veil was not possible for women now as was done in tribal or feudal societies in the past and even now.

It is also essential to change through an agreed Ijtihad process that a rape female victim instead of being further victimized and brutalized by the religious laws must be helped against the male rapists. So, such unattainable or impracticable conditions as to the production of four witnesses must be discarded because in the present times, the occurrence of rape and the identity of the rapist can be verified by scientific means such as testing of DNA.

The Islamic caveat concerning the interest or mark-up has to be modified because the complexion of the societies and the nature of interest have undergone a radical change. The Arabian society in the 6th or 7th centuries was primarily agrarian. The usury or the interest was charged in advance on cash given to a needful. Now the concept of interest is not like those primitive societies.

The interest-bearing economy is now profit making economy because the money remains in circulation. That is how the wealth increases and the economy grows. The old interest concept which now is rather reinvestment for profit has to be modified.

Similarly, another issue relating to patrimony or inheritance and alimony (allowance paid by the husband to divorced wife) has to be redefined in the modern societies when the civil laws enshrined in the modern jurisprudence, treat these issues better than the antiquated customs that were derived from the tribal system. If a reinterpretation is not thought about, still the parallel legal or economic system cannot be ignored or ruled out. The world today is interdependent. The Muslims cannot live in isolation.

So, it depends upon the governments to apply and enforce laws, otherwise even the best of rules and caveats fail and remain ineffective. The example is the multitudinous Islamic caliphates that used Islam to justify their illegitimate hold on power. They fought each other for power and decimated their rivals to the last man as exemplified by the power struggle between Umayyad and Abbasid and later between other Islamic dynasties.

The religion of Islam is patently secular in nature, not in the religious sense but in terms of its openness, liberalism and accommodation for all opposing creeds and cultures. The incontrovertible shining example of that is the Muslim rule in Spain (756-1492), when the Christians and the Jews lived with the ruling Muslims, enjoying equal rights and in peace and dignity.

In the contemporary times, Malaysia, Indonesia, Tunis, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and certain Central Asian states offer examples of enlightened, accommodating, progressive Islamic polities where minorities live in peace, harmony and equality along with the Muslim majority. In these countries, the Islamic laws have been enforced in such a way that these not only fulfill the pristine spirit of Islamic Sharia, but also meet the requirements of a modern state.

Although polygamy is practically nonexistent for the majority of the Muslims, yet it is one of the stigmas that Islam suffers from. The polygamy is prevalent mostly in the Arab lands. In other countries, it is sparingly practiced in the tribal, feudal and religious classes. But for outsiders this has invariably, been used as a slanderous tool against the Muslims to prove that the women folks were sex chattels, were lesser equal and inferior to the males.

That is true to a degree. In order to deal with this contentious issue, it is necessary that the Muslim jurists and theologians should sit together and hammer out a formula that should aim at discouraging the polygamous tendencies and practices in the Muslim societies. Or it can be declared forbidden through Ijtihad.

But I strongly reckon that as the societies tend to be more progressive, the Muslims would themselves abandon the polygamy. As a result, though, the divorce rate would soar among the Muslims as we can see in the western societies where polygamy is lawfully banned. Even now the educated and independent women do not like to marry a person who would be already married. So, the modernization of the Islamic conservative societies would neutralize this social slur associated with Islam. The domestic violence should be sternly dealt by the Islamic governments but it would also be hopefully outstripped and fade away with the passage of time.

Modernism, liberalism and secularism is the answer to the backwardness, indolence, underdevelopment and intellectual, economic and social decadence of the Islamic world. The Jews hammered out a historic compromise in 18th century when they imbibed and adopted the western ways of life at the behest of the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Professor Moses exhorted the Jews to abandon their rigid fanaticism and Talmud and conform to western culture.

Through a political movement aided by the capitalist Europe and America the establishment of the state of Israel was made possible in 1948. In the same way, the Islamic religious fervor has got to be rational and aided by the political and reformative spirit if the Islamic countries want to be counted as modern nations in contemporary world.

The first constitution is always vulnerable to further alterations and amendments. Likewise, the original Islamic ideologies and dogmas that became controversial, counterproductive and rather unworkable, should be overhauled while keeping intact their spirit and core philosophy and teachings of Islam.

If Ijtihad started barely 80 years after the demise of the prophet of Islam by the Muslim reformers, theologians, philosophers and scholars, then such an endeavor is indispensable in the modern times when the Islamic teachings are targeted for their irrationality, obscurantism, subjectivity, inconsistencies and for being out of sync with the rapidly advancing imperatives of a highly competitive modern world.

In Christendom, after prolonged controversies, debates and bloodshed, the state finally managed to relieve itself from the influence of papal supremacy or the domination of the church. Every country established its own church or denomination in Europe, elsewhere in the world, and of late in the United States. The Church and state were separated for their respective roles. That proved to be a blessing in disguise both for the church and the state. Similarly, in Muslim societies a gigantic effort is needed to harmoniously blend the Islamic beliefs and religious creed with the dynamics and progressive spirit of the modern societies without compromising the essential teachings.

In Islamic states, the state and religion have to function without mutual conflict and contradiction. There should be no place, for fundamentalism, sectarianism, fanaticism, or rigid adherence to a creed, that is outdated and ruinous to the cosmopolitan nature of Islam. An enlightened and updated fundamentalism (the age of prophet) is the need of the hour for Islamic societies to move forward and join the comity of modern states in technological, scientific and in other domains of human and material advancements.

 

 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Donald Trump showers Lavish Praise on Pakistan

December 1, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

Unpredictability is one of the glaring traits of United States’ president-elect Donlad Trump. He vehemently opposed the Obamacare during the electioneering campaigning and announced to rescind it if elected as the president. He categorically spoke against the Latinos, Muslims and immigrants. He even castigated Pakistan in these words, “Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect — and much worse”. He promised to build a wall between Mexico and United States and so on.
But all of sudden, he seems to be cautious and sober. Those issues seem to be nonexistent and taken out of his litany of tasks. He is talking of unity and togetherness among the sections of society differing from each other on the basis of color, race and religion. He seems to have settled down and his aggressiveness and tempestuous rhetorical outburst appear to be transformed into saner and guarded and placatory statements and outpourings.
In the first place with a backlog of many scandals and a person who is a cut and dried businessman with billions of dollars asserts and cash, prevailed and won in the political arena. His venomous remarks and vilifications of his opponents and distractors have gone with the electoral winds, He is a totally different Donald Trump, taking caution even in picking his cabinet members and appointments of high executive positions.
His latest telephonic conversation with the prime minister of Pakistan is a display of high caliber diplomacy, sobriety and statesmanship.  Not even the friendliest presidents of USA to Pakistan have ever paid such rich and unalloyed tributes to the people of Pakistan, the prime minister and displayed an unconditional resolve to work with Pakistan.
 
He has been extremely generous and full of praise for the Pakistan as well as its people and leadership, let me quote what he said in his conversation. In that he said: “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.”

He readily accepted the offer of prime minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan by saying, “I would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people”

This conversation cannot be a display of mockery or subterfuge for the simple reason that he doesn’t need to do it. In the first instance, he could have refused or postponed talking to Pakistan’s prime minister which he had earlier looked upon as a state sponsoring terrorism. It is certainly a transformation of mindset that if sustained would be extremely helpful in further cementing the ties between two traditional friends.
 
In the light of his most friendly and plausible opinion about Pakistan, one may hope that Pakistan would still be treated as a dependable ally and both the countries would join in mitigating the interstate tension in the sub-continent particularly between India and Pakistan and beyond that in the Middle East where Pakistan enjoys a great reservoir of goodwill.
 
Republicans traditionally have been friendly towards Pakistan. Pakistan played an historic role in joining the coalition forces to fight the Taliban and other radical forces in Afghanistan. In this decade, long war with Al-Qaida and other radical militants who wanted to establish a radical empire starting from Afghanistan to the middle east Pakistan suffered enormously.

Right or wrong or under pressure Pakistan agreed to play the role that caused untold sufferings to Pakistan and its people. One of the most disastrous fallout was that Pakistan itself became target of the terrorism that is still apace. The fundamentalist bands are bent upon wreaking havoc in Pakistan through terrorist attacks, sporadic bomb blasts and attacking schools and military installations.
The colossal sufferings that Pakistan endured were the spillover of the war in Afghanistan triggered by the western countries spearheaded by the United states. Pakistan is still faced with looming threat to it internal peace and solidarity from the religious warriors.

All these gory facets harming Pakistan in all manners must be taken into consideration by United States and the western allies. The United States under Donald Trump and non-traditional political figure is in the best position to acknowledge and appreciate the historic role of liberating the Caucuses of Central Asia namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and even Afghanistan from the yoke of Soviet Union. Pakistan can demonstrate goodwill and cordiality and both the countries can work to combat the indigenous terrorism.

Hopefully there would not be any breach or friction between the cardinal relations between the two countries. On the contrary one can hope these would prosper and flower under Donald trump presidency who is appreciative and aware of the regional importance of Pakistan in that part of the world.
  
It would be historic if president Trump stands by his words spoken to the prime minister of Pakistan and I quote, “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.”  


 

 

  

  

Islam is a Secular Religion


November 30, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

 Islam basically, is a secular religion which means it allows freedom to other religions under its canopy. Secularism is neither atheism nor socialism.  It is a concept that stands for freedom to all the religions and denominations to practice their faith and traditions. The society and the Islamic government in Spain were secular as Christians, Jews and Muslims were treated as equal citizens. They were free to pursue their religious obligations without any let or hindrance from the state or the society.
There exists indisputable convergence between Islam and secularism on such splendid values as fundamental rights, equality, Social justice, freedom of expression and tolerance. Secularism and Islam both support capitalism. Secularism is defined as the political concept of bourgeois democracies. It is primarily not an economic concept. Secularism has no objection if the factories, land and banks etc are owned by a few individuals or by the state.
Two episodes from the life of the second caliph of Islam Hazrat Umar amply illustrate the close interconnection between Islam and secularism in matters relating to the freedom of expression. One was the explanation of caliph to the objection of a Muslim about the longer size of his apparel than given to others from the war booty.
The second is about the esteem for other religions shown by Caliph Umar when during his visit to Jerusalem (637 A. D.). He declined to pray inside the Christians’ church, on the grounds that his action might not become a tradition. Such was the level of tolerance or reverence for other faiths by the founding torch bearers of nascent Islam.
The entire West and both North and South America and the Far East are essentially secular as in these societies, there is no ban nor any restriction over other religions to survive  and  adhere to their faith. Even Islamic countries like Jordan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Turkey, Lebanon (50 % Muslims), Kuwait, Tunis, and Morocco are treading on the path of secularism.
The religious minorities in these countries are not coerced or harassed to follow their religious rituals and customs under certain conditions.  The understandable conditions, equally applicable to even Islam and other minority religions are respect for law and not to smear or deride other religions.
To interpret secularism with a godless culture, faithlessness or atheism is simple ignorance or gross misconception about the creed of secularism. If Christians and Jews worshipped and practiced their religious obligations with complete freedom during the time of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) and four caliphs, what other name can be given to this laudable liberalism and tolerance towards other religions than secularism.
From the conquests by Islam to the time of Renaissance (14th century onward), the Muslim states were monarchies, hereditary successions, family dynasties, or with a strong man at the helm. The distinct concept of a nation state with attending halls marks of democracy, equality and freedom had not developed or evolved till the French Revolution (1789-1799). Thereafter, while the western world turned into nation states, the Islamic world continued to hold on to the theocracies with the same paradigm of suzerainty by monarchs, kings and dictators.
Even in theocratic Muslim empires such as Omayyad’s, Abbasids, the Ottomans; the non Muslim populations were seldom forced to abandon their faith and become Muslims. During the Mughal Muslim rulers period (1526- 1857) in the undivided India, we have no evidence that religious minorities were forcibly converted to Islam, constrained to go to their temples or inhibited from observing their religious chores or festivities.
The resurgence of the Wahhabis, a fanatic band of Islam, during the middle of the 19th century, was not supported by the Muslim majority in India. As a result it was brutally crushed both by the British and the Sikhs. That demonstrates that Muslims were not extremists even during their hay days. The isolated attempts to impose or enforce orthodoxy have never succeeded because of the secular outlook of other Muslims.
During the last days of the Ottoman orthodox caliphate, the caliph Abdul Hamid the second, with the help of Britain tried to crush the liberals, the seculars, the nationalists with most inhuman, brutal machinations but failed. He used the ploy of saving the caliphate by declaring the opponents such as Kamal Ataturk as heathens and apostates. After the defeat of Germany in Second World War, Turkey being the ally of Germans was penalized by occupation of its lands by Greek and the British forces.
While the caliph  ordered the Turkish armies to surrender before the foreign invaders, the chief religious authority called Sheikh-ul-Islam issued religious decree to kill seven persons including Kamal Ataturk who were fighting against the Greeks, Britain, with a an assurance to the killers of an abode in paradise. But no one paid heed to his hypocritical calls. Finally the religious sovereign fled Turkey on board the British ship with his hollow fervor for the religion Islam.
For the last several decades, Turkey is a secular liberal country. But it is also one of the most trenchant Islamic states where Islam has been flourishing ever. It is the model of secular Islam that ordains liberalism, tolerance, humanism, equality and fundamental rights. Religious freedom with Islam as the supreme religion of the country can be witnessed in Turkey. The Turkish religio-political dynasties came to an end with the rise of modern Turkey and the abolishment of the sultanate and caliphate on March 3, 1924.
The military coup d’├ętat of July 15 this year against the incumbent government of president Erdogan was effectively put down. The exiled Islamic cleric and Erdogan’s former ally Fethullah Gulen, was accused of calling for the dismantling of the secular Turkish state in favor of an Islamic Republic.
 One can also see a prototype of the same egalitarianism and openness with the Islamic genre in Malaysia and Indonesia. These are progressive, secular Islamic states firmly founded on Islam’s temporal and ecclesiastical codes.