Spectre of Secularism

From Dawn

By I A Rehman

The spectre of secularism is haunting the privileged elite of Pakistan, some privileged by birth or status, others by their grading in the realm of belief. Now pollsters have joined the effort to scare the people with reports that a majority of young persons prefer theocracy to secularism.

Unfortunately, huge confusion has been caused by presenting Islam and secularism as two mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable philosophies. In many cases this is done by persons who cannot, or do not wish to, analyse both Islam and secularism objectively.

The Oxford Dictionary gives many meanings and usages of the word ‘secular’, including a member of the clergy not bound by a religious rule; not belonging to or living in seclusion with a monastic or other order; belonging to the world and its affairs as distinguished from the Church and religion; civil, lay; non-religious, non-sacred; et al.

The strongest opponents of secularism always rely on its definition as “the belief that religion and religious considerations should be deliberately omitted from temporal affairs”.

However, it can be substantiated with the help of authoritative texts that Islam views secularism as a way of life that is inspired by Islam’s ethical ideal (Iqbal’s favourite expression) but in which reason is used to promote the good of humankind. That is why duties to human beings are considered more important than obligations to God.

The principle that Islamic injunctions can be amended to suit changes dictated by time and social development has been upheld by a long list of Islamic scholars, from Ibnul-Qaiyyam Jauzia and Ibn Khaldun to Allama Iqbal and that makes a strong case for Islam’s compatibility with secularism. (Falsafa Shariat-i-Islam, Majlis Taraqqi-i-Adab).

In Pakistan the advocates of secularism rely mostly on the Quaid-i-Azam’s dictum that religion has nothing to do with the business of the state. Actually, the subcontinental Muslims’ contribution to secularism has a much longer history, beginning (if not earlier) with Allauddin Khilji’s refusal to follow Qazi Mughis’s plea to convert or kill the more numerous non-Muslims. Babar advised Humayun to treat people’s religious affiliations as changing seasons and Aurangzeb scolded his teacher for making him waste his time on Arabic grammar while he should have been taught governance in a world that was larger than Shah Jahan’s kingdom. All these ideas bore the stamp of secularism.

In the modern phase of our history, Syed Ahmad Khan is considered the founder of the movement for Pakistan. He declared “the root cause of people’s misfortune lies in mixing the problems of the world with the problems of religion that are immutable…. Mixing of the affairs of the world with the affairs of religion is madness … conditions of society and civilisation change day by day, therefore, they cannot be part of religious commandments”. (Sibte Hassan in the Battle of ideas in Pakistan, Pakistan Publishing House, 1986).

Pakistan’s anti-secularism lobby has little respect for Allama Iqbal though quite a few mujavirs have won comfort by selling his name. In Iqbal’s life 1930 was a most significant year. It was the year he delivered the Madras Lectures, later on published in a book The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, and it was the year when he addressed the Allahabad session of the Muslim League.

In the lectures, Iqbal’s overriding concern was to see the unfreezing of the Islamic jurisprudence that had been frozen for 500 years and had suffered greatly under what he described as “Arab imperialism”. He began his sixth lecture, ‘The principle of movement in the structure of Islam’, by describing Islam as a “cultural movement” and holding “that all human life is spiritual in its origin”. He added that a prophetic revelation was world-life’s intuitive perception of its own needs and its choice of direction at critical moments, and that “loyalty to God virtually amounts to man’s loyalty to his own ideal nature”. He told his fellow Muslims that “a false reverence for past history and its artificial resurrection constitute no remedy for a people’s decay”.

Allama Iqbal upheld the Turkish view that “according to the spirit of Islam the caliphate or imamate can be vested in a body of persons, or an elected assembly”. He gave ijma great importance as a source of lawmaking through a modern assembly. Then he addressed the question as to how to prevent mistakes by an assembly of lay persons. He rejected the idea of a board of ulema to advise parliament and told the ulema to be part of the assemblies.

“The only effective remedy for the possibilities of erroneous interpretations is to reform the present system of legal education in Mohammadan countries, to extend its sphere, and to combine it with an intelligent study of modern jurisprudence” (emphasis added, all references from the book published by Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 2007).

In the last week of December 1930, Iqbal gave his Allahabad address. He declared that “Islam, regarded as an ethical ideal plus a certain kind of polity — by which expression I mean a social structure regulated by a legal system and animated by a specific ethical ideal — has been the chief formative factor in the life-history of the Muslims of India.” Then he added: “Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that India is perhaps the only country in the world where Islam, as a people-building force, has worked at its best.” Since no Islamic theocracy was ever established by the Muslims in India, Iqbal could only be extolling their secular traditions.

After proposing a Muslim state in the north-western part of India, Iqbal dispelled the “Hindus’ fear that the creation of autonomous Muslim states will mean the introduction of a kind of religious rule in such states”. He then approvingly referred to a newspaper comment to the effect the Indian Muslim states did not ban interest and offered it as an example of “the character of a Muslim state”. This is secularism.

One should like to suggest a fresh interpretation of the Allama’s lectures and his Allahabad address. He may well emerge as a strong Islamic defender of secularism.

While the common people of Pakistan have no reason to share the ashrafiya’s fears of secularism they have every reason to dread the anti-secularism lobby. The “principal institutions of a secular society” listed by Altaf Gauhar are: the elected legislature, the judiciary, and the press”. (Battle of Ideas)

It is quite clear that all these institutions have to bear with one another. The Supreme Court can never sack parliament or the media, nor will parliament ever be foolish or strong enough to abolish the Supreme Court or the media. But the extremist militants that are being reared by anti-secular elements, if they ever capture the state, will almost surely pack off parliament, the Supreme Court and the media into oblivion. The choice before the people of Pakistan has never been clearer.



Filed under Pakistan

42 responses to “Spectre of Secularism

  1. Mansoor Khalid

    I believe the secular and liberal forces need to clear out the doubt that secularism is about nudity or Godlessness. It is more about the elected legislature, judiciary and a free independent media.

  2. Talha

    @ Khalid, its anti secular and anti liberal forces that believe secularism is about nudity or Godlessness.

    When that negative perception is cleared, we will see true secularism take root in Pakistan.

  3. AA Khalid

    Great article, I have been talking about this for sometime now on PTH.

  4. In addition to and as the salutary reason for the mega-mess we are “In” – – frankly we are being rulered, rollered and foota-tata-ed down by the monastic disorder of Mediocrity.

    Syyed Mohammed Jawaid Iqbal Geoffrey

  5. AA Khalid

    @ Outsider

    Depends who you ask. If you ask the clergy then the answer is no. If you ask religious intellectuals like AbdolKarim Soroush then yes. If you ask historians of religion then again change is simply inevitable and dynamic change in interpretation has always been part of the Muslim faith. Sociologically and historically religious traditions are always in flux and always change.

    Unfortunately traditionalists find this very troubling and try to deny scope for human agency and try to ”de-historicise” the religious tradition. Indeed fundamentalism in one sense is an utter denial of historical context and human agency.

  6. AA Khalid

    I will quote Soroush’s very pertinent article ”Text and Context” in full:

    ”Text in Context

    Lecture Delivered at McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies 13th of April 1995 and published in Liberal Islam, a sourcebook, edited by Charles Kurzman, New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, PP 244-251 (1)

    By: Abdolkarim Soroush

    The science of nature is a human endeavor to understand the nature, and the science of religion is a human endeavor to understand religion. All understanding assumes suppositions and entails “categorization,” that is subsuming the particular under universal categories and concepts. Understanding religion is no exception. It is preceded by certain assumptions and principles which are necessary conditions for its intelligibility and interpretation.

    This seemingly Kantian position is more than familiar today, but a century ago not only was it a blasphemous view concerning religion, but a dubious one even in the case of natural sciences. The positivism of Mill and Bacon based itself on the idea that “brute facts” were available and it only needed an open eye to capture them by observation. But later developments in philosophy of science, demonstrated clearly, to their utter disappointment, that these “brute facts” lived nowhere except in the barren lands of wild hallucinations of speculators. Even in simple inductive research, where regular association of successive events is under scrutiny, one cannot be sure of the complete list of the relevant factors nor of the right aspects of the events subject to generalization. In all these cases one has to be equipped with a preassumed picture of the scene of research in order to know where to start from and where to end, what to include and take care of and what to exclude as irrelevant or unimportant. These schemes are not sacrosanct, they can be criticized, modified, refined or perhaps redefined, but two things are absolutely certain about them: Number one, their absolute inevitability in the field of research and for the purpose of understanding; number two, their transcendence and independence [relative] to the world of experiment.

    Now, more important than all that is their impact on the whole context of the final product of the research. The main and radical difference between the positivist and post-positivist philosophy is the recognition of the fact, on the part of the philosophers, that observation does not stand alone, it is theory-laden (loaded), in other words it is, of necessity, preceded by theories on the one hand and colored by the same theories on the other. Interestingly enough, scientific instruments which seem to provide us with careful observation and measurements, such as microscopes and nuclear magnetic resonance devices are nothing but complex theoretical assumptions arranged and objectified in such a way as to allow us to put forward certain questions to nature and obtain answers therefrom.

    The theory ladenness of observations has been shown to be a fact of the history of science, as well as an implicit requirement of the method of science, that is the logic of the understanding of nature. This important and pivotal insight, permeating the whole body of science, has been able to link areas as part from each other as logic, history, and sociology of science, re-moulding them into a unified whole, to modern post-positivistic philosophy of science.

    In the same sense and exactly for the same reasons, one can say [that] text does not stand alone, it does not carry its own meaning on its shoulders, it needs to be situated in a context, it is theory laden, its interpretation is in flux, and presuppositions are here as actively at work as elsewhere in the field of understanding. Religious texts are no exception. Therefore their interpretation is subject to expansion and contraction according to the assumptions preceding them and/or the questions enquiring them. These assumptions can be of very different nature, ranging from philosophical, historical, theological to the more specific assumptions such as liguistic and sociological ones. [These are part of the “spirit of the age”. They need not and do not usually enter the mind through formal education (here the transcript is flawed)].

    Now since presuppositions are age-bound, can change and do change in fact, religious knowledge, or the science of religion, which is the product of understanding (comprehending), will be in continuous change (flux), and since it is only through those presuppositions that one can hear the voice of revelation –hence the religion itself is silent– and since the interpretation of the text is social by nature and depends on the community of experts, like all learned activities it will be an independent dynamic entity: abstracting from individual interpreters; containing right and wrong, certain and dubious ideas –the wrong ones being as important as the right ones from the evolutionary point of view. It is a branch of knowledge, no less no more.

    The outcome of the preceding concise arguments can be briefly listed as follows:

    1. Religion, or revelation for that matter, is silent.

    2. The science of religion is relative, that is relative to the presuppositions.

    3. The science of religion is age-bound, because presuppositions are.

    4. Revealed religion itself may be true and free from contradictions, but science of religion is not necessarily so.

    5. Religion may be perfect or comprehensive, but not so for the science of religion.

    6. Religion is divine, but interpretation of it is human in and out.

    That is the story of religion. All this implies that religion is always surrounded by a host of contemporaneous data and deliberations, in constant give and take with them, the interpretation of which remains constant so long as these external elements are constant, and once they change, the change will be reflected in the understanding of religion as well. Therefore it is not because of the conspiracy or aberration of mind or illegitimate manipulation or extravagant interpretations that the science of religion changes. Rather, it is the natural product of the evolution of human understanding in the non-religious fields and contexts that forces the religion to be comprehended differently. And as mentioned above, external factors are responsible not only for the change, but also for the constancy of religious interpretation during ages.

    The world-view of the classical man, his views about nature, man, God, history, language, society, happiness, certainty, reason, knowledge and the like were reflected in his understanding of religion in the same manner and to the same extent as the world-view of the modern man has exerted its influence on the science of religion and each, of course, seem as natural and as true as the other to the party concerned.

    This rough statement [small flaw in transcript] may seem a pretty straightforward a priori piece of epistemology, not unfamiliar to hermeneuticists and philosophers of science. But it has two serious shortcomings. First, it may not look convincing or revealing enough to the more historically minded scholars, who may ask for more historical data and a posteriori justification in support of the suggested doctrine. Second, it may seem a flatly false and even blasphemous idea about religion whose revelatory nature according to true believers guarantees its constancy, relevance, and truth throughout the history. Relativity and change are characteristics of man-made systems whose application to the divine revelation would be utterly misplaced. In addition to that, it seems as if the doctrine puts religion at the mercy of the extra-religious principles whose truth and accuracy are not certain and this compromises the whole message of religion, whose main mission is to offer the fallible man an inf allible source of certainty and information.

    Both questions are too severe to be met here in depth and in full. But certain remarks are in order.

    [Here I have deleted most of the dialogue, as it does not affect the gist of Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush’s lecture. (AB)].

    …. The desired reconciliation between religion and philosophy cannot be purchased except at the expense of one being colored by the other; that is only a conceptually philosophical religion (or, more meticulously put, a philosophized comprehension of a religious text) can be reconciled with philosophy, and a conceptual mystification of the religion would always precede the mystical justification of it and so forth.

    Mystical and philosophical Islam are but two conceivable kinds of Islam, better articulated and refined than others, but in practice there are virtually innumerable types of Islam, all sharing the common feature of being in balance with the believers’ extra-religious system of thought. Now, disputing the validity of those mystical and philosophical interpretations of the text is missing the point completely. Those are parts and moments of the history of religion, science is a mixture of right and wrong ideas. (Despite the fact that every scientist tries hard to secure hard facts and true ideas, science itself, transcending beliefs and opinions of this or that particular scientist, cannot but consist of errors, misunderstandings, dubious hypotheses, arguments and counterarguments, side by side [with] the firmly established facts and conclusions.) To see the good side of the story only is to distort the history. There, defeats are as important as victories, and both of the same value as far a s evolutionary life of science is concerned. The science of religion, to repeat the same point again, is no exception.

    ….Again, disputing the validity of these conclusions is totally irrelevant. What matters here from the vantage point of epistemology is to notice that the lofty suppositions being made here, and the testimony of one of the great members of the dynasty of commentators, namely Tabatabai, about the history of Tafsir (and the whole history of religion indeed) as being tampered with uneducated views and improper wishes of mystics, philosophers, theologians, traditionalists and modernists alike. Modifying tone and terms, we can state the same fact as follows: history of religion has been under continuous construction and reconstruction by philosophers and the rest, and religion is nothing but the history of religion of course.

    ….The content of the text [Qur’an] will be divided into two parts: the essentials and the accidentals, accidentals being requirements of cultural, social, and historical environment of the delivery of the main message, and more generally these points and allusions which are considered to be beyond the proper field of expectations. There are many hadiths related (assigned) to the prophet concerning treatment of diseases say, but nobody really considers them essential to Islam because that is not what makes people needy of prophets. People themselves can find the facts about diseases and drugs through trial and error. If that is so, then what about philosophy, economics, politics and the like? Some of these questions are very crucial and are hotly debated among Muslim intellectuals, but the main issue here sometimes remains untouched or unattended, namely the extra-textuality of the questions. These problems are not to be decided on the strength of the traditions or historical facts. On the contrary, tradition and history should be explained in light of these findings.

    Treating those questions requires a good deal of philosophy, politics, sociology and history, and that is what gives the science of religion the flavor of the age, and that also explains why the true ijtihad in disciplines such as fiqh cannot materialize unless a true ijtihad in the first principles have taken place first. This, in turn, shows why religious jurisprudence in Islamic societies has been so stagnant in recent centuries. That was not because of the lack of internal dynamism on the part of fiqh, but because of the stagnation of other related disciplines, such as theology and history, and the non-existence of some of the decisive disciplines, such as sociology and the like. These constitute the relevant reasons for the stagnation. The story of the causes is different, of course.

    The status and significance of religious revivalism and intellectualism, now can be understood better. Broadly speaking, revivalism can transpire in two different manners, positive and negative.

    The negative revivalism consists of purging and purification of the actual understanding of religion from alien elements and to do justice to the more neglected dimensions thereof. An example is being Al-Gazzali, no doubt. The positive revivalism, on the contrary, (on the other hand) is more attentive and mainly concerned with the extra-religious factors and foundations required for an age bound comprehension of the text. The most prominent representation of this orientation is Iqbal, whose main complaint was directed to the dominance of Greek thought over the Islamic culture. Both serve the same purpose, of course, namely to keep the message of religion alive. The difference being a matter of emphasis and sensitivity.

    This brings me to the end of my treatment of the first question. But before leaving this issue, I would like to emphasize that religious reform in our time which we are so badly in need [of] cannot succeed unless one is vigilant to the continuous new developments taking place in the different areas of thought. Mottos like “back to the roots” or “try the neglected sources” or “find a brave inspired leader,” can be very misleading. No reform can take place without re-shuffling the traditional suppositions, and no re-shuffling can emerge unless one is masterfully acquainted with both traditions and the newly developed ideas outside the sphere of revelation. The internal and external findings, sooner or later approach an equilibrium. To disturb the stagnation, one has to mobilize the external sources. Muslims’ decadent understanding of their sacred sources, it seems, occurred as a consequence of their decadence which had occurred in cultural, social and civilizational general climate and not vi ce versa.

    Now as to the second charge, namely betraying the sacredness of the text, sacrificing its perennial message at the doorstep of the vagaries of the age, and undermining the certitude of faith, I’d better start with a short dialogue which took place between me and a friend of mine quite recently. “What is your position in connection with the Islamization of Knowledge?” asked he quite seriously, and then added in (jocular) way, “Perhaps you opt for a scientification of Islam rather than Islamization of Knowledge?” “Neither of the two. I opt for the humanization of religion.” That was my reply and that is indeed the basic foundation on which the whole edifice of ‘expansion and contraction of religious knowledge’ is erected. Revealed religion, of course, cannot be a human phenomenon, but not so for the science of religion, which is in and out a human prediction and construction. It is humanized in the sense that it is impressed by characteristics both mean and noble, virtually all the characteri stics of human beings.

    Rationality, prejudice, egoism, truth-seeking, obliviousness, greed, fallibility, partiality, complacency, easy going, acquisitiveness, and the like all have their due share in the science of religion and all influence it in one way or another. True, the revelation is divine, but what about the interpretation of the revelation? The interpretation no doubt may be conjectural, fallible, changeable, partial, fallacious, one-sided, misguided, prejudiced, culture-bound, incomplete, but this is what the revelator himself has ordained it to be. We are fallible human beings and that is our lot from Truth. The case of religion is no better than the case of nature. There also we are captives of our humanity. No human science is sacred, science of religion being no exception. But of course, the revelation itself is different. Therefore the dichotomy of the revelation/interpretation should be kept intact. We are all immersed in an ocean of interpretations and whenever one tries to offer the “true” inte rpretation of the text, he makes himself even more engaged. To capture the true intention of the revelator is an ideal to which all of us approach collectively, but at the end we may discover that the true intention of the revelator was nothing but the collective endeavor of mankind itself. Here the action and its telios coincide.

    This is not to desacrilize the sacred or to secularize religion, it is the simple and at the same time the subtle instance of naturalization of the supernatural, or if you like it better, the manifestation of the supernatural as and in the natural. The secular view is blind towards the supernatural, but here we look at the human interpretation as the revelation descended anew, from the heaven of the text to the earth of interpretation through the angel of reason, after its being revealed and descended to the prophet in the first place. In other words we look at the revelation through the interpretation, much the same as a faithful scientist who looks at the nature as an artifact of the creator. Of progress we are not certain, but evolution is certainly guaranteed. Now from this epistemological point of view, faith is seen to be the very commitment on the part of the faithful (believer) to take the word of God seriously and to interpret it sincerely and continuously, in order to gain general guidance for his life, both before and after death (this and the next life). This is what makes a believer distinct from the non-believer. Faith is always personal and private, it can be more or less certain, but knowledge cannot be but collective, public and fallible.

    A higher order look at knowledge tells us that despite the firm belief of individual believers in their own interpretation of revelation, the caravan of knowledge, inspired with all kinds of complexities and contrarities is breaking its way ahead, feeding on the controversies, competitions and cooperations of its members, irrespective of their individual desires and faiths. Our lot is nothing but to hope. That is what Rumi has exhorted us:

    The merchant of timid disposition and frail spirit neither gains nor looses in his quest Nay, he suffers loss, for he is deprived and despicable Only he that is an eater of flames will find the light In as much as affairs turn upon hope The affairs of religion is most worthy … Here it is most permitted to knock at the door Naught but hope is possible.

    (III, 3084-3092).

    Once that is understood, the way for religious democracy and the transcendental view of religion, which are predicated on religious pluralism will have been paved. This being but two fruits of that auspicious tree.

    Seest thou not how Allah sets forth a parable?- A goodly Word Like a goodly tree, Whose root is firmly fixed And its branches (reach) To the Heavens,- It brings forth its fruit At all times, by the leave Of its Lord

    (Al-Qur’an, Surah 14:24-25; Ibrahim)

    (‘Religion is divine, but its interpretation is thoroughly human and this-worldly’. I quote here from ‘Abdul-Karim Soroush (Iran, born 1945): ‘the text does not stand alone, it does not carry its own meaning on its shoulders, it needs to be situated in a context, it is theory-laden, its interpretation is in flux, and presuppositions are as activity at work here as elsewhere in the field of understanding. Religious texts are no exception. Therefore their interpretation is subject to expansion and contraction according to the assumptions preceding them and/or the questions inquiring them…We look at revelation in the mirror of interpretation, much as a devout scientist looks at creation in the mirror of nature…[so that] the way for religious democracy and the transcendental unity of religion, which are predicated on religious pluralism, will have been paved)

  7. Amit Kumar

    Pakistani books and most of the leaders malign other religion and want to purify their land from the infidels. Its going on last 63 years. I doubt Invoking Jinhan and others will help much. Even Pakistani supreme court has passed a comment against this.

    Here is a glimpse of fact of 1971 war.. (taken from the book “From Midnight to the Millenium”). just wanted to bring to notice to my Pakistani friends..

    When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi traveled abroad in the tense months before the 1971 Bangladesh War with Pakistan, the Council of Ministers was chaired by a Muslim, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. during that war, the indian Air force in the northern sector was commanded by a Muslim, Air Marshal (later retired Air chief Marshal) Latif. The Army commander was a Parsi General Sam Manekshaw. The general officer commanding the forces that marched into Bangladesh was a Sikh, General Jagjit Singh Aurora, and the general flown in to negotiate the surrender of Pakistani forces in in East Bengal, Major General J.F.R. Jacob was a jewish.

    I would also like to add, that Indira Gandhi refused to remove Sikh’s security body guard because she opposed any religion based discrimination.

  8. krash

    There are 2 main fears about secularism that are quite well founded and need to be addressed by its advocates.

    1) Secularism leads to marginalization of religion from the entire public sphere and eventually the entire cultural sphere. Exhibit A – Europe, the birthplace of secularism

    2) Under the guise of secularism a new State Religion is established – Secular Humanism. With the state’s control over public education and it’s ability to mandate social laws (e.g. marriage, homosexuality, abortion) it can hardly avoid implementing a value system.

  9. no-communal

    This is an important question for Pakistanis to discuss, among themselves. Don’t you think bringing India, and gloating about it, is counter-productive, leave alone unnecessry? I think we should stop the habit of scoring points at every possible opportunity. That is probably better in the overall scheme of things, now it is upto you.

  10. Amit Kumar

    Ok.. i agree and i will try to avoid his in future..I had a question which i tried to asked you in some other post but my post was deleted.

    Liberal of liberals.. “Raza Rumi”, the founder and chief editor of Pak Tea House. after his tour of India, sponsered by India tax payer.

    His advise to the his foreign ministry.. “Pakistan should pursue a proper investigation with respect to the Mumbai suspects, without compromising our national interests” (as published in The Friday Times)

    “WITHOUT COMPROMISING OUR NATIONAL INTERESTS”. Please tell what this means? Why this disclaimer?

    So if giving shelter to the “strategic assets” who unleash terror in India is in national interests.. Raza Rumi has no problem with it.

    If you can or any one on PTH can give ne a proper answer i will again become a “Aman ki Aasha” person.

  11. karun1

    Those who claim religion (Islam) is a panacea to all problems and more importantly ‘way of life’ are causing the greatest harm.
    If only religion can be confined to the ’emotional needs/cultural’ space and not give a world view and ‘what is the perfect way to lead your life’ many of the problems would be solved.

  12. Bin Ismail

    There’s another aspect of this whole issue that needs to be examined. Starting with the Objectives Resolution, then naming Pakistan ‘Islamic Republic’, then surviving mullah-pleaser regimes such as Bhutto’s, mullaistic regimes such as Zia’s and indecisive ones such as Musharraf’s, has “fleeing from secularism” helped Pakistan in any way? No, it has not. Has Pakistan gained in grace, on the world’s stage? No, it has not. Has Pakistan been able to serve Islam in any way? No, it has not. Then why not give “secularism” a try?

  13. no-communal

    @Amit Kumar

    I will leave that for Rumi to explain, if he chooses to. I can only say that the only way one can move into the future is by getting unstuck from the past.

  14. bciv

    @Amit Kumar

    “she opposed any religion based discrimination.”

    that must be why her govt issued a stamp just a year earlier, in 1970, to honour Savarkar who firmly believed in TNT and had given his partition plan, in detail, as early as in 1923.

  15. Hola

    I thought TNT had nothing to do with religion but it’s main aim was to protect the economic interests of the Muslim majority provinces of British India ?

  16. bciv


    there would have been no need to protect anything to do with a minority had there been no TNT originally expounded by prominent members of the majority. note the difference between 1923 and 1938 – 15 years.

  17. Haahaakaar

    Jinnah and Savarkar

    Jyotirmaya Sharma

    Describing Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a secularist partakes of the very same terminology and semantics that the Sangh Pariva rideologues choose to define their own brand of secularism.

    L.K. Advani’s statement about Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s espousal of secularism hangs precariously on a single quote, taken from Jinnah’s Presidential speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, delivered on August 11, 1947.

    In the speech, Jinnah said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state … you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

    Jinnah’s early discomfort with Islamic orthodoxy is a well-documented fact, and so is his lack of acceptability among the Muslim masses.

    But the spiralling demand for Pakistan between 1940 and 1947 had transformed Jinnah as a staunch advocate of Pakistan and a communalist. It also changed the fortunes of the Muslim League for the better.

    While the ire of the sangh parivar against Mr. Advani is understandable, it has more to do with Mr. Advani’s apology for the demolition of the Babri Masjid than his remarks on Jinnah.

    Describing Jinnah as a secularist partakes of the very same ideological terminology and semantics that the Sangh Parivar ideologues chose to define their own brand of secularism. To understand this, one needs to turn to the writings and speeches of V.D. Savarkar.

    In his core text, Hindutva, Savarkar was expressing similar sentiments when he argued that “at some future time the word Hindu may come to indicate a citizen of Hindusthan and nothing else; that day can only rise when all cultural and religious bigotry has disbanded its forces pledged to aggressive egoism, and religions cease to be `isms’ and become merely the common fund of eternal principles that lie at the root of all that are common foundation on which the Human State majestically and firmly rests.”

    Despite “reasonable” digressions like these, Savarkar argues relentlessly for a Hindu Rashtra, and very much in the same vein as Jinnah seeks to make a distinction between Hindutva or Hinduness, Hindu religion and Hinduism.

    The future and foundations of India had to be Hindu, argued Savarkar, and these foundations were non-negotiable. Once that is achieved, then, the effort would be to develop “a sense of attachment to the greater whole, whereby Hindus, Mohammedans, Parsis, Christians and Jews would feel as Indians first and every other thing afterwards.” He repeated the same sentiment in the Calcutta session of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939, while discussing the rights of the non-Hindu minorities.

    It is the very stuff of revisionist history of the kind politicians favour that propels Savarkar into being projected by the Sangh Parivar as a nationalist, despite arguing in 1937, three years before Jinnah formally mooted the two-nation theory, that Hindus and Muslims were “two antagonistic nations living side by side in India”. A similar fate has befallen Jinnah, once hailed by Gokhale as the “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.” Both sought foundations for their putative states on the basis of a single race, ethnicity and cultural unity. While Jinnah realised his goal of a Muslim state, Savarkar’s dream of a Hindu Rashtra remains a pipe dream.

  18. Pingback: Spectre of Secularism - BlogOn.pk

  19. Sol


    Savarkar was a mass leader ? I thought it was Gandhi who had mass support amongst Hindus. Abject Apologies.

  20. Samachar

    Indian Americans Hail NJ Temple’s Decision for Not Allowing Ritambhara to Speak

    Indian Muslim Council-USA (IMC-USA ), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguard India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos applauds the Hindu Samaj Mandir for not allowing Sadhvi Ritambhara’s speeches at the Temple’s Mahwah, New Jersey facilities, previously scheduled from September 2, through September 6, 2010.

    “I am truly heartened to hear the Hindu Samaj Mandir’s decision for not allowing Sadhvi Ritambhara to speak at their facility” said Rasheed Ahmed, president of IMC-USA.

    “I firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of peace-loving Hindus reject Ritambhara’s politics of hate. By not providing a platform to this hate monger, the Hindu Samaj Mandir has not only upheld the name of over a billion peace loving Hindus worldwide, but has also distanced themselves from a person responsible for inciting murderous mobs and advocating genocide” continued Ahmed.

    Rasheed Ahmed pointed out that Indian Americans need to be more vigilant and disassociate with practitioners of politics of hate of any background and deny them our community space and resources to create dissention and disharmony in our communities here and in India.

    On August 18, 2010 the Indian Muslim Council-USA and NRI’s for Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI) sent a formal letter to the management of Hindu Samaj Mandir, educating them about Sadhvi Ritambhara’s politics of hate and requested them to cancel the event scheduled by the organizers at their Temple.

  21. Mustafa Shaban

    Islam actually agrees with secularism in a way. Islam respects all religions and allows everyone the freedom of choice to practise thier own religion. Different peoples and minorities in Islamic history were allowed to practice thier religion and were treated with great respect be they hindus, christians, and jews. In fact the other peoples admired the islamic state for their sense of justice and equality. Islams rulings on governance are purely based on economics, administration, and distrubution of wealth and dont have much to do with spirituality except that the values of Islam like peace, justice, equality and others must be respected.

  22. Prasad

    It is not Islam per se that is a problem..I guess no religion is. It is the people who interpret in all directions..For instance, When I was waiting for signal to clear on one of the roads in Blr, I heard a muslim family loudly blaring sermons of a mullah in their SUV. The mulla was clearly chiding his brethren of deviating from Islam by mingling with people of other religions. His ire was focussed especially on politicians who apparently had no problems accepting Ganesha idol as gifts…

    In that 2 minutes wait, I heard the words Kufr and Haraam some 20 times. The guy was fast, loud and obviously mesmerized his listeners ( as all the other fascists)

    The question is why is this proliferation of such extreme koranic interpretations allowed by the community?

    If according to the mullah accepting Ganesh is haraam, then buying rice/wheat from nearby store is a haraam since even if the owner is a muslim, the cereals could have come from some farmer who could be a Hindu. Likewise, travelling on the roads where the asphalting could have been done by someone who may not be a Muslim

    When will these ridiculous and mostly atrocious sermons ever be discouraged by the community

    –Again blaming RSS is not a solution !!!

  23. @Prasad

    It is so true that these mullahs are responsible for so much tension and bad blood. Behind my friend’s house in a little Tollygunge lane, there is a pocket-sized mosque tucked away. We can hear the preaching at all times very clearly, not simply because it is a few feet away, but because the wretch amplifies it and transmits it at full blast in a quiet residential neighbourhood.

    My friends are easy-going sorts; in addition, their grip on Hindi is tenuous, on Urdu, less even than that, given the many words in Urdu that aren’t in common Hindi parlance. They don’t look on the sermons as anything more than an acoustic nuisance and a problem with a rude neighbour. If only they could understand the words! There is not a single occasion on which I have not heard inflammatory language, exhortations to shun the unclean, warnings that hellfire awaits the apostate, snarls of anger at efforts by members of the flock to think independently due to a false pride born of – wait for this! – education, which is a snare and a pitfall by itself, and wholly unnecessary for women besides.

    I do not have the heart to tell them what is being said.

    If this does not create a bank of animosity and a proclivity towards violent response to anything that seems like treading on the rights of that community, what else does it do? And what is it intended to do, in the first place?

    And this is in Bengal, the most secular of Indian states. Even, one might believe sometimes, a state where the pendulum has swung too far. Taslima Nasreen’s experience, the mob pressure on The Statesman to terminate its assistant editor because he upset the mullahs, the pressure on a Muslim woman to wear a burqa in order to be allowed to teach, all point to disturbing signs.

    I have never compromised on my personal secular values, but these hate speeches, dress them up however we will, remain hate speeches, and are the greatest danger to a secular polity that can be imagined, greater even, I sometimes think, than the concerted, systematic attempt to preach hatred from the other corner.

  24. shiv

    “Secularism” was the compromise formula arrived at in a war torn Europe which lost 25% of its population directly or indirectly (famine/pestilence affecting displaced people) to religious war – namely the so called 30 years war – which was many wars lumped together under one name.

    The “Peace of Westphalia” that followed ensured that every change of ruler in Europe would not entail a change of religion of the entire country and religions like Calvinism and Protestantism could survive. The Church would keep its cotton picking fingers off affairs of state.

    India’s problem with secularism has no connection with Pakistan’s problem. Pakistan is not secular. Period. Religion is part and parcel of state affairs and the religious views of the state are imposed on the people.

    Imposition of secularism in Pakistan today will involve addressing grievances against the state because of a large number of crimes committed by the Pakistani state against people in the name of religion. In practical terms there are living people in Pakistan today who are guilty of what will essentially amount to crimes against humanity under a secular polity (they may have been fine and dandy under some religious dispensation) . Either those people will have to be given amnesty or they will have to be punished. Given Pakistan’s history of using the death penalty relatively liberally (Talk about liberalism in Pakistan! 😀 ) – this will not be an easy trick.

    If, for example, Ahmedis are made equal to Sunni Muslims what would be the legal status of those who have taken part in campaigns against Ahmedis? Would the state, who supported those people, later be able to punish them or would the state be able to give them amnesty and still claim to be secular?

    One solution is to bring down the Pakistan state – which is exactly the sort of solution that one would expect from a hostile Indian. Another solution would be to become an out and out Sunni-Wahhabi state like Saudi Arabia.

    The interesting thing about democracy is that 170 million Pakistanis would be able to choose which course they want to take. That is too scary a scenario for too many well placed Pakistanis. Either way – some bigwig or other loses. So pushing further into denial and contradiction is the easiest route. And while chaos rules, the army will keep a semblance of unity and stbility.

    What’s that funny French sentence? C’est plus ca change blah blah?

  25. Bin Ismail

    @Prasad (September 3, 2010 at 9:07 am)

    “…..The question is why is this proliferation of such extreme koranic interpretations allowed by the community?…..”

    The state and society, both, will have to adopt a zero-tolerance stance towards violence and coercion of all forms. Slackness on the part of either state or society, will only provide greater leg-room for those who seek to exploit and abuse religion for their own gains. Pro-violence interpretations, whether of the Quran, Vedas or the Bible, will not only further starve the society of peace, but will also sanctify this starvation. Murder, whether in the name of Allah, Ishwar or Yahweh, is murder, and cannot be endorsed. Until the state and society, both, exhibit zero tolerance for violence of all forms, it will keep on cropping up.

    @bonobashi (September 3, 2010 at 10:15 am)

    “…..I have never compromised on my personal secular values, but these hate speeches, dress them up however we will, remain hate speeches…..”

    Well said. Hatred is the seed of fanaticism. I have always been an admirer of the Canadian “Hate Laws”, as they are called – actually anti-hate laws. In our case, the people are largely illiterate, the clergy ignorant and the politicians ever-inclined to exploiting religion for their political purposes. Secularizing the state and legislating strong anti-hate laws is most certainly, the only practicable solution.

    @shiv (September 3, 2010 at 10:32 am)

    “…..The Church would keep its cotton picking fingers off affairs of state…..”

    Right. In our situation however, the state too, would have to train itself in keeping its cotton picking fingers away from religion.

  26. Amit Kumar

    September 3, 2010 at 3:37 am

    “only way one can move into the future is by getting unstuck from the past.”

    Ok fine. I agree with you. inspite of hearing the same arguments again and again in the past after every time Pak Army unleash terror on US and our impotent government did nothing.

    For a lay man like me a liberal of liberals like “Raza Rumi” puts a disclamir of “National Interest” . there is no hope.

    The more i know about pakistan the more i get depressed. Lets be realistic.

  27. Amit Kumar

    A society strictly adhering to Abraham religions can never be a tolerant one. The state has to disassociate themselves from the religion. The reason is simple they all claim that theirs is “true” and others are “false”. so secularism was born in europe to avoid bloodshed.

    On the other hand. India was always multi religious country. Buddha was not hanged but respected. even though his several views were against the Hinduism. Ashoka became a Buddhist Monk.. but was he not a secular in Indian sense?? so Indian secularism is different that western secularism.

    Pakistanis have now almost purified their land from kaffirs hindus and sikhs.. liberals were silent supporters of this purification process..Now that violence is targeted against Ahmedia and Sunnis Pakistan is trying to become secular. I wish them all the best.

  28. Bin Ismail

    @ welfareforall (September 3, 2010 at 7:40 pm)

    “…..A monotheistic religion can never be genuinely tolerant…..”

    I’ve come across this illogical statement earlier as well. Funny twisted logic, I must say. The figure “one” has nothing to do with intolerance, to begin with. Assuming, someone says, “I have ‘one’ heart”, which he obviously does, otherwise he wouldn’t be there to say what he’s saying, the shear oneness of his heart would have no bearing on his tolerance levels. Exercising the same veracity, he says that he has one brain. This too, does in no way suggest that he lacks tolerance. When someone says he believes in one God, it is not due to a low tolerance level, but due to the simple fact that this is what he believes.

  29. androidguy

    @Bin Ismail,

    You seem to have barked up the wrong tree. The problem arises ( or many ascribe the problem with Abrahamaic religions to be…”theirs is “true” and others are “false”. I refuse to accept the finality of what you believe to be final. Hello, now I am “wajib-ul-qatl!!; its that logic which is funny, & twisted.

  30. Bin Ismail

    @ androidguy (September 4, 2010 at 12:16 am)

    If you were wajibul qatl, merely on account of your disagreement, then yes, the logic would indeed have been worthy of being termed twisted. The fact, however, is that the Quran respects the absolute freedom of man in believing or disbelieving. God says in the Quran: “Whoever chooses to believe let him believe and whoever chooses to disbelieve let him disbelieve” (18:29). Nowhere in the Quran, does God prescribe any punishment for disbelief or disagreement with the words of the Quran. God declares clearly in the Quran: “There is no coercion in matters of religion.” (2:256 ).

  31. androidguy

    @Bin Ismail,

    Thanks for your reply. Where did the concept of Wajibul Qatl come from then? Seeing that you are quite knowledgeable about the Quran, may be you could write a short piece on it if it doesn’t sidetrack the discussion.

  32. Bin Ismail

    @ androidguy

    In case you’re interested, may I humbly replicate a recent comment of mine, that was posted on August 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm on the thread “Religious Right in Their Own Words; Apostasy Punishment, Jihad and the Role of Non Muslims in the Land of Infidels” (part 3) by Adnan Syed.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    1: Allah says: “There is no coercion in matters of religion.” (2:256 ). No coercion in matters of religion would mean:

    (a) no coercion for getting someone to enter the fold of Islam
    (b) no coercion for keeping someone within the fold of Islam
    (c) no coercion for making someone subscribe to a certain interpretation of Islam
    (d) no coercion for expelling someone from the fold of Islam

    In essence, what this verse teaches is that no form of coercion and compulsion is permissible in any matter that pertains to faith. This is exactly what commonsense would dictate because man should logically be accountable only for those actions born out of his free choice. No volition – no accountability. Coercion annuls free choice and is therefore not permissible in any matter of religion, according to the Quran.

    2: Allah says: “Whoever chooses to believe, let him believe and whoever chooses to disbelieve, let him disbelieve.” (18:29). Commonsense: If there is complete freedom in believing as well as disbelief, it follows that there is equal freedom in believing and then disbelieving.

    3: Allah says: “Those who believe and then disbelieve, then again believe and then again disbelieve, and then advance in disbelief, Allah will not grant them forgiveness nor will He guide them to the Path”. Even for repeated apostasy, there is no corporal punishment to be delivered by human hands. The only punishment mentioned is of spiritual nature, and awarded directly by God, without an intermediary human medium, hence no business of humans.

    4: Allah says to the Prophet to announce to the disbelievers: “Your religion is for you and my religion is for me” (109:6). If one person has been denied the right to poke his nose in another’s faith, as this verse declares, how is it conceivably possible for one to be allowed to force another to stick to a certain faith, under fear of death.

    Muslims have to choose between the Word of Allah and the word of the mullah.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


  33. Momin

    Dear Bin Ismail

    These verses are from earlier verses which contradicts later versus .

    This doctrine is based on two verses that Allah allegedly instructed Mohammed to put into the Quran.

    “None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?” Surah 2: 106

    “When We substitute one revelation for another, and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages), they say, “Thou art but a forger”: but most of them understand not.” Surah 16:101
    Ao when Quran says these verses you know which one is valid

    1) “Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of believers” (Surah 9:14).

    2) “O ye who believe! Truly the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque” (Surah 9:28).

    3) “The Jews call ‘Uzayr a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate the Unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” (Surah 9:30).

    4) “O Prophet! Strive hard against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell – an evil refuge indeed” (Surah 9:73).

    5) “O ye who believe! Fight the Unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him” (Surah 9:123).

  34. Subcontinental

    @Bin Ismail

    ““There is no coercion in matters of religion.” (2:256 )”

    The above can mean many things, depending on how one defines ‘religion’!

    May be here one just wants to say – matters of religion == religious customs!

    That is, for example, there is no coercion with regard to the times one has to pray each day!

    You are reading – matters of religion == allegiance to Islam. It need not be read thus!

  35. Bismillah

    Before you chuckle over Pakistan cricket
    Vir Sanghvi, Hindustan Times
    Email Author
    September 04, 2010First Published: 23:28 IST(4/9/2010)

    Yes. I know. The betting scandal involving three (or possibly more) Pakistan cricketers allows Indians a chance to feel very smug. “Look at Pakistan,” we say, “the place is falling apart. Millions have been uprooted by floods. There are fears that the money meant to reach these unfortunate flood

    victims has been diverted. Some of it (much of it, even) has been siphoned off by Pakistan’s notoriously corrupt politicians.”
    And there is more in a similar vein: “The terrorists they armed and financed to attack India are now biting the hands that feed them. More people die in Pakistan each month from violent incidents than die in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

    So yes, I can see why Indians feel smug. For many of us, the cricket scandal is not just a sporting affair but a symbol of a neighbour in decay, of a nation in collapse, etc. etc.

    Well sorry, guys, but I am afraid I don’t share in the general smugness. Yes, Pakistan’s politicians are even worse than ours (and that takes some doing) and as a nation, it is essentially a military dictatorship with intermittent outbreaks of democracy. But I am not going to sit and gloat about the terrorist attacks or pat myself on the back when millions of people struggle to reclaim their lives after a disaster of such mammoth proportions.

    As for the cricket scandal, I don’t believe that it is a symbol of Pakistan’s moral decline any more than the thieving surrounding the organisation of next month’s Commonwealth Games is a metaphor of some essential lack of integrity within Indian society.

    Whenever there is money to be made, there will be crooks who will try and rob the system. That’s a fact of life. Get used to it.

    We need to look at previous betting scandals in global cricket. Hansie Cronje’s inability to resist the temptations placed before him by the bookies did not reflect some failing in the South African character. It only marked one man’s failure to hold firm when money was offered. The many Indian cricketers who have been tainted by their associations with bookies did not reflect some Indian propensity to cheat. They were just weak — and possibly immoral — men who succumbed to the lure of the easy buck.

    But the Indian betting scandal is a good place to start because it tells us something about how such matters should be handled. Even the biggest cynic will concede that by and large, Indian cricket is free of match-fixing, deliberate no balls bowled at the behest of bookies etc.

    Why should this be so?

    Several reasons.

    First of all, most if not all of the cricketers, who were implicated in our betting scandals saw their careers come to inglorious ends. I can’t think of very many (or any, for that matter) who were fully rehabilitated within the cricket world or given India caps again. Even those who were subsequently exonerated by the courts had to wait so long for the judicial process to conclude that their careers were virtually over anyway.

    Secondly, cricketers make so much money these days (from endorsements, appearance fees, etc. in addition to their cricket earnings) that the sums offered by bookies no longer seem so tempting. A player who is implicated in a betting scam will find that his career has ended and with that sudden termination will go the many crores he could have continued to make.

    Thirdly, it now seems likely that they will be found out. One good thing about India’s cricket administration is that it is now massively focused on match-fixing. Any pattern of suspicious behaviour is noticed immediately. Match tapes are studied by experts to check if players have deliberately thrown away their wickets, dropped catches, etc.

    In the case of Pakistan, these three conditions are absent. I can understand why Pakistani cricketers do not make as much money as ours (we are the bigger economy) but even so, there is a case for paying them better.

    More important is the laissez-faire attitude of the Pakistani board to match-fixing. Players who are accused of links with bookies and of rigging their performances are frequently forgiven, reinstated, or let off with temporary suspensions.

    The current case is an example of how Pakistan gets it wrong. There was something tragic and deeply shameful about Pakistan’s ambassador to Britain going on TV to stoutly defend the cricketers against whom such a strong prima facie case exists. Worse still, patriotism has suddenly become the last refuge of the cricketing scoundrel. Pakistani papers have blamed the incident on a conspiracy to defame Pakistan, of machinations by Indian bookies and even R&AW! (For the record, Mazher Mehmood, the News of the World journo who broke the story is a British Pakistani.)

    If players believe they can get away with match-fixing, why on earth should they turn the bookies away?

    But do not be fooled into believing that just because India watches its players more closely and is far less forgiving than Pakistan, Indian sport is therefore more honest.

    All that has happened in India is that while the players have now been stopped from making illegal money, the sports administrators have got even more corrupt than ever before.

    I’ve already mentioned the scandal of the highway robbery that has gone on in the name of the Commonwealth Games. But what of cricket administration? If even one-tenth of the charges that the cricket board has levelled against Lalit Modi are true then this is a far bigger corruption scandal than anything that any cricketer anywhere in the world has ever done.

    And does anybody really believe that Modi did all this on his own? Most of us suspect that his colleagues on the board were, if not his partners in crime, then certainly fully aware that hundreds of crores were being siphoned out of the game.

    So yes, the Indian cricket team is probably more honest than Pakistan’s team. But Indian cricket is far less honest than Pakistani cricket. Only it is the administrators who are the crooks because, unlike the players, they have been placed under far less scrutiny (until now, at least).

    Let’s stop gloating about the Pakistan cricket scandal. I agree that the evidence seems compelling and I accept that some Pakistanis (administrators, government, media etc.) are behaving like idiots.

    But the scandal does not tell us much about the state of the Pakistani nation. All it does is to remind that when modestly remunerated young men are placed in an environment where lakhs can be made off each ball by non-participants in the game, then the temptations placed before them can be irresistible. The only way to ensure honesty in such circumstances is to pay the players well and to then watch them like hawks.

    That’s what we’ve done, and so our cricketers play a straight game. But while they go out and bat for India, crores are still made off that game by non-participants: the cricket administrators.

    You tell me: do we really have the right to be smug or to feel superior?

    The views expressed by the author are personal

  36. Bin Ismail

    @ Momin (September 4, 2010 at 4:53 pm)

    Thank you. There are two schools of thought in relation to the concept of “Nasikh and Mansookh”. According to one, to which you apparently subscribe, one verse of the Quran can be taken as an abrogating verse [nasikh] and another as the abrogated [mansookh]. According to the other school of thought, the concept of abrogation is not internal to the Quran, but in fact refers to a situation where a verse of the Quran abrogates or replaces a certain verse of a previously revealed scripture. For example, if a certain verse of the Quran replaces a verse of say the Torah, we would classify the Quranic verse as nasikh and the verse of the Old Testament as mansookh. God says: “Whatever sign We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than that or the like thereof.” [Quran 2:106]. With due respects to your opinion, I however, would be inclined to endorse the latter of the two schools of thought, mentioned above.

    While the Quran, on one hand, is inclusive in the sense that it contains the collective perennial wisdom of all previously revealed scriptures, it replaces certain time-bound teachings of previous Books by new teachings, on the other. This, in my opinion, is the concept of “Nasikh and Mansookh”. We must not lose sight of the fact that God says, in relation to the Quranic revelation: “Verily, We have revealed this Exhortation, and verily We will guard it.” [Quran 15:9]. Logically speaking, if verses of the Quran were susceptible to abrogation, albeit at the hands of other Quranic verses, they would still have failed to be qualified as guarded by God. Thus, the concept of abrogation of a verse of the Quran, contravenes the concept of Divine Guardianship of the Quran.

    Therefore, I believe that the verses of the Quran that speak of absolute religious freedom for all, are eternally relevant and none of them has been or can be abrogated.

    Regarding the five references you’ve given at the end of your post, may I respectfully suggest that any verse, whether Quranic, Biblical or Vedic, should be examined in its correct context, before hastily concluding something.

  37. Bin Ismail

    @ Subcontinental (September 4, 2010 at 5:28 pm)

    Thank you. Since, in my comment (September 4, 2010 at 1:45 am), I was speaking with special reference to the common allegation against Islam that it condones coercion, therefore I commented with special reference to Islam. Otherwise, the verse “There is no coercion in matters of religion.” (2:256), actually has a universal appeal. It applies to all matters of faith of all religions, indeed.

  38. Momin

    Dear Bin Ismail

    “Logically speaking, if verses of the Quran were susceptible to abrogation, albeit at the hands of other Quranic verses, they would still have failed to be qualified as guarded by God’

    Can you Plz elaborate this point because you are contradicting Quran itself by judging it with “logic” specially when quran is clear that “We substitute something better or similar”

    as for the “context ” would definitely like to know the context under which these verses are Right .. Please note that the Quran is a complete and clear book easy to understand so please quote the context from Quran and not what others think .

  39. Bin Ismail

    @ Momin (September 5, 2010 at 11:27 am)

    Logic is not in conflict with the Quran. On several occasions, God says, “afalaa ta’qiloon”, [will you not employ rationality?]. Divine revelation studied with a rational and unbiased mindset, leads the reader to deeper understanding of the Quran. Regarding replacement of a verse by a “better” or “similar” one, I believe I have already explained that only a better or similar verse in the Quran will abrogate a verse appearing in a previous scripture.

    Verses from the Quran that speak about “combat” are frequently quoted by those orientalists who seek to project it as a book condoning violence. Regarding such verses, may I point out that:

    a) the Quran permits only defensive combat
    b) the Quran has laid down certain ethics of war, which are meant to maintain a high level of morality, even during combat.
    c) a guidance that relates to wartime ethics will become operative only during wartime, not during peacetime.

  40. I’m not an expert in Islamic studies (or in any religion for that matter), but I know that it’s very dangerous when people start dividing everyone into “us” and “them.”

    Even here in India, there is a very small (but vocal!) group of people who want India to be only Hindu, and blame all of India’s problems on everyone else – Muslims, Foreigners, the US, China, the currently political party…

    Intolerance seems to be a potential trait of human nature itself irrespective of religion.

  41. Farukh Sarwar

    We cannot hope for the best, unless we are doing something ourselves. Secular principles as pursued by the Quaid must be implemented in order to rid the country from extremists.

  42. tilsim1

    @ Bhagwad Jal Park

    “Intolerance seems to be a potential trait of human nature itself irrespective of religion.”

    I agree some atheists can come across as intolerant as some religious fanatics. Some atheists can be extremely tolerant and so can some highly religious people.