Category Archives: Islam

Impossible histories —Edward Said

These excerpts from Said’s articles are being posted due to the torrent of comments posted here by some of our visitors. They tend to take a simplistic view of Islam and Muslims and repeat the same mantra over and over again. Therefore, we hope that Edward Said’s exceptionally nuanced comment will add value to the ill-informed rants posted on PTH. Raza Rumi

As a religious idea, Islam goes back to seventh-century Arabia and to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), God’s Messenger, whose book of divine revelations is collected in the prose-poetic surahs of the Quran. Having said that, however, one is only at the very beginning, and even primitive, level of what Islam is.

Islam is a world of many histories, many peoples, many languages, traditions, schools of interpretation, proliferating developments, disputations, cultures, and countries. A vast world of more than 1.2 billion people stretched out over every continent, north and south, including now the Americas, it cannot adequately be apprehended or understood simply as “Islam”. Continue reading

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Are there any moral standards independent of God’s will?

By Aasem Bakhshi

Socrates: If that which is holy is the same with that which is dear to God, and is loved because it is holy, then that which is dear to God would have been loved as being dear to God; but if that which dear to God is dear to him because loved by him, then that which is holy would have been holy because loved by him. […] But you still refuse to explain to me the nature of holiness. And therefore, if you please, I will ask you not to hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what holiness or piety really is, whether dear to the gods or not and what is impiety?
Euthyphro: I really do not know, Socrates, how to express what I mean. For somehow or other our arguments, on whatever ground we rest them, seem to turn round and walk away from us. (Euthyphro, Plato’s Dialogues) Continue reading

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Filed under Islam, Philosophy

What Makes a Terrorist?

 By Taji M

How do you turn a young man or a woman into a terrorist, particularly a suicide bomber? The answer is a mystery to me as well as a large number of Pakistanis. We thought we had a predictable answer a few years back. The poor underprivileged children studying in hard-line Madarssas could be brainwashed and turned into killing machines. But if that was the real answer we should have had thousands of terrorists running rampant, thankfully this is not the case. More recently we are increasingly coming across educated upper middle class Muslims who have become hardliners to the level of resorting to terrorism. Some of them have in fact been living in conflict-free countries of Europe. So again, what changes a person into a killer?

Unfortunately to be effective and lethal, terrorists do not need a large number of recruits at any given point, they need only few but they do need a steady influx of new blood. We need to understand what factors would facilitate the terrorist agenda. I think one of the very fundamental mindset at play here is the distortion of concepts of Duniya and Aakhrat. Islam in general gives more importance to Hereafter than this world only to discourage the obsession of pursuing worldly gains alone. It was never meant to undermine this world totally. If that was the case, Islam would not have put so much emphasis on Rights of fellow human beings, on the conduct of good Muslims and so on. But take this view to the extreme, and observe how it can get warped. If someone starts to believe that world is a prison and many of the positives it has to offer are in fact fitna, then obviously the best thing one can do is to escape to hereafter as quickly as possible. And then what better way to enter Jannat then as a martyr who are suppose to get the highest echelons of heaven. This chain of thought would appear quite logical to an extremist. At the very extreme even collateral damage can be justified; killing a child of rival sect can be viewed as protecting the child from hell which he would be destined to go if he had lived to adulthood. Combine this logic with a sense of injustice prevailing in the Muslim youth of today on account of war on terror and you have a fertile ground for extremism.

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Filed under Islam, Pakistan, state, Terrorism

Is it easy to fill the God shaped hole at the center of our souls?

By Aasem Bakhshi

Contrary to common Muslim perception, Islamic tradition does not hold a unanimous conception of God; furthermore, being able to believe in an omnipotent, perpetually creative and law giving Deity demands clarity of conception, which is intellectually laborious and demands extraordinary dedication.

The foremost act in religion is the acknowledgment of Him. The perfection of acknowledging Him is believing in Him; the perfection of believing in Him is acknowledging His oneness; the perfection of acknowledging His oneness is pledging loyalty to Him and the perfection of pledging loyalty to Him is denying attributes pertaining to Him, because of the qualities of His creation that could be attributed to humans. Everyone of them is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute. Thus whoever assigns attributes to Allah recognizes His like, and who recognizes His like regards Him as dual, and who regards Him as dual recognizes parts of Him, and who recognizes parts of Him has mistaken Him. Continue reading

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Filed under Islam, Philosophy, Religion

International Burn-a-Quran Day: A Test for Freedom, Tolerance and Responsibility

by Raza Habib Raja

Due to the proposed “Burn a Quran Day” by Pastor Terry Jones, Muslim world is once again under scrutiny and for reasons pertaining to  their faith and extraordinary reverence they attach to it. However, it is not just the Muslims, but the USA’s democracy and its ideals of freedom of action which are also under the critical microscope. The world has become a strange place and in this environment of deep polarization and mistrust even the action of a previously obscure Pastor can light the fuse.

But even more important than the issue of burning are the underlying questions which need to be addressed both by Islamic and the Western World.

Some of these questions are deeply philosophical and challenge our current understanding of ideals like freedom of expression and ethnic sensitivity. Some of the questions pertain to the extreme sensitivity of the Muslims and their more than necessary response.

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Filed under Islam, Law, minorities

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

This series revisits one of the pivotal events of the early Pakistani history; the riots by the religious right wing parties to get Ahmadis declared as non-Muslims, and the subsequent Munir-Kiyani inquiry commission report into the causes behind the riots. The report went on to interview the religious leaders of the newly formed state of Pakistan regarding their motives and their ideas of Pakistan as a pure Islamic state. As the interviews revealed the incongruous replies of various leaders, they also showed vague but chilling ideas that the right wing parties harboured to turn the newly formed Muslim nation into a politically Islam dominated theocratic nation. The interviews reveal the role of democracy, non Muslims, Jihad and punishments like apostasy that would be practiced in an ideal Islamic state.

 (AZW)

 

UNANIMITY ON PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY

While no simple or unanimous definition for a Muslim was given by all the ulamas, they were clearly unanimous about the punishment for apostasy in an Islamic state. The punishment for apostasy was unequivocally, death.

With this doctrine, the religious leaders were clearly referring the then foreign minister Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan. If Chaudhry Zafrullah had not inherited his present (Ahmadi) beliefs, but had voluntarily elected to become an Ahmadi, he ought to be put to death.

However, while the punishment for apostasy was unanimous, the ulamas could not agree on who exactly is an apostate. Remember various criteria that was narrated by various leaders on who constitutes a Muslim? Now the same uneasy differences were making it hard for the leaders to decide who ought to be put to death.

Maulana Shafi Deobandi said that if he were the head of state of an Islamic Government, he would “exclude those who have pronounced Deobandis as kafirs from the pale of Islam and inflict on them the death penalty if they come within the definition of murtadd, namely, if they have changed and not inherited their religious views”.

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Filed under Constitution, Democracy, History, Identity, India, Islam, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, minorities, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, Religion

Religious Right in Their Own Words; What Constitutes a True Muslim

Part 2

By Adnan Syed

This series revisits one of the pivotal events of the early Pakistani history; the riots by the religious right wing parties to get Ahmadis declared as non-Muslims, and the subsequent Munir-Kiyani inquiry commission report into the causes behind the riots. The report went on to interview the religious leaders of the newly formed state of Pakistan regarding their motives and their ideas of Pakistan as a pure Islamic state. As the interviews revealed the incongruous replies of various leaders, they also showed vague but chilling ideas that the right wing parties harboured to turn the newly formed Muslim nation into a politically Islam dominated theocratic nation. The interviews reveal the role of democracy, non Muslims, Jihad and punishments like apostasy that would be practiced in an ideal Islamic state.

Originally planned as a two part series, I decided to split it to three parts due to the sheer volume of information in interviews in the Munir-Kiyani Report.

 (AZW)

 

SOVEREIGNTY AND DEMOCRACY IN ISLAMIC STATE

Munir-Kiyani report was one of the first studies into the contradictory stance taken by framers of the Objectives Resolution. The report pointed out that the Resolution misused the words “sovereign” and “democracy” when the Resolution stated that the constitution to be framed was “for a sovereign state in which principles of democracy as enunciated by Islam would be fully observed”.

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Filed under Islam, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, minorities, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, Partition, Punjab, Rights