Tag Archives: Religion

The Hope of Hermeneutics

A.A Khalid

The great religions of the world all have a central text which the faithful adhere to and interpret constantly as their companion in the quest for meaning. Islam is the proto-type example of this typology of religion, a faith with an unmistakably central and crucial text, the Quran. The Quran the ultimate example of a Sacred text which guides intimately the life of Muslims, offering peace and tranquility and its message of mercy.If one is to refine our understanding of religion to tear down assertions of patriarchy and autocracy then a new framework of Quranic hermeneutics has to be established.

Hermeneutics is quiet simply the philosophy of interpretation, it recognizes human agency in the act of encountering the text. Hence in this respect hermeneutics is known within the Islamic traditions as tafsir operating in a traditional exegetical setting. However, the first to use this concept was German Protestant theologian and philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), whose founding role is now widely recognized. Others include the great German philosopher and hermeneuticist Gadamer, a modern exponent of hermeneutics. The art of interpretation is a delicate act with many factors and variables in play with the assumptions and presumptions of the reader, the intricacy of the text and the interaction of the two. Continue reading

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Do Muslim Women Get a Fair Deal?

This is an incisive article sent by Ms Taji M which raises several intelligent and debatable points. Right now we are witnessing a debate on need for reform in religion. This article provides a woman’s perspective and argues that due to orthodox and literal interpretation of religion women in our society are not getting a fair deal. We expect healthy debate on this article.

By Taji M

I have a friend, university educated, upper class, stylish and religious but not an extremist way. She is a on the whole a very sensible person. Over the years we have debated religion extensively; I have more reformist thoughts and she is more mainstream. She is of the firm belief that present orthodox version of Islam offers the best position for Muslim women; in one of our debates she said something like this “Look at me, I am much better off than the western women slaving away in offices and then scouting for boyfriends and eventual husbands. Before marriage my father took care of me, he treated me and my brothers equally. During his lifetime he divided the property between me and brothers and I ended up getting a larger share as I got a lot of gold in my jahez also. I got married without going through the humiliating boyfriend search, and now have a loving husband and two cute kids. I am a stay-at-home mom out of choice not due to my husband’s insistence. And the nice house we live in is in my name. I am protected under the safety of Islam which offers the best to all good women”.

She is not alone in coming to that conclusion, a large number of educated class Muslim women share this attitude. They have been convinced that they have gotten best deal possible. I have a problem with this belief though. And I have told her and other similar women, that their experience is not out of the fruits of orthodox version of religion, but of the good luck of being associated with decent men. In case of my friend, her father bypassed the law and divided his estate in his life time so that she won’t get half share later on. Her husband, a really nice guy, ensured her financial security by keeping the house in her name. Otherwise in case of widowhood, the wife gets one of the smallest shares, and if there is a divorce she gets nothing from the family wealth. Of course she gets the Meher, but how many women can survive for long on that amount. Continue reading

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Filed under human rights, Islam, Pakistan, Religion, Women

Fear and silence

By Mohsin Hamid     Dawn, 27 Jun, 2010

Why are Ahmadis persecuted so ferociously in Pakistan?

 A victim of attack on Jinnah Hospital, Lahore

The reason can’t be that their large numbers pose some sort of ‘threat from within’. After all, Ahmadis are a relatively small minority in Pakistan. They make up somewhere between 0.25 per cent (according to the last census) and 2.5 per cent (according to the Economist) of our population.

Nor can the reason be that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Pakistani Christians and Pakistani Hindus are non-Muslims, and similar in numbers to Pakistani Ahmadis. Yet Christians and Hindus, while undeniably discriminated against, face nothing like the vitriol directed towards Ahmadis in our country.

To understand what the persecution of Ahmadis achieves, we have to see how it works. Its first step is to say that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. And its second is to say that Ahmadis are not just non-Muslims, but apostates: non-Muslims who claim to be Muslims. These two steps are easy to take: any individual Pakistani citizen has the right to believe whatever they want about Ahmadis and their faith. Continue reading

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THE WILL OF THE FATHER OF THIS NATION

Nusrat Pasha

Few nations are as fortunate as us, in that the founder of our nation has left behind for us explicit guidelines and profound words of guidance, in relation to the involvement of Religion in matters of the state.These words of wisdom embody the Will of Jinnah to the nation he founded. This nation still has hope if it succeeds in reverting to Jinnah’s Will :

1 : “….Religion should not be allowed to come into Politics….Religion is merely a matter between man and God”.[Jinnah, Address to the Central Legislative Assembly, 7 February 1935].

In this principled statement Jinnah draws a clear line between Politics and Religion, and also defines the parameters of Religion by the words “between man and God”. This statement of his harbours the soul and spirit of Secular Statecraft.

2 : “….in the name of Humanity, I care more for them [the Untouchables] than for Mussalmans. ” [Jinnah, Speaking about the Shudras or Untouchables, during his address at the All India Muslim League session at Delhi, 1934].

Jinnah’s pro-minority thinking is once again patent from these words. These words were not uttered before a Hindu gathering, which if they were, could have led some to argue that perhaps he was trying to win their favour. These words were, in fact, uttered during his address at a Muslim League session.

3 : “….I am NOT fighting for Muslims, believe me, when I demand Pakistan.” [Jinnah, Press Conference, 14 November 1946] Continue reading

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Contestations of Ijtihad: The Need For Debate

A.A Khalid has sent this exclusive piece for PTH. We are truly encouraged by the fact that there are so many rational Pakistanis who want to rescue their religion from the clutches of bigots and extremists. We would like more and more people to join this debate and develop a discourse which sadly is missing since the days of Allama Iqbal. Raza Rumi

In liberal circles of religious scholarship there is a contention that ‘’ijtihad’’ is the epistemic tool which will solve all our grapples and puzzles of establishing a suitable religiosity for our time.

Ijtihad is elevated from its formal place as a mere tool of legal reasoning restricted in the classical tradition to books of law, to that of an intellectual principle and a citadel of a rational religiosity. Ijtihad is indeed forms part of the rationalist tradition of Islam and as such is the natural ally for reformists and liberals in the Muslim World. But ijtihad, which means intellectual exertion and in a technical sense juridical adjudication, to solve legal problems which have no precedent in the normative texts or in the jurists’ corpus is not naturally an epistemic tool for liberals.

Ijtihad can also be illiberal and can also be disastrous; one can argue the totally unprecedented phenomenon of violent extremism instigated by demagogues and ideologues is indeed ijtihad gone tragically wrong. If ijtihad is taken to mean that all Muslims can interpret their faith as they wish in accordance to what they see as new soicio-political circumstances and new contexts then we must be cautious. After all conservatives and radicals can forward absolutely shocking and regressive opinions as ijtihad as much as a liberal can forward progressive and enlightened opinions as ijtihad. We need to avoid this epistemic anarchism and try and elaborate sensible parameters. Though the determination of these parameters in terms of dealing violent extremism will be easy as violent extremism and radicalism clearly are beyond the pale and their actions clash with the fundamentals of Islam, the real issue is betweeen conservatives and liberals/reformists. Issues such as Islamic law, politics, ethics, morality and epistemology will be where trying to agree on a set of sensible parameters will be difficult. Continue reading

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Half Muslims and Non Muslims

By Farzana Versey

Born in the Ismaili faith, I have been quite accustomed to the ‘aadha Mussalman’ (half Muslim) tag. Members of the community are none the worse for it. However, I cannot understand the attitude towards Ahmadis in Pakistan. Ismailis have a living Imam, yet they are not considered a minority.

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The Second Amendment

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

Published in Daily Times, May 31 2010

The Second Amendment laid the foundations of intolerance and religious tyranny in Pakistan, which has manifested itself in other ways. Since then our state has been in a downward spiral

The violence against the Ahmediyya community underscores the bigotry that has become the hallmark of our beloved homeland. A community — already sacrificed at the altar of political expediency — has now been made to pay the ultimate price.

Amongst the dead, which included retired army officers and other contributors to Pakistani society, was reportedly the youngest brother of Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan. For those who are unaware of who Chaudhry Zafarullah was, he was the author of the Lahore Resolution, Pakistan’s first foreign minister and Pakistan’s advocate before the Boundary Commission. In other words, this community has paid for such crimes as their valiant contribution to the Pakistan Movement, their significant role in the development of Pakistan and the fact that Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize was bagged by them. Yet what happened on Friday was waiting to happen, given the neglect and at times outright bigotry that our governments, both federal and provincial, have been guilty of on this count starting with the PPP government in 1974.

Things were not always like this. It bears remembering that in 1944 when a group of Muslim divines approached Jinnah to persuade him unsuccessfully to turn all Ahmedis out of the Muslim League, Jinnah was resolute against such bigotry. He responded to them by saying, “Who am I to declare non-Muslim a person who calls himself a Muslim?” It was for this reason that many religious parties and even self-styled freedom fighters like Mirza Ali Khan (Faqir of Ipi) denounced the Muslim League as a “bastion of Qadiyanism”. Yet such was the force of character of our founding father that he not only stood against such bigotry but without any fear appointed the leading Ahmedi Muslim at the time to shoulder the most important responsibility for the Muslims of South Asia, i.e. of arguing Pakistan’s case before the Boundary Commission. So long as the Quaid’s colleagues were at the helm, there was some semblance of common sense that prevailed on this issue. When in 1953, the Majlis-e-Ahrar and the Jamaat-e-Islami, both groups that had opposed the creation of Pakistan, started a mass agitation movement to have Ahmedis like Chaudhry Zafarullah turned out from the government and excommunicated from Islam, Khawaja Nazimuddin, himself a devout Muslim, refused to bow under their pressure. His government fell a few weeks later and the establishment stepped in to sweep up the mullahs with extreme prejudice.

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