Religiously Policing, Policizing and Politicizing

One only needs to hear the name of Jami-a-Hafsa today to get the pictorial of young women and men armed with sticks parading in the streets around Lal Masjid trying to implement the rite of the religion or so it is said. The latest in this the declaration that a “Shariat” Court, a parallel legal system is to be established as referred to our very own Capitan here and the Dawn.

Where this so called ‘policing’ by the students has extended to shops and households in and around the G-6/7 area, the students are now standing on the crossroads warning women drivers to stop doing so or they may face dire consequences. Some of the stick wielding techniques employed by these students reminds me of what I have seen of the ‘religious police’ or ‘mutawwa’ system in place in Saudi Arabia where this is permissible under the strict code of Wahabi Islam that is dominant in the state. However, the point to note here is that the system is in line with the system of governance in the State itself rather than running parallel to it.

My issue and perhaps, the issue of most people would be that an oppressive approach where a few individuals believing themselves to have the divine right to correct and force their impression of religion without the concept of individual free will based on knowledge rather than the intent behind the aggression which seems to be the formulation of an Islamic State.

Not meaning to offend anyone, here is my limited understanding of political systems in Islam. Implementing the laws of God necessitates the role of man who is given the position of God’s vicegerent or representative on earth. This much is agreed upon. The debate arises between a perceived clash between democracy and Islamic systems. Those who argue against the compatibility of Islam and democracy usually begin by saying that a democracy gives sovereignty or power of rule to the people, while Islam gives sovereignty or power of rule to God, which would not allow for a “government by the people.” In other words, these skeptics believe that the opposite of democracy in relation to a religious political system must be theocracy, meaning the rule of God on earth by a religious authority or class. However, this argument presupposes that there is a single religious authority or class within the Islamic tradition that has special access to God’s will and therefore has the right and power to impose divine will on the land. This is where the argument fails in relation to Islam, because the Islamic tradition, at least in the majority Sunni teaching, does not recognize a pope-like figure, nor does it preach the establishment of a religious class that has special access to divine will.

In fact, to the contrary, it can be argued that the Qur’an warns against the establishment of a religious class. The Qur’an says that past religious communities took their religious leaders [for their lords beside God] (At-Tawbah 9:31) and accuses many in the religious class of Jews and Christians of stealing people’s wealth and turning people [away from the path of God] (At-Tawbah 9:34). Furthermore, Muslims believe that after Prophet Muhammad there is no one who has direct access to God’s will, and therefore no one person or group has the legitimacy or authority to claim a pope- or priesthood-like status in the Muslim community.

In Islam, legitimacy of any power or institution is derived mainly from people’s acceptance of this legitimacy. In other words, one can’t gain legitimacy as a ruler unless people agree to this, not to have it imposed on them. Whenever a comparison is made between Islam and anything else, we need to remember that Islam is not a man-made idea. Islam is a God-ordained way of life, and as such it reflects the infinite divine wisdom, which is absolutely infallible. With this kind of understanding, Islam, as reflected in the word of God and the sayings of the Prophet–which he also received by way of revelation–present the ultimate truth, with the understanding that humans with all their wisdom and intellect are still fallible to the vices of a common man.

So where then does this class of clerics and their students fall, in terms of a religious class? Do the ends justify the means? Is their understanding of a social and moral code of life supported by testimony in the form of “Ajma'” and “Ijtihaad” whereby the perspectives and understandings of a fair number of representatives of all sects and people within the nation have been understood and catered for in order to remove misunderstandings?

11 Comments so far

  1. the olive ream (unregistered) on April 6th, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

    I wonder what qualifies this type of mindset? Perhaps a desparate need to massage the EGO and to address an internal, unrelenting inferiority complex. Basically, the need for one to feel BETTER, more PIOUS and SUPERIOR to others.

    Be it the imperialist, ethnocentric view of the world held by the NEOCONic Bush Administration or the self-righteous arrogance of religious groups hell bent on teaching others the ‘right path’, the root cause is the same. They all suffer from the misguided notion that the way they envision the world, is the way things should be. Because they cannot argue with logic, facts or truth, they do it by force, they do it with sticks, they do it with bullets and bombs.

    God’s biggest blessing to us humans(if one were to claim to be religious to any extent) is the power to think, the ability to question, and the freedom to choose. None of the so-called pious religious authorities or self-righteous political parties or leaders will EVER admit to that fact.

    Allah is merciful and benevolent. Unfortunately, some of HIS followers are not. What a dreadful shame.


  2. 1967 (unregistered) on April 6th, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

    While the mullah’s are busy “Islamisizing” Pakistan, here is what image the whole world is getting.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20070405/wl_csm/otourist


  3. babar (unregistered) on April 6th, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

    Whatever be the religious debate, but I thought we already have a sharia court in the country. If they dont beleive in it , and want to establish their own, then why should the mulvi in the next mosque should beleive in them and not develope his own court? Confused.

    What a marvelous approach musharraf is taking. He is almost crying with tears that the talibat are not letting peopel think of their own, and may God guide them. Compare it to his atitude towards Bugti. Hence its proved that the most priviledged class of Pakistan is the mullah, even higher in status than feudels, army and what not.


  4. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 2:49 am

    A well-written post sarah. Let’s be honest with ourselves and ask ourselves that whether we really deserve to raise fingers on others?

    Those who are opposing these hafsa students don’t know themselves why are they opposing them. They are just opposing them because they are not like them. They ain’t opposing them because they are violating state laws. If they are condeming because these girls and their mentors violated laws then is anti-Hafsa cabal admitting that they never broke any law in their life or they always followed a discplined life?

    IMO, the core of Islamic teachings is nothing but discpline and it’s demonstrated from every kind of Islamic prayers whether it’s Salat or Fasting or hajj. Every form of prayer is offered on time. I can’t offer Fajr in evening,it will never be a fajr prayer similarly no matter how many times i follow all hajj steps, If I am not doing between 5th and 10th Zil-Haj then it can’t be called a Hajj. The fact is that almost every Pakistani whether he’s a liberal or religious ,muslim or non-muslim violates traffic rules, even ladies. Yeterday a lady driver broke the red signal infron t of my eyes and I was just surprised because I had assumption that ladies would be better than gents. Since I lived most of my time in Pakistan so was surprised a lot when I found no traffic police on streets of Makkah and madina and everyone including Pakistanis were following red signals though there was no cop in surrounding. The reason is ‘fear of law’. This demonstration just killed my assumption that “all muslim states are lawless”. Unlike Saudia, there is no hardcore Islamic rules in Pakistan,still we suffer,still we act wild, why is like that? When we ourselves are not being able to follow basics of Islam on every level then it’s look retardish to condemn others just because their life style is different than others.

    The biggest problem with us that we think we can fool Allah like we fool other people. How foolish we are. When I see people here or anywhere curse a particular cable, they just think that God’s busy somewhere and not listening them. Such people live in fools paradise nothing else. It’s not a big thing that you can use all of your enery to “fool” your fellow men. I would consider you a ‘man’ if you can convince God by your words only because your actions already reflect that you are not different than the other group and somewhat you are actually partner in crime. They also do cunning things in name of Islam. If Hafsa mentor says that they are doing due to Islam then other hand Musharraf also claims that He went kaaba 7 times therefore he’s the only scholar and he knows islam well. Hehe idiots.

    The whole hafsa exercise atleast proved one thing that our society has lost the sense to call spade a spade and has become a practical demo of anti “Ammer-Bil-Maroof wa Nahi-Anil-Munkir”. I hope Allah will not make us another example of what He mentioned in “Surah Haqqah”. *sigh*


  5. ME (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 7:14 am

    Is it true that Geo has blamed Deo-Bandis for Lal masjid fiasco? If true then its funny the same Deo-bandi bunch who vehemently opposed Pakistan are now trying to tell Pakistanis how they should live their lives. I have one thing to say to them…go back to Deo-band you creeps. We don’t need you, never needed you.


  6. 1967 (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 9:45 am

    Instead of “calling” a spade a spade, hafsa people should first look at themselves. The change starts from within, not by bringing it outside, or by harassing people. Discipline is a by product of freedom, because freedom comes with responsibility and accountability. If people don’t get the fredom to make responsible decisions, they never mature into good citizens. The type of discipline these people are trying to impose will suffocate the already “asthamatic” society of ours.

    People who are opposing hafsa studens know exactly why they are opposing them. That’s because they are harrassing public in the open and taking law in their own hands, by “disciplining” people who are not interested in their version of discipline. The whole priorities are messed up with these guys

    Check this out, Pakistani cricket team’s media manager also quoted that the team lost in world cup because instead on focusing on cricket, they were more drawn towards “tableegee” actvities. They did not go there to “discipline” the whole world cup particpants teams for god sakes!

    And if these hafsa students do want to contribute postively to the society there are more signifcant issues than to burn CD shops or harass public. They should help educated people in worldy sciences to get them jobs so that they can live with a better quality or life, or go on a education campaign to help people make Islamabad a more environment friendly , and clean place. Or help the thousand of street children go to school so that they can get proper education.

    These ignorant people are poluting the already polluted environment of Islamabad, by burning plastic in open air…


  7. Jaded (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 11:10 am

    Thank you for all your comments.

    If I may clarify something, firstly the point of this post was not place the blame for this situation or its deterioration on one group of people nor to exonerate anyone else, whether they be individuals or society itself of responsibility.

    Secondly, the issue here is of understanding that forced removal of brothels and video shops nor stopping females in the middle of the road, armed with sticks telling them to cover their heads is going to make this society anymore Islamic than it already is.

    The corruption and vices that lead us away from our religion are ingrained within ourselves, and are not going to be exorcised by self-proclaimed enforcers of religion wielding sticks.

    The concept of Islam is based on knowledge, learning and the force of ‘choice’ based on that knowledge and on the faith that the Almighty places in human beings as being ashraf-ul-makhlooqaat to know and recognize and accept that which is good for them.

    Heavy handed approaches like these cause hatred, more misunderstandings and for the sake of being human, an urge to dig in one’s heels and protest for the sake of a protest. How do threatening the life and livelihood of a person and his family help the cause of Islam? It is instinct to fear and run away from that which threatens you and somehow understanding that these people are considering the possibility of tying bombs to themselves and walking into a gathering where so many innocents could lose their lives does not endear their cause., no matter how noble.

    Nobody argues the legitimacy of an Islamic system to be implemented in the State, but the change needs to be incorporated into the very fabric of who we are, built on the principles of social welfare, equality and justice so that people accept it heart and soul, with intention and neeyat, that is the basis of good in our religion, not forced down in a way that puts us in the same categories as the non-Muslims in the time of the Prophet (Sallallah u Alaihi Wassalam) who converted in name only and followed the religion only in its acts in public.


  8. Jaded (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 7:33 pm

    Please DO NOT write comments directed or focused towards a particular sect or community. They will be deleted. This issue is not being discussed for the purpose of blaming people. This forum is here for an open minded discussion, and to increase awareness of an issue that we all face and not here to incite any kind of misunderstandings in the community.


  9. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 8:50 pm


    The concept of Islam is based on knowledge, learning and the force of ‘choice’ based on that knowledge

    True and I wouldn’t disagree with you but the misinterpetition of “choice” produced many thing wrong in past. Offcourse Islam gives me choice to either choose Islam or some other religion but Islam doesn’t give me choice to either follow salat or not. Same Islam doesn’t give me choice to accept the Oneness of Allah. By choice doesn’t mean I am FREE NOT to follow the basics of Islam. If one feels irk to follow Islam then just simply leave it.

    Offcourse it was matter of “choice” or misinterpetition of choice that today in Islam we see several fake sects which follow their own teachings in name of Islam.

    If every one starts following his own definition of Islam then there would be no discpline. This is what happenes during traffic jam, everyone chooses his own path and in result we experience chaos.

    The thing which I found disturbing in whole scnerio that anti-Hafsa cabal seems content with the presence of brothel in an area or they have no issue if kids become victim of pornography. Indeed at one side we chant to be muslims while have reached to lowest level of belief that is ‘not considering an evil a evil’. No doubt we are doomed.


  10. ME (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 9:11 pm

    This is the problem we have and reason for all these issues that we have given too much free hand to the anti-Pakistan pro-taliban Deobandi lobby….and are now paying through the nose for it. The sooner this extremist sect is controlled the better.


  11. Jaded (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

    Your comments are being deleted ME because you are issuing comments that are personal. My religious affiliation is nobody’s concern but my own and Allah Almighty’s.

    If you can not keep your bias out of comments and need to make personal attacks to defend your point of view I will delete your comments.



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