Pakistani Ulama: Need for Humility and Compassion

Most of us who have spoken or written against the recent murder of Salman Taseer by a zealot and have opined about the legality of the Pakistani Blasphemy law are now being told, by our friends as well as our opponents, to silence ourselves for fear of reprisals. Silence, however, is not an option and we must continue to speak truth to these so-called Ulama who have hijacked Islam and made it into an intolerant, uncompromising ideology of murder, torture, and vigilante justice.

Yes, it is a time of triumph for the mullahs and their followers: Some of them even threatened to kill those attending Taseer’s funeral. But if Taseer was murdered justly for his “sins” then his sins were, by this act of popular justice, expiated and he had become, post death-sentence, as pure as any other Muslim. It seems that the Ulama want to have it both ways: they want Taseer’s murder to be interpreted as just punishment but do not want him to be buried as a Muslim even after he had, so to speak, “paid for” his alleged sin.

Yes, this is a triumphant moment for most of the Ulama in Pakistan: they  have a voiceless women (Asia Bibi) as a “killable” body, a murderer as a hero, and a weak government incapable of facing their ideological onslaught. Tragic, if this is all Islam has come down to after fifteen centuries of its march over time and space. Every system of power needs, as Foucault so aptly taught us, certain “unworthy’ bodies to be humbled, imprisoned, or killed in order to sustain itself. But historical Islam was never about the power of the sovereign to kill, but about the power of the sovereign to enable life. Wasn’t it Umar ibn Khitab, the second caliph of Islam, who had asked his people to hold him accountable if “a dog were to die of hunger” during his reign?

Yes, we the progressive majority of Pakistan are under threat by a minority that has the power to kill, destroy, and hurt us and those we love: they even have ascribed to themselves the power to forbid funerals. Is this Islam or an ultimate form of hubris? Is this in the tradition of our beloved prophet? Would he, in whose name these charlatans have killed Taseer and are getting ready to kill a poor rural woman, have the same vision of justice?

The Blasphemy law with a death sentence needs to be challenged: it is a transformation of Ta’zeer  into Hadd. Hudood are limit imperatives in the Qura’n and applied only to certain specific crimes. The Qur’an does not offer any kind of blasphemy as a Had. There is a basic principle in Fiqa: What the Qur’an forbids cannot be made permissible, and what the Qur’an permits cannot be forbidden. The blasphemy law, therefore, is creation of Had by humans, which is not permitted. There is no instance of a death sentence for personal injury (verbal or physical) in the life, actions, and deeds of the prophet.

Yes, this is a triumphant moment for the mullahs: their followers are dancing in the streets. But pause a little, think what you are doing and saying. For if murder and death is the only way you can feel empowered, then God help us all. The Prophet in whose name this murder was committed did not exult in  triumph, even when he entered Makkah in triumph. As our historical records show us, at the greatest moment of his victory, as his victorious armies entered the city of Makkah, the Prophet–in whose name you have murdered Taseer–was gentle, kind and compassionate. His first proclamation after victory: clemency for all!!

Think about it, for God does not like hubris nor does he condone murders in His name–especially those of unarmed men and women.