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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Turbulence in West Asia and its Impact on Pakistan - Part II

Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen, Syria, Jordan are all experiencing churning and turmoil, some on a largescale and widespread and others on a much smaller scale. These have not erupted all of a sudden, as some may think. The Islamic world has been experiencing convulsions since the 18th century. Before we understand the modern foundations for this upheavel, we need to look historically at the period for three centuries before and see the impact of various events and dramatis personae had on today's turn of events. Pakistan is equally affected by these historical facts and it serves therefore to understand them.

Modern day Islamists are inspired by several Islamic scholars, not the least of which is ibn Taymiyya (c. 1263 - 1328). Indeed, he is the fountainhead of today's jihadi Islamism. Present day Islamist jihadis have used his fatwa (Islamic religious decree)that ‘if infidels (kafir)take shelter behind Muslims, and these Muslims become a shield for the infidels, it is permitted to kill the Muslims in order to get at the infidels.’ This was known as the Mardin Declaration referring to the city of Mardin in Turkey where Ibn Taymiyya was living at that time. The Mongol devastation of Syria radicalized his thoughts. The Wahhabi movement reveres ibn Taymiyya. He claimed that he was following the first three generations of Islamists (salaf in Arabic, meaning ancestors) and hence he is considered the ‘Architect of Salafism’. In c. 2010, a group of Islamic scholars from various countries felt that the Mardin Declaration (fatwa) was misunderstood due to a minute typographical error. A manuscript copy of the fatwa present in a Damascus library is considered to contain the correct wording. Whatever be the truth, who cares ? The damage is already done and irretrievably too. It means little now if an insignificant group of ulema talk of a typographical error.

In India, in the meanwhile, were born a series of Islamist scholars in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries who dominated the scene and created a fertile situation for today's jihad in the Af-Pak areas. During this period, India was largely ruled by the Muslim invaders whose grip was fast loosening. The first of such Islamist scholars was Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi of the 17th century. He belonged to the Naqshbandi order (a Sufi order of Islam named after the Tajikistan-born mystic Bhauddin Naqshbandi). He is also known as Mujaddid-Alf-e-Thani (Reformer of the Second Islamic Millennium). There is a reason why he was given that title. By sixteenth century, Sufism had taken a stronghold in India and it helped to bridge the divide between the liberal polytheistic Hinduism and the rigid monotheistic Islam. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, the synthesis between Islam and Hinduism reached greater heights. The Chishti order (another of the Sufi orders of brotherhood) took predominant roots over other Sufi forms such as Qadriyah, and Naqshbandi (It continues to have a wide following in the Indian subcontinent) Emperor Akbar’s accommodation of Hindu philosophy and his creation of a new faith Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith)was detested by the orthodoxy of Islam. To this day, Akbar is hated by the Islamists of Pakistan for that reason. After the codification of Islamic jurisprudence and the formation of the four schools or madhhab(Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafii) by the early 9th century, the ulema had shut the doors on any further interpretation of Islam. Akbar's actions therefore violated this ban and hence considered heretical. In Pakistan, history textbooks trace their nation only from the conquest of Mohammed bin Qasim in areas of Sind in 712 AD, then skip to Mahmud Ghaznavi in the early 11th century, thus skipping the intervening three centuries, then move to Mahmud Ghori of the late 12th century, again skipping nearly two centuries, refer to the establishment of the Mughal empire by Babur and later the rule of Aurangzeb (Akbar's great grand-son and a fundamentalist Islamist) skipping the rule of other emperors most notably Akbar, then move forward to the First Indian Independence War of 1857 only because the soldiers who mutineed looked upto the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, and then stop at the emergence of Jinnah in 1920s).

Sirhindi's time coincided with that of Jahangir (Nur-ud-din Salim Jahangir, son of Akbar). Jahangir’s grandson and a religious bigot and tyrant, Aurangzeb, was greatly influenced by Sirhindi. Sirhindi ensured that the ijtihad of Akbar did not allow the influence of Hinduism on Islam. Many credit Sirhindi for having introduced communalism that led to the creation of Pakistan three-and-a-half centuries later. He reportedly praised cow-slaughter in India as a great Islamic act.

Next in the line of such Islamist thinkers was Shah Waliullah Dehelvi (c. 1703-1762). He came at the time the Moghul empire was declining after the unpopular and tyrannical rule of Aurangzeb, with the Hindus and the Sikhs revolting. Waliullah helped the Afghan king Ahmed Shah (also known as Ahmed Shah Durrani or Ahmed Shah Abdali) to overcome the Mahrattas in the Panipat war in 1761. He also belonged to the Naqshbandi order of Sufism and was educated in Makkah and Madinah. Waliullah was a Sufi but his stay at Makkah and Medinah coincided with ibn Wahhab's time. He was greatly influenced by him. Upon his return to India, he decided to rid Islam in the Indian subcontinent of Hindu practices and influences. In this he was like ibn Taymiya who also started as a Sufi but ended up as a Hanbali votary. Waliullah's recipe for recovering from the decline of Islam was by making its practice more rigorous. However, he was for constant ijtihad (creative reinterpretation of Islamic jurisprudence) but wanted to get rid of the Hindu practices that might have corrupted Islam. He wanted an intensification of Aurangzeb’s efforts. His thoughts led to the formation of the Berelvi sect later on. Shah Waliullah’s contribution was the linkage he formed between Deobandi Islam and the Hanbali Islam of Saudi Arabia during his sojourn in the Hejaz area of Saudi Arabia. Waliullah believed in the absolute truth of the Koran and the Sunnah (Hadith) and the times of the salafs (ancestors). He thus laid the foundation for Ahl-e-Hadith sect. The madrassah at Deoband, Saharanpur Distt. of Uttar Pradesh (UP), largely teaches Islam based on the interpretation of Waliullah. Ahmed Berelvi, whom we shall see next, was a disciple of Waliullah’s son, Shah Abdul Aziz.

The third and the last in this triumvirate list is Sayyid Ahmed 'Berelvi'. He founded the Berelvi sect of Sunnis. He introduced militancy into Islam hitherto practised in India, for fighting the Hindus, Sikhs and the British. He created Tariq-e-Muhammadiyah (Way of Muhammad) that combined sufism and orthodox Islam. At this time, Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Maharajah of the Punjab, was beginning to conquer Afghan territories west of the Indus. In c. 1820, Kashmir became his vassal state. Sayyid declared jihad against the Sikh rulers and wanted to establish an Islamic state in the Indo-Afghan border (the present day Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or what was until recently known as North Western Frontier Province, NWFP)where he emigrated to with his followers, a la hijra of Prophet Muhammad, in circa 1826. Such a migration was to take place from Dar-ul-Harb (Land of War) of India to Dar-ul-Islam (Land of Islam) of Afghanistan in the early part of the 20th century too after the Ottoman Empire and thus the Caliphate was dismantled in Turkey. Thus, Berelvi set the precedence. The second migration was also to end in failure, just like Berelvi's, because the Afghan King, Amanuallah Khan, son of Habibullah Khan and grand-son of the founder of modern Afghanistan Abd-ur-Rehman, unwilling to antagonise the British, turned the emigrés back. The Afghan borders have never been the same after this emigration by Ahmed Berelvi. The Yusufzai tribes rebelled against him for his attempts to enforce rules contradictory to the Pashtunwali code (the tribal code of conduct practised for centuries). Maharajah Ranjit Singh exploited the situation and his army ambushed the forces of Berelvi near Balakot and killed his followers along with the grandson of Shah Waliullah, Sayyed Ismail. Berelvi was defeated and then executed by the Sikhs in circa 1831. There is evidence that the British, in order to protect their geopolitical interests, actually helped Sayyid Ahmed to fight the Sikhs, especially because the Sikh rulers had turned to the French. Though a large number of Pakistanis are Berelvis, Deobandis have made significant inroads in Pakistani society too.

1 comment:

  1. As Pakistan remains a an islamic country, and most middle-eastern and west asian countries, places like Bangladesh with a lower percentage of Muslims are being compelled to change it's reforms to fit the Sharia law. I do not agree with implementing religious laws on people of a different faith, this way you are forcefully converting them without giving them a chance to help themselves.Thanks for the post. I've got all the information I need.

    call Bangladesh