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Friday, June 10, 2011

A Comparison of Today's Pakistan and Certain Events in Seventh Century Islam

Pakistan never tires of two things these days, the only country created on the basis of Islam and the only Islamic nuclear country. Pakistani political leaders and Army Generals have frequently exhorted their armed forces to not only protect the physical boundaries of the country but also the 'ideological frontiers of Islam'. The motto of the Pakistani Army (PA) itself conveys where the Pakistani nation stands: Iman, Taqwah, Jihad fi Sabilillah (Faith, Fear of Allah, Jihad in the way of Allah). Pakistan has never been shy of depicting its wars against India as religion-based. Later, when it acquired missiles from China and North Korea, it named them after some of the most savage Islamist raiders of India from Central Asia and Afghanistan. The names reflect not only India-specificity but also the aggressiveness of Pakistani mindset in Islamist terms. Its military operations against India have been named such that it will swell a Muslim bosom with pride. For example, during the 1965 war, Pakistan Navy decided to bombard the decrepit and non-strategic town of Dwarka on the Gujarat coast since it was associated with the Hindu mythology of Mahabharat and the operation was therefore aptly code-named “Operation Somnath” symbolizing the dozens of times the marauder Mahmud of Ghazni pillaged the nearby and the famous Somnath temple. The Pakistan Army’s invasion in the same war was code-named ‘Operation Gibraltar’, referring to the Rock of Gibraltar which was named as ‘Jebel al Tariq’ by the Muslim invader Tariq bin Ziad. Similarly, the various units of the invading Pakistani guerilla army forces in 1965 were named as Tariq, Ghaznavi, Salahuddin, Qasim and Khalid, all thus named after Muslim war heroes. It was this same hatred that drove Daoud Gilani alias David Coleman Headley to include Somnath temple as one of his four terror targets apart from Mumbai.

There are plenty of other examples where Pakistan displays its deep attachment to jihadi Muslim war heroes, some of them even quite savage. It is no wonder therefore that the Pakistani Chief of Army, Gen. Kayani, openly described the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah as 'patriots'. Another Corps Commander of the PA said that the TTP would fight the Indians 'shoulder-to-shoulder' with the Pakistani Army. Several Army officers such as General (r) Mirza Aslam Baig, General (r) Faiz Ali Chishti, General (r) Hameed Gul, General (r) Jamshaid Gulzar Kiyani, General (r) Asad Durrani, General (r) Sardar Anwar Khan, General (r) Abdul Qayyum and General (r) Ali Quli Khan have openly said that jihad was the only way to wrest Kashmir from India or supported such a proposition. The likes of Professor Hafeez Saeed saheb, Maulana Masood Azhar Alvi, Fazlur Rehman Khalil et al froth at the mouth corners at the very mention of kafir India. The chief of Lashkar-e-Tayeba (LeT), Prof. Hafeez Saeed, said in November 1999, ‘The Jihad is not about Kashmir only. It encompasses all of India. Today I announce the break-up of India, Inshallah. We will not rest until the whole of India is dissolved into Pakistan’.

It is a common belief among Pakistanis that it is their duty to retrieve the oppressed Muslims of India from the land of jahliyyah (the dark period of ignorance before Islam was born) in a Ghazwa-e-Hind (Conquest of Hindustan by the Believers) based on a hadith of doubtful authenticity. This is a reference to a hadith that purportedly says that “A Muslim Army (probably Pakistan Army) would Conquer India, after that Hazrat Isa will return and this army would join him in the Middle East to fight the Jews.” The Pakistani Army probably wants to believe that Ghazwa-e-Hind refers to them and would want the Pakistani society-at-large to believe likewise too. It was so convenient to propagate this myth and garner support from all sections of the Pakistani State and the society until the TTP came along and the Punjabi Taliban joined hands with them and started attacking the very institutions that created and nurtured them. Who would have thought, in circa 2000 for example, of attacks against the ISI or the Pakistani Army or the Frontier Corps or the Corps Commanders of the PA ? Who could have imagined the brutal killing of Col. Imam, the father-figure of the mujahideen and later the Taliban ? Who could have foretold that Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the patron-saint of the Taliban would be repeatedly attempted to be assassinated ? Who could have foreseen the attacks on the General Headquarters (GHQ) at Rawalpindi or PNS Mehran ? The situation for the PA changed when the more pious (the high church or the Wahhabi/Deobandi/Salafi/Takfiri components of the Al Qaeda and Allied Movement, AQAM) began to brutally and successfully challenge the less pious (the low church which is the corrupt Pakistani State organs such as the politicians, the armed forces, intelligence services or the law-enforcement agencies etc. or the Shi'a or the Ahmedis et al)

How do these developments compare with the situation in early Islam ? There is a startlingly close resemblance. As we shall see, from these similarities we can deduce a certain trajectory of events in Pakistan by comparing and contrasting the two situations.

When Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) died on June 8, 632 A.D., there was no clear succession plan, a bane that has afflicted the Islamic community ever since. Since he had no male child, a rivalry ensued between his favourite and youngest wife Ayesha's father, Abu Bakr, and Prophet Mohammed's (PBUH) son-in-law Ali (who was also his cousin) married to his daughter Fatima. Eventually, Abu Bakr assumed the role of a Caliph. Upon his death, his nominee, Omar ibn Khattab assumed that role still denying Ali any role. Upon Omar's assassination, Ali was conditionally offered the Caliphate which he rejected because one of the conditions namely that he should rule not only based on the Koran and the Sunnah, but also on the practices set by Abu Bakr and Omar was unacceptable to him. He was unwilling to the latter condition because he had been critical of some of the actions of the later two Caliphs. The Caliphate went therefore to Uthman, another member of the Quraish tribe like Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) or Abu Bakr or Omar. Uthman was eventually assassinated too. The assassins claimed that since he did not rule according to the Koran and the Sunnah, he was a legitimate target for killing, a concept known as wajib-ul-qitl. Like the confusion with choosing a qualified successor to a Caliph, this idea of killing somebody after branding that person as not Islamic enough and hence wajib-ul-qitl has also become the bane of Islamist societies. Anyway, this time, Ali was chosen as the Caliph by community elders, unlike the previous two occassions. However, Uthman's murder resulted in a severe split within the ummah (community), those who welcomed it and those who opposed it. Muwaiya, the Governor of Iraq under the Ummayads was the chief opposition leader. Ali's and Muwaiya's forces perforce clashed but eventually a ceasefire resulted.

This is when more problems started and the ummah soon split vertically into Sunnis and Shi'a. All the sectarian ills that so violently wrack the Islamic world, most especially Pakistan, stem from the fateful decision of Ali and Muwaiya to go for arbitration of their dispute settlement following the ceasefire. Several seemingly irreconcilable problems that have dogged the Islamic world, again, especially Pakistan, flowed from this.

Firstly, some of the aggressive followers of Ali opposed the arbitration process itself claiming that was not an option at all. Soon enough, they deserted the Ali camp and set up their own base. They were known as Kharajis (Seccessionists). They characterized Ali's arbitration decision as shirq (associating partners with Allah) which called for death and a Kharaji promptly carried that out. The idea of Kharajis would come to haunt the ummah several times later. Thus, his very ardent supporters turned suddenly the bitterest enemy of Ali. We will see how similar situations developed in Pakistan as well. Secondly, the sectarian divide that split the ummah into 'Partisans of Ali' (Shi'at Ali) and 'Others' (Sunnis) and that bedevilled the ummah ever since has also had great repercussions within Pakistan. Thirdly, the unrest. It was not as though there was no unrest during the time of these early Caliphs. One way they dealt with the unrest was to go on a territorial expansionist mode promising lucrative booty to the jihadi fighters of Islam. The fighting jihadis were entitled to four-fifths of the booty with the remaining one-fifth going to the Caliphate. Thus, religion was thought of as a uniting factor as well as a diversion from other contentious issues. Pakistan has done exactly the same thing since its inception. Let's see these one by one.

Most people think of the Muslim ummah as just divided into Sunnis and Shi'a. However, there is another recognized sect too, the Kharajis. In fact, Kharaji Islam is the state religion of nearby Oman. Just like the four madhhabs (Schools of Islamic Jurisprudence) of the Sunnis (namely, Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafii), the Kharajis have the Ibadi madhhab or fiqh. Though it closely resembles the the Al Maliki madhhab, there are overlaps among these various Sunni schools. They all believe in Dar-ul-Islam or Dar-ul-Aman(domain of Islam and hence peace) and the rest, Dar-ul-Harb or Dar-ul-Kafir(domain of war because they are infidel). This, for example, gives a justification for Pakistan to repeatedly attack or harass India. In c. 1920, when the Khilafat Movement in India was at its peak, several thousand Indian Muslims wanted to emigrate from the British-ruled Dar-ul-Harb to Muslim-ruled Afghanistan of Dar-ul-Aman. Similarly, Saiyyid Ahmed Berelvi took his men to the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders, the Dar-ul-Islam, to fight the Sikhs and the British kafir, in the nineteenth century. The Af-Pak badlands were forever changed by him.

The Kharajites also believe that any Muslim ruler (or even the Caliph) who does not correctly apply the Koran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) is liable for killing by those who diligently follow Islam. This is very dicey because who is to determine who is a 'good Muslim' and who is a 'bad Muslim'. We can immediately draw parallels to what is happening in present-day Pakistan. The various groups comprising the TTP kill people and claim that these were 'bad Muslims' and liable to elimination in the hands of the 'good Muslims'. Such a thought process has permeated everywhere within Pakistan and the killing of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer is a good example of how far this Kharaji virus has spread. The various Islamist organizations (Deobandi, Sufi, Ahl-e-Hadith, Shi'a etc.) led by the Berelvis banned their clerics from leading the janaaza (funeral prayer) of the blasphemer Taseer while the killer was praised in glowing Islamic terms for his action. No lawyer came forward to prosecute him. In the aftermath of this assassination and the huge support the killer received in Pakistan, the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, went as far as to say he would shoot any blasphemer himself. Another cleric in Karachi declared Ms. Sherry Rehman, a member of the National Assembly (MNA), as ‘wajib-ul-qitl’ for having sponsored a bill to modify the Blasphemy Law to make it more reasonable and less susceptible to abuse, even as the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, advised her to leave the country for her own safety. The Punjabi Taliban killed one of the greatest heroes of the Afghan mujahideen and later the Taliban, Col. Imam. They have also attempted several times to kill Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jama'at-Ulema-e-Islami (JUI), the biggest supporter of the mujahideen and the Taliban. They faced the wrath of the 'good Muslims' because they have now become 'bad Muslims' in the eyes of the 'good Muslims'. The Pakistani state itself characterizes some of the Taliban terrorists as 'Good Taliban' and hence eligible for support while the rest as 'Bad Taliban' and eligible for elimination. The Islamic State of Pakistan even urges the infidel Americans to send more drones to attack these 'bad Muslims' as the latest WikiLeaks discloses. The Kharaji thought process is thus deeply entrenched in various sections of Pakistan. It is no wonder therefore that the biggest Kharajites are the Pakistani Army themselves. They brought in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a civilian, as the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) and later as President of Pakistan, after their massive defeat by India in the 1971 Bangladesh war. They needed somebody to protect them and help them climb out of the deep hole they had fallen into and Z.A. Bhutto came handy. The same Pakistani Army turned against him and sided with the more religious Islamist groups in deposing him and eventually hanging him to death. Since then, the entire Bhutto clan have become arch enemies of the Pakistani Army leading to the murders of Mir Murtaza Bhutto and recently Ms. Benazir Bhutto.

(To Be Continued . . .)


  1. Brilliant. Note the code name for Kargil gamble in 1999 was Operation Badr, which is the famous battle that the Prophet fought.
    Another point is Ali was the first Muslim who heeded the Prophet's call. Yet he was killed by the Kharajites.

  2. In ever single occasion pakistanis do not forget that they have nukes. do you know why? because they did not made it but china. china donated weapon design to pakistan as a deterrent against India. I propose to rename pakistan as 'islamic nuclear state of pakistan'!

  3. Anonymous at June 11, 2011 9:19 PM

    Pakistan, Sole manufacturer of NewClear Detergent

  4. What you have written is not true. The writer is just distorting the history. If Islam was such a bad religion then it would not be the fastest growing religion in the west. Why don't guys talk about India's minority oppression while minorities in Islamic entries are more secure anywhere else in the world. Please my request to the readers please do some authentic research about the events listed above.

  5. I don't know which of the historical facts that I have written are untrue.

    What I have written about the medieval times are certain events and attitude and behaviour of certain people. Certainly, I have not said anything about the religion as such. All religions have similar events during the course of their history. Do not assume that everything that happened in the Islamic world during the past 1400 years was pristine, beyond reproach and beyond any scrutiny. It is this super sensitivity and a closed mind that does not want to enquire becuase it is afraid that there could be cognitive dissonance, which are causes for all the problems.