By Arshia Malik
December 05, 2016
Pan-Islamism is a political movement
advocating the unity of Muslims under one Islamic state – often a Caliphate -
or an international organization with Islamic principles. As a form of
religious nationalism, Pan-Islamism differentiates itself from other
pan-nationalistic ideologies, for example, Pan-Arabism, by excluding culture
and ethnicity as primary factors towards unification.
I started searching for the role of Muslims
in 1947 in the formation of Pakistan and came up with the Hijrat of 1920. This
lead me to the book Pan-Islam in British Indian Politics: A Study of the
Khilafat Movement, 1918 By M. Naeem Qureshi. Which further brought up Jamal
al-Afghani and his famous disciple Muhammad Abduh, who surprised me, or at
least his Wikipedia entry did. His views on Islam seem very modern and liberal
and he was definitely called an infidel according to his biographers, by his
contemporary Muslims and both teacher and disciple fell in and out of favor
with various Sultans and Kings of the then fragmenting Ottoman Empire, and the
Middle East and Central Asia.
Their zeal for Pan-Islamism was in response
to the hegemony of European Colonialism that they saw in their travels to
various Muslim lands. But then they did not stop at just criticizing the West.
Muhammad Abduh, in fact, went further and advocated that:
''...the two greatest possessions relating
to religion that man was graced with were independence of will and independence
of thought and opinion; and because Western civilization was based on these two
principles, it had progressed to a much happier stage in the evolution of
Pan-Islamism went through its various
stages, starting from the early days of Islam as a ''religious concept'' and
moved on to become a ''modern political ideology'' in the 1860s and the 1870s
at the height of European Colonialism when Turkish intellectuals began
discussing and writing about it as a way to save the crumbling Ottoman Empire,
according to the Oxford Islamic Studies site. From becoming the ''favoured
state policy'' as a ''defensive ideology'' directed against European political,
military and economic, and missionary penetration in the East, ruling
bureaucratic and intellectual Pan-Islamist elites of the fast-becoming obsolete
Ottoman Empire, sought to pose the Sultan as a universal Caliph to whom Muslims
everywhere would owe allegiance and obedience.
It is this very nature of Pan-Islamism, of
excluding culture and ethnicity as primary factors in its goal of 'Ummah'
unification that I object to. As much as its early advocates continue to
surprise me as I explore the translations of their writings, it is this core
principle at its heart which stands out as a sore to seculars like me who live
in places where a myriad of Islam is seen, followed and believed in. No doubt,
the early advocates of Pan-Islamism wanted to offset military and economic
weakness in the Muslim world by favouring central government over the periphery
and Muslims over non-Muslims in dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after the
Great War (World War I), but to me this ''socio-political solidarity'' which
seeks coordination through political and economic cooperation internationally
has now become an important ''political tool'' for the recruitment of
extremists and terrorists in the perceived foreign aggression post-World War
Muhammad Abduh's conclusions from his vast
array of works do not convince me that he was a true liberal and believer in
social justice, even though both Jamal al-Afghani and he faced opposition not
only obviously from the British rulers and diplomats but also from their own
fellow compatriots and other Muslims, even down to what, we may in modern times
call, inspiring their personal trolls to declare them as infidels. Abduh's
quote, “Muslims suffer from ignorance about their own religion and the
despotism of unjust rulers'', could very well fit into what I often call the
''Misgovernance of Kashmir'' - a term taken from the champion of Kashmiris,
Robert Thorpe, a young British Army Officer who arrived as a tourist in the
Valley in 1865 and wrote his first-hand observations in his book Kashmir
Misgoverned and was probably poisoned because of it and lies buried in the
Christian Cemetery in Srinagar.
Another quote attributed to Adbuh is
uncannily similar to what independent observers post 90s started speaking of
when they visited Muslim lands and their writings/observations came in the
public domain due to social media networks, for example, the works of V. S.
Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Pico Iyer, Hari Kunzru, Rabih Alameddine, Aatish
Taseer, Kenan Malik, the various documentaries about the Middle East showing
life as it truly is and the latest popular Ali A. Rizvi on his life in Saudi,
Pakistan and in Canada straddling three civilizations. The quote goes: ''I went
to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw
Muslims, but no Islam.''
Why I am still suspicious of these two
revolutionary men is because no evidence was found in their works and activism
to show that they leaned towards favouring political democracy or
parliamentarianism. According to both their biographers and research experts
like Nikki Keddie on al-Afghani and Mark Sedgwick on Abduh, both of them were
no dangerous fanatics or religious enthusiasts and belonged to the broadest
schools of Muslim thought, holding political creed akin to pure republicanism.
They were most obsessed with “the overthrow of individual rulers who were lax
or subservient to foreigners, and their replacement by strong and patriotic
men, rather than Constitutional, Civil Law and Social Reform". For me the
test for a true liberal and emancipator is what they think of women's rights
and I am sure they both would have failed my test in the 1800s.
Also the fact that their actual intentions
of liberating men from enslavement, providing equal rights to all, abolishing
the monopoly of the mullah's (religious scholar's) exegesis, and advocacy for
abolishing of racial discrimination and religious compulsion was suppressed and
hijacked by latter-day organisations such as the Muslim World League and the
Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Their agenda of modern Pan-Islamism
projected these two as the founding fathers of the Wahhabi/Salafist ideologies
(indoctrinating strains of Islamic thought, jurisprudence, interpretation and
philosophy culminating in the formation of the barbaric and brutal ISIS) by
linking them with leading Islamists such as Sayyid Qutb, Abul Ala Maududi, and
Ayatollah Khomeini who actually stressed their belief that a return to
traditional Sharia law would make Islam united and strong again (an early
Islamic Kharijite extremist concept which practised Takfir) is what brings me
back to the ''hijacking of movements by Islamists'' for their own agendas as
has been done in Kashmir since the 90s.
What could have been a simple protest
against the high-handedness, interference, and pampering of India of the ruling
elite turned to be a Pak-sponsored armed revolt which left a generation dead,
disappeared and maimed for life, physically and mentally. The 'Tanzimat''
reform period in the Ottoman Empire has a similar disgruntlement echoing when
secularization of the leadership, so that the Christian population would feel
more a part of the Empire, through the promotion of a sentiment of equality for
all citizens, and would be less likely to agitate for the right to self-rule;
led to the formation of a constitution and a legislature. This was being
achieved and had been achieved to some extent in Kashmir after 1947 but for the
corrupt rule of the elite dynastic party the NC.
Similarly, the West needs to be careful who
it chooses as ambassadors from the Muslim communities, now with the mass
migration of Muslims into the West. For in the example of these two, one can
see how organizations like CAIR/Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas can operate among the
white-guilt-ridden Western countries. A much better example is to be found in
my initial starting point of the role of Indian elite Muslims of the 1940s who
were responsible for the Khilafat movement and found a supporter in Gandhi too.
That is to be explored next.
Arshia Malik is a Srinagar-based writer and social commentator with focus
on women issues and conflict in Kashmir. She makes her living as a school
teacher and is an avid collector of literature. She is currently writing a book
about her life as a female in Kashmiri Muslim society
If you care to read the Quran, you will realize that there is nothing that you say that has not been said before and answered.
Hat Off says “divine revelations are
fiction. god does not talk to people. he never has. and precept always drives
practice. tribal culture is far benign in comparison to religions in search of
world domination. the argument that the koran is divine because the koran says
it is divine - is the classic model of circular argument.”
See how mixed up and confused he is!
What really is his problem? Whether the Quran is divine revelation or not? How
is this question relevant or important to an atheist? His problem is that he
isn’t sure of himself!
It is only Hats Off who entangles
himself in his circular arguments. The Quran not only says that it is a
revelation from God but provides the criteria for the “falsifiability” test and
the criteria for making the “Testable Prediction” and seeing whether such a
prediction comes true. The Quran provided the scientific method to disprove any
claim even before science discovered/adopted this method! Read:
Science and Religion
If tribal culture is benign, then why does Hats Off confuse
benign tribal culture with religion? It is not benign tribal culture that this
Islamophobe is confusing with religion but abhorrent tribal customs and
When my own article What Is Kufr And Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Full and
Revised Text of the New Age Islam Series on the Subject) traces
the development of Islamic ideology over the centuries and says that kafir has
come to mean non-Muslim in Islamic ideology, and if dictionaries which reflect
the meaning as per current usage say the same thing, and yet if I say in my
article with evidence from the Quran that its meaning in the Quran is not “disbeliver
= non-Muslim”, then the only way to disprove what I say is with the help of the
verses from the Quran only. What could be simpler than proving wrong my claim
that the Quran does not use kafir to mean "disbeliever =non-Muslim" even in a single verse
when there are hundreds of verses which contain this word?
Hats Off, Your Islamophobic talking points mixing up tribal culture with religion and precept with practice have been rebutted many times.
Divine guidance is anti-women,
anti-rationalist, deeply harmful and one of the major sources of immorality
among the believers.
Non-believers can be immoral, but they do
not have the fig leaf of divine sanction. It’s entirely their responsibility. But
for those with uncontrollable egos and megalomaniac propensities, divine
guidance is the perfect fig leaf for doing the unspeakable and the unthinkable.
Divine guidance is what made a person like Abraham
willing to behead his own son. People who hear voices are more likely carry out
what their auditory hallucinations tell them to do. However unspeakable it
It is the engine that drives desperate
ideas into despicable action. Examples are legitimization of sex slavery, Jizya,
of Aurat and Ghairat, anti-Semitism and hatred of idol worship and other
Divine guidance is a mask for justifying
the vilest and meanest components of human propensity for lust, power,
oppression and money.
It provides an excuse as well as background
for people with poor self control to act out their fantasies.