New Age Islam Edit Bureau
23 September 2016
Terseness, Subtlety…For Pakistan to
By Ayaz Amir
How to ‘Define’ a Muslim
By Syed Kamran Hashmi
Seed of Arrogance
By Nikhat Sattar
Afghanistan: The Coming Crisis
By Abdul Basit
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
September 23, 2016
There we were again, in the PM’s address to
the General Assembly, doling out wisdom to Afghanistan: that the way to peace
lay in talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban. Afghans of almost
every persuasion are sick and tired of us. They hate the very name Pakistan
and, rightly or wrongly, attribute all their problems to us. But we can’t
resist the temptation of speaking down to them, and earning more Afghan hatred
in the process.
What business is it of ours to dole out
gratuitous advice to them? We should leave Afghanistan alone. How the Afghans
settle their problems is their business. If they want to talk to each other,
fine. If they want to go some other route, it is up to them. We have received
no thanks for whatever we have done for Afghanistan. We will get no thanks in
future. What will it take for us to come to this realisation?
So when the PM waded into the problems of Afghanistan
was he doing so on his own, giving vent to his own considered opinion, or was
he reading out from a script written by others? And when we say ‘others’ we all
know what that means. Thirty five odd years of Afghan involvement should have
taught us something. But influenced by Allah knows what malign star we refuse
to learn the appropriate lessons…and keep getting egg on our faces.
Please, please, leave the Afghans to sort
out their own mess; leave them to their own devices. And get rid of those twin
incubuses – the Quetta Shura and the Haqqanis. Tell them that even if we are
devastated by their departure, it’s time for them to head for home. Tell them
that we love them. But remind them of this timeless piece of cynicism: ‘Peace,
perfect peace, with loved ones far away.’ The Quetta Shura and the Haqqanis are
two loved ones we can now do without.
Let their Excellencies Ashraf Ghani and
Abdullah Abdullah fight their own battles. Let them do what they deem fit. Let
us wash our hands of this business. But to do so the guardians of the national
flame, the protectors of ideology and similar nebulous and dimly understood
concepts, will have to unlearn some of their education. GHQ, ISI, MI, National
Defence University and Army Staff College must go through a collective baptism
of disavowal, pledging their faith on whatever they consider sacred, that
Pakistani strategy ends where the Afghan border – even if unrecognised –
Having done this, we can then, with
unencumbered and clear conscience, tell our American friends to settle
Afghanistan’s problems themselves. And having taken care of the twin incubuses,
if any American military commander or diplomat starts with the name Haqqani we
should show him the door.
The reference to Afghanistan in the PM’s
speech was unnecessary and wrong. We should have wished the people of
Afghanistan well and left it at that.
This was the western front. As regards the
eastern front, if the guardians of the flame can bring themselves to do only
two things half our Indian problems would disappear. The first is for a
high-powered delegation to wait upon His Holiness Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and
persuade him to become the head of all relief organisations in Pakistan.
The Jamaat-ud-Dawah has built up an
enviable record in relief work. Floods or earthquakes happen and its
activists/volunteers are the first to reach the scenes of these tragedies. And
along with such organisations as Al-Khidmat – about which the only thing wrong
is that it is affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami – it organises relief efforts
far better than any state organisation.
Times have changed and the era of jihad is
over, and much as some of us may desire it, the liberation of Kashmir from
Indian bondage will not happen because of anything done by organisations such
as the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.
Hafiz Saeed’s love for Pakistan is beyond
question. There is no greater favour that he can now do Pakistan than to take
on the mantle of Czar of all relief work. But the pre-requisite is that the
guardians of the flame have the imagination to make him such an offer.
This leaves us with Pakistan’s Che Guevara
and Vo Nguyen Giap rolled into one, Maulana Masood Azhar of the
Jaish-e-Muhammad. His courage and commitment to the cause he has made his
life’s mission is again beyond question. When he spent time in Tihar Jail it’s
a fair bet that he must have endured rough treatment at the hands of Indian
authorities. The Kandahar hijacking was the means which sprung him from Indian
confinement. He has thus gone through the mill and has inscribed his name in
the annals of jihad.
But just as times have changed for others,
the times have changed for him. The era of such jihad of which he has been a
prime exponent and practitioner is over…no longer tenable or feasible. Let us
not go into the genesis of this phenomenon. Suffice it to say that the ideology
of jihad was honed and brought to perfection not so much by our guardians of
the flame – ISI and the Hamid Guls – as by our American friends. Osama bin
Laden was just a storm-trooper of jihad…not its inventor or originator. That
distinction, that singular honour, belongs to our American friends – those of
the CIA in particular – who cheered jihad and its foot soldiers, the
Mujahideen, the loudest.
The CIA provided the funding and the
Stinger missiles. We were just the bag-carriers and facilitators. Our fault lay
in the circumstance that we got carried away by the enthusiasm of those
anti-Soviet times and started believing in the whole baloney of jihad, going to
the extent of claiming credit for the entire circus.
One result of this misplaced passion was
that when the CIA and our American friends in general, after having
successfully bled the Soviets, walked away from the Afghan mess, we couldn’t
make the same pragmatic transition and remained stuck, mentally and physically,
in jihad and the claptrap associated with it. Maulana Masood Azhar’s great
emotional commitment is with the Indian front, not the Afghan front. But the
spirit he brings to the task is a holdover from the Afghan front.
Now it is time to tell him that the old
obsessions are no longer workable. Warfare and the sounds of battle are still
in the air. The old animosities are still alive. But the old methods are no
longer viable. His experience, however, should not be wasted. It should be taken
up as a serious proposition to induct him and his partisans into the Special
Forces. Come to think of it, even Syed Salahuddin and the Hizb ul Mujahideen
should be offered the same option.
If only they could do something about their
beard problem. Their beards are much too long.
Tito’s partisans became part of the
Yugoslav army. Castro’s guerrillas became the new Cuban army. The People’s
Liberation Army was formed not after the success of the Chinese revolution but
during the Long March. Our Jihadis of the eastern front are battle-tested
veterans. The Pakistan Army needs to open no front against them. It has enough
on its plate already. It can make use of their experience…and wean them away
from the ideologies in which they were nurtured – ideologies now past their
Pakistan’s ship is overloaded. It needs to
lighten its load and jettison the baggage of the past. This should better
enable it to face its newest challenges.
How to ‘Define’ A Muslim
By Syed Kamran Hashmi
How to define a Muslim is one of the most
daunting tasks that you can set about to accomplish, a riddle with no clear
solution, an enigma. Compared to that, determining who is not a Muslim comes
handy: a follower of any religion including Islam that you do not agree with
one hundred percent.
For instance, many Sunnis believe Shias are
not Muslims. For Shias the faith of Sunnis stands on controversial grounds. And
for both Shias and Sunnis, Ahmedis fall outside the realm of Islam. Digging
further, you will see that the sub-sects of Sunnis like Deobandi and Barelvi —
do not respect each other’s ideology either. They avoid calling their ‘rivals’
as non-Muslims nowadays since it can ignite a civil war but if the situation is
ripe, their victory certain, I have no doubt that they would. Why won’t they?
Their hatred runs so deep, their ideological differences oceans apart. The same
is true for Shias: Ismailis may not carry a high opinion of Asna Ashri (The
Twelvers) who may not sympathise with Zaidis and so on.
From outside, the answer to the question
looks so simple. How hard can it be? Believe in one God; acknowledge Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh) as His last Apostle and accept the Quran as His last word. With
these fundamental aspects covered, the problem should be solved. However, in
reality, the problem starts from here not end, like that of Deobandis and
Barelvis. In addition, unfounded speculations, personal biases, and deep
prejudices exacerbate the situation. In this line of thinking, it does not
matter what you say your faith is, what matters is what I think your real
beliefs are. So even if you pronounce Mohammad (pbuh) as the last prophet, if I
believe you are lying, your belief is disregarded, and you become a heretic or
In his last book Talash, Mumtaz Mufti, the
renowned novelist, too broached the same subject. Embarking on a similar quest,
he went from one scholar to another, but no one could provide him a workable
comprehensive definition of a ‘Muslim’. Eventually he concluded that a Muslim
is the person who emulates Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in every act of his life,
and is a devoted follower who identifies with the Last Messenger through all
his deeds. Mufti’s definition may satisfy common people for its simplicity,
devotion and straightforwardness, but in all honesty, it evades the legal
aspect of the correct faith altogether. For most scholars, therefore, a Muslim
must not be defined through an inspiration alone. It’s a slippery slope. Islam
is a full code of life, and every action and article of faith has to be
discerned and demarcated clearly.
In response, many non-scholars, people like
you and me, say that the problem of clear demarcation in matters of faith is
brought up by semi-educated clerics who because of a lack of resources and
their incapacity to understand the real problems of Ummah bring these trivial
issues up to seek attention and gain importance. It has got nothing to do with
the real message. Some argue that if you understand the Arabic language like an
Arab, the Quran will guide you out of these mundane issues and usher you to
develop a deeper understanding of the transcendent reality. Petty arguments
will lose significance, and you will stop judging others.
Many suggest that the message of Islam is
to create an egalitarian society where no human being, or even an animal, would
die of hunger, poverty or a lack of free healthcare system where people would
rush to help others in need.
So if someone understood Islam, do you
think he will pass a statement like the following?
“We must understand these [Shias] are not
Muslims, they are children of Magi (Zoroastrians) and their hostility towards
Muslims is an old one. Especially with the people of Sunnah.”
No, it is not coming from an ignorant
non-Arabic-speaker, or a poor cleric of your local mosque. He is not trying to
create a rift between Shias and Sunnis to collect money or to gather more
followers. These remarks came from Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz
ibn Abdullah who shared his ‘understanding’ of Shias a couple of weeks ago. He
was talking to a newspaper after the Ayotullah of Iran Ali Khameni had
criticised the Saudi regime for the loss of 2,000 lives during pilgrimage last
year and suggested that arrangements of Hajj should be the combined
responsibility of the Ummah and not just the Saudis.
No one can argue against the Grand Mufti’s
understanding of the Quran since the Book of God was revealed in Arabic,
Mufti’s own mother tongue. Lack of financial resources cannot be blamed as the
reason for his prejudice either, since he must be getting highly compensated by
the Royals. In regard to drawing attention, how much more prominence can he ask
for as the lead cleric of the holiest site for Muslims? He is received as a
state dignitary when he visits countries like Pakistan. People look up to him
for guidance and wisdom. They want to believe that the person who speaks from
that sacred pulpit spreads the message of peace. And what does the Grand Mufti do?
He calls the largest minority of Islam as Magis.
Seed Of Arrogance
September 23rd, 2016
MANY Muslims around the world have been
conditioned to believe that they are the preferred ones of God. The rest of the
people are ‘infidels’, and, as such, are to be destroyed or ostracised one way
or another. This belief has been extended to Muslims of different sects, with
In Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Edhi, one of the
greatest humanitarians the world has known, became the target of similar
propaganda. Such toxic beliefs have moved Muslims away from attending to their
own moral failings and need for correction, and focusing on slogans and
practices that are opposite of the Islamic spirit of tolerance, peace and
compassion. They forget that diversity in all forms is part of God’s plan on
earth. And more importantly, others might be worthier of God’s blessings.
For example in the Holy Quran it is stated:
“If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed — all who are on
earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!” (10:99).
Few Muslims would ponder over why they
indulge in hollow and showy acts that are meant to declare their piety but are
anathema to Islam and the Prophet (PBUH), and simultaneously, they pour hatred
over others who they deem to be different. Surely, love of the Prophet would
entail emulating his actions and not whipping up emotions against others.
Unfortunately, a favourite pastime of some Muslims is to brand others as
People Today Are Quick To Brand Others
‘Kufr’, in Arabic, means denial. It also
means ingratitude, among other things. In the Quran, it has been used with a
particular connotation — the denial by the Quresh of the Prophet and his
teachings. The word was used solely for the contemporaries of the Prophet.
These people, despite being called to the message of Islam over many years,
continued to deny the truth. Except for the last group of the Quresh who
insisted on denial, the Quran has not called any non-Muslim group Kafirun. In
‘Surah Rum’, the Byzantines are mentioned as such, and not as Kafirun.
Similarly ‘Surah F’il’ mentions Abraha as the “man of elephants”, not as a
It is also commonly but disastrously
believed that the Quran instructs Muslims to kill all those they deem to be
kafir. For example, there is the injunction in 9:12, “But if they violate their
oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith, fight ye the chiefs
of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be
restrained”. It is in fact a call to fight those Kafirun not because they were
kafir, but because they were aggressors and had renounced their promise of peace.
People today, unfortunately many religious
scholars included, are quick to brand non-Muslims and other Muslim sects as
kafir. The common Muslim, (mis)guided by those he follows, believes that
followers of all other religions are deniers of his particular brand of faith
and hence, in the name of Islam, it is incumbent upon him to abuse and hate
them, whether in speech or action.
In addition, several scholars have been
free with their Fatwas, calling groups which would call themselves Muslims but
differ from them in some beliefs and practices as kafir. Few people are aware
of the fact that Islam has no place for such Fatwas, just as it does not
recognise organised clergy and the latter’s dominion over politics. How is it
possible for anyone to look into the heart of another person, and decide who is
a better follower of faith? Is there a measuring instrument which can determine
the level and purity of faith?
Anyone who does not follow Islam may be a
non-Muslim, but cannot be declared a kafir. All individuals on God’s earth are
humans, and everyone has a right to live the life God has given, with
weaknesses, difficulties or blessings. If we, as Muslims, believe that we have
true faith, all that God has made us responsible for is to spread the message
of Islam in peace and communicate and educate others in a loving manner, giving
logical arguments, attempting to emulate the Prophet when he used to call upon
the hardened leaders of the Quresh.
By giving ourselves the authority of
calling another group ‘kafir’, and, in addition, ‘Wajib ul Qatl’ (liable to be
killed), we commit triple sins. We take upon ourselves the authority that rests
with God alone — that of determining who is a better believer. This is Shirk in
itself, a sin of the highest order. Secondly, we abuse, or worse, incite
killers or kill another human being and thirdly, we demonstrate an attribute
disliked by God, arrogance, by believing that we are better than others.
Perhaps we need to ponder over the
following hadith: “No one who has the weight of a seed of arrogance in his
heart will enter Paradise” (Sahih Muslim 91).
While security continues to dominate the
news on Afghanistan, the long-running political crisis in the war-ravaged
country is about to take a turn for the worse. As the National Unity Government
(NUG) is nearing the two-year completion of its term, it is confronted with a
serious political deadlock and constitutional crisis. The future of the
incumbent government hinges on how it will handle the unfolding situation. A
mishandling of the crisis can prove to be detrimental for Kabul’s incipient
democratic process and political cohesion.
The two-year power-sharing deal midwifed by
US Secretary of State John Kerry in September 2014 will expire on September 30.
As per the terms of the agreement, the NUG was required to introduce a number
of political and electoral reforms within two years to pave way for
parliamentary elections, followed by the convening of a constitutional Loya
Jirga to amend the constitution to transform the CEO’s office into the office
of the prime minister.
However, given the dysfunctional nature of
the NUG, the Ghani-Abdullah duo has not been able to honour its commitments and
the political future of the NUG remains uncertain beyond September. If the
needed constitutional amendments are not introduced – and they look next to
impossible at this time – it could create a split between the two leaders.
The political bickering and differences
between Ghani and Abdullah are an open secret. However, the situation took an
ugly turn last month when the latter publicly criticised the former in a press
conference. Abdullah censured Ghani for not meeting him for the last three
months and declared him unfit for running the country. Abdullah’s tone became
particularly harsh towards Ghani when the latter unilaterally nominated Ahmed
Yousuf Nuristani as head of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan
and Nader Naderi as chairman of the Public Service Commission. Ghani responded
by calling Abdullah irresponsible and accused him of violating the spirit of
Ahead of the approaching deadline, Abdullah
and his supporters are demanding political concessions, financial incentives
and a greater share in key ministries in exchange for future support and
cooperation. They are also asking Ghani to give up his centralised style of
ruling along with relinquishing micro-management. They feel side-lined from the
Arguably, Ghani’s unaccommodating nature
and his bureaucratic style of governance stem from his weak political
background and previous career as an international development expert. He does
not come from a political family in Afghanistan and is unaware of the local
dynamics and intricacies of the ethnic and tribal politics of Afghanistan. Both
his opponents and allies consider him a technocrat rather than a politician.
Ghani’s weak political credentials and
absence of a local constituency have isolated him in the context of local
Afghan politics. On a lighter note, he has the reputation of one who lectures
his ministers rather than listening to their complaints and solving their
Against this backdrop, three political
alliances of the opposition groups have come up which are jockeying for
political mileage or even replacing the NUG. The first opposition group is of
former President Hamid Karzai who, despite peacefully handing over power to
Ashraf Ghani in 2014, remains politically active. Karzai sees himself as the
saviour of modern Afghanistan and indispensable to country’s future survival
and stability. He has been a vocal critic of the NUG’s different policies,
especially Ghani’s pivot to Pakistan.
Ahead of the September deadline, Karzai has
been holding hectic meetings with his political supporters, important tribal
elders and key political figures to manipulate the outcome of the Loya Jirga.
Many believe he hopes to return to power as the head of a transition national government
by replacing the current setup if the decision of the Loya Jirga goes against
the latter and a political deadlock ensues.
Karzai is allegedly trying to influence and
manipulate the outcome of the Loya Jirga. Many cite this as another reason for
the delay and government’s reluctance to convene the Loya Jirga. The government
is nervous and sceptical of Karzai’s ambitions and his busy political schedule.
The second group comprises Abdullah’s
supporters, which include powerful warlords and key figures of the Northern
Alliance such as commander Ismail Khan, the former governor of western Herat
province, Atta Muhammad Noor, the governor of northern Balkh province and
Amrullah Saleh, the former Afghan spy chief. Along with demanding political and
financial concessions, this group has raised its own armed militias, parallel
to Afghan security forces, to fight the Taliban and show a deep mistrust in the
capabilities of the Afghan forces.
The third opposition group – the
Afghanistan Protection and Security Council – has been formed by former Pakhtun
warlord Abdul Rasool Sayyaf. This group is more like an opportunistic pressure
group rather than a real power contender. It is pressurising the Kabul
government to fulfil its promises and honour commitments regarding
anti-corruption, reforming the election commission and holding parliamentary
elections. It hopes to extract political favours from President Ghani if the
Ghani-Abdullah alliance breaks down and Ghani needs new political allies.
Afghanistan needs a fresh political
agreement so that the current dispensation can complete its five-year term and
focus on the more pressing issues of security, economy and governance. If a
pragmatic solution is not found within the next two weeks, it will seriously
undermine the legitimacy of the NUG.
A political meltdown will be a huge setback
for common Afghans who defied all odds by coming out to vote in the 2014
presidential elections and kept democracy on track in Afghanistan.