For Muslims the Holy Qur’an is the first source of guidance. The Qur’an does not order death or murder for blasphemy.
The Qur’an says Muslims should only fight in self-defence and should kill those who wage war on Muslims. Verse number 33 of Sura Al-Maidha is related to a war situation in which if an enemy attacks Muslims, they can fight back and kill them. The Qur’an does not allow attacking or killing defenceless people because of their alleged statements or remarks.
Prophet Muhammad is a blessing for the whole humanity. He is the greatest symbol of love and kindness. No honest, fair and sane person can be offensive to Prophet Muhammad and all other messengers of God who came before him. Only a sick mind can think of insulting Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an strongly disapproves any offense to Prophet Muhammad; however, there is no verse or order in the Qur’an that justifies killing of somebody for their remarks.
On the contrary, the Qur’an says that the killing of one human being amounts to the killing of the whole humankind. The ultimate and most authentic source on Islam is the Holy Qur’an and the Qur’an forbids murder. It forbids false accusations.
The word Islam means peace (salamty). Islam believes in building a peaceful and just society. The Qur’an is the supreme book of Islam and it is for all times. The Qur’an addresses all people, not just Muslims, because it is the book for all human beings.
Many Pakistani religious leaders and imams are ignorant of the spirit and teachings of Islam. They recite Arabic verses in front of their audience and mislead them. They do not have full and deeper understanding of the Arabic language and the context in which the Qur’an explains life and events. Arabic is extremely sophisticated and full of delicacies.
The Qur’an is the scholarly piece of knowledge and divine guidance but in Pakistan ignorant mullahs and half-educated generals have a monopoly and the final say in explaining Islam and the Qur’anic teachings to people.
Millions of Pakistanis pray in mosques every day where they listen to sermons often given by illiterate or intolerant imams. Pakistanis depend on mullahs for their understanding of Islam but there is no mention of mullah in the Qur’an. The Qur’an does not recognize the role of a mullah. The concept of mullah came to Muslim society from Christianity and Hinduism and the same is true for the concept of blasphemy.
Roman Catholic Church in Europe used to punish people by death who would commit ‘blasphemy’. Throughout the Dark Ages the Catholic Church had been using blasphemy as a tool to exert power and control the masses, and suppress dissent.
In the 15th and 16th centuries those who translated the Bible into English were persecuted. An Englishman John Wycliffe was burned at the stake in the middle of the 14th century for translating the Bible into English. In the 16th century, the Church punished another Englishman, William Tyndale, and exhumed, strangled, and burned him at stake and his body was thrown into the river.
In the Dark Ages, the Church would keep the Bible in chains to deny access to the public. Church leaders were afraid of people. They were afraid of losing monopoly and control over religion therefore they denied public access to the Bible.
The situation in today’s Pakistan is similar to the Dark Ages. Pakistani mullahs, too, are afraid and insecure. They have damaged Islam because they do not know Islam. Their actions and preaching have transformed Pakistan into a hell. Most Pakistanis have no understanding of Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, but they claim to be devout Muslims and many of them are ready to punish and even kill those, who in their judgment, are not good Muslims.
The Qur’an and Islam are simple. Every Muslim should understand the Qur’an him/herself and apply its teachings of honesty, simplicity and justice to their daily lives.
As opposed to Christianity or Hinduism, Islam is simple and direct. In Islam there are no mediators (priests, mullahs). Each Muslim has his/her own very personal and direct connection with God. Every Muslim is directly accountable to God for his/her acts.
Islam, however, strongly and forcefully emphasises that Muslims should protect rights of fellow human beings. Islam teaches love and responsibility. But in Pakistan the horrendously complex set of rituals is presented as Islam.
One of the causes of the above situation could be that ancestors of many Pakistani Muslims converted to Islam from Hindu religion, while other Muslims who lived in the Indian Sub-Continent for centuries adopted local rituals as part of their religion. Also over the years, bits and pieces of Arabic and Central Asian cultures were incorporated into Islam. This mixture of religion and cultures has led to dangerous confusions about the faith, and it has created an identity crisis even for modern Pakistani Muslims.
Barelvi shade of Islam is the best example of the blending of Hindu and Central Asian cultures while the Shia shade of Islam in Pakistan is the other side of the same coin. Elite from Urdu speaking Indian provinces of UP and CP invented its own narrative of Shia Islam by presenting historical events in extremely dramatic ways.
Also Pakistan has been a battlefield of world powers where the name of Islam was used systematically in proxy wars. In the post Cold War era, images and rhetoric of angry and emotionally charged Muslim groups are used to scare the Western public with the aim to ‘fill the enemy vacuum’.
In Pakistan almost all shades of Islam promote personality cults. Gloomy fantasies and utopian nostalgia are common features and violence and intolerance are accepted, and death is celebrated in the name of Islam.
Mullahs scare people of God and mostly talk about death. From this standpoint, human life has no value and happiness amounts to sin. People have been led to believe that the life in this world is useless and unreal and everybody should prepare for the life after death.
It is very important to understand that the Qur’an values life immensely. The Qur’an praises beauty and says that a human being is the beautiful creation of God. The Qur’an asks people not to endanger their lives. The Qur’an is against harming one’s own life or lives of others. That is why suicide is forbidden. The Qur’an says that the universe is created for human beings to discover and enjoy it. The Qur’an teaches us to spend a healthy and productive life. It urges the faithful to seek knowledge and understand God and all His creations.
To get Pakistan out of the vicious circle of hatred and violence, and fight fatal confusions, it is imperative that all members of the public can understand the Qur’an and its message. That will not happen unless learning of the Arabic language becomes mandatory in Pakistan. Arabic should be compulsory part of school and college syllabuses. Qualified and well-trained native speakers should be invited to teach the Arabic language from the very early stages of education and the teaching of the Arabic language should continue in collage and universities. Public and private funding should be made available to send Pakistani teachers abroad to be trained as modern and professional teachers of the Arabic language. This step will pay off and in time general public will have direct access and understanding of God’s message and it will be difficult to mislead or manipulate people in the name of religion.
Shiraz Paracha is a journalist and analyst. He can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org.