PIPS starts putting into practice religious scholars’ recommendations for achieving peace and harmony
Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) and a thirteen member Ulama Advisory Board, which comprises religious scholars representing all schools of thought in Pakistan, started out a range of activities on September 19 to put into practice the recommendations for promoting peace and harmony in society that emerged during a PIPS seminar with the religious scholars in June this year. After reviewing the seminar recommendations the Ulama Advisory Board had approved a set of practicable recommendations which will be implemented during an initial phase of four months. The PIPS partnership with religious scholars is meant to explore and enhance the role of the latter in promotion of peace and harmony in society.
The PIPS and the Ulama Advisory Board managed the following three-day activities for religious scholars and students of religious seminaries between September 19 and 21 and set out a roadmap for some others:
- A training workshop with religious scholars and students of religious seminaries to introduce them to functioning of a modern state and its institutions;
- A prize distribution ceremony for position holders of different madrasa boards associated with Ittehad Tanzeematul Madaaris (a joint/united body of all madrasa boards) and launching ceremony of printed report of June seminar with religious scholars;
- Recording of a FM radio program of discussion between religious scholars and secular scholars/human rights activists on “Concept of Freedom” that will be broadcasted on different FM radio channels across Pakistan;
- A dialogue among religious scholars belonging to different schools of thought on the issues of Takfeer (declaring some out of Islam or non-believer) and Khurooj (going out/rebellion);and
- Review and planning meeting of Ulama Advisory Board.
Members of the Ulama Advisory Board, representatives of Ittehad Tanzeematul Madaaris, students of all madrasa boards’ position holders from across Pakistan, teachers and students from religious seminaries in Islamabad, and editors of Islamic publications and magazines participated in the three-day activity programme.
The daylong proceedings of the training workshop with religious scholars and madrasa students offered four training sessions on these subjects: evolution of Islamic legislation in Pakistan; International Law and modern nation-state system; role of education system in policymaking and legislation; and importance of civic education and democracy. Eminent religious scholar and a former chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology Dr. Khalid Masood, expert on International Law Mr. Ahmer Bilal Sufi, Director Bacha Khan Education Foundation Peshawar Dr. Khadim Hussain and Director Centre for Civic Education, Islamabad Zafarullah Khan led the sessions respectively.
Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana said in his opening remarks that Pakistan has been facing multiple problems at internal and external fronts for the last several years. Due to enormity of these longstanding problems coupled with weakness of the state to tackle them alone, it is incumbent upon civil society organizations and other segments of the society to play their active role. He asserted that without collective efforts the idea of a peaceful and welfare state cannot be realized and that the role of Ulama (religious scholars) is pivotal not just in sphere of religion but also in politics and other walks of life.
Dilating upon the evolution of Islamic legislation in Pakistan Dr. Khalid Masood said Ulama and the religious class have been struggling for the implementation of Islamic system since creation of Pakistan. However it was in the recent past that few religious movements started using violence as a tool to realize this goal. He underlined that those who want to achieve the objective of enforcing Islamic system must know about state functions and legislative processes. For Islamic legislation the Parliament, or Shura, has to keep the judicial system in view since a judge, or Qazi, has to implement this legislation. The old concept that injunctions of Islamic legislation are binding upon all Muslims across geographical and racial divides has become redundant. Moreover, the concept that an Islamic state has no geographical boundaries is also irrelevant in modern times. Pakistan is a nation-state having well defined geographical boundaries, history, and legislative institutions and legal framework. As a nation we should dispose off this concept that a democratically elected government is not our lawful representative. All efforts for implementation of Shariah and Islamic legislation have to be within the limits of Constitution. Otherwise we will not be able to achieve our goal and society will collapse.
He discussed at length the evolution of Islamic laws in Pakistan and said the 1973 Constitution has a preamble that forms the basis of Islamic legislation and Article 2 clearly mentions that Islam is the religion of Pakistan. The ninth chapter of the Constitution lays out the procedures of Islamic legislation. It says no law will be made against the Islamic teachings. The Council of Islamic Ideology started reviewing laws in 1962 and prepared its final report in 1997. After the review the laws were divided into two major categories. First category consisted of those laws which were in harmony with teachings of the Quran and Sunnah and could be implemented immediately. The second category consisted of laws and legal rulings which were repugnant to Islamic teachings and required some reformation. The Council upheld that as many as 90 percent of the laws are according to Islamic teachings and only 10 percent were contradictory and required some reform.
Briefing religious scholars and madrasa students about process of legislation he said it is the mandate of the Parliament only. Qualification of democratically elected legislators to do Islamic legislation requires an amendment in the Constitution. Same is required if the task of Islamic legislation is to be given to Council of Islamic Ideology because the current status of the Council is that of an advisory institution.
Mr. Ahmer Bilal Sufi discussed the role of Pakistan in war against terrorism in perspective of the International Law and Pakistan’s obligations under the international agreements and United Nations’ declarations to which Pakistan is a signatory. He noted that Ulama are hardly included in any discussion on the International Law. Nonetheless it is imperative that Ulama and also the Parliamentariansshould have sufficient awareness about it.
He told the participants that significant changes appeared in the International Law in 1945 and the following years. An agreement under United Nations Charter in the same year highlighted two significant points: first, all the states got authority over their geographical boundaries, and secondly, Article 2 of this UN Charter prohibited attacks on other states. From 1945 onward an exemplary chronology of international agreements started. In Pakistan, for an instance, there are seven to eight thousand federal level agreements. While at international level Pakistan has ratified about 10 thousand agreements. He highlighted that when international agreements are under consideration we do not participate in these discussions and overlook the agreement thus formed. Later we complain that the agreements are against us. As we lack determination to prepare for and participate in these meetings, we fail to fight for our rights. He said Pakistan has to make policies in accordance with its international agreements and commitments. At the same time it should comprehensive understanding of these agreements.
Responding to a question about international legal position of presence of Jihad groups and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan Mr. Ahmer Bilal said that a legal point has been raised against Pakistan that questions if Pakistan was complicit and knew about Bin Laden’s whereabouts in Abbotabad. According to the UN Charter, he noted, no state can violate other’s sovereignty. Now the US has to prove the legitimacy of its action. He said that one possibility that allows one country to physically intervene in another country is that the latter did not want to fight against terrorists or failed to control/curb terrorism or was not capable enough to secure its nuclear weapons from the terrorists. In such situation intervention is allowed, though conditionally, in some parts of the country. However, so far this logic is under discussion with its particular focus on Pakistan.
He asserted that Pakistan should revisit its policy towards non-state actors because if it has some links with an organization that is declared as terrorist organization internationally, it will have to face allegations. For this purpose a clear differentiation should also be made between the responsibilities of the state and individuals. States will be ruined if such differentiation is not made. One example of this assertion is case of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan’s alleged involvement in nuclear black marketing where there have been efforts to hold Pakistan responsible for the act of an individual. Similarly if Lashkar-e-Taiba is linked with Pakistani state then the state will be responsible for the acts of the former. For this purpose state should act responsibly and all the institutions of Pakistan should reconstruct their policies in the light of the International Law.
In the third session of the training workshop Dr. Khadim Hussain delivered his lecture on the role of education system in policymaking and legislation. He said an education system consists of two major parts of intellectual system and organizational system. Three elements are important in intellectual system: governance or planning; supervision system; and courses or text books. If rules of course planning are based on that, irrespective of madrassas, public and private institutes, students will be able to develop a creative and critical approach. Students must gain experience and skill and be able to learn different arts. Moreover, they should develop aesthetic sense and patriotism and be able to connect to their roots. Similarly what will be the internal and foreign policy of a country should also be part of our educational system.
He explained the different education systems in Pakistan and connected them to prevailing contradictions at societal level. He argued in our imagination and thinking we consider something right and justified but in our practical life we see the same thing differently. For instance we declare the use of modern technology and innovations haram (forbidden in Islam) but use them. When we import technology from West we have to surrender, though partially, our political and economic sovereignty that we are not willing to do. Similarly if we do not include teacher in the process of course designing he will not be able to achieve desired result which the policymakers espouse. In the process of partnership, until all the stakeholders related to education sector do not play their role and give their feedback in policy making, the implementation of this system will remain impossible.
Responding to a question that why is it always so that madrasa students are urged to get science education whereas students of public and private institutes should also get religious education Dr. Khadim Hussain said that our overall education system lacks research. We continue to provide limited and skewed education to the children that does not help them become useful members of society. If we teach arts and skills to the children and bring them toward research then educational system will have fruitful results. Moreover, there should be complete freedom to students in choosing their desired courses and careers without any complement from parents or others.
Mr. Zafarullah Khan elaborated importance of civic education and democracy and explained civil and human rights granted in Pakistan’s Constitution. He said citizens should know their rights and responsibilities. Highlighting benefits of democracy he said that for 35 years of our history military dictators ruled this country and there was so-called/sham democracy during other years. When military dictators suspended the Constitution they not only got the authority to do anything but also suspended rights of a citizen and humanitarian agreements.
He observed that two segments of Pakistan’s society, the liberals and the traditionalists, have been in a continued conflict. Traditionalists claim that Islam is the foundation of this country and liberals argues that this country is for the people living here. If it was founded in the name of Islam then why is it the most religiously violent region of the world? And if it came into being for the public then why is public still unable to get basic facilities of clean drinking water and continues to face problems like hunger and poverty etc. He said that practically both classes have failed to achieve their objectives. The fundamental problem is that everyone is urging the other to change himself. When it comes to his own identity, he refuses and resists the change.
For civic education he listed three important points. First, one should have knowledge or information about one’s social contract with the government. Secondly one must think and speak freely because without developing the capability of understanding and demanding their rights the citizens will not get them. Thirdly, there is a dire need to bring about a positive change in the society. Unfortunately we either try to tame the world or lose our passion for a small scale change at societal level. This is why Quran also mentions human rights so that we could contribute positively towards life of others. Therefore, it is necessary to have a passion to bring positive change in society. He said civic education teaches us that we should contribute to positive activities.
Pir Muhammad Aminul Hasnat Shah, chairman Mutahidda Ulama Board and advisor to Chief Minister Punjab, presided over the prize distribution ceremony and the launching of the PIPS seminar report held on second day of the activities. The position holder students of all madrasa boards associated with Tanzeematul Madaaris were awarded prizes. The prize distribution ceremony manifested a unique example of sectarian harmony particularly due to the manner distribution was managed. Students of each madrasa board received prizes from head of some other madrasa board. For an instance position holders of Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Shia were given prizes by head of Wafaqul Madaaris al-Arabia Qari Hanif Jalandhari and vice versa.
Addressing the students Maulana Yasin Zafar, head of Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Salfia, highlighted the primary responsibility of the Ulama and madrasa students. He said Pakistan was facing a number of challenges including militancy, extremism, power crisis and unemployment. Rise in sectarianism, he noted, could compound the problems. He urged the religious scholars and madrasa students to spread the real messages of Islam including peace and tolerance in order to make Pakistan a pleasant place to live for future generations.
In his address Maulana Abdul Malik, head of Rabitaul Madaaris, said madrassas are peaceful institutions and they proclaim and teach peace. There cannot be any teaching higher than that of Quran and Sunnah. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was sent to end all the cruelty and misgivings. He asserted that holding such programmmes will revive the role of Ulamaand students of religious seminaries.
Secretary General Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Arabia Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhari discussed the PIPS seminar report. He requested all the participants to read the report carefully and play their role as suggested by prominent religious scholars in it. He sought support of religious scholars and madrasa students in promotion of peace and harmony in society. Talking about the prize distribution for the madrasa students he said it was for the first that such an initiative was taken by any organization. He urged the provincial governments to arrange such ceremonies for madrasa students.
Allama Niaz Hussain Naqvi, deputy head of Wafaqul Madaaris Al-Shia, said role of religious scholars in a society is clearly mentioned in the Quran and sayings of the holy Prophet. He said being heirs to Prophet’s teachings Ulama have a moral obligation to reform the society. If our society is contaminated with killings, violation of rights and absence of peace then all our worship is useless. The Ulama and the government are responsible to ensure peace in the society.
Head of Tanzeematul Madaaris Mufti Muneebur Rehman said that purpose of this organization’s holding such events is not to stabilize the country but to seek out and investigate what could be the causes of anarchy in Pakistan and how religious scholars can play their role regarding that. He said instead of blaming the West we should try to focus on our shortcomings and should re-think our fragile strategies. He said we all have to live in this country and should think on how to protect it from insurgents and miscreants.
Pir Muhammad Aminul Hasnat Shah said in his presidential address that government was not fulfilling its duty in creating religious harmony in the society. He said government lacks research and policy advocacy institutes. He commended the organizers and appealed to religious scholars for making mutual endeavors for promotion of peace and religious harmony in society.
The third day activities included discussion between religious scholars and secular scholars/human rights activists on “Concept of Freedom, debate among religious scholars on Takfeer and Khurooj and planning and review meeting of the Ulama Advisory Board.
The Radio Program of discussion between religious scholars and liberal intellectuals was recorded in Urdu language on the topic of ‘concept and meaning of freedom’ and the participants included: Maulana Yasin Zafar; Dr. Raghib Naeemi, administrator Jamia Naeemia, Lahore; Dr. Khadim Hussain; and Mr. Wajahat Ali, an Islamabad-based journalist and researcher.
All members of Ulama Advisory Board appreciated radio programmes and suggested to further promote this campaign particularly the FM radio dialogue between religious and secular scholars. In these programmes, religious scholars once again acknowledged their role to guide the people on sensitive religious and social issues.
The participants of debate on Takfeer and Khurooj included following religious scholars from different religious sects: Mufti Muhammad Ibrahim Qadri, Member Council of Islamic Ideology and Principal Jamia Ghosia Rizvia, Sukkur, Sindh; Dr. Qibla Ayaz, Chairman Centre of Islamic Studies at Peshawar University; Maulana Ammar Khan Nasir, Vice Principal Al-Shariah Academy, Gujranwala; Allama Muft Assadullah Shaikh, Administrator Darul Aft’a Jamia Haidria, Khairpur, Sindh; Dr. Ali Akbar Al-Azhari, Director Research Fareed Millat Institute, Minhajul Quran, Lahore; Mr. Muhammad Zahid Siddique, Assistant Professor National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Islamabad; Dr. Ejaz Ahmed Samdani, Jamia Darul Uloom Korangi, Karachi; and Maulana Muhammad Salfi, Administrator Jamia Sattaria, Karachi.
They presented their views in light of Quran and Sunnah (the way of the Holy Prophet). All of them agreed that no Muslim can declare other Muslim(s) non-Muslim or out Islam; Islam even forbids terming non-Muslims as non-believers or infidels and abusing them. They asserted that a Muslim state is responsible for security of non-Muslims. They also criticized the terrorist activities of the Taliban and suggested government should learn lessons from Islamic history about how Kharijites were treated by Islamic states. The participants urged that religious scholars should discuss such issues to evolve and adopt some consensus opinion on such issues and put it before the people so that ambiguities and misperceptions are removed from society.
At the conclusion of all above-mentioned three-day activities Ulama Advisory Board reviewed the accomplishments and outcomes and planned the future activities. Board members expressed their satisfaction over the overall progress of the activities and approved the activities for the next two months.