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Sovereignty Belongs to God

Popular Myths


By: Hakim Hazik

God does not normally communicate with politicians these days. There are people who claim to be directly in communication with God. They are more likely to be found in long stay psychiatry facilities. If they are unlucky, and happen to be in Pakistan, they will be charged with blasphemy and dragged through courts. Not infrequently, they will be lynched by religious fanatics.

When people say that sovereignty belongs to God, generally they are saying is that they are in the best position to interpret what the will of God is and therefore in the best position to exercise power on His behalf. Because people are not sovereign, and bound by the Word of God, they have no choice but to submit before His will. His will, as determined by the privileged few who know best, usually religious scholars or Ulema.

The trouble is that religious scholars do not agree among themselves especially if they belong to different schools of Fiqh. They are susceptible the same inducements as ordinary mortals, and they can change their views with the passage of time. There is nothing absolute or consistent about the opinions of holy men.

Secondly, there is no established Islamic church, whose authority is recognised by a majority or even a minority of Muslims. What Muslims do have are traditional schools of Fiqh or jurisprudence, which they can consult according to their preference. (Four Sunni Fiqhs include Hanafi, Shafa’i, Hanbali and Maliki, the Twelver Shias adhere to Fiqh e Jaafaria). They can chose to be ‘ghair muqallids’or  ‘non conformists’, so that they chose guidance directly from Quran and Sunnah, companions of the Prophet and the companions of companions, without the intercession of any Imams or schools of jurisprudence.

Muslims do not even need an ordained priest to perform their religious rites. Any adult sane Muslim (usually a man) can lead a prayer, initiate a newborn into Islam, conduct a marriage, offer a burial service etc. A Muslim can ask a learned scholar about a religious matter, but the advice that he or she gets is not an edict. It is a learned opinion and may be at odds with the opinion of another learned scholar. The enquirer is free to take it up or ignore it.

Thirdly, modern states are based on the premise to looking after their citizens and giving them all equal rights and freedoms. The state where all people adhere to the same religious philosophy and world view does not exist. (It never has). Therefore the options are to impose the opinion of the dominant group on the whole population, or to make provisions, so that there is an agreement on the minimum requirements of running the system, without which the state cannot function.

The first style of government will lead to dispossession, migration, abuse of human rights, violence and sometimes breakdown of states. The second kind of state, (democratic, trying to seek legitimacy from its people) may run into trouble as well, if the perceived interests of its resident populations are too divergent. But the outcome is likely to less violent and a compromise solution is more likely. If the break comes, it is likely to come about more peacefully. (Compare the breakup of Pakistan in 1971 to the dissolution of the union of Czechoslovakia. )

The solution of international or inter-communal conflicts can only come if the majority (or the dominant) group is willing to give the same rights to the minority (or non dominant) group that it is asking for itself.

The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland is a good example. A solution to a 70 years old problem of sovereignty and identity was found when all parties agreed to this principle. So the Sinn Fein agreed that the Protestant Loyalists could not be forced to sunder their ties with the UK and become part of a united Ireland, if they did not want to. All parties agreed that nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of their denomination. Mechanisms were introduced (under American pressure) to introduce and monitor equal opportunity in employment in the public and private sector.

In Pakistan Jamaat e Isalmi is a the foremost protagonist of this slogan. According to it’s world view, the only legitimate system of Government is Islamic Sharia. (As understood by Maulana Maududi). The message of Islam according to him is that there is no division between temporal and divine, between secular and ecclesiastical in Islam. The message of Islam is that Muslims should take up its message and rule over the world, if necessary by force of arms. There is no room for non Muslims to have positions of responsibility in an Islamic Government. They should be allowed to live in peace, but should lead a life of humiliation and submission. Islam is not complete if it is ruled by other systems. It is the duty of every Muslim to strive towards achieving this ideal if necessary by doing armed jihad.

This is dangerous nonsense.

It is also totally hypocritical. The jamaat will come out in the streets when the Swiss ban the minarets or when the French ban the burqa. It has no problems when Ahmedis are murdered if they preach their religion. When Muslims demand the right to freely practice and preach their religion (and by and large get it in the western countries), they should respect the rights of all communities to do the same. There are large contingents of Muslim Tablighi preachers visiting all countries of the world and finding many willing listeners. What would happen if Christian missionaries publicly celebrated the conversion of a Muslim in Pakistan?

Political Islam (Jamaat version) is dangerous. It will polarise the society and eventually destroy it. Sovereignty belongs to the people. They are the masters of their own fate. Not the Ulema whose knowledge of the world is fossilized whose political interest is self serving. Islam liberates people and gives them hope for fair play, justice and a decent life, free of tyranny.

This includes the tyranny of our religious leaders.

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