Should Pakistan be a Secular State? A View on Islam vs. Secularism Debate

Should Pakistan be a Secular State

The Renaissance in Europe started roughly from the 14th century and went on all through 17th century AD. During this period, enviable advancements were made on political, religious, industrial, social, cultural and intellectual fronts. New administrative and geostrategic horizons were explored. Germany, France, Britain and then United States of America became the superpowers. Actually, Europe had emerged from a culture where kings, landlords and the pope were considered supreme. The vindictive policies of the church had alienated people and revolutions made their way. Scientific knowledge — which provided solutions to problems — gained currency.

Today, democracy, secularism, capitalism, free trade policy and interest-based banking are accepted norms worldwide. These systems are adopted to garner peace, tolerance, forbearance in a culture of coexistence. However, after seeing the broader picture it becomes evident that these have only produced poverty, tyranny, intolerance, suppression, chaos and, above all, terrorism. However, Islam is the only religion that provides the humanity with solutions to all the problems faced by the modern world.

It is no less than a perennial debate in Pakistan that whether the country should be a secular or a religious state. The “Qarardad-e-Maqasad” (Objectives Resolution) of 12th March 1949, was like a milestone achievement and its inclusion as the Preamble to the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and its enforcement thereupon must have settled the issue forever. But, the debate, unfortunately, is still on; even after nearly seven decades of independence. The founding fathers of Pakistan had aptly handled the situation by deciding to follow Islam as the state religion at a time when secular ideas were being cherished by world powers. For instance, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in a broadcast talk to the people of the United States of America in February 1948, said:

“The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fair play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims—Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

In this regard, it is pertinent to mention here that secularism, first, allows citizens to follow any religion they want to while democracy too gives authority to majority. Almost 96 percent Muslims live in Pakistan and their elected representatives have decided that the governance in the country will be guided by Islam. Objectives Resolution of 12 March 1949 and Constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 embody this desire of Pakistanis to adopt Islam as the state religion.

Second, secularism wants to rein in poverty and unemployment by keeping religion as a personal matter; having nothing to do with the state business. Islam also aims to eliminate these vices, but by using its own jurisdiction. The former wants to achieve the goal through capitalism, interest-based banking, free trade policy, etc., according to the demand and supply mechanism. History bears testimony to the fact that it resulted in colonialism, increased slavery, rich getting richer and poor, poorer and widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots while the latter strictly prohibits interest and enforces a system of Zakat. In its two-way strategy, interest-free banking protects the poor while zakat — an obligatory tax on the rich — supports them. In this way, the gap between the rich and the poor will be bridged. Although, in the past, interest-free banking was labelled as an impractical idea, yet now even the pioneers of secularism admire Islamic banking system.

Third, the seculars argue that religion is an impediment to the growth of science and technology, ergo development. It may be true with the papacy which eliminated numerous scientists and philosophers like Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler, it is not the case with Islam. Many Quranic verses propel people to seek education and explore the world. The very first revelation on the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was the word “Iqra” (read).  At another place, the Holy Quran says:

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” [Aal-e-Imran:190]

Fourth, jizya is another point of diversion between the two systems. This was imposed on non-Muslims in return of protecting them from any foreign aggression. However, in modern times, it has changed its form as people of every religion are available to defend the common homeland. Islam dispenses full citizenship rights to minorities whereby protection of their life and property is the responsibility of the state.

Fifth, in recent years, there has been a growing perception that Muslims are terrorists. Though it may seem true to some people especially given the fact that many terrorist organizations have sprang up in regions like South Asia and Middle East, and they falsely use the name of Islam, the broader picture raises some questions. Why the so-called ‘secular’ nations attacked and disintegrated Muslim world? Why Taliban — then Mujahideen — were invited to the White House as main allies of the US during the Cold War and why the same Taliban were termed terrorists? Why superpowers meddle in internal affairs of oil-rich countries in the Middle East?

No sane person would disagree that the ISIS monster has been created by the follies of the superpowers. Who funds the ISIS and if it is oil wealth of areas under its control — as a general reader may believe —then who imports this oil? From where does it get the supply of arms and ammunition?

Sixth, secularism boasts to offer freedom of expression. But, there is a growing need to bottle this genie. Even the Pope had to admit that there are limits to freedom of expression. He said:

“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith … There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”

Limitless freedom of expression is like an intellectual terrorism which is destined to be retaliated. When it comes against Islam and Muslims, numerous advocates of freedom of expression pop up but ironically, all get silenced in case of holocaust. As per the tenets of Islam, there should be some limits in Pakistan in order to cultivate a society where people respect each other and live peacefully in their own domains.

Seventh, the Western system of democracy is based on the very principle of ‘majority is authority’ and religion has nothing to do with the state business. If 51% of the people decided about the state functioning, wouldn’t it be a tyranny of majority? On the contrary, in Islamic democracy supreme authority belongs to Allah Almighty only. In this system, not only the rights of minorities are safeguarded but guidelines for political, economic, social, cultural and moral issues have also been provided.

In a Hadith, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:

“When three persons go on a journey, let them put one of their number in command.”
In a nutshell, secularism doesn’t have solutions to problems of the present-day life. It is only Islam that has practical and pragmatic solutions to all problems’ people in any corner of the world may face at any time in their lives. It is the religion that fulfils not only humans’ spiritual needs but also the physical ones. In Pakistan this issue should be tackled by the legislature wisely. The legislators should form the rules that govern the society, economy, politics and intellectual work under the guidance provided by Islam.

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