A lot has been said on the topic that is Pakistan a secular state or an Islamic one and the debate is likely to continue in the future as well. The so-called modernists stress that Pakistan must be a secular state whereas clerics and ideologists assert that it was to be an Islamic state. However, in 2015, a seventeen-judge bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by the then-CJ, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, debated the mechanism that would be needed to declare Pakistan a secular state and the CJ even questioned whether such a process could be carried out through a constituent assembly.
Unfortunately, both clerics and ideologists and so-called modernists are mistaken in that they don’t even know what the real contours of an Islamic state or a secular one actually are. A huge majority of the former school of thought believes that the secular state is atheist — where there is no safety of theology — in nature. On the other hand, the torchbearers of modernism believe that an Islamic state is the one wherein all the laws are legislated only for Muslims, and non-Muslims are always endangered.
However, contrary to what they believe, secularism and atheism are two separate concepts. Atheism means not believing in divine and to believe only in that what is visible in the world while the secularism involves two propositions: (i) a complete dichotomy between the state and religious institutions like mosques, churches, etc., and (ii) every person belonging to any religion, or even an atheist, be equal before the law without any sort of discrimination on the basis of religion.
In a purely secular state, there is no connection between religion and politics; a state in which no religion is preferred (or persecuted). Only declaring a country secular in her constitution doesn’t make her a real secular state. For example, the Indian constitution declares India to be a secular state but in reality India is a religious state where government takes steps to promote Hinduism. For this purpose, cow slaughter is prohibited in India because of the reverence of cow in Hinduism and persecution of Muslims and other minority groups is also common there.
Being a secular state or a religious one doesn’t ensure the progress of a country. A state can be developed or underdeveloped regardless of being religious or secular. For instance, Canada and the United States are big economies while Angola and DR Congo are among the least developed countries despite the fact that all these are secular states. On the other hand, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia are big economies while Haiti and Cambodia are least developed and all of them are religious states. So, making Pakistan a secular state won’t guarantee that it will be a developed country.
In UK, 26 bishops of the Church of England, known as the Lords Spiritual, sit in the House of Lords. At the coronation, the King or Queen must swear to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion and only a Protestant may inherit the crown. So, there is no harm in making Pakistan such a religious state where the security of minorities is ensured as in England.
Supporters of secularism in Pakistan base their assertion on the views of Quaid-i-Azam expressed in his famous speech of 11th August 1947 whereby he said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the State. … We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.”
From these words, it cannot be deduced that the Quaid struggled for a secular Pakistan; he only emphasized for the freedom of religion in the newborn state. In a true Islamic state, freedom of religion is guaranteed as no one is forced to change religion and no one is prohibited from going to his religion’s place of worship.
In Islamic history, we find that at the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), it was obligatory on able-bodied Muslims to join the military service while the non-Muslims, who were capable of performing military services, were given the option to join military service or to give a share in military expenses of the state (Jizya). Thomas Walker Arnold, in his book “Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith” wrote that “Muslims who were exempted from military service also had to pay Jizya like non-Muslims.” Jizya is like a modern tax by paying which non-Muslims are also allowed to freely enjoy their lives irrespective of their religion. In an Islamic state privileges offered to the non-Muslims are equal to those offered to the Muslims.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“If anyone (does) wrong (with) a Mu’ahid (A non-Muslim living in Muslim land), detracts from his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do, or takes something from him without his consent, I will plead him (the Mu’ahid) on the day of Resurrection.”
(Sunan Abu Dawud, Volume 3, Hadith No. 3052)
In another hadith in Sahih Bukhari, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“If any Muslim killed a Mu’ahid, then he (the killer) shall not even smell the fragrance of paradise, although the fragrance of paradise would have been perceived from the distance of travelling a 40 years.”
The Charter of Madina guaranteed the safety of non-Muslims along with Muslims. It was mentioned in the Charter that “The Jews of Bani Awf (non-Muslim in Medina) will be treated as one community with the believers. The Jews have their religion. This will also apply to their freedom along with the Muslims. The exception will be those who act unjustly.”
In another article, it was mentioned that, “A Jew, (non-Muslim) who obeys us (the state) shall enjoy the same right of life protection (as the believers do).”
An Islamic state is that in which rights of non-Muslims are completely protected like those of the Muslims. Once some Muslims grabbed a piece of land owned by a Jew and built a mosque on it. When Hazrat Umar (RA) came to know of the matter, he (RA) ordered to demolish the mosque. After doing so, the land was returned to the Jew. That house, which was later built by Jew, is still situated in Lebanon and is called Bayt al-Yahoodi.
So, it is clear that in a true Islamic state, minorities’ rights are fully safeguarded. Similarly, in Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the rights of minorities can’t be violated. The advocates of secularism must know that in this Islamic Republic, the minorities will enjoy a complete protection of their rights.
Now, the distinction between an Islamic Pakistan and a secular Pakistan is made on one factor i.e. the dichotomy between religion and the state.
It is better to keep Pakistan an Islamic republic because as long as Islam is the state religion, the laws will be legislated in accordance with the Islamic ethos and norms. On the contrary, if religion is separated from the law of the state, then there is all likelihood that people having authority will make laws only to serve their own interests and poor people will be neglected. Allama Muhammad Iqbal has aptly referred to the dangers of such a dichotomy in his verse which translates:
“Whether imperial power or democracy’s farce,
Tyranny results when religion and state are divorced.”
The fact is that, we cannot negate the purpose for which we got independence in 1947. Muslims struggled for an independent Islamic state, and not a secular one.
On May 28, 1937, Allama Iqbal wrote to Quaid-i-Azam:
“After a long and careful study of Islamic law, I have come to the conclusion that if this system of law is properly understood and applied, at least the right to subsistence is secured to everybody. But the enforcement and development of the Shariat of Islam is impossible in this country without a free Muslim state or states.”
From all these above-mentioned facts, it is absolutely clear that we strove for an Islamic state. Pakistan was achieved in the name of Islam and it should stay as an Islamic state for maintaining peace and providing equal rights to everyone.