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Pakistan Surrenders to the Taliban?

Pakistan Link, Commentary, Dr. Nayyer Ali Posted: Apr 24, 2009

Last week the Pakistani Parliament, in a craven and pathetic display, formally recognized Taliban supremacy in Swat. What was once the crown jewel for tourists visiting Pakistan is now the headquarters of a movement dedicated to imposing a fanatical and perverse tyranny on the entire nation in the name of their totally erroneous version of Islam. And they have been aided and abetted by the so-called democrats and liberal forces such as the PPP, Asif Zardari, and his sad and shrunken mouthpiece known as Hussain Haqqani, the current ambassador to the United States.

Lets see how he dresses up this abject failure into some magical step forward for the nation of Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban have taken advantage of their newfound power to publicly flog a young girl who had the temerity to refuse a marriage to some Taliban flunkie. Doesnt the poor girl realize that Shariah law requires that women be reduced to being the property of whoever claims to speak for Islam in the local vicinity and has a gun? Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Taliban executed a young man and woman who wanted to marry each other over their parents objections. I missed the verse in the Quran that required the death penalty for two adults to marry each other if it doesnt fit their parents agendas.

The whole concept of Shariah is a phantom. There is no such thing as Shariah in the real world. Shariah means the way and is a concept that Muslims developed to describe the ideal path that would be followed in accordance with Gods true wishes. But none of us can know what those wishes really are. We do not know what the Divine really intends for us to do. All we know is what the verses in the Quran say. We then must use our own human rationality and attempt to interpret those verses.

Muslims in the past have also used as an aid to interpretation the Sunnah of the Prophet. From those two sources Muslim jurists developed legal concepts and rulings that were eventually collected into a body of law called a Fiqh. There are many fiqhs, resulting from different traditions, sects, and circumstances both in place and time. How should Muslims for example who live in high latitudes where summer days can be very long, observe Ramadan during summer months? The Quran is silent on this, but there are different answers given by different fiqh.

One could argue that they should use the sunrise and sunset times of Mecca, while others say they should use the sunrise and sunset times for 45 degrees latitude. Which answer is actually the Shariah? We dont know. There is no correct fiqh. There is a Shia fiqh, and several Sunni fiqhs of medieval origin. Why should they have any privilege for us today? Why should we not interpret the Quran for ourselves, rather than rely on the interpretations of those who lived in another time and place? They allowed slavery, should we?

On top of these obvious limitations, there is a major problem with one of the pillars of fiqh developed in the past. That is the Hadiths are fundamentally unreliable. We have no reason to be certain that any of them are in fact pure and accurate versions of what the Prophet said and intended. There are many Hadiths that blatantly and completely contradict the Quran itself. What are we to make of them? The Quran clearly says that there is no compulsion in religion, yet there is a Hadith that is used to justify the killing of those who choose not to be Muslims. Hadith are simply too unreliable, as they were oral stories collected generations after the Prophets death, to base binding criminal law on.

Another misuse of the Quran is seen in how the Taliban would reduce the equality of women in the legal system. Some Muslims claim that female testimony in court is only worth half that of male. This mistaken notion is based on a verse that says that oral business contracts be witnessed by two male witnesses, but two female witnesses can substitute for one of the male witnesses. However, these Muslims conveniently ignore the fact that in every case in the Quran which calls for witnesses in a criminal matter, there is no distinction made between male and female witnesses or even between Muslim and non-Muslim.

The real truth is there is no Shariah lying in wait for the Muslim world to grab and thereby reach a state of perfection. Each generation of Muslims must read and understand the Quran for themselves, and convert that understanding into the principles by which they order society. My own view is that this process would lead to a free society with a democratic system that supports full legal equality and opportunity for all of its citizens. This is the view that Quaid-i-Azam had for Pakistan, and the disastrous decision of the government in Swat is a betrayal of that view.

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