Originally published in the Pak Tea House
Given the sensitive subject of this article, let me begin with a brief introduction of myself. The reader may appreciate knowing ahead that I am an Ahmadi-Muslim. I was born in Pakistan to a family with some Ahmadis but mostly Sunni-orthodox. I have lived and worked in Pakistan for many years. Currently, I reside in the United States of America.
Today, I assume, a good number of Pakistanis see religious authority, whether active or passive-complacent, as having played a role in the rise of a violent ideology that seeks to cleanse anyone who disagrees with its viewpoint, even fellow Muslims. A watershed moment in Pakistan’s history was when, in 2014, extremists massacred over a hundred Muslim school children in Peshawar in the name of Islam. Pakistan’s leaders felt compelled to act. Almost overnight courts were galvanized into passing sentences for convicted terrorists and the military offensive against Taliban insurgents was intensified. Many took to social media and denounced the extremists and their ideology.
However, in my opinion, the evil that befell that day was an extreme symptom of a fundamental problem from an earlier event. Nearly forty years earlier religious extremism viciously attacked not only the constitution of Pakistan, but the very ideology of Islam and the universality embodied in Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan. I am referring to the 1974 Second Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The event paved the way for legislation such as Ordinance XX (that criminalizes the use of Islamic terms and symbols by Ahmadis), apostasy and blasphemy laws. And it spawned the kind of bigotry that led Mumtaz Qadri to shoot Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in the back (a man he was hired to protect) for challenging these laws. Qadri was applauded by the majority of religious scholars. Targeted violence towards Ahmadis, Shias, Ismailis, Christians and other minorities has steadily grown. What went around came around to the school children on that dreadful day in Peshawar.
The constitution is the most important document of any country. It embodies its principles and creed. It is the ideological cornerstone of what that country and its people believe in and stand for. It can influence what that country and its people end up becoming.
The extent of the miscarriage of honesty during the proceedings of the Second Amendment was not known to the public until the Government of Pakistan released the 3,000-plus pages transcript of the National Assembly proceedings. The document is titled: The Special Committee of the Whole House Held in Camera to Consider the Qadiani Issue.
The fundamental question put up by that session of the National Assembly was– What is the status of someone who does not believe in the ‘finality-of-prophethood’ of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him)? Mirza Nasir Ahmad, the Khalifa and Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, delivered a theological response to this question in a speech to the National Assembly over the course of two days (July 22nd & 23rd). The speech was published in the form of a 200-page book called Mehzar Nama. However, the record of this response is expunged from the official transcript.
The proof of the Mehzar Nama is on page 504 of the transcript where Maulana Mohammad Zafar Ahmad Ansari states: Sir, I would like to say that this process of detailed explanations that they are conducting should be discouraged, they have already given a detailed response in their Mehzar Nama.
The Mehzar Nama contained a detailed account of the Ahmadi belief and interpretation of the ‘finality-of-prophethood’ as well as several references of renowned scholars and reformers in Islamic history who shared in this interpretation.
On the same page 504 (dated 7 Aug 1974), Member of National Assembly (MNA) Mohammad Sardar Khan makes the following comment after two days of proceedings: I want to bring it to the attention of this honorable House that the main question before the special committee as to what is the status of a person who does not believe in the finality of prophethood, that question is still untouched. To this the Chairman says that the question will be brought up in due course.
However, on 2nd of September 1974, during the closing sessions, MNA Sardar Anayat-ur-Rehman Khan Abbasi remarks that the fundamental question was never addressed and the scholars never responded to the Mehzar Nama. He says on the 11th page of that day’s transcript: The response (referring to Mehzar Nama) that they brought before this house, it is a dark spot on our scholars, it is a great charge on them. I believe our scholars should face the public and answer these charges. I have read Mufti sahib’s answer in the Taweel Dictionary where he has accumulated his knowledge, I read it all, but not for one instance have their charges been refuted, God knows if they are true or false, if they are false I will accept it but you have not provided any argument.
That same day (2nd September 1974) MNA Colonel Habib Ahmad laments on page 2712: I would like to say that all the speeches and arguments that happened here will now come out in the form of books and there will be immense propaganda and future generations will read about this event . . . this was a great challenge for our scholars but not one of them was able to rise up to them.
In fact, the conduct of the so-called religious scholars in the National Assembly was so poor that the Chairman of the session, Sahibzada Farooq Ali, reprimands the scholars on page 425: We should not cut a sorry figure before the members of the (Ahmadiyya) delegation . . . you should not be taking up to thirty minutes to look up one reference . . . the change of edition, or the print at Rabwah or Qadian is no excuse, or you say that this reference is wrong or the book doesn’t even exist.
Now, normally in such a state of affairs where even the basic question brought before the house remained unaddressed and some members of the house raised objections about it, the proceedings should have been duly stopped. But they weren’t. We can reasonably and logically deduce that the Second Amendment was premeditated and politically motivated– as acknowledged by former law minister Abdul Hafiz Pirzada in an interview by Najam Sethi onDunya TV in 2010.
The question then, for those Pakistanis who truly seek a better future for their country, is that is it even meaningful to talk about progress, about terrorism, when travesty of basic morality and honesty sits inside of its constitution. Would Allah even permit progress for a people who, after learning of the gravity of injustice, continue to let it linger?
Religious theology belongs in the debating and proselytizing circles, not national constitutions. Anyone who truly has a sense of conviction on their side of an argument does not need government or legislature to make their case. The very fact that a legal restriction or ban is sought through the state in itself defeats the position. Religion and theology is a domain of the hearts and minds and that is where the battle is won or lost.
Islam is a beautiful religion, deeply loved by Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis. Our prophet Muhammad (pbuh) championed freedom of conscience and racial equality in the constitution of Medina. When historian and author Michael Hart picked prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as his #1 choice of the most influential persons of history, he wrote: My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of world’s most influential persons may surprise some and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. That is the true legacy and sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who never amended his constitution to restrict dire opponents like Abdullah bin Ubay and Musailmah Kazzab. He never needed to. He had merit of argument and good deed on his side. It is hard to imagine that he would ever approve of the ideology behind the Second Amendment, and no doubt would be deeply offended by the way in which it was conducted.
In an interview with Dunya News, Pakistan People Party co-founder Dr. Mubashir Hassan was asked of his opinion of the Second Amendment. His response was emphatic: Totally political! One can understand politicians being politicians, but what was the politics of the religious scholars? The Second Amendment, much as it is a fundamental problem, may well be a symptom in itself of a larger problem pervading theMuslim Ummah. God willing, I will cover that in the second part of this article.