Monday, January 26, 2009

State of religion

Grand Trunk Road has an excellent post that illustrates some of the problems that Pakistan has in dealing with religious fundamentalism. It seems that just the invocation of Sharia (religious law) is enough to silence any other point of view. Here is a good example from the post:

I was in the 9th grade then and I remember that this case was discussed in some detail one afternoon in one of our classes. Now this was an all-girls school, one of the best schools in Karachi — the most liberal city of Pakistan. In that first discussion, I don’t remember a single girl voicing the opinion that Saima Waheed should not be allowed to marry without her father’s consent. Anyway, we all went home and some of us asked or read up about what Sharia says about marriage without the permission of ones guardian. As it turned out, three of the four major school of Sunni Fiqh absolutely require the Wali’s permission for a marriage to be valid, and the fourth one, the Hanafi school, strongly discourages marriage without the permission of the Wali. It is backed up by some pretty strong Hadiths. Now at the age of 14, not many of us knew this when we first expressed our opinions on the case (overwhelmingly in favour of Saima Waheed), but the next day after reading up about it, the silence in the classroom was deafening. I remember asking a friend why she had changed her mind and she said, simply, that her grandmother had read the following Hadith to her:

“No marriage except with a guardian and the ruler is the guardian of she who has no guardian.” (Reported by Abu Dawud & others and classed as Sahih)

And that was the end of that.

One of the problems of founding a nation by virtue of its religion, such as in Pakistan (and Israel!) is that it means that opposition to fundamentalism can be construed as an attack upon the state. This leaves a lot of power to the fanatical and/or unscrupulous on the table, which by their nature they are inclined to use, not for the benefit of the state, but for their own power.


Anonymous Rabia said...

thank you for the link. There are, strangely, a lot of parallels between the two countries. My favourite illustration is this quote by Zia ul Haq:

"Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state. Take out the Judaism from Israel and it will fall like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state; it would collapse."

2/02/2009 6:42 PM  
Blogger Dick Durata said...

Thank you, Rabia. It's always good to hear from you. Your blog makes fascinating reading.
I should have included Iran with those states that have a theological foundation, a strange and contradictory trio, but with some interesting parallels.

2/02/2009 7:42 PM  

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