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Blasphemy and Shirk

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By Humayun Gauhar                  

The Sovereign of all the universes and everything in them is their Creator, God Almighty alone and no other. Certain physicists in thrall of their puny discoveries aside, this is what the majority of faiths and religions believe, including earlier non-Abrahamic faiths. The Hindus, for example, call the Creator ‘Brahma’ symbolized by the bull.

God the Creator warns us that it is a grave sin to ascribe any equal or partner to Him or any god before Him. It is one of the Ten Commandments. In Islam it is called ‘Tauheed’, the first pillar of Islam, a declaration of belief in One God – “La Illaha Il Allah” – “There is no god but God”. Placing anyone or anything beside or before God, giving Him a partner or equal, is called ‘shirk’, which is a grave sin indeed. I think the word shirk comes from the word ‘shareek’ which means partner, but I have to research it and think about it before I can be sure, so don’t take my word for it. Why don’t you try and do some research on it? Judged by their parlance, customs, rituals and mores however, most Muslims don’t seem to understand this or get lost in semantics or alien practice.

God has devolved part of His Sovereignty as a trust on humanity his vicegerent or Khalifa on earth to conduct its temporal affairs according to His injunctions. When humankind stops following His injunctions that partial sovereignty that God has devolved on it can get withdrawn. Then people lose their fundamental rights either at home even under their own rulers in an iniquitous status quo or under occupiers or they can become homeless or stateless, without identity. Bereft of their God-given fundamental rights they may get them only at the pleasure of host or occupying governments. You have no idea how pathetic their condition is until you suffer it yourself. Ask the Palestinians, ask the Afghans and Iraqis, ask the Kashmiris, ask so many others.  Ask the Pakistanis who are under multifarious occupations – US, the native ruling gang comprising of feudal and industrial barons, tribal chieftains, political mullahs and what have you.

The Ten Commandments appear in the Hebrew Bible twice, in Exodus and Deuteronomy. They begin with the words, “I am the Lord thy God”…  The second says: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” It is exactly the same in Islam, for it violates Tauheed.

Despite this, we go on addressing judges as ‘My Lord’ without realizing that we are calling them God and our judges don’t have the sense to stop it. We seem to prefer British form to God’s Word.

God has many names in many religions and ‘Maulana’ is one of them. ‘Maula’ means ‘guide’ and ‘na’ means ‘our’ so the compound word ‘Maulana’ means ‘Our God’ for He is the ultimate Guide and Protector and the Quran is His book of guidance to humankind. Thus the title ‘Maulana’ can be ascribed to no one except God. Muslims of no region refer to Islamic scholars as ‘Maulana’ except in India and Pakistan. The titles or honorific for an Islamic scholar can be ‘Maulvi’ (belonging to God); ‘mullah’ (fully equipped), ‘alim’ (one with knowledge), ‘allama’, ‘shaykh’, ‘Sayyadina’, ‘Imam’…but not ‘Maulana’. Without realizing it we commit shirk by calling someone ‘Maulana’. Yet those called ‘Maulana’ in their lifetimes don’t stop it. What kind of scholars are they?

Dwell on the following verses of the Holy Quran in which God refers to Himself as ‘Maulana’: 2:286, 9:51 and 22:78. The first is: “Rabbana…anta Maulana fansoorna alal qaumil kaafareen” – “Our Lord…you are our Protector, so grant us victory over the unbelievers.” The second: “Huwa Maulana, wa alal Laahi fal yatawakkalil Mu’minoon” – “God is our Protector, and on Allah let the Believers rely.” The third is: “Wa’Tismoo Billhi Huwa Maulaakum, Fani’Malmaula Wa Ni’man Naseer” – “Hold on solidly to Allah. He is your Protector: excellent the Protector and excellent the Helper.”

We commit shirk by calling people ‘Lord’ and ‘Maulana’ without realizing it because we don’t know our own faith. Shirk is the worst form of blasphemy against God. Negligent parents who abdicate their responsibility to clerics to educate their children in their faith have unwittingly seen to it that we don’t.

Blasphemy has become a word loaded with emotion. Again, Muslims don’t know what God has said about it in the Quran or any punishment that He may have prescribed for it. Up goes the cry of the political mullah and out comes the Muslim on a rampage, killing, looting and burning. Political clerics exploit people for advantage while looters have a heyday. Javed Ahmed Ghamdi says that there is no punishment in the Quran for blasphemy against God or the Prophet (pbuh) or, indeed, any of His prophets. Wahiduddin Khan (who also calls himself ‘Maulana’ by the way) says that there are 200 verses in the Quran regarding contemporaries of prophets who committed blasphemy. “Prophets, down the ages, have been mocked and abused by their contemporaries (36:30); some of the epithets cited in the Quran include ‘a liar’ (40:24), ‘possessed’ (15:6), ‘fabricator’ (16:101), ‘foolish man’ (7:66).” While these abusive words used by prophets’ contemporaries are mentioned in the Quran, nowhere does it prescribe any punishment. Instead, people are advised to reason with them, to persuade them by holding an intellectual discourse with them and giving sound arguments to address their minds, admonish abusers peacefully, or keep their distance from them. “To you your way and to me mine,” the Quran tells us to tell them, and then go about your business peacefully. Leave the decision to God. Don’t take His work from Him. Concerned yourself with His judgment on you when the Day comes.

If God had wanted to prescribe punishment against blasphemers He would have done so, as He did for defaming chaste women without proof – ‘qazaf’. “Those who defame chaste women but cannot produce four witnesses shall be given eighty lashes.” (24:4). Thus, if the charge of defamation is proved in a court of law the person becomes a criminal and is punished. There was nothing stopping God from prescribing punishment for blasphemy against Him and his prophets, 124,000 of them. 

God tells us to respect other faiths and their places of worship. The Prophet (pbuh) let a Jewish delegation pray in his mosque. Yet we merrily go about committing blasphemy against other faiths by destroying their places of worship without compunction. Remember how the Hindu temple of Somnath was razed twice? Mullah Omar who called himself Emir of Afghanistan destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues despite pleadings not to, to at least respect their antiquity if nothing else. He told our ISI chief that he had a dream in which he was told that God had caused rain to form huge ditches at the feet of the statues in which to place dynamite. The man who planted the dynamite came to Pakistan and was feted in the Red Mosque as a hero. The blasphemers against our Prophet (pbuh) are all individual nutcases, not the states to which they belong. By destroying the Buddha statues Mullah Omar reduced his country to the level of individual nutcases.

In Pakistan people have desecrated or destroyed many Christian churches and Hindu temples. A church was destroyed in Taxila some years ago. Recently, a Hindu temple was destroyed in Hyderabad. Happily, our government has instituted criminal charges against the perpetrators thus distancing itself from the blasphemous act.

Because we don’t know our Faith we fall into traps. When someone with a script out to prove that Muslims are basically violent makes a cartoon or a film we mindlessly fall into the trap by following his script instead of following the Word of God and responding in the dignified manner prescribed in the Quran that behooves people of a great faith. By going on a rampage we violate God’s injunctions.

I wonder why Muslims in non-Muslim countries behave better than those in Muslim majority states. Has it to do with ‘Dar ul Harab’ – ‘Land of the Infidel’ – where Muslims are asked to live peacefully if they can practice their faith without hindrance? I hope not, because then the conclusion could well be that Muslims are unable to have a state of their own, something that is not a necessity in Islam if the faith can be practiced without hindrance. In any case, a state as we understand it today is a modern western concept. I wonder, because virtually every Muslim state is under some form or degree of US occupation with their rulers their satraps.

The good news is that I detect that an increasing number of people are thinking about the recent rampage against the blasphemous video and wondering whether this is the proper and Islamic way to respond. This is how nations evolve, and I hope that we evolve enough in the right direction before political mullahs take the state over and turn a good dream into a nightmare. 

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