Who is a Muslim; Who is a Kafir? Shocking revelations of Pakistani Ulama

Story by  Saquib Salim | Posted by  Aasha Khosa • 2 Months ago
Representational Image: Muslims praying at Dargah of Nizammudin Auliya, New Delhi (Pic: Ravi Batra)
Representational Image: Muslims praying at Dargah of Nizammudin Auliya, New Delhi (Pic: Ravi Batra)


 Saquib Salim

In modern times, Kafir is a buzzword. In a world view presented by the orthodox Islamists, humanity is divided into two: Muslims and non-Muslims. Kafir is the term used for those who don’t believe in Islam. The idea is central to the ideology of several Muslim organisations and Muslim politics.

In 1953, Chief Justice of Pakistan Muhammad Munir and Justice M. R. Kayani observed, “the words mulhid, murtadd, kafir, zindiq, mushrik, munafiq, fasiq, fajir, muftari, mal’un, kazzab, shaitan, iblis, mardud, shaqi are stock words in all religious controversies in Islam, and all these appellations began to be used in the literature relating to this controversy.”

They, as an inquiry commission, were investigating the incidents of violence against the Ahmadiyas or Qadiyanis in Pakistan in 1953. The report submitted is a must-read for all those who demand Sharia laws, label others as Kafir, and demand the establishment of an Islamic state as a panacea for all evils.

The commission raised a logical question that if almost all the Ulama (Islamic Scholars) were claiming that Ahmadiyas were Kafir (non-believers) it implied that in case Pakistan became an Islamic State they would not be eligible to hold any important office of the state then there must be an operative definition of Muslim.

The report noted, “the State will have to devise some machinery by which the distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim may be determined”.

They recorded statements of all the leading Ulama in Pakistan at the time to enquire into the definition of a Muslim. The commission argued, “if the ulama of the various sects believed the Ahmadis to be kafirs, they must have been quite clear in their minds not only about the grounds of such belief but also about the definition of a Muslim because the claim that a certain person or community is not within the pale of Islam implies on the part of the claimant an exact conception of what a Muslim is.”


Chief Justice of Pakistan Muhammad Munir

But the result of this exercise was shocking for them as well. Out of more than 100 Ulamas, there was no consensus on the definition of a Muslim. The report noted, “Keeping in view the several definitions given by the ulama, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim but kafirs according to the definition of everyone else.”

Justices Munir and Kayani observed that these labels of Kafir and Muslims were nothing but tools to achieve political aims. They said, “the fatwa of kufr does not necessarily turn a community into a non-Muslim minority. The basis of the Demands has, therefore, no connection with the demand for an Islamic state. Fatwas of kufr have been quite a feature of Islam since the Four Caliphs, but they have never resulted in the denial of civic rights to the individuals or classes against whom the decree was made. This is very comforting indeed, in a state where fatwas are likely to become as necessary as guns and butter.” They wouldn’t have been aware that they had then predicted the future politics of Pakistan where fatwas were going to be used as guns to silence political opposition.

Munir and Kayani posed another question to Ulama: “if Pakistan is entitled to base its Constitution on religion, the same right must be conceded to other countries where Musalmans are in substantial minorities or if they constitute a preponderating majority in a country where sovereignty rests with a non- Muslim community. We, therefore, asked the various ulama whether, if non-Muslims in Pakistan were to be subjected to this discrimination in matters of citizenship, the ulama would have any objection to Muslims in other countries being subjected to similar discrimination.”

Interestingly to this question, several Ulama who are still revered in India said that they did not care if the citizenship rights of Indian Muslims were taken away. Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, founder of Jamaat-i-Islami said, “I should have no objection even if the Muslims of India are treated in that form of Government as shudras (low castes) and malishes (aliens) and Manu’s laws are applied to them, depriving them of all share in the Government and the rights of a citizen.” Other Ulama also held similar views.

The report stated, “the Ulama have frankly told us, without the blinking of an eye, — to say nothing of tears — that they do not care what happens to Muslims in other countries, so long as their particular brand of Islam gains currency here.”

Justices Munir and Kayani blamed the political leadership, especially Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin for the trouble. In his opinion “In respect of subjects other than his own, the specialists’ outlook is bound to be narrow. We do not admire cheap terms like mullaism or fanaticism….. We, therefore, do not say that the Ulama’s outlook is narrow because they are Ulama; it is narrow because they are specialists in one branch of life.” In his view, it was the failure of the government not to check the violent activities carried out by Ulama in the name of Islam.

Why does this report hold relevance? In a world where extremists employ labels of kafir and Muslim freely to legitimize violence we should understand that leading Ulama like Master Taj ud-Din Ansari (Ahrar), Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi (Jamaat-i-Islami), Maulana Abul Hasanat Muhammad Ahmad Qadri (Jamiat-ul-Ulema-Pakistan), Maulana Ahmad Ali (Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Islam), Mian Tufail Muhammad, Maulana Abdul Haamid Badayuni (Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Pakistan), Mufti Muhammad Idris (Jamia Ashrafia), Ghazi Siraj-ud-Din Munir, Hafiz Kifayat Hussain (Idara-e-Haqooq-e-Tahaffuz-e-Shia), Maulana Muhammad Ali Kandhalvi (Darush-Shahabia) and many others could not agree upon a single definition of Muslim. They did not agree on even a single Sharia law; the only consensus was on the concept of the Islamic State.

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Most importantly they did not care what happened to the other members of the Ummah (Muslims) living outside of Pakistan. They cared only for their political gains without any larger vision of Islam as their blind followers want us to believe and still try to mislead vulnerable less informed Muslim youth.