The Pakistan Army is determined to change the very character of Islam, turning it into the pre-Islamic religion of the Jahiliya (Arabia in the Dark Ages). The army had indeed given ample evidence of its anti-Islamic character by reminding us recently of the Battle of Uhud where a woman of Jahiliya, Hinda, had mutilated the dead body of Prophet Mohammad's uncle, Hazrat Hamza The Prophet had not only forgiven her but had made it a point to forbid the practice in every Muslim gathering thereafter for fear that the Muslims, too, might do something similar in retaliation.
Slowly but surely what appears to be a completely new religion seems to be catching the imagination of many people in Pakistan. Its followers don't, of course, consider it a new religion. Indeed this religion insists that it is Islam, in fact it calls itself true Islam or real Islam. But it can at best be described as Jihadism as its central belief system is based on a wilful misinterpretation of the Islamic concept of Jihad. It can also be called Talibanism, as the Taliban of Afghanistan, who studied in Pakistani madrassas run by the Jamiat-ul-Ulema, are its most avid practitioners.
By and large, the western- educated liberal Pakistani intelligentsia, as 1 found out during a recent visit, hates this religion and is frightened of it. But as one by one all institutions of governance are succumbing to its growing power and its capacity for evil, they are getting scared to death. Some of them are simply planning to migrate to some non-Muslim majority country. No one is really fighting this malignant force, though some journalists and human rights activists still have the courage at least to express their horror and outrage at grave personal risk.
It is Islamicists, however, who should have been fighting this malignant growth. Some of them indeed are. (One prominent name is that of Maulana Haider Farooq Maudoodi, the son of Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi). But they don't have the resources to counter the powerful Jihadist rhetoric backed by vast resources. Muslim masses are by and large ignorant and poor. It is not difficult to either sway them emotionally using Jihadist rhetoric based on Islamic terminology or even to buy them with promises of goodies on earth and in Heaven. What is Jihadism
The basic belief of Jihadism is that all non-Jihadists are kafir and deserve to be killed. As a result, they have so far killed about half a million Muslims in Afghanistan and at least 30,000 Muslims in the Kashmir valley. They have been killing non-Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir recently. But their present target is the Muslims of India. Beginning from the Bombay blasts in 1993, they have made several attempts to provoke massive anti-Muslim violence in the country.
Indeed a prominent ex-militant Kashmiri leader told me just after Zuhr prayers in the Shah Faisal mosque in Islamabad that the first person to attack the Babri masjid on Dec. 6, 1992, was a Jihadist from POK who had joined the VHP some time ago and was part of Shiv Sena-VHP rally along with several of his co-religionists. My informant was also a Jihadist once, but perhaps not completely devoid of the milk of human kindness and thus not a true Jihadist. He retained affections for his wife and kids stranded in the valley and his Hindu and Muslim classmates in Delhi where he had studied up to graduation. He was clearly not happy with the visions of an impending holocaust in India and tried to warn me.
Another warning came to me more recently from a Jihadist on a brief visit to England. 1 met him outside London's Finsbury Park mosque after the Friday prayers. Exultant after the Pakistani Jihadists had downed two Indian planes in Kargil, he was more direct: "You Muslims (Indian) are cowards. Rivers of blood will flow in India soon and you will have just two choices: either become a true Muslim (i.e. Jihadist) or perish." Revealing future Jihadist plans, he said: "You are completely devoid of leadership. We will provide you leadership under which you will become true Muslims (i.e. Jihadists)."
It is not some anonymous Jihadists alone who have been giving me these warnings, though they were more forthright than the so-called responsible leaders of this group. Prof. Khursheed Ahmad, vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan, for instance, told me in Islamabad recently that Indian Muslims have been shirking their duty on Kashmir and they will have to answer before God on the Day of judgement as to why they did not support the "Jihad" in Kashmir. Hurriyat Chairman and Kashmiri Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani has, of course, been taunting Indian Muslims regularly for their supposed cowardice on Kashmir.
1 believe Providence would like me to convey these warnings to the nation. Muslims in particular must beware: they should take care not to allow any one to provoke them into any indiscretion, particularly at a time when the country is involved in a bloody fight with the enemy. It must be clearly understood that in the present case, the enemy is not only the enemy of our country but also the enemy of our religion.
The recent bomb blast at New Jalpaiguri railway station may mark the beginning of some sinister Jihadist plan. West Bengal Home Minister Budhadeb Bhattacharjea has held the Jamaat-e-Islami and not the ULFA responsible for the outrage. There are reports that the ULFA may itself be working for the Pakistani military intelligence organisation ISI. Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, too, has warned of the possibility of a widespread terror campaign. These warnings must be taken seriously.
Prophet is our role model, not Mast Gul
Muslims must remember that they have to consult the Holy Quran for guidance in their day- to-day affairs. The model they are supposed to follow is that of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and not destroyers of mosques like Mast Gul. Islam did not allow its followers to pick up a weapon even in their defence for the first thirteen years even though they were facing the worst possible persecution in Mecca. They were "permitted" to defend themselves for the first time in Madina when they were facing aggression from Meccans. Had they not defended themselves even then they would have been surely wiped out from the face of the earth, thus sounding the death-knell for the religion of Islam as well. But only a few years later, when the Prophet had become powerful enough to wage a war with Meccans, he chose peace even on terms that were considered humiliating by most of his followers. He signed a peace agreement known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya. And then when he entered Mecca victorious, a year later, facing no resistance, he chose to grant a general amnesty for all, even for those who had mutilated the dead bodies of his close relatives like his maternal uncle Hazrat Harnza.
Mutilation of dead bodies is a mediaeval pre-Islamic practice, a practice Islam came to fight against. Those who perpetrate such acts in this day and age cannot claim to be Muslims. They must give some new name to their Faith. In any case Muslims cannot accept them as their co-religionists.
[These questions were raised by Ms. Jalbala Vaidya and Mr. Gopal Sharma in a debate on various aspects of Islam organised by them at The Akshara Theatre following the premiere of their film The Sufi Way in early 1999. A galaxy of scholars from various disciplines participated in the debate. The following are excerpts from the paper presented by the author].
Although Allah has ninety nine names, depicting all his varied attributes, He is known in the Holy Quran mostly as Rahman and Rahim.
Some Quranic statistics would probably help at this point. The word Merciful, Most merciful, Most gracious (Rahmanir Rahim) has been used 124 times in the Quran. The word 'Mercy' has been used 173 times. Contrast this with the usage of the word 'Wrath'(anger) and 'Wrathful'(Angry). The word Wrath or anger appears thrice in the entire Quran - (Sura Al-Fatiha 1.07, Al,Baqra 2.90, and AI Imran 3.11) Then the word wrathful or angry occurs four times in the entire Quran - AI-Mada, AI-Fath, Al,Mujadila and AI- Murntahina. I don't think one needs to add anything at this point. It is clear as day that God is conceived in Islam as the personification of compassion, though, of course, in the course of His work, helping the spiritual growth of humanity, He may need to present Himself as wrathful. Any parent or teacher who has tried to help his or her children or students would testify to the occasional need for doing this. But that doesn't make Allah as an embodiment of wrath, an entity to be feared, as some Islamic theologians, particularly the ones who are promoting this new religion of Jihadism are prone to do.
What is Kufr?
In his monumental work The Religion of Islam, Maulana Mohammad Ali discusses this and related subjects at great length. I will be using his research a great deal in this presentation without being able to invoke his authority all the time. According to him, Kufr is defined by most commentators of the Holy Quran as 'denial of the truth'. Basically the word means to cover, to conceal.
Primarily the term Kufr was used to describe the pre-Islamic Meccans' denial of the truth about the oneness of God and prophethood of the Messenger of Allah. Kufr is also used for concealment or withholding of the means of subsistence, which God has created for the good of all mankind and which He wants to be freely available to all. According to this definition, hoarders of goods for the sake of business or hoarders of wealth would be considered kafir. People occupying high offices but who love their Swiss bank accounts, despite their call for Islamisation would be considered kafir.
Who is a Kafir?
The Prophet used the word kafir in a variety of ways. Ingratitude, for instance, is equated with Kufr. Similarly excessive eating or gluttony is considered by the Prophet one of the attributes of a kafir. This would place nearly all ulema, maulvis and so-called maulanas on the list of Kuffar (the plural of Kafir). In Egypt, as Prof Ausaf Ali pointed out yesterday, even farmers are called Kafir, as they conceal the seeds in the earth and cover up the ground.
The Prophet once said that any one who wrongly calls others kafir is himself a kafir. The accusation of Kufr reverts to the accuser if the accused is innocent. This would again place nearly all ulema belonging to different sects who routinely keep calling each other kafir in the list of Kuffar themselves. It is possible that in the eyes of God all those Pakistanis who call Ahmediyas kafir have committed Kufr, for regardless of theological differences with them on various points, the latter do declare La 11aha Illallah, Mohammadur Rasoolullah (There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is the Prophet of Allah) and there can indeed be no other touchstone for testing anybody's faith in Islam.
A Muslim killing another Muslim becomes a kafir. All the so-called 'mujahedeen' in Afghanistan or Kashmir are thus placed in the list of kuffar. In a strict sense even neglect of prayer, according to some narrators of Hadees is placed in the definition of Kufr and places the Muslim outside the religion of Islam. Someone who conforms to the obligations of prayer yet neglects it out of laziness or the pretence of being too busy (without a valid legal excuse) would attract the provisions of Kufr. According to some scholars like Malik and Shafe'i, such a person is an evil-doer and should indeed be killed, though according to Imam Abu Hanifa, who is the most widely followed scholar among Sunnis, he is not a kafir and should merely be given some minor punishment and confined until he repents and starts praying.
If the "Islamic" state of Pakistan were to follow Malik and Shafe'i, it would probably need to use its nuclear arsenal to kill 99 per cent of its citizens, having shifted the truly Muslim one percent elsewhere first and even if it were to follow Imam Abu Hanifa, it would need to convert the whole of Pakistan into a jail, though there would not be enough people left to act as jailers and not enough money to feed the multitude of prisoners.
In common parlance a Kafir is understood as a non-believer. It is not clear, though, if a Kafir is somebody who doesn't believe in God or oneness of God or both in God and the Prophethood of Hazrat Mohammad. Christians and Jews who do not believe in the Prophethood of Mohammad are, however, not treated as Kuffar, despite even a smattering "idolatry" involved in some of their practices. Many non- Muslims, who may be believers in God, in one sense or the other, take umbrage at being called a Kafir by some ignorant Muslims. This does amount to an insult to their belief systems.
Kafir Vs Munafiq
But this sense of grievance, though correct, also emanates from an inadequate understanding of the word Kafir and its implications on their part. Few people are aware that the lowest depths of Hell are reserved in Islam, not for the Kafir, but for those people who may be today claiming to be Muslims. For God in the Quran condemns and consigns to the lowest depths of Hell, not the Kafir, but the munafeqeen (the hypocrites) who profess to believe in what they do not accept at heart: the Kafir on the other hand has at least the forthrightness to proclaim his beliefs. So the greatest insult is not in being called a Kafir, but in being called a Munafiq, a term that can only be applied to someone claiming to be a Muslim.
As most Muslims today are merely hereditary Muslims and have not really converted to Islam out of any acquired understanding of the Deen-e-Islam, the Islamic way of life, have not submitted to the will of God in the true sense, many of them are liable to be called Munafeqeen in the strict sense of the word. Rational Religion
The greatest irony in the history of Islam is that though Islam claims to be a rational religion, it would be difficult to find a prominent thinking Muslim with the courage of his convictions who has not attracted the fatwa of Kufr. One of the most well-known examples is that of Sir Syed. Many ulema arrogate to themselves the right to judge others in a purely subjective fashion.
And this is despite the clearly and repeatedly expressed view of the Prophet that Muslims should not call any one either a kafir or a,Munafiq. In fact the Prophet himself refused to judge.people as Munafiq. Even those people who were known to be from among the Munafeqeen were treated by the Prophet as Momineen. When the notorious chief of the Munafeqeen in Madina, Abdullah ibn Ubayy died, the Holy Prophet offered funeral prayers on his grave and treated him as a Muslim. In fact his maxim was: "whoever calls the people of la ilaha illa-Allah kafir, is himself nearer to Kufr."
One fact that will perhaps interest you most is that those Muslims who call Hindus Kafir maybe committing Kufr themselves. In Islam, to believe in some prophets and reject others is condemned as Kufr: "Those who disbelieve in Allah and His apostles, and those who desire to make a distinction between Allah and His apostles, and those who say, We believe in -~ome and disbelieve in others, and desire to take a course between this and that , these it is that are truly unbelievers" (4; 150,15 1).
Equal respect for all prophets
A belief in all the prophets of the world is thus an essential principle of the religion of Islam, and though the faith of Islam is summed in two brief sentences, there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His apostle, yet the man who confesses belief in the prophethood of Muhammad, in so doing accepts all the prophets of the world, whether their names are mentioned in the Holy Quran or not. Islam claims a universality to which no other religion can aspire, and lays the foundation of a brotherhood as vast as humanity itself.
"And we did not send before thee any but men to whom We sent revelation ...... (21:7).
According to the Holy Quran, there is not one nation in the world in which a prophet has not been raised up: "There is not a people but a warner has gone among them" (35:24). And again : "Every nation has had an apostle" (10:47). We are further told that there have been prophets besides those mentioned in the Holy Quran: "And We sent apostles We have mentioned to thee before, and apostles We have not mentioned to thee' (4:164).
It is, in fact stated in a hadith that there have been 124,000 prophets, while the Holy Quran contains only about twenty-five names, among them being several non-Biblical prophets, Hud and Salih raised up in Arabia, Luqman in Ethiopia, a contemporary of Moses (generally known as Khidzr) in Sudan, and Dhu-PQarnain (Darius 1, who was also a king) in Persia; all of which is quite in accordance with the theory of universality of prophethood, as enunciated above. And as the Holy Book has plainly said that prophets have appeared in all nations and that it has not named all of them, which in fact was unnecessary, a Muslim may accept the great luminaries who are accepted by other religions as having brought light to them, as the prophets of those nations.
The Quran, however, not only establishes a theory that prophets have appeared in all nations; it goes further and renders it necessary that a Muslim should believe in all those prophets, In the very beginning we are told that a Muslim must "believe in that which has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make distinction between any of Thee ' (2:136), where the word prophets clearly refers to the prophets of other nations.
And again the Holy Quran speaks of Muslims as believing in all the prophets of God and not in the Holy Prophet Muhammad alone: "Righteousness is this that one should believe in Allah and the last day and the angels and the books 'and the prophets" (2:177); "The Apostle believes in what has been revealed to him from His Lord, and so do the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and his books and His apostles; we make no distinction between any of his apostles" 2:285).
Like any other living Faith, controversies abound in Islam. One of the most controversial issues is the relationship of a Muslim with people belonging to other religions. Since in India Muslims have always lived next to a very large non-Muslim community, this issue has created even deeper controversies. While there are Muslims who would insist on treating Hindus as Kafirs, there are others who would insist that they should actually be treated as Ahl-e-Kitab, people bearing revealed books, a people who have a special place in Islamic theology and practice.
Hindus as Ahl'e-Kitab
Disregarding the advice of some ulema of his time, the first Arab to conquer parts of India, Sindh and Multan, had made a good beginning, giving the Hindus the same status as Ahl-e,Kitab, people with whom Muslims are allowed to have good social relations including marital relations. Since then, the Hindu-Muslim interaction has taken place constantly in a variety of ways. This is not the place to go into history, but we are all aware of the differences of approach between say an Akbar and an Aurangzeb.
The question of the place of Hindus in Islamic theology has, however, persisted. There are Muslims who have no reservations whatsoever in considering Hindus as Ahl-e-Kitab. In fact if the holy books like Bhagwat Geeta found in India are not divine in origin, perhaps there are no divine books in the world.
To me the question whether Sri Krishna, for instance, is an Avtar of God or a messenger of God is merely an issue of semantics. It is even possible that Hazrat Vyas is a prophet who is using allegorical stories to drive home the message of God. The important thing is that the message is certainly Divine. The Hindu Holy books are indeed our Adigranth. It is only reasonable to think that they must have undergone any number of changes, accretions, deductions, fabrications, etc. during the millennia that they have been guiding the spiritual growth of Indians. A Muslim, therefore, cannot treat these holy books with the same amount of authenticity as he attaches to the Quran. The Quran is unique among all the holy books in the world in the sense that it is the only book to have survived exactly as it came. The Hindus therefore must be treated by the Muslims as Ahl-e-Kitab. This thought has been best expressed by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his monumental work,The Religion of Islam. While discussing the issue of marital relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, he says: "As the Holy Quran states that revelation was granted to all nations of the world (35: 24), and that it was only with the Arab idolaters that marriage relations were prohibited, and that it was lawful for a Muslim to marry a woman belonging to any other nation of the world that followed a revealed religion. The Christians, the Jews, the Parsis, the Buddhists and the Hindus all fall within this category; and it would be seen that, though the Christian doctrine of calling Jesus Christ a God or son of God is denounced as shirk, still the Christians are treated as followers of a revealed religion and not as mushrikeen, and matrimonial relations with them are allowed. The case of all those people who have originally been given a revealed religion, though at present they may be guilty of 'shirk', would be treated in like manner, and Parsi and Hindu women may be taken in marriage, as also may those who follow the religion of Confucius or of Buddha or of Tao. Another significant question that has been raised here is: How do the chosen believers derive the right to visit Allah's wrath on the Kafirs, their fellow beings? In a plural society such as ours, how can such tenets be upheld? These questions are arising today largely in the context of the killings of innocent Muslims and Hindus going on in Afghanistan and Kashmir in the name of jihad. While raising this question, Ms. jalbala Vaidya specifically mentioned what she termed the 'sordid caricature of the Taliban' and deplored the power games going on in the name of Islam.
What is jihad?
But before we come to the phenomenon of Taliban and the related power games, we must try to understand the true meaning of the word Jihad that is being so misused today. According to Maulana Mohammad Ali, Jihad, in Islamic terminology~ means to strive to one's utmost for what to one is the noblest object on earth. There can be nothing nobler for a Muslim than the earning of God's pleasure through making a complete submission to His Will. For those false deities that may lay claim to his spiritual allegiance as well as against all those whims and desires that may try to lure him away from the fold of goodness and piety. A very great misconception prevails with regard to the duty of jihad in Islam, and that is that the word jihad is supposed to be synonymous with war; and even the greatest research scholars of Europe have not taken the pains to consult any dictionary of the Arabic language or to refer to the Holy Quran, to find out the true meaning of the word. The word jihad is derived from 'lahd' or 'juhd' meaning ability, exertion or power, and '1*ihad' and 'mujahida' mean the exerting of one's power in repelling the enemy (R). The same authority then goes on to say: "jihad is of three kinds; viz.., the carrying on of a struggle: (1) against a visible enemy, (2) against the devil, and (3) against self (nafs)." According to another authority, jihad means fighting with unbelievers, and that is an intensive form (mubalagha) and exerting one's self to the extent of one's ability and power whether it is by word (qaul) or deed (fi'l). A third authority gives the following significance: "jihad from jahada, properly signifies the using or exerting of one's utmost power, efforts, endeavours or ability, in contending with an object of disapprobation; and this is of three kinds, namely, a visible enemy, the devil, and one's self; all of which are included in the term as used in the Holy Quran.
Dhad is therefore far from being synonymous with war, while the popular meaning of "war undertaken for the propagation of Islam," which is supposed by European writers to be the real significance of jihad, is unknown equally to the Arabic language and the teachings of the Holy Quran.
Equally, or even more important is the consideration of the sense in which the word is used in the Holy Quran. It is an admitted fact that permission to fight was given to the Muslims when they had moved to Madina. But the injunction relating to Mujahideen contained in the earlier as well as in the later Mecca revelations. Thus the 'Ankabut' , the 29th chapter of the Holy Quran, is one of a group which was undoubtedly revealed in the fifth and sixth years of the Call of the Prophet, yet there the word jihad is freely used in the sense of exerting one's power and ability, without implying any war. In one place, it is said, "And those who strive hard Gahadu) for Us, We will certainly guide them in our ways, and Allah is surely with the doers of good" (29:69).
The Arabic word jahadu is derived from jihad or muj ahida, and the addition of fina (for Us) shows, if anything further is needed to show it, that the jihad, in this case is the spiritual striving to attain nearness to God, and the result of this jihad is stated to be God's guiding those striving in His ways. The word is used precisely in the same sense twice in a previous verse in the same chapter: 'And whoever strives hard (jahadu), he strives (yujahidu) only for his own soul," that is, for his own benefit, "for Allah is self-sufficient, above need of the worlds" (29:6). In the same chapter the word is used in the sense of a contention carried on in words: 'And we have enjoined on man goodness to his parents, and if they contend (jahada) with thee that thou shouldst associate others with Me, of which thou hast no knowledge, do not obey them" (29:8).
A struggle for national existence was forced on the Muslims when they reached Madina, and they had to take up the sword in self-defence. This struggle went also, and rightly, under the name of jihad; but even in the Madina suras the word is used in the wider sense of a struggle carried on by words or deeds of any kind. Jihadism is anti,Islam
The Jihadists are killing people and oppressing humanity under the garb of preaching Islam and enforcing Islamic Sharia for which they really have no authority. If they were to look at the conduct of Prophet Mohammad in this regard, they would have got a completely different picture. According to Maulana Mohammad Ali (The Religion of Islam), when the Prophet grew worried that people did not pay attention to his words and did not try to understand them, he was admonished in this way: "If Allah Willed, all who are on the earth would have believed (in Him). Would thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?" (10:99)
Prophet Muhammad often came across people who were completely unresponsive to his words, while others were stirred, who believed and were prepared to listen. In dealing with the former, he occasionally grew impatient and felt frustrated. The Quran counsels him to be patient, forgiving and tolerant. It warns him against the temptation to impose his views on them: "Haply you will kill yourself with grief , if they believe not in this message" (18:6). No compulsion in religion
The Prophet is assured that if he has placed the true view, in simple terms, before the people, he has fulfilled his mission. More than this is not expected of him. It is not his duty to see that the view is accepted by the people. His duty is only to tell them which is the right path and which the wrong one and to acquaint them with the consequences of following the one or the other. They are free to choose for themselves: God does not want to force people to accept His guidance. He has endowed man with the powers of understanding, judgement and free choice.
So if the Prophet did not have the power to compel people to accept Islam, even after he had acquired temporal power over most of Arabia, who are the Taliban or any other people to try to do so. Obviously they have no business behaving the way they are doing and need to be condemned by all, particularly Muslims, because they are giving such a bad name to Islam, apart from oppressing humanity in the name of a religion that came to the world as a blessing of Allah. Let us try and keep Islam as a blessing and not allow it to be turned into a tool for oppression.
Jihadism, Taliban and Pakistan
One of the worst manifestations of Jihadism are the Taliban of Afghanistan. The evil, manifest in the ideology of Jihadism took a concrete shape in the form of Taliban. The world got the first indication of the shape of things to come and the dangers inherent in allowing this obscurantist ideology to take root when it woke up on the very first day of the Taliban take-over of Kabul (26-27 September 1996) to see the battered body of former communist President Dr. Najibullah in the UN compound.
One of the reasons why any Pakistan government has to tread cautiously while dealing with the Taliban and other Jihadists in the country is that the Taliban have firmed up their relationship with several powerful sections of the Pakistani society. Though a creation of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e -Pakistan, for instance, they have succeeded in mending fences even with the rival Jihadist organisation, the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan. It may be recalled that the Jamaat had called them tools of imperialist powers like the United States and the United Kingdom, when they had first appeared on the scene. But now it has no hesitation in endorsing the Taliban brand of politics, indeed the Taliban version of Islam itself.
The biggest danger of the Talibanisation of Pakistan,. however, comes from the fact that the social and doctrinal roots of the Pakistani army jawans are virtually the same as those of the Taliban. Pakistan army officers may have trained the Taliban and may control them even now to a certain extent in terms of finance, but they are bound to fear them too. For there is a great difference in the secular orientation and the progressive social roots of a majority of the officer class and the obscurantist and mediaeval orientation of the Taliban, even if their objectives coincide at certain points.
But while most of the Pakistan army officers are bound to remain somewhat wary of the Taliban, even while exploiting their ideology for their own nefarious ends, at lower levels in the army there is greater acceptance of Jihadism practised by the Taliban. This is a cause for great worry in the Pakistan army's officers and they are bound to view the possibility of a coming together of the Tailbones of Afghanistan, local Jihadis and Pakistan Army jawans and lower level officers with great trepidation. Who are the Taliban?
This makes it imperative that we pose the question: Who are the Taliban? Describing the social and doctrinal roots of the Taliban, William Maley provides the best answer to this question in his recent book 'Fundamentalism reborn: Afghanistan and the Taliban'. As he points out, the Taliban did not emerge from nowhere, although the precise milieu which nurtured them has not been widely studied. The figure of the Talib is a relatively familiar one in the Northwest Frontier: as long ago as 1898, Winston Churchill penned some cutting remarks about a host of wandering talib-ul-ilms, who correspond with the theological students in Turkey and live free at the expense of the people.'
In Afghanistan, the establishment in the twentieth century of state-supported venues for religious education such as the Faculty of Islamic Law at Kabul University, and state madrassas (Islamic colleges), did not mean the end of private madrassas 'in which the talib, proceeded at his own individual speed with one subject at a time'. The advent of war in Afghanistan in the 1980s saw talibs taking to the battlefield; they were witnessed in 1984 by Olivier Roy in Uruzgan, Kabul and Kandahar.
These students emerged not from madrassas in Afghanistan, but from those run by the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam, a Pakistani political party headed by Maulana Fazlur Rahman, which offered a conservative religious education to boys from Afghan refugee camps, especially orphans or sons of very poor families. The religious training of these students was heavily influenced by the Deobandi school, which originated in the Dar ul-Ulum Deoband, an institution established in the Indian town of Deoband in 1867. William Maley seeks to explain the inexplicable Taliban behaviour in this way: "The Deobandi school preached a form of conservative orthodoxy, and madrassas under its influence provided the bulk of the Afghan ulema. In this orthodoxy, evil and apostasy could be defined at least in part in terms of departure from ritual - that is, 'action wrapped in a web of symbolism' and it is for this reason that the Taliban emphasise the enforcement of modes of behaviour which to the outside observer seem peripheral to solving Afghanistan's major problems. It is scarcely surprising that the most cohesive organisation in the Taliban~s otherwise -inchoate structure is the much-feared religious police force (Amr bil-Maroof wa Nahi An il-Munkir, the department responsible for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice)." The Taliban can, however, be better described as Jihadists as jihad constitutes the central focus around which they are oppressing humanity and destroying Islam as we have known and practised this religion throughout the last centuries. India may he at the receiving end of Jihadism and Talibanism in Kashmir, but it is Pakistan that could be the very first country to fall to this new ideology once it has taken firmer roots in Afghanistan. It seems to me that the ruling elite in Pakistan including the Army officers already realise this, but are at a loss to formulate a clear-cut strategy to deal with this threat to their own power. They have merely decided to deal with the Taliban of Afghanistan as well as their local counterparts with great care. In the meantime they go on merrily providing succour to the ideology of Jihadism perhaps in the hope that as long as Jihadism is busy elsewhere, they are safe. But no one and no situation can save Frankensteins from their monsters for ever. Pakistan army officers would do well to read the story of the central character of one of Goethe's celebrated poems Der Zauberlehrling who fell victim to the forces he had merrily liberated but then could not control.
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