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Intellectual revolution a pre-requisite for meaningful change in Pakistan

Zafar Bangash

The socio-economic and political chaos that grips Pakistan today allows little room for serious intellectual debate or discussion. To the political confusion must be added the din made by various religious parties and groups who insist that their version of Islam is the only correct one and that everyone else is destined for Hell-fire. These religious zealot are ever-ready to provide dissenters from their narrow outlook a one-way ticket to the other world.

It was in this atmosphere that Crescent International and the Institute for Contemporary Islamic Thought decided to hold a one-day seminar in Pakistan under the theme, ‘Pakistan and the Global Islamic Movement’ on October 25 in Islamabad. Four overseas speakers - Imam Mohammed al-Asi and Imam Abdul Alim Musa (both of Washington DC), Iqbal Siddiqui (from London) and this writer (from Toronto) - as well as two local speakers - Dr Perwez Shafi (Karachi) and K M Azam (Lahore) - addressed the seminar held at the Marriott hotel. A fifth overseas guest, Sister Merve Kavakci from Turkey, was unable to make it because of clash with another programme.

The Crescent International has consistently taken the position that the dominant systems in Muslim societies are alien to the values and ethos of Islam and must be uprooted if Muslims are to emerge from their present sorry predicament. The Crescent has also urged Iran-style Islamic revolutions as the only option to bring about the desired change in Muslim societies. This, however, would be possible only if there is first an intellectual revolution in Muslim Political Thought.

This must come about through lessons derived from the Seerah of the noble messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace. These issues were discussed by the speakers who not only provided a definition of the Global Islamic Movement (‘a divine instrument of change’) but also analyzed the problems faced by Muslims today. Dr Perwez Shafi, director, the Institute for Contemporary Islamic Thought (Pakistan) traced the decline of Muslim society to its deviation from the ideal of the Prophet’s Islamic State in Medina. He explained how Muslims could make the long haul back by undergoing an intellectual revolution.

Iqbal Siddiqui, who has now assumed responsibilities as editor of Crescent International from this writer, spoke about the Political dimensions of the Seerah about which his father, the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui had written a great deal. In fact, Dr Kalim’s last unpublished paper was on this topic in which he outlined the areas of research that must be undertaken to draw appropriate lessons from the Seerah.

Imam Abdul Alim Musa, in his inimitable style, captivated the audience by his ready wit and detailed analysis of the contemporary situation in the US. He described the methods used by the US in its relentless drive for colonisation - both at home and abroad. He linked this with what the native population (Indians) and the African-Americans had suffered and what the rest of the world was experiencing at the hands of the US today. But he gave the glad tidings that despite all the negative propaganda, Islam was spreading rapidly in America.

A similar theme was struck by Imam al-Asi who discussed the clash of civilizations theory and suggested that conflict was rooted in the psyche of the western man. He opined that the west had an insatiable appetite for violence; it inflicted this upon its own people as well as others. He warned that Muslims had better beware since they would also be the victims of the west’s aggressive policy.

K M Azam, former UN senior economic adviser, discussed the steps that must be taken for implementing the Shari’ah in Pakistan. He outlined the difference between Shari’ah and Fiqh and called for the establishment of a committee of competent scholars to draw up a blue-print for implementing the Shari’ah in Pakistan.

This writer, in his new assignment as director of the Institute for Contemporary Islamic Thought, addressed the issue of the Global Islamic Movement, providing not only a definition but also explaining how the outlook of Muslims differs from that of the west. The latter’s philosophy is based on the supremacy of reason, devoid of any divine guidance while Muslims operate within the framework of divine knowledge. He also pointed out that political parties cannot bring about change in Muslim societies because they are part of the western political system; only the Islamic Movement can.

A lively discussion followed about the affairs of the Ummah with particular reference to Pakistan. One of the salient features of the seminar was that participants transcended all political, sectarian and parochial barriers. Numerous observers remaked that this was the first time in Pakistan’s contemporary history that a non-sectarian message was heard from an Islamic platform in Pakistan.

What the seminar also indicated was the yearning among all segments of the Pakistani population to address the myriad problems confronting the country and to rise above sectarian, linguistic and parochial differences. There is clearly a political vacuum in Pakistan which the political parties have not only failed to address but have actually accentuated with their selfish policies.

The Crescent International and the Institute for Contemporary Islamic Thought have taken up the challenge to make a contribution towards creating the desired conditions in which an intellectual revolution could come about in Pakistan. There is a long road ahead but even one step in the right direction gets one closer to the ultimate destination.

The success of the seminar owes to the tireless efforts of Shaikh Tajammul, Crescent’s representative in Pakistan, and his staff. In reality, they have already brought about an intellectual revolution among one segment of the population in Pakistan.

Muslimedia: November 16-30, 1998

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 18

Rajab 26, 14191998-11-16

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