So You Think Engineer Agrees With You? 10 Times Muhammad Ali Mirza Surprised People
As the outspoken scholar has grown in popularity and following, so has the controversy around his commentary on various issues. Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza has become known for his sharp style of polemics and outspoken criticism of what he sees as weak arguments by a number of mainstream religious figures in South Asia. Some of his harshest criticism is reserved for those who, in his view, promote sectarian or divisive beliefs.
The temptation to claim Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza – or other such figures – for one’s own side in a deeply polarized society is understandable. But which side is he really on? Is he a conservative, a progressive, a democrat, an Insafian, a Noonie or altogether different?
We compiled his positions on a number of issues to give the reader an idea of where they stand vis-a-vis the popular Youtube preacher.
He doesn’t rule them out. Engineer points out that Islamic sacred scripture makes reference to many different kinds of creatures – some of which are definitely beyond usual human understanding based on experience. But he also highlights, in the same argument, how we have a tendency to attribute natural phenomena to supernatural ones, due to lazy thinking.
If you believe that the Truth is out there, you’re in good company, and it’s not just Fox Mulder. Engineer is with you.
The ‘dutiful’ bahu
Engineer’s views on this subject are likely to fly in the face of what many in Pakistan consider traditional “family values”. In essence, your parents are primarily your responsibility, not that of your partner. Close relations with your parents are incumbent on you, but optional for your partner.
And what happens if the wife is unwilling to live with her in-laws? As per Engineer, the husband must make arrangements for them to move out.
The issue of student unions stirred debate in Pakistan yet again after last year’s Student Solidarity March. Engineer acknowledges that student unions have a role in producing political leaders for a democratic society, but he thinks that political party affiliations for student unions create a problem, especially in terms of violence. He also criticizes students engaging in vigilante behaviour and moral policing by students aimed at other students, such as that displayed by the IJT in Punjab University.
Engineer is not fully convinced that these problems can be addressed immediately in case student unions are restored on campuses – and highlights his own negative experience from his student days in the 1990s.
Engineer believes that men are responsible for it and need to behave themselves.
Mera Jism Meri Marzi
While he concedes that women are discriminated in Pakistani society and deprived of many of their fundamental rights, and he understands that it is only natural for there to be movements demanding womens’ rights, he also thinks that NGOs take advantage of such a situation.
He does not support the famous slogan from Aurat March, and insists that men and women have different roles due to physical and psychogical differences.
On the popular Turkish TV show that has taken Pakistani airwaves and social media by storm, Engineer takes the view that it is a distraction from the real issues. Ertugrul or the Ottoman Empire should be seen as Muslim rulers, but not necessarily “Islamic” ones. He draws a clear distinction between Muslim-ruled polities and what he considers to be Islamic governments.
Engineer also wants Pakistanis to consider that if merely worldly imperial success were linked to God’s approval, then the largest empires ever in human history was the British empire. And the largest contiguous land-based empire was that of the Mongols. Worldly power has to be distinguished from faith and piety, as far as he is concerned.
If you’re looking for historical-themed series that actually depict what are truly Islamic values rather than Muslim-ruled empires, he recommends MBC1’s series Omar, based on the life story of the revered second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA).
When it comes to one of the most difficult subjects to talk about in Pakistani society, Engineer is very clear. It is his view that these issues should be addressed rationally rather than emotionally. He criticizes not just the legislation around the blasphemy issue in Pakistan but also the theological reasoning behind it.
In short, for Engineer, discussion should not be stifled by threat of violence and even people who say malicious things should have the opportunity to repent before God.
On that elusive form of governance in Pakistan and many other Muslim-majority countries, Engineer takes the perspective that republican rule is far closer to the Islamic vision than absolutism or monarchy. He points out how freedom of speech is restricted in monarchies and authoritarian regimes such as those in the Arab world.
All power should rest with the electorate, as far as Engineer is concerned, except the power to change what is permitted or made forbidden by Islamic holy scripture.
Many religious clerics in Pakistan are hostile to democracy because they rely on the backing of authoritarian regimes like that of Saudi Arabia or Iran, in Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza’s view. He insists that in our era, the only truly Islamic form of government is an Islamic Democracy.
Article 6 is a very serious business as far as Engineer is concerned. He deplores the stance of all those, including the current ruling party, who thought that Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf ought to be excused because a general cannot possibly commit treason against the country, etc. Engineer reserves some of his harshest criticism for pro-dictatorship arguments in Pakistan.
We cannot fully reproduce the exact example that he gives in an era of scrutiny and political correctness, but take our word for it: Engineer is hardcore when it comes to civilian supremacy.
Oh and proxy wars too: he’s totally opposed to outsourcing the defence of Muslims to non-state actors.
The current Prime Minister has his devotees and determined opponents alike. For some he can do no wrong, for others, he can only do wrong. Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza says that he started out as a firm Imran Khan supporter, but over time his support for the PM has eroded. This is where Engineer really takes it one day at a time.
He is of the view that the Coronavirus is no more deadly than other illnesses such as malaria – and categorically agrees with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s perspective that Pakistan’s economy cannot afford a lockdown. He believes in the need for precautions, but without a lockdown. As for the PM’s claim that “elites” caused the lockdown, Engineer isn’t buying it. He believes that the PM ought to have been decisive: against a lockdown.
In fact, when it came to Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman’s dramatic protest sit-in at the federal capital, Engineer took the view that the turbulent cleric had a point. He called upon the Maulana and his followers to remain peaceful and lawful, and on the PTI government to pay attention to criticism. In Engineer’s view, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman plays a very important role for stability in Pakistan by influencing the more hardline Deobandi believers to remain law-abiding and loyal to the state. In his view, the wily Maulana cannot be dismissed easily.
He still believes Imran Khan is a “hope for Pakistan”, but insists that he has a right to criticize him and defend him as he feels necessary. And he has done both over the past few months…
The author is the Features Editor at The Friday Times.