If PTI Are To Move Towards A Progressive Naya Pakistan, Now Is The Time

If PTI Are To Move Towards A Progressive Naya Pakistan, Now Is The Time
Pakistan has long been in midst of a tussle between religious orthodoxy and progressive tendencies. A few recent events have made the gulf between them both wider and more vivid than ever.

Every year, the whole country awaits the Ruet-e-Hilal committee to announce Eid - which they are, somehow, able to break news of by late ten o’clock. This time the Minister of Science and technology Fawad Chaudhry intervened and proposed that his Ministry would help in Shawwal moon sighting.

Now, this melodrama doesn’t sound new, but the response of people to celebrate Eid on the 24th of May, even before Ruet had announced it, on a scientific basis, is entirely new.

To analyse the problem one needs to examine the contradictions from within. The argument by Mufti Muneeb Ur Rehman to stay with rituality, as if it were part of spirituality, and not to take help from science, sounds preposterous. Firstly because during the act of moon-sighting they use telescopes and other technical devices, which are, of course, products of science. The sacred textual sources of Islam on moon-sighting do not specify (or rule out) the use of any scientific equipment.

Secondly, the Islamic calendar is lunar and the timings of night and day are determined according to that principle too. The acceptable way in a very traditional Islamic practice would be to break the fast either by witnessing the moon yourself or by somebody else's testimony to that effect. The contradictions become clearer when for twenty nine or thirty days the Muslims start and break their fast by the aid of a clock or announcement by a nearby mosque – the latter is, for sure, taking help from a clock. However, all of a sudden a method practiced for all of Ramazan every year becomes controversy when some try to apply it to Eid too. This incongruity isn’t due to scientific technology or religion but due to the confused arguments by religious demagogues.

Mufti Muneeb Ur Rehman has long shown himself to be the defender of Islam, but is his persona an embodiment of Islam? He said in an interview that he does not want to interact with Fawad Chaudhry claiming him to be a ‘moral virus’. Whereas Allah in Surah Hujurat Verse 13 of the Quran says “Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-aware.” Since ulema are the ones that many look up to for guidance in case of religious matters - often on their own insistence - they must be held accountable for their deeds with more vigour.

A few weeks ago, Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman along with Mufti Taqi Usmani allowed their followers to go to mosques for offering the weekly congregational prayers while following SOPs agreed with the government for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. We saw scenes of law-enforcement officials standing in front of mosques to tell – and times even beg – citizens to return to their homes for safety from the virus. A few days later, Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman showed up on television screens saying that he and Mufti Taqi Usmani have not been going to any congregational prayer since they are aged, and so more vulnerable to the Coronavirus.

Now obviously, the information about being more vulnerable is a blessing of science – whose conclusions they don't always uphold. Moreover, it is quite irresponsible on their part to advise people to do something which they aren’t practicing themselves.

Every other day, some Maulana claims that all what is happening to us is due to the wrath of God. Maulana Tariq Jameel claimed the global pandemic to be chastisement for the Ummah, inflicted due to our immodest clothing and lifestyles. By the same logic, many claim that locust attacks in Sindh, which devastate agrarian lives, are a consequence of their sins. Such sentiments became particularly ugly when applied by some to the victims of the PIA plane crash tragedy.

Had the decision of Ruet e Hilal committee not coincided with the prediction of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the ultimate decision was to be made by the state. So far, the state holds no good record when it comes to dealing with religious groups. This time, a paradigm shift could be observed when many were willing to celebrate the Eid on the 24th of May regardless of whether the Ruet-e-Hilal committee announced it to be on that date. This shift is a ray of hope: that a few have started to question those to whom we have allotted the institution of religion and given so much power.

Now is the time the state must reflect on these issues and formulate a progressive policy. Otherwise, since the day when the foundations of Pakistan were laid, the religious clergy have always been sacred cows and have been able to act as a pressure group for multiple barbaric pieces of legislation. Also, during various eras every political party has made alliances with them to win elections. If PTI really wants to do something about the matter, this is the time to put a halt to these vicious and regressive forces and take a step forward towards progressive Naya Pakistan.