COMMENT: Salmaan Taseer: the content soul —Dr Mohammad Taqi - Thursday, January 13, 2011

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To let these hordes be the judge, jury and the executioner would be the exact opposite of what Salmaan Taseer stood for. They have succeeded in killing Salmaan Taseer but must not be allowed to lynch him posthumously

They were jubilant. They were celebrating. They had come to admire, congratulate and fete the killer. And they want him set free. Not because they think he is innocent of any guilt but because they believe he did actually kill the ‘guilty’. Guilty of what and tried by whom, one may ask. The response comes from their leaders rooting from the pulpit: “guilty of supporting the blasphemer and impugning the divine law — the infidel!” I certainly felt queasy at the pronouncements of these clerics but it was really appalling to notice that it was the lawyers — the professionals educated and trained to apply the law — who were leading this frenzy of joy at killing someone. But worse than the rank and file of lawyers has been their leadership. After remaining in the limelight for almost four years, the top leadership of lawyers has disappeared into thin air when the situation demanded their presence and opinion the most. Some have declined to be quoted on or off the record and others have made wishy-washy statements about how those who support the anti-blasphemy law should have proceeded against Salmaan Taseer under the law (rather than assassinating him). I could not help but recall La Nausée. Jean Paul Sartre had accurately written: “The Nausea is not inside me…I am the one who is within it.”

However, to let the clergy and its cohorts in the media and lawyers’ community define what Salmaan Taseer’s faith was, if he is martyr or not and whether or not section 295(C) of the Pakistan Penal Code applied to him, would be an injustice to the departed soul and the cause he died for. To let these hordes be the judge, jury and the executioner would be the exact opposite of what Salmaan Taseer stood for. They have succeeded in killing Salmaan Taseer but must not be allowed to lynch him posthumously.

Over the last week, Salmaan Taseer’s many interviews given to both the print and electronic media have been reproduced. Not once did one hear him make any other claim about his own faith save to profess his belief in Islam and the Prophet (PBUH). But what is faith or imaan in the context of religious beliefs? All major schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that there are two aspects of imaan, i.e. iqrar bil-lisaan (to profess one’s faith verbally) and tasdeeq bil-qalb (to feel this conviction of faith in one’s heart). Unless any of the mullahs who called for Salmaan Taseer’s blood are willing to claim divine attributes and know what was in his heart, we only have his word to go by. And that word has been nothing but an affirmation of his faith.

So where does that leave Salmaan Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri — who has formally confessed to a court, the lawyers showering rose-petals on him and the media covering the sordid episode? Not in a very enviable situation, as far as the Holy Quran is concerned. The Quran says very clearly in Surah an-Nisa (4:93): “Anyone who kills a believer on purpose, his retribution is Hell, wherein he abides forever, Allah is angry with him, and condemns him, and has prepared for him a terrible retribution.”

But sections of the media keep egging Qadri and his ilk on. Writing for an Urdu language contemporary, Mr Ansar Abbasi claims that the Holy Quran prescribes harsh or capital punishment for blasphemy. He has used the Arabic word Nusoos (singular nus) or clear injunctions for the verses he has cited in support of his claim. I submit to Mr Abbasi and his kind that according to Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqua’s (RA) count, the Holy Quran has 6,666 ayaat (verses), out of which 514 are muhkamaat or straightforward verses. But in the context of Islamic jurisprudence, the muhkamaat (verbal noun in plural) mean more than just straightforward, as these verses essentially are judgements and decisions. The term is applied to all clearly decided verses of the Quran, especially those concerning legal rulings, which prescribe or proscribe the conduct of the believers. The verses that are allegorical or not agreed upon are called mutashabihaat. The Holy Quran does not contain one single ayat about punishment for blasphemy but does say something in Surah Aal-e-Imran about who twists the Quran’s word (3:7): “He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses — which constitute the essence of the scripture — as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbour doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except Allah and those well founded in knowledge. They say, ‘We believe in this — all of it comes from our Lord.’ Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.”

The Quranic term in the above noted verse, used for those with well-founded knowledge of the Quran, is Rasikhoona-fil-ilm and it certainly does not allude to those chaos-mongers who are writing columns in support of a murderer. The relationship between the fascists and the media is very old. In 1948, the Indo-Pakistan Islam League of Allama Mashriqi had offered to pay Rs 3 a pop to the columnists who would support its cause. Incidentally, this cause included an agenda similar to the present-day religio-political outfits of Pakistan. Many journalists have been embedded with the Taliban and their antecedents for quite some time but, perhaps, the difference today is that the forces opposed to their hate mongering now have weak knees. It has fallen upon the shoulders of Bilawal Zardari, who is not even in practical politics, to be the saving grace of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). To him one must say well-done, young man. And to Salmaan Taseer one would say that you took a principled stand and died a proud man. He is not just shaheed (martyr) but a content soul for whom the Almighty Himself says in Surah al-Fajr (89:27-30): “As for you, O content soul. Return to your Lord, pleased and pleasing. Welcome into My servants. Welcome into My Paradise.”

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