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What is Islam?

Will Pakistan’s President Musharraf be able to fight Islamic extremists?

January 27, 2002

Will Pakistan's President Musharraf be able to fight Islamic extremists?

Aside from U.S. President George W. Bush, it is perhaps Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf who faces the biggest challenges after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In a long awaited speech to the Pakistani people on January 12, 2002, Musharraf laid out his views on Islamic extremism and jihad.

We are conscious that we need to rid society of extremism and this is being done right from the beginning. This domestic reforms process was underway when a terrorist attack took place against the United States on the 11th of September.

This terrorist act led to momentous changes all over the world. We decided to join the international coalition against terrorism. We took this decision on principle and in our national interest.

By the grace of God Almighty our decision was absolutely correct. I am happy to say that the vast majority of Pakistanis stood by this decision and supported our decision. What really pains me is that some religious extremist parties and groups opposed this decision.

They think as if others are not Muslims. These are the people who considered the Taliban to be a symbol of Islam — and that the Taliban were bringing Islamic renaissance or were practicing the purest form of Islam.

They behaved as if the Northern Alliance, against whom the Taliban were fighting, were non-Muslims! Whereas, in fact, both were Muslims and believers. These extremists were those people who do not talk of “Haqooqul Ibad” (obligations towards fellow human beings).

They do not talk of these obligations because practicing them demands self-sacrifice. Sectarian terrorism has been going on for years.

Everyone of us is fed up of it. It is becoming unbearable. Our peace-loving people are keen to get rid of the Kalashnikov and weapon culture. Everyone is sick of it. The day of reckoning has come.

Do we want Pakistan to become a theocratic state? Do we believe that religious education alone is enough for governance or do we want Pakistan to emerge as a progressive and dynamic Islamic welfare state?

The verdict of the masses is in favor of a progressive Islamic state. This decision, based on the teaching of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and in line with the teachings of Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal will put Pakistan on the path of progress and prosperity.

Let us honestly analyze what the few religious extremists have attempted to do with Pakistan and Islam. First, with regard to Afghanistan, they indulged in agitational activities.

Look at the damage it has caused! Pakistan’s international image was tarnished and we were projected by the international media as ignorant and backward. Our economy suffered.

A number of export orders already placed with Pakistani industry were canceled and no new orders materialized. This led to closure of some factories and unemployment. The poor daily wage earners lost their livelihood.

I think, these people have declared more Muslims as Kafirs (infidels) than motivating the non-Muslims to embrace Islam. Look at the damage they have caused? They have murdered a number of our highly qualified doctors, engineers, civil servants and teachers who were pillars of our society.

Who has suffered? The families of the dead, no doubt. But a greater loss was inflicted on Pakistan because, as I said, we lost the pillars of our society.

Is this the way of life that Islam teaches us? That we fight amongst ourselves and feel scared of fellow Muslims, scared of visiting our places of worship where police have to be deputed outside for protection? Mosques are being misused for propagating and inciting hatred against each other’s sect and beliefs and against the Government, too.

Now, I would like to dwell upon the subject of Madaris or religious schools in some detail. These schools are excellent welfare set-ups where the poor get free board and lodging.

In my opinion, no NGO can match their welfare aspects. Many of the madaris are imparting excellent education. In addition to religious teachings, other subjects such as science education and computer training are also being imparted there.

I am thankful to them for undertaking excellent welfare measures without State funding. However, there are some negative aspects of some madrasas. These few impart only religious education and such education which produces semi-literate religious scholars. This is a weakness.

Very few madaris, I repeat very few of them, are under the influence of politico-religious parties or have been established by them. I know that some of these promote negative thinking and propagate hatred and violence instead of inculcating tolerance, patience and fraternity.

We must remember that historically, the madrasa was a prestigious seat of learning. When Islam was at its zenith, every discipline of learning — mathematics, science, medicine, astronomy and jurisprudence — was taught at these institutions.

And if we study history, we see that from the 7th to 15th century AD, a transfer of technology took place from the Muslims to the rest of the world.

Look at Muslims’ condition today. Islam teaches us to seek knowledge, even if it involves travel to China. I am sure you are aware that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) had told prisoners of war in the Battle of Badar that they would be set free if each of them imparted education to ten Muslims.

Quite obviously, this education could not have been religious education as the prisoners were non-Muslims. So the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was actually referring to worldly education. If we do not believe in education, are we following the teachings of Islam or violating them?

Our peace-loving people are keen to get rid of the Kalashnikov and weapon culture. Every one is sick of it.

The second thing I want to talk about is the concept of Jihad in its totality. In Islam, Jihad is not confined to armed struggles only. Have we ever thought of waging Jihad against illiteracy, poverty, backwardness and hunger? This is the larger Jihad. Pakistan, in my opinion, needs to wage Jihad against these evils.

After the battle of Khyber, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) stated that Jihad-e-Asghar (Smaller Jihad) is over but Jihad-e-Akbar (Greater Jihad) has begun. This meant that armed Jihad — the smaller Jihad — was now over and the greater Jihad against backwardness and illiteracy had started.

By the way we must remember that only the government of the day and not every individual can proclaim armed Jihad. The extremist minority must realize that Pakistan is not responsible of waging armed Jihad in the world.

There is no room for feuds in Islamic teachings. It is imperative that we teach true Islam — tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, justice, fair play, amity and harmony — which is the true spirit of Islam. We must adopt this. We must shun negative thinking.

This Globalist Document is adapted from Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf’s address to the nation given January 12, 2002. For the full text of President Musharraf’s speech, click here.