War on Reason

Published: June 1, 2013
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co 
in Lahore 

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@tribune.com.pk

In traditional Islamic jurisprudence, there is considerable debate on when an individual who has gone “missing” can be pronounced dead. The primary focus was when the wife can be declared a widow for the purposes of inheritance and remarriage, etc. The position in the Hanafi School varies from 90 to 120 years since the “missing” person’s date of birth, a fair bit of wait. It is always unnerving in Pakistan to talk about “missing” persons, waiting periods and closure. However, the intention today is to draw attention to something else. Imam Abu Hanifa believed that the maximum period a woman can remain pregnant (gestation period) with a child was two years; Imam Malik, Imam Shaafaee and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal believed it to be four. We now know that to be medically impossible. All the four great Imams were amongst the best jurists of all times, with unparalleled nuance and insight, yet they did not get some of these things completely right. Why? Simple, because they were not men of science, they laid no claim to be as such and the scientific facts we hold to be self-evident today were not completely established or, at least, known to them at the time.

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has no great men of science and the position seems to be identical on the religious jurist front. The CII has recently said that DNA evidence should not be acceptable as primary evidence in rape cases. The declaration is an affront to religion, science and basic sensitivity towards rape victims. To get some perspective on rape, Alexander Pope’s, “Rape of the lock” was proposed to be taken out of the curriculum because it had the undesirable word “rape” in it, while we have no problems with actual rape and its perpetrators — some priorities, right?

The CII has said this despite a relatively recent Supreme Court judgment, where the Court upheld DNA evidence as admissible. The petitioner in that case was one of the finest lawyers in this country, Mr Salman Raja, himself. The CII further said that the blasphemy law needs no amendment and other assorted gems. In a country where the Constitution not only lays down state religion but also stipulates that no law can be made against injunctions of religion, has an Islamised criminal justice system, a Federal Shariat Court, one should pause and ask, are we not trying a bit too hard? A body comparable with the CII in principle is the Guardian Council in Iran, an incredibly regressive body of jurists who act as a supra-legislative chamber.

Parliament is already under a legal obligation to make laws in accordance or, at least, not in conflict with religious dictates. What justification then is there for the existence of a body like the CII? Perhaps, because nobody wants the heat; in any event, it has only advisory jurisdiction, etc. True as that may be, the CII and the likes define the discourse and the space available for rational dialogue. And precisely for that reason needs to be abolished.

The strength and depth of Islamic jurisprudence has been its vibrancy, with Ijtihad being the primary vehicle. A discussion on the closing of the “gates of Ijtihad” and difference between small and capital “I”, Ijtihad are probably not suited for an opinion piece and I am certainly not equipped to do it. Yet, a basic template was laid down by Allama Iqbal, where ijtihad is conducted by Parliament. The collective will of the people decides matters of statecraft and the application of religious principles (if absolutely necessary) to it. It will not always be perfect, sometimes will be outright horrendous (the 2nd amendment) yet all things being equal, is still the best bet; actually the only bet. Somewhat ironically, the sole ownership of Iqbal, like much else now rests with idiotic conspiracy theorists and hate-mongers.

The refusal to think or think less than rationally is not restricted to matters of spirituality. Mr Imran Khan implores the new federal government to start shooting down drones. This is Mr Khan employing the “water-kit” model of politics, if you will. Drones are illegal and need to stop and the job of cleaning out the terrorists has to ideally be done by the Pakistani state. Considering the most recent strike, this might not be the best time to oppose their effectiveness. Apart from illegality, the main objection to drone strikes should be that they also reduce intellectual space. It gives the terror apologists an excuse to get riled up, they are ready and willing to be riled up by very little, yet the illegality of drones gives them the additional push. The only really interesting thing about the serious national debate in Pakistan on drones, terrorism and sovereignty is that there is practically none.

With the abdication of this space for rational discourse, it is useful to remember that things do not remain the same. The most harrowing example remains when Salmaan Taseer was assassinated because disagreement on the current temporal blasphemy law provisions in the Penal Code was construed by some as blasphemy. A lot of space had to be ceded for something like that to happen, more was ceded in the aftermath, now there is not much space left to surrender. For the liberal, secular and democratic voices to retain the very little influence that they have right now, a fight has to be put up. That is true for the role of religion and the tenability of the federation. The demand for abolishing the CII and the Federal Shariat Court might seem unrealistic right now, yet it has to be made. In this instance, the case for abolishing the CII has to be made for the rape victims and for decency. Also to stop making the demand, to stop protesting means to surrender. And it never means status quo, it will get worse. To quote one of the most eloquent religious conservatives, GK Chesterton, “If you leave a thing alone, you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone, it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white, you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post, you must have a new white post.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (40)

  • gp65
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:24PM

    The voice of reason in a sea of unreason. Stay safe Saroop.


  • A J Khan
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:33PM

    There is no place for a supra constitutional body like CII. It should be packed and no more money should be wasted on such worthless activities.


  • TrueSecular
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:38PM

    There is no hope for Pakistan unless the liberal and secular forces take unequivocal stand against Islam.Recommend

  • Saqib Shah
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:48PM


    “to stop protesting means to surrender.” Spot on, sir! We must never give up and keep on fighting until this species of heartless maulvis is eliminated from our land.


  • Jamshed
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:48PM

    Its already too late. Knock down your houses, get off the electric grid (the state will help a lot with this) and start making a cave. Beware however, the womenfolk must still wear a hijab or burqa. If you do this, you will be living life in accordance with CII’s Islam.


  • Parvez
    Jun 1, 2013 - 11:52PM

    When you are good……….. you are very good.
    What you suggest must be undertaken by men of vision ………….. now prey tell us where do find such men ?


  • Nadir
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:11AM

    How will all these institutions be abolished? The state has to accommodate individuals who can use religion to manipulate a mob and cause a ruckus! For our leaders its much easier to appease them by giving them titles and positions.


  • Sara
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:25AM

    You just say it. Outright. With a bang. Stay safe indeed.


  • Ali Rizvi
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:42AM

    As for ijtehad, I for sure know at least one shia molana to be present on this body. I also for sure know the shia school of thought’ s point on this: DNA is indeed part of all kinds of evidences produced as primary evidence in a court of law. I cant understand how thos molana on this particular committee allowed this decision to pass? And if he was nt coming in favor, why did he npt explicitly mention it that shias dont need to follow this law.


  • Lanai
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:43AM

    The problem is that people won’t listen to Mr. Saroop despite being most logical. That’s one of the beauties of ignorant societies where people just follow the mullahs in absolute blind faith.


  • Mujtaba
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:49AM

    Best line of the article
    “Mr Imran Khan implores the new federal government to start shooting down drones. This is Mr Khan employing the “water-kit” model of politics, if you will.”

    Why we make it too simple and emotional and start asking to shoot down the drones. Shooting down the drones is not the only solution and one must think about the repercussions of this act before asking for it.


  • Absar Ahmed Khan
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:56AM

    Ijtihad done by parliament? I think in secular terms the parliament can do what it wants to do without a label of “Ijtehad” if that is your point. Because there is a wide consensus of opinion among the jurists, both classical and modern, that Ijtihad cannot be performed by a layman; there are certain qualifications for being a mujtahid.

    Besides, abolishing federal shariat court or CII is impossible in Pakistan as for today, so I would rather say it must be overhauled through talks, and executive must take ot seriously. I am saying its impossible as even when the minorities are guarded by constitution they are still persecuted. The state despite willing cannot yet safeguard its minorities for decades now yet you talk about abolishing shariah court and CII that have stayed there always with full backing of executive power.


  • Mad-Paki
    Jun 2, 2013 - 1:08AM

    What is reason? No one has really tried to define it. Even if they did everyone would end up with a different definition which would make it relative anyway.

    It has become fashionable to invoke reason and call the other side as irrational in the defense of one’s point of view.

    Does claiming reason make one’s argument rational and point of view righteous? Honestly, I dont know but it is a good rhetorical construct to force your opponents on the backfoot.


  • F
    Jun 2, 2013 - 1:23AM

    Very well spoken – you are a brave man.

    The abuse of Islam by Islamist Mullahs is outright dangerous. However, no one dare speak against them. The public – ever believing and emotional is with them. The politicians continue to accommodate their demands. Mullahs are winning even though they have not won a single election. Justice and science be damned.

    Now please put on a bullet proof vest.


  • Jun 2, 2013 - 4:41AM

    Interestingly, Jinnah probably did not subscribe to the 4 religious Sunni schools of thought nor been represented by the CII chaired by mostly Wahhabi or Deoband clerics, who incidentally abused authority by having an elected parliamentarian illegally oversee that meeting. It brings further question on their judgement, ethics and morals and how they could ever decide on such important serious legal and scientific matters besides a lack of intellect or knowledge.

    There really needs to be a separation of religious ideology from state, to stop the abuse of religion or religion being exploited by hypocrites and extremists, especially given the current affairs and ideologies. It is really time for moderates to rise up and not give into such ideological conservatism and manipulation over reason.


  • Jun 2, 2013 - 5:35AM

    Secular and liberals in Pakistan has the problem that they can not come out in the streets ,either unwilling due to fear or laziness and inability to organize the like minded people Street protest is a format which is loud and visible widely.but a fear of being recognized and inclusion of their name in the hit list. . In democracy ( or any other system). collective voice only is heard . Arrange/ ensure a platform for its wide circulation in local language print and electronic media continuously. A society built on faith reasoning is the first causality there.


  • Engr.S.T.Hussain
    Jun 2, 2013 - 7:11AM

    It is time that Pakistani decide that they decide they want Pakistan of Quaid e Azam or Pakistan of Mullaha Who have been damaging Musilams


  • Mirza
    Jun 2, 2013 - 8:43AM

    A thought provoking Op Ed by SI, thanks ET for that. There are lots of old beliefs that need to change. It is great to know that women can remain pregnant for several years not just 9 months. Also the belief that nobody can tell the sex of the baby prior to birth. Yet another was science cannot create, yet science has created from (now) millions of test tube babies and cloned animals, and the list goes on and on. We have to to change with time and that is why Ijtehad was a part of our religion.
    As far as shooting down the drones, IK has raised a lot of money in the US and he can be labelled as persona non grata by the US govt. In addition Pakistani origin US citizens who have been financing IK and his good projects and election campaign could be tried for treason if they continue their support to people who have threatened a war on the US.


  • Dilbar Jahan
    Jun 2, 2013 - 8:57AM

    Say it loud and stay safe. We need you, Mr. Ijaz!


  • Zaman Khan
    Jun 2, 2013 - 9:58AM

    in the presence of parliament and courts tgere is no need of cci


  • observer
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:38PM


    What is reason? No one has really tried to define it.

    Allow me.

    To base your entire Jurisprudence on the belief that a woman may stay pregnant for 2 years or even 4 years, is NOT reason. To believe that it will not exceed 9 months , because that is a known scientific fact, is reason.

    Now we can start with this and construct the whole edifice brick by brick.

    Does claiming reason make one’s argument rational and point of view righteous?

    Righteous or not. Reason certainly makes the point of view ‘factually’ right.


  • Feroz
    Jun 2, 2013 - 12:48PM

    The liberal, secular and democratic voice is a myth that has worn thin over 65 years. These liberals can be found in a few drawing rooms and occasional article in the Media. Their is not even an iota of conviction in them, even for any process of change to get initiated. Under these circumstances it is convenient to shed crocodile tears, now and then.
    It is an excellent article with the right noises, unlikely to be anything more than water on a ducks back.


  • Doctor
    Jun 2, 2013 - 1:15PM

    Mr. Reason get your facts together. A woman can remain pregnant for over 2 years due to malnourishment.


  • theCat
    Jun 2, 2013 - 1:32PM

    What’s the point of an elected parliament when we have organizations like the CII dictating our laws? Who elected these overseers? What makes them better than you and I? On the contrary these men have an education from madrassahs; they believe in a lot of old nonsense. Where is Stalin when you really need him?


  • Freeba Mufti
    Jun 2, 2013 - 2:26PM

    The author is clearly misguided about gestation period and spreading falsehoods about imams(without citing any refrence)..If he had bothered to read the Holybook he would known that gestation period is same as what medical science says.


  • Doctor 2
    Jun 2, 2013 - 3:32PM

    The longest human pregnancy period recorded is 46 years in India see link below:

    The Fatwa for missing husband is not given as per the Imam Abu Hanifa ruling but on the ruling of Majority Ulema which is about 8 Years…….

    If there are not worthy people in ICC then worthy people should be brought into it not start a propaganda against it………Recommend

  • ashar
    Jun 2, 2013 - 3:41PM

    Like NFP of Dawn, you too have a set of admirers who do not lose a second to admire and agree with you, however your lines

    The collective will of the people decides matters of statecraft and the application of religious principles (if absolutely necessary) to it

    actually describe your point of view very clearly and here lies the conflict. The matter of declaring ahmedis non Muslims was decided through parliament would you agree with that, No. You will produce a load of reason and logic to defy the will of people and where the will of people can be used the other way round you stand behind it.

  • Maula Jat
    Jun 2, 2013 - 4:43PM

    Let me state three points. First, Bhutto was overthrown by the army in 1977 but the ground was prepared by a movement under the banner of Nizam-e-Mustapha. Secondly, Islamic revolution took place in Iran in 1979 whereby Shia clergy assumed power. Thirdly, the Saudis were unnerved by the rise of a Shia power. They were ready to support Sunni resurgence all over, including the subcontinent. With this background, Zia started his Islamization of the Pakistani state and society. There is no way of undoing it. One reason being that Zia assessed the ethos of Pakistani masses. The westernized elite should keep opposing it, to resist greater excesses.


  • observer
    Jun 2, 2013 - 4:56PM


    The matter of declaring ahmedis non Muslims was decided through parliament would you agree with that, No. You will produce a load of reason and logic to defy the will of people and where the will of people can be used the other way round you stand behind it.

    Was the Parliament, in doing so representing the ‘will of the people’?
    There is a simple test for that. Consider the Parties agitating against the Ahmadis. Consider, how many votes have they received in any election. Parliaments can be coerced. Or, being human they can simply err in their judgement. Reason demands that we rectify the error once we know that it is an error.
    In short- You can not justify the DNA fatwa by invoking the will of the people.


  • Jason Hollier
    Jun 2, 2013 - 5:20PM

    @ashar: The will of the majority? What utter nonsense. The will of the majority of the people in the US was to keep slaves and deny civil rights. We need the rights of the minority to be protected. Based upon your logic there would still be segregation in the US.


  • Jason Hollier
    Jun 2, 2013 - 7:08PM

    @Doctor: My God! Is this what passes for medical knowledge in Pakistan? You must have your medical degree from a local madrassah.


  • ashar
    Jun 2, 2013 - 10:49PM

    @Jason Hollier:
    And the slaves of US were freed by a dictator named Abraham Lincoln. You did not understand the entire debate my friend, please first read and then comment. There is no comparison between slaves of US and minorities of Pakistan.


  • raj Muhammad
    Jun 3, 2013 - 12:08AM

    in response to your “wise” statement “Imam Abu Hanifa believed that the maximum period a woman can remain pregnant (gestation period) with a child was two years;……” please note that strong texta period of 2 years from Abu Hanifa and 2 and half from other “imams” is the minimum compulsory time period for mothers to feed their babies (breast feeding, however they can hire other women or manage otherwise=their own bresat feeding is not the only option in Islam), it’s not gestational period janab! Be extra carefull in quoting any of the religion of world because that matters a lot to some people, especially when your statements are so empty from the core and are given without clearing your own cocept even.


  • raj Muhammad
    Jun 3, 2013 - 12:12AM

    a period of 2 years from Abu Hanifa and 2 and half from other “imams” is the minimum compulsory time period for mothers to feed their babies (breast feeding, however they can hire other women or manage otherwise=their own bresat feeding is not the only option in Islam), its not gestational age janab@Jason Hollier:


  • Jun 3, 2013 - 1:11AM

    What were you to say if it was your house which got droned?


  • V. C. Bhutani
    Jun 3, 2013 - 3:01AM

    The entire raison d’être and ethos of the State and Society of Pakistan is based on Islam, something that Jinnah must have understood in his saner moments after 14 August 1947. But I have not seen evidence that he did have that realization.
    In this day and age, however, it is hopeless to expect that a State can be based on a religion, any religion. Any State of about 200 in the world today would contain some people whose religion was different from the religion of the majority. Is it in order that all such minorities in all countries should be treated as second class citizens, as they undoubtedly are in Pakistan? That makes nonsense of any theory of State. It offends against common sense to have to think that a religious scripture gave sanction to such a State.
    Jinnah was at his best intellectual integrity on 11 August 1947 when he said that a citizen’s religion was his business and not a concern of the State.


  • V. C. Bhutani
    Jun 3, 2013 - 3:02AM

    Unfortunately, those who wrote the Constitution of Pakistan did not think like Jinnah. People of all kinds in Pakistan do not tire of extolling Jinnah as Father of Pakistan but no one says that Islamic Republic of Pakistan was complete negation of everything that Jinnah stood for.
    Pakistan, or any other country, if it is founded on and wedded to Islam (or any other religion), cannot have a golden future.
    Consider the 58 Islamic countries of the world. Do they aggregate to more than a fraction of the resources of the US? And let us not pour derision on other non-Islamic countries many of which have done very well as States.
    If Islamic countries remain Islamic, then they shall never grow to become more than the backwaters of human civilization – BECAUSE they are Islamic countries.


  • V. C. Bhutani
    Jun 3, 2013 - 3:03AM

    Let us not pour derision, invective, and ridicule on categories like secular, for instance. That category is the only category which can theoretically ensure justice for all citizens of a State. If in practice secularism is badly practiced by some people, then that is a reflection on those people, not on secularism.
    V. C. Bhutani, Edinburgh, 2 Jun 2013, 2000 GMT


  • Genesis
    Jun 3, 2013 - 5:45PM

    Science,logic,reason does not claim to deliver truths all the time.Science has the answer to every question that is asked.However Science also reserves the right to change answers should additional information become available.You cannot say this for religion.It is dogmatic,opinionated and thinks it is immutable.


  • M.Bilal
    Jun 4, 2013 - 9:07PM

    Unfortunately Mr. Saroop Ijaz has no idea who Allam Iqbal is


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