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Mainstream, VOL L, No 50, December 1, 2012

Attack on Malala — Islamic or Un-Islamic?

Monday 3 December 2012

by ASGHAR ALI ENGINEER

The recent attack on Malala Yusafzai, a 14-year-old tribal girl from the Pakhtunkhwah province of Pakistan, shocked not only Pakistan but the whole world. There was near unanimity among the people of Pakistan that the attack was not justified and there were demonstrations against it and collective prayers were organised for her recovery. Even tribal leaders from her town condemned this outrage. This news was carried prominently by the international media. Fortunately she survived and is reportedly stable in a Birmingham hospital where she was flown to by an air ambulance provided by the government of Dubai.

The Taliban of Pakistan claimed that the attack was carried out by them and their leader, Maulana Fazlullah, is hiding in Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan has requested the Government of Afghanistan to hand over the Maulana and his colleagues. It is a matter of shame that a religious leader should be involved in the attempted murder of a teenage girl. Her ‘crime’ was that she was campaigning for education for girls.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan has suppor-ted the shooting of Malala on religious ground and described her as ‘spy of the West’. Justifying the attack, the Taliban further said: “For this espionage, infidels gave her awards and rewards. And Islam orders killing of those who are spying for enemies.” The second reason they gave was: “She used to propagate against the mujahideen (holy warriors) to defame (the) Taliban. The Holy Quran says that people propa-gating against Islam and Islamic forces would be killed.”

As it is obvious, these are extremely weak defences of the attack on her. Firstly, if the Taliban know Islam, a child cannot be punished unless he/she attains adulthood. Only those who can understand the consequences of what they are doing (people with the power of reason) are liable to punishment in Islam. Even prayers, fasting or hajj are not obligatory on children. Secondly, niyyah (intention) is necessary for the performance of an act in Islam. Even prayer or fasting without niyyah will not be acceptable.

The weakness of the arguments is obvious from the fact that the Taliban have equated the campaign for education of girls with ‘spying’. This is quite ridiculous. And before trying to execute somebody, the crime has to be proved in a court of law. And Islamic punishments cannot be executed by anyone, one has to take the case to the court of Qadi who would hear that case, demand proof and ask for witnesses. Even as grave a crime as zina (illegitimate sexual intercourse or adulterous relationship) requires four witnesses who have witnessed the act of penetration itself for imposing the Islamic punishment of hundred lashes (or stoning to death though there is controversy about this punishment).
No one can take law into one’s own hand and execute anyone who has committed the crime. There will be then total anarchy in the country. Only a duly constituted government can appoint a properly qualified Qadi in Islamic law who can try the accused and pronounce appropriate sentence. There can be mitigating circumstances also that a Qadi has to take into account.

Not only that the Taliban are not the govern-ment, they are not even fit for being called mujahideen. A mujahid fights only in the way of Allah (fi sablillah) which itself is an act of great responsibility and it means that there would be no selfish desire involved or no arbitrariness at all. The Taliban’s acts are far from Islamic or in the way of Allah (fi sabilillah) as more often than not, they are oppressive, exploitative and totally arbitrary besides being inhuman.

HOW strange that the Taliban are describing the campaign for education as an act of ‘spying’. Can there be a more irresponsible and arbitrary judgment than this? Do the mujahideen act so irresponsibly or since they had decided to murder an innocent teenage girl, are they trying to find lame excuses and labelling it as ‘Islamic’? They can deceive themselves but not those who are experts in Islamic law and the method of dispensing Islamic justice.

The Taliban should know that a Qadi or a mufti, while calling something ‘Islamic’, has to quote from the Qur’an or sunnah or both and where there is any ambiguity, to quote the opinion of some Imam or founder of any one of the schools of law and not just describe anything one wants to do as Islamic. It is a gross error to do so and much more so if done intentionally which is what the Taliban have done in this case. Just by calling something Islamic it does not become Islamic.

There is total unanimity among all Islamic scholars that ‘ilm (knowledge) is obligatory on all Muslim men and Muslim women (muslimah). The Prophet (PBUH) did not use the word Muslim which would have included both men and women but mentioned Muslim men and women separately so that Muslim women are not left out in the matter of acquiring knowledge. And the Prophet (PBUH) made acquisition of knowledge for both men and women obligatory. Do the Taliban deny this hadith?

Can then acquiring knowledge be equated with spying? The Prophet (PBUH) is also reported to have said that a man who has a daughter and educates her and marries her with an educated man will enter paradise. The Prophet (PBUH) even goes to the extent of saying that ‘I take guarantee for his entering the paradise.’ The Qur’an makes us pray ‘O Lord! Increase me in knowledge (Ya rabbi zidni ilman)’ and all commentators agree that this applies to both man and woman. The Qur’an describes knowledge as light and ignorance as darkness and again the Qur’an makes us pray: ‘O! Allah take me out of darkness into light.’

All this clearly shows that what the Taliban have done is patently un-Islamic and must be unequivocally condemned. All those responsible for the dastardly act must be tried in a court of law and, if found guilty, given stringent punishment.

Recipient of the Right to Livelihood Award (alternative Nobel Prize), Dr Asghar Ali Engineer is the Chairman, Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai. He can be contacted at e-mail: HYPERLINK "mailto:csss@mtnl.net.in" csss@mtnl.net.in

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