Secularism and Islam by Shah N. Khan


You can post your views in Pakistan Post the leading discussion group of Pakistan

Like many other Islamic States, the government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a secular government. Its legislators, bureaucrats or the ministers do not have to be a qualified Aalim (scholar of Islam) but now they must have the bachelor's degree in liberal arts or science or mathematics. Many of Pakistani laws do not conform to Sharia that is silent on many aspects of modern life and there is no standardized version of Shariah acceptable to different sects of Muslims


Secularism is the view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education. The word secular means ‘worldly rather than spiritual’ and ‘Not specifically relating to religion or to a religious body such as secular music and secular government.  Most of the 57 member countries of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) having a population of about 1.20 Billion are called Islamic states only because they are inhabited predominantly by Muslims – not because of the type of government they have. Only in a few countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Nigeria many of the orthodox Islamic laws prevail but no uniformity exists either in judicial procedures or the form of the government.   

The spiritual and political leadership of Muslims stand separated since 7th century after assassination of  the fourth pious Caliph Hazrat Ali (RA), son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad (sws).

Like many other Islamic States, the government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a secular government. Its legislators, bureaucrats or the ministers do not have to be a qualified Aalim (scholar of Islam). Many of Pakistanis laws do not conform to Sharia that is silent on many aspects of modern life and there is no standardized version of Shariah acceptable to different sects of Muslims.     

The only thing that raises the issue whether Pakistan is a republican Islamic state or secular state is the provision in the constitution of Pakistan that the laws of the country would not be repugnant to Holy Quran and Sunnah.

Islam Does Not Prescribe Any Political System:  

Islam does not prescribe theocracy or any political system. Only broad moral principles are given for evolving our own political and judicial systems to dispense justice to all irrespective of cast, race or creed. 

Equal Rights for Minorities

In accordance with Islamic traditions for minorities equal rights are guaranteed. They are free to follow their personal laws for marriage, divorce, inheritance etc. They pay the same taxes as Muslims and allowed to collect religious tax like tithe privately. There is no forced conversion to Islam as it is prohibited in Holy Quran. Often the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan has been held by a Non-Muslim. There is representation of minorities in the legislative assemblies. Quran is a book of guidance and most of the moral standards of Islam are not in conflict with the moral standards of different religions.   

In Pakistan like most Islamic but a few secular countries there is a ban on prostitution, alcohol as also homosexuality, adultery and fornication, blasphemy and nudity.

Rights of Women Are Protected

Women in most of the Islamic countries like Pakistan enjoy equal rights and do not have to wear veil or burqa as was made mandatory by Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Women are free to engage in any profession they like including fashion designing, modeling, acting, dancing and singing but not prostitution. There are women who are movie stars, politicians, airplane pilots, lawyers, doctors,  writers , journalists, computer experts and business executives to name a few professions. Beauty parlors in big cities are doing roaring business and their number is spreading. But persecution of women takes place among ignorant and backward classes of the population. Quite a few organizations have sprung up for emancipation of women.  See article Islam and Dignity of women

Islam is not opposed to Multi-Culturism

Contrary to what a few orthodox Islamic scholars say Islam is not opposed to multi-culturism, modernity and secularism. Ayatullah Mutahari (Shaheed) Tehran University citing example of verse 2.170 succinctly described the right approach toward old convictions.  The Qur'an constantly reiterates the view that the idea of antiquity of an idea is neither the evidence of its falsity, nor is it a testimony of its truthfulness. Antiquity affects material objects; but the eternal truths of existence never become old and outmoded. Truths like: “God changes not what is in a people, until they change what is in themselves ...” (13:11) are true forever and ever... "

There is a small but vocal minority who demands adoption of Sharia, though there is a Shariat Bench under the Supreme Court of Pakistan to deal with cases relating to Shariah. Few years back this bench had issued a judgment banning employment of interest in banking operations on the plea that Holy Quran prohibits interest. This judgment was stayed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on an appeal by a nationalized bank with the tacit approval of the Government.  The gist of the matter is that the Arabic word ‘riba’ is translated as Interest by some and as ‘usury’ by others. Both bible and Quran prohibit usury, which means an excessive or an exorbitant or illegally high rate of interest. A task was assigned to Islamic ideological Council of Pakistan to find a solution for loss of purchasing power of money under the fiat currency system due to inflation. It is not known what solution,  if any, has been suggested. The point that where the interest rates are regulated by the Government they cannot be regarded as usury continues to be controversial.  See article The Differences between Riba, Usury and Interest

The moderate Muslims believe that Judicial matters in Shariah needs to be separated from those related to ethics and code of conduct. And juristic doctrine of Shariah needs to be modified, expanded and codified according to the needs of modern times and the best way is to frame new laws or amend the old ones in conformity with the underlying spirit of Holy Quran and Sunnah by an act of parliament.      

Shariah is taught along with studies of Holy Quran and Hadiths and Islamic philosophy at madarssahs. Most the students who pass the final tests from such madarssah can find job only as Khateebs for sermons and leading prayers at mosques. In recent years the courses in madarssahs have been expanded to include liberal arts and sciences so that the qualified students may be able to find jobs in different fields. 

During past several centuries and never before in the history of madarssah they were used to preach militancy. But in 1970s after occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet Union Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and USA helped in forming a few madarssahs in the tribal areas of North West Frontier of Pakistan to prepare militants called as Jihadis to engage Soviet troops in gorilla warfare.   

Islam condemns killing of innocent persons  - even in time of war. The reason why such organizations like Alquida and Taliban resort to terrorism is political exploitation and misuse of the concept of Jihad, which can be declared only by the state for its defense. The activities of these terrorist outfits have nothing to do with Islamic doctrine. Generally Muslims regard them as bad fish spoiling the whole pond.

Related Article Islam is Religion of Peace