Islam's response to contemporary world problems (51)



In this issue we will discuss "Mul'lahism" (Mul'lah: orthodox Muslim clergy).

(You can consult the Holy Quran for references at


This is the rigorous view of the so-called orthodoxy, which would come to an understanding with the modern democratic tendencies of the Muslim people, only on condition that the Mul'lah (approximate translation of Muslim "clergy") be guaranteed the ultimate right to judge the validity of democratic decisions, based on the Shariah.

If accepted, this demand would be tantamount to placing ultimate legislative authority not in the hands of God, but in the hands of the orthodox or some other school of clergy. If one considers the enormous power placed in their hands against the backdrop of the fundamental differences that prevail among the Muslim clergy themselves as to their understanding of what is and what is not Shariah, the consequences are horrendous. There are too many schools of jurisprudence among the orthodox. Even within each school of jurisprudence, the clergy are not always unanimous on any decree. Again, their position as to what is the true Will of God as expressed in the Islamic Shariah has changed in different periods of history.

This presents a complex problem for the contemporary world of Islam, which still seems to be in search of its true identity. It is becoming increasingly apparent to Muslim intellectuals that the only rallying point among the clergy is their uncompromising demand that the Shariah be enforced.

The masses are confused: would you prefer the Word of God and the Holy Prophet of Islam (IpbD) or that of men in a godless and fearless society to guide and shape your political statements? This question is extremely difficult for an ordinary person, who finds himself in a state of bewilderment and confusion. The masses of many Muslim countries worship Islam and would be willing to die for the Will of God and the honour of the Holy Prophet of Islam (IpbD). Yet, there is something within the whole scenario that leaves them confused, upset and very uneasy. Despite their love for God and the Holy Prophet (lpbD), it evokes many bloody memories of past governments that were under the influence of the Mul'lahs or that exploited Mul'lahism for their political gain.

As for Muslim politicians, they seem to be divided and indecisive. Some cannot resist exploiting this situation, siding with and favouring the Mul'lahs. However, they cherish the secret hope that at election time, it will not be the Mul'lah but they themselves who will be elected as strong defenders of Shariah. The masses would rather trust them as guardians of the Shariah than the Mul'lah. Life would be simpler and more realistic in their hands than under the stubborn and inflexible control of the "custodians of heaven". The most scrupulous among the politicians are the far-sighted who consider this a dangerous game. They are fast becoming a minority. Politics and hypocrisy and truth and scruples, or any noble virtue for that matter, do not seem to go hand in hand. In general, intellectuals are increasingly leaning towards democracy. They love Islam, but they fear theocratic rule. They see democracy, not as an alternative to Islam, but genuinely believe that as a political philosophy, it is the Holy Quran itself that proposes democracy:


"Those who listen to their Lord, and fulfil prayer and decide their affairs by mutual consultation, and spend from what We have provided for them." (42:39)


"And consult them in important matters; and when you are determined, put your trust in Al'lah. Verily, Al'lah loves the one who puts his trust in Him". (3:160).

As a clear result of this critical struggle between the various factions, young Muslim countries, such as Pakistan, find themselves in a gibberish of confusion and contradiction. The electorate is temperamentally adverse to the return of Mul'lahs to the constituent assemblies in significant numbers. Even at the height of Shariah fever, barely five to ten percent of Mul'lahs win elections. However, having committed themselves to God's Law in exchange for the additional support of the Mul'lahs, the politicians find themselves in an unenviable position. Deep down, they are utterly convinced that acceptance of Shariah is, in reality, contradictory to the principle of legislating through a democratically elected house of representatives.

If the authority to legislate rests with God, which a Muslim cannot deny, then, as a logical consequence, it is the theologians and Mul'lahs who possess the prerogative to understand and define Shariah law. In this scenario, the whole exercise of electing legislative bodies becomes pointless and meaningless. After all, Members of Parliament are no longer required to sign only on the dotted lines indicated to them by the Mul'lahs.

It is tragic enough to know that neither the politician nor the intellectual has ever sincerely attempted to understand the form or forms of government that the Holy Quran actually proposes or recognises.

Divided loyalties between state and religion.

There is no contradiction between the Word of God and the Action of God. There is no clash between allegiance to one's state and allegiance to religion in Islam. But this question does not concern Islam alone.

There are many episodes in the history of man where an established state was confronted with this question.

The Roman Empire, especially during the first three centuries of the Christian period, blamed Christianity for divided loyalties between the Empire and Christianity. This accusation by the state resulted in the extremely savage and inhumane persecution of the early Christians in their homes, for the alleged crime of treason and disloyalty to the Emperor.

This struggle between Church and State has always been an important factor in the making of European history. Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, blamed Roman Catholicism for dividing loyalties and claimed that the first loyalty was owed to the French people and the government of France and that no Vatican Pope would be allowed to govern the affairs of Roman Catholics in France, nor would Roman Catholicism be allowed to interfere in the affairs of the State.

In recent history, our own community, the Muslim Ahmadis, face serious problems in Pakistan on the same basis. When the influence of the medievalist clergy began to resurge under the protection of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan's longest ruling military dictator, the Ahmadis gradually became popular victims of this old accusation of divided loyalties. The Government of Pakistan under General Zia even proceeded to issue a sort of White Paper against the Ahmadis, proclaiming that the Ahmadis were loyal neither to Islam nor to the state of Pakistan.

It was the same spirit of madness possessing new subjects. The wine is still the same, even if the glasses have changed.

More recently, during the notorious Salman Rushdie affair, Muslims in Britain and many parts of Europe faced a similar problem when they were accused of having divided loyalties. Although its intensity did not reach fever pitch, the heavy damage it does to inter-community relations should not be underestimated.

(lpbD) - God's peace and blessings be upon him.

(To be continued in the next instalment, number 52, with an issue that needs special clarification, namely whether "should religion have exclusive legislative authority").