By Syed Kamran Hashmi
March 18, 2016
Swarms of people poured in the streets to attend the funeral of Mumtaz Qadari, now known as Ghazi Mumtaz Qadri Shaheed (RA) in the Barelvi textbooks. According to media reports, the number of people who joined the prayers surpassed six digits, making it one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Pakistan. Who were these people? Not all of them could be terrorists or their supporters, not anymore in our country where an aggressive military campaign has been launched against insurgents with unprecedented public support. Then how do we explain this contradiction: hate the Taliban but love Qadri?
The answer to the question is anything but simple. First, we have to recognise that the Taliban belong to the Deobandi faction of Sunni Islam, which in Pakistan has aligned itself more with Wahabism, the ideology followed by Saudis. Most supporters of Qadri, on the other hand, follow the Barelvi ideology, which constitute the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent and is named after the 20th century Sufi scholar, Imam Ahmed Raza Khan of Bareli, India.
Since Barelvis follow the mystic traditions of Islam, many analysts believe they — unlike Deobandis and Ahle Hadees — preach a peaceful and modern version of Islam, a version that promotes tolerance and pluralism. Some of these experts even suggest that a civil war did not break out in Pakistan because of the relentless focus of Barelvis in establishing a spiritual connection with the Creator and emphasising on service to humanity. Had the majority followed Wahhabism here, they reckon, Pakistan would have been converted into Damascus or Tripoli. Whether or not it is true we will find out.
Being the disciples of great mystics like Ali bin Usman Hajveri (Data Saheb) and Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer, I also agree with the idea that Barelvis would save Pakistan from descending into chaos thinking they would stand against violence in every form. How could they justify the killing of a human being, let alone an innocent person trying to save a poor non-Muslim woman in jail? Moreover, I have examples of Barelvis scholars accepting martyrdom in the line of duty to promote peace.
Do you remember Mufti Sarfaraz Ahmed Naeemi, the principal of Jamia Naeemia, Lahore, a well respected Barelvi cleric who died in a suicide attack for condemning terror strikes on civilian population? While expressing his views in favour of the military operation in Swat and knowing it could endanger his own life, he had recommended, without mincing his words, that army should eliminate each and every Taliban, once and for all.
As controversial as he is, let me also include Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri in the list. He published a fatwa against terrorism in 2010 when every major city of Pakistan was wrecked with suicide attacks, its streets drenched in blood. “The model given by Taliban was never the model of Islam given by the Prophet (pbuh) in median,” he said in one of his addresses. “People issuing the decree in favour of suicide attacks do not know what Islam is or what the Sunnah of the prophet (PBUH) is.”
So naturally when I saw images of the crowd in support of the person who had committed a murder, I was unable to comprehend the phenomenon. What was driving their passion? How do they support an atrocity like this even when the most eloquent legal minds of the nation has explained in simple words that the killing of Salmaan Taseer cannot be justified? The first conclusion that I drew was that Barelvis who may be otherwise tolerant and compassionate take a harder line than the Deobandis on the issue of blasphemy. They can go to any extent to punish the accused, which includes killing, prosecuting or public lynching without investigating the truth or exploring the reality. For them, the honour of the prophet (pbuh), if questioned, demands immediate action, no matter what. Inaction in that situation equals treason.
I also found out that even when they kill an innocent person they believe since it is an act of love, an expression of solidarity with the prophet (pbuh), it is still justified. As such, they are convinced with the rightfulness of the action of Qadri, and the irreproachability of the current law that deals with blasphemy. These two points together also explain why people rush to punish the person accused of blasphemy and try to kill him/her on the spot.
My third point is the most critical to understand. But, it will help you, like it helped me to comprehend how the Barelvis decided that the former governor had blasphemed even when he paid full respect to the Apostle of God and did not say anything disrespectful. Many Sunnis believe that the person who does not consider a kafir (infidel/non-Muslim) a kafir is a kafir himself. Now apply the same principle to the current situation. It will present like this: a person who does not consider a blasphemer a blasphemer is a blasphemer himself. And that is exactly what Taseer did. He went in support of Asia Bibi who allegedly had admitted her crime. That action in turn made him a blasphemer in the eyes of all Sunnis including Deobandis even when his devotion to the prophet (pubh) was absolute.
Now for a moment, imagine this is where we stand on the most ‘tolerant’ sect among all. If they come into power where would the country go? Would it be anywhere different from Saudi Arabia?
Syed Kamran Hashmi is a US-based freelance columnist.