The Origin and
Fate of the Pakistani Mullahs
MULLAH now holds the Pakistani society by the throat. His version
of Islam has plunged Pakistan into an epidemic of honor killings,
hate murders and mob executions of fellow Muslims and minorities
alike. The society is paying the price for allowing the Mullah
to propagate extremism and intolerance from the pulpit.
is no ordained priesthood in Islam. Every Muslim can be an Imam
and can deliver a sermon. No ceremonial attire is needed for the
Imam or any special dress for the congregation. Who then is this
Mullah and from where did he creep into our religion?
obviously could not have been through trade and commerce interaction
with earlier Christianity. Islam rather attracted large numbers
of its early conversions from the ranks of Catholic Christianity
who wanted to escape the straitjacket of the Church and its priesthood
to a priest-free religion.
majority of the historians agree on Zoroastrianism to be the genesis
of Mullaism. Zoroastrians, a semi-migratory people from the fourth
to the third millennium BC, forged a religious tradition, latter
known as Zoroastrianism. This is considered as the oldest of the
revealed world religions and has directly and indirectly influenced
the other religions in the area, i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Islam
and a host of other faiths.
the Abbasid and the Umayyad, Islam took root and flourished in
Iran. A nagging problem remained though. Some verses in the Quran
clearly disallow obedience to any man-made laws that are in conflict
with the Quran. Consider the following;
human being – even though Allah may have given him a code
of laws (Kitab) or the power to enforce (Hukmah)
it or even Prophethood (Nubuwwah) – has the right
to say to others: "You should obey me rather than Allah”.
He should rather say: “Become people of your Lord because
you keep reading and teaching His book” (3:79)
Islam in Iran had steadily grown more Zoroastrianized, to solve
"this problem" the kings borrowed its priesthood which
our Prophet (PBUH) had abolished. The new priesthood, consisting
of scholars and muftis, obliged the kings by changing the core
belief of Islam from "obedience to Allah" to "worship
of Allah." This mutually convenient combination of kingship
and priesthood worked very well for the benefit of both the kings
and the priests: the priests blessed the kings for exercising
earthly powers; while the kings let the priests exercise divine
authority over the people.
Persian culture influenced the surrounding region, priesthood
too moved into these areas. Iran, to this day, remains the hotbed
of Mullaism. Towards West, it blossomed during the Ottoman Empire,
where even an office of Sheikh-ul-Islam existed. Many historians
cite this religio-political mix to have greatly contributed to
the fall of that empire. Eventually, it was brought to a bitter
end in the later day Turkey by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk’s cultural
East, Mullaism crept into the sub-continent at the heels of Sufis
and invaders from Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. It stayed
in the background until the British wrested India from its Muslim
rulers. The Mullah then sprang to the pulpit to sooth the bruised
ego of a vanquished people with convenient doctrines. He convinced
them that God always subdued people who allowed their souls to
be tainted by the lust of worldly desires e.g. ruling dominions
and empires. He implored them to stay prostate on their prayer
mats and use this respite from the arduous task of ruling for
cleansing their souls.
Muslims flocked to the thousands of mosques scattered all over
India straight into the welcoming arms of the Mullah. He gave
numerous references from the Quran to obey God, His Prophet and
the established authority. He promptly deleted the references
to Muslim kings from his Friday sermons and instead recited the
name of the Queen-Empress of British Empire. He bitterly opposed
the creation of Pakistan where, if formed, he would have to work
anew on its newborn constituencies. But when the Quaid-e-Azam
flew into Karachi on his Dakota, the Mullah grumblingly followed
him on his bullock cart.
here, in partnership with some indigenous like-minded interests,
he went into his old vocation with a renewed gusto. His counter-part
that he left behind in India, though, got swallowed up in the
wave of secularism that overtook India after partition. Since
then, the convention of Islamic ritual survived and thrived in
greater depth and conviction in Pakistan than any where else in
the Islamic world. The Pakistani Mullah became the personification
of this ritualistic orthodoxy.
does the Pakistani Mullah operate?
asks a simple question from his flock. Would they prefer the Word
of God and that of the Holy Prophet of Islam or would they rather
have western educated men under a godless society to guide and
shape their nation? This question is extremely difficult for a
common Pakistani to answer. Pakistani masses adore Islam. Pakistani
politicians and the educated elites, however, despite knowing
the truth of Mullah seem to be divided and indecisive. Some even
exploit this situation by siding with the Mullah and patronizing
him. The Pakistani Mullah, in the meanwhile, rules supreme.
of course does not tell his congregation the whole truth. He does
not tell them who would interpret the divine for them. If the
authority for legislation lies with God, which a Muslim cannot
deny, then as a natural corollary, it would be none other than
the Mullah himself who would define and interpret the divine law
for them. He blurs, or purposely does not draw, the line between
himself and scholars well versed in worldly and religious disciplines.
does not tell them that such scholars will need to be guided by
the essential basic rules requiring a scholar to have thorough
knowledge of religious text as well as the prevailing conditions
in the world and his community. He remains quiet on the fact that
it is only through such dual knowledge that a scholar can apply
Islamic jurisprudence and principles to meet people's needs.
of course does not tell them that, unlike him, the theologians
or the learned scholars who would engage in this exercise must
be intellectually gifted and unremittingly consistent so as to
arrive at a healthy symmetry between the basic principles of Islamic
jurisprudence and the realistic conditions in our modern-day world.
does not tell them that both the Quran and the Prophet (PBUH)
ordered Muslims to seek all forms of knowledge. He does not tell
them that due to his closing the door on interpreting the Quran
in the light of modern events and sciences, Muslims have stood
still while their cohabitants of planet earth have even escaped
gravity and launched deep into the universe in their quest for
promotes the style of the Prophet (PBUH) by keeping a beard, putting
surma is his eyes and an Arabic scarf on his shoulders
yet does not inform his congregation of the other sterling qualities
of the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) was not just an old
man leading prayers in the mosque. He established an empire by
uniting the various warring tribes, sent emissaries to other empires,
received dignitaries in his court, signed at least one historic
treaty (Hudaibya, A.D. 630), led armies in the battlefields, experienced
numerous victories and also a defeat (at Ohad, A.D. 624), was
a devoted father and a husband. The momentum that he built eventually
landed the Muslims in Spain in the west and India in the east.
Mullah himself is mainly responsible for dividing the Muslims
into Sunni, Shia, Ahle-Hadith, Ahle-Fiqah, Ahle-Quran, Hanfi,
Shafi, Malki, Hanbli, Deobandi, Barailwi and propagating mindless
hate between these sects. He, therefore, never tells his followers
God’s injunctions on sectarianism where He says;
for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou
has no part in them in the least...." (6:159)
keep his hold on his followers’ minds, he professes that
the Quran is an extremely difficult piece of divine literature
to understand and to interpret by ordinary Muslims. He knows that
most Pakistanis do not know Arabic and even if they did their
skill in the language is not enough to literally interpret the
language of Quran. He also knows fully well that most Pakistanis
do not have the patience, time or the resources for learning Arabic.
He, therefore, insists so much on the mastery of the Arabic language
takes advantage of people’s ignorance and pretends to be
the sole agent of the Quran and its interpretations. He does not
explain to these Pakistanis that the Quran was meant for every
one. That they don’t require a Mullah or any one to intercede
on their behalf. That Allah does not make his words so difficult
that ordinary people have difficulty in understanding them. That
they only have to make an effort and there are numerous ways to
seek the truth themselves. Regrettably, the majority of Pakistanis
either cannot, or would not, seek these answers on their own.
glance at the contemporary world shows that the Buddhist monk
is verifiably dormant. Some Christian neocons and Hindu religious
bigots have, of late, begun to participate in the framing of political
agendas. Yet, by and large, a vast majority of the Christian and
Hindu societies remain unaffected by their militant fundamentalists.
Because most Christians and Hindus do not consider their religious
priests as their political leaders or even correlate these religious
individuals with any state system. Two facts are noteworthy; the
stupendous rise of the west since it broke free from the priestly
hold of the Church and the horrendous decline of the Muslim world
since the entry of priesthood into Islam.
the Pakistani scene too there is a change in the wind, however
faint. With the modern age of computers, internet and information
a phantom has begun to haunt the Mullah. The truth is slowly,
but surely being sought by enlightened minds young and old alike.
Pakistani Muslims are increasingly expressing disgust and disdain
for the irrationalities and backwardness of the Mullah. His grip
is fading but he is not likely to give up just yet.
his good luck, though, a faith system that is so deeply ingrained
into the minds of the believers is hard to wish away. Still harder
is the task to disrupt the unholy alliance between hypocrite Pakistani
elites and the Mullah. In his final throes, he too is putting
up a brave fight. He continues to issue endless fatwas
and thinks that the fear of death sentence and the declaration
of jihad would silence the voices of rationality, logic and progress.
In his desperation he is counter-attacking with every possible
means. His chief weapons are an outright incitement of his followers
to kill his opponents for divine rewards, twisting quotations
from the Quran, promoting senseless hate, intimidating and declaring
his opponents as apostates and blasphemers.
common Pakistanis to join the global race for progress, they will
have to make efforts to seek the truth themselves rather than
relying on the word of Mullah. They have to make a clean break
from the past by disallowing or disowning the Mullah from being
the de-facto leader of their communities.
writer is a former officer of the Pakistan Air Force, based in