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A Glance at Some Recent Resolutions of the National Assembly
he full-house Special Committee of the National Assembly of our dear homeland, Pakistan, has two resolutions in front of it for special deliberation: one from the ruling majority, and the other from the official Opposition.
A Question of Principle
Before we take a detailed look at the questions raised in the two resolutions, we would like to submit, first of all, the following questions of principle:
A Basic Human Right and the Constitution
We answer both these questions in the negative. In our view, regardless of colour, race, and geographical and national divisions, it is an inalienable right of every human being to attribute himself to whichever religion he chooses, and no one in the world, nor any organization or Assembly can deprive him of this basic human right. The U.N. Charter of Rights, in the context of guaranteeing basic human rights, also accepts this right of every human being to attribute himself to the religion of his choice.
Similarly, Section 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan also accepts this basic right of every citizen of Pakistan. So therefore, this matter should be decided upon as a matter of principle as to whether or not this Committee is constitutionally entitled to deliberate upon the aforesaid resolutions?
Human nature and conscience, too, do not empower any Assembly to deprive any individual or sect, of the right to choose to attribute himself to a particular religion; because in that case this right will have to be granted to every Assembly in the world. Some of the numerous untoward outcomes that will flow from the universal acceptance of this principle will, for instance, include the following:
It may be remembered that the Christian population of Pakistan is beginning to voice their concern that they are being deprived of their civil rights.
It is obvious that the above mentioned outcomes cannot be acceptable on the basis of reason and would unleash a host of unrest and misery in Pakistan as well as other countries of the world.
National Assembly and the Jurisdiction to Decide upon Religious Matters
No National Assembly can be considered entitled to deliberate upon such matters for yet another reason: its members, taken individually too, cannot be guaranteed to have the capability to decide upon religious matters.
The members of most National Assemblies in the world present their political manifestos to the voters and are elected on the basis of their political acumen. In Pakistan, the members of the present National Assembly were elected by majority vote on the basis of their political platform, notwithstanding the adverse edicts by the religious scholars prejudicial to their respective election.
So how can an Assembly composed of such individuals be entitled to sit in judgement over a religious sect and decide as to what is its religion?
If the majority of the members of an Assembly is empowered to decide upon the religion of any sect or denomination merely by virtue of the fact that they constitute the majority, then such a view will also be untenable on the basis of reason, and contrary to human nature and religious conscience. In fact democratic principles themselves universally regard such matters to be outside the purview of democratic decision-making. Similarly, the history of religions in the world reveals that never in any era was the majority ever granted the right to decide as to what was the religion of any particular group of people. If such a right were to be conceded for the majority, then one would perforce have to accept (God forbid) the majority viewpoint against all the prophets of God and the respective communities of their followers. It is obvious that this is a tyrannical concept which will instantly be rejected by the followers of any religion in the world.
Explicit Injunctions of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophetsa
Under the injunctions of the Holy Quran and the Ahadith no one has the right to coercively rename someone else’s religion. As Allah says:
There is no compulsion in religion. (2:257)
If someone has been coerced into recanting his faith,
… while his heart finds peace in the faith (16:107)
then such actions are also contrary to the teaching: “There is no compulsion in religion.” Forcibly declaring a Muslim to be a non-Muslim or declaring a Hindu to be a Muslim, while the former is a conscientious adherent of Islam and the latter that of Hinduism, would be tantamount to disobeying the verse of the Holy Quran: There is no compulsion in religion. Further support of this viewpoint is provided by the Holy Quran which states:
(O ye who believe!) … say not to anyone who greets you with the greeting of peace (i.e. says Assalamo Alaikum, like other Muslims) that ‘you are not a believer’” (4:95)
It is an explicit injunction of the Holy Prophetsa that if a person affirms the Oneness of Allah, then to accuse such a person of merely verbally affirming it and alleging that he negates it in his heart, would make such an accuser to be guilty of transgression. The following Hadith of the Holy Prophetsa throws ample light on this subject:
Hadhrat Usama bin Zaidra relates that the Holy Prophetsa sent us to the oasis of Juhaina tribe. We caught them early in the morning at their water-fountains. An Ansari and I chased one of them and apprehended him. When we overpowered him, he exclaimed: La Ilaha Illallah (there is none worthy of worship except Allah) which caused my Ansari Companion to restrain his hand from him, but I pierced him with a spear and killed him. When we returned to Medina and the Holy Prophetsa came to know of the incident, he asked: “O, Usama! Did you kill him in spite of the fact that he had recited La Ilaha Illallah?” I replied: “O, Prophet of Allah! He was saying (these words) merely to ensure his safety.” The Holy Prophetsa kept on repeating his question to a point when I wished I had not become a Muslim before that day. (Another tradition relates) The Holy Prophetsa said, “You still killed him, even though he had affirmed La Ilaha Illallah?” I clarified, “O, Prophet of Allah! He had said that because he was afraid of the weapon.” The Holy Prophetsa exclaimed: “Why didn’t you cut his heart open to make sure if he had said it from the core of his heart?” The Prophet of Allah repeated this remark so many times that I wished I had not become a Muslim before that day.”
[Bukhari, Book of Al Maghaazi, Chapter Ba’ath al-Nabi,
Usaamah bin Zaid ilal Harqaat min al-Juhaina, p. 612]
A Fundamental Objection to the Resolutions from the Islamic Point of View
Another respectful submission is in order here. A fundamental objection of great significance applies to the form in which the present resolution has been put forward before the National Assembly. The objection is from the Islamic viewpoint. In the light of this objection, a ruling on this point of order is called for, prior to commencing the deliberations on the Resolution.
Our Spiritual Master, the Seal of Prophets, Hadhrat Muhammadsa prophesied:
My followers will become divided into 73 sects—all of these will go to Hell, except one.
Hadhrat Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, who is regarded as the Mujaddid  of the 12th Century Hijra according to the belief of His Royal Highness Shah Faisal, as well as the majority of Muslims residing in Hijaz, quoted the above-noted Hadith and then stated:
The issue of seventy-two sects to be Hell-bound, out of a total of seventy-three sects, is a grand issue. He who comprehends it is indeed endowed with true wisdom, and he who acts on it in practice (i.e., actually regards only one sect as bound for Paradise and considers the remaining seventy-two to be Hell-bound) he alone is a Muslim.”
[Short Biography of the Holy Prophetsa, pp. 13-14,
by Al-Imam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhaab, published in Cairo]
The well known organ of Jama‘at Islami, Tarjman-ul-Quran, states in its issue of January, 1945: (translated from Urdu)
“Agreement reached by the majority on anything is not considered in Islam to be a proof of its being the truth; nor does every preponderance of people constitute a true majority. Every multitude of people is not an organised Community (Jama‘at), nor is the adoption of a particular viewpoint by the mullahs of a particular locality to be termed as Consensus … This interpretation finds support in a Hadith of the Holy Prophetsa related by Hadhrat Abdullah bin Umar as follows:
Bani Israel became divided into seventy-two sects and my followers will become divided into seventy-three sects who will all fall into Hell with the exception of one. People asked, “Who would these be, O, Prophet of Allah?” He replied, “Those who will follow my path and the path of my Companions.” This group of people will neither be in the majority, nor would it offer its majority status as an argument in favour of its truth. Rather, it will be just one among the seventy-three sects of the Muslims and would consist of non-spectacular and unassuming people in this wide world, as he stated:
“… So there is no ray of hope in this Hadith for the Community which declares itself, solely on the basis of its numerical strength, to be the Community under Allah's protection. Because this Hadith explicitly states two characteristic features of the Community: firstly, it will tread on the path of the Holy Prophetsa and his Companions and, secondly, it will be an insignificant minority.”
[Tarjumaan-ul-Quran, January/February, 1945, pp. 175-176,
edited by Sayyed Abul A'ala' Maudoodi]
In diametric opposition to the above noted pronouncement of the Holy Prophetsa, the Resolution presented by the religious scholars on the side of the Opposition seeks to portray seventy-two Muslim sects to be bound for Paradise and points to only one to be Hell-bound. This is clearly contrary to the Hadith of the Holy Prophetsa and amounts to a sacrilege against him.
So therefore, it is ill-becoming of the august National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to deliberate upon, or even put forward for deliberation, this Resolution as it now stands. However, if this resolution is rephrased and purports to determine the identity of that single Muslim sect which will be granted salvation, in the light of the aforesaid Hadith, then such an initiative will be in full accord with the intent of the Hadith of the Holy Prophetsa.
An Appeal to Fulfil the Obligations of Truth and Justice
In view of the foregoing, we submit respectfully but firmly that the National Assembly of Pakistan should desist from deliberating and legislating upon such matters as would be tantamount to the contravention of basic human rights. It would violate the United Nations' Charter of Human Rights as well as the Constitution of Pakistan. And most serious of all: it clearly runs counter to the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Ahadith of the Holy Prophetsa, and can prove to be a harbinger of many ills and disorders in the society. Moreover, this trend-setting action of the National Assembly of Pakistan can cause severe problems for religious minorities and denominations living in other countries. However, if the National Assembly of Pakistan chooses to disregard our foregoing submissions and does consider itself to be entitled to declare a sect which aligns itself with Islam to be outside the pale of Islam, on the pretext of any alleged belief, or for having a different interpretation of any verse of the Holy Quran, then we suggest that all possible caution be exercised in pursuing such a course and the dictates of reason and justice be met as much as possible. This matter should not be handled in a manner which may invite the ridicule of the non-partisan segment of the world and may seriously damage our dignity as a nation.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, has also promised in his televised address to the nation, on 13 May, that the issue at hand will be resolved in a sound and just manner. This promise by the Prime Minister puts a two-fold responsibility on the National Assembly not to disregard the dictates of justice and reason while deliberating upon this matter.