… When he seized power in 1977,
President Zia-ul Haq said his first priority was to restore
democracy, to hold elections. Nowadays he openly admits that his
first priority is to "Islamise" Pakistan. Few of the country's 85
million citizens, nearly 90% of whom are Muslims (mainly Hanafi
Sunni) would contest that ambition, since an Islamic society would
be a just, equitable and democratic one. But there are no role
models, even among Pakistan's deeply religious neighbours to the
west. There are only, as Chaudhri Ghulam Ahmad Parwez, perhaps
Pakistan's foremost Islamic scholar, puts it, "governments run by
Among concerned citizens, Zia's Islamisation program
is nowhere more worrying than in the field of, first, the law, and
second, women's rights. The President wants to see women and girls
in chador, and some schools have begun compelling female
students to veil themselves. There is much resistance to this and
to demands by some fundamentalists (supported, it is said, by the
President) for repeal of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961,
which does give women some protection under the law in matters
such as divorce. But by far the most controversial specific
instance of misdirected "Islamisation" concerns rajim, the
punishment of stoning to death for illicit sexual intercourse.
As part of his Islamisation program, Zia, by President's Order
3 of 1979, amended the Constitution to set up Shariat, or
religious, benches in Pakistan's four provincial high courts.
Designated justices were both high court judges and members of the
Shariat benches until March 1981, when the functions were
separated. There is now a federal Shariat court, the provincial
versions having been abolished.
G. A. Parwez
Six months ago the Shariat court ruled that the government's
1979 law of rajim — stoning to death for offences such as
adultery — was not Koranic law and was therefore unIslamic. The
Zia Administration is appealing that verdict on the ground that
the judges, as the President told Asiaweek, "didn't do
their homework." Zia, in short, believes that the punishment is
Islamic. It is a confusion that in recent months has exercised
Muslim minds from West Asia to Southeast Asia, and to get to the
bottom of it, Asiaweek's O'Neill last week visited Parwez,
78, in his book-lined study in Lahore. This is what Chaudhri
Ghulam Ahmad Parwez said:
"The first thing to know, when you call a thing Islamic, is:
What is the authority for it? When we say 'This is
constitutional,' there is an authority for it — the Constitution.
It presupposes the existence of a constitution that forms an
authority to say what is constitutional and what is not.
"There must be a common authority for all Muslims. When they
call themselves Muslims it means they accept Islam, and if there
is one common authority for Islam, then that must be the common
authority by which all Muslims decide whether something is Islamic
or not — whether it is the law of rajim or some other laws or
rules of the state.
"Islam is not a religion. It is a code of life, a system of
living. Islam is about the nation of the community: It presupposes
the existence of a state.
"What is the authority? It may be the Shariat court, it may be
the President of Pakistan, it may be a common man. If we define
that, half the problem is solved. If there is one common
authority, it does not matter what the Shariat court says
is Islamic, or what I say is Islamic. Have you asked this
question of the President?
"Thinking based on common sense is very near the Islamic laws.
The authority is the Koran. It is the only authority:
immutable. When one accepts that, one becomes a Muslim, and one
remains a Muslim for as long as one accepts it. It is not a
question of this view or that view.
"Even in secular laws, when we say something is 'legal' we mean
'It is according to this or that law.' That law must exist. It
presupposes the existence of some law which is acceptable to all
the parties. So when we talk about Islam — whether in India or
Singapore or Pakistan, whether it is an ordinary Muslim or a head
of state or a 'divine mullah' — we must say: 'This is the
authority.' And the only authority for being Islamic is the Koran.
"It is a perfect authority. No addition or subtraction can be
made because, according to the Koran, Allah said it is complete.
Nothing against it can constitute an authority for being Islamic.
What is not there is not Islam. The Koran says that even the
Prophet had not the authority to make any change; the Prophet
himself says in the Koran, 'I am not authorised to make any
"Some people accept authorities other than the Koran. They
accept the Traditions of the Prophet, which I call history. Then
there is fica [jurisprudence]. Some jurists, about 1,000
years back, constituted certain laws. They are man-made laws, and
the state enforced them at that time as the laws of government.
They are not Koranic. Whatever in those laws is according to the
Koran we can accept as Islamic because they are according
to the Koran. If a non-Muslim state makes a law which is according
to the Koran, we will say, 'That law is according to the Koran.'
If a Muslim state makes a law which is against the Koran, we will
not accept it as Islamic.
"No state in the world accepts the Koran as the final and only
authority: they all accept these jurists' laws, fica, or the
Traditions attributed to the Holy Prophet — history! Yet it is
possible to have an Islamic state. The Koran is there. Unchanged,
immutable, in the same form in which, according to our belief, it
was revealed by God, given by the Prophet to the people. Not a
single comma therein has been changed.
"The Koran has definitely given the punishment for zinnah
[illegal sexual intercourse]: only stripes [lashes]. It is
clearly given. Rajim is not Koranic.
"When the government enforced this law of rajim, it did not say
there was any secularism in it. It says secularism is against
Islam. For everything, they say 'It is Islamic.'
"Since the majority of people in Pakistan accept these laws
[fica] as Islamic, the government says they should be accepted as
Islamic. The court has said it is not a question of majority or
minority. Even if one Muslim proves this is against the
Koran, it becomes against the Koran. Those who challenged this law
in the Shariat court have proved it is against the Koran. That is
why the law must be repealed.
"A state can be called Islamic only if it acts according to the
Koran. If some higher court says that laws accepted by the
majority of the people in this country are Islamic laws, then does
this law promulgated by the government become Islamic? If the
appeal is successful it will become the law of the land. But it
will not be an Islamic law."
Nobody has yet been stoned to death in Pakistan, though there
have been floggings aplenty, and President Zia hints that it will
never come to that. But as the ageing, ailing Parwez points out,
"That is strange, because if this is an Islamic state and
if these are Islamic laws, they must be enforced — whatever
… On the editorial page (of the Nov. 16 edition of the
Islamabad daily The Muslim) was a quotation by Hazrat Ali,
the Fourth Caliph, son-in-law of the Holy Prophet. It said: An
unIslamic government may last awhile, but tyranny cannot endure...