Pakistan: Muslim Ideology & Islamic Regulatory Theory Within a Modern Muslim-dominated State

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Medford OR–I talked to Khalid Masaud almost a year ago in Berkeley, but forgot where I  had put the notebook with my jottings until recently.   Yesterday (August 28th)  with the flood water breaching the Arabian Sea flooding a 200,000-sized town, it  is important to reminder that Pakistan is one of the most Islamic of Muslim  States, and  in  its recovery Islamic law will play a part. 

Khalid is a leading Islamic jurist scholar who is a part of the  Pakistani government whose job description is to prove or disprove whether a proposed piece of legislation fits within the constitutionally defined confines of Pakistani’s legalistic “Islamic Modernism.”

He is the Chair of the Council of Islamic Ideology.  It is fairly a recent occurrence that the Islamic States have structurally melded with the contemporary idea of the nation-State.  Jurists have started accepting the laws of the secular State, but the word “secular’ is being interpreted within the Islamic tradition. Masaud stated that “Law is always shaped by the needs of the people.” 

Dr. Masaud deems Islamic law to be unchangeably constant, but it may be made amendable to Post-Modern sensibilities without giving up its universal sensibilities.  Historically, Jurists have formulated it, but it lacked a comprehensive methodology because it was created over the centuries. 

Thus, there is a gap between theory and practice.  The law has a residue of Islamic Medievalism of the period from which its foundation was generated. 

Therefore, it has to speak its truths in the vocabulary of the Contemporary believer today.

Traditional Islamic Law is Divine, and, therefore, cannot be really reformed!  Islamic Legal Modernism must, consequently must be recognized by (in) the Divine. The theories within Islamic regulation must be reduced to its elemental base, and, hence, the traditional procedures have to become modernized.    Still, the community has to accede on any new particular legislation even though the learned Ulema (jurists) have to play an authoritative role. 

The degree of emphasis on customary State law is diverse within the Muslim world.  Yet the Islamic law followed must be responsive to the society in which it finds itself.  Often within the Islamic States of South Asia, the rulers had made their own interpretation of their secular and sacred laws.  There were experiments overlaying the Colonial with the Islamic law. 

(Even within modern-day Pakistan, it is easy to perceive Westminster Democratic institutions next to Islamic principles.)

The Council on Islamic Ideology’s assignment is to give the Pakistani lawmakers advice on mending their laws seamless with the Koran and Sunnah.  Fazlur Rehman, the founder of the Council (1919-1988), asserted that “Pakistan was a positive developing nation.”  For him, curiously, Hadith and Sunnah must be kept separate.  He argued the phraseology of the Koran to be eternal, but its expresser, the Prophet (PBUH) was human.  Accordingly, the role of religion is eternal; i.e., the Koran, but has to flow within time – the role of Mohammed (PBUH).  For this reason, it is a duty of Muslims to revise with the times (but not to abandon their established foundation). 

Most of the “reforms” is necessitated from the impact with the West — not the masses although the proposed new laws have a fair chance of acceptance.  “Legal Modernism is achievable”  even though the conservative scholars still reject them out of hand.

Yet, “Political parties [now] are running scared” by the rhetoric of the conventional Ulema.  (The present floods have brought a great concern over anarchy, and the breakdown of law and order.  In future articles your author hopes to discuss this in deeper derail.).


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