Two columnists in Pakistan's Urdu newspapers have stirred a debate recently about the role of Islam as perceived by Islamists in Pakistan and the diverse experiences of Muslims worldwide as viewed by liberal activists in different parts of the Islamic world, including in Pakistan.
Liberal columnist Khurshid Nadeem, in a column in Roznama Dunya titled "Everybody Has Their Own Islam"," satirized Islamist forces in a subtle manner and reminded readers that Islamists are praising a decision by the government of Pakistan-controlled Azad Jammu & Kashmir forcing female teachers and students in state schools and colleges to wear the headscarf.
An Aurat March activist holds a placard telling men: "Your look is dirty; I should live within four walls?" (Image: Twitter.com/AuratMarch, March 12, 2023)
Writing in Roznama Jasarat, a major daily of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, columnist Shahnawaz Farooqi accused liberal forces in Pakistan of acting as agents of the West and lambasted Nadeem for questioning Islam. In a column titled "The Islam Of The Agents Of The West," Shahnawaz Farooqi stated: "The West and its agents have been trying to tarnish the identity of Islam for over 1,000 years. The West claims that the Holy Prophet is not a prophet. The West calls the Holy Prophet a great personality... [But] does not recognize him as a prophet."
Following are excerpts from Khurshid Nadeem's column:
"The Government Of [Pakistan-Administered] Azad Kashmir Has Made Veil Compulsory For Female Teachers And Female Students In Educational Institutions; Flowers Of Praise Are Being Showered On It" By Islamist Forces
"Our conception of Islam is derived from our geographical and cultural sensibility. Muslim societies are mostly patriarchal. Our view is that all threats to Islam are originating from the existence of woman, as if it is she who misleads men and damages society. If we keep her far from men and imprison her within four walls, then the doors of social mischief can be closed. This is the way to protect men's honor.
"According to a newspaper report, the government of [the Pakistan-administered] Azad Kashmir has made the headscarf compulsory for female teachers and students in educational institutions. Flowers of praise are being showered on it [by Islamist forces], saying how the government [of Kashmir] has proved its true relationship with Islam.
"Similarly, every year it becomes the biggest requirement of Islam to stop Aurat March [Women's March] and mujahideen come out in streets wearing a shroud [used to clothe the dead], as though, if did not demonstrate their religious dignity today, they could not do it any other time.
"After women, our second targets are generally religious minorities. This is our 'religious duty' to make them realize every day that they are living in an Islamic country, and they should live within their limits. A voice of protest arising from a column revealed that Holi [the Hindu festival of colors] was celebrated in the Civil Services Academy [in Lahore]. A question was raised: If all these things are happening in the higher training institutions of the country, then what will be its future?
"I have been a student of Islam and sociology for 30-35 years. With some guidance from Allah, I have tried to understand societal factors. My view is that what we present as Islam is often the result of our feelings originating from our culture and environment. I have explained the religious literature in light of these [ideas]. The interesting fact is that when someone attends to [the need for] change in the culture and environment, we criticize the person, saying that he does not change himself but tries to change the religion [of Islam]."
"What Should Be The Priorities Of Muslim Governments Today? Veiling Women In Educational Institutions Through The Enforcement Of Religion, Or Providing Social Safety For Women?"
"From Morocco to Afghanistan, the social attitudes in Muslim societies are not similar. If everyone is following the same religion, why is there such diversity in attitudes? This is a question that is not religious. It is connected to time and place.
"We learn from the lives of the prophets that they preached Allah's commands before the people while keeping the societal conditions in mind. They determined their priorities int his way. This way, along with the [societal] situation, one also accounts for the difference between what is important and what is more important. The Quran has explained this as wisdom.
A screenshot from Khurshid Nadeem's article in Roznama Dunya
"Religion improves society. When there is no solution, we entangle people in difficulty in the name of religious dignity... What should be the priorities of Muslim governments today? Veiling women in educational institutions through the enforcement of religion, or providing social safety for women? More important than this is the delivery of education itself. Irrespective of gender differences, every citizen's access to education should be surely the first priority.
"The example of Afghanistan is in front of us. When they closed the doors of education on women [i.e., the Taliban banning girls and women from schools and colleges and universities], they gave the reason that the state cannot construct separate educational institutions for them, so they have barred [women] from going to mixed institutions. As if the priority is not education but the protection of the self-created picture of morality, according to which women are a threat to men's morality."
"The Entire System Of [The Pakistani] State Is Not Providing Justice; Rulers Of The Time Trample Islamic Morality At Every Step [But Their Policies Are Focused On Islam]"
"When priorities are not properly determined, then an attitude is born that Prophet Jesus described – people search for mosquitos and swallow camels. The entire system of the state is not providing justice.
"The rulers of the age trample Islamic morality at every step. Along with this, if he [the prime minister] created an institution called Rahmatul-lil-Alameen Wa Khatam an-Nabiyyin Authority [to research and propagate the life of Prophet Muhammad among Pakistani youths], or force a female television anchor to wear a dupatta [to cover her head], then he would be considered a representative of Islam.
"Fundamental rights are regularly violated but nobody realizes it. Murder is the biggest crime happening in Pakistan. The dignity of human life has been determined by God himself. Awareness about this was never our priority. This is because we have religious dignity, not religious wisdom. Whether a man or woman, their social character is determined by circumstances. The real test of a Muslim is being able to live a life of piety under adverse social conditions. This challenge is for the man and for woman too.
"For example, financial self-sufficiency is a family's first priority. The absence of financial stability becomes the first attack on the individual's morality; neither his self-respect nor his dignity remain intact. Therefore, a family's first priority should be to decorate every member of the house with the jewel of education, to make it so they cannot be exploited.
"A way of keeping oneself protected from exploitation is that we, in view of social conditions, protect ourselves. Whether a man or woman, [we] follow some points when you step out of home. It has been explained in Allah's book. If the situations are ordinary, then it has been said in the [Quran] Chapter 24 as to what a man should do and what a woman should do. What should be done if there is violence and lawlessness? This is answered in Chapter 33."
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"If We Can Benefit From Prophetic Wisdom, Then First Of All We Have To Determine Our Priorities; When Prophet Muhammad Made Economic Stability His Priority, He Tolerated Unlikable Practices Such As Usury And Slavery For Many Years"
"Pakistan is faced with big challenges today. If we can benefit from prophetic wisdom, then first of all we have to determine our priorities. When Prophet Muhammad made economic stability his priority, he tolerated unlikable practices such as usury and slavery for many years. If he had announced on the first day itself the end of slavery, the societal structure could not have survived.
Desperate Pakistanis throng for subsidised wheat flour (image: Dawn.com)
"On the one hand, he did not allow a new crisis to be born, and on the other he raised the society's moral level so high that exploitative practices like slavery and usury became unacceptable. Similar things happened regarding punishments.
"In Pakistan, the common man's economic situation has worsened. He has to maintain not only the relationship between the body and soul but also to also protect his moral existence. When the state is not fulfilling its responsibility, then our first priority should be that we should organize society based on brotherliness so that the direction of economic resources is turned toward those in need. Thus our first priority should be spending in the path of Allah.
"If we consider women's veiling the biggest step toward the construction of society, and we are not sensitive to the trampling of the basic rights of humans, then we cannot do any service to Islam and society. We also have to ponder this basic conception that Islam has not come only for women. Islam is the guidance for the humankind in which irrespective of gender differences, all humans are included. If woman is [as Islamists think,] a trial for man's fate, then man too is a trial for woman. Through understanding Allah's law of trial, we can understand the divine scheme regarding society."
Following are excerpts from Shahnawaz Farooqui's article:
"The West Claims That Since The Messenger Of Allah [Muhammad] Is Not A Prophet, Islam Is Not A 'Heavenly Religion' But Rather An Invention Of The Prophet"
"The West and its agents have been trying to tarnish the identity of Islam for over 1,000 years. The West claims that the Holy Prophet is not a prophet. The West calls the Holy Prophet a great personality. He is considered one of the great personalities of history, but [the West] does not recognize him as a prophet.
"The West claims that since the Messenger of Allah is not a prophet, Islam is not a 'heavenly religion' but rather an invention of the Prophet... He borrowed something from Judaism and something from Christianity and combined it to make Islam. An old claim of the West about Islam is that Islam spread by the sword. [Urdu poet] Akbar Allahabadi has written a poem on this subject, so listen to him too. Akbar said:
"They keep saying that Islam spread by the sword,
"It is not said what spread by the cannon.
"At the beginning of the 20th century, Western intellectuals began to say about Islam that Islam had given everything it could give to the world. Now it has nothing to give to the world. But in the middle of the 20th century, Islam created the largest Islamic state in the world, called Pakistan.
"[Islamic scholars] Maulana Maududi and Hasan Al-Banna created extraordinary revivalist movements in the Muslim world. In 1999 [sic., 1979], Islam launched a revolution in Iran. During the decade of 1980s, Islam's concept of jihad brought down the then superpower Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In this situation, the West launched new attacks to undermine the identity of Islam.
A Women's March activist holds a poster criticizing a shari'a policy on how women's testimonies are treated in court: "I am the half witness who gives birth to the full witness – Asma Jahangir." (Image: Twitter.com/AuratMarch, March 12, 2023)
"The West said Islam is not [united]. There is a traditional Islam, there is a Sufi Islam, there is a political Islam, there is a modern Islam, there is an arms-bearing Islam. The present agents of the West in the Muslim world have remembered this lesson taught by the West and now day by day they continue to invent some new form of Islam and Islamic society in their writings.
"There is no talk about that [liberal Islamic scholar] Javed Ahmad Ghamidi being a Western agent and unfortunately Khurshid Nadeem is a disciple of Ghamidi. However, in his columns, he continues to distort the features of Islam and Islamic society. In this regard, a recent column by Khurshid Nadeem can be cited as an example."
"Islam Is A Reality Beyond Time And Space; Undoubtedly, Islam Has Its Own History, But Islam Itself Is A Metahistorical Reality; This Is The Reason Why Islam Has Never Been Affected By The Disease Of 'Evolution' As Philosophy Has 'Evolved' In The West"
Farooqi includes a long but inexact and incomplete quotation of Nadeem's article. Then he continues: "Islam is a reality beyond time and space. Undoubtedly, Islam has its own history, but Islam itself is a metahistorical reality. This is the reason why Islam has never been affected by the disease of 'evolution' as philosophy has 'evolved' in the West. But Khurshid Nadeem claims that our Islam is derived from our geographical and cultural sensibilities."
A screenshot from Shahnawaz Farooqui's column
"A more insulting thing can hardly be said about Islam. The basic concept of Islam is Tawheed [Islamic monotheism] and the concept of Tawheed is still the same as it was during the time of the Holy Prophet. One of the basic concepts of Islam is prophethood, and even in our times, the concept of prophethood is the same as it was during the blessed era of the Holy Prophet.
"A fundamental concept of Islam is the Hereafter and Muslims have not modified this concept for 1,400 years. Muslims follow the Quran as an order after God and the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the nuances of the Quran have not changed. The halal [permitted acts] and haram [forbidden acts] of Islam were objective yesterday and even today the halal and haram of Islam are objective.
"Muslims were convinced of five fard [obligatory] prayers even yesterday and today they still believe in the five fard prayers. Muslims kept 29-30 [days of] fasting in Ramadan even 1,000 years ago and even today they keep 29 or 30 [days of] fasting in Ramadan. Muslims used to perform Hajj before and even today they perform Hajj. Muslims used to give 2.5 percent zakat [i.e., alms] during the time of the Holy Prophet and [the subsequent] era of Khilafah [caliphate].
"Khurshid Nadeem Has Also Chewed The Same Spittle Of The West In His Column; Khurshid Nadeem Is Aware Of Islamic History; Let Him Tell Us: During The 23-Year Reign Of The Holy Prophet, When Did Anyone Say That The Society Of Holy Prophet's Time Was 'Patriarchal' And That This Is A Negative Thing?"
"While interpreting the Holy Quran, Muslims first looked at what the Quran itself tells us in relation to a verse. Even today, Muslims first look at what the Quran itself provides us with about any of its verses. In relation to the interpretation of the Quran, the importance of hadiths was fundamental yesterday and is still fundamental today. Even a 1,000 years ago, the sayings of the Companions [of Muhammad] were important in the interpretation of the Quran and are still important today...
"So how did our Islam derive from our geographical and cultural sensibilities [as Khurshid Nadeem argues]? And even if one's Islam is derived from geographical and cultural sensitivity, what is its relationship with the real Islam and the real history of Muslims and how can it be presented as an example for Muslims? One charge the West makes against Muslims... is that their societies are man-centric, not woman-centric."
"Khurshid Nadeem has also chewed the same spittle of the West in his column. Khurshid Nadeem is aware of Islamic history. Let him tell us: During the 23-year reign of the Holy Prophet, when did anyone say that the society of Holy Prophet's time was 'patriarchal' and that this is a negative thing? Did anyone ever say in the era of Khilafah that the societies of [the Rightly Guided Caliphs] Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali was patriarchal, and this is a bad thing."
"If The Patriarchy Of Society Was A Bad Or Negative Thing, Then The Holy Prophet And The Rightly Guided Caliphs Would Have Condemned It, But The Holy Prophet And The Rightly Guided Caliphs Did Not Do So"
"If the patriarchy of society was a bad or negative thing, then the Holy Prophet and the Rightly Guided Caliphs would have condemned it, but the Holy Prophet and the Rightly Guided Caliphs did not do so. After the Companions [of Muhammad], none of the Tabi'in [who lived during the era of Companions but did not meet the prophet] and Taba Tabi'in [those who had lived during the era of Tabi'in but did not meet the Companions] condemned the patriarchal society.
"[12th-century Islamic jurist] Imam Al-Ghazali had drunk all of the East and West [i.e., he read everything about their cultures], but he also did not censure patriarchal society anywhere. It is not a defect. Hundreds of thousands of Islamic scholars have come since Ghazali, but none of them have presented patriarchal society as a defect.
"But Khurshid Nadeem is spitting on Pakistani society under the influence of the West by calling it patriarchy. The 'impression' of Khurshid Nadeem's phrase is that there is no longer any patriarchal society in the world, it is only Muslim societies that are patriarchal.
"So, have Western societies become mother-centric, woman-centric? Let's see. Politics in the West is the most important reference point for the power of society and the entire politics of the West is 'patriarchy.'
"Britain is the mother of democracy, but in its history of 200 years, only two women have become prime minister. America is the only superpower in the world, and it is the leader of the Western world. America is also called the strongest democracy, but to this day no woman has become the president of the country. This is also the situation in other Western countries of the world. The question is: What is the dominance of men on the politics of the West telling us? That Western societies are 'male-centered' or female-centered?
"The entire development of the West is due to their scientific and technological progress. The question is: Are the men or women behind the scientific and technological development of the West? The development of industry and trade of the West is also in front of us. The question is, whose head is the credit for this development? Men's or women's? Based on this, the real question is: What do all these circles tell us? That Western societies are male-centered or female-centered?"
"The Biggest Manifestation Of The West's Cultural Life Is The American Film Industry – Hollywood; If This Industry Has Produced 1,000 Films In The Last Hundred Years, 900 Of Them Have Male Protagonists"
"In the West, Nobel Prizes are awarded to outstanding people and the Nobel Prize is the highest prize of its kind in the world. According to the history of this prize, in the last 122 years, 102 men and only 17 women have received the Nobel Prize for Literature. The question is, what is this situation telling us? That the western world is 'male-centered' – or 'female-centered?'
"The biggest manifestation of the West's cultural life is the American film industry – Hollywood. If this industry has produced 1,000 films in the last hundred years, 900 of them have male protagonists. The question is, what does this nature of the matter tell us? Is it that Western society is patriarchal or woman-centered? The main thing to say here is that if the societies of the whole world are patriarchal, then why is Khurshid Nadeem challenging only the Muslim societies for being patriarchal?
"Khurshid Nadeem has also written that the people of Muslim society consider women as the root of every evil. We believe that it is the woman who leads the man astray. However, we believe that if a woman is imprisoned in four walls, the doors of social temptations can be closed."
"The West Does Not Present Women As 'Great' As Mothers, Wives, Sisters, Daughters, Scientists, Doctors, Engineers, And Teachers; It Is Portraying Her As 'Great' As An Actress, Singer, Model, And Porn Star"
"We are happy to assume that Khurshid Nadeem must have read something or the other of the eminent writer of the West, D.H. Borence [sic., Lawrence], and if not, he must have heard the mention of Lawrence. Lawrence is one of the great geniuses of the West. In his writings, women and sexuality are understood in an unconventional way. This is a request for Khurshid Nadeem to read a short article by Lawrence titled 'Give Her a Pattern.'
"In this article, Lawrence clearly states that women are not corrupted by themselves, it is men who corrupt women. It is the man who makes the woman a model of thought and action. Women willingly accept the molds made by men. If a man wants to make a woman pure, then she becomes pure. If a man wants to make a woman a prostitute, then the woman starts prostitution. Lawrence's analysis is largely correct.
"Seen in this context, if today's woman is naked, then it is because of the man; if she is selling her looks on TV screen, then it is at the instigation of the man; if she is rebelling against traditions, then it is at the behest of the man. If she is avoiding taking care of her husband and children, it is because of the 'concept of life' imposed by the man.
"Tthe West does not present women as 'great' as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, scientists, doctors, engineers, and teachers. It is portraying her as 'great' as an actress, singer, model, and porn star. However, women are considering these positions important. But Khurshid Nadeem and people like him do not think about these issues."
 Roznama Dunya> (Pakistan), March 14, 2023.
 MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 10556, Official Notification In Pakistan-Controlled 'Azad Jammu & Kashmir' Orders Enforcement Of Hijab For Girls And Female Teachers In Schools; Minister Of Education Diwan Ali Khan Chughtai: 'We Have Taken These Steps According To The Teachings Of Allah And His Messenger', April 6, 2023.
 Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 2, 2023.