Islam is all about peace, harmony, interfaith dialogue and human rights: Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri (Interview with ARY OneWorld)
(Following is English translation of interview Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri gave to international channel ARY OneWorld. He spoke elaborately on the burning issues of the day, allaying confusions and misunderstandings about Islamic perspectives on them in the process. Given the relevance and importance of the interview, we are posting it on the website for the interest of viewers. Minhaj Internet Bureau)
Host (Question 1)
Let us first talk about Minhaj-ul-Quran International because you just mentioned that you established it and under it hundreds of educational institutions have been put in place in addition to a university and a welfare society. Please tell our viewers more about it.
Minhaj-ul-Quran is an international organization and I founded it in 1981. Today it is 27 years old. It is working in a number of areas with religious work being one of them under the banner of Idara Minhaj-ul-Quran. We give spiritual, scientific, practical and pragmatic presentation of Islam. We also develop interfaith harmony and interfaith dialogue among different cultures between Muslims and non-Muslims and within Muslims so that there develops between Muslims and the rest of world a culture of peace and mutual harmony in the light of Islam. This is one of basic works.
The second area relates to educational work under Minhaj Education Society. We have established a national university, which by the grace of Allah Almighty, is a chartered university. Not only religious sciences but all subjects are also taught here including Computer Sciences, Basic Sciences, Biology, and Management Courses. In short, all subjects are offered here. Then there is a chartered residential university having equivalence of its religious degree with Jamia al-Azhar. Then we have Minhaj Education Society about which I just spoke to you. Under it one thousand schools and colleges including those of higher education and primary levels have been established. These are regular, formal and full-fledged schools and there is not even one seminary in them. Religion is taught here as one discipline. We also undertake to impart moral and spiritual training to our students. Modern subjects like computer sciences are also emphasized here.
Third area of our work is welfare under the banner of Minhaj Welfare Foundation. What do you get welfare to mean? Whenever any natural calamity strikes like earthquake, natural disaster, and windstorm, we are there to provide our services. For the purpose of marrying off daughters of the poor and needy families, we arrange collective marriages. Then there is an institution called "Aagosh" for housing and maintenance of orphan children. In short, we look after the poor, the needy, the disabled and deprived classes. Millions of rupees are spent upon the education of the deserving students, medication of the poor and collective marriages.
We have continued our efforts worldwide. We also have Directorate of Foreign Affairs. We have our branches in more than 80 countries of the world. Minhaj-ul-Quran has its institutions there including Islamic centres, cultural centres, and educational centres which millions of Muslims, both male and female, have joined to get religious, moral and spiritual training. They have changed their culture and life. Those centres also have an arrangement of regular education. There are everyday school as well as weekend schools and the various organizations of Minhaj-ul-Quran run them. This is a major contribution not merely to Pakistani society. The Indian Muslims, Bangladeshi societies and other communities are also benefiting from these initiatives. Since we impart education in English language, therefore, children from Arab world, Asian world and African world are getting associated for education. This is the Dawa work, renaissance and reconstruction of Islam at the universal level.
This denotes revival of moral, ethical, social and spiritual values of Islam, which are being promoted in such an age when distorted picture of our religion is being presented. This is great positive, reconstructive and creative contribution of Minhaj-ul-Quran International. Efforts were being made to disfigure the face of Islam and present such a distorted version of its teachings to the world. But (through MQI), true Islamic message is being presented with originality and beauty not only to the Muslims but to the non-Muslims. Non-Muslim delegations visit the central secretariat of Minhaj-ul-Quran International. Their Bishops and Fathers come and meet. We hold interfaith dialogue. Islam has been presented to the world as a religion symbolizing peace, brotherhood, security, integration and moderation. This is historic and remarkable contribution of Minhaj-ul-Quran International.
Host (Question 2)
Doctor sahib! Two terms are very ear-catching and attractive in your discussion so far and I would like you to throw more light on them. These relate to moderation and modern presentation of Islam. What is modern perception of Islam? Has Islam undergone changes?
This is a basic question and you have very rightly raised it. Whatever be the religion, it has two basic aspects. One is the basic structure, which has fundamental principles. These basic principles of Islam have neither changed nor will they change in any time to come. What I mean by it is the Holy Qur'an. Whatever is mentioned in the Holy Book and Sunna forms an eternal guidance and whatever is celestial guidance would stay intact till the Day of Judgment because it is not man-made law. The characteristic of man-made law is that it gets outdated with the passage of time. Since human mind and vision cannot perceive the requirements and changes, which would come about after 100 years, so as soon as changes happen in human society, man-made laws continue to change in order to meet the changing requirements for survival.
God-made law is permanent and immutable. It never changes. It is neither corrupted nor distorted. Its original text remains preserved as is the case with the Holy Qurâ€™an and Hadith. They are preserved in their original form till today because that is based upon the revelation of Allah. Allah Almighty is the Creator of humanity and the Provider of guidance. So when He furnishes guidance, He caters to the needs of humanity in advance. That is why basic principles do not change.
The second angle pertains to its interpretation and execution. Circumstances continue to register changes in various societies and languages in different parts of the world. Human life also experiences continuous evolution. Social norms and values are changing. Political, economic, sociological and ecological factors are undergoing changes now. A religion, which cannot address the demands of changing circumstances, becomes outdated. Islam is not a religion to be outdated. It is a combination of the modern and the ancient. The Islamic teachings cater to the needs of modern-day society in a satisfactory manner.
After the Holy Qur'an and Sunna, Ijtihad is the third source of Islamic law. There is a form of collective Ijtihad today and if collective consensus among contemporary scholars and jurists is achieved on any given matter, it is called Ijma. And if it is individual opinion of a competent Mujtahid, it is called analogy. There are further kinds of Ijtihad, and Qiyas. Some are custom-based, others are necessity-based. Many terms like Istehsan, marsala and istuswab are used. These are the ways in Islamic law allowing for reinterpretation in accordance with the changing circumstances. They admit of the space for evolution and a new interpretation to respond to complex challenges in changed circumstances. But the Holy Qur'an and Sunna would continue to provide the basis for every new such module of interpretation and reconstruction. It would have to be in the light of the Quranic text and Sunna.
That is why four or five major interpretations of Islamic law have come into being. In Islamic jurisprudence, they are called fiqa-e-Hanfi, Malki, Shafii and Hambli and the fifth jurisprudential school of thought has come into being in the form of fiqa-e-Jafria. All of these schools of thought have the same origin, same Islam, the same Qur'an and Sunna. Now these schools of thought came into being with a view to meeting demands of contemporary age as I just told you so. This point can be further illustrated by an example of Pakistani Constitution. This is a federal document aimed at running the whole country. But under the federation, there are four provinces with separate legislatures, enactments and rules. But all of these rules and regulations are subject to the basic constitutional document called Constitution. There is no conflict between provincial laws and rules and federal laws. These rules only help in enforcing the government's writ in accordance with its own peculiar conditions. The Assembly interprets the Article of the Constitution in keeping with requirements of Punjab or Sindh or NWFP or Baluchistan and enforces it as the case may be. There is always a space for reinterpretation. In the similar manner, Ijtihad is such a legal device because of which reconstructive spirit stays intact.
Host (Question 3)
Dr sahib! I can infer from whatever you are saying that Islam is an accommodating religion. Then why is there so much extremism around us? What is your view about extremism?
You have raised an important and interesting question. It is highly relevant to the present-day circumstances. I would first answer in a categorical manner in one sentence and then would delve into details. Islam has no space for extremism, fundamentalism or obscurantism and those who happen to be extremists are in fact unaware of the real spirit of Islam. You see, there are four steps and when you talk of extremism, there is a need to understand this phenomenon within the ambit of these four steps. There is a step in human psychology, personality and approach that precedes extremism. You see, many people are conservative in their approach. Their vision of Islam happens to be conservatism-based. They tend to look at every thing with short-sightedness and closed mind. Allah Almighty has not created any contraction in religion.
The Holy Prophet (saw) said that Islam creates ease and does not pave way for difficulties. The Prophet (saw) said in Sahih Bukhari, When you preach religion, create easiness and do not create difficulties and contraction. Convey the message and invitation to people in such a manner that they get glad tidings, feel openness within themselves lest they should adopt hatred and run away from Islam. Islam not only condemns conservative approach but also ordains us to root it out. The approach of the Holy Prophet (saw) was open, frank and accommodating.
It should also be kept in mind that conservatism is not merely found among Muslims but in the British, American, Jewish, Christian and Hindu communities etc. It is sociological and human phenomenon. It has nothing to do with any religion. You will find extremists in politics and other fields too. People here do politics on basis of language and kill others having different languages. There are also people who do politics on the basis of region etc and brand people living in other areas as traitors or hate them. This is trait of human psychology and approach. Whether it is religion or issues of life, these things operate in the similar manner. If there is conservatism in religion, it begets extremism. So when such a person will pass out religious edict, a tinge of extremism will be reflected in his rulings. He will hold others infidels, banishing them from the ambit of Islam. His emphasis will be placed on conservatism and extremism.
Then the third stage is that of radicalism. If extremism is not stemmed, radicalism cannot be controlled too. This is also anti-Islam. When radical people emerge from extremism, radicalism is born. People take up arms and attack one another on the basis of religious edicts.
They want to impose their doctrines upon others through armed struggle. It is as a result of this effort that terrorism comes into being. Those who are waging a war against terrorism want to eradicate plant of terrorism without taking into account the process by which the sampling of conservatism grew into terrorism gradually. They do not want to eradicate the root. They water and provide air to the root, bring it up, give funds both internationally and through local agencies. The first thing is that there is no space for terrorism in Islam nor has it anything to do with Islam. I do not merely talk of Islam. No other religion be it Judaism, Christianity or Buddhism recommend or encourage terrorism.
The fact is that every religion, be it Islam or any other, aims at teaching people love and brotherhood. It eradicates hatreds among people by bringing them together. This is wrong interpretation of Islam. People who have taken up arms and adorned the mantle of Muftis have done an irreparable damage to Islam. This also deserves to be seen where have these people emerged from? Has Islam produced them or other bigger powers created and brought them up for their own political and war agendas? They gave them weapons, sponsored their ventures, prepared them fully and planted them in a particular setting. They played them off against others and armed them to teeth in such a measure that they have become Frankenstein.
So Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. It is a political phenomenon and a global issue. It will be most unfortunate if it is seen through the prism of Pakistan or Islam. It deserves to be seen from global and historical perspectives as to where it has emanated from? Why has it been created and why is it not ending? Is it not so that those wanting to eliminate it want it to survive and those fighting against it are actually providing arms and weapons? Is it not so that double standards are being practised? I have serious doubts about it. I have clarified Islamic concept about it. It has nothing to do with Islam. Rather Islam condemns it regarding it infidelity and anti-humanity. Both extremism and terrorism are against religion.
Host (Question 4)
Islam is a complete code of life. Every person has his own set of rights in the society. We talk to Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri sahib about these rights. Dr Sahib! What does Islam say about rights of women?
Let me clarify at the outset that Islam is not a religion but a Din (a complete way of life). There is a lot of difference between religion and Din. Religion is a part, while Din is a whole. But chief characteristic of Islam is that it incorporates all aspects in its body politic from the religious and spiritual to the secular and temporal and from the collective to the individual. That is why this faith is comprehensive code of conduct. This question of yours is also very interesting as to what is the position of women in Islam?
You should keep this in your mind that Islam is the first religion of human history that not only gave rights to woman some fifteen hundred years ago but also accepted her to be a legal person. And if you further ask I would give you comparative study as well. But from the Islamic angle, formal rights were given to women in the Holy Quran. Two verses of the Holy Book describe equality of rights between man and woman in domestic, social and economic domains. One is categorical declaration of human rights. It is not merely declaration but there is equality of rights described for both genders. There are hundreds of verses of the Holy Quran where rights of women have been recognized. This was the time when no culture or civilization of the world could think of such things in such a large-hearted manner. No country ever gave rights to its women after 1300 years which Islam bestowed on them at that time. Political rights are part of these rights.
During the caliphate of Hazrat Umer (ra), the women used to be members of parliament. It has been mentioned in many books of Hadith and history that he wanted to present a bill about limiting the dower when he was the Commanders of the Believers. He wanted to fix a maximum limit of such a dower in the parliament. A woman member stood up in opposition saying that if Allah did not fix any limit on it, how come he could do it. Hazrat Umer asked her to present evidence in support of her viewpoint. She recited a verse of the Holy Quran. In case of separation, you cannot take back as a downer even if you have given her heaps of gold. This was a jurisprudential point. The word heaps of gold denotes that no limit has been fixed on dower. At this, Hazrat Umer said as the head of state that man kept sitting in error and a woman gave correct opinion. As a result, he withdrew his bill from parliament. I have given all references in great detail in my book "Human Rights in Pakistan".
When election of Hazrat Usman Ghani (ra) took place, it is reported in books like Tabqat Ibne Saad, Tibri, Ibne Kathir that there was a vote tie in parliament. General elections followed and Huzrat Abdur Rehman Bin Auf was appointed Chief Election Commissioner. It is categorically stated that both men and women voted for three days. This was right to vote. The Holy Prophet (saw) himself included women in the important national affairs during the Caliphate period including defence duties. He would have them during Holy War, and journey. The incident of Hudbayia is an important epoch in Islamic history. When crisis arouse and ugly situation was created, the Holy Prophet (saw) consulted Hazrat Ume Salama (ra) and it was upon her advice that the Prophet (saw) decided to move on.
The role of women was such as Hazrat Ayesha (ra) was teacher of 8000 companions who learnt knowledge of Hadith from her. She was expert of literature, medicine, history, Hadith and law. In the similar way, Hazrat Umsan Ghani (ra) appointed Hazrat Umme Kalsoom Bint Ali (ra) as ambassador and sent her to the court of the Empress of Rome during his Caliphate. Hazrat Umer (ra) appointed Hazrat Shifa Bint Abdualla as the justice of Accountability Court and administrator of market. Women would play their role in diplomacy, politics and as advisors. They performed their role quite actively in other spheres too. Islam gave them respect and other kinds of rights like evidence rights, domestic rights, economic rights, business and trade rights etc. They were given political rights to vote and be elected to parliament, whereas western world was mired in darkness. I will tell about it later on.
They were given equality in rights as men. In his Farewell Address, the Holy Prophet (saw) urged believers to mete out good treatment to women three times repeatedly so much so that he said that a woman enjoyed a share in man's earning. For It is man's responsibility to provide for for living, maintenance and food of his wife according to Islamic teachings. This is so because Islam prefers family system. But if a woman does some job and earns, it is her discretion whether to share it with her husband or spend it on domestic needs. If she does not spend even a penny, it is not sinful on her part. Man does not have a right to share even a single penny in her earning. The Holy Prophet (saw) said that a person who respected a woman was respectable and he who demeaned woman was a mean himself. Thus the Holy Prophet (saw) set a criterion to distinguish between the respectable and the mean. The Prophet (saw) said, The best Muslim from amongst you is the one who is the best in his conduct towards his wife and children. If a woman is a mother, Islam has placed paradise under her feat, and if she is a daughter and sister, her good and pious upbringing guarantees paradise as a result. If she is a wife, guarantee has been given of paradise and pleasure of Allah as a result of good treatment towards her. This is high station Allah and His Prophet (saw) bestowed on woman.
Think about the society where female child was buried alive upon being born and women enjoyed no rights of inheritance. This was a breakhrough in that society, which when we hear today, appears quite strange. What was the status of woman in Rome, Iran, China or Hindustan, Byzantine, Greece, Egypt and Arabian Peninsula? When you look at it from this angle, it was in these circumstances that the Prophet (saw) gave them lofty and ideal rights by taking revolutionary steps and gave them such equality in rights as modern mind has not been able to go beyond what Islam has endowed on them in terms of rights.
What is unfortunate is that this is not taught here. It is so because if some Maulana mentions it in his speech, the wife will demand her rights. Let me tell it on TV that it is not womanâ€™s responsibility to cook food, lunch, dinner and breakfast etc from point view of Islamic law. If she refuses to do all this or does not know how to cook, she would not be sinful in the eyes of Allah. She may be sinning in the eyes of man because he has married her to put her in kitchen all day long and play host to him, wash crockery and produce children. We do not have Islamic concept here in any department of life.
If she refuses, she would not be sinful. It is her act of benevolence and good upon a man that she is cooperating with him. It is a joint venture because of nature of their marital relationship. Therefore, man should appreciate that she is contributing more than her duties warrant. He should give her more time in privacy, extend more love and respect towards her. He should give her gifts like a rose flower upon reaching home. He should take her and children for an outing on weekends. He should have them dine out and show greater regard for her contributions. It is a misfortune that people who could present true face of Islam have not remained anymore in our society. And outside world has borrowed Islamic face from some other society. It was cultural traditions not Islam. Islam is getting bad name from every quarter. Would that rulers, men and women knew the spirit of Islamic teachings! No single voice can achieve effective results unless joined by other voices. Islam has granted such a high position to woman that a human mind cannot perceive it.
Host (Question 5)
Let us take this topic forward and ask him when did women in the Western world get rights as a legal person as opposed to what he has said so far?
I wanted you to ask me this question so that I should elaborate upon it. So you have rightly raised this question. I have already told about the awarding of rights to women with the raising of the Holy Prophet (saw) and revelation of the Holy Quran. Today a lot of noise is made in the western world, Here is my book entitled as "Human Rights in Islam". I am referring it to people so that they could study it. It comprises about 800-850 pages. There is a full chapter on women rights here because this book deals with the broader theme of human rights. Now just think that Islam gave women rights some 1500 years ago and the struggle for women rights in Britain got underway in 1897. There is a relative of ours, Madam Khudija. She is a sister-in-law of my daughter-in-law, Baji Ghazala. She converted to Islam from Christianity. Her grandmother was the leader of this movement. The struggle for rights started in 1897 and women got these rights in 1918. Even right to vote which Islam has granted 1500 years ago was given as a result of voting in House of Commons with 385 favouring it and 55 still opposing this proposition. Women got right to vote through Representation of People's Act with the condition that women above 30 years of age would be able to vote. Women under 30 were still denied this right to vote. This is about the British history.
Now let us come to the US. Declaration of Independence was issued in 1776 and from that year till 1920, no rights were given to women and they kept struggling for their rights. They finally got right to vote through 19th Constitutional Amendment in the US. Explaining Declaration of Human Right, the scholars like James Burn and John Blum, authors of Government by the People and National Experience respectively have opined thus:
Declaration refers to men or him not womenand In the early America, men would not accept them equals. Women were accepted as legal person and granted right to vote in 1920.
Afterwards, struggle started in France on February 7, 1848 and after continuous efforts of 100 years, women finally got right to vote in 1944 in this century in which all of us were born. I am closing my book. I have given a complete history of 144 countries in this regard along with the dates as to which country gave women rights when. This is the situation of the western world. In Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, and Japan, women got right to vote in 1907, 1921, 1948, and 1945 respectively. I have listed down 144 countries. Women in Islam got rights without any effort for which western women had to struggle for 200 years.
Host (Question 6)
Dr sahib! This is a matter of great surprise. These are very shocking facts. No education is imparted about rights already given to us and whatever education is given is often incorrect and misplaced and distorted. Why so?
We tend to go to extremes and if we start giving freedom, we go to other extreme and vice versa. The Islamic concept of moderation gets affected in the process.
Host (Question 7)
I will ask you one last question. A great slogan is raised today that democracy is the best revenge. I would only ask with regard to democracy as to what is its legal position in Islam?
I would prefer to delete word revenge because I am not a revengeful person. I will talk about democracy. You have asked about legal position of democracy. Let me explain this fact too that Islam is the only religion, which introduced democracy as a system of life and a system of government in the world. Islam gave the first written constitution to the mankind. I have written a book Constitution of Madina consisting of 73 Articles. I have done a constitutional analysis of Constitution of Madina.
This is the Constitution which the Prophet of Islam (saw) had inaugurated and gifted it to the mankind. According to the first Article, the Holy Prophet (saw) founded the constitutional state on democracy. It was a written, balanced and moderate written constitution. He founded a nation-state. Whatever rights he gave to Muslims were also given to the non-Muslims. He heralded an era of rule of law and gave constitutional protection to the local customs and tribal traditions of the Jews. Their traditions, values and culture were protected through constitutional guarantee. He gave the idea of economic support and founded it on the Brotherhood of Madina. He gave them fundamental rights and complete religious freedom and said the Jews would enjoy same amount of independence as Muslims in regard to their religion. Madina was declared as hub of peace. All fundamental rights like right to basic necessities, occupation, property, life and honour were granted. No person would be punished without reference to the Court of law and due process of law. He gave rights to the prisoners of war. It was the norm at the time that POWs were killed. No international law regarding prisoners existed.
I am saying this as an authority on law. I have taught law at the Punjab University all my life. I have taught International law. Islamic law is my subject but I have critically studied the American, British and Pakistani Constitutions. I am telling you with complete responsibility that POWs were killed everywhere in the world. It was a general practice. The Holy Prophet (saw) banned this practice and fixed four laws to govern conduct towards POWs. He introduced the spirit of democracy. Abu Zarr and Abu Hurara report that the Prophet of Islam said, â€œThe opinion of two is better than that of one, that of four is better than that of three and of five is better that that of four. He further said, Where there is majority, there is Allah Hand of Protection. This is the basis of democracy with consultation being its core. This is the system Islam has introduced.