Recently we read with great pain that extremists in Pakistan killed several women who were active in administering anti-polio drops to children.Many feel that one of the reasons behind the attacks was that the extremists think an international conspiracy is afoot to reduce the population of Muslims in the world, and the anti-polio drops make a person impotent.
Some Muslims and mosque imams in India too thought likewise and in their Friday sermons asked Muslims not to allow social workers to administer anti-polio drops to their children.But in India it was just an appeal. No one was physically harmed, much less killed. In Pakistan the extremists believe in a culture of violence. For them the only solution to their orders being defied is to shoot people dead. For example, Malala Yousufzai was shot — but thankfully survived — because she did not obey the Taliban’s call to stop advocating education for girls.
Those who kill others in the name of Islam can hardly be called Muslim, let alone pious Muslims. In order to be a pious Muslim one has to be just. The Quran says that “…Do justice, it is closest to piety….” (5:8)
How can one claim to observe the norms of justice by killing others? Justice is something most difficult to do. Even for murder we require at least two pious and honest witnesses and to prove rape or fornication we need four such witnesses. One has to make sure, according to Sharia, that before accepting their testimony, the witnesses are honest and pious. Testimony cannot be accepted from just anyone.
To kill someone without justification is a great sin. The Quran says that “…Whoever kills a person unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he has killed [the] whole humanity. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved the whole humanity….” (5:32). This is a very important statement of the Holy Book.
Life is sacred. It is not so cheap that anyone can kill any other person just like that. If life could be taken by anyone at any time, entire humanity would be wiped out in the course of time.
Perhaps the extremists need to ask themselves which rule of Sharia has prescribed that administering anti-polio drops should be punished with death? Besides, this cure did not exist in the early days of the faith. The orthodox elements greatly resist any change in Sharia law even with proper justification, but do not hesitate to change Sharia or invent new laws through false reasoning when it suits their interests. This is what killing women administering anti-polio drops amounts to. It is pure innovation with false justification.
These very extremists would not mind producing and selling drugs through smuggling to buy weapons and destroy thousands of young lives. All intoxicants are strictly prohibited in Islam, particularly liquor and drugs, and yet the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are known to be producing and smuggling drugs to buy weapons.
I have attended an anti-drugs conference in Afghanistan and know how thousands of people are suffering because the Taliban want weapons. Even a number of women are addicted to drugs in Afghanistan. So much for the version of Islam propagated by the Taliban.
Also, whoever said that anti-polio doses make men impotent? Have they done any research on that? Or do they believe only in hearsay? To believe in something without confirming its truth is highly condemned by the Quran. The Holy Book calls it zann (suspicion, guess). The Quran condemns zann. In some cases it says it is a sin, in other cases it is described as personal desire and nothing to do with the truth. The Holy Book advises believers to avoid zann as much as possible.
If the extremists have proof the anti-polio drops are harmful, let them produce it. Or do they want these young children to be afflicted with polio and remain disabled for life? Life is a beautiful gift from Allah. Do they want this beautiful gift to become an affliction for these young ones? That too on the basis of mere suspicion or guesswork?
Also, this campaign has been launched by the UN to eliminate this curse from earth and make our lives healthier and happier. It is far from aimed at reducing the number of Muslims. Polio doses are being administered throughout the world. The whole of humanity is benefiting from the campaign, particularly in Africa and Asia where most of the world’s poor live. Perhaps it is a conspiracy of the Taliban to paralyse the coming generation of Muslims so they live at their mercy and through their charity.
There is so much emphasis in the Quran and hadith on knowledge (ilm). Instead of encouraging science and learning Muslim extremists are being ignorant and superstitious. They want to keep Muslims in the darkness of ignorance through the sheer power of the gun.
Muslims are in fact duty-bound to eliminate ignorance and usher in an era of enlightenment. But the Taliban do not want modern education, especially for women, do not want modern medicines and do not want freedom for anyone. Instead they are spreading the gun culture. Is this Islam?
We have to produce young Muslims to counter this menace of extremism as it is no less a curse than polio.
(Asghar Ali EngineerThe writer is an Islamic scholar who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai).