Thursday, September 15, 2011

Owning Quran and the Hereafter

The mania and grandiosity of our politicians have hit heretofore unknown proportions. The power surge that they got from incredible wealth and owning armies of servants was bad enough; they seem to have transcended into the arrogance of owning religion.

Former Sind Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza does tell-all in and of itself was inflammatory; the repeated placement of the Quran on his head became a show-stopper. In the many anecdotal surveys since, he appears to have achieved his objective in that most people appear to accept the veracity of his claims.

During the press conference however I remember watching the Quran’s repeated trips from tabletop to head with alternating shock and chagrin. While God says in Surah Hashr (59:21): “If We had sent down this Qur'an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and cleaved asunder from fear of Allah. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought”, Zulfiqar Mirza, fire in his eyes, would raise it and lower it as though it were just about any old book. So caught up in his invective was he that many a time his left hand would do.

I am certain that it was not the Urdu or English translation that Zulfiqar Mirza was swearing upon but the Glorious Quran itself. God speaks repeatedly of its stature to the extent that in Surah Waqiah (56:77-82) He says: Indeed, it is a Quran, most honorable, in a Book well guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean, a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds, is it such a message that you would hold in light esteem?”

And from Zulfi-Leaks it was downhill all the way. After a two-week reprieve MQM’s Altaf Husain presented the “Many moods of Altaf Bhai” video-conference from London. My shock turned to horror as I saw the Quran, carelessly opened, waved in the air, its pages flying about and then plopped on his head despite claims that the Quran is not meant to be sworn on but read. One wonders whether Altaf Husain has read the Quran and how God describes its sanctity in it repeatedly.

The disrespect reached such serious levels that in the same press conference the man broke out into song and simulated dance, with our Holy Book lying in front of him. Does political self-defense make people entirely insane? What is that Urdu saying about drowning oneself in a handful of water? Any person in their right mind watching a replay of that video and seeing themselves behaving so shamefully and disrespectfully with the Quran lying carelessly in front of them should consider cyanide or the closest window.

As far as swearing on the Quran is concerned, scholars liken giving false testimony as one of the major sins in Islam akin to polytheism. This opinion is based on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stating that “testifying falsely is tantamount to polytheism” and quoting Surah Hajj (22:60) “therefore avoid the uncleanness of the idols and avoid false words” three times to support his statement.

In everything in life there is an initial reluctance, a breaking-in if you will. And after that you’re on oiled wheels as it were. And so it was with Zulfiqar Mirza. In television talk show after talk show, his inevitable companion was the Quran which did its usual head-to-table trips. So consumed was he with this new currency that he first persuaded and then almost physically insisted that the poor talk-show host place the Quran on his own head. If Pakistani cardiologists are not good enough for President Zardari, Zulfiqar Mirza has every rationale for rest, recreation and a psychiatric check at Brompton Hospital in England.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik bore Zulfiqar Mirza’s target practice with fortitude, that much must be said. And yet in all things Pakistani we never really reach rock bottom-the worst is always waiting. In a harried interview with reporters all around him Rehman Malik mightily claimed that he had not ordered the release of a single target killer. And if he had he said “may I not be able to recite the kalma at my death”. Whoa! Bargaining our eternity are we?

It is general Muslim belief, or fear, that faith can be so tenuous and Satan so ever-present that despite a righteous life, at the very end one could die a non-Muslim. Tomes and poems have been written on this fear, however irrational it may appear to the calm and spiritually placid. Belief in the Hereafter is an integral part of being Muslim (Surah Baqarah 2:62). To speak of its compromise with Rehman Malik’s casualness is also a mind jolt.

It has to be the corruption of absolute power. In a nation of mind-boggling poverty BMWs and Mercedes’ are used as official cars. It’s only the ever-widening gulf between the rich and poor in Pakistan and more so between the power-intoxicated politicians and the starving millions that make them look and sound psychotic.

Mahjabeen Islam is an addictionist, family physician and columnist.