Today's date:
Spring 2006

Spiritual Reform Will Only Come After Political Reform

Imran Khan, the famous Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, spoke candidly and passionately in a recent interview with Atif R. Khan of Islamica Magazine about everything from politics and Pakistan to Sufism and Islamic democracy. These comments are adapted from that conversation at Imran Khan’s home in Lahore.

Lahore — Justice knows no laws. Justice is justice. It is a very straightforward thing, justice. Islamic justice and any other justice are the same. What is justice? Justice means that everyone stands equal in front of the law.

What was it that propelled the Islamic civilization into the greatest one ever? The Rightly Guided Caliphs in the state of Medina established complete justice. Everyone was equal before the law. Two of the four caliphs actually went to a court of law, with Hazrat Ali (may God be well pleased with him) losing a case against a Jewish subject. That was Muslim justice.

Muslim justice was such that the Christians in Muslim states had greater protection and freedom of religion than they had in their own Christian Byzantine state. So a Muslim state should be based on a system of justice, above all.

A state should also look after its underprivileged. The weak, the old, the orphans, the widows—which is what was started at the time of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. And a state should be sovereign. Because when you accept the sovereignty of God, you do not accept any false gods. And look at the state of the Muslim world today, where they just bow and scrape in front of foreign powers.

SOFT ISLAM IN PAKISTAN | Pakistanis have always been basically very moderate. We have always had moderate Islam here. We have always had the soft version of Islam because of Sufism. All you have to do is look around.

We do not have a hard version of Islam. People are basically very tolerant. I grew up never seeing fundamentalism and all this intolerance. Unfortunately, it is a combination of a few things. One: the culture of the Westernized elite whose insensitivity sparks off reaction. These fundamentalists, some of them are reactionaries. The proper word is reactionary: They react to their culture coming under threat. Then, there was this Afghan jihad, which brought this reactionary version of Islam.

And now we have a system where, unfortunately, we have this so-called War on Terrorism, which is basically this neo-con, Zionist agenda of putting client regimes in the Muslim world and equating the Muslim freedom struggle with the terrorism of 9/11. So this War on Terrorism is evoking a reaction in Pakistan.

STEPS TO REFORM | You have political reform in the Islamic world, the spiritual reform would follow.

The other way around is something I am not sure can happen because if you have a system where you have such governments as exist today in the Muslim world—that do not allow freedom of expression, freedom of thought, that do not allow debate on Islam—how are you going to have an Islamic renaissance? What you need is proper, pure, democratic governments. Remember, there is no substitute for democracy. And when you have democracy and an open society and debate, automatically you will see the real scholars coming up.

There is great hope in North America for Islam, mainly because there is a spirit of inquiry there. The educational institutions are good, people are equipped to do research, there is freedom of expression. Certainly before 9/11, there really was freedom of expression for Muslims. It was easier for Muslim scholars to debate views on Islam in America than it was in their own country.

In our sort of world, you have fanatics attacking you on one side, and the moment you spoke about Islam, and it was against the leaders of the day, the government would squeeze you from the other side. In most of the Muslim world, the government does not allow freedom of expression. If you do not have freedom of expression, you cannot have evolution of thought.