Human Rights, International, Political, Religious

Desperate times for Pakistan

Pakistan never had easy time politically or economically since its inception. The reason is quite simple – if something is made out of flawed or defective material or designed out of misconceived ideas, it is bound to reflect on its imperfection and show up in its poor performance or existence. Pakistan is no exception to that.  

The country, Pakistan was envisaged on the basis of a flimsy ideology which had no philosophical underpinning or deep deliberation. The Two Nation Theory (TNT) was produced by Allama Iqbal in his dissertation in 1930 as an academic discourse. It was not meant to be a political philosophy chalking out the birth of a nation in the turbulent post-colonial times of British Raj. There was no serious discussion on whether there was any mileage in taking TNT seriously or was it just an arm chair discussion document? Mohammad Ali Jinnah, took up this half-baked TNT as a potent political tool to suit his purpose for a separate nation and thereby stave-off Indian National Congress’ (INC) political supremacy. He did not give any serious thought on the implications of TNT, nor did he initiate any proper discussion on it before taking it up as a serious political tool. When he was asked whether he had thought through this political ideology, he replied in 1946, just one year before the creation of a State, that “let us get it before we think about it!” It was like building a factory before thinking what to do with the factory! To a large extent, this TNT may even be synonymous with Tri-Nitro Toluene – a chemical substance used to blast off a building or a barrier.   

The perceived ideology of the TNT was that as Hindus and Muslims are two separate peoples, with separate religions, culture, philosophy, education and upbringing, they cannot live together. That Hindus and Muslims had been living together for centuries had been cast aside for the political shenanigan of the day. Two nations, one for Muslims called Pakistan and the other for all other religions in India, had been curbed out in the Indian subcontinent in 1947 and to do this, communal riots and violent antagonism had been whipped up by the blatantly aggressive communal politicians. That there were more Muslims in India than in the whole of Pakistan – East Pakistan and West Pakistan put together – was considered irrelevant and superfluous.

Within a few years of creation of Pakistan, it was found that religion far from being the unifying force was, in fact, a poisonous pallet blowing apart even Muslims of various sects and ethnicity. Pakistan adopted a foreign policy that was primarily based on anti-Indian, anti-Hindu philosophy in order to keep incongruous Muslim communities together. Inherently it was assumed that this attitude would bind the loosely bound religious people of both the provinces together and thereby make Pakistan viable. The religious opportunists had the field day in that situation in Pakistan. They made Pakistan an Islamic State and then made non-Sunni Muslims second-class citizens. Even Ahmadiyya sect, to which Prof. Abdus Salam who won Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 belonged, had been declared non-Muslim and thereby made Abdus Salam a non-Muslim.

The running of the State which Field Marshal Ayub Khan had forcibly taken away from the civilian rule in 1958 had never really reverted back to civilians. The aggressive exploitative stance that Pakistan government took under the tutelage of the Pakistan Army had caused Pakistan to break up in 1972. East Pakistan which became Bangladesh is now in much better shape, both politically and economically. Unlike Pakistan, Bangladesh is not a theocratic State and therefore free to run the country for the well-being of the people, not for the brain washed dogma that everything is done by Allah and we are just His lowly creatures!

Pakistan had never been a democratic State. Nearly half of the time since 1947 Pakistan was ruled by Army and the remaining other half by civilian governments under sharp eyes of the Army. As Shashi Tharoor of India said, “The State of India has an Army, the Army of Pakistan has a State.” No civilian government in Pakistan under a prime minister had managed to complete full five-year term of office. Either the incumbent prime minister had been killed or removed by the Army or in the present case, the sitting prime minister Imran Khan, had been removed under no confidence motion. The Pakistan Army is truly called “The Establishment”. The Establishment is in charge of the country whether in power or out of it.

Pakistan is in a very sorry state. Foreign interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs is a recurrent phenomenon. Of course, Pakistan had demonstrated that it had no moral compulsion either against interfering in foreign countries. The most recent incident was the Pakistan Army’s surreptitious involvement in Afghanistan, which made American military power pull away in disgrace like a third-grade power. America is now taking the revenge in removing Imran Khan from power. A number of times Pakistan resorted to despicable activities – sending saboteurs to India in Taz hotel killing more than 20 people; sending arms and ammunition to religious fanatics in Bangladesh and elsewhere.   

Ayub Khan wrote a book, back in 1960, called ‘Friends Not Masters’ pointedly telling America that Pakistan seeks friends, not masters. But, given half the opportunity, Pakistan would not shy away behaving like masters to other smaller States. East Pakistan had enough of Pakistan’s barbaric mindset and when Pakistan had been beaten and made to surrender in 1972, Pakistan showed no remorse at all. Now Bangladesh as an independent sovereign State would have no reason whatsoever to shed any tears at Pakistan’s desperate situation. As the saying goes, “If you dance with devils, you should be prepared to have devils bite your neck.”

After nearly 75 years of outright hostility and deadly animosity towards India, Pakistan’s deposed prime minister all of a sudden found that India is a decent democratic country and Pakistan should have good relations. But is it not somewhat incongruous to see that the mouth which is used to spew out vile words all the time now preaches amicable words?

  • Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist
Cultural, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Literary, Political, Religious

Religion and Human Epistemology

With the evolution of human species over the past tens of thousands of years from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens to Modern Humans, human intelligence and skill continued to develop sequentially through the Stone Age to the Bronze Age to the Iron Age and then on to Industrial Revolution.

At the earliest of times, human beings were subservient to some presumed superior intelligence or powers and that subservience was based on pure belief. That belief gradually transformed itself to faith. The faith is a collective, communal mental undertaking. Faith, once established, is difficult to root out as it comes as a joint undertaking, although each one individually holds the strands of that faith. The ownership of the faith is then taken up individually as well as collectively and it becomes part of their collective identity. A ‘faith’ can then easily transmute to a ‘religion’. When the group size becomes large enough or a significant number of groups coalesce together to form a community, the ‘faith’ becomes truly a ‘religion’. 

The German historian of religion, Rudolf Otto, in his book, The Idea of the Holy, stated that the feeling of ‘numinous’ was the basis of religion of devotion. This ‘numinous’ feeling placed human beings to subservient position and at the same time uplifted the mystical powers of the unknown to higher levels. This feeling predated the period of human knowledge and understanding and hence, any attempt to explain things such as the beginning of life on Earth and everything on Earth had been passed on to the superior, unknown powers.

Religions of bewildering varieties started to evolve in various parts of the world. Shinto in Japan, Daoism in China, Buddhism in India, Hinduism in India, Zoroastrianism in Persia, Paganism in Europe and other places, Abrahamic religions (all three mono-theistic religions) in the Middle East, the Sky-God in Africa and many more evolved at various times on Earth. It is estimated that altogether more than 10,000 religions evolved on Earth, but most of them went extinct or merged with the more dominant religion.  

The main point here is that there is virtually no substantiation that any of these religions originated from the presumed creator. However, Paganism, Buddhism, Hinduism and few more religions do not rely on single creator or divine authority as the source of the religion. Buddhism believes in eternal cycle of life and death until terminated by nirvana.

On the other hand, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and a bewildering variety of sects within these religions believe in Yahweh, God or Allah as the creator who is assumed to be all-powerful, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and incomprehensible. God is ineffable, beyond any query, and any aspersion or derision of this powerful creator is blasphemous. All knowledge derives from Him and all praise to Him. However, Judaism and Christianity have gradually moved away from blind adherence to such theological doctrines. But Islam or more particularly the Sunnis have maintained total reliance of such narrative. Allah created human beings, there is a day of judgement, heaven and hell awaits life after death etc. Human beings are composed of body and soul – body perishes on death but soul returns to God!

As mentioned above, Judaism, the originator of monotheism through Abraham, had moved away from strict submission to scripture dealing with life after death. Rabbi Manis Friedman, dean of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies, said in a speech in 2012 that the question of life after death is non-sensical. But he believed that soul is a living thing which goes back to where it came from, probably to heaven; but body perishes and goes back to soil. He also held the view that heaven and hell don’t exist, but if someone wants to believe in these things, he has the right to do so.

The Christianity, particularly Catholicism, and Islam, both Shia and Sunni, believe strongly in life after death; because without it the whole edifice of the religion incorporating the final day of judgement; existence of heaven and hell etc would collapse. The question may be raised that how the body of the dead person would be revived, at what age and in what condition etc would that revival be and it remained unanswered in these religions. 

These two religions along with Judaism proclaim that the creator created the vast universe, made every animate and inanimate thing follow certain orders etc. The traditional creator had been assigned in these religions essential attributes – He must be present right from or even before the beginning and will last until or beyond the end of creation. He is all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent and He is not accountable to anybody; He can see past, present and future. Any derogatory or disrespectful remark or any question about God’s authority is blasphemous.

The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza’s (1632 – 1677), view of God was totally dismissive of all these gobbledegook. He showed through the power of logic that God and Nature are one and the same thing. He started from the fundamental logic that there must be a single self-subsistent entity that must be the creator and the creation. This unity of cause (source) and the consequence (creation) must be there to remove the inexplicable question that if creator created everything, then who created the creator? The creator and creation must be merged into one.

Thus, in one big swoop Baruch Spinoza dismissed the fundamental basis of monotheistic religions that there is a transcendent creator who created everything. He argued that the creator and the creation is one in Nature and it is infinite in its expanse and immanence. He held the view that human being is a composite entity of body and mind; body being the material object in space. The movement of the body is due to physical laws of motion whereas thought is a mental state.

Some years previously, French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) advocated mind-body dualism. Descartes’ (pronounced as Dekorta) philosophical view was that mind and body have separate existence within the body. This led to the belief that whereas body was material in character and would eventually decay away on Earth, the soul is subliminal and lives on eternally! It chimed or had been made to chime with the religious views. This philosophical basis remained extant until Spinoza vigorously opposed such un-scientific epistemology.

The most prominent German philosopher of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger, produced his most important contributions to phenomenology and existentialism in his book called ‘Being and Time’. In that book, he argued that ‘Das Sein’ meaning ‘Being’ is the reality of our existence here. After being ‘thrown’ into the world, we strive to move from inauthenticity to authenticity. We strive to gain freedom from social milieu, freedom from archaic prejudices and practical necessities that are not our own making and move away from ‘they-self’ into ‘our-self’. Getting the freedom of ‘our-self’ releases us to attain our ‘Being’ here. But all Beings are inter-connected and there is the ‘unity of Being’. Our authenticity arises from ‘unity of Being’ with all things, making the ‘common Being’ with the universe. So, Heidegger was saying effectively that the ontology (the sense of being that exists as self-contained individual) encompasses the ‘unity of Being’.

One may find a strong resemblance, almost an echo, of Tagore’s philosophical discourse, which he argued when he met Einstein in July, 1930 in Berlin that as individual atoms or molecules join up to form a smooth congruous substance, so does the humanity of individuals form the universal humanity and human universe. Truth of the universe is the human truth; without humans, beauty and truth are irrelevant.

Where does the religion fit in the epistemology of existentialism and human truth? Religion, any religion for that matter, is fundamentally dogmatic, sectarian and divisive. The edifice of religion is based on unproven axiomatic assumptions and social provincialism. It is no wonder that when Albert Einstein was asked whether he believed in God, he answered that he believed in Spinoza’s God “who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and doings of mankind”.

Thus, he upheld the belief of God as the Nature itself that provides universal humanity.

– Dr Anisur Rahman is an author and columnist.

Cultural, Life as it is, Religious

Mendacious claims of scientific truths in Quran

There had been innumerable claims over the years, in fact over the centuries, by the Mullahs, Islamic apologists and pseudoscientists that Quran conveys deep scientific thoughts and facts, which non-believers and even ardent Muslim believers have overlooked and ignored them. After all, they claim, Quran is the final word from Allah, the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the whole Universe and it is quite logical that Allah will pass on some of knowledge to the people of the world through His beloved Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

Allah did send the deep secrets of scientific truths to his Prophet, as claimed by him, and those secrets were transcribed in the Quran. Now one may ask, why these Mullahs and pseudoscientists who were in the know, did not take full advantage of this secret store house of knowledge, one has to ponder for a rational explanation.

However, without further ado, let us try to decipher those scientific truths and knowledge that the Prophet transcribed in the Quran and examine them against the science that we the ordinary human beings have learnt through our education system. Only two very simplistic and almost mundane scientific issues will be examined here and, in the future, more challenging issues will be dealt with. The two issues considered now are (i) Quranic version of Sunset and Sunrise and (ii) Quranic version of resting place for the Sun. In the description below, the first number in the list is the Sûra number and the second and subsequent numbers are the Ayat numbers.         

Quranic version of Sunset and Sunrise

18: 84 – 86

84: Verily We established his (Alexander, the Great. In Quran he was referred to as Zul-qarnain, see below) power on earth. And We gave him the ways and the means to all ends.

85: One (such) way he followed,

86: Until, when he reached the setting of the Sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water; near it he found a People; We said: “O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority) either punish them or to treat them with kindness.”

18:90

90: Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We provided no covering protection against the Sun.

Comments

Is there any scientific basis, as claimed in the Quran, that the Sun sets in a spring of murky water and where it sets there were people (as if that was at the end of the world)? Moreover, does Sun rise at exactly the same place?

Scientifically these are total nonsense; only a totally ignorant person can say these things. The Sun does not set in a spring of murky water, although a wayward Bedouin may have viewed it at one point that it is setting in a spring of water or even in a sea or seen the reflection of the setting Sun in a sea. To find people where Sun sets is described as if it is an amazing thing; as it would be if it were at the end of the world (flat Earth). And then the Sun does not pop out (rise) over certain number of people always and hence the question of providing protection is totally irrelevant. The Sun rises over all the people of the world at various locations at various times.

From various references of Zul-qarnain in the Quran, one can make a good guess that Zul-qarnain is none other than Alexander the Great, although there are controversies. However, whether Zul-qarnain was Alexander the Great or not is irrelevant in the present context, except that he was empowered with authority to punish people or pardon people, as was Alexander in the conquest of Western Asia, Persia and India.

Quranic version of resting place for the Sun

36: 38 – 40

38: And the Sun runs unto a resting place for him (Sun); that is the decree of Him, the Exalted in Might, the all Knowing.

39: And the Moon – We have measured for her stations (to traverse) till she returns like the old (and withered) lower part of a date-stalk.

40: It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day; each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit.

Comments

The above Ayats are from Sûra Yâsin, which is considered to be “the heart of the Quran”, as it is the Revelation which Mohammad brought to this Earth. It is the central doctrine of Revelation and the Hereafter (meaning after death).

Now can somebody make any sense out of these totally nonsensical Ayats? If somebody tries to say that these are scientific facts which Mohammad brought as divine Revelation, then that man must be considered as barking mad. Admittedly, nearly 1400 years ago when Mohammad was trying to pass on these messages as Revelations, Earth was considered to be flat and at the centre of the universe and the Sun and Moon were considered to go round it in their own orbits. But to proclaim, in the name of divine decree, that Sun goes at the end of the day to its resting place and Sun and Moon were in a sort of race with each other are sheer lunacy. Even by the standards of knowledge at that time, these races and resting places etc would be considered as sheer stupidity. What is even more disorientating is that there are Mullahs and block-headed Muslim apologists now, at the present day and time, who try to claim that these are scientific truths given by the all-powerful all-knowing Creator of the Universe!   

Hadith confirmation of Sun setting

According to Sahih al-Bukhari Hadiths: Abzur Ghifari narrated: One day Prophet Mohammad asked me, “Abzur, do you know after setting where Sun goes?”  I replied, I do not know, only Allah’s apostle can say better. Then Prophet replied, “After setting, the Sun remains prostrated under Allah’s Aro’sh (Allah’s throne) and waits for Allah’s command for rising again in the East. A day will come when Sun will not get any more permission from Allah to rise again and Qeyamot (dooms day) will fall upon earth”.

Conclusions

Reading all these ‘Revelations’, one gets the distinct impression that he is reading the delirium of an ignorant egoistic man who was trying to sell his garbage as the dictum of the prophet of the Creator of the Universe. The most unscientific facts in the Quran are:  

The Sun and Moon are not going round the Earth.

The Sun does not set in a spring of murky water.

The Earth is not flat.

The Sun and Moon are not racing against each other.   

The Sun does not lay prostrated besides Allah’s throne from Sunset to Sunrise.

A Paxman is a freelance writer on socio-political and religious matters.