Reciting Fatiha After Musharraf's Death Should Be Above Partisanship

Reciting Fatiha After Musharraf's Death Should Be Above Partisanship
The former Army Chief, the chief executive, the former President or the last dictator of Pakistan - whatever one might call him, recently died after a protracted illness. His body was brought to the city of Karachi and he was buried with military honors in an army graveyard.

Two disquieting news stories made the rounds around this occasion; the first was about the upper house and story goes something like this. The Senate will be ensuring that all laws are in conformity with the laws of Islam and the second was yet again about the upper house stating that the Senate was divided over praying for Musharraf.

This is a spectacle of stark polarization and schism, not only on political matters but in showing the positions of our lawmakers to be ‘poles apart’ on the subject of religious obligations and virtues.

This is one of the highest levels of a glaring difference of opinion, which is the manifestation of the long brewing obfuscation when it comes to religion and one’s religious beliefs.

It is the point from which an agreed conciliation cannot be easily hewn when one group wants to recite the fatiha for the deceased who was a Muslim by religion as we know, and the other group refuses to do so on the pretext that he violated the Constitution of the country. Yet both sides agree to ensure conformity to Islamic laws in the country. The equation where a violation of a country’s Constitution and not paying last respects due to that action is an out of balance equation, and is very difficult to comprehend.

Pakistan is an ‘Islamic’ republic and with this definition, religion and its basic tenets take precedence over the Constitution, which was developed only by people. The first moral obligation of being a Muslim is reciting fatiha for the departed, even if you did not agree with their political or other views or if you were not on good terms with them. Not being a religious scholar, this scribe might be wrong with regards to religious understanding, however on a purely moral foundation it should not be a matter of grudge against the departed in paying respects.

Even on a battlefield, the bodies of enemy soldiers who die in the line of duty are given due respect by the adversary’s armed forces, regardless of their religious association, as well as their loyalty to their own country. Military honor is upheld in those situations without bias or prejudice.

It is a matter of disappointment that our parliamentarians are so oblivious of the fact that one virtue of our religion is for us to pay our respect to the people who pass away and offer commiserations. The individual who has now moved on to a divine journey will have all their matters decided by the Almighty. This is a simple and a very basic tenet of Islam.

If we cannot even agree on the basics of the laws, especially in relation to religion, how can we ensure conformity to Islamic laws, where everyone will have their own interpretation of religion and they will try to impose their own understanding on to others.

For example, in the case of fatiha recitation, people who did not agree with the proposal could have stayed quite or could have left the hall, just in case they would consider keeping quiet being tantamount to ‘paying homage,’ and have left other people to their will to recite the fatiha. However, this matter started a small ruckus and the idea had to be shelved. To add confusion to this chronicle, it was also reported that the National Assembly did recite a fatiha; this leaves one speechless as it is even more challenging to comprehend this contradiction between the two houses of the parliament.

Another example of divergence at the national level was the state level funeral given to another military dictator who not only overthrew the civilian government, violated the constitution, but in his 11 years of rule, we saw one civilian prime minister hanged, extremism rose, sectarianism took a strong hold and the country is still reeling from his social engineering project based on religion. As a longer lasting consequence, we now see and live in a completely different Pakistan, when compared to the pre-Zia era. The funeral was telecast live on national TV and an official period of mourning was declared.

We need to put our house in order with a clear course for progression.