IS not casting a vote a sin? If it is then the envisaged fatwa occupies the other end of the spectrum in which some ulema consider the electoral process — in fact democracy itself — un-Islamic. But over the decades, there has been a sea-change in this thinking. Some leading religious parties, initially opposed to Western-style democracy and elections, have reversed their position and taken part in polls. For the people of Pakistan, however, a fatwa this way or that is of no consequence, because over the last 50 years, they have unmistakably settled for democracy and never seen the issue of voting or not voting as a religious one. Against this background, the outcome of a meeting of ulema in Islamabad on Thursday will be watched with interest. If not voting voluntarily is a sin, what position will the ulema adopt in cases where women are prevented from voting? Are the women guilty of sin or should we hold as sinners those who keep them away from the polling booth? The issue is relevant to some parts of the country where traditions have stood in the way of a woman’s right to exercise her franchise.

The Islamabad moot is to be attended by virtually all political parties; that should give us an idea of its importance. If the conference makes progress, there will be a larger convention of 5,000 ulema, representing all schools of fiqh, including those from Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar. Let us hope the conference does not get bogged down in dogmatic hair-splitting, and, instead, the learned participants adopt a position that recognises the modern political ethos and upholds a democratic approach. The Pakistan Ulema Council will use the occasion to launch a 40-page booklet, which deals with electoral issues in the light of Sharia. The PUC’s thrust has been towards a more liberal interpretation of the texts. For that reason, it would be interesting to see what response it evokes from the more tradition-bound sections of the ulema.

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Comments (12)

Ram Krishan Sharma
April 23, 2013 5:59 pm
Surely , legacy of Islam will enlighten Pakistan and the rest of the Muslim world.
Mohammad Saleem
April 23, 2013 5:04 pm
Mullah-Army alliance is the mother of all problems facing Pakistani polity,which will assume even more alarming dimension in the foreseeable future that will endanger regional security as well.
April 23, 2013 7:07 am
indeed it is a good move. Muslim scholar must bring the legacy of Islam to enlighten our government according to current situation.
April 23, 2013 4:23 pm
What is so right about Iran? Nothing, ask the general public. I have lived on a work assignment there a few years and, believe me, it isn't nice. Majority deplore the present state of restrictive existence. Turkey, well yes definitely so but none of the level that Pakistani religiosity is heading for. In Turkey, people do enjoy tremendous liberalism, e.g one can find a Muslim woman quite happy wearing skirt/blouse while another Muslim woman in hijab. No questions are asked etc..
April 23, 2013 4:13 pm
The reason that a majority of the people stay away from the election process is that they do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. The Government coming next is mostly more corrupt and more ineffective than its predecessor. Do you think people will start going to the booths, if someone in the 15 minute Friday sermon (which the majority listens to for not more than 5 minutes) asked them to go? I don't think more than 1% care about what the 'Ulema' have to say before they vote.
April 23, 2013 3:27 pm
I do agree with mr Latif Khan but Islamic doctrines are interwined with politics and religion.It is evident from the nature of governance of OIC countries.I don't understand how the muslims can resolve identity crises since inception of Islam.So' Religion is one's personal mattar and it is between man and God' will remain an utopian idea to Islamic Umma
April 23, 2013 9:25 am
Pakistan definitely on the way to religiosity and a theocracy. Goodbye secularism and democracy.
April 23, 2013 4:36 am
Ullema will tel us the "electoral issues in the light of Sharia", whereas we all know that sharia does not favor democracy. Hope we all have the courage to stand to fact that religion and politics are and should be separate.
April 23, 2013 11:49 am
For God's sake stop putting this clergy on a pedestal it does not deserve. Islamic Worlds decline is directly linked to their ascent a 1000 years ago. Get rid of this chokehold!!
Latif Khan
April 23, 2013 7:43 am
Religion and politics are two different subjects and both cannot be joined together like one we see in Pakistan. Religion can't work or function properly in politics. Politics belong to politicians who deal with affairs of a state and provide justice to people and treat men and women as equal and keep religion for themselves and do not impose onto others. Religion is one's personal matter and it is between man and God.
April 23, 2013 2:38 pm
Utterly wrong. Look at Iran and Turkey now.
Fahim Khan
April 23, 2013 3:31 pm
Clergy leads the government in Iran but elections were not delayed for a single day even during the wars and sanctions.
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