THE recent attack on Malala Yousufzai has shocked not only Pakistan but the whole world. There was near unanimity among the people of Pakistan that the attack was unjustified.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed that the attack was carried out by them at the behest of Maulana Fazlullah, reportedly hiding in Afghanistan. Pakistan has requested the Afghan government to hand over Fazlullah and his men.
It is a matter of shame that a religious ‘leader’ should be involved in the attempted murder of a teenage girl. Her ‘crime’ was that she was campaigning for the education of girls.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has justified attacking Malala on religious grounds and described her as a ‘spy of the West’. Justifying the attack, the Taliban have reportedly said: “For this espionage, infidels gave her awards and rewards. And Islam orders killing of those who are spying [for] enemies,” while the second reason given was that Malala “used to propagate against mujahideen (holy warriors) to defame the Taliban. The Holy Quran says that people propagating against Islam and Islamic forces [should] be killed.”
This is obviously an extremely weak defence. Firstly, if the Taliban knew anything about Islam they would know that a child cannot be punished unless he or she attains adulthood. Only those who can understand the consequences of what they are doing (people with reasoning power) are liable to punishment in Islam. Even prayers, fasting or Haj are not obligatory on children.
Secondly, niyyah (intention) is necessary for performance of an act in Islam. Even prayer or fasting without niyyah will not be acceptable.
The weakness of the argument is obvious from the fact that the Taliban have equated the campaign for education of girls with ‘spying’. It is quite ridiculous. Before trying to execute somebody the crime has to be proved in a court of law. And Islamic punishments cannot be carried out by just anyone; one has to take the case to the court of a qazi (judge) who hears the case, demands proof and asks for witnesses.
Even as grave a crime as zina (illegitimate sexual intercourse or adulterous relationship) requires four witnesses who have witnessed the act itself for imposing the Islamic punishment of 100 lashes (or stoning to death, though there is controversy about this punishment).
No one can take the law into their own hands and execute someone who has allegedly committed the crime. There will be total anarchy if this becomes the norm. Only a duly constituted government can appoint a properly qualified qazi who can try the accused and pronounce appropriate sentence. There can also be mitigating circumstances which a qazi has to take into account.
Not only are the Taliban not a government, they are not even fit to be called mujahideen. A mujahid fights only in the way of Allah (fi sabil-illah), which itself is an act of great responsibility and means that there should be no selfish desires involved and no arbitrariness at all.
Their acts are far from Islamic or in the way of Allah; more often than not they are oppressive, exploitative and totally arbitrary, besides being inhumane.
How strange that the Taliban are describing campaigning for education as an act of ‘spying’. Can there be more irresponsible and arbitrary judgment than this? Do ‘mujahideen’ act so irresponsibly? Or since they decided to murder an innocent teenage girl are they trying to find lame excuses to label their action ‘Islamic’? They can deceive themselves, but not those who are experts in Islamic law and dispensing Islamic justice.
The Taliban should know that a qazi or a mufti, while calling something ‘Islamic’, has to quote from the Quran or the Sunnah or both, and where there is any ambiguity to quote the opinion of an imam or founder of any of the schools of law and not just describe anything one wants to as ‘Islamic’.
It is a gross error to do so and much more so if done intentionally, which is what the Taliban have done in this case. Just by calling something Islamic does not make it so.
There is total unanimity among all Islamic scholars that ilm (knowledge) is obligatory on all Muslim men and Muslim women (muslimah). The Prophet (PBUH) did not use the word Muslim, which would have included both men and women, but mentioned Muslim men and women separately so that Muslim women are not left out in the matter of acquiring knowledge. And the Prophet made acquisition of knowledge for both men and women obligatory.
Then, can acquiring knowledge be equated with spying? The Prophet is also reported to have said that a man who has a daughter and educates her and marries her to an educated man will enter paradise. He even went to the extent of saying that he would guarantee such an individual’s entering paradise.
Also, the Quran makes us pray to the Lord to increase our knowledge (rabbi zidni ilman); all commentators agree that this applies to both men and women.
The Quran calls knowledge light and ignorance darkness and asks us to pray to Allah to take us out of darkness and into light.
All this clearly shows that what the Taliban have done is patently un-Islamic and must be strongly condemned. All those responsible for the dastardly act must be tried in a court of law and if found guilty, given stringent punishment.
The writer is an Islamic scholar who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.