Sunday, 16 October 2011

Murder or an Act of ‘Piety’?

Dr. Syed Mansoor Hussain

Perhaps our religious divines should look into this matter and come up with an appropriate ruling whether it is an act of piety to provide martyrdom to those who desire martyrdom

As an old-fashioned liberal I am opposed to the death penalty for even the most heinous crime. My opposition is based on a simple premise. The state should not be in the business of killing people, a point of view that many ‘civilised’ countries in the world agree with. It has also become evident in recent years with newer methods of investigation that sometimes innocent people are convicted of murder and receive the death penalty.

As far as a person like Mumtaz Qadri is concerned, who killed another human being in ‘cold blood’ and in front of many eyewitnesses, confessed to it in open court and showed no remorse for his actions, life imprisonment without any chance of ever being freed is in my opinion adequate punishment. However, many of the ‘true believers’ might and probably do disagree with me. And frankly I have great respect for their points of view.

Pakistan is an ‘Islamic’ Republic, therefore, we will always have a death penalty. Since the death penalty is a sanctioned Islamic punishment,
I am quite surprised that our ‘true believing’ friends are out in full force demanding that a self-avowed killer should be set free. From what I understand, their point of view is that Qadri acted as a true Muslim, thus he is not guilty of murder but is rather a ‘ghazi’ or a warrior in the name of Islam. Based on my limited knowledge of such things it seems that by committing an act that makes a person a ghazi, that person also assures for himself a place in ‘jannat’ (Heaven) and that clearly was Qadri’s motive in killing somebody he considered to be a ‘blasphemer’.
Now this ‘assured’ place in Heaven does raise an interesting question: what would happen to Qadri’s place in Heaven if he lives long enough to commit some terrible sin? Would he then not lose this place? Clearly Qadri wanted to assure his place in Heaven, so, if he is allowed to live on then there is a real chance that he might lose this place and that would surely be a source of tremendous disappointment for him once he arrives in the hereafter.

Based upon my limited understanding of such things it seems to me that if Qadri’s supporters really care for what happens to him in the hereafter they should demand his immediate execution so that he can ascend to Heaven as soon as possible. After all, once he is executed he will not only be a ghazi but will also become a shaheed (martyr) thus further assuring his rightful place in Heaven. Also his executioner (the state) just might be doing him a favour by dispatching him to Heaven and as such could be absolved of any criminality under Islam law.

Interestingly, much of the violence perpetrated in the name of Islam revolves around the idea that by dispatching those who are ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ (deserving to die), the dispatcher earns a place in Heaven for himself. However, in modern times with availability of advanced weapons, this concept has become a trifle complicated. In the older days the ‘dispatching’ process was personalised and there was little chance of ‘collateral damage’. Now that the dispatch process often involves the death of many bystanders, including women and children, a new concept of ‘jihad’ (holy war) has been developed to justify the killing of the ‘innocents’.

The idea is that since all good Muslims really yearn to go to Heaven as soon as possible, therefore, the good Muslims (including the innocent children) who die accidentally during an act of violence against the enemies of Islam become ‘unintentional holy warriors’ themselves and as such arrive in Heaven forthwith. Therefore, the perpetrators of violence are doing these good Muslims and innocent children a favour by sending them to Heaven before they commit any sins that make their entry into Heaven impossible. This line of reasoning might seem a little complicated to people like me but makes eminent sense to the ‘true believers’.

This of course brings up an interesting question about drone attacks that kill true believers. If the combatant true believers as well as the unintended victims who are also true believers all really desire martyrdom so that they can go to Heaven, then the drone attacks are doing them all a favour by hastening their arrival in Heaven. This line of reasoning about true believers desiring immediate ascent to Heaven could indeed be expanded to apply to all the true believers in Pakistan who indulge in violence in the name of religion. Since all of them clearly desire martyrdom, therefore, their deaths would fulfil their desire to reach Heaven at the earliest opportunity. Perhaps our religious divines should look into this matter and come up with an appropriate ruling whether it is an act of piety to provide martyrdom to those who desire martyrdom.

Once it is accepted that getting deserving people to Heaven is in itself an act of piety then that could indeed open the floodgates to such activity. All true believers in the Islamic Republic might then decide that dispatching other true believers to Heaven will improve their own chance of getting to Heaven. If that happens we might then see neighbours dispatching neighbours and even students in our religious seminaries, who are always in search of piety, dispatching each other as well as their teachers to Heaven. All this could go on and on till a time when all true believers in Pakistan end up in Heaven leaving only disbelievers and assorted sinners behind.

Personally I do not think that such a time will ever come but then considering how badly the true believers in Pakistan want to assure a place in Heaven for themselves, anything is possible. I, however, would much prefer to get to the life hereafter at my own time and let the ‘Master of the Day of Judgement’ determine my fate.

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