He gave no clue on how he would tackle the existential ideological onslaught on Pakistan by Islamist outfits.
In his first public speech since he emerged as victorious in the general election, Imran Khan outlined his vision for “Naya Pakistan” and pledged to safeguard the interests of ordinary citizens in accordance with the Prophetic ideals sympathetic towards the weaker sections of the society. “My inspiration comes from the last Prophet who set up an ideal welfare state in Medina. I want Pakistan to become like that. A humanistic not an animalistic state,” he said in a speech made from Bani Gala in Islamabad. “I want to share the kind of Pakistan I envision—the type of state that was established in Madina, where widows and the poor were taken care of,” he added.
Thus, the cricketer-turned-politician, in his 93-minute address to the nation, flaunted his “ambition” to create an Islamic welfare state where his guiding principles will be the same as adopted by the Holy Prophet in setting up one of the “greatest civilisations”. “I pledge to our people that I will introduce a system that is for the masses, all policies will be for the people and not for the elite,” he vowed. “I will live humbly. So far we have seen that everyone who comes to power changes. That will not happen with me,” he promised.
Even before the general election, the PTI’s manifesto avowedly stated its “mission” to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state in line with the humane and just principles that made the foundations of Misaq-e-Madina—a written charter of human rights in state of the Prophet (pbuh).
It is particularly interesting to note that Imran Khan referred to Misaq-e-Madina (or the Covenant of Madina), which particularly ensured protection of religious minorities in a Muslim-majority state. It is unclear whether this will deliver tangible benefits for the peace process between India and Pakistan. But I would like to weigh in on what Imran Khan meant by governing as per the Madinite Islam and how India-Pak Islamic intellectuals would view this. Notably, some of the prominent Muslim intellectuals in India have appeared quite optimistic about this. While Professor Akhtarul Wasey, president of Maulana Azad University in Rajasthan has written an op-ed piece, welcoming Imran Khan’s ambition to create an “Islamic welfare state”, Dr Zafrul Islam Khan, chairman of the Minorities Commission was recently quoted in an Urdu daily favouring the “peace overtures” of Pakistan over “India’s reluctance in holding the talks”.
But given Pakistan’s self-styled Nizam-e-Mustafa (the Prophetic system of governance), which is already brazenly violated in the country, several questions emerge on this. Deplorably enough, Pakistan was created as an Islamic nation on the basis of a self-styled “Nizam-e-Mustafa”, but its Constitution and many of its civil laws seriously violate minority rights. Let alone the religious minorities in the country, not even Muslim minorities are safe in Pakistan. Basic human rights, as enshrined in the Prophet’s Constitution, are brazenly violated day in and day out. Hence, the fundamental question is: Can an Islamic welfare state really exist in Pakistan? And, if Imran Khan considers the Madina state a standard system of governance for a Muslim-majority country, then how his ambition is going to be different from the notions of many other political Islamic parties operating in Pakistan in order to re-establish an “Islamic state”?
To discuss these questions, first, let us recount the key preambles of the Madina Covenant or Misaq-e-Madina to the extent that its essence is not lost in paraphrasing:
* Concept of “one nation” (Ummat-e-Wahida): All those who lived in Medina—Muslims, Jews, Christians, polytheists, pagans, tribes, clans, rich, poor, masters, slaves and others—belonged to one nation. It also included immigrants from Mecca, residents of Medina, neighbouring tribes, and those who fought with and for them.
* Prevention of abuse in loyalty and relationship: Poor or rich, master or slave, high ranking or layman, black or white, or others; all citizens are equal before the law. It ensured an inclusive cooperation among all citizens to reject any abuse or misuse of the laws. Citizens were considered under this clause of the Constitution as a beautiful piece of mosaic.
* Joint defence: Muslims and non-Muslims should defend each other according to this Constitution, and the rules and regulations were made out of careful consultation from the citizens and their representatives.
* Whoever breaches or breaks any article in this Constitution will lose the privileges entitled by this Constitution and will meet the consequences, and no one carries the burden of the other.
* Recognising and accepting the special religious, traditional and cultural aspects of each component in a multi-cultural and pluralistic society.
These are some of the clauses of the Madina Covenant that made Medina a sacred state in the Islamic history. Composed of 52 articles, this document particularly stressed peaceful coexistence of different religious communities. Notably, it was not meant for only the state of war but also for peaceful times.
The concept of Ummat-e-Wahida (“one nation”) through the terms of the Madina Constitution clearly shows that the Muslims and non-Muslims, whether from Makkah or Madina, were one community. Thus, this Prophetic principle recognised the “nation” for the first time in the history as a one indivisible unit, moving from the individual or the tribal life to the life of the single nation. It is not characterised by any particular religion, racism or tribalism. It rather ended racism and discrimination on the basis of religion: “The Jews shall be responsible for their expenses and the Believers for theirs… The Jews shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs. Loyalty is a protection against treachery… The Jews of Banu Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa’idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha’labah, Jafnah, and Banu al-Shutaybah enjoy the same rights and privileges as the Jews of Banu Aws…” (Source: Sunan Al-Bayhaqi, no. 16808 and see the whole Constitution in Ibn Katheer’s biography, part 2, page 321, and Ibn Hisham’s, part 1, page 501.)
Significantly, the Islamic justification for Muslims to live with non-Muslims in a pluralistic society and most particularly, to embrace the world’s largest secular democracy like India came from the Madina Covenant.
Barbara Daly Metcalf, a specialist in the history of South Asian Islam, wrote that Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani—an eminent 18th century Indian Islamic scholar—made the most influential and significant intervention in religious thought of Muslims of 20th century India. In his writings, Maulana laid down, though not in unequivocal terms, the Islamic concept of the “Composite Nationalism” in the Indian context. He argued: “The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the fourteenth year of his prophethood, formed a united front between the Companions and the resident Jews of Medinah based on a written constitution that brought them together as one nation against their common enemy.”
A Madina-like state would establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorities. It would rather raise awareness about the human rights, and not suppress them. Political parties, non-state organisations and members of civil society would work together to ensure the minority rights. They would not employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities. The recent Marrakesh declaration on the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim-majority communities has also celebrated the Medina Charter. “It provides a suitable framework for national Constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order”, the declaration stated. (Source: marrakeshdeclaration.org/marrakesh-declaration.html)
Coming back to the question, while Imran has accepted that welfare states exist only in Europe today, he has not yet clarified his modalities to turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state”. He has only buttressed that his guiding principles will be the same as adopted by the last Prophet in setting up one of the “greatest civilisations”. He merely flagged off his inspiration emanating from the welfare state of the holy city of Medina, the first state that introduced a welfare system for the poor and orphans. “Though our society is totally opposed to it, we will run Pakistan on the same principles as the state of Medina”, Imran said, as reported in Samaa TV.
But there are many implications in big statements like this. Some would argue that Meccan Islamic principles, as compared to the Madinite period of Islam, was more pluralistic, peaceful and inclusivist, though under compulsive circumstances. However, the Islamic state in Madina witnessed an aggressive phase including Ghazwas (Islamic battles), enactment of blasphemy laws, extradition of Jews and Christians, abrogation of the peaceful verses of Quran such as La ikraha fid-deen (“No coercion in matters of Religion”).
This is the view of almost all political Islamist parties in Pakistan.
What’s to be seen is whether Imran Khan goes by the first model of Islamic welfare state placed by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself or by the one that is taken hostage by extremist militia in Pakistan.
Regrettably, Imran maintained a deafening silence over what he felt about this issue. He gave us no clue on how he would tackle the existential ideological onslaught of the radical Islamist outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Therefore, I think it would be too naive to be optimistic about Imran Khan’s conception of the Madina-like welfare state or the “peace overture” of Pakistan.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org