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VIEW: The Quran and constitutions -Abbas Zaidi.

Pakistan, June 1 -- Now that Fauzia Wahab has apologised in the face of an extremist attack at its worst (or best, if you may), it is only appropriate that someone should try to put her remark in its proper context. Unfortunately, no one - either from the liberals or the PPP leadership - has come to support her claim that, during the time of Caliph Hazrat Umar, there was no constitution and thus the Caliph did not enjoy constitutional immunity. She was speaking in the backdrop of the constitutional immunity given to the president of Pakistan, be it Zardari or anyone else.

Suddenly, Fauzia Wahab is a hated person, a kind of Salman Rushdie but on a smaller scale. The mullahs and their backers in the media have launched a witch-hunt against her for daring to point out the truth. It is hoped that after her 'unconditional' apology she will not be killed. Some mullahs have countered Wahab's argument by claiming that the Quran is the constitution given to all Muslims by Allah. Thus, according to them, Fauzia Wahab has blasphemed. Some mullahs have said that through the Medina Pact the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) gave a constitution to Muslims, which was the very first constitution in the history of the world. Let us take a look at the problem.

What is a constitution? What is a scripture? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a secular document, a constitution, is "the body of doctrines and practices that form the fundamental organising principle of a political state". A scripture is "the revered texts of the world's religions".

It should be clear from the Britannica definitions that a constitution deals with the secular, and a scripture deals with the sacred. We can further contextualise the issue by noting that a constitution is a legal-political document and does not cover people's personal, ethical lives. It deals with the functioning of a state through a government. It is political-administrative in practice. It has nothing to do with the inner life or purification of a person. A constitution deals with a specific group of people in a specific place. A scripture on the other hand, the Quran included, is all-inclusive: it deals with every aspect of an individual's life from their birth to death and beyond. A constitution is a man-made document, which is made by the people for the people. It is a result of conscious efforts and deliberations of the representatives of the people. The Quran is not a conscious-human document; no human consciousness went into its making. It was revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) by God through the agency of the angel Gabriel. People - humans - are absolutely irrelevant to its creation. The Quran is universal; it transcends time and space. A constitution's contents are determined by competent and authorised representatives of the people, which is not the case in respect to the Quran. The Quran is the word of God.

A constitution can be changed, amended and even abrogated. Pakistan is a classic example of this. No human is authorised to change the Quran. It will remain as it is till the Day of Judgement. Besides, even if you accept a constitution and live under it, you can still endeavour to change it. For example, a person may accept the constitution of Pakistan, but he may also think that some of its articles are against the very notion of human rights. Such a person may argue that the constitution discriminates against Pakistan's religious minorities. Moreover, it has declared the Ahmedis non-Muslims. Now such a person can endeavour politically and peacefully by aligning with like-minded people and work towards the repeal of these articles. There is nothing legally wrong with such an endeavour.

The Quran is a miracle and no other document can be produced which can claim the greatness and stature it has. A constitution can be guided by the Quran. The Quran has laid down principles and guidelines on a number of issues such as inheritance, divorce and crime and punishment. Pakistan's own constitution is guided by the Quran. Constitutions, like their makers, are mortal. The Quran, like its Maker, is immortal. Grammatically, the article 'a' is used for a constitution; but for the Quran 'the' is used. Thus the railings of the mullahs are not only misplaced and uncalled for, they also show their extreme ignorance and mindlessness.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Daily Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at

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Publication:Daily Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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