Editor’s Note: This article is a companion piece to Why Muslims Should Be Wary of Joining Imran Khan’s Cult
If you look up which countries still have monarchies, or a system of royal governance, you’ll find a list that includes some Muslim countries, but not many. However, are official monarchies the only countries where the rulers are appointed based on their bloodlines and family ties?
No, in fact, even a very prominent Muslim country like the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has this ‘blood bureaucracy,’ which isn’t technically a monarchy but, instead, involves a few elite corrupt families and their political parties reigning the country for decades at a time.
The names of these wealthy dynasties who would do anything to retain their power and ill-begotten wealth include names every Pakistani recognizes, such as Bhutto and Sharif. Be it Nawaz Sharif, and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, or be it Asif Ali Zardari, and his son Bilawal Bhutto, these greedy top one-percenters have hand-in-hand looted the people of Pakistan in a manner that is similar to vultures feasting upon fresh meat. Not only did they loot and launder the entire country dry, but they also have a notorious history of fleeing the nation, living instead in high-end mansions abroad. An informative article about the history of Pakistan and its shameful feudal dynasties was published by 5pillars:
Pakistan inherited its political, bureaucratic, and educational culture from the British colonial Raj. Its political system emulates the British Westminster Parliament and oppositional style party politics (albeit it has a written constitution). It has a bicameral Parliament with a ceremonial president instead of a monarch. The National Assembly acts as the House of Commons. Politicians in Pakistan, as in Britain, do not work together in the best interests of the people they govern. Instead, they work for the interests of their political parties, leaders, the elite and self-interests. They continuously seek to undermine and bring down the party in power and malign leaders. They are also just as susceptible to unhealthy influence by the rich elite or foreign interests as in Britain.
The question arises, is this how Muslim leaders are appointed, where the baton is passed drenched, not in merit, but in blood?
No, in fact, it is the task of the primary decision makers to pick and choose the person most suited for the role. And in Islam this means choosing someone who is the best among the Muslims. And the best among the Muslims is the one who is the best in enjoining good and forbidding evil:
He was chosen and elected by the decision makers (ahl al-hall wa’l-‘aqd). For example, Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq became caliph when he was elected by the decision makers, then the Sahaabah unanimously agreed with that and swore allegiance to him, and accepted him as caliph.
Unfortunately, these days Pakistan lacks such primary decision makers who are on the Haqq. Therefore, the responsibility falls on the people to find and pick the ruler best suited for them. But here too, a problem arises, as democracy is not the best tool for picking leadership, especially in an era where we have media-induced ‘mass formation psychosis.’
Let’s think about it. Despite sinking the country and jumping ship, why do the Sharif and Bhutto families still enjoy so much support? It’s because of their corruptive campaigning and their extensive manipulation of the media.
There is a long standing joke in Pakistan that if a toll gate were to be set up, the Pakistani people would willingly pay. And if the price were increased, they would still pay. And if each passerby were to then be slapped in addition to paying the toll fee, the people would still pay, as they’d simply be in a hurry to get by and get on with their lives, treating the slap as a slight inconvenience to be accepted, even if begrudgingly.
This joke pokes fun at the passive nature of the Pakistani people, who simply keep taking hits and not retaliating. On top of that, people’s opinions change like the wind, from one second complaining non-stop about increasing prices under a government to then fully supporting that government just a few weeks later. My point is that we’re very easily affected by the media, and we need to stop and think more carefully before making important decisions about who rules us.
Clarifying Points on the “Imran Khan Cult” Article
This brings me to my second point, which addresses my previous article about the former Pakistani PM Imran Khan.
The first is that many of the comments on that article automatically assumed that because I criticized Imran Khan, it automatically meant that I side with the opposition, i.e., the corrupt dynasties of Bhutto and Sharif. I think the above makes my stance on that quite clear.
Second, there were some comments pointing out the title and the use of the word “cult.” Yes, I have to agree that using the term ‘cult’ to describe Khan’s supporters may have been too harsh, and perhaps the title would have been better as: ‘Why Muslims Should Be Wary of Blindly Following Leaders’, or ‘The Importance of Criticizing Our Leaders.’
Third, I think it is only fair to mention the good Imran Khan has done in addition to his shortcomings. This list includes him building the first cancer hospital in Pakistan, improving the country’s financial status by leaps and bounds after the previous government had left it in shambles, speaking in favor of the Kashmiri and Palestinian Muslims, refusing to recognize the State of Israel, calling out Islamophobia in France, and being a thorn in the side of the global liberal hegemony, i.e., the US government.
These are all praiseworthy actions, no doubt. But at the same time, Muslims of Pakistan (both living in and abroad) need to realize the problem of politics we have before us. Every time you sit in a family or friend gathering, debates break out purely focusing on the politics of Pakistan. I think every Pakistani can attest to this. And this comes from a strong nationalistic upbringing, where we’re taught from birth to value the national flag and keep the national anthem close in our hearts. Pakistani Muslims are very patriotic, but we desperately need to remind ourselves that we are Muslims BEFORE we are Pakistanis. That our duty to Allah comes before our duty to the nation.
So, I would argue that my criticisms of Khan — including him bowing and kissing at a shrine, his lack of defense of the Muslim Uyghurs which led to the ones seeking safe haven in Pakistan being bounced back into Chinese camps, and the spread of liberalism and feminism throughout the country — are legitimate and necessary. They are even more necessary because Khan has done all this while also claiming to want to establish a Riyasat-e-Madinah. Using the name of our Beloved Prophet’s city ﷺ is no trivial thing!
No doubt that from a secular perspective, and to some extent an Islamic perspective, Imran Khan is very good for the country, far better than the alternative. But we should also want him to live up to his Riyasat-e-Madinah claims and hold him accountable.
This is what I refer to when I say that he has claimed to bring about a nation for Muslims. There were comments to my initial article saying that ‘religion and politics’ should be separated, but even Imran Khan doesn’t believe that. In fact, he has said that he wants to govern Pakistan according to Islamic values, i.e., those imparted to us by our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This is precisely why we should hold him accountable for his shortcomings. A leader’s deepest beliefs and values inevitably seep into his political actions. And for a Muslim leader, these values must come straight from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The cause for concern for me is that Khan claims to want to establish a country based on Islamic values, yet under his government I saw more and more liberalism spread throughout the country, especially in universities, which is where most of these ideologies are cemented into the minds of youth. Feminism has become increasingly popular among both Muslim sisters and brothers, and so there seems to be a divergence between what Khan wants to achieve and what is happening on the ground. This includes for example, Pakistan receiving $25 million from the US Congress for democracy and gender programs, and the appointment of the first female judge in the Supreme Court.
However, the comment on my article that I agree most with is that we should pray that Allah guides him to the Straight Path.
We cannot start guessing on his intentions, nor is it permitted for us to start calling him a Kafir (like some comments falsely claimed the article was doing), and so if what he claims about wanting a nation based on Islamic values is true, then we should pray that Allah guides him to stick to the truth and truly enjoin good and forbid evil in the fullest sense. And the road to all of that involves us, the Muslims, to keep a close eye and be vigilant, to criticize him where necessary, instead of blindly following him. Truly, another problem the Ummah faces today is becoming sheep to popular charismatic Muslim figures, and so they end up endorsing them even when they commit wrong.
We need to be careful that we are actually jumping out of the frying pan, instead of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Only by dropping the fanboy mentality are we able to criticize Khan fairly, and only then can he realize and correct his shortcomings. This is how a healthy Muslim society is supposed to function.
In conclusion, I think these quotes from the 5pillars article linked above puts the situation perfectly:
It is becoming clear that the existing political party and the parliamentary system cannot bring an end to corruption in Pakistan and requires reform. The PTI is part of that system and has failed to end corruption from within.
It is time for a mass Pakistani movement and debate on the type of society they want. This should be based on the Islamic principle of “Amr bil Ma’roof wa Nahi ‘anil Munkar” (enjoining right and forbidding wrong), independence from foreign interference, good governance and justice. Pakistani people around the world must be involved in that debate and ensure that the corrupt are held to account for stolen wealth and it is returned to the people.
May Allah accept from me the right that I have written, and forgive me for any wrong that I have written. Amin.