Pakistan’s outrageous Council of Islamic Ideology

Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani, top cleric in the Council

In Islamabad, the Council of Islamic Ideology—an advisory body of clerics and scholars to assist the government in bringing laws in line with the Quran and the example of Islam’s prophet—has dropped its latest bombshell. On March 10, top cleric Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani announced after the Council’s deliberations that a man may not ask for permission from his first wife before simultaneously marrying a second.
The Council issued another bolt by allowing underage marriage for girls, saying marriage “of even minors can be solemnized but only with the consent of their guardians” but such girls can go with the bridegroom only after attaining puberty.

No one can question the Council on the matter of the girl’s own consent when she is a minor.

The Council’s verdict will only validate the widespread practice of child marriage occasionally interrupted by the police. It cannot have been ignorant of the fact that the founder of the state, Jinnah, had fought legal battles to ban child-marriage in India.
Today, the Taliban are knocking at the door pledging to enforce “all the advice,” now gathering dust in old files, the Council has sent to incumbent governments.

This “ignoring” of the Council’s advice led to another practice: extremist clerics in the Council whose recommendations were set aside leaked them to the Urdu press where they started appearing regularly as “chastisement” to the “pagan” government in power.

The following leaks to the press are noted with the comment that they have been once formally denied by the Council secretariat:

  • The practice of printing photographs on banknotes should be stopped, meaning that the portrait of Jinnah be removed from them
  • Special women’s seats in Parliament should be abolished because “they are by and large terribly impressed by modernism and Westernism, and instead of believing in the Islamic principle of equity and justice believe in the Western slogan of gender equality.”
  • Anyone blaspheming against Allah, too, should be punished. No woman should be allowed to marry without the permission of her male guardian. Organ transplants and smoking should be banned.
  • Christian hangmen executing Muslim convicts in Pakistan should be replaced with Muslims.
  • The destruction of Afghanistan’s archaeological heritage by the Taliban was Islamic.
  • Insurance of all kinds is against Islam and should be abolished forthwith.
  • Soft drinks sold as nonalcoholic beer should be prohibited and nonalcoholic beverages should not carry labels like “beer.” The preparation inside Pakistan and export from it of nonalcoholic beer should also be prohibited.
  • Coeducation should be banned.
  • All lottery schemes, prize bonds, etc., should be discontinued.
  • Paper used for printing of the Quran should not be recycled./li>
  • The Council advised changing the national flag 23 years ago. It recommended that the kalima be inscribed on it along with the battle-cry of Allah-o-Akbar.
  • Women should not appear in ads. Women can work as air hostesses but only if clad in burqa or hijab. Only women tailors should make clothes for women.
  • The annual assessment reports of all state employees should contain sections indicating religious observance; those not saying namaz [prayers] should not be promoted.
  • Jihad should not be labeled a defensive war alone. Everyone should be grateful to Afghanistan for reviving jihad. The decline of the Muslim world owes to the abandonment of jihad, participation in which is the greatest piety.
  • The government should fire civil servants who do not say their namaz [prayers]; areas where people offer namaz should be selected for concessional development funds.
  • Pakistan should revert to Friday as the weekly holiday for Islamic blessings.
  • Sending anyone to prison is un-Islamic and prison sentences should be abolished. Early Islam had no jails, no police, and no banks; thieves used to have their hands cut.

Wrote Lahore’s veteran journalist Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad: “The [Council] comprises fossilized clerics trying to dictate to people living in the 21st century.

They continue the futile attempt to push the wheel of history backwards. While the performance of the Council since its inception has been uniformly dismal, under Sheerani it has surpassed past records. The government spends millions on this outdated fixture. There is a need to seriously consider if the candle is worth the oil.”