Submitted by Rashid Jahangiri.
I came across following piece on Ghulam Ahmad Parvez. Published on Dawn.com blog
Ghulam Ahmed Parvez
A 1935 portrait of Ghulam Ahmed Parvez.
As a young teen in Batala, India, Ghulam Ahmed Parvez often wondered why all the hectic practicing of Islamic rituals and traditions by his fellow Muslims was not producing good men and a better community.
‘Why isn’t all this creating the kind of society that the Qu’ran talks about?’ He would often enquire, more than rhetorically.
Hushed by his elders and treated suspiciously by his friends, Parvez refused to stop looking for answers to the ever-increasing number of questions growing in his head.
He continued to study the Qu’ran and other Islamic literature under various religious scholars, while at the same time also attending a Missionary school in Batala. He then went on to bag a Master’s degree from the Punjab University in 1934.
After mastering the works of some of Islam’s leading scholars and texts, Parvez moved towards studying the faith’s esoteric strains such as Sufism and Tasawaaf (Islamic mysticism).
During this period he also managed to meet renowned poet and philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal. Taking Iqbal to be his mentor, he held many discussions with the poet, especially on Islamic philosophy and the Qu’ran.
His relationship with Iqbal helped the young Parvez come into contact with the head of the All India Muslim League (AIML), Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
By the time Jinnah had asked Parvez to edit and publish a pro-AIML Urdu weekly, ‘Talou-e-Islam,’ Parvez had already began to formulate and advocate his views on the subject of Islam in the subcontinent.
He claimed that Islam (unlike other monolithic faiths) was not supposed to be an organised religion. Undermining the importance of Islamic rituals, Parvez said the Qu’ran is an ideology and a philosophy beyond rituals and that anything practiced or believed by Muslims that was outside the Qu’ran was a fabrication.
Parvez was particularly harsh on the traditional Islamic institution and ‘science’ of Hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet and his companions and reported by a chain of men years after the Prophet’s demise).
According to Parvez a majority of Hadiths (upon which a bulk of Islamic Laws in the Shariah are built and based up on), were fabrications authorised by Muslim kings to justify their tyrannies and by anti-Islam forces who wanted to portray the faith as being amoral and violent.
Parvez had become a prominent ‘Quranist’ – someone who rejected the religious authority of the Hadith or of any Islamic text that was not part of the Qu’ran.
Though he was immediately attacked and labelled as a heretic by traditional Islamic scholars and religious parties like the Jamat-i-Islami, Ahrar-e-Islam and Jamiat Ulema Islam, Jinnah insisted that Parvez was to be the one to edit ‘Talou-e-Islam’.
In a two-pronged strategy, Parvez used the magazine to propagate the implementation of Jinnah’s principle that had inspired the demand for a separate Muslim State; and to blunt the protests of the conservative Islamic forces that had dismissed Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan. They accused Jinnah and his party of being too secular and ‘modernist.’
One of the first cover features to appear in the magazine was titled, ‘Mullahs have hijacked Islam.’ In it Parvez lambasted conservative Islamic parties and the molvies as being ‘agents of rich men’ and the enemies of the well being and enlightenment of the common people.
A 1935 photo of Muhammad Iqbal (sitting centre) with some literary colleagues. Parvez is sitting on the far right.
On the eve of Pakistan’s independence in August 1947, Parvez had become a close advisor of Jinnah.
He became part of the Muslim League government after independence, but retired in 1956 to concentrate on his scholarly work.
In 1961, Parvez attempted to popularise saying the Muslim prayers (namaaz) in Urdu, a language he said most Pakistanis understood (unlike Arabic).
In the 1930s, Turkey’s Kamal Atta Turk had attempted to introduce prayers and the call for prayer (aazan) in Turkish.
Though the move was initially supported by the secular Ayub Khan regime (1959-69), Ayub backed out when Parvez was vehemently attacked by conservative religious parties and scholars.
Ghulam Ahmed Parvez in 1962. It was during this period that he tried to advocate the saying of the Muslim prayers (namaaz) in Urdu instead of Arabic.
As an author and scholar, Parvez was most prolific. Undeterred by the continuing criticism and threats coming his way by religious parties and conservative Islamic scholars, Parvez kept emphasising and propagating his Quranist views through a number of books and lectures.
In the 1960s when a group of young leftist intellectuals led by Hanif Ramay and Safdar Mir were working on a theoretical and ideological project to fuse and merge socialism with the Quranic concepts of justice and equality, they incorporated a number of ideas first aired by Ghulam Ahmed Parvez.
The group would go on to join the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1967.
Throughout his career as a Quranist and scholar in Pakistan, Parvez not only managed to invite the wrath of the conservatives within Pakistan, but in some other Muslim countries as well.
In the 1970s his books were banned in various Arab states, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia that were (and still are) ruled by monarchies belonging to the ‘Wahabi’ strain of Islam that adheres to the strict 8th century Hadith-centric Hannibali Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).
Parvez responded to the bans by accusing the monarchies of behaving like ancient Muslim Kings who had used ‘fabricated hadiths’ to justify their rule, subjugate the people, and demonise their opponents.
During the same period, Parvez even began to upset some of his supporters as well, mainly a few ‘progressive Islamic scholars’ who thought his writing style was too abrasive and arrogant and that he was too much in favour of using Quranic concepts to create a political ideology, albeit a leftist one.
It is still unknown though exactly what Parvez’s views were about the 1953 and 1974 riots against the Ahmadis, even though he maintained that Quran does not allow one Muslim to judge the beliefs of another Muslim.
Parvez’s ‘progressive’ stage lasted till about the late 1970s in which he continued to reject the Hadith; the overemphasis of Muslims on rituals; and insisted that rituals and Shariah laws based on the Hadith were contrary to the revolutionary, as well as the rational spirit of the Qu’ran.
From the late 1970s onwards (and after the fall of the left-leaning government of Z A. Bhutto in a reactionary military coup in 1977), his writings and views had already begun to move away from his Islamic interpretations of socialism.
His detractors now accused him of being ‘pro-West’ when he suggested that modern-day scientists were closer to Qu’ran’s emphasis of enquiry and progress than the ulema.
Though still related to by many labour unions as a pro-workers Islamic scholar, he was, however, attacked with shoes in 1978 during a lecture that he was delivering at a function organised by the Mughalpura Railway Workers Union.
His supporters claimed that the attack was provoked by the ‘agents of the Jamat-i-Islami’, a party that had joined military dictator Ziaul Haq’s first cabinet.
Though Ziaul Haq was an ardent follower of conservative Islamic scholar and founder of Jamat-i-Islami, Abul Ala Mauddudi, he resisted the demands of Islamic outfits to declare Parvez and his followers are heretics.
Maybe Zia had already sensed that Parvez was getting old and soft and posed no threat to Zia’s ‘Islamisation’ project.
In the early 1980s when Parvez entered the 80th year of his life, he began to rediscover the early Sufist teachings his father had taught him – though he never reverted his position and views on the Hadith.
In 1983, he decided to visit Makkah to perform Haj and he did that by refusing to wear any footwear whatsoever throughout the trip. He roamed the streets of Madina barefooted.
Parvez in 1984.
In spite of the fact that the Zia regime discouraged bookstores to sell his books and Parvez was now too old to give lectures, his previous lectures began appearing on audio-cassettes and the books were clandestinely sold, bagging him a strong but quiet following of Quranists.
But Parvez was slipping into gloominess, and in 1985 he quietly died at the age of 83. The news of his death was only briefly reported in the press.