Muslim Dilemmas from Human Rights to the Right to Nuclear Weapons
[Transcribed by Jon Edington and edited by
[N.B.: See also THE POLITICAL CULTURE OF THE NUCLEAR CLUB by Prof. Mazrui, which clarifies his position presented here.]
Introduction of the Speaker
by Ali Ramadan Abuza`kuk
Bismillâhir-rahmânir-rahîm. In the name of God, Most Merciful, The Beneficent.
I think what Brother Imad said is too much for me, but may Allah reward him for what he said. This is the occasion to say one of the statements of one of our great sahâba. When he was praised by somebody else he said, "May Allah make me better than what they think and may Allah forgive me of that which they donít know."
Now it is the time for me to present one of the landmarks of our intellectual life as Muslims. There are a lot of things in common between him and me, except some differences in geography. He was born in East Africa, I was born in North Africa. He came to Stanford when I finished my Masterís from Stanford. I came to Michigan when he was a professor at Michigan. And then there were a lot of other things, but this is something that I told him today when brought him from the airport that the first I knew about your works was Hero and Hero Worship in Africa. It was in the late sixties when he published it, when he was a professor at Maghrib University in Uganda.
Professor Ali Mazrui, it brings me pleasure to introduce you to our esteemed attendees. He is a Kenyan by nationality, even though he has been away from Kenya for so many years, he kept his nationality as a token appreciation of the land that gave him the culture and the heritage. Since I saw "The Africans: Triple Heritage", and most of you might have seen it, one statement has really stuck in my heart. When he was trying to play as a child with some of the butterflies, and tries to set one fire, his father, who was a famous Kenyan judge from Mombasa, told him, "La yu`adibu bin nari il Allah. (Nobody torments any creature by fire except God.)" And he said it in Arabic in the T.V. series. I told him that Iíll never forget that statement.
Professor Mazrui, itís not a secret to tell you that he is now sixty-five years of age. Still in prime-time! As one of our friends said, he is just above thirty, so he can still produce a lot. Even if I try to read to you the short biography that I compiled, it will take me at least fifteen minutes and I donít the time for that. I can tell you one thing. When we told him that we need him as a fundraiser, he never hesitated or said, Ďno, I am busyí, even though his schedule is so busy. Or, as other professors and other famous speakers might say, Ďwell, my trip might cost so-and-soí, he said, "Yes, Iím willing, but just give me the convenience of time and I will try to be there as long as it is for a good cause". We really appreciate his taking the time, from his busy schedule, to come to us. He has written more than twenty books. His academic qualifications go back to his B.A. with distinction from Manchester University, an M.A. from Columbia University in New York, and a Doctorate from Oxford University in England. He taught in the five continents of the earth. And he has given so many words for almost every known organization in the field of political science or African studies. He is on the boards of so many of these organizations that it is a note to know that he is a consultant for the United Nations, UNESCO and other places and also a consultant for the Organization of African Unity. Professor Mazruiís famous works include, as I mentioned, "The Africans: A Triple Heritage", which was jointly produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Public Broadcasting System in America, WETA in Washington, D.C. in association with the Nigerian authority. Then a book was written about the series, which was about nine hours in duration. I enjoyed it, and many of you who did not have the chance should make it as one of your efforts to see it and show it to your family, because it really presents Africa with its triple heritageĖIslam, Christianity and the old Animist religions of the continent. He is also on the boards of many journals. He has written hundreds of articles in all those famous journals. His book about the Africans was selected by a lot of book clubs, including the famous Book of the Month Club. He also really projects, in many areas, the intellectual African scholar. I think I do not need to tell you more about him. We will promote his bio on our web site, which Doctor Imad did not mention, but we have a very good web site. Please visit it, for those who have the access for the Internet. It will show you most of our activities there and we will also need to have your feedback.
Professor Ali Mazrui, I think itís time for you to come here because the people come here to hear you, not to hear me. So lets all together welcome Professor Ali Mazrui.
Muslim Dilemmas from Human Rights to the Right to Nuclear Weapons
By Ali Mazrui [as submitted for publication to The Journal of Middle East Affairs]
There are dilemmas in Islam that have to
do with stratification and with issues of rank order, including international
as well as domestic stratification. They reflect fundamental issues that
sometimes lead on to debates among Muslims. Islam is arguably the only
world religion started (if started is the right word) by a businessman
in partnership with his wife. Economically, Khadijah had more to lose when
the Prophet, salallahu `alaihi wa sallam, first declared his prophetic
mission. Khadijah had more to lose economically than the Prophet Muhammad
did. She had provided most of the capital for the business. Yet, she was
his first convert, and she did suffer considerable financial losses as
Muhammad became more and more unpopular among the Meccan business establishment.
Khadijah died a poor woman three years before the Hijrah, but the principle
of piety before profit was established at the genesis of the Prophet Muhammadís
On the issue of class stratification, Islam attempted to moderate inequalities of wealth through a number of mechanisms. These include the laws of inheritance, mirâth, which recognized many heirs, all of the children no matter how many and all the wives, and Islam outlawed primogeniture through the eldest son. This very often meant the fragmentation of the estate. It was counter-cumulative, for better or for worse. Secondly, and this is an area of debate, Islamic laws against ribâí (or usury) is another mechanism to prevent excessive accumulation of wealth. More recently, this has led to experiments through the Islamic banking. Muslims disagree as to what constitutes usury and whether in fact Islamic banking is a sincere attempt to modernize Islamic precepts, or whether it is a retreat into outdated principles. Thirdly, there are laws against certain forms of trading practices that err too far in the direction of unequal exchange. And fourthly, you have the beginnings of taxation in the Islamic system, of which of course zakat is central. These are among the Islamic mechanisms to moderate stratification, inequalities, and diffuse class struggle.
You can approach human rights either in relation to constitutions or in relation to distribution of power or in relation to a stratification system. Who is above whom? And class stratification is one area. A second area of stratification is caste. Now caste, Hindu style, is definitely alien to classical Islam, although some South Asian Muslims have not always avoided being contaminated by the caste culture of their neighbors. The more difficult question in Islam is the status of slavery. Islam is definitely against slavery based on caste. That is identifying a particular caste and saying these are natural slaves. The trans-Atlantic slave system became, eventually, slavery based on caste because it identified black people as specially suited to be slaves. The trans-Atlantic slave system was in fact the most racist slave system in human history because it polarized owners from the enslavedĖblack slaves, white masters. But in Islam, slavery was on the whole, multi-racial. Nevertheless, these are residual issues of stratification. One issue worthy of debate is: Is Islam pro-emancipation but not necessarily anti-slavery? That is, has Islam been historically pro-emancipation (time and time again there are recommendations that we should free our slaves), but offering no direct condemnation of the institution? We are called upon to free our slaves, sometimes because we have violated an oath or we have killed another Muslim or for a variety of other reasons. Emancipation is time and time again declared a virtue, but the ownership of a slave is not adequately declared a vice.
Then there is the issue of ethnic and racial stratification. During the Prophetís own lifetime, Arabs could be both masters and slaves, and Arabs were not regarded as having any special status. On the contrary, there are hadiths, traditions that emphasize an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, except through piety. Again, subject for debate: Did the Caliph Umar prescribe that the Arabs from his time onwards never be enslaved, although Arabs were not chosen to be masters? Did Umar declare a peculiar status for Arabs, exempting them from enslavement? On the other hand, the Arab system of lineage, ascending lineage system, served Islam well on racial issues when it was combined with Islamic principles. So Islam became, and the mosque became, one of the most non-racial places of worship in the history of religion and one of the most integrated institutions of worship known in history. Arab culture, combined with Islamic principles, played a more positive role.
Gender is another issue of difficult stratification. There are a number of unresolved issues on gender. Does Islam regard woman as subordinate to man? Is this reflected in unequal access to areas of authority? Is this reflected in unequal rights of inheritance? Is this reflected in unequal weight in testimony? Or should we proceed to reinterpret many elements? One of my own positions, which is already controversial, is that while it is true that khâtaman- nabiyûn there is no additional prophet after the Prophet Muhammad in the form of another human being, there is one additional prophet in the form of time: history. So God said you shall learn from me from nabiyûn and from one rasûl after another until the Prophet Muhammad and that will end. But in reality there is one other rasûl who does not bear a human form, who is not anthropomorphic, but who is nevertheless real. The rasûl, the nabîyu is time; itís history. It reveals new elements of God. . But I really do mean that there are things that God intended to be revealed incrementally, that history is itself a messenger in that some of the things revealed would have been totally incomprehensible to people who lived fourteen centuries ago. Today as a result of the march of time and a lot of changes, new discoveries, inventions, all sorts of things have happened since and we understand things better. We discover God more and more because we had no knowledge of this cosmos being so immense. Our knowledge is increasing. On the other hand, it may be that we should understand other things better ar-rijjâl khawamûn `ala nisâ, men in a protective relationship towards women. Maybe that made very good sense in seventh century Arabia, but was it intended to be for all time and always? If you take the position no, this was incremental, there would come a time when this verse is not intended to be taken in the same sense as they took it in seventh century Arabia. Then, this is God teaching us, not through single individuals, but through the march of history.
When we reflect how much we know about the
cosmos and the universe in 1998, with how much people during the Prophet
Muhammadís time knew, the vastness of Godís creation is so much greater
in our understanding today that it ever was fourteen centuries ago. Therefore,
our measurement of Godís greatness is so much larger that anything that
could remotely have been conceived by sayyidina Umar or sayyidina Ali or
sayyina Uthman or sayyidina Abu Bakr. In other words, none of those mortals
could have conceived the vastness of what is out there. And almost every
second week, we hear something has been discovered beyond the previously
mapped cosmos that reveals even greater magnitude and it becomes harder
and harder to believe that all this was caused by one monumental natural
accident which occurred some fine day way in the beginnings of time. Belief
in an accident seems more preposterous than belief in design and the vastness
of the scale of Godís creation is therefore much clearer now than it ever
was fourteen centuries ago. What does it tell us? That revelation did not
end with the human form of khâtaman-nabiyyûn, the last of the
prophets in anthropomorphic form. There was more revelation. Now the question
is, if we can learn more about the magnitude of Godís physical creation
this way, can we also learn moral intent across time? In other words, do
we become wiser simply from information from astronomers or do we become
wiser because we understand human beings better, we understand the causes
of human weakness better, we understand the relationship between intent
and morality more clearly. If we do, then we begin to ask questions about
whether what seemed okay fourteen centuries ago in relations between men
and women might not have been intended to be for all time. What might have
been okay in some other area of relationship fourteen centuries ago might
not have been intended for all time. And therefore the doors of ijtihâd
should remain open. And then the doors of science, of course, continue
and they bring us eventually into the modern age.
To establish paternity according to the Fiqh, all thatís required is for the father to say, "This is my child." The ultimate test is the fatherís word. Now, however, we can read DNA. The father's word sworn upon the Qur'an may have been enough at one time when you couldnít check and prove paternity to the last detail scientifically. Now you can get scientists to tell you whether this is your child. Should we forget that change that has occurred since then? You canít. God revealed His word to Muhammad and he also discloses His infinite wisdom across space and time.
Terrorism is the weapon of the militarily weak. Nuclear weapons are the symbols of the militarily strong. Those who are outgunned in terms of conventional war are sometimes forced to resort to guerilla war and terrorist tactics. But until 1998, nuclear weapons were a declared monopoly of the five permanent members of the security council, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. Terrorism, as an instrument of the militarily weak has, at least by the Western press, been disproportionately been associated with Muslims. Nuclear weapons are symbols of military prestige, have been denied the Muslim world more ruthlessly than they have been denied any other part of the world. In other words, no other part of the world has paid a bigger price for presuming to attempt to go nuclear than parts of the Muslim world. The Iraqis had to put up with the destruction of an Iraqi reactor by the Israelis in 1981. Since the Gulf War more recently, Iraq has been hounded about its capabilities, nuclear, chemical and biological. Long after the Gulf War, the punishments have been inflicted. Pakistan was subjected to economic sanction by the United States, concerning its nuclear programs long before it detonated its nuclear devices in May 1998.
Until this year, any time anybody else attempted to go nuclear, more specifically a country like North Korea, as often as not the United States used a carrot and not just a stick to influence its behavior. In the case of the Muslim world, the resort to the stick was much more often than the resort to the carrot, and Libya and Iran have been served with all sorts of notices if they attempted to go nuclear. Libya, I am told by some sources might even have been subsidizing the nuclear program of Pakistan.
Two partitions in the twentieth century profoundly affected the Muslim world. One gave us a new Muslim country, and that is Pakistan, and the other created a new adversary to the Muslim world, and that is Israel. The creation of Pakistan occurred in 1947. The creation of the state of Israel occurred primarily in 1948. Both, as it turned out, were affected by the nuclear dimension. Israel was created barely three years after the nuclear detonation on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And before long, Israel virtually asserted a monopoly of nuclear power in the Middle East. And when Pakistan sensed after 1974 that India had a weapon, again it was deemed necessary that Pakistan should possess a weapon. Of course right now, Pakistan has at last detonated a device. It could use the Islamic card subtly because there are many countries in the West that are prepared to help Pakistan protect itself from acute economic sanctions by warning Westerners not to drive Pakistan into the embrace of the Muslim world. President Chiraq of France, for example, believes that if Pakistan is pushed too far it can be too dependent on the Muslim world. If it needs economic benefits from the Muslim world, what can it offer the rest of the Muslim world? Technology. And the technology could include nuclear technology.
Almost twenty years ago, I gave the 1979 BBC Reith Lectures under the title of "The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis." I speculated about a Third World nuclear challenge, including a future Nigeria, a future South Africa and conceivably even a future Zaire if that large and wealthy country succeeded in re-inventing itself at long last. (In fact, the Congo was the first African nation to have a nuclear research reactor, nearly forty years ago.) In the nearly twenty years which have elapsed since my BBC Reith lectures, Nigeria and Zaire have moved further away from being potential nuclear powers. Their infrastructures have been allowed to decay dismally, and so much of their scientific talent has gone into exile. As for the Republic of South Africa, as soon as the bomb was in danger of falling into Black hands, F.W. DeKlerk and later Nelson Mandela and his colleagues were persuaded to sign the Nuclear Weapons Nonproliferation Treaty.
The ideas I proposed in the BBC Reith Lectures in 1979 about a nuclearized Africa are now further away from a fulfillment rather than nearer. Nonetheless, on the eve of the new millenium, especially against the background of India's and Pakistan's accession to the status of declared nuclear-weapons states, we should re-open the question as to whether to accept the status quo. As I saw it then, and has continued to be described by some today, it is a kind of nuclear apartheid: five Nuclear Haves, who are under no special pressure to give up their own weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear Have-Nots who are punished when they presume to go nuclear or build arsenals of mass destruction. Some degree of proliferation may shock the five principal nuclear powers out of their complacency. The proliferation would gradually convince them that this system of a few select nuclear powers cannot be long sustained. Therefore we should aim for global nuclear disarmament, universal renunciation of these evil weapons for everybody. Not just for all but the five countriesĖfor everybody. When we do that, we then try to establish a system of monitoring that would apply to everybody.
At the moment, there is no earthly reason, for example, why one military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, should have three nuclear powers. Can you imagine the United States and the United Kingdom being on opposite sides of a war? The United States, the United Kingdom and France are in one military alliance, yet each of them wants to keep those weapons and they have the audacity and the arrogance to tell others that they cannot have them. Could not two out of the three NATO members give them up as a gesture of goodwill leaving Russia, China and the United States only with nuclear weapons? I see no sign whatsoever that this kind of offer is on the horizon anywhere on the side of either Britain or France. Perhaps, the Indias and the Pakistans and later on the Irans, and later on the Iraqs should challenge the monopoly that has been established by these five powers.
I was present in Devos, Switzerland, in February 1998 at the World Economic Forum. In addition to scholars, the participants included chief executives of major businesses, corporations, including people like Bill Gates and George Soros (both of whom were there), policy makers, including heads of states (this year including the Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and a number of African heads of states), and media people. President Clinton was not present, but House Speaker Newt Gingerich was, as were a number of Congressmen and Mrs. Clinton. Gingrich gave a speech in which he virtually called upon Europeans to support any measure that the United States might take to bombard Iraq, any escalation, any level of military action. The Speaker said any measure of military action against Saddam was justified and they should support the U.S. in doing so. And he got major applause for that.
I got up and I asked: Even supposing Saddam Hussein should be among the thousands of Iraqis killed in such an adventure, what is to prevent the next government of Iraq developing the same capability? Iraq has been threatened and bombed a number of times for presuming to have weapons which every permanent member of the Security Council (the U.S., the U.K., France, China, and Russia) have had with impunity. Four Christian countries and one Confucian-Marxist power have asserted nuclear monopoly. There is a Jewish country in the Middle East that is permitted to have weapons of mass destruction, and the United States shows indifference. And the same United States is ready to bomb Iraq to smithereens for the same offense. So unless you have a system that secures people on equal status, what is to prevent the next government of Iraq from developing it, short of permanently colonizing Iraq? The genie is already out of the bottle. How do you get it back?
Speaker Gingrich answered by saying any child who is killed, any woman who is destroyed, any village that is eradicated, it is the fault of Saddam Hussein. He didnít address the problem I was posing at all. But in the final analysis, what I am saying about nuclear monopoly is challenged in South Asia, this year. These events create a crack that has been needed in the nuclear apartheid system which has been sanctified by the NPT. It is not sustainable. The weapons are evil. They ought to be abolished, for everybody. As long as they are possessed by only some, it will be legitimate for others to acquire them. Today we have India and Pakistan. Their reasons for acquiring them are very similar to the reasons why the West acquired them in the first place, security reasons. The West say that they are now reducing that power, lately, but for all the wrong reasons. They are not reducing them because the weapons are evil. They are reducing them because the Cold War has ended. Their insecurity has declined. It therefore follows that if their insecurity increases, theyíll be back to the same level of nuclear preparedness. It is utterly relevant that the reasons for reducing nuclear preparedness should be targeted at the evil nature of those weapons. It has fallen upon South Asia to do what should have been done by the Arabs in the Middle East who were ahead of the game in some ways because they were challenged first by the Israelis. Now it has been done by South Asia, to challenge this latest area of stratification. Behind Islamic issues of justice and equality, continuously, is the issue of stratification. It concerns class, it concerns caste, it concerns gender and it can concern issues of military preparedness. We are living through the last phase of military preparedness. History has cast Pakistan in that role in response to Indiaís initiative. We hope it comes out well in the end, but itís a momentous moment in any case.
Weíre in a situation where there are weapons that can kill hundreds of thousands of people and potentially millions of people in the world. The main disagreement is whether these weapons should be abolished all together. And if they should be abolished all together, how do we set about convincing the Nuclear Haves that these weapons should go. My thesis is that we canít convince them unless thereís some degree of temporary nuclear proliferation to convince them that universal nuclear disarmament is the only solution.
Questioner from Bangladesh: [Questions the implication that Pakistani nuclear weapons should make Bangladeshis feel more secure.]
Mazrui: Thereís definitely a lot of work to be done to make societies within the Muslim world more responsive to the needs of Muslim people. So thereís no disagreement about that at all. Weíre still in a situation where there are weapons that can kill hundreds of thousands of people and potentially millions of people in the world. The main disagreement is whether these weapons should be abolished all together. And if they should be abolished all together, how do we set about convincing the nuclear haves that these weapons should go. My thesis is that we canít convince them unless thereís some degree of nuclear proliferation to convince them that universal nuclear disarmament is the only solution. We are not in disagreement about the need for internal changes and for greater accountability domestically. We are together on that issue totally.
Abdurrahman Alamoudi: Professor Ali, South Africa banned itís nuclear weapons program. Where and how would we see an African country come to possess nuclear weapons?
Mazrui: As you know Brother Abdul-Rahman, in the case of South Africa, South Africa was developing this capability until it was clear that the black man was about to be in charge. And then very rapidly, they signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And then Nelson Mandela was persuaded to reaffirm that and was suitably praised for taking that position. In general, I personally think that South Africa should have backed India in insisting on better guarantees for nuclear disarmament among the nuclear haves during the last negotiations for the renewal of NPT. South Africa gave in too easily to Western pressure instead of using that as a bargaining tool. On the issue of Nigeria, Nigeria has potential, but is just so disorganized domestically that it is more backwards from where it was when I first made this proposition in 1979. It has lost many of its educated people to the West. You know, its part of the brain drain. If Nigeria got its act together, it could develop, in time, in the course of the twenty-first century, a nuclear capability. But I only see it as a way of shocking the system towards universal nuclear disarmament. I donít see it as a long-term security system, only as a transitional shock towards disarmament.
Anisa Abd El Fattah: You were making the analogy between revelation during the time of the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wa salam) and the revelation continuing. Is such that revelation or would it be realization? To use the word revelation in the way that youíre using it creates some conflict for me, and I think it would for other Muslims, not so much because I have a problem with the concept of revelation continuing after the Prophet (S.A.W.S.) but because I donít think that this is revelation. Discovery is more like realization. Would you expand on that topic?
Mazrui: After the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S.), there was a kind of revelation, but it didnít take the form of revelation through a single individual. Itís revelation through the march of time, through the march of history. The sister raises the issue, is this really revelation or is it discovery? And itís true with a strict interpretation of the word wahy, especially if you shift from English to Arabic, it may be a different concept all together. But I really do mean that there are things that God intended to be revealed incrementally, that history is itself a messenger in that some of the things revealed would have been totally incomprehensible to people who lived fourteen centuries ago. Today as a result of the march of time and a lot of changes, new discoveries, inventions, all sorts of things have happened since and we understand things better. We discover God more and more because we had no knowledge of this cosmos being so immense. Our knowledge is increasing. On the other hand, it may be that we should understand other things better ar-rijjâl khawamûn `ala nisâ, men in a protective relationship towards women. Maybe that made very good sense in seventh century Arabia, but was it intended to be for all time and always? If you take the position no, this was incremental, there would come a time when this verse is not intended to be taken in the same sense as they took it in seventh century Arabia. Then, this is God teaching us, not through single individuals, but through the march of history.
Anisa Abd El Fattah: Then what do you think the ayat in the Qurían means where it says that Allah perfected and completed His message through the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S.)? My point is that we are continually learning. Beyond discovery there is also realization. It is based on observation and experience. But this does not go outside of revelation. In other words, there is nothing newly being created. What is left is simply for man to realize, to observe, or to discover. Because Allah said in the Qur`anĖif Iím wrong Iím hoping that youíll correct me or at least allow me the privilege of knowing what your understanding of that ayat is, that Allah perfected and completed revelation through His Prophet (S.A.W.S.).
Mazrui: Well, with regard to the ayat "alyawma akmaltu lakum dînakum wa atmamtu `alaikum ni`matî waradîtu lakum-il-islâma dînan," you could take this is the revelation in the anthropomorphic sense: that this is the revelation through human beings, today have I completed your religion for you. The ayat says nothing about what happens afterwards, the incremental revelation through time, because we know, the world has changed in fourteen centuries. My family is a very religion-oriented family so there tend to be religious debates over lunch. I mean my family in Mombasa. I went to Mombasa and they were debating how to establish paternity. To establish paternity according to the Sharia, all thatís required is for the father to say, " This is my child." The ultimate test is the fatherís word. And I said, that may be so but what happened to DNA? I mean, that may have been enough at one time when you couldnít check and prove paternity to the last detail scientifically and therefore all you had to do in the final analysis was to have the father swear on the Qurían this is my child or this is not my child. But now you can get scientists to tell you whether this is your child. So should we forget that change that has occurred since then? And I said, you canít. I mean, science tells us now you donít do paternity according to the Sharia. That part of the Sharia is out of date because DNA, now, is better than the fatherís word.
Unidentified Questionner: Yes, just to follow up on the comment that was made by the sister here. Professor Mazrui drew our attention to the fact that that the word wahy in Arabic has a qualitatively different meaning than the word revelation in English. The world reveal in English might mean disclose. So we have God revealing his knowledge to Prophet Muhammad, but then we have God disclosing the infinite wisdom across space and time. I think this will bridge the gap between the two positions.
Ali Mazrui: Iíll accept that friendly amendment..
Another Unidentified Questioner: The real weapon that we need in the Muslim world is the weapon of human rights, and the weapon of democracy. Having these corrupt regimes in the Muslim world, I donít think that today, having nuclear weapons, we are in a stronger position than we were a few months ago. The major weapon we need is the weapon of freedom to decide our own fate in the Muslim World.
Mazrui: I donít disagree that for most Muslim countries the priority is human rights and democracy in our societies. Iím not absolutely sure by what extent democratization in the Arab world is affected by the military superiority in Israel and the consequences of that superiority for the domestic systems in the country. I have no idea. In other words, I have no idea to what degree our aspiration that the Arabs should have democratic systems is affected by the military superiority of Israel. If it is affected by the military superiority of Israel, then our distinction between whether the Arabs should pursue military parity with Israel, that distinction between military parity and domestic democratization may be less valid than you think. So it may well be the military humiliation of the Arabs in the Middle East is part of their domestic incapacity for democracy. If it is, then nuclear weapons cannot be divorced from that condition.
Sharmin Ahmad: I want to make two comments. Specifically, Iíd like to wrap up on the issue of nuclear proliferation in South Asia. I come from Bangladesh and I think that historically Pakistan and India have been rivals since the creation of Pakistan and the liberation of Bangladesh. I think that at this point that which would be most effective is education, which both countries spend little on. More money is put into the nuclear proliferation and the military. The institution of militarism is strong in Pakistan, as a result of which, it hasnít seen the light of democracy. And this is similarly true about India although not to the extent of Pakistan. Unless we have educated masses, this nuclear proliferation is not really going to awaken the society. You also need to develop dialog, a very complex dialog with the rest of the world. I fear there will be an economic embargo and it will come to the same situation that happened in Iraq.
The second comment that I would like to make is that Qurían is the best interpreter of itself, and Qurían was revealed in stages. For example, Iíve seen that many scholarsí favorite ayat are from Surah Nisa. Trying to prove male hegemony, they will bring up some particular ayat and show that women remain in subservient status as it has been dictated in the Qurían. But as we progress we see Qurían itself is developing according to time and space. In Surah Tawba, verse 71 says that men and women are protectors and friends of one another. Now how can you be a friend if you are not at par, on the same level? The Qurían was revealed in stages. Just like the verses about alcohol. It says that when youíre drunk, you donít go and pray, but at later stages [alcohol was forbidden completely]. So Qurían is developing through stages and it is telling us to adjust, accommodate, according to time and space keeping the teaching essentially intact.
Mazrui: With regard to your second question sister, I think we are in tune there because you say look, today we really should decide which aspects of the Qurían are more relevant to the condition on the eve of the third millenium. So that if you have more than one ayat and it will have a different emphasis and previously the emphasis has been leaning in one direction. Maybe we should look at this other ayat, which previously had been underestimated and maybe that has assumed its moment of relevance. Now that applies to my thesis about there being additional discovery or disclosure after the Prophet Muhammad through the march of time.
On the first question about nuclear weapons, just a quick word from the point of view of India and a quick word from the point of view of Pakistan. From the point of view of India, India is going to be the largest country in the world in population in another twenty-five years. It will outstrip China. The West keeps on saying, "You are the largest democracy in the world, nd promptly proceeds to ignore it and to pay a lot of attention to China. If I was an Indian, and I have a population thatís almost the equal of China and Iím destined in another twenty-five years to outstrip China and I kept on being treated by the West as if Iím marginal but China is the real country to deal with, of course Iíll start wondering, hey maybe I should do something to be taken seriously. Now Albright may be saying, "Your bomb wonít make you important." Sheís lying. India is going to look more and more important from now on. And India has a right to assert that, look, Iím not a small country. Iím shortly going to be the largest country in the world in human terms, in number of people, and itís about time you take me as seriously as you seem to take China, my next door neighbor. Now the other point is Pakistan. Pakistan has been trying to solve the Kashmir problem all this time and the question is what can break the stalemate? There is now at least some hope that because a new issue has been injected in South Asia, there may be new motivation on both sides to find a solution to this problem. We donít know yet. Itís too early, but as it opens up the possibility that the Kashmir problem which had for so long appeared to be beyond any possible solution may at last be at least capable of being put on the table for reevaluation.
Ali Ramadan: I have two points here, or three maybe if time allows. The first one is that Qurían is relevant to all time and all space. Our understanding of the Qurían will be changing from time to time according to the information that we will aquire. The Qurían is a treasury that will not be depleted because itís the words of God. And if you bring all the oceans and all the trees to write down the meanings that are conveyed in the words of God, they will be depleted first. The other verse which I think I will bring to your attention, "We will show them our signs in the universe and in there selves, which means even up till today the self of the human being has not been discovered. When we speak of that, that is in the revelation that came in the last of the prophets.
The second point I would like to say is when we speak of India and Pakistan, we seem to forget that India has the second largest Muslim population in the world. Two of the top notch scholars, scientists who worked on the atomic energy in India are Muslims. I mean, we seem to forget that India is not non-Muslim. Itís partly Muslim and the majority are non-Muslims. So itís still the third world breaking the tabu of the nuclear club.
The third point: You came to speak about human rights also, the education and the oppression. You have seen the Muslim world. The Muslim world has the Qurían: iqra is its the first word. Says the Qurían "We gave the human being the best dignity." Why do we have the lowest of both education and dignity? Can you give an analysis of that?
Mazrui: Well, I donít have the answer to your last question. You see, there are three things we havenít got right, the relationship between law, freedom and power in the Muslim world. So either we have too much law, thatís when Islam goes really legalistic. "This is harâm; this is halâl." Everything is reduced to whether itís legal or not legal. Is it permitted? Not permitted? Is it permitted to this degree or too that degree? Islam at itís most legalistic so that almost half the science of Islam is legalism. Secondly is power. Power begins with the Umayyads right up to Qadhdhafi and Saddam Hussein, both Islamist rulers and rulers in the Muslim world. So we really havenít got it right, how to handle power. And the third is the freedom element. So, the freedom collides with the legalism on one side and the freedom collides with the power on the other side. And we havenít found the right balance unfortunately. Even in South Asia, sometimes you wonder why is it that India manages to have these elections and Pakistan doesnít and they are the same people and they were just divided in 1947 and the only difference between them seems to be that some are Muslims and the other are primarily Hindus. And why is it that India succeeds in changing governments and has continued to have one constitution, etc., without military coups and Pakistan does not. And we have no adequate answer really. We have no adequate answer that deals with adequate although these are challenging problems to deal with.
Just one final word. Qurían is eternal, but
its interpreters are finite. And I agree with you. But, you see, itís like
law. There is no law without somebody to interpret it, you see. So that
there is, in principle, a Qurían there independent of human interpretation.
But whom does it guide? As soon as you want it to guide anybody, the human
factor has to come in. Therefore, we have to interpret it. So, in its purity
it may be there as divine word uncontaminated by human error. But, as soon
as we want it to guide us in action, it collides with our fallibility as
human beings. And thatís why we sometimes have to choose between ayat
between alternative interpretation of ayat.