Pakistani analyst Nadeem Farooq Paracha (NFP) recently shared a tweet by the former Federal Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, where she scorned the current Minister of Finance, Miftah Ismail. She expressed that he was trying to ridicule the Islamic concept of amr bil maruf (commanding the right). NFP compared her tactic to that of the extremist group Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). This is because in a country where charges of blasphemy lead towards mob violence, as witnessed through the recent lynching of Priyantha Kumara, it is an extremely irresponsible tactic used to destabilize the current government. Additionally, it is not clear whether Mazari understands the concept of amr bil maruf wa nahi an il munkar (enjoining the good and forbidding evil).
According to Islamic scholar, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, the concept is about the ethics that are common to all humanity. These include speaking the truth, being honest, avoiding adulteration and weighing properly, and rejecting oppression and the usurpation of rights. However, Ghamidi adds that all such ethical values are to be enjoined within one’s daira e ikhtiyar (circle of responsibility). What this means is than an individual must balance one’s responsibility with the potential harm that is caused through unsolicited advice and unwarranted interference. Otherwise, a blunt application of this doctrine facilitates descent into ghuluw (fanaticism), as has been noted through the tactics of the Saudi mutawa (moral police) on virtue and vice. Indeed, by the same logic, Mazari herself would come under fire by hardcore religious elements for not dressing in a way that they demand from women, etc.
Such an exaggerated approach may also lead towards rebellion and fasad (anarchy), which perhaps is the goal of Imran Khan and his wayward party. However, the Islamic tradition is diverse and vast, which means that the PTI narrative on amr bil maruf is tempered from within the Islamic tradition, as is clear from Ghamidi’s explanation of the topic. Additionally, in his paper “Islamic Legal Histories”, Amr Shalakany showcases the Hadith which indicates that individuals cannot forbid evil unless they are known for “civility, knowledge and probity.” He alludes to the Quranic verse 5:105, which counsels believers to take heed of their own selves, and the eschatological Hadith which indicates that at a time of rampant corruption of values, Muslims should forget the populace at large and look within themselves. Indeed, we are living in a post-truth world where conspiracy theories and falsehoods are circulated in political discourse and social media.
In essence, if Mazari and the PTI are interested in putting Pakistan first beyond personal gains for power, they should contribute by strengthening our institutions instead of flouting them, and by engaging in constructive political discourse rather than fanatical tactics. There is so much work that can be effectively done by keeping checks and balances on the current government by participating in the National Assembly. But by resorting to cheap vindictive tactics, Mazari and the PTI are only showing that they have nothing to contribute beyond street politics and mayhem, which is captured aptly by the Punjabi phrase, pit syapa (exaggerated wailing). This is not the way of the Quaid e Azam, as it weakens Pakistan for personal gains. And Pakistan comes first, not the personal ambitions of a septuagenarian and his wayward party.