Some days ago my friend shared Imran Khan’s article on his Facebook timeline. Despite being a critic of Khan's politics I always believed that he was a highly educated and a well-read man. After reading his article, I was forced to change my views. Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the so called representative of the youth while writing for a daily English newspaper used some references from ‘The Muqaddimah’ of Ibn Khaldun (one of the most famous Muslim historians) and tried to correspond it with the present situation in Pakistan.
Mr Khan writes, "According to Ibn Khaldun what brought the ruins of civilizations was not lack of military, political or economic power but injustice – when society lost its commitment to justice, ethics and fair play, and when powerful members of the society put their own interests above those of the community.”
This claim is laughable. It seems that Mr Khan is totally unaware of ‘The Muqaddimah’ of Ibn Khaldun and it looks like he didn't even bother to read it before writing the article.
Ibn Khaldūn was an Arab Muslim historian and historiographer, widely acknowledged as being one of the founding fathers of modern sociology, historiography and economics. He is best known for his book ‘The Muqaddimah’. He used the term ‘Asabiyyah’ to describe the rise and fall of civilizations. Asabiyyah essentially means the quality or act of a person in helping the people of his group against any outside danger or aggression.
According to Ibn Khaldun, this lack of ‘Asabiyyah’ is the cause of rise and fall of civilizations. He writes that a civilization that has a strong presence of ‘Asabiyyah’ i.e. unity among its people to stand firm against outside enemies, is the one that progresses. In the absence of this force, argues Ibn Khaldun, the civilization declines and eventually ceases to exist. It is a logical premise because a society can only flourish when people stand united against the common enemy. A society with friction and division among its people dies its own death.
Mr Khan went on to write that we cannot compare the judicial system of western civilization to that of Muslim countries. According to him, Pakistan is the only country which came into existence in the name of Islam and for this reason alone we were supposed to adorn and present the ideal Islamic system of justice to the world.
I would like to tell him that western civilization itself did not achieve progress and prosperity overnight. Rather, it passed through a long and enduring process of evolution. One of the reasons behind the success of western civilization is their ability to adapt themselves to the requirements of the day. Any civilization that cannot adapt itself according to the times will degenerate and eventually wipe out.
Western civilization itself came out of the dark ages and progressed only when it realized that separation of church from the state is an inevitable ingredient of success. Clamouring about giving human rights to people, while holding on to religious supremacy over state, is farcical and self-contradictory. Both cannot co-exist to guarantee equality and privileges for all communities within the society.
One of the reasons Pakistan, and other Muslim countries, have failed miserably in all spheres, especially in their record of human rights, is because religion continues to play a dominant role in the business of the state. We cannot simply implement a system based on a specific interpretation of Sharia that does not have wide appeal. Our future progress is dependent on reform and on our ability to separate religion from the business of the state.
I was hugely disappointed when I read Mr Khan’s article especially because it came from a mainstream leader who has presented himself as an alternative political force. Perhaps one should directly ask Imran Khan about his understanding of Ibn Khuldun’s concept of civilization and governance, and his own vision for Pakistan in the light of these theories.