image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Why Are Muslims Fleeing from Sharia Law in Afghanistan?

ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਮੋਮ ਦਿਲਿ ਹੋਵੈ 

A true Muslim is one who is kind-hearted

(Guru Nanak Sahib SGGS 141)

The Afghanistan crisis continues. As I write, the situation at Kabul airport is worsening by the hour. A major refugee crisis is looming large. Central to the fear which is driving minorities and large number of Muslims out of the country is the memory of strict interpretation by the previous Taliban regime of Islamic religious practice and application of Sharia Law.

The word &ldquoreligion&rdquo means &ldquoto bring closer&rdquo. Yet, the dreadful scenes at Kabul airport of thousands of people including women with children and even weeks old babies, trying to escape from those bent on applying their version of Sharia Law when they assume power, are shocking. Muslim parents are handing over own children including babies to the soldiers of other countries to be taken to safer Western countries. Regrettably, conspicuously missing is the lead effort by Muslim countries to come to the aid of their co-religionists. Also, we do not sense any willingness of Afghan Muslims to go to other safer and more moderate Muslim countries, some overflowing with oil-wealth. Like the Muslims running from other conflicts in Islamic countries, the choice of Afghan Muslims also is a future in Western countries. The danger is that the balanced multicultural social environments in these countries achieved over many decades can become de-stabilized.

Yet, this is the 21st Century and we are supposed to be living in a world with thousands of years of human evolution towards a civilised and compassionate society. The question uppermost in one&rsquos mind is, how can a religion-based regime create such terror in the minds of women and men of own religion? Not just minorities and foreigners but own co-religionists. In this context, any arguments pointing to the spies and those who actively supported the NATO troops in Afghanistan and allegedly betrayed own people would be true only to a limited extent.

The answer, as Guru Nanak Sahib pointed out in His Gurbani, is that the essence of religion is not understood and religion is mis-interpreted. To the Muslim, the Guru preached to be kind-hearted, for a good reason. The Sharia Law, was being interpreted strictly during the Mughal regime. The Guru preached: It is difficult to be called a Muslim if one is truly a Muslim, then he may be called one. First, let him savor the religion of the Prophet as sweet&hellip. (ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਕਹਾਵਣੁ ਮੁਸਕਲੁ ਜਾ ਹੋਇ ਤਾ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ&hellip&hellip SGGS 141). And so the Guru preached to the Muslims and the most revered amongst them agreed with Him. It was in that sense that Bhai Gurdas wrote that the Muslim saints of Baghdad, Macca and Medina bowed before Him (Garh Baghdad nevaikay, Macca Medina sabh nivaayia.)

It was in 2001, when following a millennium interfaith discussion on a radio programme, late Dr Zaki Badwi, the first Principal of the Muslim College at Ealing invited me to make a presentation about Sikhi based on a comparative study of Sikh Religion and Islam. It was not difficult to relate Gurbani to the essence of Islamic teachings.

It is possible that the Sikhs left behind in Afghanistan can be guided by a Gurbani-based approach to co-exist with Islam. (Afghanisan theme continued next week.)

Gurmukh Singh