His Highness Aga Khan-IV, the hereditary imam of the Ismaili Aga Khani community, is on a visit to Pakistan. To my mind he represents the true spirit of Islam: progress, humanity, education, and economic progress as ethical imperatives and dictates of Islamic doctrine. As a religious leader can there be a greater contrast that what he is to the mad mullahs who have taken this nation hostage and who want to burn down things in the name of great faith. His Highness Aga Khan-IV founded Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, which is by far the best hospital in Pakistan. His Aga Khan Development Network has done great work sustaining communities in need of help by providing much needed humanitarian assistance in remote areas of Pakistan and other countries in the world. This assistance is provided without regard to religion, sect or ethnicity. The contributions of this industrious community to this land date back to the time that the present Aga Khan’s great great grandfather Aga Khan-I settled in Jhirk, the town on the bank of Indus in Sindh in the mid 19th century. Following in his footsteps came his followers from Gujarat. Among them was the father of a young merchant called Poonja Jinnah bhai. The significance of this should not be lost on those of us who are familiar with history. Aga Khan-III Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, the grandfather of the present Aga Khan, was the founder-president of the All India Muslim League and the first chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. Without these institutions, Pakistan would not have been possible. Ever since the founding of this country, the Aga Khani Ismailis have played a significant role in health, education and business. The contributions made to this country by Aga Khani Ismailis like Sadruddin Hashwani are second to none. Given this illustrious example, it remains an unanswered question as to why other Muslims are unable to follow suit. Why are we so caught up in theological disputes and issues that are best left between a person and his or her God? Sure there can be guidance by religious teachers but must this result in fatwas leading to violence and death? The Holy Quran says “there is no compulsion in religion” (Al Quran 2:256). A well known though widely disputed hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) says “My Companions are like the stars in the sky. You will find the truth no matter from whom among them you receive hadiths. Difference of opinion of my Companions is a mercy for you.” (al-Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa, I/64; al-Munawi, Faydu’l-Qadir, I/210-212). Difference of opinion therefore was encouraged in early Islamic tradition. It was through this difference of opinion on almost all matters under the sun that Islam ushered in a truly enlightened civilisation from 7th century to 15th century. In this civilisation not only was diversity of views respected but encouraged. Not only that but a key pillar of this civilisation was the idea of religious toleration long before these ideas took root in Europe. Jews and Christians lived and worshipped freely in Spain, the Middle East and the Ottoman lands under Muslim rule. The Indian subcontinent retained its overwhelming Hindu majority despite almost 800 years of unbroken Muslim rule. In this modern age Islam can coexist with a secular state be it a Muslim majority state or where Muslims are a minority. Recognising this is key to progress in the Muslim world Muslims of the 21st Century ought to be the inheritors of these glorious pluralistic traditions of Islam. Instead we have chosen to present ossified dogma in form of dated interpretations of long dead jurists, orthodoxy and narrow-mindedness as the real face of Islam. In Pakistan by making the legislative process subservient to the repugnancy clause, which in turn is based on these dated interpretations of a great and progressive faith, we have done untold harm to the process of Ijtehad, which is the inherent and inbuilt mechanism of renewal of Islam as a live religion. By the same token our so-called religious leaders have conflated the idea of Jihad or struggle to Qital or killing and have now made the word synonymous with violence and mayhem. Instead of being struggle for justice and general good, Jihad now is taken to mean aggressive holy war. It goes without saying that many Muslim communities on the periphery of the mainstream question this idea. There is great diversity in Islamic thought and discourse. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the great Muslim modernist and the intellectual forerunner of the Two Nation Theory and the Pakistan Movement, was also a great theologian. Some of what he expounded would today be considered most controversial. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s most prolific critic was another Muslim modernist Jamaludin Afghani who considered Sir Syed to be a British stooge. Sir Syed was a rationalist to the core going as far as to question the mode of prayer. His followers from the Aligarh school tried to reconcile modernity with their Muslim identity. The Indo-Muslim Nationalism that was to become the basis of the Pakistan Movement was born out of these efforts. The newly educated class of Muslims produced here wanted jobs and a share of economic resources. Their concerns were worldly and secular as opposed to being theological or religious. Meanwhile the Ulema who opposed them did so for multiple reasons. There were those like Maulana Maududi who saw the people demanding Pakistan to be too irreligious and modern and therefore unfit to lead Muslims. Then there were those in the Majlis-e-Ahrar who attacked the Muslim League because it was open to Ahmadis, Aga Khanis and Shias. However there were also those like Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani of Deoband who had their own ideas of coexistence and pluralism of a United India emanating out of the prophetic tradition and Mesaq-e-Medina. LUMS Professor and historian Ali Usman Qasmi has collaborated with Megan Eaton Robb to bring out a fine volume called “Muslims against the Muslim League” to document the Muslim critics of the Pakistan idea. It is a fascinating read even for those people like me who intellectually support the creation of Pakistan and the Muslim League’s politics from 1940-1947. This book deserves a detailed review, which I intend to undertake in a future article, because it shows that the Muslim community has never been a monolith. Nor can it can be divided into good Muslims and bad Muslims because ultimately this community like any other is made of individuals with their unique ideas about religion, politics and life. Instead the Muslims need to celebrate diversity of views in the global community on everything from politics to theology. The surest way of doing this is to separate religion from state. This is what Mr Jinnah’s famous 11 August speech was about. Islam in this modern age can coexist with a secular state be it a Muslim majority state or where Muslims are in a minority. Recognising this is key to progress in the Muslim world. The writer is a practising lawyer. He blogs at http://globallegalforum.blogspot.com and his twitter handle is @therealylh Published in Daily Times, December 11th 2017.