Islam is a diverse religion representing different cultures and has greatly contributed in development of modern civilization. Islam proved to be exceptionally absorptive of unique cultures and ethnic identities. People from diverse cultural, ethnic backgrounds and having conflicting understanding of the divine message - all share the banner of Islam. Also, there are strong ethnic and cultural imprints on Islamic traditions in diverse regions. This diversity turned Islam in to a bucket with flowers of different colours and fragrances.

Muslim from dissimilar cultures, ethnicities and economic strata share the common belief that Holy Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are the guiding principles. Unlike Christian Church – Islam did not establish a centralized authority to furnish a universally recognized interpretation of divine text. As such, there are sharp differences in interpretation of divine text and construction of Shariah from Prophet’s Sayings. These differences have always been existed and Prophet (PBUH) termed these as a ‘blessing for his Ummah’. As a result of these theological differences, several sects developed within Islamic world followed by fiacre adversities and violent clashes.

The message of Islam is based on voluntary submission. The Holy Quran has been described by Prophet of Allah (PBUH) as: “God’s Banquet”, to which everyone is invited, but not obliged to attend, people should come to him out of love, not compulsion”. Opposed to this clear command that faith is the voluntary submission and a matter between man and God – certain groups within Islam have always tried to revert back to a literal interpretation to the selected passages of holy text and scripture. Such efforts have been always tainted with political motives. Certain misguided groups have always tried to enforce their interpretation on others – by force and intimidation.

Each fundamentalist group considers its interpretation to be the truest and superior to all others– hence they deny tolerance for any dissent. The urge to enforce their understanding and interpretation on others  has turned the diversity of Islam into ‘unforgivable deviation’ for dissenting groups. Whosoever does not agree with views of these groups deserves nothing but death – which is justified through distorted interpretation of holy text and traditions. Unfortunately, in case of Pakistan, this happened with active patronage of state to divide society on these lines.

There arise some fundamental questions when state submits to interpretation of a particular group – thus practically denying the dissenting views – on cost of diversity of Islam itself. Should state be a party to such conflicting views of a particular group? Should state be willing to submit before some rigid doctrine based on selective interpretation and roll back the diversity which is the beauty of Islam? Naturally, any such move would result in to a power struggle between various groups having opposing views – each one trying to gain a greater share of power. Seatrain violence and terrorism are the necessary outcome of such power struggle amongst rival sectarian groups. Each of those groups would claim a greater share in state authority and demand its interpretation to be enforced on other using state apparatus. However same is opposed to the spirit of Islam itself; when the state enforces the religious doctrine, the concept of voluntary submission evaporates.

Upper cast Hindus are pushing for a Hindu religious identity for India and claim secularism as ‘infidelity’. To protect secularism, Islamic political parties in India are willing to offer every sacrifice. Similarly, in Pakistan, secularism has been propagated by religious groups as ‘infidelity’. If secularism is permissible for Indian Muslim – how it can be prohibited for Muslim in Pakistan – especially when ascertain war is threatening the very existence of nation state? Basically it is greed for sharing state authority which leads religious groups to oppose the separation of state and religion. Pakistan needs to redefine its national identity and adopt secularism for a peaceful coexistence of rival religious entities within the Islamic faith and to protect the religious minorities.

Although, in the past, secularism was a need to protect religious minorities, today it is needed to prevent a bloody clash between rival sects within Islam. The state has to end the power struggle between rival groups by distancing itself from religious doctrine – and discourage all groups which are struggling to get their interpretation enforced as law of land. The level of polarization among sectarian groups, irresolvable conflicts on interpretation of holy text and political motives behind sectarian hatred demands that state adopts a non-religious identity. Religion should have no role in business of state; no interpretation should be superior than other to protect diversity in Islamic faith.

A secular state alone can end this bloody power struggle amongst the various sectarian groups. None of the religious group should be more or less favoured by the state. The role of the state has to be of a facilitator, where every religious entity and individual is able to freely practice his/her beliefs. No religious group should be granted the right to demand enforcement of its interpretation as law of the land. The state has to play the role of mother which does not identify its children through spiritual beliefs, ethnicity, colour or creed. A secular state alone can guarantee the equality, harmony and diversity, which form the beauty of Islam.