Was our Holy Prophet (pbuh) a Shia or a Sunni? Or was he Deobandi or Wahabi? Did he belong to any sect? If the answers to all these is in negative, then why can’t we rise above religious divides and simply call ourselves “Muslims”, the way it should be according to the injunctions of the Holy Quran.

Killing and slaughtering human beings in the name of God is the order of the day. The recent killings of the Hazara community in Quetta speak of the gravity of the situation, while the successive governments have failed to even touch this subject fearing a backlash from the religious orthodoxy. While the streams of blood are flowing in our neighbourhoods, we continue to remain numb and mute; waking up every day to the news of another bloodshed using religion as a weapon.

If history serves us right, Bulleh Shah, a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher, was denied a funeral by the religious orthodoxy (clerics) of his time. Similarly, back in 1990s and 2000s, sporadic violence resulted from disputes over control of Pakistani mosques between the Barelvis and Deobandis (Islamic sects) and in later years, the Sunni Tehrik activists attempted to forcibly gain control of mosques by opening fire on those inside, resulting in death and injuries.

This pattern is repeated over the years because of the brainwashed illiterate fanatic individuals, who interpret the religion and pass judgment’s on the faith of another human being. This itself is against the very teachings of the Holy Quran, which says: “God is the only One who can judge humans” (46:9) and “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256).

Because of these atrocities of killing in God’s name, look at the plight of Islam now; whereas, there is a focus on eliminating people of other sects by blowing themselves up in the mosques and expecting to land in the heaven. How much pathetic can one’s thinking be? And in the process, the real issues like the need for education and learning, as laid down in the Quran and the Hadith, seem to have been forgotten.

The seeds of this religious divide were sown by the military dictator General Ziaul Haq, who in order to perpetuate his rule used religion as a weapon and fostered the religious divisions for the fulfilment of his ugly ambitions. After assuming power, the task his government was facing was to find a way to gain legitimacy. Since the Islamist parties were already against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, they had the most influence on Ziaul Haq's government. Zia “used” them by announcing the enforcement of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamic System), to counter what he saw as a lack of true Islam. In the process, he politicised, sectarianised and destroyed the very religious structures. The nation is facing the fallouts of his brutal legacy till date.

Religion is a personal matter of an individual and a matter between him and his Creator, but we have ordained it to the religious fanatics to interpret and implement it in the most brutal ways. The Quaid’s vision of Pakistan was in line with the true spirit of Islamic injunctions. But it has been ignored in favour of religious orthodoxy that is pushing the nation towards complete disaster. Self-interested interpretations of religion have politicised religion and turned it into a salable commodity.

The irony is that the majority is afraid to speak up against backward religious elements, which have done disservice to Islam by distorting its message and causing huge damage to the country in the name of religion.  What they fail to understand is that someone’s faith is not anything physical that can be eliminated by bullets or silenced by threats.

What needs to be understood is that there can be causes worth dying for, but there cannot be any worth killing for. How many more people will they kill to establish a religious system based on sectarianism? For in the end, with each killing, another soul will be born in every house.

The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist. He is life member of the Pakistan Engineering Council and senior international editor for IT Insight Magazine. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living In The Grave and several research papers.  Email: drirfanzafar@gmail.com   Twitter: @drirfanzafar