Islam has been and is the language of politics in the Islamic world. Politicians have used Islamic terminologies to justify the power structures, criticise the power hierarchies and set aspirations in manifestoes. Anwar Sadat in Egypt and Hassan II in Morocco sought to legitimise the political hierarchy by referring to themselves as the “President Believer” (al-ra’is al-mu’min) and the “commander of the faithful” (amir al-mu’minin) respectively. Similarly, critics of those in power have often tried to demonise the ruling elite by labelling them as infidels. Even leaders with socialist and secular outlooks, like Saddam Hussein and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, used Islamic symbolism and nomenclature whenever it felt convenient. Our current prime minister is also not immune to this phenomenon.

After emerging as the majority party in, some would allege “managed”, general elections, Imran Khan vowed to make Pakistan a Medina-like state. Mr Khan’s claim had ever since been a laughingstock among the opposition parties and political commentators. Mr Khan, staying true to his reputation, was once again carried away by the heat of the emotions and neither realised the significance nor the seriousness of the claim he was making.

Mr Khan’s promise might sell in his electorate, but a little scrutiny reveals that the claim is nothing but problematic. If by a Medina-like state, Mr Khan means the state created by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) after migration to Medina, then Mr Khan lacks the most important tool the Prophet (PBUH) possessed: the direct divine revelation. Throughout his journey, Prophet (PBUH) was assisted by God Almighty himself through, inter alia, revelations. Alternatively, if by Medina-like state, Mr Khan means the Caliphate of the rightly-guided caliphs, he still is lacking the training that the aforementioned caliphs were able to receive directly from the Prophet (PBUH). Lacking these tools of utmost importance, Mr Khan’s efforts to make a Medina-like state, assuming he was making a sincere promise, are doomed to fail.

Moving on from these theological concerns, if one analyses the team, conduct and lifestyle of Mr Khan, his claim would appear more preposterous. The struggle of Prophet (PBUH) was against the ‘status quo’ of that era. He (PBUH) suffered difficulties and cruelties of astronomical scale, had to leave his beloved home-town, fight many battles and sacrifice many things of value before he (PBUH) was able to not only win over but convert that status quo to his cause. Mr Khan, on the other hand, used the very forces of status quo that he now claims to hold accountable, to get into the echelons of power. Prophet (PBUH) was able to bring the social, moral, religious and economic revolution because he did not succumb to the terror of the establishment but in fact, challenged it head-on. On the contrary, Mr Khan is in hand in glove with the establishment that is the very cause of the mammoth problems Pakistan is currently dealing with. To expect radical change from someone who came into power by undermining the very institutions he now holds will be nothing short of a daydream.

Additionally, to say that the personalities of Mr Khan and Prophet (PBUH) are poles apart would be an understatement. Prophet (PBUH) was famous for his truthfulness and honesty while Mr Khan has taken U-turn on every major decision and promise. When Prophet (PBUH) died, despite being the head of a state, his armour was mortgaged to a Jew while Mr Khan lives in a mansion of hundreds of kanals. While Prophet (PBUH) selected the ablest, competent and pious people for his team, Mr Khan took in every person, no matter how corrupt, that had a chance of winning a seat of legislative assemblies. While Prophet (PBUH) said that if you give charity by the right hand, your left hand should not know, Mr Khan capitalised on his charitable drives, mostly publicly funded, to win votes.

Now, if one compares the teams of Prophet (PBUH) and Mr Khan, the difference is again of immeasurable quantum. Rightly guided caliphs were so motivated for public service and not at all concerned about their own safety that three out of four were martyred. Contrastingly, key players of Mr Khan’s team spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their protocol under the garb of security. Moreover, the level of accountability of the caliphs by the public was also exemplary. Once, after a battle during the era of the second caliph, there was distribution of war booty. Caliph Umar (RA) wore a new shirt the next day. A Bedouin stood up and questioned the caliph that his share in the booty did not entitle him to the cloth of a full shirt, so where did the rest of the fabric come from? The son of the caliph stood up and said that he had gifted his share in the booty to his father and that’s the reason the caliph was able to get cloth for a full shirt. On the contrary, assets beyond means is a ‘common occurrence’ among the key officials in Mr Khan’s cabinet and party.

If a person of Mr Khan’s character and calibre makes the promise of establishing a Medina-like state, then either such person is delusional or deliberately wants to be made fun of. Use of Islamic terminologies to capitalise on the religious sensibilities of the people is not a new phenomenon. However, one must cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth.


The writer is a practicing lawyer and has an LLM from The University of Chicago.