When they tried to crucify Hazrat Isa (A.S.), they labeled him blasphemer of Hazrat Moses (A.S.). Earlier, when Pharaoh was exposed by the arguments of Moses (A.S.) facilitated by clear miracles on demand, Pharaoh labeled him as a sorcerer. Following the precedence, when Muhammad (A.S.) tried to purify the teachings of Ibrahim (A.S.) the worst challenge was posed by the top clergy of Mecca led by Amr ibn Hisham (Abu Jahal), who was considered by the society as a man of intellect and wisdom.

And above all when Abraham (A.S.) raised a logical question to the idol worshippers by putting the sword at the neck of the biggest idol after destroying all small idols. Perplexed by his rational questions, Abraham’s (A.S.) adversaries also tried to punish him for blasphemy.

Before that, Socrates was charged with the crime of corrupting the minds of youth by exposing myths disguised under sacredness. He chose to drink poison before going back on his word.

Similarly, when Shah Wali Ullah tried to translate the Qur’an into Persian for the first time in mid-18th century, he was manhandled by the clergy, alleging that he had committed blasphemy by translating the Qur’an. His house was attacked by the self-appointed custodian of Islam, however, he survived and kept at his work which paved the way for his son to produce the first Urdu translation of the Qur’an in the 19th century. Interestingly, back in those days the people of the sub-continent, including those who claim to be Muslim, were unaware of what Qur’an teaches them to become. The trend continues to this day.

Interestingly, all these influential and respectful figures were non-conformists and struggled throughout their lives for exposing myths and faced hardships for purifying the society. Some were poisoned to death, some were tried with severe punishment, and most of them were either assassinated or their characters and teachings were maligned.

In all these examples, one fact is very clear: that throughout history the biggest threat which the bearer of any faith faced was from the corrupt clergy class and from the segment of the society whose interests were challenged in maintaining their hegemony in society. We observe, that ‘being labeled blasphemer is the Sunnah of prophets’ as they challenge the prevalent indoctrinated religious beliefs mixed with traditions which annoy the clergy. Moreover, all the prophets were reformers in appearance and revivalists in essence. Their teachings challenged the existing ruling clergy and revived the innate rights and duties which every human being, irrespective of religion, inherits. 

Truth will remain truth even if no one on earth validates it and falsehood will remain falsehood even if everyone bows down to it or hides it under the guise of the love for Prophet, or anything else. 

I was born to a 28 year-old young lecturer of Islamic studies, Dr. Shakil Auj . The time which I witnessed is very simple to explain but very difficult to feel. I still remember that he was removed from many mosques of Karachi for leading the Friday sermons, due to the crime of speaking about verifiable facts rather than propagating heresy. As his son, I was witnessing these stories. I still remember when, upon returning from his office, he used to ask us to pray for him as he had opened too many fronts at the same time. Not only by raising questions on the issues which needed academic debate – for which he was maligned as blasphemer, despite writing many poems in praise of Prophet Muhammad (A.S.), so much so that he added the word “Auj” to his name as takhallus – but also by facing criticism for maintaining merit.

In all of his 15 books and dozens of research articles, he succeeded in breaking many shackles and myths. The HEC recognized biannual research journal, “Al-Tafseer”, was his brainchild which he initiated from meager resources in 2005. Soon it was accepted by HEC as a Y-category journal and the only HEC journal in the respective field which was issued without any established institution or aid, rather solely on an individual basis.

Being the only Islamic scholar who was not only a mufti and Sheikh-ul-Hadees, as per clergy-hostage society, but the third individual in his domain in the entire sub-continent to have a degree of D.Lit. as per modern education system. He was a strong challenge to the semi-educated clergy. In addition to this, he also used to lead Taraweeh prayers which made him increasingly aware of the whole fraudulent system which is being run in the name of Islam, since the beginning. However, he never denounced genuine ulemas, whose number can be counted on fingers. The scenario reminds me what Sir Muhammad Iqbal used to say, that “The duty of ethical education of Muslim masses was in the hands of ‘half-educated religionists’ and regressive clerics” and he wanted this obligation to be snatched away from them and put into the hands of the new Muslim man which he had set out to create.

On 18th September, 2012, an organized propaganda was conspired against Dr. Shakil Auj , initiated through an SMS campaign facilitated by banners declaring him a blasphemer who deserved to be killed. The propaganda was strong to an extent: upon his assassination he held the post of Dean, Islamic Learning , University of Karachi, at the time; he was also conferred upon with the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by President of Pakistan, but the New York Times and many other local newspapers published the story, under the title, “A Pakistani Scholar Accused of Blasphemy Is Shot Dead”. The stories reported that he visited the USA where he uttered a blasphemous speech. As a matter of fact, he had never been to USA and any European country. After reading the misleading report by the credible newspaper, I rechecked the passport of my father and checked the matter with every member of my family. As a result, I wrote a “letter to the editor” of The New York Times, negating the report. The letter never got published. 

Dr. Shakeel Auj used to call himself ‘a bridge between traditionalist and modern interpretation of Islam’. Since Islam is a universal code of life, and should not be mixed with any specific civilization, the West has as equal right on Islam as the East. Hence the East’s hegemony over the religion, under the guise of Arabization of this universal faith, is unjust and self-exploding.

On his way to the Iranian Cultural Center for a program staged in his honor, a bullet pierced through his eye, entering from cerebellum. His assassins tried to silence his argument with bullet – which was the ultimate declaration of defeat by his opponents. He met a fate similar to prophets, scholars, academicians and reformers, hence witnessed ultimate success here and in the Hereafter. In his 28 years of prolific academic services, he never compromised on the truth. Like many other notable Muslim thinkers, many fatwas had been passed against him. Initiated when he was 25 years old and ended with the last fatwa which later appeared to be fake.

Who killed Dr. Shakil Auj ? There is a raging debate over this subject. It was not a bullet that tried to silence his voice, neither was it somebody from Al-Qaeda. Nor was it the arrested worker of a political party, or the professional jealousy of Madrasah-inspired clerics. I would like to say that he is alive – in the form of his teachings, through his students and all those he inspired. But he will die if they resort to silence, and give up on his rational arguments.

Whoever masterminded Dr. Shakil Auj 's assassination forgot that ideas are bulletproof. The battle of reason will continue until truth prevails.