Rumi once famously remarked that ‘it would have been better for the religion of Islam if the orthodox had never been born’. Pause, and observe. The Mevlana of Ishq (who has been, tragically, these days, reduced to a pop- culture reference) did not say that Deen-e-Islam would have been better off if the orthodox died. Poignantly, he remarked that the religion of peace would be better off if the orthodox ‘had never been born’.

It seems that the great Mevlana, writing in the thirteenth century Konya, could see far into the future and was referring to the twenty first century Council of Islamic ideology (CII) in Pakistan.

In the latest episode of the depressing (comic?) saga that is our CII, eleven members, under the regressive stewardship of Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani deliberated and passed an opinion on fourteen issues concerning the enforcement of Shariah law in Pakistan. The intellectual rigor and religious mastery of the participating members (citadels in their own right) discussed issues of extreme national importance ranging from the number and manner of divorce pronouncement, to the dress code of female judges, and theology of juvenile punishment. Exhausted from the intense deliberations on these critical issues, the honorable members had no time or energy to touch upon, or even consider, minor inconveniences such as … wait for it … terrorism!

Our grief and tiff, if at all, should not be with members of the CII. In the face of such invaluable service being rendered by CII to our nation and its people, we should all pick up a fight with the great Mevlana of Konya for he did not appreciate the value and virtue of the orthodox of our society!

Unsurprisingly, the CII refrained from disappointing its constituents. The Council and its worthy members persisted, for the most part, with their regressive approach towards interpreting and applying the ‘injunctions of Islam’. Keeping up with past practices – which include opposing DNA testing in rape cases, and arguing against child marriages – the CII took up the onerous responsibility of resolving a burning national issue: what precisely should be the age and dressing of a female judge?

I cannot speak for the rest, but this question has been giving me sleepless nights for a while. As a lawyer, and a citizen of this country, there was no way for me not to be perturbed about the fact that some of the female judges (the few that we begrudgingly have) were of ‘marriageable’ age (less than forty years old, according to CII), and what is worse, only wore a dupatta to cover their heads (as opposed to a naqaab, which the CII has thankfully proposed). Niqab-less female judges, under the age of forty, have really become a major source of distraction (read: immoral thoughts) for my friends and I, who have to go through the religious ordeal of appearing before them. If this recommendation of the CII is implemented, we can all go back to focusing on the job at hand, upholding the ideals of rule of law, and in the process uplifting the entire nation and its system of justice.

An equally critical question of national significance – nay, of humanitarian importance! – was whether the three pronouncements of divorce should be done simultaneously, or parse out over a period of ninety days? The existing laws of Pakistan require that even if a man makes three pronouncements of ‘talaq’ in once instance, the divorce decree will not be issued unless the requisite three-month period of reconciliation/arbitration has been completed. Fortifying the already existent procedure in Pakistani laws, the worthy ulemas and theologians of CII, after hours of deliberation recommended that some punishment should also accompany the pronouncements of three talaq at one time. Phew! Let us all raise our hands to thank that Most Merciful Allah for the priorities of these ulemas in taking out their precious time to opine on the matter. Our blood soaked nation – weary, tired, and hungry – can now sleep in peace (on an empty stomach), having struck off this lifesaving issue from our national priority list.

With these pressing matters now finally settled, we must thank our worthy ulemas of CII, and learning from their able guidance and example, turn our attention to ancillary issues such as rampant extremism, terrorist religious outfits, the killing of 141 students in Peshawar, and the existential crisis being faced by our nation.

For the better part of the past forty years (since the drafting of our Constitution in 1973), the people of Pakistan have been grappling with an increasing surge of orthodox mullahs in our legal, judicial, and social paradigm. Soon after the promulgation of our Constitution, these orthodox mullahs led the nation into protests and strikes over the Ahmedi minority, and the presence of liquor shops in Karachi. Thereafter, during the 1980s, we were dragged into regressive legal regimes such as the Hudood Ordinance, Muslim Family Law Ordinance, and anti-blasphemy laws. In the 1990s, the recalcitrant orthodox clergy, bestowed upon our nation, the gift of religious sectarianism. And over the past decade and a half, Pakistan has been fighting an existential battle against the forces of Islamic terrorism, fuelled either expressly or tacitly by the voices of orthodox clergy.

In the face of this dismal history, I, for one, am almost relieved that the clerics of CII are keeping themselves busy with absolutely comical issues. Because were they to dabble into countering the narratives of religious terrorism, we as a nation, might find ourselves in a deeper hole than the one we are already in.

I say, let them continue to debate and knock their heads on inconsequential issues. And just as they are not looking, let the rest of us put our minds and hearts together to avenge the death of thousands of victims of religious terrorism, including 141 boys in school uniform, and finally move towards decisively expunging the seeds of terror from our national soul.