An Interview with G.A. Parwez
On Islamic Authority and Rajim
By Michael O’Neill, Editor-in-Chief
Asiaweek, December 4, 1981
…The most controversial specific instance of misdirected ”Islamisation” concerns rajim, the
punishment of stoning to death for illicit sexual intercourse.
As part of his Islamisation program, Zia, by President’s Order 3 of 1979, amended the
Constitution to set up Shariat, or religious, benches in Pakistan’s four provincial high courts.
Designated justices were both high court judges and members of the Shariat benches until March
1981, when the functions were separated. There is now a federal Shariat court, the provincial
versions having been abolished.
Six months ago the Shariat court ruled that the government’s 1979 law of rajim – stoning to death
for offences such as adultery – was not Quranic law and was therefore unIslamic. The Zia
Administration is appealing that verdict on the ground that the judges, as the President told
Asiaweek, “didn’t do their homework.” Zia, in short, believes that the punishment is Islamic. It is
a confusion that in recent months has exercised Muslim minds from West Asia to Southeast Asia,
and to get to the bottom of it, Asiaweek’s O’Neill last week visited Parwez, 78, in his book-lined
study in Lahore. This is what Chaudhri Ghulam Ahmad Parwez said:
“The first thing to know, when you call a thing Islamic, is: What is the authority for it? When we
say ‘This is constitutional,’ there is an authority for it – the Constitution. It presupposes the
existence of a constitution that forms an authority to say what is constitutional and what is not.”
“There must be a common authority for all Muslims. When they call themselves Muslims it
means they accept Islam, and if there is one common authority for Islam, then that must be the
common authority by which all Muslims decide whether something is Islamic or not – whether it
is the law of rajim or some other laws or rules of the state.
“Islam is not a religion. It is a code of life,