Dr. Khalid Sohail


In the recent case of Abdul Rahman that received international attention, I was most intrigued by the psychology of Abdul Rahman’s father who reported him to the Afghani police stating that Abdul Rahman had said goodbye to Islam and embraced Christianity, knowing very well that if his son was presented in front of the Sharia Court the judge would order his execution for the sin and crime of apostasy. It seemed to me as a psychotherapist as if the Muslim father was so angry with his Christian son for leaving Islam that he was harbouring death wishes for his beloved son. But rather than killing him himself he tried to use police and the court to fulfil his death wish. Little did he knew that the political climate had changed and Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were no longer in power in Afghanistan and the new President Hamid Karzai was under a lot of international pressure to defend the human rights of Abdul Rahman, a peaceful citizen. The well educated but fundamentalist judge Nasrullah Maulwezada defended the death sentence by stating that he was following the law of the land. I think that is tragic that rather than changing the Sharia Law, Abdul Rahman is declared to be insane and then declared not guilty by the reason of insanity. Is changing one’s religion a symptom of insanity? If that is the case then all those people who changed their religion and accepted Islam would also be considered insane. After hearing the story I am no longer clear who is insane: Abdul Rahman, his father, the judge or the Sharia Law?

I never met Abdul Rahman’s father but his story reminded me of one of my Muslim patients in Pakistan, who I met when I was doing my psychiatric training in Khyber Medical College Peshawar. We had to admit that man to the mental asylum as he wanted to slaughter his son. He shared with us that he was having repeated dreams like Abraham to sacrifice his son on the altar of religion. As a good Muslim he wanted to fulfill his religious duty. Since he was suffering from schizophrenia and had delusions, hallucinations and thought disorder we had to treat his insanity with medications and therapy to protect his innocent son. I sometimes wonder whether all those Muslims who sacrifice lambs and sheep and camels every year after Hajj unconsciously agree that if there was a conflict between their sons and God they would choose God and sacrifice their sons following the tradition of Abraham. I wonder what would be the reaction of enlightened Muslims today if Abraham wanted to leave his wife and newborn in the desert or wanted to sacrifice his son Ismail because he was having religious dreams. How would be the international Human Rights organizations react?

It is interesting to note that in Jewish and Christian traditions Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son Isaac.  David Van Biema writes in The Legacy of Abraham in September 30th, 2002 Time Magazine, “ Then, in one last spectacular test of his faith, God directs Abraham to offer ‘your son, your only one, whom you love, your Isaac’ as a human sacrifice.. With an obedience that has troubled modern thinkers from Kierkegaard (“Though Abraham arouses my admiration, he at the same time appalls me”) to Bob Dylon (“Abe says,

“Where do you want this killing done,

God says “Out on Highway 61”)

But which seems transcendentally right to traditionalists---the father commences to comply on a mountain called Moriah”  But then the angel stopped Abraham and offered a sacrificial lamb. Jews and Christians do not follow Abraham’s tradition anymore but Muslims sacrifice millions of lambs and sheep and cows and camels every year after Hajj in memory of Abraham and Ismail.

I am also reminded of another Muslim father in Peshawar whose son had become an atheist and the Muslim father told me that he would have no regrets to order hanging his murtad son if he was the judge. When I asked him., “Do you not love your son?” he said

“Islam is not a religion. It is a deen. In deen mosque and state are not separate. It is not like Christianity in which church and state are different because it is a religion not deen. When someone leaves Islam he is a criminal of religion as well as of state. He is a traitor and in any state traitors are treated harshly and put in jail or hanged.”

“But you are a loving father. How can you do think or do that?”

“I cannot be more loving that Omar?” he responded.

When I asked him to explain he stated that “I love my son but I cannot love my son more than Caliph Omar loved his son who was a Non-Muslim. In one Jihad they fought on opposite sides and when the war ended and they came back home, the Non-Muslim son said to his Muslim dad “You came under my sword three times but I let you go” but Omar responded, “If you would have come under my sword once I would have chopped your head off.”

I had never heard of that story and I did not know whether it is fact or fiction, but it highlighted the psychology of a Muslim father and showed me how that Muslim father thought and felt.

It was also interesting for me to observe that although some Muslim fathers I met were quite angry, judgmental and punitive, the Muslim mothers I came across were kind, caring and forgiving. For them their love for their sons was more significant than Islam while for many Muslim fathers Islam and God was more important than their sons.

I also feel that when state and religion join hands then the Motherland that is supposed to be kind and caring and compassionate and nurturing for her children transforms into a punitive and judgmental Fatherland and penalizes and persecutes its children who do not follow the dictates of a theocratic state.

It is ironic than in an Islamic state, citizens do not have the choice to change their religion. They are denied of freedom of religion and deprived of freedom from religion. They are always worried that if they changed their philosophy, ideology and lifestyle they might face serious consequences from their families as well as their governments. Non-Muslims, Atheists and Humanists are always vulnerable in Islamic states as the sword of Sharia Law is always hanging above their heads never knowing when they might be penalized, persecuted even killed in the name of God and Islam. It is a state where sons cannot even trust their Fathers and Fatherlands for their dear lives. How tragic we have that state of affairs in 21st century? Sometime I feel we are still living in the Dark Ages in Islamic States all over the world waiting for the age of Enlightenment when Islamic Courts and Governments would be kind, caring and compassionate to their children, their citizens as nurturing Motherlands and Muslims would be able to create democratic, secular and humanistic communities and countries.

 March, 2006


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