The following notice engraved on the wall of Lahore’s historic Begum Shahi Mosque signifies all what is wrong with Pakistani society today in terms of religious intolerance and sectarian violence.
The notice reads (in Roman Urdu): ba ittefaq-e anjuman-e-hanafiah wa hukm-e-shara-sharif yeh qarar paya keh koi wahhabi, rafizi, naturi wa mirzai masji haaza mein na aaway aur khilaf-e-mazhab-e-hanafi koi baat na karay – faqir ghulam qadir mutwalli masjid begum shahi 1313 A.H.
English Translation: With the consent of the Hanafi Muslim Association and also in accordance with the Islamic Sharia, this was decided that no Wahhabi (Salafi), Rafizi (Shia), Naturi (rationalist Muslim) and Mirzai (Ahmadi) is allowed to enter this mosque nor is anyone allowed to say anything against Hanafi sect in this mosque. By Faqir Ghulam Qadir, Custodian of the Begum Shahi Mosque, 1313 A.H. (1895 A.D.)
It may be noted that Hanafi Muslims (comprising Barelvis and Deobandis) represent almost 65-70% of total Muslims in Pakistan. Shias represent 20%, Wahhabis represent 10% while Ahmadis are estimated to be 3% of Pakistan’s Muslim population.
In sum, the above notice identifies four sects or groups of Muslims who are in numerical minority in Pakistan, and remain subject to various forms of social stereotypes, persecution and (in case of Shias and Ahmadis) target killings.
1. Wahhabi: Salafi or Ahl-e-Hadith Muslims are those who do not follow any specific school of jurisprudence including that of Imam Abu Hanifa. They are routinely stereotyped in Pakistan by majority Sunni Hanafi population (Barelvis, Deobandis) as well as by Shias and Ahmaids as Saudi agents or lesser Muslims. They have been subject to sporadic violence by Deobandi Jihadi-sectarian groups, e.g., massacre of Wahhabi Muslims in Kunar province of Afghanistan by Deobandi militants of Jamaat-e-Islami and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
2. Shia: Shia Muslims follow the jurisprudence of Imam Jafar Sadiq, and consider Imam Ali as the first and foremost rightful successor to caliphate after Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) death. Shia Muslims are routinely stereotyped as infidels, lesser Muslims and Sabai (Jewish) agents by extremist Hanafis and Wahhabis. Shias are also the most target killed faith group in Pakistan.
3. Ahmadi: Central to the Ahmadiyya Muslims is the belief in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. Ahmadis are the most persecuted faith group in Pakistan because the constitution and laws of Pakistan do not allow them to call themselves as Muslims nor are they allowed to practice their faith in a free manner. They are routinely harassed, stereotyped as British agents and remain subject to violence and target killing.
4. Rationalist: Naturi is a derogatory label used for those Muslims who try to rationally interpret and practice Islam. A key example of rationalist Muslims is Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan who believed that “work of God (nature and its laws) was in conformity with the Word of God (the Quran)”, an adage that earned him the title of Naturi. Followers of Sir Sayyid, Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz and Javed Ghamidi etc are variously labelled as Naturi by other sectarian Muslims.