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Safar 10, 1440

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Religious strain in Quaid's public life

The Nation
by Prof. Sharif Al Mujahid

On the basis that in an earlier period, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had successfully onned the role of an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, some writers feel that Islam was not the central source of Jinnah's inspiration and struggle. It is true that Jinnah had once worked hard to bring the two major communities together on one political platform; it is also true that he had till the middle 1930s called himself an "Indian".

But in so designating himself and in so striving towards a Hindu-Muslim rapprochement, he had neither abdicated nor underrated his role as a Muslim leader. Actually, he would not have embarked upon donning this role of an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, had he not considered himself an accredited representative of the Muslims. To be sure, Jinnah's interest in Islam and Muslims dates back to his entry in public life. One of his first two speeches at the Calcutta Congress (1906) session, which he attended as Private Secretary to the Congress President Dadabhoy Naoroji, concerned a problem of deep interest to the Muslims - Waqf alal-aulad; a problem which had engaged Muslim attention since the days of Sir Syed Abmad Khan. British interference with the Mussalman Waqf laws, dating back to the Bombay High Court decision of 1873, and confirmed and climaxed by the Privy Council decision of 1894, had denied Muslims the right to make valid Waqfs to their families and descendants. This Privy Council decision had not only controverted Muslim Personal Law; it had also brought ruin, disintegration and impoverishment to many old Muslim families. Hence the protests of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Syed Ameer Ali, the Agha Khan, Hakim Ajmal Kban, Maulana Shibli and all the Muslim organisations including the Muslim League and the Nadwatul Ulema, and their efforts to get the Privy Council decision annulled.

It is interesting that the Muslim League and its leaders approached Jinnah, and not any other Muslim member of the Viceroy's Imperial Legislative Council, to sponsor the Muslim Waqf bill, and this despite the fact that Jinnah was still not a member of the Muslim League. Jinnah's two speeches on the "Mussalman Waqf Validating Bill" in the Council indicate, among other things, the measure of his rapport and close contact with Muslim opinion on the subject, including the Nadwatul Ulema, his deep concern with the economic condition of Muslims, his easy familiarity with Muslim law, and above all, his high regard for it. For instance, at one stage, he defended oral Waqfs in deference to both Muslim law and Muslim opinion with the worlds, "... I, for one, am not prepared to accept any provision which is in any way likely to overrule or affect the personal law of the Mussalmans." The same concern inspired his political activities in subsequent decades as well, when he struggled long and hard to get an honourable place for Muslims under the Indian sun.

This concern meant that he was striving all along to ensure religious, cultural, linguistic and other rights of the Mussalmans in the future Indian dispensation. Implicit, therefore, in all his moves and doings (even when he was struggling for the triumph of a composite Indian nationalism) was his concern for Muslim regeneration. And when he finally became convinced that a composite Hindu-Muslim nationalism would prove subversive of legitimate Muslim religious, cultural and linguistic rights-as it became evident during the 193 7-39 Congress rule-Jinnah set his sails towards Pakistan. Thus, what really occurred in 1940 was that what was implicit till then became explicit in his struggle for a separate, sovereign Muslim homeland. Thus, in commending the Pakistan scheme at the Lahore session (1940) the Quaid said, "We wish our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best and in consonance with our ideas and according to the genius of our people." Again, in November 1945, he told the Frontier Muslim League Conference: "The Muslims demand Pakistan where they could rule according to their own code of life and according to their own cultural growth, traditions and Islamic laws. And what that code of life and traditions were, he had defined in a message to the Punjab Muslim Student's Federation: "Our bed-rock and sheet-anchor is Islam .... Islam is our guide and complete code for our life...." On yet another occasion, this time in his speech at Aligarh in 1944, Jinnah had spelled out the rationale of the Pakistan demand as follows: "Pakistan started the moment the first non-Muslim was converted to Islam in India long before the Muslims established their rule. As soon as a Hindu embraced Islam he was an outcast, not only religiously but also socially, culturally and economically. As for the Muslim, it was a duty imposed on him by Islam not to merge his identity and individuality in any alien society.

Throughout the ages, Hindus had remained Hindus and Muslims had remained Muslims, and they had not merged their entities - that was the basis for Pakistan." And, in his message to the Frontier Muslim Students' Federation (June 1945), he said, "Pakistan not only means freedom and independence, but the Muslim ideology which has (got) to be preserved, which has come to us as a precious gift and treasure, and which, we hope, others will share". These and other pronouncements during 1940-47, indicate that Jinnah took up the Pakistan cause in order to save the Muslim (or Islamic) way of life (as he would put it) wherever it could possibly be. Likewise, dealing with the future constitution and political system of Pakistan, Jinnah was explicit, and quite so.

Jinnah conceived of Pakistan as a Islamic Democracy. And, to us, this qualification of democracy on his part is vastly significant. For democracy, as Prof. Wilfred Cantwell Smith has shown, thrives on the basis of two ideals: a political and an ethical ideal; on the concurrence of both a governmental form and a popular ideal. This ideal, the ethical aspect, which is an integral part of a democratic process, provides it with content and some solid base for continuing popular support.

The structural apparatus of a democratic set up can be one and the same all the world over, but the ethical ideal (or moral categories) which give meaning and content to this apparatus, is something to be supplied from within, according to the genius, the cultural, social and spiritual heritage of a people. That is, Islam is that ethical ideal which, according to Jinnah, would spell out the social significance of a democratic dispensation in Pakistan.

By the same token, Islamic values would form the basis of public morality in a democratic order in Pakistan. Conceived thus, Pakistan should not be Islamic and democratic, possessing these qualities as two distinct and separate attributes, but Islamic through the democratic process. Democracy, thus, becomes, as pointed out by Prof. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, "an aspect of its Islamicness, a part of the definition of the Islamic State". Borrowing analogies from mediaeval European history, some people tend to equate an Islamic state with a theocratic state, and feel that an Islamic state cannot be a modern state. But this is largely based on an inadequate knowledge of Islam and Christianity, and of the evolution of European political thinking. For, as Iqbal says in his Allahabad League (1930) address, "If you begin with the conception of religion as complete other-worldliness, then what happened to Christianity in Europe is perfectly natural ... [But] Islam does not bifurcate the unity of man into an irreconcilable duality of spirit and matter. In Islam God and the universe, spirit and matter, Church and State, are organic to each other. Man is not the citizen of a profane world to be renounced in the interest of a world of spirit situated elsewhere. To Islam matter is spirit realising itself in space and time ...." That is, Islam, as Iqbal says in his Reconstruction, is "secular in the root of its being". The kingdom of God, if there is one, is to be realised here in this world, and not in the hereafter. Nor is there, as against Christianity, a priestcraft in Islam, which could transform the Islamic state into a theocratic one.

DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.

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Islam gave the Muslims of India a sense of identity; dynasties like the Mughals gave them territory; poets like Allama Iqbal gave them a sense of destiny. Jinnah's towering stature derives from the fact that, by leading the Pakistan movement and creating the state of Pakistan, he gave them all three. For the Pakistanis he is simply the Quaid-e-Azam or the Great Leader. Whatever their political affiliation, they believe there is no one quite like him.

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