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Safar 10, 1440

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August 14

Pakistan Standard Time 4:52 pm


Whereto the Muslims?


While the Hindu had marched on towards the twentieth century with a confidence bordering upon the militant, the Muslim stood by and sulked. He wept upon the passing of the old glories of Delhi and Lucknow. He resented the new system whose values seemed so alien to him. He was the fallen hero unable to rise, spending himself in the nostalgia of his past. He was fixated to the days of the glory of his forefathers. And this fixation had immobilised him completely.

The only economic vitality that any section of the Muslims of India had demonstrated in this period, was the growth of the Khojas, Bohras and the Memons of the coastal areas of Gujerat and Bombay into businessmen, lawyers, merchants and industrialists along with their Hindu compatriots. They would become the catalysts of the "Pakistan movement". In the upper reaches of the Indus region, a rich new Muslim feudal aristocracy rose with the opening of new land to the plough. Vast landed estates and jagirs were allotted in the Punjabi districts of Campbellpur, Mianwali, Shahpur, Jhang, Multan and Muzaffargarh. (The colonisation of lands in the districts of Montgomery and Lyallpur was based on the allotment of smaller holdings). Charactristically the two regions, the west coast and the Punjab, were to bring forth leaders of two different types with, ultimately, constituencies that were coincident but with policies that conflicted. The west coast of India presented Jinnah. The Punjab threw up Fazl-e-Hussain.

Sir Syed Ahmed KhanAt the turn of the century the Muslims had, to say the least, been confused. Syed Ahmed Khan had already spent his life pleading with the Muslims in the same vein as Raja Ram Mohan Roy had exhorted the Hindus half a century ahead of him. Syed Ahmed had been knighted in the service of the Crown and was the moving force behind the founding of the Anglo-Muhammadan College at Aligarh.'Aligarh would be the Muslim answer to modernity; a universal Muslim response to the
changing times (although not all its students were Muslims). It gave the Muslims a sense of
direction and confidence. To say that you had been to Aligarh was to declare your credentials. It
also provided a focus for Muslims all over the sub-continent. From Quetta at one end of India to
Dacca at the other, Muslims came to study here; this forged a sense of brotherhood, of
nationhood.' Akbar S. Ahmed:'Living Islam', p. 118 Syed Ahmed Khan exhorted the Muslims to come out of their shells and to seek modern education so as to join the race. Aligarh's sons would respond enthusiastically.

Having served the Company through the 'Mutiny' Sir Syed was eminently qualified to disarm the prejudice of the Muslim establishment on account of his undisputed piety and gentility of spirit. The Muslim elite had also begun to realise the futility of it all. They could not continue to sit indefinitely on the sidelines and fret. They became conscious of the need for social advancement, albeit within the framework of the Raj. There was, also, the need to collect upon a unified platform and to raise defences against the growing hostility generated by Tilak and the Arya Samajis. The Hindu extremists appeared to be on the warpath and the only salvation for the Muslim ruling classes seemed the sanctuary of the British Government.

The British were themselves fully cognisant of the importance of the Muslim community. It was the most important element in the consolidation and the security of the Empire east of the Suez. It was to assuage Muslims therefore, that the Government partitioned Bengal in 1905. The Muslim majority areas of Bengal which were also the agrarian hinterland, were separated from the Hindu-dominated industrial vortex of Calcutta. The Hindu community reacted sharply to the Partition of Bengal. It denounced the administrative measure and initiated a popular movement against it.

The Muslims were on the defensive. The compulsion for one single platform was imperative. Yet nothing could be obtained, it seemed, without the patronage of the imperial Government.


The Muslim League was founded in December 1906 after a delegation of Muslims, led by the Agha Khan had waited upon the Viceroy in October and sought the support of the Government with the following argument: "We venture, indeed with your Excellency's permission, to go a step further and urge that the position accorded to the Muhammadan community in any kind of representation, direct or indirect and in all other ways affecting their status and influence, should be commensurate not merely with their numerical strength but also with their political importance and the value of the contribution which they make to the defence of the Empire".'Historic Documents of the Muslim Freedom Movement', compiled by Jamil-ud-din Ahmed,
Publishers United, Lahore, p. 19

The conscious need for this patronage of the imperial adminstration was reflected in the Inaugral Address that Nawab Viqar ul Mulk, Nawab Mushtaq Hussain of the United Provinces, Chairman of the Founding Session of the Muslim League delivered at Dacca on 30th December, 1906 wherein he concluded:

"In short, gentlemen, we are today prepared to enter on a political career as a community which the spirit of the times impells us to do ...... But nothing of the spirit of loyalty is lost thereby, and no amount of candour shall rob us of our traditional courtesy..... The object of our League is, frankly, the protection and advancement of our political rights and interests, but without prejudice to the traditional loyality of the Musaalmans to the Government..." And despite the annulment, in 1911, of the Partition of Bengal, (a clear indication of the British Government's concessions to Hindu intransigence), the Muslim League Council laid down its rather servile aims on 31st December, 1912 as, inter alia: "to promote and maintain among Indians a feeling of loyatlty towards the British Crown".

The first object spelt out for need of the founding of the All India Muslim League in the main resolution of the December 30, 1906 session was "to promote among the Mussalmans of India, feelings of loyalty to the British Government and to remove any misconception that may arise as the intentions of Government with regard to any of its measures".'Historic Documents of the Muslim Freedom Movement', pp. 27-28 A year later, in the first anniversary session at Karachi, this objective was reiterated when the resolution containing the objectives of the Muslim League as redefined in the Constitution was adopted (December 30, 1907).Ibid., p. 28

The Muslims were compelled by the fear of Hindu revivalism to seek protection of the British and to that effect to manifest their loyalty to the Crown on every possible occasion. At this time Hindu moderates began to marginalise the influence, within the Congress, of Hindu extremists. To some extent the moderates like Gokhale (who was President of Congress in 1905) and the less fearsome reformists like Mrs. Annie Besant (President in 1917) succeeded in isolating the extremists and in weaning the Indian Muslims away from the British.

The imperial Government had kept the Muslims on its side by providing for separate electorates in the Act of 1909. These ensured the minority's representation in all circumstances. The majority community of India also wanted to win them over, so as to make them a passive agrarian appendix to an ultimately independent India. At this juncture the Hindu bourgeoisie bent over backwards to accomodate Muslim demands.

The Lucknow Pact of 1916 recognised the Muslim right to separate electorates. Hindu-Muslim amity continued through the agitation against and the massacre in the Punjab at Amritsar. In the meantime, India had been "bled white" by First World War,According to James Morris India provided an army of one-and-a-half million men to the killing
fields of the War. Compared to this only 857,000' youth from the 'white' colonies of the empire
participated in the hostilities. Morris: 'Farewell the Trumpets', p. 199. Spear points out that India
gave a hundred million pounds outright to Britain and contributed between twenty to thirty million
pounds annually towards war expenses. She 'undertook her own defence so that for a time there
were only 15,000 British troops in the country'. Spear, Ibid., p. 183. Only 15,000 holding more than
300 million under their yoke! in the words of Lord Curzan himself, and the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms Act of 1919 had not obtained much attention. The communal amity, however, reached its zenith in the "Khilafat Movement", the reaction of a Muslim community shocked by the unjust terms imposed upon Turkey by the Treaty of Surges. The Movement sought the reinstatement of the Turkey's "Khalifa". Hindus, led by Gandhi, adopted these demands and supported the Muslims in the Movement. Gandhi, in fact, presided over the 1919 Khilafat Conference. The Congress took advantage of this unrest. It synchronised its Non-Co-operation Movement. Some prominent Muslim ulema repaid Gandhi for his support. A fatwa endorsed the Non-Co-operation Movement.M. Mujeeb: 'The Indian Muslims', p. 435

After the Rowlatt Act and Jalianwala Bagh the Congress had again been over-whelmed by the extremists. On the other side some of the fundamentalist leaders of the Muslim community also went to the most preposterous extremes. "In the Khilafat crisis the leadership of the Muslim community was grasped by the ulema and their allies. Before 1918 the divines considered poltics outside their domain and were generally indifferent to all that happened in the country. In some respects, the new orientation was unfortunate. As a class the divines were sadly behind the times. They were ill-educated and illequipped for the business of politics. Their mutual bickerings were well known and their angularities proverbial. With a sizeable section of them religion did not necessarily come into politics as an idealistic or constructive force. Sometimes its influence bordered on the vulgar. Quite a few zealots among them ransacked the whole of Muslim law and tradition and disinterred some texts which could be stretched to justify the use of Gandhian techniques of non-co-operation and passive resistance for political ends. By some ingenuity they read into the Meccan life of the Prophet a titanic example of satyagraha. But their grotesque attmepts to effect a cohesion between Islam and Hinduism led them to make oblations in the sacred Ganges in the orthdox Hindu fashion, They idscovered in the Krishna of Hindu mythology the Moses of the Christians and Muslims and identified Gandhi with the promised one in Islam called the Mehdi. They snatched at a hundred and one straws to establish the essential oneness of the two faiths."Abdul Hamid: 'Muslim Separatism In India,' Oxford University Press, pp. 151-152

The Lincoln's Inn barrister, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was, at this time, an emerging leader of the entire Muslim community. He, too, stood for communal harmony. After the Lucknow Pact he had, in fact, been described by a prominent Hindu leader and activist, Miss Sirojini Naidu as the "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim amity." Jinnah, however, stood aloof of the compact between the Congress and the Muslim divines. But "the concord between the divines and the Congress proved lasting . The ulema had arrived in the field of politics to stay and did nto retire even when the ashes of the Khilafat movement had cooled down. Thus they became the nucleus of various 'nationalist' Muslim organisations which basked in the Congress sunshine in the thirties and early forties. On the one hand they stood for a resurgent Islam and on the other they owed allegiance to the Congress whose ideals were, in almost every respect, antithetical to theirs."Abdul Hamid: Ibid., p. 152

Although these divines would take their "allegience to the Congress" at least right up to August 1947,Opposing thereby the Muslim demand for Pakistan. Many of the religious parties cannot, to this
day, live down their role in the past the Hindu-Muslim amity was not to last. On both sides there had been significant developments and a substantial gains of self-confidence.


In terms of the achievement of its avowed object, the Khilafat Movement was fiasco. The Khilafat being itself dissolved, in 1924, by a Muslim modernist, a hero to modern Turkey and to the Islamic world, Kamal Ata-turk himself, the leaders of the Movement in India were squarely embarrassed. The divines clung to the Congress as they lost face. They now appeared to have been propounding and agitating at the wrong issue. The mass frenzy, the desparate call of Hijrat (actual migration) out of India as a protest against the non-Muslim rulers, and the popular mobilization, all petered out in widespread and comprehensive confusion.

But the Movement had made substantial contributions, not least of all being the aura of romance that had now been added to mass political mobilisation and to political resistance. But the Movement had established the Muslim potential to generate mass rallies. For the first time in the sub-continent's recent history and certainly since the passage of the Regulation Act of 1818, arrest for a political cause began to be looked upon with respect, even admiration. Political causes began to find adherents who had dreams in their eyes. Political detainees gained respect and social recognition among all the sections of the populace, (except, of course, the mercenaries in the civil and police bureaucracy). This tradition continues today and has alone contributed very heartily towards the securing of what civil rights there are. The Ali Brothers (Muhammad Ali, Shaukat Ali, and the younger Muhammad AliWho was interned for two terms totalling five years without trial), became the gallant forbears of a vast and unending line of brave detenues suffering till today for the rights of man.

No less significant was the impetus imparted by the Khilafat Movement to Muslim political journalism. A tradition of vibrant and live press, underterred by the frequent penalties, closures and forefeitures established in this period was to become the guiding principle later of the Pakistan Movement.

A yet greater significance of the Movement was the self-confidence with which it instilled the Muslims of Sub-continent. For once they had felt neither the need for the protective patronage of the British Government, which they had confronted, nor a compulsion to undertake a policy of "tailism" of Mr. Gandhi and his Congress. In fact Gandhi had been forced, by the vast sweep of the Movement, to have his own strength, counted on the side of the agitators. The Khilafat Movement had been of the most vital import in resurrecting the confidence of the minority community.

This was the tide of mass politics in the Muslim populace which Jinnah was to take at the flood and lead them to Pakistan. The pattern set in the Khilafat Movement, the inhibitions destroyed and the chains broken, the energies released, were all the assets of the demand for Pakistan almost two decades later at Lahore in 1940.

Moreover, an embryonic Muslim bourgeoisie was now keen to make its own compacts with the feudals of the Muslim majority areas rather than let its Hindu counterparts make further inroads into these provinces. Both now hoped to take over from the British commercial, banking and industrial interests. This was to be reflected in the Delhi Proposals of 20th March 1927 and subsequently in the Fourteen Points of 1929, wherein the Muslims specifically demanded the separation of Sind from Bombay, and the extention of all reforms to the provinces of NWFP and Baluchistan, (all Muslim majority areas), even at the price of accepting a modified form of joint electorates. The Muslim community, therefore, had begun to take the initiative.

But it was not yet an advance in one considered direction. The Muslims seemed always to be taking one step forward and two steps back. By and large, they were yet confused about their objectives. Should they move ahead, obtain modern education, equip themselves with scientific knowledge? Or should they shun all that was western and modern? The orthodoxy had led the Khilafat Movement. It also resisted western influence. Although the perceptive and witty poet Akbar Allahbadi had died in 1921, only such of his verses as ridiculed the west, and western ways, became the tools of the orthodoxy.


According to Darwin Man is descended from the ape,
We believed him only when we saw the Europeans.


When I saw some women going about without veils
I was affixed to the ground with shame.
When I asked them what happened to the veil,
They replied that it had blinded the commonsense of menfolk.

And compounding this confusion was the fact that the Muslims were still without a single inspiring and undisputed leader.


The Congress, in its turn, had been able to reach, in the 1920s with Gandhi, the Hindu heart and soul. It had thus become a mass party. The Muslim League had, as yet, no such mass following. Gandhi's ascetic mode of living, his manifestly humble bearing, (that would later earn him the derisive title of the 'Naked Faqir' at London's Round Table Conference), had won for him, and the Congress, the widespread support of rural India, predominantly Hindu. A few well-timed "satyagrahas" and terms of confinement in prison had focussed upon him the attention of a vast following. A further opening was provided to the Congress by the appointment of the Simon Commission in 1928.

If the Khilafat Movement had given the Muslims some confidence, the Congress organised the boycott of the Simon Commission. It took this opportunity to mobilise people on the ground that it contained no Indian member. Upon the apparent success of this endeavour many elements in the Congress began to consider the Muslim League a tiresome little pest which would, in due course, realise what was best for it and then fall in line with the Congress in the wake of the latter's undisputed strength. The Nehru Report (1928) was thus already written in the minds of these Congress leaders before the Motilal Committee put it to paper! It provided no accomodation for the Muslim League or the Muslim community. Both were considered leaderless and rudderless. The Congress, on the other hand, seemed to have found a stable auchor in the by-now internationally renowned Gandhi. At this time the Muslim League was also rent asunder by fractious infighting.On the question of separate electorates for the Muslims, the All India Muslim League had split
into two factions: the Jinnah League and the Shafi League, the latter led by Mian Mohammad Shafi
and supported the great poet, Iqbal The Congress leaders considered nothing of it.

The Congress had miscalculated. To the Congress leadership Muhammad Ali Jinnah seemed to have no prospects of becoming a leader of the masses. In bearing, in his mode of living, and in a hundred other ways he was the opposite of Gandhi. He dressed in immaculately tailored Saville Row Suits. His command over the English tongue, which he delivered in an impressive and almost authoritarian voice, was the envy of Englishmen. He was over-awed neither by the Viceroy nor the King. A successful practice at the bar of the Privy Council in London had won him the respect of most of his somewhat surprised peers. And all this ostensibly spelt an exclusive arrogance which, the Congress believed, could never endear him to the Muslim masses. One Congress leader had gone to the extent of calling him a "spoilt child."Sir Tej Bahadar Sapru. See 'Historic Documents of the Muslim Freedom Movement', p. 96 The Congress leadership expected that the Gandhi chaddar and the Nehru cap would, inevitably, snatch the advantage from Bond Street. This was to be costly misjudgment.


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