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Imran Khan’s State of Medina – III

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This is the third part of the series. Do read the first and second parts.


Imran Khan may understand the concept of Sate of Medina but emulating it in Pakistan is unique mission altogether. The situation in Kashmir and his statements about State of Medina have, however, scratched some old wounds. One of the disciples of Hussain Ahmed Madani’s old school, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, ranted last week that Jinnah had used the “religion card” to obtain Pakistan. He was mischievously trying to justify his party’s blatant use of religion to solicit political support for their forthcoming march to Islamabad. This shows how deep the ideological fissures are regarding the partition of India in 1947, and how topical the discussion for ideology of Pakistan remains.

Allama Iqbal was certain by 1930 what the outlook of future Muslim majority state would be – like the State of Medina. He believed Islam contained a dynamic spirit and the Quran conceives life as a progressive creation in which each generation is guided but unhindered by the works of its predecessors. Iqbal envisaged transferring the right of Ijtihad from individual Ulema to an elected Assembly which should be the sole law-making body. The Ulama, he understood, would oppose it like any other modernisation effort in the past, which was why Muslims had gone ahead and they were left behind. Iqbal was a critic of the western civilisation, but he was never opposed to modernity. He always distinguished that westernization was imitating an alien culture, but modernism was about accepting the reality of change.

Round Table Conference

Allama Iqbal died in 1938 when the political battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims of India was really heating up. No one of Iqbal’s stature was left behind to ideologically articulate and defend the need and vision of a separate homeland for the Muslims. Jinnah was besieged, and wrangling desperately with the British, Indian National Congress, The Unionist Party (Punjab), and various factions of nationalist Ulama, to be accepted as the sole spokesman for the Muslims.  He had the legal brain and political skills to deal with the rest but often found it tricky to work out Gandhi, and the bandwagon of nationalist Ulama due to their traditional stranglehold over Muslim religious psyche.

Gandhi had always peddled his own brand of politics where he was the most prominent leader of Congress without having a party portfolio. He mixed spirituality, austerity, human rights, and a demand for united Indian self-rule to deal with political matters after having achieved the status of a Mahatma (holy person or sage). Due to his massive following, he directly intervened in all major political issues, with or without Congress approval, and often changed his mind following agreements, citing his inability to convince Congress or due to his “inner voice”. Jinnah respected him but viewed his political somersaults with suspicion because Congress was his main rival and had a claim on the Muslim vote in India.

Gandhi’s political philosophy according to Acharya Kirpalani (1939) was what he had told the Congress; that their struggle against the British was not just about ousting them but to start a new era in the land where their spiritual and social values reigned supreme. Gandhi himself had described (1921) those values as a derivative of Hinduism “…I am a Santani Hindu because I believe in all the divine scriptures of Hinduism. I believe in avatars, reincarnation, cow-sacredness, and do not disprove idle-worship. Every cell in my body is Hindu…”. This was when a Muslim leader in Congress, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, was writing, “…Gandhi Jee has laid down all his life and assets for the cause. He is actually a Mujahid Fe Sabeelilah…” and “…in this pervading darkness, Mahatma Gandhi’s restless sprit is the only light…”. Another notable, Mr. Asif Ali, had gone further, “..Teachers have the highest regard. You accept Christ, Buddha, and Muhammad as your teachers.  Mahatma Gandhi is the same kind of teacher…”.

Jinnah found Ulama’s fascination with Gandhi (and Congress) both irritating and amusing. Gandhi had once proposed that drinking alcohol should be prohibited. Some public figures agreed and went further to suggest that gambling and horse-racing should also be banned. Gandhi retorted (1939), “…If I agitate against gambling, I would lose a big source of financial support. If I agitate against horse-racing, everyone would hate me from the Viceroy to a common man. I could lose my status, and even my head as a result…”.  Another anecdote is about Gandhi having said, with tears in his eyes, that If England and France were defeated in the WWII, our freedom would be of no use. Within a month of this statement, the Congress Working Committee decided that they would not back the War unless the British agreed to leave India. Lord Linlithgow obviously sought support from Gandhi, but was shocked to learn that Gandhi had changed his mind.

While Congress claimed to speak for the Muslims, Gandhi’s private secretary, Mr. Desai, had reflected (1925), “…separate nationhood stems from the thought when we consider one religion above others..”. Gandhi himself sung the same tune (1940), “…I protest against the notion that Islam and Hinduism are two different and competing cultures. Accepting such ideology is akin to being an atheist. In my view, the God of Quran and Geeta are the same…”. He also promoted an Educational Scheme (Wardha) where all religions were taught as the same. Dr. Zakir Hussain, who later became Vice President of Hindustan, was chosen to articulate and plan its implementation. Since Muslims might have been reluctant to accept Gandhi’s views on religion, Maulana Azad in his Turjuman-ul-Quran endorsed that since Universal Truths were found in all religions, all faiths were genuine according to the Quran. This part of Maulana Azad’s Tafseer was extensively copied and circulated by the Congress.

In the run-up to Lahore Resolution, Jinnah was closely monitoring his adversaries. Hindu Mahasabha’s President, Mr Savarkar (1939), was very clear in his concepts, “Hinduism is about culture, race and values of Hindustan…and Hindu means a person who lives in Hindustan, and had native ancestors”. Their Vice president, Mr Mukherjee, further clarified, “…Hindustan should be a Hindu State ideologically and practically, with Hindu culture and religion, and should be governed by Hindus…”. If there were any doubts, Jinnah must have noticed a slip of tongue by Nehru, “…In a democratic government, majority often keeps the minority under control through fear and coercion…”. Nationalist Ulama like Maulana Madani were still unrepentant, “Jawaharlal Nehru is a Hindu. He has never said that he was a Muslim. Despite that, he wants to protect Muslims…”. Muslim League was also fighting back by asking the like-minded Ulama to warn Muslims against supporting Congress by explaining the disadvantages from a religious point of view.

Pakistan’s ideological history will be incomplete without mentioning Syed Abul A’la Maududi. He, as a clean-shaved young man and a promising Islamic commentator, was handpicked by Allama Iqbal to lead an establishment at Pathankot for developing modern Islamic scholars while drafting a framework for the revival of State of Medina. Following Iqbal’s death, Maududi found academic work dry and started harbouring political ambitions. He opposed the British rule, but made one of his many intellectual mistakes (1938) by challenging Muslim League and the demand for an independent Muslim state, “…From League’s Quaid-e-Azam to his minor followers, none of them possesses the Islamic mindset or the ability to evaluate relevant issues…”. Until just before Pakistan came into being, he went around speaking and writing against Pakistan (1939), “..If people think an Islamic government will be formed in Muslim-majority areas after freedom from the Hindu majority, they are mistaken. In fact, its result would be a Kafir government…..”. Maududi agitated instead for an “Islamic state” covering the whole of India despite the fact that Muslims made up only about one quarter of India’s population.

At the 1940 Muslim League conference in Lahore, Jinnah was unambiguous, “Hindus and the Muslims belong to two different religions, philosophies, social customs and literature…. derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes and different episodes…. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state”. Muslim League had formally committed itself to creating an independent Muslim state now, which included Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan, the North-West Frontier Province and Bengal. In line with the spirit of State of Medina, the resolution also guaranteed full protection for non-Muslim religions. The resolution was moved by the sitting Chief Minister of Bengal, Mr. Fazlul Haq, and was adopted on 23rd March, 1940.

Gandhi’s disappointment was understandable, “…Mr. Jinnah and the like-minded have misled the Muslims and have done a disservice to Islam through this approach…I have been very hurt…and must warn Muslims…”. In opposition to the Lahore Resolution, the so called All India Azad Muslim Conference also gathered in Delhi in April 1940 to voice its support for a united India. Its members included several organisations, as well as 1400 “nationalist” Muslim delegates. The Azad Muslim Conference concluded that the creation of Pakistan would be “impracticable and harmful to the country’s interest generally, and of Muslims in particular”. The Azad Muslim Conference was mainly supported by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, but other groups were: Sind Ittehad Party, Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam, All India Momin Conference, All India Shia Political Conference, Khdai Khidmatgar, Anjuman-i-Watan Baluchistan, All India Muslim Majlis, and Krishak Praja Party. Nehru had applauded the Conference as “very representative and very successful”.

Among those representing religious groups, Sir Agha Khan, Barelvi Jamat, significant majority of the Shiites, and Ahmadyyia Jamat supported the demand for Pakistan wholeheartedly. Prominent Ulama and Mashaikh who joined hands with Muslim League included: Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, Mufti Muhammad Shafi, Maulana Muhammad Ibrahim Sialkoti, Pir Ghulam Mujaddid Sirhindi, Pir Sahib of Manki Sharif, Pir Sahib Zakori Sharif, Pir Jamat Ali Shah, etc. A young civil servant also wrote, spoke, negotiated, and carried confidential messages for Jinnah regarding Muslim League’s religious politics at a great personal and professional risk. Besides Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, he was the only man alive who could see Jinnah without an appointment.

(to be continued).


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