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Imran Khan’s State of Medina – IV

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

Imran Khan spoke passionately about the State of Medina at the last session of the UN General Assembly. It was, however, not enough for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rahman, who wants to lock down Islamabad because, among other things, Islam is in danger.

Khan also spoke eloquently about Kashmir; its peoples’ right to live freely without an Indian lockdown in valley, and their right of self-determination. That did not go down well with Fazlur Rahman’s counter-parts in the Indian Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. They have proclaimed that Kashmir belongs to India and what happens there (including the clampdown on its 8 million Muslims) is India’s internal matter, and that Pakistan should mind its own business.

Fazlur Rahman’s father, Mufti Mehmood (1919-1980), was a member of the Indian National Congress. A graduate of Darul Uloom Deoband, he was also a star pupil of Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, Shaikh-ul-Hadees at Deoband. As a militant activist of Indian National Congress, he worked tirelessly against the Pakistan movement. However, he chose to live in Pakistan after it came into being in 1947, and founded Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan following the doctrines of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.

He is on the record to have said in the 1970s, “.. fortunately, I cannot be accused of being involved in the sinful act of founding Pakistan”. When Fazlur Rahman visited India in 2003, his host was the Leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Asad Madani son of Hussain Madani, in Deoband. For reasons unknown, Fazlur Rahman was also conferred upon Rs. 100,00000/- in cash by the Indian government.

Mufti Mehmood’s teacher, Hussain Ahmed Madani, and his colleagues were actually members of the All India Muslim League’s Parliamentary Board in the run up to 1937 elections.

Mr. Isphahani wrote in his book Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah, as I Knew Him, that how they fell out with the Muslim League. Following Madani’s initial statements praising the leadership of Jinnah, they had proposed themselves as ideally-placed to lead Muslim League’s media/propaganda campaign for the elections. They had also demanded instantaneously that they should be given Rs. 50000/- initially to start that campaign.

Jinnah informed them that Muslim League had nothing in their kitty at that moment, and such demands could only be entertained in the future when their financial status improved. Following this, despite desperate pleas, Madani and his colleagues left Muslim League in a hurry and joined Indian National Congress.

Meanwhile, the young civil servant was writing voraciously to expose the hidden agenda of Hussain Madani and the other nationalist Ulama on behalf of Mr. Jinnah. He was highlighting how it was not even a conceptual argument between them, but a personal fight for survival of Mullahism on the part of nationalist Ulama.

In the erstwhile Kingdoms and Empires, the rulers had traditionally taken care of the worldly affairs while the clergy was left alone to live off the Muslims by regulating their personal laws.

The British, and the Mughals before them, had used the same formula to keep the peace with the Muslim clergy. In a State of Medina, however, there was no place for clergy as all their functions would be taken up by the state and its elected representatives.

The civil servant wrote with pseudonym in various publications because of obvious reasons but was asked by Jinnah, following wretched elections results in 1937, to spearhead the journal, Tolue Islam, to be more effective.

  1. A. Parwez (1938) took over as its editor and main contributor, and started a more concerted effort to explain Iqbal and Jinnah’s vision of an Islamic state in the modern age. This concept had nothing to do with the revival of prevalent Muslim models of governance: Khilafat, Imamate, Emirate or Monarchy. It would instead follow the spirit of the State of Medina last seen unequivocally under the leadership of Hazrat Umar.

The principle of elections in such a state would be drawn from the Quran (38:42) in which it is stated that the Muslims are those who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation (Shura). This Shura equated to a consultative assembly identical to an elected Assembly for the purpose of law-making, and Iqbal had termed this law-interpreting Assembly as the modern form of an Ijma-e-Ummah.

Without exactly naming it as revival of State of Medina, Iqbal had called it the establishment of a ‘spiritual democracy’ with three fundamental principles: human solidarity, equality, and freedom. He always referred to ‘human solidarity’ and not to ‘Muslim solidarity’ in the spirit of egalitarianism and autonomy as the Qur’an (40:22) commands Muslims to protect the places of worship of non-Muslims as a religious obligation.

The creation of such a tolerant community, or ummah, offers the promise and hope of high-minded pluralism. For people are not judged on their beliefs, but on their actions. Irrational discrimination and persecution are the instigator of all tensions, and reason and tolerance are the essence of all peace. If this spiritual democracy was not going to be a theocracy, then how could it be defined, except as an ideal secular state?

One hesitates to call it secular because there is no genuine secular state in the world where the state is not indifferent to religion but where every religion is given full autonomy.

Parwez explained that in accordance with the needs of the times, the Quranic rules of law related to worldly affairs could be extended or restricted. He believed in Iqbal’s philosophy that only change has permanence in reality. He explained that only Ibadaat (religious obligations) are eternal, but Muamalaat (worldly affairs) are subject to the law of change.

For instance, the timings of prayer cannot be changed, but laws pertaining to civil and criminal matters could be reinterpreted in accordance with the changed needs of the Muslim community.

Iqbal had used the expression ‘innovation’ and described Hazrat Umar as the first innovator among the Muslim rulers. He upheld that Muslims should not become prisoners of the prevalent translations and interpretations of the Quran that were not consistent with the spirit of the Quran. However, the power to innovate was not to be exercised by individuals or for that matter by dictators. Iqbal wanted this authority to be given to the elected representatives of the Muslims in the form of Ijma’(Consensus) in a Parliament.

Ijma is a fundamental principle of Ijtihad (Independent reasoning). Iqbal links the right to reinterpret Islamic laws with democracy, and that democracy with an elected Muslim Assembly. He proposed that Ulama could be nominated to assist the Assembly in understanding intricate points of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) but did not give them the right of a veto. Such assemblies may come into existence through electoral contest among different political parties, which had precedence since the early period of Islam. For instance, one political group represented the Ansar, the other was of the Muhajirin (immigrants), and the third political faction was that of Banu Hashim.

During the electoral contest, no party sought the support of the Quran. The appointment of a successor to the Holy Prophet was a political matter altogether and was resolved in a political manner. This approach was democratic and innovative as it did not follow any precedent.

It is against this background that Iqbal gives priority to Ijma, and opined that the present form of Ijma is an elected Muslim Assembly or Majlis-e Shura. The task of this Majlis-e Shura would not be to advise the ruler, but to rule.

Parwez wrote how the principle of equality in the modern Islamic state is driven from Iqbal’s social and economic vision. He believed that the Quran has the best remedy for all economic woes of mankind while opposing both capitalism and socialism. He recommended implementing the Islamic Law of Inheritance and the management of Zakat, Ushr and Sadqa (various taxes) by the state. Iqbal wanted reinterpretation of other Quranic laws about taxation including the advice ‘to give away all you have earned above your needs’.

He expected the modern Islamic state to remodel taxation to create a welfare state, which realises the ideal of equality. He suggested examination of the allotment of lands, and an agricultural tax on land holdings in comparison with the income tax. He also wanted other laws to prohibit hoarding of wealth acquired by ignoring communal rights, illegitimate means, taking undue interest and by indulging in gambling.

Iqbal’s concept of equality is more or less indistinguishable from a modern mixed economy. He also suggested that the state should invest in important industries in the public sector but should not nationalise industries.

Iqbal’s third principle of a modern Islamic state is explained as that of freedom. He wanted the Muslims not only to attain political freedom but to liberate their mental state from some of their morbid practises. If some Imam had proclaimed something about a particular issue, it did not mean that Muslims need not think any further about it for all times to come.

He wanted them to reconsider and reinterpret ancient Islamic laws according to the challenges specific to their age. He wanted their devotion to Islam, but without having double standards. Because nations do not achieve emancipation jut due to political freedom, but though a freedom of the mind. Jinnah had further elaborated upon it years later,

“…You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state….”

(To be continued)


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