Let’s Resurrect The Riyasat-e-Medina By Opening Doors For Indian Muslims
Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed continues with his provocative idea of Pakistan opening its doors for Indian Muslims and urges Imran Khan to accomplish the principles that shaped Riyasat-e-Medina
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leitmotif ever since he became prime minister has been to revive the state of Medina in letter and spirit. In a long interview given to a friendly Indian-origin New Zealander I defended Imran Khan for declaring the State of Medina, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the Khulafa-e-Rashideen (the first four successors of the Prophet known as the pious caliphs) as his ideals because since Pakistan was won in the name of Islam and the overwhelming majority of Pakistani Muslims were Sunnis it was perfectly understandable that they would derive inspiration from the State of Medina. Such an attitude can be compared with Western democracies which consider Athenian democracy of the ancient period as the ideal for them to establish democracy in the modern period.
Now, the point is that saying things and meaning them are two very different things. If Imran Khan is serious with the State of Medina template, then the first building block for it must be laid exactly on how the pristine state of Medina was built.
The Holy Prophet emigrated to Medina and along with him came his followers from Mecca. The Prophet famously declared each Quraish and non-Quraish refugee from Mecca a brother of a Muslim of Medina, known as the Ansar. In that great act of solidarity, rarely paralleled in history, the Ansar shared their possessions with their Quraish and non-Quraish brothers.
At the time of Pakistan’s creation, 35 million of Indian Muslims stayed back in India. The new state of Pakistan comprised 65 million Muslims, 33.9 million in West Pakistan and the rest in East Pakistan. So, Pakistan could not emulate the model laid out by the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the modern ideal of Imran Khan, has left some unfinished business for the latter.
History has destined Imran Khan to complete the process of laying the firm and coherent basis of the State of Medina in the 21st century by opening the borders to the beleaguered Indian Muslims. Their numbers are almost equal to those of the Muslims in Pakistan. Therefore, sharing hearth and home with them will be perfectly practical and just.
Also, the Holy Prophet and the pious caliphs lived open, frugal, accessible lives and that is why they continue to inspire the generations of Muslims for the last 14,00 years. I am sure, the large estate on which the prime minister lives and the large bungalow in Zaman Park, Lahore can accommodate several hundred Indian Muslim families. I was dumbfounded when a friend drove me to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s far greater estate in Raiwind, Jati Umra. Its vast span never seemed to end!
Where in the State of Medina did the rulers of Muslims live in such obscene examples of opulence and apathy with fellow Muslims?
Did the two famous generals of the Prophet, Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Khalid bin Walid, live a life of splendour and luxury? Not from what I have read in Muslim sources. Hazrat Umar chastised Hazrat Khalid bin Walid for acting arrogantly and the general submitted to the great caliph’s admonishment.
I had an opportunity to talk to General Pervez Musharraf in December 2007. He had just stepped down as the Chief Executive but was still living the Chief of Army Staff House, which was originally a grand mansion of two Rawalpindi Sikhs, Sohan Singh and Mohan Singh. That estate and others used by the top bureaucrats can also be utilised.
Islami mussawat or Islamic social justice that we are groomed to idealize from our childhood talk about the deliberate choice of the pious caliphs to live like common people and be answerable for all their actions and their possessions. Let’s use this grand opportunity to once and forever abolish the class differentiated localities with a new affluent Lahore being built across the canal and a neglected, dying Lahore of the less advantaged left to rot on the inner side of the canal.
Some people objected to last my article, suggesting that we shed crocodile tears only when we talk about the sad plight of Indian Muslims. They said Pakistan is too small to accommodate the 200 million Indian Muslims if they were to migrate to Pakistan.
I checked the most densely populated countries in the world. The first five are: of the larger countries, Bangladesh is the most densely populated with 1,252 people per square kilometre. It’s followed by Lebanon (595), South Korea (528), the Netherlands (508) and Rwanda (495 per km2).
Pakistan is merely 181 people per km. So, I don’t think it is a valid argument. Bangladesh is doing very well economically even when it is one of the poorest countries of the world and the most densely populated in the world. So can Pakistan if we have the right policies and proper priorities before us.
The last point to consider is the flak I received from Indian Muslims. Some of them protested angrily that how dare I talk about them migrating to Pakistan. They were abandoned in 1947 and it was Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru who ensured their security. They would fight to the last to live in India as equal citizens along with other communities. They did not want to migrate to Pakistan. Some said that those Muslims who migrated from north India to Pakistan now regret their decision because they are now a beleaguered community in Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh.
So, one can say that even if Pakistan were to open its borders to Indian Muslims not all of them are likely to exercise that option. However, in a state won for Indian Muslims there is absolutely no moral or ethical argument not to open the borders for Indian Muslims if they want to be in the new Riyasat-e-Medina Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged himself to build in Pakistan.
The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University; and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He has written a number of books and won many awards, he can be reached on [email protected]