Imran Khan’s State of Medina - II

Imran Khan’s State of Medina - II
When Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) introduced the first Islamic laws in the form of a new Constitution, various tribes living in Medina did not feel threatened by his authority or his style of governance. It was so because the society was pluralistic and was not exploitative.

People felt safe and were free to follow and exercise their own beliefs because they were protected in doing so. This protection, however, could not shelter them from treason and wrongdoing as justice was supposed to prevail without any fear or favour. Therefore, peace was achieved in Medina without the use of weapons or wealth, but through the firm and enduring principles of Islam which include tolerance, benevolence, justice, and a belief in one God only.

Leaving his credentials aside, Imran Khan believes that the Constitution of Medina is very relevant to present times where tensions exist between various ethnicities, religions, religious sects, political parties, and social groups in Pakistan and the world at large.

Unfortunately, the ethnic and religious frictions in Pakistan have been the result of ignorance, anxiety, misgivings, and disregard which has plagued mutual interactions, and resulted in innovation of stereotypes against each other over the last 72 years.

Incapable governments, both civil and military, were directly responsible for this disaster. We have always had a couple of hostile neighbours, but post 9/11, a new wave of global antagonism has risen against Pakistan due to some objective but mostly biased reasons. In the Western world, paranoia and fear of Islam (and Pakistan) has taken hold where people confuse the actions of extremists who unjustly hide behind the teachings of Islam claiming that their intentions are aligned with their beliefs.

Khan has adopted the idea of emulating the State of Medina in his ‘Naya Pakistan’ from the poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal. He was introduced to Iqbal mostly by his friend and the grandson of Iqbal, namely Yousaf Salah-ud-Din, and has since read some of his work.

Iqbal had opined that for over 500 years, Islam was static while the West entertained the ideas of interpretation of the universe, emancipation of individual, and evolution of human society. He wished that Muslims, who had inherited these very ideas through divine revelation, were the most emancipated people on earth. He wanted them to reconstruct their social life in the light of Quranic principles, and evolve into the kind of spiritual democracy which was expounded by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Iqbal believed that as a cultural movement, Islam recognises the true emotional worth of the individual while rejecting blood-relationships as a basis of human unity. Islam also rises above nationalism and promotes human unity as part of single species.

Iqbal aspired for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent where they could avoid following the Arabic and non-Arabic (Ajami) versions of Islam and model their country in the image of Medina. He and Jinnah were heavily opposed to theocracy because it was diametrically opposed to the spirit of Islam.

The great potential of Islam, he believed, was trapped inside the old, decaying fallacies of the mullahs and mercurial theologians. It was desperate to be set free spiritually from being imprisoned behind the walls of our circumstances and emotions built up around us over the centuries.

For this revolutionary change to take place, it was important that the whole nation engaged in an intellectual struggle to transform its own outlook so that once again it could have fresh dreams and hopes for achieving their ultimate goal. Years later, in a message to the people of the United States in February 1948, Jinnah as Governor General of Pakistan also echoed the same:

“…The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fair play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State – to be ruled by priests with a divine mission…”.

Iqbal had consistently advocated for embracing aspects of the Constitution of Medina throughout his political and academic work. He emphasised that Islam was not a religion (private relationship of man and God) but a Deen (a way of life) constructed on the relationship of an individual with the society and vice versa in the light of divine principles.

At the same time, Islam was not rooted in one place (nationalism); Muslims are a nation themselves on the basis of a separate identity acquired through their mutual relationship governed by unique customs and traditions. He reiterated these concepts in 1930 during his presidential address to the All India Muslim League meeting. Towards the end of his address, Iqbal diagnosed two major problems with the Indian Muslim community: want of leaders and factionalism.

He went searching for Jinnah as a leader soon afterwards to take care of the first problem so that Jinnah could take care of the second by bringing Muslims together. Jinnah often pointed towards Iqbal’s thoughts in his speeches:

“...When I hear the word “religion,” my mind thinks at once, according to the English language and British usage, of private relations between man and God. But I know full well that according to Islam, the word is not restricted to the English connotation.. But I have studied in my own way the Holy Quran and Islamic tenets. This magnificent book is full of guidance respecting all human life, whether spiritual, or economic, political or social, leaving no aspect untouched….”

The concept of creating a Muslim nationhood on the basis of religion was so important for Iqbal that despite his failing health, he crossed swords with Moulana Hussain Ahmed Madani, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. Madani had insisted that a religiously plural society within India strategically best served Muslim interests; and that it had a clear Quranic sanction.

At a political meeting in Delhi in 1937, Madani had said that in the current age, nations (qaumain) were based on territory (autaan), not on religion (mazhab). Iqbal attacked him vehemently for neither knowing his Arabic (not appreciating the meaning of Deen as opposed to mazhab/religion) nor Muslim history, but using his pulpit to spread heresy. He also reproached him in verse:

Since Mullah is allowed to prostrate in India                                                        The foolhardy thinks that Islam is liberated

One can argue that Madani’s point of view was that of an Indian nationalist while Iqbal came out as a Muslim nationalist. Madani had held that as a nation, Muslims were Indians, but as a community they were Muslim; for Iqbal, nation and community were the same thing.

Most of the religious scholars had rejected Iqbal’s thesis and they were prepared to accept Muslims as part of Hindustan, but were not ready to accept Iqbal’s concept of a new Muslim society in a modern and free Islamic state of Pakistan. These scholars seemed to have favoured a pragmatic approach rather than embracing a creative and back-to-basics (Constitution of Medina) approach advocated by Iqbal.

Iqbal’s writings and speeches prior to his landmark Allahabad address reflect that he had three preoccupations at that time ― the concept of Muslim nationality, the idea of an Islam with dominance, and the necessity for the creation of a Muslim state where Islam could be reformed within the framework of its social order.

Iqbal believed that it was an obligation not only to break the shackles of British slavery but also to establish sovereignty of Islam through the expansion of Muslim power. And since acquiring power was the aim of any political struggle, it was necessary to find its manifestation in a state for launching a new Muslim civilisation. He could not support a “freedom” which potentially moved Muslims from being enslaved by one authority (British) to another authority (Hindu).

The new Muslim society was not expected to be subjugated; it had to be free, and evolve from a dominant position. He preferred a situation in which Muslims lived independently even if it were in a smaller territory, but under self-rule.  He laid great emphasis on acquiring the state because ‘power’ could not be imagined in the absence of a state. Because, a minority could have never exercised ‘power’ - this was the reason why Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) left Mecca and founded a state in Medina.

(To be continued)

M. Aamer Sarfraz is a philosophical psychiatrist based in London.