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Jinnah, Islam and the political system

Jinnah, Islam and the political system

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah is the icon of Pakistan’s history. He is characterized as the charismatic leader who inspired a substantial majority of British-Indian Muslims and left a strong imprint on history by establishing the separate state of Pakistan.

No history of the end of British rule in India is complete without discussing the role of Jinnah and his political struggle. Quaid-i-Azam’s life and political career have been a major subject of academic inquiry in the post-independence period, though his interviews and some commentaries on him published in the pre-1947 period are available. Starting with the biographies of Jinnah by M.H. Saiyid (1945) and Hector Bolitho (1954) a number of academics have written extensively on him.

The leading works have been written by Sharif-al-Mujahid, Ayesha Jalal, Stanley Wolpert, Sikandar Hayat, Waheeduzzaman, Saleem M.M. Qureshi, Qayyum Nizami and Jaswant Singh. The documents relating directly to Jinnah have been edited by Z.H. Zaidi, Waheed Ahmad and Mehrunnisa Ali.

Several interesting writings are available on Jinnah’s views with relation to Islam and the Pakistani state. A host of writings that surfaced from the mid-1980s onwards endeavoured to show that he was a religious person and wanted to establish a conservative and fundamentalist Islamic state. In the early 1970s, some champions of Islamic Socialism invoked Jinnah’s statements on socio-economic equity, fair play and his criticism of Western capitalist economic system.

Of late, a number of Islamic parties and groups with divergent Islamic-denominational affiliations have started talking positively about Jinnah, invoking him to strengthen their current efforts to promote a puritanical and fundamentalist Islamic state in Pakistan. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa held a massive congregation in Lahore in the first week of December 2014. It devoted special attention to the notion of ideology of Pakistan, describing it as the ideology of Islam. Some other Islam-oriented parties also refer to the ideology of Pakistan or to Jinnah for creating justification for their demands for Islamization of Pakistan state and society on conservative and fundamental line.

Most of them emphasize literalist interpretation of the religious text and a puritanical religious disposition of the state and society. There is hardly any desire on their part to understand the making of Jinnah’s personality and political disposition and how his political career shaped up over time. These parties and leaders only talk of Jinnah’s use of Islamic idiom and discourse without taking into account the political context of such statements. Jinnah and the Pakistan Movement thus became an instrument for advancing their partisan religious and political agendas rather than understanding the dynamics of the struggle for the establishment of Pakistan.

This amounts to rewriting of history for serving their current day political needs. These efforts to project Pakistan movement as a movement for establishment of a religious-Islamic state can be traced back to the days of the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88). He used the state apparatus and patronage to implement Islam on fundamentalist and orthodox lines. This helped Zia-ul-Haq to win over the support of a large section of the political far-right and religious circles to undercut opposition to his rule by the mainstream political parties. It was during these years that a section of religious circles began to rewrite Pakistani history to describe the establishment of Pakistan as a struggle for creating an Islamic state on orthodox and fundamentalist lines.

Long drawn political struggle Several influences shaped Jinnah’s personality and political disposition. These included the British legal education and law practice, association with liberal politics in India, a deep understanding of the rise and fall of the Muslims in history and inspirations from egalitarianism, socio-economic justice and reformism in the teachings and principles of Islam. The protection and advancement of the Muslim identity, rights and interests became the main concern of the Muslim leaders.

However, they changed their strategies over time for pursuing the aforementioned goal. Their major strategies in the 20th century were: Separate electorate (1906) and the setting up of a separate political party in December 1906, the All India Muslim League, as a forum for articulating demands of the educated Muslims and presenting them to the British government. The demands for constitutional safeguards and guarantees for the protection of the separate identity and interests of the Muslims. From the late 1920s, the Muslim League demanded federalism with provincial autonomy for India. Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s presidential address to the 1930 Allahabad session of the All India Muslim League underlined the significance of Islam in the distinct political and cultural profile of the Muslims. He advocated the setting up of a distinct Muslim political authority in the Muslim majority areas of northwest India to secure their future.

“Self-government within the British empire or without the British empire.” Transition from a community to nationhood and the demand for a separate homeland in 1937-1947 Quaid-i-Azam played a key role in pursuing these strategies and changing them over time against the backdrop of the political interaction with the British government and the Congress Party, especially the latter. His influence in both the Muslim League and the Congress led these parties to agree to constitutional proposals in Lucknow in 1916 that included safeguards for the Muslims representation in the elected and executive bodies.

The notion of “electoral weightage” was introduced in these constitutional proposals in order to improve the political conditions of the Muslims in the non-Muslim majority provinces by providing slightly more representation than their population. The same “electoral weightage” facility was offered to non-Muslims in Muslim majority provinces. The Muslim demand for reservation of one-third seats for the Muslims in the central legislature and a similar representation for the Muslims in government jobs was included in these constitutional proposals.

All this was meant to secure the Muslim rights and interests. Subsequently, Jinnah advocated the separation of Sindh from Bombay. This demand was repeated until Sindh became a separate province in 1935. There were also repeated demands for political and constitutional reforms in Balochistan and NWFP (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) to gradually bring these regions at par with other provinces. Both were Muslim majority areas. Jinnah’s famous Fourteen Points (1929) advocated purely important political and constitutional demands for the protection and advancement of the Muslim identity, rights and interests in response to the negative disposition of the Nehru Report (1928) towards the Muslims so far as constitutional and political reforms was concerned.

These demands were meant to secure the Muslim identity, rights and interests within Indian federation. However, the political experience of the Muslim League elite during 1928-39 convinced them that their cultural and political future may not be secure in a united India ruled by the Congress Party because the Congress Party leadership had adopted a dismissive attitude towards the Muslim League leadership and their political demands. The Congress Party had pursued tough policy towards the Muslim League leadership since the release of the Nehru Report in 1928 but it turned to hostility in 1937-39 when the Congress Party established its ministries in non-Muslim majority provinces.



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