Today is 25th December, the birth anniversary of the founder of the nation Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Such days are always meant for reflection. 63 years after the creation of Pakistan where do we stand. Crisis upon crisis engulfs us, to the extent that people are questioning the very viability of the state. The core of the problem is failure to achieve and define the Identity of Pakistan.
Like it or not ‘Islam’ is the crux of the matter. The word in context of Pakistan ignites fiery passions and debates. There are two main groups. People who claim that Islam makes the basis of the creation of the Pakistan and therefore they want to impose their version of Islam/ Sharia upon us. The opposing group is led by progressive Muslims who claim that Pakistan was never meant to be a theocracy. Both groups can quote enough examples of speeches by Quaid to support their stance.
So what is the truth?
In this article we contend that the interpretation of both groups is completely wrong. This whole dispute is based on the complete misunderstanding of the issue by both parties. While interpreting anything perspective or the paradigm is the most fundamental element. We believe that this whole dispute arises because both parties have failed to understand the perspective in which Pakistan was created and what Quaid said about this.
In other words we contend that the meaning of word ‘Islam’ is not the same now in Pakistan now as it was for the Indian Muslims in 1930s and 1940s. In fact the meaning of Islam seems to have undergone a transmutation which can be clearly divided into three phases. Phase one start at 1924 when ottoman caliphate was abolished and ends in 1948. Second phase ends in 1970s and third phase begins from then till present.
In the first quarter of century after the First World War finished the Ottoman Caliphate, Islam was understood to be an ideology against colonialism and oppression. It was light of freedom. It opened possibilities of existence. It opened all paths for those who followed it in name, in principle or in practice.
So when Quaid politically articulated the vision of Indian Muslims, most amply described in philosophical terms by Mohammad Iqbal, by stating that he wanted a Muslim state and not theocracy he was not being contradictory. He meant and believed that Islam was democratic and progressive. As did almost all Muslims in those days.
In those days, Muslim world over saw Indian Muslims to be the beacon of light. International scholar Muslims like Mohammad Asad travelled to India, and stayed in Pakistan, for Islamic renaissance.
Now 60 years on, Islam is seen in the narrow terms of religion. It is seen as lifeblood of anti progressive, static, obscurantist and dogmatic civilization. Conservatives are proud of it. Progressives loathe it. But that is how both define it.
And that is here this whole misunderstanding begins. The fundamental flaw in discussion about Quaid is simply that when he talked about Islam he said it from his own perspective of what he understood Islam to be and 60 years on we see it from our perspective which is very different in the new geopolitical reality.
Which perspective is correct is a separate discussion altogether and we shall devote another article to that.
So what did Quaid say?
“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 or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
QUAID-I-AZAM’S PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS TO THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF PAKISTAN ON THE 11TH AUGUST 1947
When he said religion has nothing to do with the matter of state, he was saying what is supported by Muslim history. For example Jews in medina were never persecuted for being the Jews. They were kicked out for breaking their contracts. Mamluks in 12th century punished their Police officials for prying into people’ private matters. Ottoman institution of Muhtasib was strictly limited to Public crimes and market regulation with no jurisdiction over the private affairs of the people.
In all his speeches and statement Quaid gave the basis for the framework for policies based on protection of everyone’s rights, ending discrimination and injustice, a society modeled on the principles of Islam which are equality and social justice. For him and his fellow Muslims Islam was dynamic and progressive. The state was to be based on pluralism and welfare for all.
After independence, as head of the state he had founded, Jinnah talked in the same strain. He talked of securing “liberty, fraternity and equality as enjoined upon us by Islam” (25 August 1947); of “Islamic democracy, Islamic social justice and the equality of manhood” (21 February 1948); of raising Pakistan on “sure foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism which emphasized equality and brotherhood of man” (26 March 1948); of laying “the foundations of our democracy on the basis of true Islamic ideals and principles” (14 August 1948); and “the onward march of renaissance of Islamic culture and ideals” (18 August 1947). He called upon the mammoth Lahore audience to build up “Pakistan as a bulwark of Islam”, to “live up to your traditions and add to it another chapter of glory”, adding, “If we take our inspiration and guidance from the Holy Quran, the final victory, I once again say, will be ours” (30 October 1947). [Ref: sharif Almujahid- Quaid-e-Azam’s Vision of Pakistan]
‘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 principle 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 man, 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. We have many non-Muslims –Hindus, Christians, and Parsis –but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.
[Broadcast talk to the people of the United States of America on Pakistan recorded February, 1948.]
And also in Feb. 1948 in his broadcast to the people of Australia,
“ Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it. Islam demands from us the tolerance of other creeds and we welcome in closest association with us all those who, of whatever creed, are themselves willing and ready to play their part as true and loyal citizens of Pakistan.”
In a Press Conference held in New Delhi on 4th July 1947, Quaid-I-Azam answered certain questions which were put to him regarding the nature of state of Pakistan.
Q: Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?
A: You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means…
(A correspondent suggested that a theocratic state meant a state where only people of a particular religion, for example Muslims would be full citizens and non-Muslims would not be full citizens.)
A: Then it seems to me that what I have already said is like pouring water on the duck’s back laughter).
When you talk of democracy, I am afraid you have not studies Islam. We learnt democracy thirteen centuries ago.
Quaid’s sayings give the clear message of wht he understood about Islam. For him it is a path which lead to progression through implementing the fair and vital principles of justice, equality, liberty, unity, hard work, loyalty and tolerance. He did not leave his message unclear. At every point of time when he said he wanted a separate state for practicing Islam he underlined the principles which he saw as the basis of a fair system of state.
Quaid’s vision of Pakistan has now been a source of controversy and conflict because of our own conservative understanding of the Islamic principles. While for him Islam is in consonance with progress and modernity. There is no end to progress.
The word ‘Quaid’ means the leader. But unfortunately he has just been made a symbol and everything about him has been made a mere ceremony. This is not what he stood for in his life.
Can we stand up and fulfill our responsibility which is the greatest need of the time. The responsibility of making Pakistan what Quaid and Muslims of India wanted it to be. We need to start from that beginning, both for Pakistan and Islam. For renaissance and progress.
The choice is ours.