Jinnah and the Islamic State – Setting the Record Straight – by Pervez Hoodbhoy

by admin

What did Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, want for the country he was destined to create in 1947?

This essay originated from my lecture in Karachi in 2007, delivered at the invitation of the Jinnah Society in cooperation with the Oxford University Press of Pakistan.

What did Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, want for the country he was destined to create in 1947? Surely I cannot say anything new on this venerable and much-discussed historical subject; the experts know much more. But, as we approach Pakistan’s sixtieth anniversary, the matter of Jinnah and the Islamic State is still a hot one. It is confounded both by the wishful thinking of my well-meaning liberal friends, as well as conveniences invented at different times by Pakistan’s military, political, and religious establishments. Therefore, it seems to me that objectivity, honesty, and clarity are still desperately needed if we are to clean out old cobwebs and chart a new course for the future of our country.

What is Pakistan all about? For decades, Pakistani school children have grown up learning a linguistically flawed (but catchy) rhetorical question sung together with its answer: Pakistan ka matlab kya? La illaha illala! [What is the meaning of Pakistan? There is no god but Allah!]. They have been told that Pakistan’s raison d’etre was the creation of an Islamic state where the Sharia must reign supreme.

Surely this has had its effect. A recent survey by the World Public Opinion.Org (April 24, 2007) found that 54% of Pakistanis wanted strict application of Sharia while 25% wanted it in some more dilute form. Totaling 79%, this was the largest percentage in the four countries surveyed (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia) .

But was sentiment for Sharia and the Islamic State strong in 1947 among those who fought for Pakistan?

Mr. Jinnah’s thoughts inevitably enter the argument. This, of course, does not necessarily mean that Pakistan was, or is, obligated to become the fulfilment of his vision. Pakistan is much more than Jinnah and it will eventually go in the direction that its people want it to go. But it certainly is of the greatest intellectual and historical interest to ask two key questions:

a) Did Jinnah want Pakistan to be a Muslim majority state where individuals, whether Muslim or otherwise, would be free to live their lives more or less as they do in countries in the rest of the world?


b) Did Jinnah want an Islamic state? And, if so, what was his understanding of such a state.

These have always been loaded questions with various sides making excellent arguments for their own purposes. But it is time to stop cherry-picking and, instead, scrutinize the totality of Jinnah’s words and actions. Else, at the end of the day we shall end up merely reaffirming our existing preferences and prejudices .

To be sure, a dispassionate examination of Mr. Jinnah’s positions has been unusual in Pakistan because of the ideological needs of the state. Truth was an immediate casualty when General Zia-ul-Haq brought his new Islamic vision of Pakistan in 1979. Immediately thereafter, Mr Jinnah had to be entirely resurrected and reconstructed as an Islamic – rather than Muslim – leader.

This task challenged even the best of spin-masters. As perhaps the most Westernized political leader in Indian Muslim history, Jinnah was culturally and socially far more at ease with the high society of cosmopolitan Bombay and metropolitan London than with those who he led and represented. His Urdu was barely understandable. Nor were his culinary tastes quite those of strict Muslims. But the authorities of Pakistan Television took this, as so much else, in their stride. So, in the 1980’s, a steady stream of profound pieties emanated from a stern, sherwani-clad man who filled television screens across the country. Gone were his elegant suits from Seville Row, as was any reference to his marriage to a Parsi woman. Mr. Jinnah had miraculously morphed into a deep-thinking Islamic scholar.

An interesting consequence of the deliberate state-organized obfuscation was that many Pakistani liberals concluded that the truth must have been the very opposite. They insisted that that, in fact, Jinnah had envisioned Pakistan as a secular, but Muslim majority, country. As proof, they point to two of his oft-quoted speeches that suggesting a secular outlook. Delivered just before, and after, Partition, these had been slyly concealed from the public media during the Zia years:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place 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…. You will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.

Courtesy: Chowk

6 Comments to “Jinnah and the Islamic State – Setting the Record Straight – by Pervez Hoodbhoy”

  1. Jinnah’s Pakistan

    by Mubarak Ali

    The writer is a historian and editor of the quarterly Tarikh mubarak.ali@tribune.com.pk

    It has become a ritual to celebrate Independence Day every year without considering whether we have achieved it or not. The question is how far independence has accomplished its objective by creating historical consciousness among people: whether it has changed the life of the common people or increased their sufferings and miseries. If it has, how do we respond to the challenges that we are facing today?

    There are some liberals who think that the solution is to put in place “Jinnah’s Pakistan”. To me, it would be quite interesting to find out who invented this term. When we use it, it gives the impression that he solely created this country. We seem to be in denial of the fact that other forces helped him to fulfill his dream. Moreover, the term also indicates that Pakistan is Jinnah’s property.

    Muhammad Ali Jinnah was not a thinker or a philosopher. He was a politician.

    In the early period of his political career, he was the staunch Indian nationalist and anti-British. When he joined Muslim League, he changed his stance and championed the cause of the Muslim community of the subcontinent. He supported the two-nation theory and in a number of his speeches declared that the Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations with different culture, customs and traditions. The two-nation theory became a hallmark of the Pakistan movement.

    When Jinnah delivered his August 11, 1947 speech, declaring all religious communities equal in the soon-to-be-born Pakistan, it not only shocked but surprised the leadership of the Muslim League and the bureaucracy. That’s why the speech was censored. The very act of censoring the speech of the founder of Pakistan and its first governor-general shows that he failed to convince his followers that after Partition the situation had changed and the country needed the theory of one nation rather than two.

    In 1949, when the Objectives Resolution was passed by the Legislative Assembly, Muhammad Ali Jinnah became irrelevant to Pakistani politics. It was decided that Pakistan would be a religious country. All three constitutions were drafted in light of the Objectives Resolution. As a result, the Pakistani state has become an Islamic state and the process of Islamisation is continuing unabated.

    Under these circumstances, to refer to Jinnah’s Pakistan or his vision shows our intellectual bankruptcy. In a backward society, where intellectuals and politicians have failed to produce new ideas, they resort to the past and propogate outdated and rusted ideas. Hero worship is not the solution to our problems. New challenges require new ideas. Muhammad Ali Jinnah alone cannot help us get rid of our present problems.

    Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2010.

  2. Why Pakistan is not a nation and how it could be one(Extracts)

    By: Pervez Hoodbhoy

    The founder of Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, also echoed the separateness of Muslims and Hindus, basing the struggle for Pakistan on the premise that the two peoples could never live together peacefully within one nation state. But Jinnah was unrecognisably different from Waliullah, a bearded religious scholar. An impeccably dressed Westernised man with Victorian manners, a secular outlook and an appreciation of fine foods and wines, Jinnah nevertheless eloquently articulated the fears and aspirations of an influential section of his co-religionists. Interestingly, he was opposed by a large section of the conservative ulema, such as Maulana Maudoodi of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who said that Islam must not be confined to national borders. But Jinnah and his Muslim League won the day by insisting that Muslims constituted a distinct nation that would be overwhelmed in post-British India by a larger and better-educated Hindu majority.

    Thus Pakistan, in essence, was created as the negative of India: it was not India. But what was it, then, beyond being a homeland for Muslims? Decades after the horrific bloodbath of Partition, the idea of Pakistan remains hotly debated. It did not help that Jinnah died in 1948, just a year after Pakistan was born, with his plans still ambiguously stated. He authored no books and wrote no policy paper. He did make many speeches, of which several were driven by political expediency and are frankly contradictory. These are freely cherry-picked today, with some finding in them a liberal and secular voice; others, an embodiment of Islamic values. The confusion is irresolvable.

    After Jinnah, the Objectives Resolution of 12 March 1949 was the first major step towards the transformation of Pakistan from a Muslim state into an Islamic state. The Resolution starts with the statement that sovereignty rests with Allah. This obviously limits the legislative power of a representative assembly, since the fundamentals are already defined. Another consequence was the grudging concession that ‘Adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures. ‘ This created the concept of minorities in the Pakistani polity, and hence negated the right of equality – a basic requirement of modern democracy.

    The basis in religious identity soon led to painful paradoxes. An overbearing West Pakistan was to ride roughshod over East Pakistan, and become despised as an external imperial power. Jinnah’s ‘Two Nation’ theory was left in tatters after the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, and the defeat of the Pakistani military. The enthusiasm of Muslim Bengalis for Bangladesh – and their failure to ‘repent’ even decades after 1971 – was a deadly blow against the very basis of Pakistan. Nevertheless, contrary to dire predictions, the Pakistani state survived. Its powerful military easily crushed emerging separatist movements in Balochistan and Sindh.

  3. Viewpoint Interview with Wajahat Masood: Mullah-military nexus has subverted public opinion


    Islamisation in Pakistan is often blamed on General Zia. But can we exonerate Zia’s predecessors? Even Bhutto’s ‘socialist’ PPP claimed: ‘Islam is our religion.’ Your comments?

    True that Islamisation in Pakistan is often blamed on General Zia, his coterie and his abettors like Jamaat Islami and motley Islamic outfits. However, the history of conflating Islam with politics goes much deeper than Zia’s military interregnum. The founder of Pakistan, Jinnah, though much appreciated for his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan wherein he clearly advocated secularism, was not above playing to the gallery when it suited his purpose. More than once, he made public announcements that could clearly be misinterpreted by religious lobby. Whatever hairsplitting we may contrive, the demand for the partition of India was based upon the postulate that “faith can constitute a political community”. When his plans for Kashmir were frustrated in October 1947, he made a public speech in Lahore which dripped religious diction and cheap slogans. His successor Liaqat Ali was the architect of Objectives Resolution, passed on March 12, 1949 in collusion with a rabid mullah named Shabbir Ahmed Usmani. That resolution, now a substantive part of the constitution of Pakistan, is the lynchpin of religious politics in Pakistan. In 1953, Mumtaz Daultana was held responsible for the February Anti Ahmadiyya riots. However, there is evidence that the then Prime Minister Khawaja Nazim ud Din was equally spineless when it came to defy the mullahs. Once Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO, no government in Pakistan could refrain from playing to the religious pied piper. Ayub Khan was personally a-religious but his dictatorial dispensation and strategic approach necessitated that the mullah lobby be appeased. He restored the religious nomenclature of the state when protested by a handful of mullahs. He dismissed Dr. Fazal ur Rehman as head of the Islamic advisory board because Mullahs disapproved of his enlightened approach. In 1965, Ayub invoked religious overtones during his misadventure against India.
    Yahya Khan, though much maligned for his lecherous personal practices, enjoyed the approval of Jamaat Islami. His information Minister General Sher Ali Khan was the inventor of the fiction named “Ideology of Pakistan”. Religious groups supported Pakistan army in the persecution of democratic forces in East Pakistan. Mian Tufail, then head of Jamaat Islami, sanctioned Yahya Khan’s ill-fated hand-made Constitution in advance and labeled it as Islamic.

    Mr. Bhutto, a populist extraordinaire, played religion to the hilt to frustrate democratic forces. “Islam is our Deen” was one of the four points of his political narrative. He convened “Islamic Conference” in Pakistan. He introduced Islamic clauses in the constitution of the country that still rankle the body politic in Pakistan. He declared Ahmadyyia Muslims as non-Muslims through parliament. He enacted prohibition laws. He distorted curricula and media with liberal doses of Islamic lexicon. In fact, he watered Islamization to the point that General Zia only had to reap the fruit. So it is both a simplification and a travesty of history of Pakistan to blame General Zia solely for the religious mess in Pakistani politics that we witness today.

  4. Pervez Hoodbhoy is Truly intellectual with very nice conveyancing style Quaid e Azm MOhammad Ali jinnah was Truly Secular Leader !

  5. Dr Hoodbhoy is only few sane voices in Pakistan. However I am more inclined to the views of Dr Ali when he said Jinnah was a politician and not a thinker.

  6. @Ali Arqam, Wajahat’s critique of ZAB smacks of the typical psuedo-leftist tinge that claims to be with the people but cannot even fill up an ordinary khoka. Yes, ZAB disappointed us by giving into the mullahs but what about the rest of parliament and what about NAP that was in opposition? What did they do!! March with the same mullahs in the Nizam e Mustafa!!

    And while the PPP manifesto reads “Islam is our Faith, it also reads democracy is our policy, socialism is our economics and power to the people; very different from the totalitarian Islamist philosophy of the Mawdodites!
    In hindsight, it would be a good idea to de-link the PPP manifesto from religion and make the latter a personal choice for a truly secular society. However, ZAB did not have the benefit of hindsight and was executed with the connivance of an Islamist judiciary that continues its immoral and unethical relationship with the security establishment.

    These guys like Wajahat are so insecure about themselves and their canteen walla leaders that they feel the need to bring the likes of BB and ZAB to their level as they themselves can never aspire to reach high!

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