TEXT: In advancing the cause of Muslim regeneration and Islamic renascence in India, Jinnah had made a pivotal contribution along with his two notable predecessors: Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Allama Iqbal.
Sir Syed had laid the foundational groundwork for Muslim education and social reform. He had also reclaimed the Muslims from the slough of despondency and despair, crafted a viable platform for knitting them together into a pan-Indian Muslim community, and injected in them a community consciousness so that they become buoyant, vibrant and progressive enough to envision a place and destiny for themselves in the Hindu-dominated subcontinent. Iqbal, on the other hand, had diagnosed and intellectualized the Muslim problem in India as never before, roused their community consciousness to a new pitch, inspired them with a grand vision, to yearn for and actualize the concept of Muslim identity, and spelled out the intellectual justification for separate Muslim nationhood in India. And Jinnah, on his part, carried the campaign further, mobilized the Muslim masses as never before, and adroitly translated the concept in terms of ground reality, to raise the ennobling edifice of Pakistan phoenix-like, through the ballot box.
Sir Syed was the father of Muslim education and the foremost proponent of social reform who had laid down the educational and cultural infrastructure and caused a psychological urge for an Islamic renaissance. Iqbal was the ideologue of Muslim nationalism towards which Sir Syed had taken the first faltering steps. And Jinnah was the political messiah who created a homeland for that nationalism. Therein lies Jinnah’s prime importance in the fitful, arduous odyssey from the highly traumatized post-1857 Muslim situation to the glorious dawn of a fledgling, but promising, Muslim state on the sprawling subcontinental landscape. Therein, also, lies Jinnah’s significance for the ongoing venture called Pakistan.
As against Sir Syed and Iqbal, Jinnah was essentially a student and practitioner of politics. He had a penchant only for two things in life: law and politics. Given his overriding commitment to politics and political action and his belief in its efficacy in resolving problems of all sorts, it is not too surprising that, a la Ghana’s Nkrumah a decade later, he believed in seeking “the political kingdom” which would ensure that “all things shall be added unto you”.
In demanding Pakistan, therefore, Jinnah was seeking the political kingdom, hoping, if not secure in the knowledge, that everything else would fall into place, sooner or later, once that kingdom was established on ground. “We shall have time for domestic programme and policies, but first get the Government. This is a nation without any territory or any Government”, he told his Bombay audience on August 1945.
Translated into the present context, this pronouncement would mean something like this: “Work for Pakistan’s security in an uncertain world, for political stability, economic buoyancy, educational advancement, cultural enrichment, emancipation of the weak, the marginalized and the underprivileged segments of the population, and for the creation of a just, egalitarian, tolerant, and self-propelling social order and polity”.
Despite his deep involvement in politics and political problems of the day, despite the overriding, daunting and time-consuming task of crafting a viable political destiny for Muslims, Jinnah had spelled out, both by precept and practice, certain basic ground rules for governance, for political practitioners, and for the nation at large.
His beliefs and principles may be summarized as follows. Jinnah believed in moderation, gradualism, constitutionalism and consensual politics. He believed in building up a consensus over an issue, step by step, rather than imposing a decision through a fiat. Controversies should be resolved through debate and discussion in the assembly chamber, rather than through violence in the streets through sheer muscle power. He believed in democracy, not mobocracy. Like Disraeli, he believed in educating the masses, the masters in a democracy, not in pandering to their preferences and prejudices. He would like the political discourse anchored on durable principles, not on the momentary whims and fancies of the audience. He abhorred demagogy and rhetoric to advance personal and political agendas. He frowned upon oligarchy and feudalism, and stood for an egalitarian society, for the emancipation of the downtrodden, for a fair wage, ameliorative measures and justice to both the industrial labour and the famished peasantry, and for the welfare of the masses. He called for the emancipation of women, for conceding them their due rights, and for taking them along, side by side, with men, in all spheres of national life.
He stood for an “Islamic democracy”, with equal rights for one and all, whatever his race, colour, religion or language. “I am sure”, he declared in his broadcast to the people of USA in February 1948, “that it [the constitution of Pakistan] will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam... It has taught equality of man, justice and fairplay to everybody.” At the same time, he ruled out theocracy and any role for the clergy. Thus, he stood for the positive face of Islam. He stood for the pluralist face of Islam. He stood for the constructive arid progressive face of Islam.
Of course, he also stood for the “Muslim ideology… which” he hoped, “others will share”. But it is an ideology that others — i.e., non-Muslims — would share with us by their own volition, and not something that is imposed on them by a “brute” majority. And in his response to Lord Mountbatten on August 14, 1947, he invoked the Medinite model to emphasize that Pakistan would routinely and religiously follow “the humane and great principles” p by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the treatment of one and all, without any distinction of race, religion and colour. And, in his August 11 address, he consecrated Pakistan to the concept of an united, integrated nationhood, assuring one and of equal citizenship, equal rights, equal privileges and equal responsibilities.
This is the enduring legacy that Jinnah has bequeathed us for all time to come, and to it we should remain steadfast. Owning it afresh would recreate “Jinnah’s Pakistan”, for which there has been snowballing demand over the past few years.
(The author, HEC Distinguished National Professor, had co-edited Unesco’s History of humanity, Vol. VI, and edited In Quest of Jinnah (2007), the only oral history on Pakistan’s founding father).
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021