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TEXT: All said and done, 1937 represents the major watershed in Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah (1876-1948’s) public life, which spanned for over four decades (1904-48). For that year marked a radical shift in his posture and politics. From a full blooded Indian nationalist, swearing by an integrated Indian nation comprising Hindus, Muslims and others under a nationalist canopy, he, for now, concentrated exclusively on Muslims alone - for now he stood for the creation and crystallization of a pan-Indian Muslim community and constituency, their inalienable rights in India’s constitutional framework, the restitution to them of an equitable share in the Indian power pie, and their due place in the Indian cosmos. He had, thus, opted for the difficult, and as yet somewhat undefined and uncrystallized, role of a standard bearer the Muslim cause was desperately in search of. Above all, he took on the daunting task of gathering all the ninety million Muslims on the All-India Muslim League (AIML’s) platform, one that had, for all intents and purposes, remained moribund and dormant till then.

But, first, a word about why Jinnah chose Islam as the cultural metaphor at the macro level in his political discourse during the epochal 1937-47 decade. He was obliged to for the simple reason that for Muslims in pre-partition India, with their deep horizontal, vertical, regional and linguistic cleavages, Islam alone could serve as a broad political plank a la Karl Deutsch (Nationalism and Social Communication’s) typology. A comprehensive, all-inclusive framework, a broad-based platform, so that all the ninety million Muslims in the subcontinent could be gathered incrementally under the all-embracing Pakistan canopy. Moreover, a platform, not only transcending effectively their intra communal cleavages, but enshrining a cluster of shared beliefs, ideals and concepts that had lain deeply ingrained in their social consciousness over time, that had become enmeshed with the subterranean vagaries of their ancestral heritage and ethos, and that, moreover, was charged and saturated with emotions. To Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81), a nation is a work of art and a work of time and to Ernest Renan (1823-92), with other requisite factors in place, emotions play the most critical role in the nationality-building process over time. Three decades of public life had made Jinnah “a keen student of human nature”. Hence like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), the mahatma of the Indian National Congress (f. 1885), Jinnah was not averse to exploiting “human weaknesses for a good cause”, notes Nilankan Perumal, an Indian journalist. Jinnah was thus to recognize by the late 1930s that “his great political ability and astuteness” by themselves cannot make the AIML strong and powerful and that “mass support could be won only by appealing to his co-religionists’ loyalty to Islam”, as E.I.J. Rosenthal points out. Indeed, to quote Frank Moraes, a distinguished Indian editor, who had known Jinnah “fairly well in the days of his adversity as also in [those of] his glory”, “No contemporary Islamic leader more surely understood the Muslim mass mind of India, nor knew better how intuitively to appeal to it, to cajole it and rouse it”. Hence the choice of Islam as the rallying cry.

Jinnah’s choice was, also, determined by the overriding fact that Islam, to quote Iqbal, had not only furnished the Muslims of the subcontinent with “those basic emotions and loyalties which gradually unify scattered individuals and groups”, but had also worked as “a people-building force”, transforming them progressively into “a well-defined people”. The unity of Indian Islam, so far as it had achieved unity, may first and foremost be attributed to (what Montgomery Watt calls) “a dynamic image, the image or idea of... the charismatic community”. This explains how, scattered though they were across the length and breadth of the subcontinent in varying proportions, they had yet developed the will to live as a nation on the basis of their “social heritage”, to barrow a Toynbee concept. This “national will”, the critical factor in Renan’s ‘nationality’ framework, in turn provided the Indian Muslims with the intellectual and political ballast for claiming a distinct nationalism (apart from a Indian or, more accurately, Hindu nationalism) for themselves.

Those who think that Jinnah had made a U-turn in his thinking in 1937 are however, sadly, oblivious of the nuances in Jinnah’s thinking in the pre-1937 period. While still an acknowledged Indian nationalist he had recognized Indian Muslims as a separate entity unto themselves when he moved the resolution on Wakf alal Aulad at the 1906 Congress session and especially from 1909 when he came out gradually in favour of separate electorates. He had also demonstrated his easy familiarity with Muslim law and his high regard for it when he piloted the Wakf alal Aulad bill in the Viceroy’s, Council in 1911 and 1913. While originally, if only as a corollary to his stolidly legal approach, he stood for registration of all waqfs, arguing in its favour eloquently in 1911, he later (1913) opted for and even defended oral and testamentary waqfs, if only in deference to Muslim law, as adumbrated by Allama Shibli Numani, and Muslim consensus. “...I, for one, am not prepared to accept any provision which is in any way likely to overrule or affect the personal law of the Mussalmans” - was his clinching argument.

The two-nation theory with Islam as the basic, propelling and leavening component, which Jinnah unveiled in his Lahore (1940) address, may be traced back to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s (1817-98) speech on Lord Rippon’s Local Self-Government Bill in the Imperial Council on 15 January 1883, in his Lucknow (1887) and Meerut (1888) addresses, and to the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental Defence Association’s (f. 1892) memorandum entitled, “The Representative System in India: A Mahomedan Manifesto” (1896). By 1884 Sir Syed had gone through a paradigmatic shift, and by the late 1880s, he had come a long way from his erstwhile position of Hindus and Muslims being the two eyes of a beautiful bride. For now, he pronounced Muslims a nation. Symbolic was his rhetorical query in the Meerut address: "Is it possible that... two nations - the Mahomedans and the Hindus - could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power?” Which he himself answered, asserting, “Most certainly not”.

After a two-decade long gestation process, the two-nation theory got a shot in the arm when the demand for separate electorates was put in formally to the Viceroy, Lord Minto (1845-1914) by the Simla Deputation under the Aga Khan’s (1877-1957) leadership on 1 October 1906. Implicit in the demand was the concept of Muslims being a separate entity in India’s body politic. The conceding of this demand by the British in the Act of 1909 and by the Congress in the Lucknow Pact of 1916 meant (or implied) a recognition, both on the constitutional and political plane, by the other two sides in the Indian political triangle, of Muslims being “a nation within a nation”, to quote the Aga Khan’s picturesque phrase. It also meant the existence of a pan-Indian Muslim community and constituency towards which the Muslims had been striving since the 1870s.

Although Jinnah had headed the AIML since 1919, except for his three brief years in self-exile (1931-34), he had increasingly donned the role of an authoritative spokesman for Muslims since 1927. From 1935 onwards, however, his passage to the summit of Muslim leadership, though strewn with numerous pitfalls, daunting challenges, was yet comparatively smooth and straight, so that by the late 1930s he had become the sole spokesman, their Quaid-i-Azam.

As Muslim India’s authoritative spokesman, Jinnah described Muslims “a separate entity”, in his speech on the Joint Parliamentary Report in the Legislative Assembly, on 7 February 1935. Two years later, in his election campaign speech at Mahomed Ali Park in Calcutta on 4 January 1937, he want a step further and claimed a third-party status for Muslims. (This he did as a riposte To Nehru’s (1889-1964) “two-forces” dictum, which sought to marginalize the Muslims to the point of having “no… real importance in spite of occasional importance being thrust upon them”.)

Inherent in this ‘separate entity’ (1935) as well as the (later) ‘third-party’ (1937) claim was a tacit assumption of separate nationhood, although it was not perceived as such, nor emphasized by Jinnah or other protagonists, at the time. For one thing, Jinnah being characteristically reticent, cautious, and careful: as to what this “third-party” claim would and could eventuate in, it was not unequivocally spelled out. Perhaps, his ideas were still in gestation; probably, he was averse to showing his hand prematurely. But one thing he did: he dropped stray hints periodically, if only to justify his stance in times of crisis. Thus, he told his pro-Congress audience at Ali Zaheer’s residence in Lucknow, at the height of the U.P. League crisis in July 1937, that it was impossible for Muslims to merge with the Hindus because “their culture, language and civilization were different from each other” - the major factors which, besides history, he would emphasize later in arguing the case for Muslim nationhood in his Lahore (1940) address.

Occasionally, Jinnah had also referred to the Muslims as a ‘nation’ - e.g., at the Bombay (1936) League on 12 April 1936, at the League Council meeting on 21 March 1937, in his speech at the Aligarh Muslim University early in April 1939, and in his address to the Ismail College Students Union in August 1939. At times, he talked of the League having brought about “a remarkable national consciousness among the Muslims”, and exhorted them “to develop a national self and a national individuality”, and to “acquire national self-consciousness and national self-determination”. Jinnah had also presided over or was present at the Sindh Provincial Muslim League Conference early in October 1938 and the Meerut Divisional Muslim League Conference on 25-26 March 1939, where the Muslims were pronounced a nation. Thus, a reading of Jinnah’s political discourse in respect of Muslim entity since 1935 indicates a remarkable consistency.

And when the time was ripe, he pronounced Muslims a nation. How and why? Because, he asserted,

“We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and tradition, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law, were, are a nation.”

A mere political community, placed as the Muslims were within India’s body politic, could not claim an equitable share in power, as a matter of right, especially because the Westphalian model (1648) of sovereignty of “nations” and “sanctity” of borders, still dominant in the international system (e.g., consider Eriteria being tagged onto Ethiopia in the postwar settlement of the former Italian colonies in Africa under the UN auspices), had not come to be eroded as it has since 1990 (e.g., in the case of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia). In contrast, a “nation”, if also demographically dominant in a specified territory, as the Muslims were in north-eastern and north-western India, can. Thus, the nationhood claim gave the Muslim quest for an equitable share in power a shot in the arm; it made the quest meaningful; it endowed it with a chance of success.

The Pakistan demand was raised on the premise that Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations. More specifically, that Muslims were a separate nation in their own right in the sub-continental context, and, were, therefore, entitled to the right of self-determination. Raised in ideological and political terms for the most part, the demand was argued at the macro level, with Islam as the cultural metaphor.

The overt Islamic strain in Jinnah’s delineation of Muslim nationhood (cited above) gets increasingly reflected and invoked in his numerous other pronouncements during the period as well. For instance, in his Lahore address on 22 March 1940, his clinching argument for demanding Pakistan was that “we wish our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best and is in accordance with own ideals and according to the genius of the people”. Almost four years later, he told the Karachi League session on 26 December 1943, “It is the Great Book [the] Qur’an, that is the sheet-anchor of Muslim India.” This was reaffirmed in his address to the Punjab Muslim Students’ Federation on 19 March 1944: “Our bedrock and sheet-anchor is Islam... Islam is our guide and complete code for our life”. In a like vein, the Frontier Muslim League Conference was told on 21 November 1945: “The Muslims demand Pakistan, where they could rule according to their own cultural growth, traditions and Islamic laws”.

Interestingly though Jinnah’s pronouncements were for some obvious reasons, couched in general terms and in simple language, but, nevertheless, they often contained profound truths in Islamic terms, Consider, for instance, this excerpt from his speech at an Aligarh reception on 8 March 1944:

…Pakistan started the moment the first non-Muslim was converted to Islam in India long before the Muslims established their rule. As soon as a Hindu embraced Islam he was [an] outcaste not only religiously but also socially, culturally and economically. As for the Muslim it was a duty imposed on him by Islam not to merge his identity and individuality in an alien society. Throughout the ages, Hindus had remained Hindus and Muslims had remained Muslims and they had not merged their identities - that was the basis for Pakistan.

(This, of course, is not the place to discuss the historical fallacy or discrepancy in the quote above, which I have done in some detail both in my Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah: Studies in Interpretation [1981] and Ideology of Pakistan [2001]).

However, was not this foreboding threat of Muslims losing their identity and individuality in the Hindu cosmos among the bases of the Waliullahi movement in mid-eighteenth century India? Again, was not this principle the prime motivating force behind Sayyid Ahmad Shahid’s (1786-1831) jihad movement against the Sikhs in north-west India in the late 1820s and early 1830s? Besides, how does a people manage to keep intact its identity and individuality? Merely through political supremacy; if that be the case, then Indian Muslims should have lost their identity when they lost out to the British in the political realm during the century ending with 1857. Likewise, the Jews should have lost their identity and individuality during their long diaspora. This means that a people’s identity and individuality are retained not so much by the exercise of political power - though it does contribute a good deal towards their retention - but by standing steadfast to their distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral code, history and traditions, and, in sum, to a distinctive outlook on life and of life - i.e., a weltanschauung.

Hence Jinnah would tell the Frontier Muslim Students’ Federation on 18 June 1945, “Pakistan not only means freedom and independence but the Muslim ideology, which has [got] to be preserved, which has come to us as a precious gift and treasure and which, we hope, others will share with us.(ours). “Islamic principles”, Jinnah asserted at Karachi, on 25 January 1948 (12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal), “have no parallel.... No doubt, there are many people who do not quite appreciate when we talk of Islam.... Islam is a code for every Muslim which regulates his life and his conduct in all aspects, social, political, economic etc.

And he told the State Bank of Pakistan on 1 July 1948, “I shall watch with keenness the work of your Research Organization in evolving banking practices compatible with Islamic ideals of social and economic life.... We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on [the] true Islamic concept[s] of equality of manhood and social justice.”

As the foregoing discussion indicates, Jinnah had, of course, started out, as most other Muslim leaders did, as a “secular” politician. But from 1937-38 onwards, while playing out his historic role as the Quaid-i-Azam of Muslim India, he gradually moved towards an Islamic position. He began accepting influences from the environment and from the historical realm so far as Muslim India’s cultural and ideological traditions were concerned. This is indicated by, among others, the fact that his pronouncements bristled with Islamic sensibility and symbolism, and that he kept his dialogue with fellow Muslims within the unified framework of Islamic postulates. Interestingly, while receiving influences, he also began reacting to that environment and that tradition in a positive and constructive way. At this stage, he represented, as it were, to quote Sidney Hook, “a type of interaction in which the individual receives influences from the historic sphere and is molded by these particular influences while he in turn exerts his influence upon the historic level”.

True: in terms of personal talent, political and intellectual leadership, and concrete achievements, Jinnah had contributed a good deal to the formulation of the concept of Pakistan. Yet this formulation could not have taken place but for the influences, legacies and “supports” from Indian Islam he had received in terms of traditional values, political forces, ideological orientation, institutional entities, and mass response. And he generated an astonishing mass response, if only because he was highly empathetic to Muslim yearnings and had opted out, as against Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad (1899-1958), for the Muslim ijma (consensus) on the issue of Muslim individuality in India’s body politic.

And in opting out for Muslim consensus, Jinnah had fulfilled a critical Hegelian test of a great man, which requires him to perceive the needs of his time and to succeed in translating them into political action. This point has been elaborated and made more explicit in Hegel’s classic formulation of the relationship of a great man (Zeitgeist) to his age, which, according to E.H. Carr, has not been bettered. It lays down that “The great man of the age is one who can put into words the will of his age, tell his age what its will is, and accomplish it. What he does is the heart and essence of his age; he actualizes his age.” And in playing out that role superbly in the momentous decade of 1937-47, Jinnah became, as it were, the crystal in the crucible of Indo-Muslim leadership since about 1800, and the Quaid-i-Azam, first, of Muslim India and, then, of Pakistan.

Finally, a word about the transformation the two-nation theory underwent with the emergence of Pakistan. That theory, on which Jinnah had built up his entire case for Pakistan, was, in essence, a paradigm, a conceptual framework, to crystallize, advance, and validate the Muslim nationhood claim, which, as noted earlier, was in turn, based on the pan-Indian Muslim community consciousness, in the pre-1947 sub-continental context. That nation had achieved statehood, its supreme objective, in Pakistan, on 14-15 August 1947. With its emergence, the substratum in Renan’s framework - that is, the field of battle and the field of work, which was provided by the territorial demographic taxonomy has also changed. And with this change, the context, in which the two-nation theory was propounded and had become operative, had obviously been rendered a little irrelevant and obsolete. So was the two-nation theory paradigm.

The basic change in the loyalties and emotional attachment of the erstwhile Indian Muslim nation, which the acceptance of their core demand to national self determination and the emergence of Pakistan had both caused and warranted, was, first, interestingly though, recognized, and called attention to, by Jinnah himself, a statesman that he was, while most other top Indian leaders (including Gandhiji were calling on the Muslim minority in India to make the “loyalty” tests, to get entitled to mere personal security as citizens. On the eve of his departure from New Delhi on 7 August 1947, Jinnah gave the call for forgetting the (immediate) past, burying the hatchet, and starting “afresh as two independent sovereign States of Hindustan and Pakistan”, and wished “Hindustan prosperity and peace”. The same message was repeated in his 11 August 1947 presidential address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. He also called upon both the Muslims in post-partition India and the Hindus in Pakistan to give unreserved loyalty to their respective dominions. But this paradigmatic shift does not fall within the ambit of the present theme and calls for a separate study in itself.

Prof Sharif al Mujahid

(The late writer is HEC’s Distinguished National Professor and authored several works on the founding father.)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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