The extended interview with Colonel (retd) Amjad Hussain Syed has been received with great interest by readers. Shahji did not elaborate on the Iqbalite-Jinnah vision of the welfare state but I presume he believed it would be an ideal Muslim democracy. However, in my doctoral dissertation (The Concept of an Islamic State in Pakistan: An Analysis of Ideological Controversies), I undertook an analysis of Iqbal’s ideas on the state, economy and the role of Islam in the polity. Iqbal wrote, “In Islam the spiritual and the temporal are not two distinct domains...Islam is a single unanalysable reality, which is one or the other as your point of view varies...The state, according to Islam, is only an effort to realise the spiritual in a human organisation. It is in this sense alone that the state in Islam is a theocracy, not that it is headed by a representative of God on earth who can always screen his despotic will behind his supposed infallibility.” He further wrote, “The atheistic socialism of Jawahar Lal (Nehru) is not likely to receive much response from the Muslims. The question therefore is: how is it possible to solve the problem of Muslim poverty? Happily there is a solution in the enforcement of the law of Islam and its further development in the light of modern ideas. After a careful study of Islamic law, I have come to the conclusion that if this law is properly understood and applied, at least the right of subsistence is secured to everybody. But the enforcement and development of shariat of Islam is impossible in this country without a free Muslim state or states.” Dilating further, he observed, “If Hinduism accepts social democracy, it must necessarily cease to be Hinduism. For Islam, the acceptance of social democracy in some suitable form is not a revolution but a return to the original purity of Islam.” He wrote powerful poetry in favour of the rights of the tiller and supported the rights of the working people vis-à-vis the capitalists.
His views on democracy were rather negative since in it he alleged heads were counted and not weighed. Western democracy he dismissed as a capitalist façade. He preferred the rule of a benevolent dictator. The application of the rules and norms of western democracy to Indian conditions without taking into account the religious groups would be a mistake and could lead to civil war, he asserted.
Right-wing followers of Iqbal are not wanting in invoking those of his verses that celebrate conquest, the use of force and are generally appealing to the jihadi mindset. Notwithstanding considerable confusion about his real message, it is perfectly correct to assert that he held many egalitarian and progressive ideas that he wanted his Muslim state to represent.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah never wrote a book or composed poetry. His forte was preparing briefs that would win him cases. It should not be surprising that his thought process is more eclectic and inconsistent than Iqbal’s. Therefore, his ideas are better appreciated in the situational and contextual framework. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that, until 1937, but especially before 1940, he favoured liberal constitutionalism and, on several occasions, opposed the mixing of religion and politics. In Colonel Amjad Hussain Syed’s interview too we find him expressing his displeasure over Maulana Zafar Ali Khan’s orthopraxy requiring a pause for Isha prayers. That attitude is manifest also in the fact that he chided Raja Sahib Mahmudabad when, in 1939, Raja Sahib wrote to the historian Mohibul Hassan: “When we speak of democracy in Islam it is not democracy in the government but in the cultural and social aspects of life. Islam is totalitarian — there is no denying about it. It is the Quran that we should turn to. It is the dictatorship of the Quranic laws that we want — and that we will have — but not through non-violence and Gandhian truth.”
As it turned out later, Mahmudabad was not alone in the Muslim League in fancying a dogmatic Islamic state. Moreover, in his negotiations with Congress and the British Jinnah, Jinnah could not have afforded to be anything but a champion of a moderate Muslim state. The great skill of Jinnah was that, until his last moment, he did not explain what his idea of Pakistan was. It is not surprising that his August 11, 1947 speech to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in which he spelt out the vision of a secular and democratic Pakistan surprised many of his followers. His sympathetic biographer Stanley Wolpert has recorded this point succinctly.
The strategy not to discuss the ideology of Pakistan provided Jinnah with considerable flexibility and room to manoeuvre his campaign for Pakistan as and when the situation required. The task was formidable and the adversaries, the Punjab Unionist Party and the Khudai Khidmatgars, were strong and well-organised regional parties. Therefore, Jinnah made all conflicting promises to diverse groups within the broad category of Indian Muslims that existed in the census records. The famous letter of November 1945 to Pir Sahib Manki Sharif is a case in point. In it he assured Manki Sharif that sharia would apply to the Muslims of Pakistan. Since, in 1937, the colonial government had already recognised the application of sharia to Muslim personal matters, the letter to Manki Sharif was adroitly drafted to suggest an overarching role for Islamic law in Pakistan. “Pir subb nu puttar deynda hai” (the spiritual master blesses everyone with a son). No doubt, Jinnah had become a pir in his own right and dispensed dreams and hopes of multifarious colours and hues.
(To be continued)
Increasingly, there is something unsavoury about old democracies like the US and UK. Not that their ...