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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Jinnah’s Pakistan: An inclusive one

Khawaja Akbar |

“We must get Pakistan at any cost. For it we will live and for it we will die. The Musalmans have to struggle and struggle hard for their honorable existence … you must work and work hard. By doing so you will contribute substantially not only to the honor of ten crores of Muslims but to the crystallization of a free Muslim state of Pakistan where Muslims will be able to offer – the ideology of Islamic rule.”

Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Address, Public Meeting, Mardan, 24th November 1945)

After seven decades of independence, the people of our country remain oblivious of Jinnah’s vision, regarding the role of Islam in Pakistan. Some misinterpret a few lines, from an address given to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi on 11 August 1947, while others ignore Jinnah, erroneously questioning his religious inclinations. A brief review of Jinnah’s speeches, made between 1940-1948, reveal a perspective that neither supports left-wing secular progressives nor right-wing theocrats.

On 19 February 1948, in a broadcast talk to the people of Australia, Jinnah said: “We follow the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) … but make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it.”

Read more: Excerpts from Jinnah-Gandhi letters

Two days later, on 21 February 1948, in an address to the 5th Ack Ack and 6th light Ack Ack regiments, he stated: “You have fought many a battle on the far-flung battlefields of the globe to rid the world of Fascist menace and make it safe for democracy. Now you have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of Islamic democracy, Islamic social justice and the equality of manhood in your own native soil.”

During the same month, in another broadcast, this time to the people of the USA, the Quaid outlined his expectations regarding the constitution: “The Constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of the constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life, as they were 1,300 years ago.

Islam and its ideals have taught us democracy. It has taught use equality of men, justice and fair play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions … 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 as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

From the above, it is clear that Jinnah dreamed of the creation of an “Islamic democracy”, not a theocracy nor a democratic system devoid of religious influence. He went on to elaborate on the image of an Islamic democracy, in various speeches.

Read more: The Indo-Pak partition could have been averted if Jinnah became the…

On 14 December 1946, in London he said: “Democracy is the lifeblood of Musalmans, who look upon complete equality of manhood … believe in fraternity, equality and liberty.”

In an address to the Bar Association at Karachi, on 25 January 1948: “Islam and its idealism have taught democracy. Islam has taught equality, justice and fair play to everybody. … Let us make it (the future constitution of Pakistan). We shall make it and we shall show it to the world.”

Later, in a public address in Chittagong on 26 March 1948, he repeated: “Brotherhood, equality, and fraternity of man – these are all the basic points of our religion, culture and civilisation and we fought for Pakistan because there was a danger of the denial of these human rights in this Subcontinent.”

Jinnah’s famous address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, when read in conjunction with his speeches during the time – as mentioned above, clarifies the true meaning of his words. His words represented his view of Islam, not a departure from it, where all stand equal:

“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 cast or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State. … We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. … Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and 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.”

Read more: Post-Avenfield case scenario: Jinnah’s message for Imran Khan

An Islamic democracy, according to Quaid-e-Azam, would allow the newly born nation to deal with the threats and challenges that Pakistan faced at the time, such as: Provincialism, feudalism, economics security, minority protection, etc.

In a public meeting at Dacca on 21 March 1948, he stated:

“Let me warn you in the clearest terms of the dangers that still face Pakistan. … Having failed to prevent the establishment of Pakistan, thwarted and frustrated by their failure, the enemies of Pakistan have now turned their attention to disrupt the State by creating a split amongst the Muslims of Pakistan. As long as you do not throw off this poison (of provincialism) in our body politic, you will never be able to weld yourself, mould yourself, galvanise yourself into a real, true nation. What we want is not to talk about Bengali, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pathan, and so on. They are, of course, units. But I ask you: have you forgotten the lesson that was taught to us thirteen hundred years ago?

So what is the use of saying, ‘We are Bengalis, or Sindhis, or Pathans, or Punjabis.’ No, we are Muslims. Islam has taught us this, and I think you will agree with me, that whatever else you may be and whatever you are, you are a Muslim. … Provincialism has been one of the curses; and so is sectionalism – Shia, Sunni, etc. … Now I ask you to get rid of this provincialism, because as long as you allow this poison to remain in the body politic of Pakistan, believe me, you will never be a strong nation, and you will never be able to achieve what I wish we could achieve.”

Regarding the problem of feudalism, he addressed the All Indian Muslim League in Delhi on 24 April 1943: “I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists who have flourished at our expense by a system which is so vicious, which is so wicked and which makes them so selfish that it is difficult to reason with them. The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They have forgotten the lessons of Islam.”

Read more: Jinnah’s dream of South Asia is only possible when India joins…

In Karachi, on July 1, 1948, Jinnah enunciated the principles that should govern Pakistan’s Economic Policy, in his speech at the opening ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan: “The adoption of Western economic theory and practise will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contented people. We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on the true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice.”

At University Stadium Lahore, on 30 October 1947, Jinnah pointed to the teachings of Islam and urged Muslims to be mindful of their duty towards minorities to prevent retaliatory violence in Pakistan, in light of the crimes committed in India against Muslims: “Remember the scrupulous maintenance and enforcement of law and order are the prerequisites of progress. The tenets of Islam enjoin on every Musalman to give protection to high neighbours and to the minorities regardless of caste and creed.”

Even on the debate regarding the national language, Jinnah’s selection of Urdu, was  influenced because of its relation to Islam. In his address, at the Dacca University convocation on 24 March 1948, he stated: “Urdu is a language that has been nurtured by a hundred million Muslims of this subcontinent, a language understood throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan and above all, a language which more than any other provincial language, embodies the best in Islamic culture and Muslim tradition … is nearest to the language used in other Islamic countries.”

In addition to dealing with domestic issues, Jinnah believed that Pakistan’s Islamic character would allow it to a play a pivotal role in the whole Islamic World. In his speech at Islamia College in Peshawar, on 12 April 1948, he said: “Remember we are building up a State which is going to play its full part in the destinies of the whole Islamic World. We, therefore, need a wider outlook, an outlook which transcends the boundaries of provinces, limited nationalism, and racialism.”

Lastly, Jinnah viewed the ideology of Islam as a complete doctrine that pervades all aspects of life, contrary to the popular opinion of those who see Islam only a religion. This fact is brought out in his address on the occasion of Eid, September 1945, where he commented on the importance of the Quran:

“Everyone, except those who are ignorant, knows that the Quran is the general code of the Muslims. A religious, social, civil, commercial, military, judicial, criminal, penal code, it regulates everything from the ceremonies of religion to those of daily life; from the salvation of the soul to the health of the body; from the rights of all to those of each individual; from morality to crime, from punishment here to that in the life to come, and our Prophet (pbuh) has enjoined on us that every Musulman should possess a copy of the Quran and be his own priest. Therefore, Islam is not merely confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines or rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society, every department of life, collectively and individually.”

Nation marks Independence Day with traditional zeal, fervor. Give the above words of our beloved leader, it is unfortunate to see the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of his vision regarding Pakistan. Ironically, this form of corruption is something Jinnah pointed to well before his passing and his words are a fitting conclusion to this article:

“Corruption is a curse in India and amongst Muslims, especially the so-called educated and intelligentsia. Unfortunately, it is this class that is selfish and morally and intellectually corrupt. No doubt this disease is common, but amongst this particular class of Muslims it is rampant. (Jinnah to Ispahani, 6 May 1945).

Khawaja Akbar is a part-time lecturer with an interest in history, politics and economics. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.