Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quaid-e-Azam, Islam, and Pakistan

By Dr Mansoor Alam

It is said that truth is stranger than fiction. Quaid-e-Azam’s life is a case in point.

What kind of reaction would be expected from an “educated” Pakistani, if one were to ask him or her: Do you think Quaid-e-Azam was inspired by the Quran or the Prophet (PBUH) in his struggle for Pakistan? The most likely reaction will be: Quran and Quaid-e-Azam? – Are you serious? And our Prophet (PBUH) and Quaid-e-Azam? – Are you kidding? Quaid-e-Azam was more like a British and a product of their culture. How could he be inspired by the Quran or the Prophet (PBUH)? Yes, he fought for Pakistan. But his motives were political and economic, not Islamic. He wanted to improve the economic condition of Muslims who were dominated by the Hindus. He was not a good Muslim himself but he used Islam very effectively as a slogan to make a case for a separate homeland for Muslims. He proved to be a great leader. And to accomplish his goals he employed his highly skilled legal mind as a weapon in his fight with the Hindus and the British, which earned him a place in history. He had nothing to do with Islam as such. He wanted Pakistan to be a secular state, not an Islamic state.

Believe it or not, these will be the kinds of reaction one would normally get in the streets, mosques, government and business offices in Pakistan.

But why did Quaid-e-Azam still insist on having Pakistan even though Gandhi offered him the leadership of undivided India? If Islam was not an issue in his mind and if he wanted Pakistan to be a secular state, then couldn’t he have used the enormous power as the leader of the largest secular state in the world to his advantage rather than settle for a moth-eaten tiny secular state for Muslims? That would have earned him: the respect of Hindus, the blessing of Gandhi, and high accolades of the British; plus it would have given him unimaginable world popularity. Any other leader seeking fame, fortune, glory, and power would have been only too happy to accept Gandhi’s offer. However, Quiad-e-Azam didn’t. Why did Quid-e-Azam not accept Gandhi’s offer? The answer requires a deeper understanding (than the above “street” responses) of the real motive and the spirit behind Quaid-e-Azam’s struggle for Pakistan.

What Pakistan meant to Quaid-e-Azam, and what kind of political and economic system he had in mind for Pakistan as a sovereign nation? On these, you will find no dearth of books, pamphlets and articles written by all kinds of experts and political pundits with their own explanations. But you may not find in this mountain-type literature a book of the complete collection of what Quad-e-Azam said, wrote, and did; a book of his own words and deeds in wide circulation. You may find few books dealing with his selected speeches and writings that are used in specialized academic circles but ignored by popular media and the government. Few dedicated followers of the Quaid and of Allama Iqbal have tried to keep the flame of Quaid-e-Azam’s hopes and aspirations alive. But their number is fast dwindling. And they don’t count much anyway in centers of power and influence since their voices are drowned by the powerful political and religious hierarchy in Pakistan.

Not only that, to justify their positions some political and religious leaders often distort the truth about Quaid-e-Azam’s life and his work. Some even propagate outright lies. Prominent among them being that Abul Ala Maududi was somehow involved with the idea of Pakistan and that he helped Quaid-e-Azam in his struggle for Pakistan. Maududi, in fact, used insulting words to describe Quaid-e-Azam and Muslim League and tried to put obstructions in the path of struggle for Pakistan.

It is an irony that the life of such an open and honest person and a man of impeccable character and integrity has become a paradox and full of contradictions in Pakistani political mind. Both secularists and Islamists have their own view of Quiad-e-Azam: Secularists have spent (and still do) all their energy to prove that he was one of their own, while Islamists dismiss (with contempt) even a slight suggestion linking him with Islam.

Notwithstanding all the contradictions attributed to Quaid-e-Azam, there is one thing absolutely in common among both the secularists and the Islamists: they both would loudly proclaim – of course for their own ulterior motives – that Quaid-e-Azam had had nothing to do with the Quran or the Prophet (PBUH) as far as Pakistan was concerned. Very few, if at all, would acknowledge the fact that Quaid-e-Azam was deeply interested in the Quran and that he had great respect for the Prophet (PBUH) ever since he began his struggle – or shall we say his jihad (a much maligned word these days, thanks to Islamists) – for Pakistan.

This, about a person: who spent almost all his life in public, whose every movement was recorded, whose every spoken or written word was treasured like a precious gem by hundreds of thousands, who attracted millions of men, women and children with his message, and whose death brought tears to hundreds of millions of people. How could such a man be shrouded in mystery or drowned in a flood of controversy or propaganda? But the fact is that he has been – thanks to the propaganda of the Islamists and the intellectual dishonesty of the secularists.

His secular “friends” and Islamist “foes” alike have tried their best to mask his total personality with their own spins. Everyone plucks and picks some thing from his life to prove or disprove his or her point of view without presenting his life’s total picture. The backward-looking proponents of Islam, the Islamists, would not forgive him because of his physical appearance or his past ideology and declare him a kafir and an agent of the British. (Most prominent among them being “Maulana” Maududi.) And the forward-looking secularists start having nightmares (even in broad daylight) to imagine Quaid-e-Azam with the copy of the Quran and quoting from the Holy Book. (Prominent among them being Justice Munir.) Like an ostrich they would rather burry their heads in sand than see Quaid-e-Azam using the Quranic principles as the basisof the political structure of Pakistan. How can these champion imitators of Western-style secularism stand Quaid-e-Azam using the Quranic principles as guidelines in politics? They firmly believe in the separation of Church and State. And by extension they advocate the separation of Islam and the State. It never occurs to them that Church is not Islam or vice versa.

How can these “intellectuals” be intellectually so dishonest (or bankrupt) to equate Islam with the Church? Did the Church ever say: Laisa lil insaan-e illa maa sa‘aa? (A human being deserves only that for which he or she works for.) Or, Walaa taziru waaziratun wizra ukhraa? (No one has the right to shift one’s own burden (responsibility) on anyone else.) Or, Walaqad karramnaa bani adam? (We have made every human being worthy of equal respect.) Or, Aqeemul wazn bilqist? And La tukhsirul meezaan? (Establish a balanced system that provides equal justice for all, and that there must not be any tilting of justice in anyone’s favor.)

To these champions of secular humanism, these verses of the Quran dealing with universal human values remain hidden from their secular sight. They claim to be farsighted and open-minded. In reality, though, they are as shortsighted and closed-minded as the Islamists except that they are on the other extreme. Have you ever seen a secular humanist ever mentioning that the above universal human values were enshrined in the Quran 1400 years ago? But when they get enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in the twentieth century, these values become their holy grail.

These proponents of Western style secularism, in order to co-opt Quadi-e-Azam in their cause, have always relied upon few sentences from his speech delivered at the first constituent assembly on August 11 1947. They have taken these few sentences and turned them into volumes of secular literature by the might of their pen. When the Quran boldly declares that La ikraaha fid-Deen (there is no compulsion in Islam), and if Quaid-e-Azam echoed this principle of the Quran on August 11 1947 by saying: “You are free, free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places 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,” then he was only affirming what the Quran has declared. It does not mean that he was advocating Western-style secularism, as its proponents would have us believe. Quaid-e-Azam knew very well what secularism meant. He does not need secularists to put words in his mouth.

On the other hand, the Islamists, blinded by their arrogant self-righteous attitude (and followers of Aslaaf-based Islam – called Ajami Islam by Allama Iqbal – rather than the true Islam based on the principles enshrined in the Quran), never imagine anyone but themselves as the proponents of Islam. Since Quad-e-Azam challenged their AjamiIslam, he is considered by the Islamists not even a Muslim let alone accepted as an Islamic leader. How can the Islamists ever stand Quaid-e-Azam giving them lessons in Quranic principles of equity, justice and fairness?

The need of the present time is to collect all (the original English) speeches and writings of the Quaid in one place and make it freely and readily available (and not just limited to academic centers) in order to expose the secularists’ intellectual dishonesty and to put a lid on the propaganda of the Islamists.

This collection would allow anyone (who is interested to know) who the Quaid really was as a complete human being, why he sacrificed his life for the sake of Pakistan, and what he essentially wanted for Pakistan as a sovereign nation. This collection—not just its bits and pieces—should be openly displayed in every government office, school, and library. And it must be posted on every website owned or operated by Pakistan government. This should also be posted on every Internet forum or on-line discussion group that is operating in the name of Pakistan. In other words, his message should be flooded so that it overpowers the secular and religious propaganda and enters the Pakistani subconscious mind.

Why should it be done? Why is it important to preserve and keep in front at all times all that Quaid-e-Azam wrote or spoke? Some may argue: let us do our best to serve Pakistan as good citizens and good Samaritans and not get involved with his words because that causes controversy among Pakistanis. After all, everyone knows and agrees with “Unity, Faith, and Discipline” as the famous dictum of the Quaid. But there is a basic flaw in this argument. Imagine Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto preaching this slogan to the Pakistani people. Would it have any effect on them? Can a thief ever inspire one to be honest? Ever wonder why is there so much corruption in Pakistan at every level in spite of this famous slogan?

Also, do you ever wonder why religious sermons fall on deaf ears? When people find that those preaching Prophet’s (PBUH) honesty and integrity and high moral character do not display these values in their own characters, what do you expect? When those preaching W’atasimu bi ‘hablillahi jameeaun (hold on together the rope of Allah, i.e., be united) themselves are divided into different sects (and involved in killing and murder), what could you expect? Even wonder why do most religious and political leaders lack character? How many of these leaders practice what they preach?

What about Quaid-e-Azam? Did he practice what he preached? Even his staunch enemies vouched for that. This must bring to our attention an incident that occurred in the early period of Islam. Remember the enemies of the Prophet (PBUH) vouching for his honesty in the court of the Abyssinian king Najashi? What does this tell of the character of Quaid-e-Azam in light of that incident regarding the Prophet (PBUH)? Is it not enough in and of itself to pay our debt to the Quaid and be inspired to emulate his character? Whose character would one rather emulate: Quaid-e-Azam’s or Abul Ala Maududi’s (who broke his promise to his Shura members about contesting the position of Amir of his party resulting in Amin Ahsan Islahi leaving Jamat-e-Islami)?

If one wants to practice honesty and integrity, one has to keep an honest person’s entire life as a role model in front of him or her. That is why it is important to keep Quaid-e-Azam’s entire life as role model in every sphere of Pakistani life. Otherwise, how would the future generations find out how Quid-e-Azam practiced unity, faith, and discipline in his own life? And for this we have to preserve everything what he said, wrote, and did. When younger generations are brought up with Quaid-e-Azam’s character as a role model in front of them then they would gladly sacrifice their lives for the sake of Pakistan and Islam as did Quaid-e-Azam.

Here are some samples of Quaid-e-Azam’s speeches that prove beyond any doubt that he was not a proponent of Western-style secularism (contrary to what his “secular” friends would like to believe), and also that he was not ignorant of the Quran or Islam, as our so-called Islamic leaders (prominent among them Maududi) would have us believe. This will also prove that no matter what words he has used to describe his vision of Pakistan, at the core, he was very much influenced by the Quran and the character of our Prophet (PBUH).

Quaid-e-Azam said in his presidential address in 1940:

“It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religions in the strict sense of the word but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders… The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literatures. They belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects of life and our life are different.”

In his speech at the Frontier Muslim League Conference on
November 21, 1945, he said:

“We have to fight a double edged battle, one against the Hindu Congress and the British Imperialists, both of them being capitalists. The Muslims demand Pakistan where they could rule according to their own code of life and according to their own cultural growth, traditions and Islamic laws.”

In a message to NWFP Muslim Students Federation in April 1943, he said:

“You have asked me to give a message. What message can I give you? We have got the great message in the Quran for our guidance and enlightenment.”

In an Eid message to the nation in 1945, he said:

“Every Muslim knows that the injunctions of the Quran are not confined to religious and moral duties. 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 and 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 (S) has enjoined on us that every Muslim should possess a copy of the Holy Quran and be his own priest. Therefore, Islam is not confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines and rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society in every department of life, collectively and individually.”

In August 1941, Quaid-e-Azam gave an interview to the students of the Osmania University. The replies he gave to the questions asked by the students explain his depth and comprehension of the basic foundations of Islam. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q. What are the essential features of religion and a religious state?

A. When I hear the word “religion,” my mind thinks at once, according to the English language and British usage, of private relations between man and God. But I know full well that according to Islam, the word is not restricted to the English connotation. I am neither a Maulwi nor a Mullah, nor do I claim knowledge of theology. But I have studied in my own way the Holy Quran and Islamic tenets. This magnificent book is full of guidance respecting all human life, whether spiritual, or economic, political or social, leaving no aspect untouched.

Q. What is the distinctive feature of the Islamic state?

A. There is a special feature of the Islamic state which must not be overlooked. There, obedience is due to God and God alone, which takes practical shape in the observance of the Quranic principles and commands. In Islam, obedience is due neither to a king, nor to a parliament, nor to any other organization. It is the Quranic provisions which determine the limits of our freedom and restrictions in political and social spheres. In other words, the Islamic state is an agency for enforcement of the Quranic principles and injunctions.

There will be no economic exploitation by the capitalists in an Islamic state. In his presidential address delivered to the annual session of the All India Muslim League, in Delhi on April 24, 1943, he said:

“Here 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. Greed and selfishness have made these people subordinate to the interests of others in order to fatten themselves. It is true we are not in power today. You go anywhere to the countryside. I have visited villages. There are millions and millions of our people who hardly get one meal a day. Is this civilization? Is this the aim of Pakistan? Do you visualize that millions have been exploited and cannot get one meal a day? If this is the idea of Pakistan, I would not have it. If they are wise, they will have to adjust themselves to the new modern conditions of life. If they don’t, God help them, we shall not help them.”

In light of the above, we can see that Quaid-e-Azam was neither for Western-style democracy nor for Mulla-style theocracy. He essentially advocated what may be called Islamic social democracy. But tell this to secularists or to Islamists. They would never believe it. No wonder truth is stranger than fiction. The result? Pakistanis are the real losers, no matter how much materially some have gained. Quaid-e-Azam, on the other hand, will always shine like a bright star in the annals of modern human history. In the words of the American historian, Stanley Wolpert:

‘Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.’

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