Was Quaid e Azam a Secular?
Pic. shows Quaid at Eid ul fitr, Karachi, August 18, 1947
As we turn the pages of history to remind us how the miracle of the birth of a nation-state was possible; and how history is actually made within the churns and jostles of everyday life; we see idea and fervor on every page and we see determination so hard, that would not have been, if not for an underlying irrevocable faith.
But what we call history is just aggregates of recorded memories. We see the past through the conceptual eyes of historians; events pass through the matrix of the thought of the recorders, and being human these matrix inevitably always have bias of some kind or the other. How then are we to measure truth from within a variety of consensus – how are we to distill truth from falsehood and sieve right from wrong. Perhaps in assessing written history it would be worthwhile to put it in context with the geography, the geopolitics and socio-economy of a people, but most essentially it is the mood, the beliefs and the ideals of a people that underlie the history of a people.
How then will we assess the history of the creation of a state, or rather a nation-state, such as Pakistan? Does it start with the miraculous birth (1947), or how it suffered the pangs of delivery (1930s), or should we trail back further to find the point of conception or the luring of hearts that began even before that. How are we to uphold the defining moments announced by great leaders and dismiss all the uncountable moments lived by the millions who drove those leaders and stood behind them – how many rallies, how many nodding souls, how many affirmations pass on enough energy to make a nation move, to make history churn!
This is precisely the reason why the Quaid of this nation-state could not be a secular! A man who will harness the immense energy of a masses that essentially identifies itself with its religious belief – an Islamic masses that had culturally segregated itself from the Hindu masses in spite of originating from within it – that man cannot alienated himself from the ideology of that masses and yet represent it.
But perhaps it is more interesting to ask wherefrom the idea of the Quaid being a secular originated in the first place? Some would think this to be a creation of the liberal mindset that evolved later in the country – but a geopolitical analysis shows a possible broader base!
The two World Wars were the deadliest of human history, but they also brought with them the demise of great empires including the German, Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian and later the Qing and the Japanese empires. All these centuries-old empires had not gone down just because of war – inside each fall is a story of internal revolutionary movements that accompanied the wars. All anti-monarchy movements were styled on the French Revolution’s socialist democracy, a democracy that was born of Europe’s hate for religious dogma and its love for logics and sciences.
After the World Wars this same socialism became the powerful idea for each colonized nation to fight with against their colonial occupiers. This socialism had some essential elements, it was based on ‘people’s power’, it was anti-monarchy, it was anti-capitalism and it was secular. Independence leaders from Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Muslim belt, all embraced this idea as a means to the end of gaining independence. Although many Muslim leaders redefined their socialism in their own terms creating a variety of Islamic socialisms – but there were also some that embraced the idea Kamal Ataturk of Turkey and Mahmūd Tarzī of Afghanistan. Leaders that had studied abroad and spent some years especially in Britain and France, were thought off more so as ambassadors of those countries than of their own people. In this pretext many who yearned for religion-free life, would be right to expect from an anglicized Jinnah, that he would move the Muslims of the Subcontinent from a conservative thought to a modern one – even if Jinnah started with some modern ideas, he changed!
This change came with WW2, when with the intent to secure calm and confidence of the Indian people the British acceded to the 1937 elections as mandated by the Government of India Act 1935.
These elections, though held in 11 out of 17 provinces, proved to be an eye-opener for the Muslims of the Subcontinent, and more so a blessing in an ugly disguise. Because the Hindu leaders of the Congress, which had the general support of the Muslims until now, and who had won majority in this election, was unable to conceal its Hinduvta thinking anymore; they rushed to uphold extremist Hindu ideology upon all the population, failing to conceal the hatred and enmity they had harbored against the Muslims all along.
Jinnah was heart-broken for the atrocities committed by the Hindu majority upon an overwhelming Muslim minority; inside him the dream of a united secular India was shattered. In this same event the Muslim League, what had been striving for a broader support by the Muslim masses until now, found itself to have become the single pivot of Muslim hope, and the Quaid decided to embrace it.
The poet philosopher Allama Iqbal had corresponded with Jinnah all through this time and urged Jinnah to lead the Muslims out of the trap of a united democratic India, where the Hindu majority would constantly suppress the Muslims.
In 1940, at Lahore, when the Pakistan Resolution was passed, it was announced clearly by the Quaid and his assembly that United India was not an option, he said:
“No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”
Underlying this simple history, are some simple facts that cannot be altered by stubborn denial. In a united India with Hindus, Muslims and people of other religions all living together would have to be secular; as that would be the only guarantee for the religious and cultural independence of large masses of the Muslims. But only, since that had proven to be practically an impossibility owing to Hindu political attitude, had the Quaid gone for an independent Muslim majority state; wherein secularism does not remain a democratic necessity, as there is no possibility for Muslims to suppress Muslims.
Yes there may have been a need to be secular among the sects between Islam and the ~2% minorities within the Muslim majority in Pakistan, and that secularism is a part of Islam itself. Islam safeguards the religion, culture and all legal and civil rights of non-Muslim minorities.
In fact the Quaid was just as secular as Islam is; Islam gave the declaration of peace and reconciliation to humanity, it gave the manifesto of treating the minority as a privileged select under special custody and protection of the Muslim majority. But this is only as long as this minority is not allowed to distort the Islamic religious and cultural values of the state and its people. For, such an act would be equivalent to snatching the very identity for which, 70 years ago, events had been moved by ardent processions of millions of Muslims around the Subcontinent; for a separate Muslim homeland; to make a history that cannot be made every day; a history that is born by volumes of fervor, zeal and activity, and mountains of resolve and faith.
When the Quaid embraced the leadership of the League, he knew that the League was Muslim, he knew that the Muslims would stand behind him only if he would be a promise of Muslim revival for them and he knew their love and their commitment to their religious identity. The Quaid could not have become the leader of such a fundamentally Islamic masses without turning into a fundamentalist too – and he proved every now and then that he fundamentally believed in an Islamic state:
‘What relationships knits the Muslims into one whole, which is the formidable rock on which the Muslim edifice has been erected, which is the sheet anchor providing base to the Muslim Millat, the relationship, the sheet anchor and the rock is the Holy Quran.’ (Address At Islamia College Peshawar)