Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Islamic Roots of Pakistan

A Nation Insufficiently Imagined? Debating Pakistan in Late Colonial North India
by Venkat Dhulipala
Indian Economic Social History Review July/September 2011 vol. 48 no. 3 377-405

This paper is a must-read.   But here is an excerpt, emphasis and {} added.  This is about how Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani put the idea of Pakistan in a Quranic/historic context, that helped the Muslim League win the 1945-46 elections

I'm told by a respected BRFer that

Jinnah & ML were able to 'recruit' such key conspirators as Usmani or the Pir of Manki Sharif (who won NWFP for the ML and also sent jihadists into J&K in October 1947) for their pet Pakistan project. Jinnah conceded space to these Islamists in order to win their support. In the previous page we saw how Jinnah promised allegorically to Mawdudi that the land he was acquiring can be used to build a mosque. But, with the Pir of Manki Sharif, who was more rustic and not sophisticated like Mawdudi, Jinnah was forced to spell out the exact details. The letter that Jinnah wrote to the Pir of Manki Sharif, in Naushera of NWFP, in which he said that Shariah will be imposed in Pakistan to manage the affairs of the Muslim Community, was produced in the Constituent Assembly in 1949 to support the Objectives Resolution.

In fact, the two Usmani brothers (Zafar Ahmed Usmani & Shabbir Ahmed Usmani) became the lynchpin during the critical phase before and after Independence. They became very close to Jinnah. Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani had already apostatized Shi'a (and Jinnah was a Shi'a !). This Usmani was asked by Jinnah himself to raise the Pakistani flag in Karachi, the then capital, on August 14, 1947. It was this same Usmani who later drafted the Objectives Resolution. He also led the janazaa prayers of Jinnah (in the Sunni way) in public after Ms. Fatima Jinnah had secretly conducted the same in a Shi'a way.  Maulana Usmani famously demanded ‘jiziya’ from non-Muslims in the Constituent Assembly and told Pakistan’s first Minister for Law and Labour, Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Hindu, that non-Muslims should not hold such key posts in an Islamic state, an advice that a disgusted Mondal took to heart and resigned.

Begin excerpt:

The 1945-46 Elections and Islamic Arguments for Pakistan

ML {Muslim League} propaganda had declared that Pakistan would be an Islamic state, but the lack of specificity in this claim had invited fierce critiques from nationalist ulama such as Seoharvi.

In response, the elaboration and defense of Pakistan as an Islamic state was seriously taken up by another respected Deobandi alim Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani.

A long time functionary of the JUH {Jamiat-ulama-e-Hind}, he broke away from his parent organization to form the Jamiatul-ulama-i-Islam on the eve of the 1945-46 elections in order to organize pro-Pakistan ulama and support the ML in its final push towards its declared goal.

Usmani's support for Pakistan was crucial for the ML's success in these elections, not just in the UP but also in the Muslim majority provinces.

Usmani first put the ML's two-nation theory beyond the pale of critique by arguing that it was not the invention of any man but that its origins lay in the Quran.

The Quran, he argued, decreed that the only valid classification by which the world could be ordered was one between Momin and Kafirs and that tribe, clan, race, nationality, had no such place in such a scheme. Hence, the ten crore sons of Islam were a distinct qaum which no fallacious doctrines of Muttahida Qaumiyat could ever obscure.

However, he still had to make a case for a territorial state in the form of Pakistan which implicitly stood in tension with the ideas of a universal community of believers transcending narrow local identifications. Usmani therefore began by characterizing Pakistan as the first Islamic state in history that would attempt to reconstruct the Prophet's utopia of Medina. He indeed used Pakistan (also meaning "pure land") and Medina interchangeably to solidify their identification in the public mind.

Invoking powerful metaphors from Islamic history, Usmani explained Pakistan's significance by pointing out that instead of establishing Pakistan in his native Mecca, the Prophet had migrated to Medina. The Prophet's decision, he asserted, was based on his conviction that Pakistan could be established only in an area where Muslims could practice their religion with complete freedom, for it was only in such a land that the Muslim community could develop to its fullest potentiality. Given the unrelenting hostility to his teaching among influential sections of Meccan society, this would not have been possible in Mecca, thus compelling the hijrat.

Usmani consequently argued that an Islamic state resembling Medina could never be established in an undivided post-British India even with extensive devolution of powers to the provinces, since the Hindus would always control power at the federal center due to their numerical majority. Pakistan therefore needed to be a separate, sovereign Islamic state where Muslims could live under the sharia, free from non-Islamic control.

Usmani outlined Pakistan‟s significance to Islam in the modern world by declaring that Pakistan was the first step in the process of self purification of Muslims, purging them of all their earlier narrow identities based on race, class, sect, language and region and creating an equal brotherhood of Islam as had been the case in Medina. Usmani here pointed to the many resemblances between the unity that developed between the various Arab tribes comprised of the first followers of the Prophet and the dramatic solidarity that had developed among Indian Muslims as a result of the struggle for Pakistan.

Usmani therefore declared that just like Medina was created due to the hard work and close co-operation between the muhajirin and the ansar, Pakistan would similarly come into existence due to the close co- operation between Muslims from "minority provinces" such as the UP and the inhabitants of the Pakistan areas. Thanking the former for their great sacrifices in creating Pakistan even though they were aware that their current homelands would remain outside it, Usmani assured them that their sacrifices would not go in vain. Invoking a glorious chapter from Islamic history, he declared that just as Medina had provided a base for the eventual victory of Islam in Arabia and the wide world beyond, Pakistan would pave the way for the triumphal return of Islam as the ruling power over the entire subcontinent.

Usmani made it clear that Pakistan would be an Islamic state in which the ulama would have primacy in matters of passing legislation, administering law, besides regulating the religious and cultural life of Muslims. He laid out the different Islamic offices that would be part of the institutional fabric of Pakistan - the office of Shaikhul Islam who would "act as the ecclesiastic head of the Muslim Millat", the Grand Mufti working under the Shaikhul Islam and responsible for guiding and regulating Islamic Qazi courts adjudicating cases of every recognized Muslim sect according to its own school of Fiqh, a Baitul Mal to administer Zakat, Sadaqat, Muslim charities and communal properties and manage the public finances, the Diwan-us-Shariat, etc., etc.

Indeed the JUI‟s founding charter declared that it was "against the evils of Gandhism, Communism, and Godless politics of Kemalism called Laicism or secularization of the state and economy, and divorce of life from the universal moral laws of the Shariat."

While dwelling at length on the Islamic functionaries of the state, Usmani did not go into any great detail about the kind of Islamic laws that he envisaged for Pakistan. He further made it clear that an Islamic state implementing Islamic laws could not materialize overnight. It could only emerge out of a process of gradual evolution. As Usmani noted,
Just like the night withdraws slowly and the light of the day spreads, just like an old chronic patient takes a step towards health and does not at once become healthy, in the same way, Pakistan is a step in the direction of our national health (qaumi sehat), towards our high noon (nisfun nihar); but a gradual step (tadriji kadam).
In order to defend this approach, Usmani noted that even Madina had reached its crest only in a gradual way. The Prophet could have crushed his enemies in an instant and established Pakistan immediately, but then it was God's will that the umma had to arrive at it gradually receiving guidance from the Prophet at every step.

Usmani therefore reminded his followers that Pakistan was only the first step in the eventual establishment of such an Islamic state. His theory of the gradual development of the Islamic state therefore further dovetailed neatly with the declared aims of Jinnah and the ML leadership since it left room for deliberation and negotiation in the process of its eventual establishment.

But more importantly, Pakistan was seen as the first step in a new glorious chapter of Islam's triumph in the modern world. Within the subcontinent it would liberate Muslims in the "majority provinces" while also extending a protective umbrella over Muslims who would be left behind in Hindu India. At the same time Pakistan would act as a bulwark against an expanding Hindu imperialism thus protecting Muslim countries of west Asia. Here Usmani waxed eloquent on Pakistan's possession of all the attributes of sovereignty which were required of a nation-state by seamlessly utilizing arguments put forth by the ML leadership. But more importantly what was implied was its potential to emerge as a great power on the world stage just as Medina was the locus point from which the triumphal spread of Islam all over the world got underway.

No other place was as well positioned as Pakistan to blend the riches of Islamic heritage with the blessings of modernity. The strategic location of this new Medina would enable it spread to spread its influence both eastwards over the remaining parts of the subcontinent and westwards over the Muslim countries of west Asia. As the fountainhead for a global Islamic renaissance, Pakistan would take the lead in the rejuvenation and consolidation of new global umma, within a few decades after the formal burial of the Ottoman Caliphate.

Usmani's insistence of Pakistan as a first step, as a work in progress in a larger project involving the Islamic world meshed perfectly with the Pan-Islamist rhetoric of the ML leadership. As Khaliquzzaman emphatically declared, "Pakistan is not the final goal of the Muslims. We want more. Pakistan is only the jumping off ground. The time is not far distant when Muslim countries of the world will have to stand in line with Pakistan and then only the jumping off ground will have reached its fruition.‟

Consecration of Pakistan's territory as a modern powerful Medina, taking care of both material and spiritual concerns of Muslims, effectively crushed competing narratives that sought to make a case for an undivided India by claiming superior sacredness for Muslim lands in the "minority provinces".

For the interim, Usmani invoked the ML's "hostage population‟ theory as well as visions of a powerful Pakistan‟s protective umbrella over them, to reassure "minority provinces" Muslims over their security concerns. As he tersely noted, "just like we are worried about our minority in Hindustan, don't you think the Hindus are worried about their 3 crore Hindu minority in Pakistan?"

If Usmani borrowed the language of realpolitik from the ML's "secular" leadership, his theological arguments in turn were utilized by ML leaders to burnish their advocacy of Pakistan. This osmosis of ideas between these two groups and the successful intertwining of secular and theological arguments in favor of Pakistan proved decisive in the elections of 1945-46.

End excerpt.

No comments:

Post a Comment