The leader of the Pakistan Movement, Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, appeared to be a secular person. But he spearheaded the Pakistan movement by using Islam as a slogan. In 1946, just prior to the Partition, a 10-member delegation from the British Parliament visited India. A member of this delegation, Mr. Sorenson, later wrote a book titled My Impression of India, where he mentioned meeting Mr. Jinnah. He described him as ‘a sword of Islam resting in a secular scabbard-sheath.’
Mr. Jinnah took over the leadership of the Muslim League in 1934. His movement for Pakistan was spearheaded entirely in the name of Islam. But when Pakistan was established and he was appointed its first Governor-General, he delivered a speech on August 11, 1947 in the Pakistani Assembly, declaring that the state of Pakistan would be based on Secularism (and not on Islam). He announced:
You are 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 […] 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.
I do not agree with Mr. Jinnah’s general way of thinking. His ‘two-nation’ theory, his demand for the Partition of the country, his declaration that ‘If we do not succeed in our struggle for Pakistan, the very trace of Muslims and Islam will be obliterated from the face of India’—all these are claims that I disagree with completely. But I basically agree with what he mentioned in his speech in the Pakistan Assembly quoted above.
The fact is that by acquiring a bit of land by using Islam as a slogan does not mean that Islam can be established there. This sort of idea might be the fanciful longing of a poet or a story-writer, but it simply cannot happen in the real world. Islam is established in an Islamic society, not in a bit of land acquired by using Islam as a slogan.
The society that came to form Pakistan was not, from the point of view of an Islamic state, a properly prepared society. That is why before the establishment of an Islamic state there it was necessary to enkindle the true spirit of Islam among the people living there and to help them to accept Islamic commandments. Without this, it was simply impossible to establish an Islamic state. Furthermore, the preparation of an individual and society takes place using peaceful means, such as preaching and reform, and not through the force of the state and the law. This being the case, the right approach for Pakistan to adopt was what Mr. Jinnah had spoken of in his speech quoted above—that the state should be established on the basis of Secularism, not ideologically, but, rather, temporarily, in accordance with practical circumstances. This would have meant that the common affairs of the state would have been based on Secularism (or, in other words, on the basis of worldly interests), and people would be free to build their lives in the non-political sphere in accordance with their own religious beliefs.
Secularism is but another name for enabling an adjustment between temporary conditions and religious demands that are of an abiding nature. It is not sacred, unlike religion, and nor is it a complete ideology. It is simply a realistic scheme. Seen from the religious perspective, its claim is limited. If a society is as yet unprepared for its state structure to be based on religion, the common worldly affairs of the state can be conducted on the basis of Secularism till such time as the society can accept a collective system based on religion. The Prophet of Islam adopted this very same wise approach in Makkah and Madinah.
In brief, according to this approach, one acknowledges the prevailing conditions, and works to prepare people to accept collective affairs being regulated by religious commandments. Once this happens, it is possible to enforce these commandments in society.
If Pakistan had adopted Mr. Jinnah’s secular principle, as outlined in his speech to the Pakistan Assembly, it would have proved immensely beneficial to it. It would have helped the Pakistani ruling class in stabilizing the country’s politics, economy and administration, while religious groups could have focused on the religious, ethical, educational and social reform of the people and nurturing a truly pious society. There would have thus been a sort of division of labour between the political class and religious groups working in harmony. In this way, these groups may have gone on to coalesce, ushering in a broad-based modern Islamic system.
Not long after Pakistan came into being, groups that are conventionally referred to as Islam pasand or ‘pro-Islamic’ became very active in the country, demanding that Pakistan be declared an Islamic state. This demand was voiced by numerous ulema and intellectuals. One of the key spokespersons of this movement was Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-e Islami.
Maulana Maududi was not directly involved in the movement for the creation of Pakistan. But when Pakistan came into being, he felt that it was possible to turn his political ideas into reality there. He developed a simple formula to convert Pakistan into an Islamic state—Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, Pakistan has been allotted to Islam, and so, no form of government other than an Islamic one could exist in Pakistan. Maulana Maududi then launched a fiery agitation all across the country, organizing rallies to whip up popular support and topple the country’s secular rulers and replace them with a government of his liking. He participated several times in the country’s elections, and was indirectly involved in the hanging of the former Pakistani Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
The furore raised by Maulana Abul Ala Maududi and his ‘pro-Islamic’ group gravely damaged all of Pakistan’s social traditions. It divided Pakistan into two, between the government and its supporters, on the hand, and opponents of the government, on the other. Both were at each other’s throats. The agitation and strife that resulted from this played havoc with the country’s progress and gravely damaged prospects for work in the field of religious education and social reform.
Despite the great furor that they raised, it proved impossible for Pakistan’s ‘pro-Islamic’ groups to grab the ‘keys of power’, to use a favourite phrase of theirs, although, coincidentally, it was their good fortune that a man whom they were fond—General Zia ul-Haq—grabbed political power and became the country’s ruler. General Zia enjoyed the general support of not just Pakistani ‘pro-Islam’ groups but also the Muslim religious constituency across South Asia, and even all over the Muslim world.
General Zia came to power announcing that he would establish an Islamic system in Pakistan. He enjoyed complete control of Pakistan for 11 years, but he was not able to make his promise a reality.
After they had waited for some years, one day a delegation of Pakistani ulema and other ‘pro-Islamic’ people met with General Zia and asked him to fulfill his promise and immediately establish an Islamic system in Pakistan. General Zia answered them in all seriousness, saying that he was ready to establish an Islamic system in the country, but that for this he needed 200 reliable officers. If the delegation could provide him 200 sincere and honest men, he would start work on this at once. The ‘Islamic’ delegation replied that they themselves did not have 200 such men! And then, after this, with a smile, the meeting concluded!
This incident reminds me of a joke about a Pathan. Once, a Pathan man caught someone whom he branded a kafir and hurled him to the ground and sat on top of him. He drew out his knife and said to the man, ‘Recite the kalima, or else I shall kill you!’ The poor man was very scared. He said, ‘If you demand, I shall recite the kalima. Now, tell me, what is the kalima?’ The Pathan replied, ‘I myself don’t know!’
Pakistan’s so-called ‘pro-Islam’ groups have created great havoc in the country with their fiery agitations in the name of demanding the establishment of an Islamic system. In the course of this, they have destroyed all the social traditions of the country and have turned Pakistan into an extremely violent society. And now, when everything has been destroyed, they find that Pakistani society is not ready to accept an Islamic system, that the people of the country do not have the real Islamic spirit, that there is no unity between various groups in the country, that the Pakistani people do not subordinate their personal interests to the interests of the community and lack the awareness to distinguish between a true guide and an exploitative leader, and that in that vast land, there are not even a couple of hundred reliable people who can be entrusted with the governance of the country! And so, this tumultuous movement in the name of Islam gravely damaged the prospects for Islam in Pakistan, instead of doing anything to advance this cause.
(This essay is a translation of an excerpt from Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s Urdu book Hind-Pak Diary)