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Islam and Politics ( 26 Oct 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamic Rhetoric in Pakistan – II by Hamza Alavi

By Hamza Alavi


Islamic and Secular Ideologies of Muslims in India

There is a widespread tendency, in the language of scholars as well as in the rhetoric of politicians, to attribute political and ideological positions to 'Muslims' of India, in an over -generalised way, as if Muslims of different social strata and classes in different regions, were equally involved. That is manifestly untrue. There were sharp differences in these respects not only between different classes and strata but also between Muslim majority provinces and Muslim minority provinces.



I 'MUSLIM' POSITIONS ('All-India - but main base in Muslim minority areas).

i. Islamic Traditionalism- (I) The Ulema I : 'Deobandis'

ii Islamic Traditionalism- (II) The Ulema II: 'Barelvis' & Pirs

iii. Islamic Fundamentalism_- Maududi and the Jamaat-e-Islami

iv. Jamiat-e-Ahrar Anti-colonial 'nationalist' Muslims-- anti-. Muslim League

v. Islamic Modernism - Sir Syed Ahmad Khan & Iqbal

vi. Secular Muslim Nationalism - exemplified by Jinnah and the Muslim League



vii. Secular Provincial Non-communal Transactional Politics:

Landlord Dominated Right Wing Punjab Unionist Party and various landlord political groups inSind, being the ruling groups/parties in both cases.

viii. Secular Provincial Non-Communal Radical Politics:

The Krishak Proja Party of Bengal, led by A.K. Fazlul Haq, the ruling Party in Bengal; Hindu and Muslim tenants together against Zamindars.

x Secular Non-Communal Nationalist Muslims(in Congress Party)

in Sarhad, the N.W.F.P. the ruling party was the Congress under Ghaffar Khan


It was in the Muslim 'minority' provinces, especially in the UP, rather than those in which Muslims were in a majority, that specifically Muslim political and ideological movements were generated. Until the late 1940s, when Jinnah and the Muslim League managed to form an uneasy alliance with dominant groups in the Muslim majority provinces, their politics were not even Muslim nationalist not to say 'Islamic'. They were, rather non-communal politics of landlord dominated groups and political parties.

We have identified eight 'Muslim' ideological-political positions amongst Muslims in India. In addition to the groups mentioned in the above table, there are also Shias, who are estimated to number about 15% of the population of Pakistan; some estimates are considerably greater. No reliable data are available. Shias organised the All-India Shia Conference in 1907 to rival Sunni organisations. But, given the fact that leading Shias of the UP were active in the Muslim League instead, the Shia Conference did not make any headway. Since the 1980s, under General Zia, some extremist Shia organisations have surfaced, that parallel extremist Sunni organisations. These are complex and contradictory reactions to the Government's campaign for Islamisation. Shia organisations have been influenced by the dramatic impact of the Iranian revolution, and they are demanding imposition in the country of 'Fiqh-e-Ja'faria', the Shia legal code, rather than a Sunni code. This is obviously a quite extra-ordinary and unrealistic demand which expresses Shia fears of being forced to accept Sunni legislation. The main current of Shia opinion in the country however seems to favour the notion of a secular state.

Contrary-wise there have been equally strident demands that Pakistan be declared a Sunni Hanafi republic and the Hanafi 'fiqh', or legal code, be made the law of the land, that all other sects be declared minorities and be reduced to second class citizenship. This has led to a great deal of sectarian violence. These developments are the inevitable logical extensions of the claim made by the Zia regime that Islamic Law be imposed in Pakistan. The question is: Which Islamic Law ?' Each sect expects that its own particular version be acknowledged and imposed on the rest. Rather than promote any conception of 'Islamic Unity' this is a powerful recipe for disunity and inter-sectarian strife.

There have been numerous other Muslim political movements during the colonial period, such as Khaksars and Ahrars. The latter were extremely hostile to the Pakistan movement. We can also distinguish several sectarian divisions among Sunni Hanafis some of whom are, from time to time, at war with each other. Of these I have listed only three main sectarian categories, namely the i) the 'traditionalist Deobandi Ulema', ii) the 'traditionalist Barelvi Ulema' and iii) the Islamic Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, whose beliefs and creeds are quite incompatible with each other. (see below) We may also mention two others namely the Ahl-i-Hadith who deny the validity of the four medieval schools of Islam and insist on a literal application of the Quran and Hadith and the Ahl-i-Quran who go even further in demanding absolute reliance only on the Quran, casting some doubt on the reliability of the Hadith which was transmitted through fallible human channels and therefore precarious. Each declares the others to be 'kafirs' or infidels. Summing up evidence taken from all major religious groups a high level judicial Committee of Inquiry (into sectarian riots in 1953), which was headed by the country's two most eminent judges, concluded as follows: 'The net result of all this is that neither shias nor sunnis, nor Deobandis nor Ahl-i-Hadith nor Barelvis are Muslims and any change from one view to the other must be accompanied in an Islamic State with the penalty of death, if the State is in the hands of the party which considers the others to be kafirs.12

Traditionalist Islam: The Ulema -'Deobandi' and Barelvi

The 'Ulema' (plural of alim, a man of - religious - learning) is a grandiose term, which is often used quite loosely, as for example in the results of a survey recently published by the Government of Pakistan which finds the vast majority of them to be barely literate. To be properly classified amongst the 'Ulema' a person would have been educated at a religious seminary and would have gone through the 'Dars-e-Nizami' a syllabus that was laid down in medieval India and has hardly changed. Generally, they have little knowledge of the world that they live in, nor even perhaps of the world of Islam except for myths and legends. They inhabit little temples of their own uncomprehending and enclosed minds in which they intone slogans, petrified words and dogmas. Affairs of state and society are, generally, beyond their narrowed vision. There are only a few amongst them who have had the benefit of some tolerable education and who, in their own ways, try to follow current affairs.

The Ulema of the Sunni Hanafi Mazhab, as mentioned above are themselves divided into warring groups of whom the two main are popularly known as the 'Deobandis' ( after the great seminary at Deoband ) and 'Barelvis', after the town of Bareilly in the UP, which was the seat of their mentor Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi. Deobandis and Barelvis differ in many respects, by virtue of their different doctrinal positions, the different classes (and regions) amongst whom they have influence and their different political stances. The hallmark of Deobandi Ulema in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was their unremitting anti-colonialism. Barelvis Ulema and Pirs, unlike the Deobandis, were not involved in anti-colonial ideology and struggle. On the contrary, most of them, with few exceptions, supported the colonial regime and, were in turn, favoured by it.

The 'Deobandi' Ulema

It took the Deobandi Ulema many decades of British rule before they began to show their eventual deep resentment against it. One should add, parenthetically, that the label Deobandi is not wholly appropriate here, except for brevity, for the eponymous Dar-ul-Uloom at Deoband was not founded until 1867. Very few of these worthies played a part in the Wahhabi movement of the early 19th century which was led by men of the sword, the last defenders of Indian feudalism, rather than the dispensers of law. Be that as it may the belated hostility of these Ulema to British rule was derived from changes that were being brought about during the middle decades of the 19th century by the colonial state, that directly impinged upon their lives and livelihood.

There were three contexts in which the changes impinged upon them. Firstly, in pre-colonial India Muslim Ulema and Hindu Pandits played a central role in the judicial system and held lucrative and influential positions. That continued in the early years of colonial rule. But soon a new legal system was being established to meet new needs of the expanding colonial capitalist economy. The old feudal dispensations were no longer appropriate. Along with the new laws and new types of courts to adjudicate them, a new class of English educated lawyers and judges took over from the Ulema and they were pushed out of their influential high status and lucrative jobs. Secondly, the Ulema were also being pushed out of the educational system. That process was a bit more slow, though that was not because the colonial regime spared any efforts to speed it up. Indian clerks were needed who would be educated along lines that would prepare them for service in the apparatus of colonial government. The traditional schools run by Ulemas (and Hindu Pandits), with their emphasis on classical learning, Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit, were no longer suited to that purpose. They were replaced by new Anglo-vernacular schools, with the active sponsor ship and support from the colonial state. The hostility of the Ulema to the colonial regime no doubt owed much to these bread and butter questions, although it was expressed and legitimised in terms of moral out rage. A third factor underlying the anti-colonialism of the Ulema was the plight of Indian weavers, the Julahas, who were their most fervent followers. Indian weavers, once the most prosperous of the Indian artisan classes, were devastated by the colonial impact and consequent destruction of Indian textile manufacturing. Julahas, were therefore amongst the most embittered opponents of colonialism. They became extremely bigoted and developed an uncompromising attitude towards the West. The Ulema's outlook reflected that also.

All these factors bound the Ulema to the Indian nationalist cause. They never argued for the setting up of an 'Islamic' state nor a Muslim state. Quite the contrary. They called upon Muslims to join hands with their Hindu brothers in the patriotic cause against foreign rule. To rationalise that position they put forward a theory that constituted an essentially secular public philosophy. They separated the domain of faith, as a private domain, from the public domain of politics and government. This was formulated quite explicitly by Maulana Hasan Ahmad Madani of Deoband who argued that:-

(i) faith was universal and could not be contained within national boundaries but

(ii) that nationality was a matter of geography and Muslims were bound to the nation of their birth by obligations of loyalty along with their non-Muslim fellow citizens.

Hindus, Muslims and members of other communities would live together in harmony in independent India which, although not 'dar-ul-Islam', as it would be under Muslim rule was, nevertheless, 'dar-ul-aman', the land of peace, where Muslims would be guaranteed freedom to practice their faith, where it would be the duty of Muslims to live as loyal and law abiding citizens. It was the duty of the Muslim in India to fight with a sense of dedication for the freedom and independence of his country quite as much as he was obliged to fight for the liberty of his conscience and the sanctity of his faith. The political philosophy of the Ulema was a peculiar amalgam of pan-Islamic ideas and Indian nationalist ideas which were fused in their anti-imperialism.13

That contradictory amalgam of ideas came together in the Khilafat Movement (1919-23) in the aftermath of the First World War, which was the climactic moment in the political struggles of the Deobandi Ulema. The aim of the movement, was to resist the removal of the Ottoman Caliph from his high office. It was a bizarre movement of religious obscurantism that unleashed rabid and atavistic passions among Indian Muslims. It ran counter to the aspirations of Turkish and Arab nationalism. It was strongly disapproved by Jinnah. But, ironically, it was backed by Gandhi, leader of secular Indian Nationalism! The movement promised to isolate the Muslim salariat leadership from Muslim masses by arousing their fanatical passions behind a hopeless and anachronistic cause. In 1919, under the leadership of Deoband and in the wake of the Khilafat movement, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind was formed as the political organisation of the Deobandi Ulema. It was during that movement, that they made their biggest, though somewhat brief, impact on the Indian political scene. But they left behind a bitter legacy of narrow communalism especially amongst some sections of the Muslim urban subordinate classes. In the late 1940s the Muslim League made great efforts to win over the Ulema to the Pakistan cause. They eventually succeeded in November 1945, when Pakistan was already in prospect, in winning over a breakaway group from the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind to form the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam which has established itself as a political party in Pakistan. 

Barelvi Ulema and Pirs

In contrast to the Deobandi Ulema, Barelvis profess a more populist Islam, more infused with superstition, and also syncretism, that make up the religious beliefs of the peasantry. Barelvi version of Islam emphasises belief in miracles and powers of saints and Pirs, worship at shrines and the dispensing of amulets and charms, which are all condemned by Deobandis as un-Islamic. Deobandis and Barelvis detest each other and much sectarian conflict consists of fights between the two Pirs or Sufi shaikhs, play an important part in the religious life of the peasantry. Barelvi Islam is closely tied to devotion to pirs and belief in their powers of intercession (wasilah), whereas Deobandis emphasise personal redemption by rigorous performance of religious ritual and avoidance of sin. However, in the course of extended research in Punjab villages I found that the peasant makes a clear distinction between the powers of the spirit of dead Pirs and those of living Pirs. He goes to shrines of dead Pirs and prays for his intercession for a variety of purposes. He believes that the spirit of the dead Pir can hear him so that he communicates with him directly and has no need for intermediaries. He may show some deference but not too much reverence for the Sajjada Nashins, the guardians of the shrines, who are usually descendants of the dead saint. TheSajjada Nashins are credited by scholars to have spiritual powers. But the peasant himself does not seem to recognise that. Propositions in the literature about powers of the Sajjada Nashins over the peasant,14 not least in the political arena, are a complete myth which cannot survive close scrutiny in the light of observation of what actually goes on. Where Sajjada Nashins do play a role in local level politics, as they often do, they do so by virtue of their rather more material powers as landowners rather than some spiritual hold that they are presumed to have over the peasants.

Living Pirs fall into two categories. Firstly there are Pirs as petty practitioners, dealers in miracles and magic, at a price. They provide amulets or anointed oil to protect the peasant from evil or specific remedies which he buys from them. Such Pirs can make barren wombs fertile, or ease the pain of incurable disease and so on. They take their lucrative business seriously and avoid getting involved in politics for, given the factional division of local level politics, they would run the risk of losing half their clientele if they were to get politically involved. During my extended period of fieldwork in Punjab villages I came across only one solitary case where such a Pir did intervene in politics, due to some exceptional circumstances. He declared that as a man of God politics was not a matter that he would care to get involved in. But he was also able to invoke some high moral principles to explain why on that particular occasion he was compelled to do so. In the event his intervention was totally unsuccessful. Everyone (including the Pir himself) could see who, in the event, were those that disobeyed him. The dissident group, in explaining their behaviour to me, made a distinction between the spiritual domain in which the Pir had powers and the worldly domain in which he did not, so that they were not obliged to follow the Pir's call in a matter which should not concern him.

Secondly there are Pirs of an altogether different kind who operate on a a much higher level. Their relationship with peasants is not a direct one based on 'spiritual powers' but is rather a mediated one through landlords and local faction leaders who control the peasantry politically. Such Pirs have mureeds or disciples, who take an oath of allegiance (bai'a, or, in Punjabi bait) to the Pir. At the core of such Pir's coterie of mureeds are powerful landlords, village level faction leaders, and not least government officials, who together constitute a free masonry exchanging patronage and favours, which is tightly organised and controlled by the Pir. They operate with great effect in the political arena, as well as in the dispensing of government favours, through control and distribution of patronage and favours. Their mutual bonds are expressed in the language of kinship and the mureeds consider each other pirbhais, or pir-brothers. The Pir himself, being at the centre of such a structure of 'generalised reciprocity' wields great power. But that is not direct power over the peasantry and it has little to do with religious beliefs of the peasantry. It is a myth to suppose that such Pirs, by virtue of charismatic power, have political authority over the peasants in general, although where their landlords are mureeds. Pirs may indirectly control peasant followers in the political arena. In most cases such Pirs are big and powerful landowners in their own rights and control their own peasants. Political recruitment of peasants by such Pirs therefore takes place on the basis of distinctly non-spiritual powers.15

Deobandi and Barelvi Ulema in Pakistan

Historically, Deobandis have tended to be mainly urban and from middle and upper strata of society whereas Barelvi influence has been mainly in rural areas, with a populist appeal. This has changed somewhat in recent decades, for Barelvi influence has extended to towns and cities, amongst the lumpen-proletariat (peasants in cities) and an insecure urban petty bourgeoisie. Traditionally Barelvi influence has been weaker in the UP (with the exception perhaps of the peasantry of south-western UP ) than in the Punjab and to some degree in Sind. On the other hand the main base of Deobandis was in the UP especially among urban Muslims. In Pakistan they make up a large proportion of Muhajirs, refugees from India. As an unmerited legacy of the Wahhabi movement they are also well entrenched amongst Pathans of the Sarhad (the NWFP) and northern (Pushtun) districts of Baluchistan. That influence now extends, to a certain degree, to Pathan workers and lumpen-proletariat in Pakistan's cities, especially in Karachi; these are their storm troopers in sectarian riots against Shias and Barelvis.

In Pakistan both Deobandis and Barelvis have organised themselves as political parties, the former as the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam ( JUI ) founded in November 1945 and the latter as the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP ) which was founded in 1948. The political influence of each is much more limited than their sectarian following. In Pakistan's first General election - in 1970 the JUI won only seven seats (out of a total of 138 for West Pakistan) Not surprisingly six of these were from Sarhad and one from a Pushtun constituency of Baluchistan. The JUP too won seven seats, all from West Pakistan, of which four were from Punjab and three from Sindh, one of them being from the city of Karachi.16 In both cases the rural seats were won not so much on the strength of religious commitment to the Party concerned but rather because the JUI candidates were allied to influential tribal leaders whereas in the case of the JUP they relied on powerful landlords and Pirs.

Before we leave the Ulema, we must take note of their respective positions on a doctrinal point of Deobandis and Barelvis on the one hand and Islamic Fundamentalists and Islamic Modernists on the other; and further certain crucial differences between the two latter. These doctrinal positions are pivotal to the terms in which the political debate between them is articulated. That debate centres around the concept of ijtihad which we may translate as 'interpretative development of doctrine in keeping with the spirit of Islam', on issues that cannot be decided by a manifest and direct applicability of injunctions of the Quran or the Hadith, or a solution offered by other prescribed rules. Ijtihad is the final remedy and for those who would admit to the possibility of Ijtihad, there are recognised methods by which it may be accomplished. The Traditionalist (Sunni) Ulema do not accept that it is possible to perform ijtihad; as they would put it, 'the gates of Ijtihad are closed'. For the 'traditionalists' Islamic doctrines, as formulated and codified by the 9th century AD, in the form of the teachings of the four orthodox Sunni schools which comprise their received tradition and doctrine is complete and final. For them it is fixed for eternity. Instead of Ijtihad they rely on taqlid, unwavering and unadulterated application of the received doctrine. The Islamic Modernists and Islamic Fundamentalists, on the other hand, each reject this Traditionalist view of the immutability and rigidity of the doctrine of the faith, that admits only the principle of taqlid, or doctrinal conformity. Instead, they insist on both the possibility as well as the necessity of ijtihad, to revivify Islam in keeping with new questions and issues that arise with constantly changing conditions in the world. Their different political positions turn, however, on their different solutions to the question of how ijtihad may be properly carried out, the 'fundamentalist' solution being an authoritarian one whereas the 'Modernist' tradition finds justification for the democratic political process in the search for Ijtihad.

Religious Reform Movements in India:

Background to Islamic Modernism

The colonial restructuring of India's political system shifted the centre of gravity of status and influence in Indian society from the landed gentry to the emerging salariat, members of the colonial bureaucratised state. This newly emerging class had different needs and outlook from those of pre-colonial upper classes. They began to develop a new life style and new ways and these found expression in new ideas. There was a 'Hindu Renaissance' which was followed, after an interval of a few decades by a 'Muslim Renaissance'. This time lag is usually explained by an assumption about 'Muslim backwardness' which is attributed to a variety of factors. A more plausible explanation for this time lag may lie in the fact that in places where the colonial transformation first got under way, namely the initial nodal points of colonial rule in Bengal, Bombay and Madras, the Muslim component of the new salariat was negligible in size and the new ideological perspectives were opened up by Hindu thinkers, who were the leading elements of that new class. It was much later that these changes reached the UP, the heartland of the Muslim salariat. There Muslims were far from 'backward'. Quite the contrary is true. While the proportion of Muslims in the population of the UP was quite small, nevertheless Muslims held the lion's share of salariat positions, especially in their higher echelons. Not surprisingly it was therefore in the UP that 'Muslim Renaissance' soon got under way, with the colonial transformation of the state apparatus there.

The Hindu Renaissance in India began with the Brahmo Samaj movement in the 1830s in Bengal, under the intellectual leadership of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. There were parallel movements in the other two major centres of colonialism in India, namely the Vedic Samaj in Madras and the Prarthna Samaj in Bombay. Some social anthropologists have misconceived the nature and purport of this movement and speak of it as 'an intellectual nativistic revival' and say, as Maloney does, that 'Ram Mohan Roy tried to recover and rationalise the spiritual essence of Hinduism'.17 Such a view fails completely to understand the rather more positive and forward looking rather than nostalgic concerns of these movements. They attempted to articulate quite new ideas though in the idiom of the established religion.

An opposite kind of misconception about these movements, far more common, is that these movements simply packaged ideas imported from Europe in locally made boxes; that these are examples of mere reflection of Western ideas, a borrowing and mechanical transmission from one culture to another. Such a view seems plausible, for liberal ideas were in ascendancy in the colonial metropolis, though it would be difficult to accuse British colonial officials of being the bearers of liberal ideas which they did not consider suited to India. The diffusionist theory of transmission of Western ideas to the colonised society fails to account for the fact that the ideas that were locally produced by intellectuals of the 'Hindu Renaissance' and the 'Muslim Renaissance' in India bore clearly the stamp of India's colonial situation and the peculiar character of its social structure. Their 'liberalism' (at least formally) was not that of an ideology of free and equal individuals, nor of laissez faire, which were the slogans of triumphant capitalism in England. It would be much more accurate to describe these new ideas as rationalism rather than liberalism. Nor were these ideas a crude import from the West, a popular but rather misguided and superficial notion that is current amongst scholars. These new ideas represented an authentic ideology of a new indigenous class, the salariat, and had its own quite specific contours. David Kopf, a perceptive scholar, referring to these movements of ideas, writes: 'Such radical notions as secularism, humanism and rationalism had to be reinterpreted to fit the Indian situation'. He points out that the new Indian classes produced a new ideology to suit their own circumstances and needs. These movements repudiated tyrannies of religious orthodoxy from sources within their own tradition.18

Islamic Modernism:

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Mohammad Iqbal

The 'Hindu Renaissance', as I pointed out above, was followed by 'Muslim Renaissance' which was pre-figured by writers and poets such as Mirza Ghalib and, later, articulated most clearly and force fully by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in his prolific writings. Sir Syed Ahmad was pioneer and most certainly the outstanding and most influential figure of the 'Muslim Renaissance'. Sir Syed Ahmad was also a very effective practical organiser, as well as a theoretician and major intellectual figure. His role and mission in life was to facilitate the induction of upper class UP Muslims into the colonial salariat. For that it was necessary to encourage them to move out of the traditional system of education (dominated and controlled by traditionalist and backward looking ulemas). Sir Syed Ahmad urged Muslims to take instead to English and Western education that would qualify them for jobs in the colonial salariat. He also preached the beneficent character of colonial rule and the absurdity of opposing it. His own personal life reflects the transition, of a member of the old UP aristocracy to the new salariat. He was from an noble family with long connections with Moghul Imperial rule, now less prosperous. He joined the service of the East India Company, against the wishes of his family, and rose to be a 'munsif', or sub-judge, which at the time, was about as high a position in the colonial state apparatus as an Indian could aspire to. He soon became a pioneer of a new rationalist public philosophy, but one which was expressed in the idiom of Islam. Nevertheless he was much reviled and attacked by the Ulema. Embroidered tales of his persecution by bigots have become a part of the mythology of the Muslim salariat.

It is not too surprising that Sir Syed Ahmad, the father of Islamic Modernism was directly influenced by Raja Ram Mohan Roy the father of Hindu Renaissance. As an impressionable young man Sir Syed Ahmad met Roy, who was on a visit to the Moghul court in 1831. He gave much prominence to an account of Roy's visit in his book Sirat-e-Faridiyah. A leading scholar on the life and work of Sir Syed Ahmad is of the opinion that 'The personality and work of Ram Mohan Roy were a formative influence in Sayyid Ahmad Khan's life'.19 It is no accident that parallel religious reform movements arose in different parts of India, amongst both Hindus and Muslims, during mid-19th century. Likewise there were other parallels such as a Buddhist religious reform movement in Sri Lanka. They all reflected similar changes in society, notably, the emergence of the colonial new salariat. It might be illuminating to think of these Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists etc. who were involved in these new movements, as merely different ethnic components of a single class, the salariat; and therefore the respective Hindu and Muslim Reform movements as different strands of a single intellectual movement that was sweeping across India in the 19th century, expressing rationalist ideologies and a commitment to a scientific outlook of the newly emerging Hindu and Muslim salariats, even when they were expressed in their respective religious idioms.

Sir Syed Ahmad's political philosophy, as appropriate to the concerns of the emerging Muslim salariat in the UP, was cast in Muslim ethnic terms (rather than 'communal', which is a pejorative term). He was striving for numerical equality of Muslim representation in the services to that of Hindus, although in the UP Muslims were only about 13 % of the population. He argued that Muslims, as a community, were entitled to an equal share because for they made up for their lack of overall numbers by their preponderance amongst the upper classes. That view did not entail hostility towards Hindus as such, nor was it a question of religion. The issue was that of equating the two communities, irrespective of their relative size and demanding an equal share for each. This was nicely expressed in his much quoted statement that India was a bride adorned by Hindus and Muslims who were her two beautiful eyes. The bride would be disfigured if the two eyes were not equal. It is evident that in all this Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was not equally interested in the fate of all Muslims; his concern was primarily about the fate of the class from which he himself sprang, the ashraf, or the upper class, Muslims.

Sir Syed Ahmad did not argue for a restoration of Muslim political power over India, much less an Islamic state. Nor did he want independence or democracy. His hopes were pinned on an indefinite continuation of British colonial rule for that, in his eyes, was the only impartial guarantee of protection of Muslim interests which lay in their securing numerical equality with Hindus within the Indian salariat. He was very suspicious of the Indian National Congress, and feared that independence and democracy would mean that Hindus would overwhelm the small numbers of ashraf Muslims, Muslims of the upper classes, who would then have no one to protect them. It is clear from this that Sir Syed Ahmad's political horizons were defined by the boundaries of the UP and he did not extend the logic of his argument to Muslim majority provinces where his argument could be inverted.

Education was the sovereign remedy for reversing the decline of the UP upper class Muslim society. The main thrust of Sir Syed Ahmad's writing and indefatigable organisational activity, therefore lay in the pursuit of modern education for Muslims. He founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh in 1877 which later became the famous Aligarh Muslim University, which was to become the heart of Muslim Nationalism in India. In other parts of India too Muslim modernists, like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, were preoccupied with the task of promotion of the new education. There were powerful educational movements everywhere which worked with missionary zeal to set up modern educational institutions for Muslims.

Sir Syed Ahmad had to fight the bigoted Ulema at all levels, not least on their own ground of theology. His writings on religion were prolific and reflected a high level of scholarship. Without going into details of particular controversies one particular issue can be singled out. That was the burden of the received and congealed orthodoxy, the immutable Traditions of the Four Sunni schools, in the name of which the Ulema fought him. His counter-attack was simplicity itself, the wielding of Occam's Razor. He wiped the slate clean of the hide-bound traditions of the four schools as handed down by the Ulema over ten centuries, by declaring that they had become cluttered with accretions of bid'at (or 'innovations'), in other words misconceptions and misinterpretations.20 The only alternative was to go back to the source, the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet. By that bold stroke he swept orthodoxy out of the way and gave himself freedom to write on the cleaned slate a new message of a rationalist social philosophy that sought legitimation by invoking the fundamental sources of Islam.

Sir Syed Ahmad's work opened the way for a liberal re-interpretation of Islamic political philosophy by Mohammad Iqbal. Iqbal attacked the dogma of the Traditionalist Ulema that the received doctrine was immutable. He passionately attacked the Ulema's commitment to the principle of taqlid, or doctrinal conformity, which he argued had ossified Islam and made it remote from realities of the contemporary world. That was the root cause of the present decline of Muslims. To revitalise Muslim society, ijtihad had to be reinstated.21 That could be done through ijma, or consensus of the community of the faithful, which he considered to be 'The third source of Mohammed an Law (after the Quran and Hadith of the Prophet. H.A.) ...which is in my opinion perhaps the most important legal notion in Islam'.22He argued further that 'The transfer of (the power of performing) ijtihad from individual representatives of schools to a legislative assembly ... is the only possible form ijma can take in modern times'.23 Iqbal was quite as hostile to the decadent and obscurantist views of the Ulema as they were to his. Referring to provisions of the Persian constitution of 1906 he repudiated as 'dangerous' the idea of giving powers to the Ulema to supervise legislative activity. 'The only effective remedy for the possibilities of erroneous interpretations is to reform the present system of legal education" he added.24 By that formula of securing ijma through a legislative body, he legitimised in Islamic terms the liberal principle of representative self-government, the system that the political leadership of the professionals and the salariat (though not necessarily its bureaucratic and military components) best understood and wanted to have.

Islamic Fundamentalism: The Jamaat-e-Islami

The Islamic Traditionalism of the Ulema and Islamic Modernism of Sir Syed and Mohammad Iqbal as I have suggested, were each associated with problems and wishes of certain social classes (of Muslims) during the 19th century, whose concerns and aspirations they articulated and expressed. The social roots of the new Islamic Fundamentalism of the Jamaat-e-Islami that was a most insignificant group of Muslim intellectuals at the time of The Partition, but which has gained much notoriety since then, cannot be quite so clearly identified. It originated entirely as an ideological movement and its appeal was initially limited to a small number of dedicated followers whom it offered a dream of an utopian future. It drew to itself a small band of idealists in search of a better society. Many of them were quickly disenchanted and left the Party, often joining left-wing groups and organisations. Their numbers and weight in that party have dwindled steadily. The Jamaat was soon to get generous support from powerful vested interests for whom it began to serve a political purpose. That changed its character radically.

The Jamaat-e-Islami was founded in 1941 by Maulana Maududi, a scholar-journalist with a classical education. Maududi was an opponent of Muslim Nationalism and the Pakistan movement. But when Pakistan was created he found it prudent to migrate to Pakistan. With that his political philosophy went through a radical transformation. Maududi's opposition to the Pakistan movement was on the ground that the true vocation of an Islamic militant was a proselytising one, that Islam was a universal religion that knew of no national boundaries. After the creation of Pakistan Maududi revised the conception of his mission and that of the rationale of the Pakistan movement. He now argued that the sole object of the creation of Pakistan was to establish an Islamic State and that it was his Party alone which possessed a true understanding of Islam and commitment to bring that about.

To build an Islamic state the existing state must first be captured and brought under the control of those who, by Maududi's definition, were the only true bearers of militant and authentic Islam, namely himself and his Party. Unlike the Ulema, control of the state apparatus was therefore his first priority. His conception of the ideal Islamic State was a strongly centralised one, run on authoritarian lines, with the help of a strong and effective and dedicated army, under the authority of the Commander of the Faithful. Democracy was despised, for it gave power to the ignorant and those whose commitment, and understanding, of the faith could be doubtful. The onus lay therefore on his Party and on himself as its Guide and Leader, to take Muslim society forward to its true destiny. The Constitution of his Party illustrates this authoritarian philosophy for it demands unquestioning and total obedience from members of the Party to its Amir, its Supreme Head, namely himself. His ideas, justifying dictatorship in the name of Islam have, not surprisingly, found much favour with some sections of Pakistan's authoritarian military rulers.

The Jamaat is not a mass Party but one with selected cadre members. Because of its shallow roots in society, the Jamaat has been quite ineffective as a political Party. The full extent of its isolation from popular support was brought home recently to the Jamaat as well as its surprised opponents, by its debacle in the controlled elections staged by the Zia regime in January 1985, for conditions for its electoral success could not have been made more favourable. All opposition Parties were under a ban and their leaders and local activists were in prison or in exile. The field was therefore clear for the Jamaat to make a clean sweep of it. But it was routed completely. The electorate voted negatively, against Jamaat candidates and for non-entities.

The Jamaat's electoral bankruptcy ought not to lead anyone into under estimating its power and influence in today's Pakistan, which are derived primarily from its symbiotic relationship with the ruling regime. It tends to function as a pressure group rather than a political Party and uses its influence with government agencies and power to blackmail and terrorise individuals to achieve its objectives. During the rule of General Zia particularly, the Jamaat acquired a firm grip over the Universities and the entire educational system, its prime objective. It as also acquired a powerful influence on the government owned and control led broadcasting media. Its tentacles extended everywhere so that its opponents lived in fear. The Party, in turn, enjoys enormous capacity of patronage and thereby attracts support from all kinds of opportunists and careerists, which further reinforces its influence within the apparatus of the Government and the army quite apart from its influence directly at the top.

After the Partition the Jamaat attracted a new following among urdu speaking refugees from India, the muhajirs, who felt insecure and bitter about India, because of their suffering in the course of their enforced migration. They responded readily to the chauvinistic rhetoric of the Jamaat. But, over the years, this support has been withering away. In part this is because muhajirs who have settled in the interior of Sindh have developed linkages with the Sindhi community, being traders and professionals who serve Sindhi peasants and landlords. They have become the 'New Sindhis', and sympathise with the Sindhi movement which has got under way quite powerfully in recent years. They dislike the anti-democratic support by the Jamaat of the repression let loose by the military regime against Sindhi nationalism. Even in big cities, like Karachi, where muhajir support for Sindhis is much less, there are elements within the Jamaat, like Prof. Ghafoor Ahmad of Karachi and Jan Mohammad Abbasi, who are critical of their Party's support of the martial law regime because that has been losing the Jamaat popular support.

The leadership of the Jamaat has passed into non-ideologist hands, although exploitation of their ideology remains their principal political weapon. The Party bosses seem to feel that its diminishing support from its meagre popular base, mostly amongst the Muhajirs is of less consequence than the support that it is deriving from powerful classes in Pakistan for whom its value lies in its ability to bludgeon radical and left-wing groups, very often quite literally so. The Party receives generous donations from big businessmen and landlords and is believed to be a recipient of generous donations from the Americans and from potentates in the Middle East. But an excess of money and, for that matter, influence, has also brought problems for the Party. New vested interests have grown up in the Party bureaucracy and the old ideological wing of the Party, in decline, resents that. There is a considerable tension (to say the least) between the ideologists in the Party, mainly Karachi based, and those whose political ambitions lie in what they can get from the military regime. This latter consists mainly of the Punjab based, so-called 'pragmatic' wing of the Jamaat, led by Mian Tufail Mohammed, the Amir of the Jamaat and successor of Maududi. However, to retrieve its standing amongst the people the Party has begun to voice carefully measured criticism of the military regime, to distance itself from it. There is also a third element in the Party namely armed thugs, an element that was reinforced by the repatriation from East Pakistan of members of Al-Badar and As-Shams, its fascist paramilitary organisations, after the liberation of Bangladesh. They go about beating up opponents and breaking up meetings. These elements are associated with, especially, the Islami-Jamiat-e-Tulaba, the student organisation of the Jamaat, that maintains an armed presence on University campuses.

To end our account of the Jamaat-e-Islami, we must return to the central doctrinal issue of ijtihad, or interpretative development of doctrine, around which the political debate about Islamic State has turned. As it was pointed out above, the Jamaat stands for ijtihad, contrary to the position of the Traditionalist Ulema. But at the same time The Jamaat-e-Islami derides the method proposed by the Modernist Iqbal for realising Ijtihad under contemporary conditions, through processes of representative democracy, which is represented as the only possible source of Ijma modern conditions. Maududi contends against this that this could not lead to a reliable interpretation of Islam, for the voters may not be Muslim and even if they are, they may not have a 'true understanding' of Islam, such as only Maududi and his followers are blessed with. Iqbal's exhortation to educate the people was no solution either. Scholarship was no guarantee, for even the Ulema were misled and ignorant.

The logic of that argument, leads Maududi to an authoritarian solution, for by his lights there is only one true and reliable interpretation of Islam and Maududi and his Jamaat are the custodians of that true knowledge. They are a gifted and select elite, and amongst them only its great leader, knows what Islam is.

'According to Maududi', writes K.K. Aziz:

'there is always a person (Mizaj Shanas-i Rasool) who alone is competent to decide what the Holy Prophet would have done in a given situation if he were alive. ... He left no doubt in the minds of his followers that he was the only candidate for this supreme pontifical office. And his chief lieutenant, Maulana Islahi declared before the Punjab Disturbances Inquiry Committee that he wholeheartedly and unreservedly accepted Maududi as the Mizaj Shanas-i Rasool'.25

As far as the Jamaat claims and ideology are concerned, there can be no objective or logical criteria by which their validity can be settled. They can be accepted only as an act of faith, by a religious conversion in effect, to the Maududi sect, which may therefore be properly regarded to be yet another sect of Islam which, like every sect, claims to be the only true one.

Paradoxically Maududi's elitism itself militates against a principle which would be regarded as a central tenet of Islam, namely that ijtihad by ijma, the consensus of the community, has precedence over ijtihad by the alim, the man of religious learning, because an individual, however learned he may be, is fallible, but Allah in his divine mercy would not allow his community collectively to go in error. This has always been recognised as the principle of democracy in Islam. Maududi's argument contradicts that. The Jamaat-e-Islami ideology while insisting on ijtihad, in effect rejects the fundamental notion of ijma, and offers little more than a personal charter of authority to the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami to lay down the law in the name of Islam.

It must be said that by virtue of re-interpretation of Islam by Ulema of the 8th and 9th centuries AD, to suit the needs of the feudal Abbasid empire, the concept of ijma was itself narrowed down to that of a consensus between 'qualified' scholars, which took away the power from the community that the Prophet Mohammad's Islam had conferred on it. They abolished the right of the community to be represented in the state. Even today such a notion is peddled in Pakistan by the ignorant and to a degree state subsidised Ulema. Nevertheless, even this narrowed conception contradicts Maududi's claim. This is quite apart from the impossibility of 'consensus of scholars' in a world in which there are sharp and vicious sectarian differences so that those with differing persuasions call each other kafirs,as recorded by the Report of the Court of Inquiry, a high judicial body, that reported in 1954 on sectarian violence that took place in 1953, referred to in footnote no. 12 above. So on doctrinal grounds we can see that there are contradictions underlying every position. There is no way of resolving it except by either imposing one sectarian position over all the others or by accepting a secular conception of the political process and the state so that every individual, whatever his or her religious persuasion may be, would be free to participate in the democratic process, following his or her own private faith and conscience, to shape policies of the state. We will refrain from pursuing this arcane and insoluble debate any further for it cannot be resolved by logic.

Secular Muslim Nationalism - Jinnah

Most of the salariat in fact, implicitly or explicitly, espoused a secular conception of

being part of a Muslim nation. Jinnah their spokesman, was always quite explicit about it and on this issue he put his position quite unambiguously. In recent years there has been a systematic attempt by Pakistan's captive media to misrepresent Jinnah on this point and they are trying hard to build up an image of the Father of the Nation as a religious bigot. The reality was very different. Jinnah was a member of cosmopolitan Bombay society, a close colleague and friend of Sir Pheroze Shah Mehta, a Parsi Indian nationalist and, along with M.K. Gandhi, a protégé and close friend of G.K. Gokhale, the great Indian liberal leader. Jinnah began as an active member of the Congress Party. He was not among the founders of the League. Ironically the basis of that growing unity was destroyed by a decision to pander to Muslim bigotry not by the League but by the Congress, much to the disgust and resentment of the League leadership. That was by virtue of Gandhi's decision to back fanatical Muslim Ulema in launching the Khilafat movement, (1919-23). If there had been any intention to drive a wedge between the secular minded Muslim salariat and the Muslim masses and to shift leadership in the direction of the obscurantist Ulema, the Congress could not have taken up a more potent issue.

It is true that it was Muslim notables, so-called 'feudals', who presided over the birth of the Muslim League in December 1906 at Dacca. This has misled too many historians about the character of the Muslim League. The fact of the matter is that the Muslim League, soon after its initiation by Muslim notables, was taken over by the Muslim salariat. At the initial meeting at Dacca two leading lights of Aligarh, Mohsin-ul Mulk and Viqar-ul Mulk were appointed as joint secretaries and two-fifths of the Provisional Committee were from the UP. These were as yet 'men of property and influence' although quite committed to the salariat cause. Later, by 1910, the leadership and control of the Muslim League passed into the hands of men from a relatively more modest background who have been described as 'men of progressive tendencies', under the leadership of Wazir Hassan and others like him, who were based at Lucknow. They pushed the Muslim League in a new direction and sought co-operation with the larger Indian nationalist movement and the Congress, provided Muslim salariat rights were protected.

Jinnah himself was to be brought into the Muslim League by these elements three years later. It would be a mistake to think that the Muslim League was dominated and controlled by the so-called feudals' during the four decades after its inception. That is the nub of a complicated story, of which a most perceptive account will be found in Robinson's excellent study of the early Muslim Movement in the UP.26 Naturally, like all great political and social movements there are many different strands that are interwoven in the tapestry of Muslim history in India during the 19th and 20th centuries. But its leitmotif was engraved on the map of Indian politics by the aspirations and anxieties of the Muslim salariat, the force behind Muslim nationalism.

A number of factors contributed to a new turn in the development of Muslim politics in India by the first decade of this century. The Muslim salariat was by now detached from its total reliance on the goodwill and patronage of the colonial regime. It turned towards its own self-reliant political organisation for which it looked to Muslim professionals to provide political leadership. That was prompted above all by the prospective constitutional changes that offered an opportunity and need for representation in the state apparatus. It is not an accident that Muslim salariat's political organisation took shape in that decade. Nawab Salimullah Khan's initiative and invitation to Dacca had merely provided an opportunity and an occasion for that.

The Muslim salariat had begun to crystallise its political identity. Its key objectives were, again, defined by the narrow perspectives of the privileged UP Muslim salariat, not least its sharply deteriorating position relative to Hindus. Its demands corresponded to the problems of a beleaguered group in a Muslim minority province. They do not make too much sense when viewed in the context of Muslim majority provinces. Their central demand was for separate electorate for Muslims so that they may not be outvoted by the overwhelming Hindu majority in the UP. Robinson sums up developments in the first decade of the century as follows: 'By 1909 a Muslim identity was firmly established in Indian politics ... (by virtue of ) the creation of a Muslim political organisation ... (and) the winning of separate Muslim electorate. ... The creation of a protected share of power for Muslims ... stimulated the further development of Muslim politics.' 27 Jinnah who was brought into the Muslim League in 1913 reassessed the situation and recognised a role for himself as a spokesman for Muslims in the Nationalist movement on the strength of their independent organisation in the Muslim League. Robinson comments 'He brought to the League leadership important connections with all India Congress circles and the distinction of having been a close friend of Gokhale.' 28

Jinnah eventually began to get disillusioned with the Congress Party, from the 1920s not because he was a Muslim communalist but quite the reverse. It was the Congress, rather, which embarked on a course that encouraged Muslim fanaticism under the leadership of the Ulema, by instigating and backing the Khilafat movement. Jinnah was quite outraged by this. No greater disservice could have been done to the cause of inter-communal harmony in India. Nothing that the Muslim League ever did or wanted to do could have done more to excite Muslim communalist passions and to evoke corresponding responses from Hindus.

Increasingly Jinnah was disenchanted with the leadership of the Indian National Congress. The failure to reach an accommodation with the Congress after the 1937 elections finally forced him to reconsider his strategy. So far the Muslim League's influence was limited to the salariat; hence its ineffectiveness in elections in a society in which landlords controlled the mainly rural vote. Jinnah decided now to secure Muslim landlord support at any price and he soon set about making deals with those of them who were in power in Muslim majority Provinces, persuading them to accept the Muslim League label, even if it was to be only nominally. In return he gave them carte blanche, and in effect surrendered the local Muslim League organisations to them. Jinnah's objective in this was to secure at least the formal position of the Muslim League as the nominally 'ruling Party' in Muslim majority provinces. That would legitimise his claim that the Muslim League was the sole and legitimate spokesman of Muslims of India.

Jinnah looked upon the landed magnates, the political bosses of the Muslim majority provinces, with contempt and dislike quite as much as they in turn showed little inclination to allow him and the central Muslim League leader ship to encroach on their domains of power. In Punjab the Jinnah-Sikandar Pact of 1936 was the first of these one-sided arrangements between the Unionist Party and the Muslim League. The Unionist Party was an alliance of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh landowners. In return for Muslim Unionists' nominal allegiance to the League it delivered the Punjab League into the hands of the Unionists leader, Sir Sikandar Hayat. The political cleavage in the Punjab was urban-rural and the rural magnates had always shown contempt for the urban salariat, which was the Muslim League's mainstay. The Unionist Party, especially earlier under Sir Fazl-i-Husain, was determined to keep Punjab politics 'non-communal'. Fazl-i-Husain's closest and most trusted associate was Sir Chhotu Ram, a Hindu. Although he was prepared to patronise members of the Muslim salariat, Sir Fazl-i-Husain and his associates had no intention of letting the urbanites, on whom they looked down with some disdain, encroach on their power. Iqbal complained of Sir Fazl-i-Husain's anti-urban bias in a speech in 1935 and his associate Malik Barkat Ali did so too; both urban stalwarts of the Muslim League.29 Later Iqbal was to protest repeatedly to Jinnah about his pact with Sir Sikandar Hayat, Sir Fazl-i-Husain's successor. In a series of letters in October and November 1937, Iqbal complained to Jinnah that 'Sir Sikandar wants nothing less than complete control of the League and the Provincial Parliamentary Board.30 Jinnah maintained a prudent silence over the matter and did not reply to Iqbal's repeated letters. Having handed over the League to Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan and the Unionists, there was little that he could have said.

In Sind the story was no different, for there the local base of the Muslim salariat was narrower than that in the Punjab. In Sind its size was minute. The urban leadership of the Muslim League, mainly in Karachi, was mainly ethnic non-Sindhi. The rural based ethnic Sindhi leadership was divided into warring factions led by Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah and G.M. Syed. In terms of its social composition Hidayatullah's faction was a replica of the Punjab Unionist Party. Jinnah decided to put his bets on the Hidayatullah faction which was the more powerful; but it was evidently an unpalatable decision. Jinnah confided his views about his Party colleagues to Sir Hugh Dow, Governor of Sind (which itself is an extra-ordinary reflection on Jinnah's relationship with the servitors of Empire ). Dow, in a Secret letter to Wavell, the Viceroy, reporting on political developments, wrote:-

'Jinnah made a prolonged stay in Karachi ... and held prolonged conferences with the "leaders". .... Jinnah dislikes them all ( he once told me that he could buy the lot of them for 5 lakhs of rupees to which I replied that I could do it much cheaper) and has been mainly concerned that the League ticket should go to the man who was most likely to be returned, his previous and subsequent loyalty to the League being a minor consideration." 31

All that Jinnah was looking for was pinning the Muslim League label on the Provincial governments and little more.

It is not difficult to see the short term calculations of this strategy for Jinnah, for it legitimised his All-India position and strengthened his bargaining position. The reason for the decision of the Provincial magnates for accepting the Muslim League label is less obvious. It was not the vote pulling power of the Muslim League, for it was the landed magnates them selves who controlled the mainly rural vote. What the League offered to the landed magnates of Punjab and Sind is best understood only if we consider the fundamental shift in the long term political prospects that began to be visible to the landed magnates whose eyes were so far focused too narrowly on the provincial scene. With independence in sight, they had to look beyond their Provincial horizons and some of them could see the writing on the wall earlier than others. It was clear that it was only a matter of time before the colonial rule would end. With the departure of their colonial patrons they were faced with the prospects of the rule of the Congress Party, with its commitments to land reform. If they were to preserve their class position, the only viable option for them was a government at the centre of the Muslim League rather than the Congress. If that was to mean Pakistan, so be it. Whatever form it took it would guarantee their own survival for the Muslim League was wholly dependent on them. It is they who would wield power in any autonomous regional grouping of Muslim majority provinces that would ensue. It was not a question of ideology but clearly understood class interest that lined them up behind the Muslim League. They were unimpressed by Muslim League politics until the imminence of independence. Only at that juncture did they decide to jump on to the Muslim League bandwagon and, in fact, took it over.

When the Pakistan slogan was raised Jinnah's opponents continually complained that he was refusing to specify precisely what Pakistan was actually to be. As a seasoned negotiator evidently Jinnah did not lay all his cards prematurely on the table. But it was not difficult to see that what he was aiming for was a grouping of Muslim majority provinces enjoying a degree of regional autonomy, possibly within an overall Indian Federal Union rather than the Partition of India, especially if that was to entail carving up of Punjab and Bengal. That he was quite happy to accept Pakistan as a regional grouping within an Indian federal union is testified by his ready acceptance of the three-tier Cabinet Mission Plan which offered just that in April 1946. It was the Congress who rejected it. Such a solution, resulting in a weak centre, would have undermined a major objective of the Congress and the Indian bourgeoisie namely to embark on planned development of free India; in retrospect one may well conclude that India's progress in planned industrial has justified that strategic decision. For the Muslim League, the logic of the federal union solution was particularly important for Muslims of the UP and Muslim minority Provinces, for that would have established a link between them and those in power in Muslim majority regions within the federal union. The 'reciprocal hostages' theory was premised on the idea that the fate of non-Muslims in the Muslim majority zone would be a guarantee for their own protection in the other zone in which they were in a minority. The issue revolved around the fate of communities. Pakistan, in whatever form, was not to be a theocratic state.

Jinnah had consistently opposed theocratic ideas and influences and never minced his words about his commitment to a secular state. Speaking to students of Aligarh Muslim University, the heart of the Muslim salariat, in February 1938, he declared:

'What the League has done is to set you free from the reactionary elements of Muslims and to create the opinion that those who play their selfish game are traitors. It has certainly freed you from that undesirable element of Maulvis and Maulanas' (a derogatory reference to the Ulema).32

Jinnah re-iterated, time and again, that Pakistan would be 'without any distinction of caste, creed or sect.' Aisha Jalal, in her excellent study of Jinnah's political role, records at least two occasions on which Jinnah successfully resisted attempts to commit the Muslim League to an 'Islamic Ideology'.33 Jinnah's memorable inaugural address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947 was a clarion call for the establishment of Pakistan as a secular state. From the principal forum of the new state he declared:

'You may belong to any religion or caste 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 of one state. ... I think we should keep that in front of us as our idea and you will find that in the course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will 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'. 34

There could be no clearer statement of the secular principle as the basis of Pakistan. The true heirs in today's Pakistan of what the Pakistan ideology really was, are the secularists. They include practising Muslims, who, nevertheless, reject and repudiate the idea of exploitation of Islamic ideology in pursuit of political ends.

If Islamic Modernism was the initial ideology of the emerging Muslim salariat, it has long ceased to be a live intellectual movement and has been marginalised. It exists in small and peripheral groupings such as the Tulu-e Islam group which was led by Ghulam Ahmad Parvaiz. Many of the basic ideas of Islamic Modernism, have passed into conventional wisdom. Insofar as they still have currency, they are accommodated within secular political attitudes. It may help to put things into perspective if we quote from an account by Rosenthal, a renowned Islamic scholar, of his investigations in Pakistan, even though his report is quite old.

Rosenthal summed up his impressions of attitudes that he encountered in Pakistan with the words:

'On balance, I should say that among the academic youth there is a minority in favour of an Islamic state in substance not just in name. The Majority are divided in their allegiance to Islam from personal faith to indifference and outright rejection, as being out of date and dividing men instead of unifying and leading them to a world state'.35

More recently this issue has been dealt with sensitively and perceptively by Sibte Hassan in his influential urdu book Naveed-e-Fikr, which has been translated into English with the title: 'The Struggle for Ideas in Pakistan', where he arrives at similar conclusions.36

Islamic Rhetoric in Pakistan

Muslim ethnicity had outlived its original purpose when Pakistan was created, for the 'Muslim' salariat, no longer stood in opposition to Hindus. Instead a new dominant ethnic group identified itself, the ruling Punjabis. In turn, other sections of the once Muslim salariat now redefined their ethnic identities, as Bengalis, Sindhis, Pathans and Baluch, who were under-privileged in the new state. They demanded fairer shares for themselves. They had left Muslim ethnicity behind in the pre-Partition world. Now the regional question was to be at the centre of politics in Pakistan, ill-concealed by the rhetoric of Islamic ideology that was deployed against them, to deny the legitimacy of their newly affirmed separate regional and cultural identities.

There was a fresh process of accounting of regional privilege and deprivation. Although there were 41.9 million East Pakistanis, as against only 33.7 million West Pakistanis (1951 census), shares in public appointments bore no comparison to that, not even remotely. In 1948 East Pakistanis numbered only 11 % of the members of the CSP, the Civil Service of Pakistan, the elite cadre that stood at the head of the bureaucracy and controlled it and thereby the State, in Pakistan.(The CSP was later abolished by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto). East Pakistani share in the army was even worse, for only 1.5 % of army officers were East Pakistani. Bengali Muslims owned no more than 3.5 % of the assets of all private Muslim firms.37 A wave of political militancy swept through the whole of East Pakistan. The Bengali language movement erupted with dramatic force in February 1952 when, for a few days, the writ of the Government ceased to run in that Province. Every Bengali government employee went on strike. That movement, significantly, started on the Dacca University Campus. The Bengali Language movement repudiated the ruling Muslim League's claim to represent the people of East Pakistan. In the 1954 Provincial elections the ruling Muslim League Party won no more than 10 seats out of a total of 309, notwithstanding repression of opposition parties and the fact that many of the elected candidates were in prison at the time. The opposition United Front, that articulated Bengali nationalism, swept the elections. Sindhis, Pathans and Baluch movements were soon to develop likewise.

At first in Pakistan the secular tradition of Jinnah was maintained. In March 1949, moving the 'Objectives Resolution' in the Constituent Assembly, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan declared: 'The people are the real recipients of power. This naturally eliminates any danger of the establishment of a theocracy.' 38 Choudhury, editor of Constitutional Documents of Pakistan, a champion of Islamic ideology, complained that 'The Ulema were also not happy with the first draft constitution as it contained very little, if at all any, provisions as to the Islamic character of the proposed constitution" 39

As soon as the regional protest against Punjabi rule began to get under way, the ideological tune changed. Suddenly Islam and the notion of Islamic brotherhood became the order of the day. It was unpatriotic on the part of Bengalis, Sindhis, Pathans and Baluch to make demands in terms of their regional ethnic identities because all Pakistanis were brothers in Islam. The constitutional proposals were quickly redrafted. Choudhury happily reported that 'The Second Draft Constitution (Choudhry's over-enthusiastic title for the Report of the Basic Principles Committee, 1952) was noted for elaborate provisions relating to the Islamic character of the proposed Constitution. The most noble feature of the Islamic provision was a board of ulema which would examine if any law was repugnant to Quran and Sunnah'.40

All that this 'noble feature' added up to was a smoke-screen, for it went little beyond setting up a Board of Talimat-i-Islamia (In other words: Board of Islamic Learning) which formally had some advisory functions but, in the event was to exist only on paper, for the bureaucratic-military oligarchy (with the Punjabi salariat in saddle) which dominated Pakistan, had no intention of giving the mullahs a share in power. The only concrete result of all this, after years of rhetorical Islamisation was a decision to change the name of the Republic to 'The Islamic Republic of Pakistan' and, further, a provision was inserted in the Constitution that the President of the Republic shall be a Muslim. But these were mere symbolic gestures. The ruling oligarchy was in no mood to make any real concessions of substance to the Islamic ideologists. But, for the moment, for the mullahs, evidently concerned far more with some little material benefits than fundamental principles of the State, all this was quite enough to keep them occupied in the business of generating rhetorical steam on behalf of the dominant Punjabis who made it plain that the 'Islamic Pakistan' would not tolerate any regional movements for autonomy or equality.

The secular mood of the country was dramatically demonstrated by the rout of 'Islam Loving' Parties in the first national election of Pakistan in 1970. The secular Awami League, predominantly Bengali, which had no influence in West Pakistan, swept the board in East Pakistan, winning every seat but one; that one seat for the Chittagong Hill Tracts being uncontested to allow its tribal leader to be elected there. In West Pakistan the Pakistan People's Party, with its secular slogan of "Roti, Kapra aur Makan" (i.e. Bread, cloth and shelter ) got a landslide victory in Sind and Punjab (giving it an overwhelming majority in West Pakistan as a whole) and The 'left-wing' National Awami Party made a very good showing in NWFP and Baluchistan. The Islamic Parties came nowhere.

The Bengali movement was eventually to lead to the liberation of Bangladesh. It was the Bengali salariat which spearheaded that movement, although it had deep roots in the countryside. In a predominantly rural country (the urban population in 1960 being only about 5%) most members of the Bengali salariat were sons of well to do peasants and the landed gentry. The Awami League which spoke most volubly for the East Bengali salariat, therefor and got solid support from the rural power base. The same was to happen later with the powerful Sindhi movement that erupted with force in the late 1980s.

The ideology of Sindhi nationalism too is explicitly secular. Like the East Bengalis, the small Sindhi salariat is also backed by the entire Sindhi rural population, for they too are the sons of Sindhi peasants and landlords, big and small. The grievances of the Sindhi salariat are, however, compounded by those of all other ethnic-Sindhi classes who feel discriminated against and disaffected. Sindhi landlords and peasants are concerned about the question of equitable sharing of waters of the Indus river system between Sindh and Punjab, of which the Sindhis feel they get less than their due share. Dispossessed Sindhi sharecroppers thrown out of their traditional source of livelihood by farm mechanisation and driven to the cities to look for work, find that the Sindhi urban society, of Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and the major industrial cities of Sindh, has become non-Sindhi. They are therefore strangers in their own cities and are denied working class jobs which are monopolised by immigrants from Sarhad and the Punjab and the locally entrenched Muhajirs. There is therefore an accumulation of grievances of all classes of the Sindhi people. The Sindhi movement has therefore erupted with great force in the 1980s, drawing together all sections of the ethnic Sindhi people, for it is not confined to the Sindhi salariat. But despite this solid support in the country, the Sindhi movement has failed so far to realise much. Some of its weakness derives from the fact that it has failed to build a united front with the predominantly non-Sindhi working class in Sindh. This has made it relatively ineffective despite its strength in the rural areas.

With the assumption of power by the Zia regime another factor has come into play, namely the legitimacy of power (or, more accurately, its total lack of legitimacy ). Afraid to face a free electorate and having no mandate to govern, the General turned to Allah. In that he was forced to go much beyond the outworn old Islamic rhetoric of previous days. He had to show to a cynical public, who had heard it all before, that he actually means business. But there was not much that he could do in practice. Being in charge of running a peripheral capitalist economy, heavily dependent financially on the US, he could not conjure out of nowhere an Islamic economy, following examples of medieval economic practices. Running a peripheral capitalist economy imposes its own rules and logic and its own imperatives that cannot be disregarded. So Zia drew the line clearly between symbolic gestures that he could make and fundamental restructuring of society that he could not. The Banking system and financial institutions continued to oil the wheels of commerce and industry in the country. In the Act setting up Shariat Courts, under the Constitution ( Amendment ) Order 1980, issued by Presidential decree, to 'Islamise' Pakistan's laws, everything connected with the working of the economy was explicitly excluded from the jurisdiction of these Courts, under subsection (c) of section 203 A. As we shall see his successors were more stupid and ignored this golden rule which Zia never announced publicly but nevertheless carefully followed namely that he must not mess about with the economy, whatever Islamic rhetoric he may employ to bolster up his illegitimate regime.

All that was left to the Zia regime to do, in the name of Islamisation, was to undertake cosmetic measures, although the word 'cosmetic' is an outrageous word to describe barbaric punishments that were prescribed under the Hudud Ordinances which were promulgated by him in the name of introducing an Islamic legal system. The regime has also launched a systematic attack, both symbolically and practically, on the status and privileges of women in Pakistan society. That in turn sparked off a women's movement which generated a force that was unknown in Pakistan's history. The only measure of the Zia regime that could properly be called cosmetic was described as 'interest free banking', the regime's pride and joy in its record of 'Islamic achievements.' Banks, instead of charging interest to customers, now had to 'buy' their customers' goods which otherwise would have been hypothecated to the bank against the loan. Simultaneously the Bank would 'resell' the same goods to the customer, at a higher price. The mark up between the 'purchase' and 'sale' prices was designated as the 'profit' of the Bank that it would receive in lieu of interest ! This was, one might say, Islamisation by semantic jugglery, for what in effect was interest continued to rule under its new designation: 'profit'. This is just cheap petty deception of the public, that left the essentials unchanged.

The Zia regime seemed to have reached a dead end by the mid-eighties. Its strident rhetoric about the Islamic basis of the Pakistan ideology had failed to give it the basis of legitimacy that it had so desperately sought. Unhappily for that regime, its problems were compounded because its rhetoric had the effect of raising hopes of some naive ideologists and Islamic fundamentalists, which it was in no position to fulfil. Its bigoted supporters began to get disillusioned and even began to voice criticism of the regime that has so far protected and patronised them and which they had so faithfully supported. Zia realised that he had to change tack. 


Notes and References 

  • 1A See K.K. Aziz, The Murder of History in Pakistan, Vanguard, Lahore 1993
  • 1 See Ram Gopal, Indian Muslims, (London, 1959), Ch XI, for an Indian nationalist view and R. Palme Dutt, (India Today, Bombay, 1970) pp 456-9 and D.N. Pritt 'India' in Labour Monthly, XXIV April 1942 for the Communist view (Mark I).This view was reiterated by R. Palme Dutt, 'India and Pakistan', in Labour Monthly, XXVIII March 1946.
  • 2 G. Adhikari, Pakistan and Indian National Unity,(Bombay, 1943) and also R. Palme Dutt, 'Notes of the Month', Labour Monthly, XXIV Sept 1942 for the Communist view (Mark II).
  • 3 Yuri Gankovsky and L.R. Gordon-Polonskaya, A History of Pakistan, (Lahore, n.d.)
  • 4 e.g. Edward Mortimer, Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, (London, 1982)

Published in: Fred Halliday and Hamza Alavi (eds) State and Ideology in the Middle East and Pakistan , London & New York, 1988