Jinnah, Shariah and Secularism

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed

In his article ‘Jinnah, Islam and Secularism’ Mr Yasser Latif Hamdani asserts that ‘at no point during the 13 months that Jinnah was in power that any piece of legislation or resolution purporting to commit Pakistan to an exclusively Muslim polity was passed by the Constituent Assembly’. He also writes that in the official documents of the Muslim League no commitment to make Pakistan an Islamic state was made.

This may sound reasonable, but one can pose the counter question: was in the Muslim League’s documents a commitment ever made to make Pakistan a secular state? The answer is: no. The truth is that the Pakistan Constituent Assembly did not pass any resolution on the constitution at all. The reason was that Jinnah had been making different promises to different sections of Muslims and he decided to let the matter be decided by the Constituent Assembly.

However, as far as the Indian National Congress was concerned it was officially committed to a secular state from at least the time of the Nehru Report of 1928 in which it was explicitly stated that: a) There will be no state religion; b) Men and women will enjoy equal rights as citizens. These were incorporated into the Indian Constitution and such a commitment has kept the communalist ideas of Hinduta and Hindu Rashtra at bay.

Dr Ambedkar perceptively observed that while Jinnah deliberately kept Pakistan a vague idea, he allowed his fired-up base to imagine it in as many ways as possible. I quoted in my article ‘Barelvis and the Pakistan movement’ the Punjab Governor Sir Bertrand Glancy’s reports sent to the viceroy in which he warned that the Muslim League was using Barelviulema and pirs to propagate an Islamic utopia.

However, such a campaign was not confined to the Punjab only. In the NWFP too and elsewhere a similar campaign was launched. Jinnah’s letter to PirManki Sharif of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP) in which he promised that the Shariah will be applied to the affairs of the Muslim community is quoted in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates, Volume 5, 1947, p. 46.

One can draw an incontrovertible conclusion that Pakistan was never ever conceived as a secular state nor was there a chance in a million that after it came into being on the basis of the two-nation theory compounded by partition violence, it would be declared a secular state

In his doctoral dissertation, India, Pakistan or Pakhtunistan? Erland Jansson writes:

The Pir of Manki Sharif…founded an organisation of his own, the Anjuman-us-asfia. The organisation promised to support the Muslim League on condition that Shariat would be enforced in Pakistan. To this Jinnah agreed. As a result the Pir of Manki Sharif declared jehad to achieve Pakistan and ordered the members of his anjuman to support the League in the 1946 elections (p. 166).

The details of the agreement reached on 24 November 1945 in the NWFP legislative Assembly between Jinnah, who was accompanied by Liaqat Ali Khan, and Pir Sahib Manki Sharif and other pirs are given by Israj Khan and Toheeda Begum in their article, ‘Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and PirAbulHasanat of Manki Sharif’ published by the Social Science Journal of Peshawar University.

Every law in Pakistan will be in consistency with Islamic Sharia and not repugnant to Quran and Sunnah.

Each Bill which concern with Islamic Sharia will be presented to the President of Jamiat-ul-Asifa to check, only after the endorsement by its President will present the Bill to the constituent Assembly for further proceedings.

Member of the Muslim League will present each and every stipulate of the Jamiat-ul-Asifain  the Assembly and will try for its acceptance.

Concerning the question that what type of Constitution Pakistan will be? Jinnah remarked in his speech:

“..let me clear that Muslim believes in one God, one Prophet, Holy Quran and Islamic principles are the Constitution which we inherited from our Holy Prophet (PBUH) thirteen centuries before, so there will be nothing but only Quranic principles will be our Constitution. In order to achieve our goal you should vote in favour of Muslim League candidates. Regarding legislation I will say that when you elect your representatives to the Parliament they make laws in conformity of the Quran and Sunnah” ( Abysn Journal of the Social Science Vol 4 no 2).

Hamdani refuses to grasp a simple common-sense principle which I laid down in my article ‘Barelvis and the Pakistan movement’. I had written, ‘Interestingly, such campaign slogans did not figure officially in the Muslim League resolutions and documents, but so what? From a political science point of view, when you solicit the support of people for a political objective and achieve it, it becomes a social contract and both sides are bound by it.

Jinnah had to win support quickly for the Pakistan idea from Muslims. Consequently, Jinnah made all the promises he needed to maximise support for the Pakistan idea. While the Punjab was a Barelvi preserve Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was a Deobandi stronghold. It was the support of Barelvis such as Pir Sahib Manki Sharif and other spiritual divines of the former NWFP that the Muslim League win the referendum in 1946. In my doctoral thesis, published by Vanguard ‘The Concept of an Islamic State in Pakistan: An Analysis of Ideological Controversies’ I demonstrated that the debate on the ideological framework of Pakistan has been conducted within an Islamic framework ranging from extremist positions such as taken by Justice Kaikaus and associates and Maududi to even Islamic socialists such as Prof. Muhammad Usman. In between them I placed Allama Muhammad Asad, Khalifa Abdul Hakim, Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz, Dr Javid Iqbal, and S. M. Zafar. Justice Muhammad Munir who took up cudgels on behalf a secular state relied on a hadith (saying) of the Prophet (PBUH) to the effect that he told Muslims to follow him on spiritual and religious affairs but when it came to worldly matters then his authority was not binding. That may be true but after the founding of the State of Medina in 622 CE, the distinction between the spiritual and the temporal became obsolete as far as Muslim perceptions are concerned.

One can draw an incontrovertible conclusion that Pakistan was never ever conceived as a secular state nor was there a chance in a million that after it came into being on the basis of the two-nation theory compounded by partition violence, it would be declared a secular state. We need to look at the Objectives resolution to find out what sort of inclusive Muslim state was presented by Liaqat Ali Khan.

Published in Daily Times, December 17th 2017.


About the Author:

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University and Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at billumian@gmail.com

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