Sovereignty Belongs to God — II

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed

The debate on the Objectives Resolution of 7 March 1949 clearly brought out the consensus among Muslims of all varieties their conviction that Islam and state were inseparable, and Pakistan had to function as an ideal state under the sovereignty of God.

The Objectives resolution makes the following observations:

‘Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;

Wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people;

Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed;’.

This formulation was a curious attempt to combine two contradictory views of sovereignty: one, the medieval held both by Muslim fuquha (jurists) and the Catholic Church and, two, the Social Contract theory sovereignty which invested sovereignty in a tangible human person or institution. The United States constitution was the first to separate religion and state, followed by the French Revolution paving the way for the same but only in 1905 becoming constitutionally a secular state, followed by the Soviet Union in 1917, Kemalist Turkey in 1924, India in 1949 and then many others. Most of Western European kingdoms retained archaic and quaint laws from the past continuing Christianity and state but for all practical purposes those laws became defunct after World War-II.

In the discussion which ensued on the Objectives Resolution the Hindu members pointed out the contradiction between two sources of sovereignty and called it a hoax but the prime minister and others from the treasury benches went to great length to assert that putting the sovereignty of men within limits set by Allah was the best guarantee against human will making rash and irresponsible decisions and unsafe laws. As Pervez Hoodbhoy once pointed out such a disposition became dogma after Imam Ghazali (12th century) ruled that since revelation was inerrant truth it must always override imperfect human will and knowledge. Liaqat Ali Khan and his team were asserting the same.

The Objectives resolution had a very strong array of modernists defending it including the prime minister and Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, Dr Mahmud Hussain and Dr Omar Hayat Malik — all educationists — and others who were lawyers and so on. They expressed ideas popularised by Jamaluddin Afghani, Syed Ameer Ali, the Aligarh school Islam and selectively by Allama Iqbal that Islam was a dynamic religion capable of producing Muslim democracy.

Interestingly, Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Osmani, an Islamist, presented the Islamic state more as a welfare state referring to the pious state established by the Prophet (PBUH) and his rightly guided caliphs as the ideal. He remarked:

‘I think Gandhi ji was fully conscious of this fact when he advised the Congress Ministers of 1937 to follow in the steps of Abu Bakr and Umar’. This assertion of Osmani was challenged by Yasser Latif Hamdani in one of his articles as a fabrication. He stated that he had all the 90 or more volumes of Gandhi’s collected works and he never found Gandhi ever making such a statement. I wrote to Gandhi’s grandson Prof Rajmohan Gandhi to ascertain if such a statement existed in the published volumes of his grandfather. He conferred it and said it was quoted widely. He sent me the exact information. It is to be found in Volume 65 in the collected works of Gandhi on page 407 under the title, ‘Congress ministries’, published in the Harijan of 7 July 1937. Gandhi had said:

‘Lest Congressmen think they have a monopoly over simplicity and that they erred in doing away with the trousers and the chair, let me cite the example of Abu Bakr and Omar. Rama and Krishna are prehistoric names. I may not use their names …. There is no division of opinion about the Prophet, Abu bakr and Omar. They had the riches of the world at their feet. It will be difficult to find a historical parallel to match their rigorous life.  Omar would not brook the advice of his lieutenants using anything but the coarse cloth and course flour’.

Mian Iftikharuddin, the left pro-Communist, while supporting he Objectives Resolution expressed his disappointment saying that in true Islam feudalism and other forms of exploitation would be abolished but the Objectives Resolution had no such provision.

Sir Zafrulla, the Ahmadi stalwart spoke after several others. He outdid Osmani in quoting Quranic verses to establish that indeed Islam and state cannot be separated. Zafrulla observed:

‘Islam seeks to, and does, make ample provision for the beneficent regulation of all aspects of life…. It embraces within its legitimate sphere not only such acts and performances to which the followers of many other religions confine the application of the word ‘worship’, but all aspects of individual, communal, national and international activity. It lays down and prescribes the underlying principles of international relationship, of the laws of war and peace, of state-craft, of commerce, of economic development, of social relationships and the like’.

Indeed the Ahmadis have never supported the secular state and in a discussion of the Ahmadi issue at LUMS in 2014 their spokesperson Mr Mujibur Rahman ended his speech with the flourish that Pakistan’s problems would be solved when true Islam — and by that he meant Ahmadiat — became the basis of state.

Zafrulla went on to say that Islam had a better record on tolerance of minorities than any other system of the world:

‘I have no doubt, however, that the constructive and statesmanlike pronouncement with which the Honourable Mover (Liaquat Ali Khan) introduced the Resolution served to allay apprehensions on that score [that non-Muslims will be treated badly]. Since then several speeches made in support of the Resolution, notably those of Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Osmani, Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi… should have removed any lingering suspicion to which the minds of some of the Honourable Members may still cling’.

It was interesting but ironical. When Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Osmani had led the state funeral of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Zafrulla did not take part in the ceremony because Ahmadi faith required that Ahmadis should did not take part in the funeral prayers of non-Ahmadis. He explained on that occasion that since Osmani did not accept Ahmadis as Muslims he could not pray behind him. Now he was deferring to Osmani. Obviously he was now assuming a conciliatory attitude towards Osmani.

To be continued…

Published in Daily Times, January 3, 2018.

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

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