By Sayeed Hasan Khan
I was born in the united province of British India (now called Utter Pradesh) which was the center of Muslim civilization in South Asia. Muslims comprised 14% of the population but their influence was greater than numbers imply. The province contained a core of Muslim landowners, a strong Muslim middle class and among its Muslim-
oriented educational institutions were both religious and secular universities, ranging from the secular English language-oriented Aligarh Muslim University to the Darul Ulum of the orthodox Deoband sect. One finds little in the local political scene at the time that was straightforward or obvious. Although the Deoband Ulamas belonged
to the religious right, they were also a strongly anti-imperialist bunch and thus their not-so-obvious home during the struggle for independence was the Congress Party. Cities attracted far more Muslims than did villages, and so they exerted a potent cultural and political influence on urban life. Muslim landowners, who were, by dint of raw power plus `tradition,’ community leaders, usually opposed the Congress Party inasmuch as it stood for the abolition of
big land holdings. Another complication is that the Muslim middle class disproportionately occupied profession and high-end service jobs, and so felt threatened that after independence their hold on these desirable positions would be drastically reduced. As these fretful complexities played on, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, after growing exasperated equally with the insensitivity of Congress leaders and the bickering among Muslim leaders in the early 1930s, retreated to London for a few years.
In 1935 the Muslim leadership, drawn mainly from UP, prevailed on Jinnah to return and take the reins of their fractious community, and to plead their grievances inside the uneasy coalition making up the Congress Party. Jinnah was a proud self-made man and a brilliant barrister who won many cases, representing mainly princely ruling
states of the era. He was charismatic, which appealed to the Muslim middle class no less than to the masses. He also had a long impressive service in the Congress Party and a staunch record of fighting British rule which made him popular in the eyes of secular as well as practicing Muslims. Continue reading