I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find in my inbox the following email from the great C M Naim of University of Chicago:
Dear Mr Hamdani,
I have read your two columns and must congratulate you. Reading other columns in today’s DT made it clear how necessary it is to make these arguments. I copy below something I wrote a long time back (1978), and though the original book and the latter collection were published in Pakistan, neither might have reached your attention.
all the best,
c m naim
I was excited because about ten years ago, I read with great interest a book edited by him on a seminar on Iqbal and Jinnah. His essay, that he refers to in his article, had a formative impact for the large part on my thinking vis a vis Iqbal and Jinnah. Many of you who have followed my writing will abundantly note it. I reproduce here a copy of that article by C M Naim sahib so that people can develop a more holistic understanding of the issue. It may also be mentioned that C M Naim sahib is an Indian, something which does not become obvious from his writing given the obvious regard and concern he has for Pakistan and Pakistanis.
-Yasser Latif Hamdani
Iqbal, Jinnah, and Pakistan:
The Vision and the Reality /*/
Iqbal saw the vision, Jinnah gave it a concrete shape, so goes the popular story about the creation of Pakistan, perhaps the only modern nation other than Israel that owes its existence to a nationalism inspired by religion. But the similarity ends there. Israel was created as the homeland for all Jews. Though the term occurs in Iqbal’s writing too, he did not have in mind a homeland for Muslims at large, not even for all the Muslims of South Asia. What Iqbal had envisioned in 1930 was a territorial fulfillment of the “final destiny of the Muslims at least of North-West India,” who were later in the same paragraph described as being “the most living portion of the Muslims of India whose military and police service has made the British rule possible in this country,” and who “will eventually solve the problem of India as well as of Asia.”/1/ A bit further on Iqbal said, “I demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim state in the best interests of India and Islam. For India, it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power; for Islam, an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times.”/2/ Several points can be noted here. Iqbal tacitly excluded the Muslims of Bengal, although they also formed a majority within their region and had in fact briefly enjoyed a separate state of their own. Typically for Iqbal, whose favourite image in poetry was the “royal falcon,” the salvation of Islam and India lay with the “virile and martial” races of Punjab, North-West Frontier, Baluchistan, and Sind, the areas where the Muslims were relatively backward in education and economic and social status.
One cannot accuse Iqbal of blatant regionalism — he was scathing about what he called “Punjab Ruralism” — rather one should be aware of the romantic streak that underlay his remarks: his faith in the strength of the untainted primitive that would transform both India and Islam, ridding the former of Western political imperialism and the latter of Perso-Arabic cultural imperialism. Depending solely on his faith, Iqbal, Janus-like, had one face toward the past — a recovery of the pristine nature of Islam- – and another toward the future — a society fully assonant with modern times. Such a posture is easy in the realm of ideals, where all contradictions melt away in the heat of one’s vision. In the realm of reality, Iqbal had to demand a Muslim majority state, with the proviso that the more undiluted the majority the better. It was only coincidental that Iqbal’s envisioned consolidated state happened to be the region to which he belonged.
Be that as it may, Iqbal’s vision reached its territorial fulfillment in the post-1971 Pakistan with its boundaries almost what he had in mind and with its minuscule non-Muslim population. How does one, then, view the pre-1971 history of Pakistan? As an aberration? Should one regard the current Fundamentalist Phase as a fresh beginning, or should one say that after what Professor Ziring calls the Punjabi, the Pathan and the Sindhi phases things have come full circle and we are back at a new Muhajir phase? Must history repeat itself in Pakistan? That is why one must be extremely careful extrapolating relationships between visions and realities.
Iqbal remained a visionary till his end, although his vision did not remain limited to the Muslims of the North-West India. In 1937, in a private and confidential letter to Jinnah, he wrote, “Personally I think that the Muslims of North-West India and Bengal ought at present to ignore Muslim minority provinces. This is the best course to adopt in the interests of both Muslim majority and minority provinces.”/3/ Even as Iqbal expanded his vision to include Bengal, Jinnah’s Muslim League was gearing itself to launch a major campaign “to protect Islam and the Muslims” in those same minority provinces. It was the hue and cry raised against the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Congress ministries in the United Provinces and Bihar that eventually gave the League the nationwide stature and strength to challenge the regional parties in the so-called Muslim majority province where it had not fared well at all. One may well conclude that for quite a while Jinnah and others in the Muslim League paid little attention to Iqbal’s vision. We have no evidence on record to indicate otherwise. The only immediate response in 1930 was from Ch. Rahmat Ali and his associates at Cambridge who were themselves not taken seriously. We don’t have Jinnah’s letters to Iqbal, but reading between the lines of Iqbal’s correspondence one gathers the impression that Jinnah was rather dubious of the whole thing. In 1937 Iqbal wrote at length on the matter of separate states and warned Jinnah about the rising demand in the Punjab. He repeatedly asked Jinnah to hold the annual session of the League in Lahore./4/ Jinnah, however, stayed away, not only in 1937 but also in 1938. Only after Iqbal’s death did the League hold its historic session of 1940 in Lahore, where the Pakistan Resolution was passed. Thus Iqbal’s idea went a-begging for a long while, as did Ch. Rahmat Ali’s Pakistan Scheme. Their time came only when the nature of the political arena changed and it became expeditious for the Muslim League in its strategy to overcome the regional groups and emerge as the authoritative voice of the Muslims of India. As sketched by Professor Metcalf, it was not that the ideology overwhelmed the minds of the leaders by its sheer irrefutability, it was that the leaders adopted the ideology when the limited provincial arenas became more open and more likely to be effected by national events. This development in the final analysis was perhaps more dependent on the decisions made by the British colonial power than on what was said by either the Congress or the Muslim League.
Looking back — no doubt with the advantage of hindsight — one can see that at the time Iqbal made his initial proposal there were only two core issues: (1) provincial autonomy within a loose federal scheme; and (2) a realignment of state boundaries, including the partition of some states, to better reflect the linguistic and ethnic loyalties of the people of those states. The matter of provincial autonomy seemed particularly important to the Muslims, who feared a strong centre controlled by a non-Muslim majority. The Nehru Report (1928) was perhaps the last Congress document that meaningfully sought to come to some understanding with the Muslims of India while treating them as a communal whole. More importantly, it was the last Congress statement in favour of a relatively loose federal system for future India. Rejected by the League, by 1930 the Nehru Report had been forsworn even by the Congress. The “Progressives,” led by Motilal’s son Jawaharlal, preferred a polity which should consist of weak states and a strong centre, a scheme they thought necessary given the objective conditions in India. A strong centre was also very attractive for the Hindu communal elements, who during the Twenties had come to be quite powerful within the Congress. This ironic coalition doomed forever any chance of creating a loose federal system in India. It also made it impossible for the Muslim League, i.e. Jinnah, to give up anything in the way of separate electorate, weightage in seats, or autonomous states. It was against this background that Iqbal made his bold, ideological statement in Allahabad, while Jinnah was in London at the Round Table Conference making a last-ditch effort on behalf of his cherished goals of constitutional reforms and protection of the rights of
the Muslims within a unitary India. It was the growing intransigence of the Hindu communal elements and the shortsighted self-righteousness of the other leaders within the Congress, and not just some intrinsic truth in Iqbal’s message, that gradually turned Jinnah into a votary — at least publicly — of the higher communalism of Iqbal.
Nevertheless, Jinnah remained flexible. As late as 1946, he would have gone along with an All India federal system if the Congress had agreed to the Cabinet Mission plan in its entirety. As for the ideological bias behind Iqbal’s vision — the Two-Nation theory — Jinnah negated it in no uncertain terms on 11 August 1947, in his very first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. There is not a single remark in that speech that pertains to the concept that the Hindus and the Muslims are two separate nations with two separate destinies. In fact, the word Islam does not even occur in it. Jinnah exhorts the members of the Constituent Assembly to keep in mind the problems of law and order, bribery and corruption, black-marketing, and nepotism and jobbery, but not one word is said about any expected unfolding of the pristine nature of Islam./5/ According to Jinnah, religion had “nothing to do with the business of the State.” While Iqbal believed that Islam itself was no less a polity, Jinnah declared to his listeners:
“If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community — because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis, and so on — will vanish. We should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”/6/
Notwithstanding Professor Syed’s arguments, one still wonders what Iqbal might have thought of Jinnah’s remarks if he had been alive. After all, in that same address of 1930, Iqbal had asked his listeners:
“Is religion a private affair? Would you like to see Islam, as a moral and political ideal, meeting the same fate in the world of Islam as Christianity has already met in Europe? Is it possible to retain Islam as an ethical ideal and to reject it as a polity in favour of national politics in which religious attitude is not permitted to play any part?”/7/
Obviously Iqbal’s own answer to these questions was a resounding no.
It thus becomes difficult to go along with the notion that Iqbal had a vision which Jinnah put into reality as Pakistan. More likely that Jinnah found in Iqbal’s vision a potent rallying cry for the Muslims at a particular moment in the political history of colonial India, a common enough kind of political opportunism. On the other hand, it may even be more plausibly argued, as suggested by S. M. Ikram, that a major shift had already taken place in the previously politically backward Muslim majority provinces and their new leadership was making itself felt in national councils, leading to a “marked shift in the community’s political objectives.”/8/ In other words, the rallying cry had become so loud by 1940 that Jinnah had to adopt it for his own, much in the way he had earlier championed separate electorates after he was convinced that they were what the community desired even though he was personally against them, not out of any opportunism but out of his conviction in a certain style of political behaviour. It was not the irrefutability of some ideology but the inevitability generated by diverse forces — many of them beyond Jinnah’s control — which forced his conversion.
It is also clear that Iqbal and Jinnah did not always see eye to eye. The 1916 pact between the League and the Congress, a crowning achievement for Jinnah, was roundly criticised by Iqbal, who was opposed to any scheme that adversely affected, even in the slightest way, the majority position of the Muslims in the Punjab. In 1928, Iqbal resigned as Secretary of the All India Muslim League because he felt that the League was hedging on the issue of full provincial autonomy. In the thirties, Iqbal was dubious of any attempt to create ties between the League and the Unionist Party in the Punjab. He gave full support to a splinter group, the Punjab Provincial Muslim League, after it was set up in 1936, and repeatedly protested to Jinnah about the so-called Jinnah-Sikandar Pact of 1937. Nehru, in his Discovery of India, quotes a comment that Iqbal made to him a few months before his death: “What is there in common between Jinnah and you? He is a politician, you are a patriot.”/9/ Jinnah was aware of Iqbal’s prominent position — his hold over the Indian Muslim imagination — and his high regard for Iqbal was no doubt also genuine. But it is also true that he often followed an independent line and, as said earlier, if one carefully reads Iqbal’s letters to Jinnah, it seems that Jinnah usually avoided taking the ideological stances urged upon him by Iqbal./10/
Why then did Iqbal choose Jinnah for his confidences? He apparently did so because, ideological differences aside, he believed in Jinnah’s integrity, because Jinnah was the only Muslim leader with an unchallenged national status, and because Jinnah had no provincial or regional ties of any kind. Iqbal was struggling to crystallise an ideology — what he called a “communalism of a higher kind” — that would reflect, on the one hand, the universals of Islam as seen by Iqbal and, on the other, take advantage of the particular demographic configuration in India. Iqbal could confide in Jinnah because Jinnah was an outsider. The leaders from the Muslim majority provinces, judging by their behaviour at the time, could not be expected to give up their class interests for the sake of Iqbal’s communal gains. On the other hand, the leaders from the Muslim minority areas could justifiably be very suspicious of any political scheme that left them out in the cold. Iqbal needed Jinnah and his Muslim League. Likewise, Jinnah needed a rallying cry that would make the League invulnerable against the Congress as well as against the regional parties in the Muslim majority states.
Earlier, Gandhi had captured the Indian political scene with his mixture of religion and politics. The popularity of the frenzied Khilafat movement had also shown how easy it was to bring the Muslims of India to a common platform in the name of religion. Jinnah and the League decided to go the same way. Their politics of protecting separate electorates and reservation of seats turned into a programme to protect Islam. Given the heightened communal antagonism at the time and the fact that the impending implementation of the federal part of the Government of India Act of 1935 made the regional parties eager to obtain some national affiliation, the new programme of the Muslim League and its permanent President met with total success on both the fronts. The leaders of the Muslim minority provinces, reacting against the short-sighted policies of the Congress, carried the cry of “Protect Islam” to the Muslim masses and enrolled them by hundreds of thousands into the ranks of the League, while the leaders of the Muslim majority provinces came humbly to Jinnah in 1937 and reluctantly agreed to acknowledge the League’s hegemony over them. Iqbal, in his presidential address of 1930, had remarked, “One lesson I have learnt from the history of Muslims. At critical moments in their history it is Islam that has saved Muslims and not vice versa.”/11/ The question whether the League saved Islam is not worth asking, but it is clear that Islam did save the Muslim League: in 1937, the League had won only 4.6 percent of the total Muslim votes; in 1946, it polled 75 percent./12/
By 1940 Jinnah had indeed brought the League quite a way, but in the process the vision of Iqbal had also gone through a transformation, perhaps of a kind that Iqbal might not have approved of. In 1930, before an audience of less than 75 people, Iqbal had said, “I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-Government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims at least of North-West India.”/13/ In 1940, the Pakistan Resolution, presented before a crowd of over 50,000 people, demanded that “geographically contiguous units (be) demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute ‘Independent States’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign.”/14/ When someone suggested during the debate that followed that instead of the vague word “zones” the names of the provinces should unambiguously be indicated, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, the permanent Honorary Secretary of the League and the right hand man of Jinnah, replied amidst a burst of applause, “It is for a reason that we have not mentioned the names of the provinces. If we say the Punjab that would mean the boundary of our state would be at Gurgaon, whereas
we want to include in our proposed dominion Delhi and Aligarh, which are centres of our culture and education. Rest assured that ‘territorial adjustments’ does not mean that we will have to give away any part of the Punjab.”/15/
Is it still fair to Iqbal to identify his vision with Jinnah’s reality? Jinnah’s presidential address in Iqbal’s home city contained not one mention of Iqbal’s scheme or the reasons he gave for it; instead Jinnah anchored his ideological remarks in a letter from Lajpat Rai to C. R. Das written some fifteen years earlier!/16/
It is hard not to believe Edward Thompson when he asserts that Iqbal, near the end of his life, had very serious reservations about the proposed Pakistan.
“In The Observer I once said that he (Iqbal) supported the Pakistan plan. Iqbal was a friend, and he set my misconception right. After speaking of his despondency at the chaos he saw coming ‘on my vast undisciplined and starving land’ he went on to say that he thought the Pakistan plan would be disastrous to the British Government, disastrous to the Hindu community, disastrous to the Moslem community. ‘But I am the President of the Moslem League and therefore it is my duty to support it.'”/17/
The Pakistan that came into existence in August 1947 was not the consolidated state that Iqbal had envisioned in 1930; it certainly did not consist of the “Independent States” that the resolution of 1940 called for; in its cut-up form it was not even the “independent state” of the resolution of 1946. Neither did it come about through some smooth transition that Jinnah may have envisaged. It was a truncated Pakistan and its emergence was preceded by the worst communal carnage that the subcontinent had ever experienced. Jinnah may have had near-dictatorial powers within the Muslim League, but he had himself become a prisoner of the rhetoric about Pakistan that he had allowed to be let loose around him. By 1945-46, the Pakistan concept had taken on a life of its own, independent of what Jinnah may or may not have felt about it. Inflamed communal passions, the urgency of the British to conclude their rule in India, the resolve of the Sikhs to ensure their own right of self-determination, the growing determination of the Congress leaders to obtain a strong unitary India, no matter what its size — on all this Jinnah had no control.
Pakistan became inevitable, not because that was the destiny of Islam in India, but because of the particular configuration of a number of diverse forces at a certain moment in history. By the same token, after 1947, Jinnah, in spite of the accumulation of power in his hands, could not have curbed the conflicts that soon began to appear within Pakistan even if he had lived longer, for if Pakistan was inevitable then Bangladesh was inevitable too. If one is not careful in choosing one’s means one may discover that they have chosen the end for him.
This is not to denigrate the role of Iqbal’s vision and Jinnah’s leadership in the creation of Pakistan. It is merely to suggest that by defining the existing reality of Pakistan too much in terms of the popular equation “Iqbal plus Jinnah equals Pakistan,” the people of that nation are not likely to resolve the dilemma concerning their political and cultural identity which has plagued them during their short but eventful history. The new boundaries, the existence of strong ethnic and regional groups, the minuscule size of the non-Muslim population, the prevalent socio-economic conditions — all demand that a new, totally fresh start should be made. To make such a start the people of Pakistan will have to do two things. First, they will have to use critical scrutiny to thaw away the charisma that seems to have frozen around Iqbal and Jinnah, and make them more real and human and thus more relevant. To paraphrase the words of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo: Unfortunate is not that country that lacks in heroes but that which needs heroes. Secondly, they will have to delve deep into themselves as they are now, and not as they think they were in the past, recent or remote. After all Iqbal did tell them:
“Why should I ask the ‘wise men’ what my beginning was?
I am busy discovering what my destiny is.”
N O T E S
/*/ Originally published as “Afterword” in Iqbal, Jinnah, and Pakistan: The Vision and the Reality, edited by C. M. Naim; Syracuse, 1979.
/1/ Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, ed., Historic Documents of the Muslim Freedom Movement, Lahore: Publishers United, 1970, pp. 126-127./2/ Ibid., p. 128.
/3/Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah, Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, n.d., p. 23. Letter dated 21 June 1937.
/4/ Ibid., pp. 23, 24. Letters dated 21 June and 11 August 1937, respectively.
/5/Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah: Speeches as Governor General of Pakistan 1947-1948, Karachi: Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, n.d., pp. 6-10.
/6/ Ibid., pp. 8-9.
/7/ Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, op. cit., 123-124.
/8/ S. M. Ikram, Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan (1858-1951), Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1970, 2nd revised edition, p. 191.
/9/ Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, New York: John Day, 1946, p. 355. According to Ashiq Husain Batalvi (Iqbal ke Akhiri Do Sal, Lahore: Iqbal Akadami, 1969, reprint, pp. 571-575), this meeting took place in January 1938. Batalvi’s version does not contain the above remark; he excludes it even when he quotes from Nehru. He makes a point, however, to include another remark that Iqbal was reported to him to have made: “Jinnah is the real leader of the Muslims, I (Iqbal) am only an ordinary footsoldier of his.” Batalvi also reports another interesting exchange between Iqbal and Nehru: “Dr. Sahib (Iqbal) asked Pundit Nehru, ‘How many people in the Congress agree with you on Socialism?’ ‘About half-a-dozen,’ Punditji replied. Dr. Sahib said, ‘How strange! In your own party you have only half-a-dozen men who think like you, yet you ask me to advise the Muslims to join the Congress! Should I consign ten crore Muslim to flames for the sake of just six men?’ At that Punditji became silent.'” Batalvi’s version is based on what was reported to him by two persons who were present at that meeting. There is no reason to reject either version outright.
/10/ We don’t have Jinnah’s replies, but from Iqbal’s letters one does get the impression that Jinnah’s replies must have been cursory and dealt only with the issues of realpolitik. In his later letters Iqbal seems to have given up on discussing ideological issues with Jinnah.
/11/ Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, op. cit., p. 137.
/12/ Khalid B. Sayeed, Pakistan: The Formative Phase 1857-1948, London: Oxford University Press, 1968, 2nd edition, pp. 177-178.
/13/ Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, op. cit., p. 126. For the number of people at the Allahabad session, see Saeed, op. cit., p. 176
/14/ Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, op. cit., p. 382.
/15/ Ashiq Husain Batalvi, Hamari Qaumi Jidd-o-Jahd: January 1940-December 1942, Lahore: Maj. (Retd.) Altaf Husain, 1975, p.22. The amendment was suggested by Batalvi, who had been very close to Iqbal in his last years.
/16/ Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, op. cit., p. 377-378.
/17/ Edward Thompson, Enlist India for Freedom, London: Victor Golancz Ltd., 1940, p. 58. From 19 May 1936 till his death on 21 April 1938 Iqbal was the President of the Punjab Provincial Muslim League. The letter to Thompson must have been written early in 1938. Batalvi (Iqbal ke Akhri Do Sal, pp. 580-590) makes a valiant effort to cast doubt on Thompson but fails to convince. He is right, however, in his criticism of Nehru’s version (Discovery of India, p. 354). But then Nehru was writing from memory while he was in prison and had no access to books to check for accuracy.