In his article, Mr. Illyas has isolated Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal and Jinnah as the sources for Pakistan’s present ills and struggles with political Islam. Nothing could be farther from truth, atleast in the case of Sir Syed and Jinnah. Allama Iqbal’s importance as is is greatly over-emphasized in Pakistani history and Mr. Illyas’ comment about Iqbal shaping Jinnah’s ideas about statehood does not actually find any real resonance in real history. But then Illyas freely admits that his source is official Pakistani narrative as given by the Ziaist education system.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were the archetypal representatives of modernity and the Muslim embrace of the age of reason. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a 19th century reformer who sought to modernize the Muslims by introducing rational thought into religion and by inducing Muslims to resort to modern European education. He was a reformer in the tradition of the great Hindu reformers like Ram Mohan Roy and Ranade. That Ram Mohan Roy and Ranade remained confined to Hindu community should tell us something about the how people viewed themselves. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s insistence on Muslims staying out of Congress was along these lines and was logical.
It may come as a surprise to Shahid Illyas since his reading of history it seems is confined to official state sponsored narrative but Jinnah was one of the earliest Muslims to join Congress without regard to Sir Syed’s instructions about the Congress Party. How Jinnah the secularist and only politician in South Asia to be called the best ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity in the subcontinent then returned to the fold of Muslim modernists of Sir Syed mould is the subject of much discussion but one thing is sure. The Aligarh school of thought – comprising westernized Muslim nationalists and traditional liberals- cannot be accused of having spawned Islamism that Pakistan faces now.
That honour goes to Mahatma Gandhi who not only introduced religion into politics but encouraged during the Khilafat Movement the Ulema and religious fanatics – the same people who according to Shahid Illyas were involved in “moral regeneration” of Muslims of India. A famous Congress socialist Patwardhan writes:
Neither Jinnah nor Iqbal were part of the Khilafat Movement.
If there is any doubt about who the master signifiers of Islamization of Pakistan were, then let us consider the names of people responsible for Pakistan the Islamic utopia project.
The first case of a revolt against the Pakistani state came from Waziristan by self styled Islamic Amir of Waziristan Faqir of Ipi who denounced Jinnah and Muslim League as “bastions of Qadiyanism”. Faqir of Ipi was supported in his Islamic revolt by none other than Bacha Khan, the frontier Gandhi. Then came Majlis e Ahrar – another extremist Islamist organization that was allied with the Congress and hated Jinnah. Majlis e Ahrar laid the foundations of anti-ahmadiyya bigotry in Pakistan. Jamaat e Islami’s role against Jinnah and Muslim League is well documented. Jamiat e Ulema Islam, originally a breakaway group of the anti-Pakistan Jamiat e Ulema Hind, came to be dominated by the pro-Congress group again when Mufti Mahmood drove out the pro-League Thanvi group in 1956. Thus JUI today is not the pro-League JUI but the ideological successor of pro-Congress JUH. No wonder JUI has more often than otherwise found itself in alliance with ANP- the ideological successor of Frontier Gandhi. One of the biggest supporters of Bhutto’s anti-Ahmedi move was Agha Shorish Kashmiri. He was from the Majlis-e-Ahrar and a committed admirer of Maulana Azad. General Zia came from an Ahrar family. When the Sharifs moved their notorious amendment in 1999 to assume the position Ameer ul Momineen, they were badly advised by Rafiq Tarrar, a proud disciple of Maulana Ataullah Shah Bukhari, the Ahrari fanatic who used to abuse Jinnah in his speeches pre-partition.
Perhaps the most ironic claim by Shahid Illyas is that the 11th August speech is quoted as evidence for a secular Pakistan by “extreme nationalists”. How strange that after claiming that Pakistan’s central motif was Islam, illyas claims that extreme Pakistani nationalists quote 11th August speech to secular ends. In other words Illyas is arguing both sides of the argument. I am not sure though that human rights activists, civil society, religious minorities, liberals and even ethnic minorities who quote Jinnah’s speech more than anyone else can be called “extreme nationalists”. Nor do Jinnah’s pronouncements like the one quoted by Illyas “come forth as servants of Islam to organize educationally, politically, socially” can necessarily be deemed contradictions to Jinnah’s secular message. Jinnah’s use of Islam was positive ie to reinforce the modernist underpinning, to encourage human rights, women’s rights, minorities rights and secular civil government. He was convincing his own people in a language they understood.
Pakistan’s present dilemma emerges from the erosion of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Jinnah’s rational approach to religion and politics. Instead the state has invented a nationalist mythology that has sought to reinvent these gentlemen as the paragons of orthodoxy when they were anything but. Both Sir Syed and Jinnah were denounced as Kafirs by the Islamic orthodoxy which opposed them and their actions. It is this Islamic orthodoxy that forced Liaqat Ali Khan’s hand in the Objectives Resolution and it is this Islamic orthodoxy that was cultivated – first by Yahya Khan’s military regime and then by General Zia. Pakistan needs to hark back to the secular ideals of Sir Syed and Jinnah to survive as a viable state. Unfortunately articles like the one written by Shahid Ilyas are counter-productive and only serve to perpetuate Ziaist myths that have become entrenched in Pakistani society. To use occam’s razor to do away with nuances which are critical to Pakistan’s existence will only hurt the cause further.