By Yasser Latif Hamdani
On 9th November this year, Pakistan was off on account of the great poet and philosopher Iqbal’s birthday. I wonder why? It is time we had a discussion on whether Iqbal was legitimately a founding father of this country. In my opinion, Pakistan has only one founding father and that is Mahomed Ali Jinnah not Iqbal, without belittling Iqbal’s contribution to the idea of Pakistan. However it does not end there. The right wing in Pakistan – including Zaid Hamid and the Jamaat-e-Islami – not only claims that Hazrat Allama Iqbal Rahmat ullah alei was a founding father but was a spiritual father who wanted a rigid Islamic state.
Allama Iqbal- his literary and philosophical contributions to Muslims of India and the nascent idea of Pakistan notwithstanding- was not a founding father of Pakistan. There is no question that Allama Iqbal as an Islamic modernist and a thinker was an extraordinary man. My issue with Allama Iqbal as the founding father has nothing to do with his ideas per se, some of which were quite good and agreeable. Indeed if Iqbal is read holistically, Mullahs and right wingers would find his legacy far more problematic than liberals.
My issue however is the posthumous glorification of the great poet philosopher as a founding father at par with Jinnah himself. This is historically untenable. His contribution to the idea of Pakistan in a concrete form was perhaps even less than Chaudhry Rahmat Ali and Mian Kifayet Ali (famously known as “A Punjabi”). Jinnah used Mian Kifayet Ali’s arguments in his famous “two nation theory” speech. The Lahore Resolution was drafted and vetted by Sir Zafrulla. It was presented by A K Fazlul Haq and seconded by Sir Sikandar Hayat, the same Sikandar Hayat that Iqbal had advised Jinnah against collaborating. If Iqbal is the founding father what about all these other people?
Yet our Khakis and their Mullah ideologues insist that Iqbal was nothing less than a founding father because Iqbal championed the concept of a Muslim superman i.e. the Mard-e-Momin and shaheen which in turn is used as a justification for military’s trampling of civilian and constitutional rule in Pakistan. The idea of a strong civilian leader be it Jinnah or Bhutto makes our military minds uncomfortable at a subconscious level. Therefore Jinnah – who was quintessentially a lawyer and a parliamentarian- must be balanced out by Allama Iqbal’s vague Islamic imagery of Mard-e-Momin and Shaheen.
Our Islamic Ideology champions claim that Iqbal was the founding father of Pakistan because he gave the idea of Pakistan.
Truth: K K Aziz counts 88 other schemes for a separation of provinces that make Pakistan between 1880 and 1930 that preceded Allama Iqbal’s Khutba-e-Allahabad. At Allahabad, Iqbal eloquently expressed this sentiment to a handful of people in the following words:
The principle of Europeandemocracy cannot be applied to Indiawithout recognising the fact of communal groups. The Muslim demand for the creation of a Muslim India within India is, therefore, perfectly justified. The resolution of the All-Parties Muslim Conference at Delhi is, to my mind, wholly inspired by this noble ideal of a harmonious whole which, instead of stifling the respective individualities of its component wholes, affords them chances of fully working out the possibilities that may be latent in them. And I have no doubt that this House will emphatically endorse the Muslim demands embodied in this resolution.Personally, I would go farther than the demands embodied in it. 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.
Hindus should not fear that the creation of autonomous Muslim states will mean the introduction of a kind of religious rule in such states. I have already indicated to you the meaning of the word religion, as applied to Islam. The truth is that Islam is not a Church.
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.”
One columnist, associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami and writing for Daily Ummat translated Iqbal’s words “amalgmated into one state” as “islami riyasat mein munazam” or “organised into a single Islamic state”. Even an ordinary reading of the text shows that not only was Iqbal not clear about what he was proposing – was it one or many Muslim states, or what their status was going to be vis a vis the rest of India, he explicitly ruled out “religious states”. Not only that but he spoke of liberating Islam from the “stamp of Arab imperialism”. He also did not oppose Western Democracy as a concept but called for recognition of communal groups as a basic condition for such Western Democracy to work.
In any event it is about time the Islamists and their Khaki patrons stopped trying to impose Iqbal on Pakistan as a founding father or even presenting him as an Islamist which he was not, even if he was quite confused about things or operating on a different plane altogether.