Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

By Sharif al Mujahid

For some years now, Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah's vision of Pakistan has been a source of controversy and conflict. Much of this has however tried to cut Jinnah to fit a predetermined image. A close look at Jinnah's long and chequered public life, encompassing some forty-four years (1904-48), helps determine the core values he was committed to throughout his political career.

This paper examines how Jinnah’s politics evolved through main phases, which, though distinct, yet merged into the next, without sudden shifts. It analyses how his liberalism underwent an apparent paradigmatic shift from 1937 onwards, and led to him advocating the charismatic goal of Pakistan, and to elucidate it primarily in Islamic terms. Finally, the Islamic strain in his post independence pronouncements and his 11 August 1947 address is discussed, and an attempt made to reconcile it with his other pronouncements.

Jinnah as Liberal

In the first phase of his public life (1904-20) three main influences shaped Jinnah's personality and politics:
  • Nineteenth century British liberalism, first absorbed during his four-years' (1892-96) stay in England as a student of law,
  • The cosmopolitan atmosphere and mercantile background of metropolitan Bombay where he had established himself as an extremely successful barrister since the turn of the century, and
  • His close professional and personal contact with the Parsis, who, though only a tiny community provided an example of how initiative, enterprise and hard work could overcome numerical inferiority, racial prejudice and communal barriers.
These formative influences seem to have prompted Jinnah to join the Indian National Congress. Fashioned after liberal principles and cast in their mould, the Congress was at that time pledged to take India on the road to self-government through constitutional means. Soon enough, he rose high in its echelons, high enough to be its 'spokesman' for its representation to the Secretary of State on the reform of the India Council in May 1914. Jinnah believed in moderation, gradualism, ordered progress, evolutionary politics, democratic norms, and above all, in constitutionalism. When the Congress sought to abandon these liberal principles in 1920 and opted for revolution and extra constitutional methods, he walked out of the Congress for good.

The constitutionalist in Jinnah led to him having a similar experience with the Home Rule League (HRL). He had collaborated with it since it was founded by Annie Besant, and joined it in a show of solidarity when Besant was interned in 1917. In October 1920 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, upon being elected HRL President on Jinnah's proposals, went about changing its constitution and its aims and objects and renaming it Swarajya Sabha rather unilaterally. Gandhi ruled out Jinnah's objections that the constitution could not be changed unless supported by a three-fourths majority, and without proper notice. Jinnah, along with nineteen other members resigned, charging that the "changes in the constitution were made by adopting a procedure contrary to the rules and regulations of the (HR) League."

Throughout this period, in fact since 1897, Jinnah was active in Anjuman-I-Islam, Muslim Bombay's foremost religio-political body. In 1906 Jinnah opposed the demand for separate electorates, but before long his opposition thawed when he realized that the demand had "the mandate of the community". In 1910 he was elected to the Imperial Council on a reserved Muslim seat. From then on, he came in close contact with Nadwah, Aligarh and the All India Muslim League (AIML), and he was chosen by the AIML to sponsor a bill on Waqf alal Aulad, a problem of deep concern to Muslims since the time of Syed Ahmad Khan. Though not yet a formal member of the League, Jinnah was yet able to get the League committed to the twin ideals of self-government and Hindu-Muslim unity during the next three years, thus bringing the AIML on par with the Congress in terms of its objectives.

He joined the AIML formally in October 1913 and became its President in 1916. He utilized his pivotal position to get the Congress and the League act in concert, and work out common solutions to problems confronting the country. One result of his efforts was the Congress-League, Lucknow Pact of 1916, which settled the controversial electorate issue, at least for the time being, and paved the way towards a entente cordiale between Hindus and Muslims. Another result was the holding of Congress and League annual sessions at the same time and at the same place for seven years (1915-21).

It can be seen that there were three dominant strands in the first phase (1904-1920) of Jinnah's political career. These were a firm belief in a united Indian nationhood, with Hindus and Muslim sharing in the future Indian dispensation; a sense that Indian freedom could come through Hindu-Muslim unity, and a need for unity in Muslim ranks through strengthening the Muslim League. These strands continued in the second phase (1920-37) as well; but with the years their position came to be reversed in his scale of priorities, as the Congress's ultimate objectives underwent a radical change under the influence of Hindu extremists. Jinnah's efforts for Muslim unity became increasingly pronounced with the years, becoming a passion with him towards the closing of the second phase.

For Jinnah, while national freedom for both Hindus and Muslims continued to be the supreme goal, the means adopted to achieve it underwent a dramatic change. If it could not be achieved through Hindu Muslim unity, it must be done through Hindu-Muslim separation; if it could not be secured through a composite Hindu-Muslim nationalism, it must be done through separate Hindu and Muslim nationalisms; if not through a united India, it must be through partition. In either case, the ultimate objective was to ensure political power for Muslims.

Jinnah’s Transformation

The period after 1937 marked a paradigmatic shift. Jinnah became identified in the Muslim mind with the concept of the charismatic community, the concept which answered their psychic need for endowing and sanctifying their sense of community with a sense of power. Increasingly he became the embodiment of a Muslim national consensus, which explains why and how he had become their Quaid-i-Azam, even before the launching of the Pakistan demand in March 1940.

This shift was squarely reflected in his thinking, his posture, his platform, and in his political discourse. And of course his appearance -- for his public rallies Jinnah replaced his finely creased English Saville Row suits with achkan, tight pyjamas and, to boot, a karakuli cap. He still believed in democracy, but now felt parliamentary democracy of the Westminster type was unsuitable for India because of the existence of a permanent majority and a permanent minority, which he defined in specific terms:

Minorities means a combination of things. It may be that a minority has a different religion from the other citizens of a country. Their language may be different, their race may be different, their culture may be different, and the combination of all these various elements - religion, culture, race, language, arts, music and so forth makes the minority a separate entity in the State, and that separate entity as an entity wants safeguards.

Extending this elucidation, he occasionally called Muslims 'a nation', stressing their distinct religion, culture, language and civilization, and calling on them to "live or die as a nation". He even called the League flag 'the flag of Islam', arguing that "you cannot separate the Muslim League from Islam.

Jinnah also traveled across the other end of the political and ideological spectrum in other ways. Previously he had disdained mass politics, now he opted for mass politics. Previously he had objected to Gandhi's injection of religion into politics, now he was not averse to couch his appeals in Islamic terms and galvanising the Muslim masses by appealing to them in a cultural matrix they were familiar with. Previously he had called himself an Indian first and last, now he opted for an Islamic identity. Previously he had strived long and hard for a national consensus; now all his efforts were directed towards a Muslim consensus. Jinnah, the erstwhile "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity" became the fiercest advocate of Hindu-Muslim separation.

Jinnah had a political basis for this paradigmatic shift, through which Muslims and Islam came to occupy the centre of his discourse. For one thing, how else could Muslims, scattered as they were unevenly throughout the subcontinent, sharing with their non-Muslim neighbours local customs, ethos, languages, and problems and subjected to local conditions (whether political, social or economic) become a 'nation' except through their affiliation with Islam? For another, since Pakistan was to be established in the Muslim majority provinces, why else should the Muslims in the minority provinces struggle for Pakistan, except for their deep concern for the fate and future of Islam in India? Above all, what linked them irretrievably with their fellow Muslims in the majority areas except this concern?

In an address to Gaya Muslim League Conference in January 1938, Jinnah begun mapping out his new world view. He said:
When we say ‘This flag is the flag of Islam’ they think we are introducing religion into politics - a fact of which we are proud. Islam gives us a complete code. It is not only religion but it contains laws, philosophy and politics, In fact, it contains everything that matters to a man from morning to night. When we talk of Islam we take it as an all embracing word. We do not mean any ill. The foundation of our Islamic code is that we stand for liberty, equality and fraternity.

Jinnah then used this to argue the case for Pakistan at two levels. First, he invoked the universally recognized principle of self-determination. But it was invoked not on the familiar territorial basis, but for the Muslim nation alone. As he stipulated in his marathon talks with Gandhi in September 1944, the constituency for the plebiscite to decide upon the Pakistan demand would comprise only the Muslims, and not the entire population of the areas concerned. Second, he spelled out his reasons for reaching out towards the 'Pakistan' goal in his Lahore (1940) address in more or less ideological terms, arguing that "Islam and Hinduism... are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are... different and distinct social orders", that "the Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literature", "to two different civilizations", that they "derive their inspiration from different sources of history"... (with) different epics, different heroes and different episodes." "We wish our people", he declared, "to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in a way that we think best and in consonance with our own ideals and according to the genius of our people."

Jinnah developed this into a definition of Muslim nationhood that was most cogent, the most closely argued, and the most firmly based in international law since the time of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. "We are a nation," he wrote to Gandhi on 17 September 1944, "with our distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitude and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life."

He returned to this more extensively in his Id message in September 1945, saying:

"Everyone, except those who are ignorant, knows that the Quran is the general code of the Muslims. A religious, social, civil, commercial, military, judicial, criminal, penal code, it regulates everything from the ceremonies of religion to those of daily life; from the salvation of the soul to the health of the body; from the rights of all to those of each individual; from morality to crime, from punishment here to that in the life to come, and our Prophet has enjoined on us that every Musalman should possess a copy of the Quran and be his own priest. Therefore Islam is not merely confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines or rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society, every department of life, collective[ly] and individually."

Jinnah’s Realisation

After independence, as head of the state he had founded, Jinnah talked in the same strain. He talked of securing "liberty, fraternity and equality as enjoined upon us by Islam" (25 August 1947); of "Islamic democracy, Islamic social justice and the equality of manhood" (21 February 1948); of raising Pakistan on "sure foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism which emphasized equality and brotherhood of man" (26 March 1948); of laying "the foundations of our democracy on the basis of true Islamic ideals and principles" (14 August 1948); and "the onward march of renaissance of Islamic culture and ideals" (18 August 1947). He called upon the mammoth Lahore audience to build up "Pakistan as a bulwark of Islam", to "live up to your traditions and add to it another chapter of glory", adding, "If we take our inspiration and guidance from the Holy Quran, the final victory, I once again say, will be ours" (30 October 1947).

As for the specific institutions of the new state, he exhorted the armed forces to uphold "the high traditions of Islam and our National Banner" (8 November 1947); and commended the State Bank research organization to evolve "banking practices compatible with Islamic ideals of social and economic life" and to "work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice" (1 July 1948).

For Jinnah, "the creation of a State of our own was a means to an end and not the end in itself. The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play" (11 October 1947). He told Edwards College students that "this mighty land has now been brought under a rule, which is Islamic, Muslim rule, as a sovereign independent State" (18 April 1948). He even described Pakistan as "the premier Islamic State" (February 1948).

Jinnah's broadcast to the people of the United States (February 1948) is in a similar vein:

I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fairly play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State -- to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non- Muslims -- Hindus, Christians, and Parsis -- but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.

In this broadcast, Jinnah, the constitutionalist that he was, refused to forestall the shape of the constitution, in order not to fetter the Pakistan Constituent Assembly from taking decisions it deemed fit. While he laid a good deal of stress on Islamic ideals and principles, he ruled out theocracy, saying "Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it. Islam demands from us the tolerance of other creeds."

Technically speaking, theocracy means a government "by ordained priests, who wield authority as being specially appointed by those who claim to derive their rights from their sacerdotal position." Unlike Catholicism, there is no established church in Islam; (in fact, it decries such a church). Moreover, since Islam admits of no priestcraft, since it discountenances a sacerdotal class as the bearer of an infallible authority, and since it concedes the right of ijtihad to "men of common sense", the concept of theocracy is absolutely foreign to Islam. Hence, during the debate on the Objectives Resolution (March 1947), Mian Iftikharuddin refuted the Congress members fears about the sovereignty clause, saying that "the wording of the Preamble does not in any way make the Objectives Resolution any the more theocratic, any the more religious than the Resolution or statement of fundamental principles of some of the modern countries of the world" (10 March 1949). Thus neither Iqbal, nor Jinnah, nor any of the independence leaders (including Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani) stood for a theocratic state.

Of all Jinnah's pronouncements it is his 11 August address that has received the greatest attention since the birth of Pakistan, and spawned a good deal of controversy. Although made somewhat off-the-cuff -- he said that "I cannot make any well-considered pronouncement, but I shall say a few things as they occur to me" -- it is considered a policy statement. He said:

... If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, ... 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 must learn a lesson from this [our past experience]. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the state ... we are starting in the days when there is no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste, or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.... I think 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.

Not surprisingly, it has elicited varied comments from scholars and contemporary journalists. One scholar has put it down to "loose thinking and imprecise wording" and a departure from Jinnah's erstwhile position. Another calls it "a remarkable reversal" and asks "was he [Jinnah] pleading for a united India - on the eve of Pakistan?"

In dissecting this statement, there is, however, little that could lend itself to disputation. There is no problems with the dictum that every one, no matter what community he belongs to, would be entitled to full fledged citizenship, with equal rights, privileges and obligations, that there would no discrimination between one community and another, and that all of them would be citizens and equal citizens of one state. These principles Jinnah had reiterated time and again during the struggle period, though not in the same words.

It is, however, not usually recognized that political equality in general terms (because absolutism was the rule at the time of the advent of Islam) and equality before law in more specific terms are attributes Islam had recognized long before the world discovered them as secular values. They were exemplified in the Misaq-i-Madinah, the pact between the Prophet (PBUH) and Aus and Khazraj, and in his letter to Abul Hairs, Christian priest and the accredited representative of the Christians of Najran, and in the conduct of the Khulfa-i-Rashidun. This covenant, comprising 47 clauses, lays down, inter alia, that the Quraishite Muslim, the Medinites and the Jews of Banu Auf from one community apart from other people, that the Jews shall have their religion and the Muslims their own, that they shall help each other against one who fights with the people of the covenant. Now, how could these disparate tribes characterised by differing religious affiliations from one political community unless their entitlement to equal rights, privileges and obligations are conceded in the first place. A community postulates such entitlement, and it may be conjectured that Jinnah believed that Islam concedes equal citizenship to one and all, without reference to creed, colour or race.

Finally one crucial question. If it is still contended that Jinnah had envisaged a 'secular' state, does one pronouncement prevail over a plethora of pronouncements made before and after the establishment of Pakistan. Does one morsel make a dinner? Does one swallow make a summer? A close study all of Jinnah's pronouncements during 1934-48, and most of his pronouncement during the pre-1934 period, shows that the word, 'secular' (signifying an ideology) does not find a mention in any of them. Even when confronted with the question, he evaded it -- as the following extracts from his 17 July 1947 press conference indicates:

Question: "Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?"

Mr. M.A. Jinnah: "You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means."

A correspondent suggested that a theocratic State meant a State where only people of a particular religion, for example, Muslims, could be full citizens and Non-Muslims would not be full citizens.

Mr. M.A. Jinnah: "Then it seems to me that what I have already said is like throwing water on duck's back (laughter). When you talk of democracy, I am afraid you have not studied Islam. We learned democracy thirteen centuries ago."

It is well to recall the ideological environment of the period in which the pronouncements we are trying to dissect, analyse and interpret today were made. It was already a bipolar world, smitten by the gathering cold war. The great ideological divide had warped simple and long familiar words such as freedom, liberty, equality, democracy, state, sovereignty, justice, and tyranny with ideological overtones. Hence these concepts had to be qualified to mean what they actually stand for. Hence when Jinnah talks of the concept of a democratic type embodying the essential principles of Islam, he was giving notice that he did not mean the standard Western type or the Soviet brand of people's democracy, but a sort of 'Islamic democracy' which, while retaining the institutional appurtenances of a democratic structure, is congruent with Muslims' ethos, aspirations and code of morality. And, as Mian Iftikharuddin argued, "no one need object to the word 'Islamic.' If we can use the words, 'Roman Law' or the 'British Parliamentary system' and so many other terms without shame or stint, then why not 'Islamic'?"


Jinnah was the most Westernised political leader in all the annals of Indian Islam; no other Muslim political leader could match him in terms of modernity and a modern outlook. He was completely at home with the milieu in cosmopolitan Bombay and metropolitan London. He also married a Parsi girl, so unconventional for a Muslim leader at that time, though after getting her converted to Islam. During his chequered career, Jinnah came in contact with an exceedingly large number of non-Muslim leading personalities and a host of British officials, more than any other Muslim leader and had interacted with them for some four decades -- before he underwent a paradigmatic shift. Jinnah was also a man who minced no words, stood no humbug, and called a spade a spade. He held political rhetoric in high disdain; he preferred political wilderness to playing to the gallery. Such a man could not possibly have gone in for an Islamic orientated discourse unless he felt that the Islamic values he was commending were at home with the values underlying modernity, that Islam was in consonance with progress and modernity. During the debate on Islam and secularism, this is a point that has lain ignored.

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