Four Stages of Jinnah’s Political Philosophy

By Prof. Dr. S. K. Alqama

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah For many decades now, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan has been a point of contention, yet also a great source of inspiration. A careful examination of his long distinguished public service, spanning some 44 years (1904-48), can aid in defining how he perceived the future of Pakistan.

The Quaid’s political philosophy evolved in four distinct yet continuous stages. In the first stage of his public life (1904-20), his political credo was influenced by three main factors:

19th century British liberalism, first encountered during his legal studies in England from 1892 to 1896; the metropolitan flavour and mercantile milieu of Mumbai where he worked as a successful and respected member of the legal community; his close professional and personal contact with the Parsis, who taught him how a small religious group could - with the help of an entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and social cohesion - defeat racial prejudice and communal discrimination.

These three formative experiences led the Quaid to join the Indian National Congress. Modelled after European liberal parties, the Congress was at that time planning to take India on the difficult road to self-government through constitutional means. The Quaid’s evident human and professional qualities made him an ideal candidate for a leadership role in the Congress. He became its spokesman for its representation on the reform of the India Council in May 1914. During those days, he advocated gradual progress, evolutionary democratic politics and, not to forget, strict constitutionalism. When the Congress began to move away from these liberal principles in 1920 and favoured revolution and extra-constitutional methods, the Quaid left the party without ever looking back.

Since 1897, he had also been active in Anjuman-i-Islam, Muslim Mumbai's most eminent political-religious body. In 1906, he did not support the notion for separate electorates, but before long he had changed his mind when he perceived that the demand for separate electorates had "the mandate of the community". In 1910, he became an elected member to the Imperial Council on a reserved Muslim seat. From that time on, the Quaid was in touch with Nadva, Aligarh and the All India Muslim League (AIML), and, he was selected by the League to advance a bill on `Waqf alal Aulad', a problem of profound importance to Muslims since the time of Syed Ahmad Khan. Though not yet a formal member of the League, the Quaid was nevertheless instrumental in committing it to the principles of self-government and Hindu-Muslim unity for the following three years, thus aligning the AIML with the Congress in terms of their now mutual objectives.

The Quaid joined the League as an official member in October 1913 and was nominated as its President in 1916. He used his uncontested position of strength to further collaboration between the Congress and the League. Their goal was to find common solutions to problems confronting the country. A result of his hard work was the Congress-League Lucknow Pact of 1916, which put at least a temporary end to the controversial electorate issue and laid the foundation for an entente cordiale between Hindus and Muslims. Another promising development was that the Congress and League, for seven years (1915-21), held their annual sessions at the same time and at the same place. As can be clearly deduced from the preceding actions of the Quaid, he was a firm believer in a united Indian nationhood which would permit Hindus and Muslims alike to share power. He was convinced that only Hindu-Muslim cooperation could achieve the goal of a free and powerful India. He was also persuaded that the Muslims had to concentrate their forces in a reinvigorated Muslim League. However, during 1920-1937, in the second stage of his political life, the Quaid became more and more concerned with the continued growth of Hindu extremism and separatism.

The period after 1937, the beginning of the third stage, marked a significant shift in the Quaid’s strategy for the independence of the Indian subcontinent. Muslims now identified him with the concept of their need for reinforcing their sense of community with a sense of power. Increasingly he was seen as the symbol of a Muslim national consensus, which also furnishes an explanation of why and how he had turned into their Quaid-i-Azam and even before the launching of the Pakistan demand in March 1940.

However, despite his changed political discourse and platform, the Quaid still believed in democracy, but not in a westminster-style parliament, which in his eyes led to a permanent Hindu majority and a permanent Muslim minority.

He believed that in general 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.

Based on this assessment and definition of the minority status, the Quaid called Muslims a nation and emphasized their religious, cultural and linguistic differences. He called upon them "to live or to die as a nation". He even named the flag of the League "the flag of Islam", stating that it was not possible to "separate the Muslim League from Islam". The Quaid , who had a very low opinion of mass politics, now felt that he had to embrace this concept. He who had reprimanded Gandhi for bringing religion into the arena of daily politics was no longer opposed to using Islamic terms and principles in his own political discourse. He appealed now to the Muslim masses with words they knew from the Holy Quran. Before he had defined himself first as an Indian, now he stressed with great insistence his Muslim identity. Above all, he no longer aimed at Hindu-Muslim unity, but he preferred to work for a vigorous Muslim consensus.

The Quaid had, of course, a reason why he made Muslims and Islam the conspicuous centre of his political philosophy. For one thing, how else could the geographically scattered Muslims in the Indian subcontinent be imbued with a sense of being a nation, except through their common bonds with Islam? For another, since Pakistan was to be established in the Muslim majority provinces, why should the Muslims living in the minority provinces join in the fight for an independent state, except for their profound religious convictions and the future fate of Islam in India? Only Islam could link those Muslims in minority areas with those residing in the Muslim majority provinces. Therefore, in an address to the Gaya Muslim League Conference in January 1938, the Quaid used the following words to describe his own interpretation of what politics for Muslim should look like:

“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 all embracing word. We do not mean any ill. The foundation of our Islamic code is that we stand for liberty, equality and fraternity.”

Thus the Quaid wanted for the Muslims self-determination in a separate state, totally independent of Hindu influence. He was persuaded that Islam and Hinduism were not religions in the strict sense of the word, but were different and distinct social orders - and that they belonged to two separate religious philosophies. They were really two civilizations, easily distinguishable from each other. Two civilizations which derived their reason for existing from different sources of history with dissimilar epics, multifarious heroes and divergent episodes.

In this spirit, the Quaid forged his own definition of Muslim nationhood that could be considered as the most lucid and most cogently anchored in international law since the days of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. He wrote to Gandhi on September 17,1944: "We are a nation 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.”

After independence and the birth of the state of Pakistan in 1947, which for us also marks the beginning of the fourth stage, the Quaid talked of securing "liberty, fraternity and equality as enjoined upon us by Islam." He wanted to build Pakistan on the "sure foundation of social justice and Islamic socialism which emphasized the equality and brotherhood of man.” He insisted on laying “the foundations of our democracy on the basis of true Islamic ideals and principles". He perceived Pakistan as a democratic state which served as a bulwark for Islam and where its citizens could live up to their tradition and add another chapter to their already glorious history. He understood that "if we take our inspiration and guidance from the Holy Quran, then the final victory I once again say, will be ours". So, the Quaid really aspired vigorously to develop Pakistan as a democratic Islamic state. His broadcast to the people of the United States (February 1948) documents in detail and with great care this aspiration:

“I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fairplay 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 citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

Since Islam endows men of common sense with ijtihad, the concept of theocratic rule is totally anathema to Muslims. Thus, it can be said without qualification that neither Iqbal, nor the Quaid, nor any of the independence leaders (including Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani) stood for a theocratic state.

The Quaid, himself being a member of a minority group, knew that Muslim self-determination could not be built upon discrimination of other communities. Furthermore, Islam had always shown, in the past great tolerance for the convictions of other creeds, so the Quaid would have been the last person on earth to act in deed and spirit against his cherished religious and cultural heritage.

His August 11 Address underlines his great love of Islam, his profound feelings for national self-determination and his profound sense of justice for all, irrespective of their religious beliefs and racial origin.

In short, the Quaid did not want to live in a secular democracy, but in a sort of Islamic democracy, which, while retaining the institutional attributes of a democratic structure, was congruent with Muslim ethos, aspirations and code of morality. But with this caveat added:

“There should never be any discrimination against other communities on the basis of creed, colour and race.”

The Quaid’s frame of mind is beautifully reflected in this extract from his July 17, 1947 press conference.

The following question was asked of him: "Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?

The Quaid’s answer was concise: "You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means.

A correspondent then interjected that a theocratic state was a state where only people of a particular religion, for example Muslims, could be full citizens and non-Muslims would be second-class citizens.

The Quaid replied: "Then it seems to me that what I have said is like throwing water on a duck's back. When you talk of democracy, I am afraid you have not studied Islam. We learned democracy 13 centuries ago.

Thus, the Quaid wanted an Islamic democracy imbued with the values of justice, equality and in total harmony with real progress and a "modernity" which would benefit the common citizen. When we talk about benefits, it is now fashionable to employ the jargon of social capital. But then what is so special about social capital that Islam did not offer centuries ago?

Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to the properties of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals - social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. In that sense social capital is closely related to what some have called "civic virtue." The difference is that "social capital" calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital.”

The World Bank in 1999 defined social capital as follows:

Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society's social interactions... Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society - it is the glue that holds them together. Therefore, social capital consists of the stock of active connections among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and shared values and behaviours that bind the members of human networks and communities and make cooperative action possible.

The basic premise is thus that interaction enables people to build communities, to commit themselves to each other, and to knit the social fabric. A sense of belonging and the concrete experience of social networks (and the relationships of trust and tolerance that can be involved) can, it is argued, bring great benefits to people. Trust between individuals therefore becomes trust between strangers and trust of a broad fabric of social institutions; ultimately, this becomes a shared set of values, virtues, and expectations within society as a whole. Without this interaction, on the other hand, trust decays; at a certain point, this decay begins to manifest itself in serious social problems. There is considerable evidence that communities with a good `stock' of social capital are more likely to benefit from lower crime figures, better health, higher educational achievement, and better economic growth. There can also be a significant downside. Groups and organizations with high social capital have the means (and sometimes the motive) to work to exclude and subordinate others.

Because Islam informs Muslims how to treat with great love and respect other human beings, it is an excellent instrument to build trust and cooperation among different people. Islam is actually a blueprint for creating social capital among all the individuals involved. Even if the Quaid was not familiar with the term social capital, his notion of a democratic Islamic state embraced without reservation the ideals of social capital.

He knew that only a society whose members interact freely with each other in an environment of trust and cooperation could be a prosperous society. That is why he wanted to have a homeland for the Muslims which gave equal freedom to members of other religious beliefs. The Quaid had suffered from being excluded, and he did not want others to suffer the same fate. And he was experienced enough to perceive how the exclusion of minorities destroyed the overall wealth of a nation. He wanted an all inclusive society which was based on Islamic principles of tolerance, moderation and trust towards other communities which, of course, were permitted to practice different beliefs and were allowed to live according to their own religious convictions.

May be Muslims in earlier times did not understand what we mean today by social capital, but a great majority of them built large stocks of social capital during their lifetime. In giving a name to something like social capital one makes it easy to identify that entity. But it does not signify that it has not existed before. So the Quaid would have had no qualms in using the term social capital, because in his own life he trusted people and worked across communities. He was always attempting to make Pakistan into a better and more prosperous country.

Looking back in time, one can really state that Jinnah's life and work was to some extent centered around the notion of creating social capital, focused upon building in the tolerant and moderate setting of an Islamic democracy, a better and more prosperous Pakistan.

Source: DAWN

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