Volume 6, No. 2, February 2024
Editor: Rashed Rahman
Two centuries, the 17th and the 20th, are very important in the political struggle for dominance between the three classes of Indian Muslims, as elaborated in my first article titled “The Muslim Identity in the Subcontinent” (Pakistan Monthly Review, October 2023). The 17th century witnessed a clash between Orthodox, Rigid, Formal Islam and the Unorthodox, Informal, Mystical Islam represented by their two icons, Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh respectively. The defeat of Dara Shikoh changed society in the Indian Subcontinent, resulting in Hindu-Muslim conflicts never earlier felt, the Hindu-Muslim battle of Panipat, fragmentation of India into warlordism and city states, weakening of central authority, colonisation of India and finally the division of India into Pakistan and Bharat in the succeeding three centuries. This century was different from the previous centuries as it laid the foundations of irreconcilable and unresolved conflicts in society for the future course of history.
During the previous six centuries of Muslim rule since the year 1175 onwards when Bengal and northern India were conquered by Muhammad of Ghor, the successive Muslim dynasties of monarchs had generally adopted the Unorthodox, Informal, Mystical Islam for befriending their subjects, the Hindus. Islam had spread in India by conversions due to the appeal of the mystical version of Islam presented by the Sufi intellectual mendicants who followed the invaders to India from Iran, Arabia and Afghanistan.But the monarchs were prevented from spreading it as official Islam due to the opposition of the orthodox clerics. Orthodoxy is a destabilising and divisive reality since then and a challenge Indian Muslims are destined to face to date.
Before the 17th century, orthodoxy was always overwhelmed by the liberal attitude of the powerful ruling monarchy. Babur (February 14, 1483-December 26, 1530), the founder of the Mughal dynasty, was clearly inclined towards mysticism, professing in his autobiography Tuzk Babri (Letters of Babur) that he was the “servant of ‘Darveshes’ (Sufis, mendicants)”. Akbar (October 15, 1542-October 27, 1605), the most popular emperor of the Mughal dynasty, was so impressed by Sufism that he ordered in a firman (royal decree) issued to his Governors that they spend their spare time reading the major works of Sufi saints Al-Ghazali and Maulana Rumi. Akbar and after him his son Jahangir tried to implement a liberal Indianised version of Islam called Deen-i-Elahi (the religion of God), akin to the English concept of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’. But they were prevented from enforcing it with royal authority due to the stubborn opposition of a popular Orthodox traditionalist cleric, Sheikh Ahmed of Sirhand (1564-1624) called Mujadid Alif Sani, a Hanafi jurist and a member of the Naqshbandi Sufi order. Naqshbandis emphasised spiritual lineage criteria in which only a Sufi trained by a Sheikh (jurist) having a continuous chain of Sheikh masters linked back to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was qualified to interpret the Quran and Sunnah.
By the time Shah Jahan ascended to the throne, the orthodox class had become so strong that he was forced to move away from the religious liberalism of Akbar and Jahangir, although in a token manner. But as his health declined, the 17thcentury saw a struggle for the throne between his two sons. Prince Aurangzeb challenged the legitimate heir to the throne, the Crown Prince Dara Shikoh, on purely ideological grounds that his mystic, Sufic practice of Islam posed a threat to the Mughal dynasty. Dara, an intellectual like his forefather Babur, used to keep the company of Muslim Sufis, Hindu yogis and sanyasis (mystics), equating Hindu Prabhu (God) with Muslim Allah, Michael with Vishnu (one of the principal deities of Hinduism) and Adam with Brahman in his scholarly lectures. He translated Hindu scriptures into Persian, the official court language. “Paradise is there where there is no mullah,” he said.
Aurangzeb gathered around him the support of orthodox courtiers, Generals and mosque leaders and frightened them with the prospect of Hindu resurgence under Dara Shikoh’s rule. In sharp contrast his rival Dara Shikoh drew his political support from the majority Hindu population and informal mystical Muslims, who were a product of the fusion of Islam and Hinduism.There was a head on collision between the two ideologies in the battle of Samugarh in 1658, which saw Aurangzeb come out as the victor. After winning the succession war, he awarded the death sentence to Dara Shikoh on charges of apostasy.
Aurangzeb continued gathering the support of the orthodox, formal, legalist Islamist class to perpetuate his rule. He demonstrated his personal piety and austerity with outward signs of orthodoxy like rejecting silk robes and golden vessels, eating simple common man’s food in the court, discouragement of music and dancing, memorising the entire Quran and stringently observing the rituals of Islam. Unlike his predecessors, including his father Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb considered the royal treasury to be held in trust for the citizens of his empire. His personal expenses were covered by his own earnings from the sewing of caps and trading of his handwritten copies of the Quran. He partnered with the orthodox clergy to implement Islamic laws and gain political sanction for the longest rule by any Mughal Emperor for 49 years. He was mentored by Shah Abdur Rahim, an Islamic scholarand writer who assisted him in the compilation of Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, the voluminous code of Islamic law. Shah Abdur Rahim was the father of the Muslim philosopher Shah Waliullah Dehlawi and founder of the Madrasa Rahimiyya, the hub of orthodox scholars.
Emperor Aurangzeb (November 3, 1618-March 3, 1707), helped by his orthodox supporters, became the greatest of all Mughal emperors and stretched the empire to its largest limit by conquering Hindu states from Kabul to Chittagong. During the lifetime of this expansionist ruler, victories in the Hindu south expanded the Mughal Empire to four million square kilometres and his annual revenue of $ 450 million was more than ten times that of his contemporaryLouis XIV of France’s £ 38,624,680 in 1690. Under his reign, India surpassed the Qing dynasty of China to become the world’s largest economy and biggest manufacturing power, worth nearly a quarter of global GDP and more than the entirety of western Europe.
Aurangzeb’s personality was a queer mix of Islamic fundamentalism and political realism. While he subdued the Hindu majority’s political assertiveness with orthodox zeal, he employed the ever largest number of Hindu bureaucrats in his government, adopting a different strategy to share power with the majority. He replaced Hindu Rajas paying taxes to the central government with Hindu bureaucrats. His campaigns in Deccan brought him in contact with the Maratha nobility, employed by him as state officials, which played a key role in his successful Deccan campaign. Between 1679 and 1707, the number of Hindu officials in the Mughal administration rose by half, many of them Marathas and Rajputs.
But even an iconic fundamentalist orthodox ruler like Aurangzeb was confronted by the ultraorthodox Muslim Ministers, who petitioned against employment of Hindu bureaucrats, which he rejected and responded: “What connection have earthly affairs with religion? And what right have administrative works to meddle with bigotry? For you is your religion and for me is mine.” He insisted on employment based on ability rather than religion. Under Aurangzeb’s reign, Hindus rose to represent 31.6 percent of the Mughal nobility, the highest in the Mughal era. The number of Hindu Mansabdars (officials) increased from 22 percent to over 31 percent in the Mughal administration, as he needed them to continue his fight in the Deccan.
However, notwithstanding the inclusion of Hindus in his administration, Aurangzeb indulged in extremely intolerant actions to retain his orthodox support base. On a complaint that at Multan, Thatta and particularly at Varanasi, the holiest Hindu town, the teaching schools of Hindu Brahmins attracted numerous Muslim students, he ordered the Subadars (Governors) to demolish the schools and temples of Hindus. In this respect historian Thomas George Percival Spear (1901-1982) stated that Aurangzeb’s fanaticism led him to the extent of removing the Muslim Kalima (confession of faith) from all coins for fear of being defiled by nonbelievers by putting their feet on it. Also, Hindu courtiers were forbidden to salute in the Hindu fashion of joining both hands. According to historian Herbert Albert Laurens Fisher (1865-1940), as the influence of Orthodox clerics increased in his government, the Hindu merchants were charged more than double the excise duty paid by their Muslim counterparts on the same goods. Furthermore, Aurangzeb went so far as to reintroduce the Jizya, or poll tax, on non-Muslims after it had already been abolished by the former Mughal Emperor Akbar by the end of the 16th century (Spear: 1990:34-35). The consequences of his policies irrevocably destroyed communal harmony on the largest ever scale as the Hindu common man felt state discrimination and even rejected the Hindu aristocracy in his employment as traitors.
But the community that suffered most at Aurangzeb’s hands were not the Hindus but the adherents of secular, mystic, Sufic Islam. Aurangzeb totally erased their political footprint and forced them into the isolation and passivity of Sufi shrines. Aurangzeb also ordered Subadars to punish Muslims who dressed differently from traditional Muslim attire. The executions of a Sufi mystic, Sarmad Kashani, and the ninth Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur, bear testimony to Aurangzeb’s religious intolerance of Sufism.
Aurangzeb executed Sarmad, a harmless Sufi. French physician and traveller Francois Bernier reported Sarmad as a naked faqir (mendicant) who had let his hair grow, stopped clipping his nails and began to wander the streets of Lahore and Delhi. He was a Jewish, Persian-speaking Armenian merchant, who translated the Old Testament and New Testament into Persian, but in later years grew critical of all religions and took the spiritual position of the Sufi tradition. Sarmad was put to death by beheading in 1661, accused of atheism. Aurangzeb ordered him to recite the Muslim Kalima, La Ilaha Illalah (There is no God but God), but he kept on saying , La Ilaha (There is no God). Thus he sealed his death sentence. Ali Khan-Razi, Aurangzeb’s court chronicler, who was present at the public execution ceremony relates this mystic’s verses uttered on the execution stand: “There was an uproar and we opened our eyes from the eternal sleep. Saw that the night of wickedness endured, so we slept again.”
Aurangzeb in his 49 years of rule compiled the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, the comprehensive book of Islamic jurisprudence, and was the only monarch in 900 years of Muslim rule to have fully established Shariah law throughout the Indian Subcontinent.
After Aurangzeb’s death, it was difficult for his inept successors to the throne to maintain the central government’s writ. After his death a hardliner Sunni scholar, Qutb-ud-Din Ahmad (1703-1762), commonly known as Shah Wali Ullah, announced himself as a Mojadid (renewer of Islam) and continued further pressurising a weakened Mughal throne to ban tomb worship at Sufi shrines, playing music, and even celebrating Hindu festivals and consulting Hindu yogis for omens. About the Informal Sufic Muslims he said: “Beware! The rich intend to adopt the ways of strangers and non-Arabs and those who deviate from the right path, and try to mix and be like them.” In one of his letters available in the manuscripts collection at Rampur, he asks Muslim rulers to put a ban on Shia rituals also.
Aurangzeb’s conversion of India into a Shariah-compliant state created an immense assertiveness among Hindus after his death. The weakening of the central government resulted in autonomy of the Governors and officials assigned to different territories, resulting in the fragmentation of India into warlordism and city states. In 1737, 30 years after Aurangzeb’s death, the Hindu Maratha Peshwa (King) Baji Rao defeated the Mughals on the outskirts of Delhi and brought much of the former Mughal territories south of Agra under Maratha control. Simultaneously, the British colonial power started emerging in Bengal, the farthest province of India. The British East India Company raised its own regiments of soldiers and captured Bengal, Bihar and Orissa provinces by losing only 14 English soldiers in the famous Battle of Plassey in 1757. Over the next hundred years, they continued to expand their control over vast territories in the rest of the Indian Subcontinent, including Burma,so powerless had the autonomous fragmented states become.
After Aurangzeb’s death, the only resistance to Hindu rulers came from Shah Wali Ullah. He took it upon himself to re-establish the Shariah state with Jihadi students trained at his college, Madrasa Rahimiyya. He wrote an urgent letter to Ahmed Shah Abdali, the Afghan ruler,narrating a dream: “I saw the king of the infidels walking with the king of Islam, surrounded by a group of Muslims. In the meantime, the king of Islam ordered the king of the infidels to be slaughtered. People grabbed him and slaughtered him with knives. When I saw blood gushing out of the veins of his neck, I said: now blessing has descended.”
The destabilisation of the central authority in Delhi created an ambition in the heart of an Afghanistan ruler after 700 years of Muslim rule by Mughal and earlier dynasties to invade India. Ahmed Shah Abdali marched on Delhi and waged the most eventful of all battles at Panipat on January 14, 1761. This war was significant because it was waged with the religious fervour of Jihad (Muslim holy war). Resultantly it caused the largest number of fatalities in a single day reported in a classic formation battle between two armies. Between 60,000-70,000 Marathas were killed in the battlefield and a very large number of prisoners were killed later on. According to the best eyewitness chronicle, the Bakhar written by Kash Raj, the Diwan (Prime Minister) of Shuja-ud-Daulah, the ruler of Oudh who had funded Abdali’s campaign, another 40,000 Maratha prisoners were slaughtered in cold blood the day after the battle. Shejwalkar, whose monograph Panipat 1761 is often regarded as the single best secondary source on the battle, says:“Not less than 100,000 Marathas (soldiers and non-combatants) perished during and after the battle” (T S Shejwalkar: Panipat 1761, Deccan College Monograph Series, Pune).
But Abdali provided the orthodox fundamentalist class of Muslims only a short breathing space. Three years later, in 1764, Hindu Jats under Raja Suraj Mal, a warlord emerging in the chaotic countryside, made an assault on Agra, the Capital of the Mughals who had been reinstalled by Ahmed Shah Abdali before leaving home with camel loads of plundered gold. Suraj Mal overran theMughal garrison, plundered the city and looted the two silver gates to the entrance of the famous Taj Mahal. The Marathas also recovered in a short duration of 10 years. In 1771, a Maratha army, led by Mahadji Schinde, marched on Delhi and the Mughal emperor himself accepted the suzerainty of the Marathas.
In September 1803 the British General Lord Gerard Lake seized power in Delhi, not from the titular Mughal ruler Shah Alam II, but by defeating the Marathas.
The next challenge for the orthodox Islamists was Punjab, where the Muslims of North India were in a majority. After the return of Ahmed Shah Abdali to Afghanistan and inability of the Mughals to re-establish themselves, Sikh warlords appeared in Punjab to fill the power vacuum in the period from 1762 to 1799. In 1799, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, one of the Sikh warlords, captured Lahore and established a large empire over the Muslim majority areas extending from the Khyber Pass in the west to western Tibit in the east, and from Mithankot in the south to Kashmir in the north. Syed Ahmad Barelvi, who himself had remained a commander in the service of a Muslim warlord Amir Khan, partnered with two members of the Shah Wali Ullah family, Shah Ismail Dehlavi (1771-1831) and Maulvi Abdul Hai, to attempt a revival of Muslim power. This jihadist campaign is known as Barelvi Tehreek (Barelvi Movement). He declared both the British India and Ranjit Singh’s Punjab as Dar-ul-Harab (hostile country against which Jihad could be waged). Barelvi established an Islamic bastion in thePeshawar valley and initially defeated the Sikh forces with 8,000 holy warriors in border skirmishes at Akora in December 1826, but ultimately the Sikh army defeated and killed him at Balakot in 1831.
Separately, another religious scholar, Sayyid Akbar of the family of Pir Baba’s shrine in Buner, raised an informal army of 20,000 from the Yusafzai and Khattak tribes at Pir Sabak hill in Risalpur and staged the Orthodox Islamists’ last stand in 1823 against Ranjit Singh. He confronted the Sikh Army with this private tribal army to stop it from crossing River Landai. So fierce was the assault of these zealots at Pir Sabak that Ranjit Singh admitted to Colonel Wade, the British representative at his court later on, that it was the Hindu Gurkha regiment he had recruited from Nepal that saved the day. This resistance fizzled out when the Afghan ruler of Peshawar accepted the suzerainty of Ranjit Singh and agreed to pay tribute to him. The Afghan prince they were fighting for, surrendered Peshawar.The Sikh rule in Punjab ended when the British army defeated the Sikh ruler of Lahore at Ferozepur in 1846.
Could Aurangzeb have forecast the British colonial rule over his throne 150 years later? Aurangzeb, bitterly commenting on his education, took to task his childhood teacher Mullah Sahe seeking a reward from him. He wrote a letter to him: “You taught me that the whole of Farangistan (Europe) was no more than some inconsiderable islands and that the sovereigns of Farangistan resembled our petty Rajas…and trembled at the name of the King of India.” The letter is included in The World’s Great Letters edited by M Lincoln Schuster.
Orthodox Islam had no answer to the overwhelming colonisation of India by the British, backed by new ideas, new military weapons, new military techniques, new technology from the industrial revolution. Colonisation burst upon them like a bomb to further shrink their societal influence and crumble them deeper into decadence and political degradation. From the middle of the 19th century, after the collapse of the Sikh Empire in Punjab, when the British colonial system overwhelmed India, all resistance by the orthodox, formal, legalistic Islam to non-Muslim rulers had melted away. This group became totally alienated from the mainstream and passively retired to the mosques. They had no answer to colonialism and drowned themselves in aloofness and alienation by remaining hostile to western education and the British civil service.
The 20th century is as important as the 17th century in the history of the Muslims of India. During the period from the early 1930s till 1947, the stage was set for the new class of liberal, modern, secular Islam, brewing in the modern educational institutions established by the British, to fascinate the Muslim diaspora. An awareness had been created among Muslims by this class that political power was necessary for ending the deprivation of the Muslims of India, since the colonial rule had demolished the old oriental system of courts and administration. In the Mughal rule, mostly Muslim judges, court officials and lawyers monopolised the Shariah-based administration, but now hardly any Muslim had an opportunity to rise. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan himself was a junior level court official before he rose to become a judge. Sir William Hunter (July 15, 1840-February 6, 1900), a Scottish historian, statistician, a compiler and a member of the Indian Civil Service, wrote in 1871: “The proportion of Muhammadans to Hindus is now less than one seventh…in fact there is now scarcely a Government office in Calcutta in which a Muhammadan can hope for any post above the rank of poster, messenger, filler of inkpots and mender of pens.” Hunter writes at page 172 of his book The Indian Musalman that when some vacancies occurred in the office of Commissioner of Sundarban, Muslims were expressly barred from applying in the advertisement.
Besides Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s initiative of raising Aligarh University, two other contemporaries, namely Khan Bahadur Hassan Ali Effendi (August 14, 1830-August 20, 1895) and Syed Amir Ali, founded a Muslim organisation by the name of National Mohammadan Association at Calcutta in 1877. In 1882, they had presented a petition to the Viceroy of India, Lord Rippon, seeking government’s sponsorship in creating the interest of Muslim students in western modern scientific education. The biggest contribution of Aligarh was not the education it imparted but the political awareness of the Muslim community’s rights it created.
Sir Syed said in the 19th century: “Now suppose all the Englishmen were to leave India, then who would be the rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations, Mohammadans and Hindus, could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power. Most certainly not” (Richard Simonds: The Making of Pakistan (London, Fisher & Fisher, p31). When the All India Congress, the party which achieved the independence of India, was formed in 1886, Sir Syed advised his followers not to join it.
Jinnah said the same thing in the 20th century: “We are opposed to a united India Constitution with a Central Government, Federal or otherwise. We are opposed to this because it will mean our transfer from the British Raj (Rule) to the Hindu Raj. United India means a Hindu social and cultural majority dominating the Muslims whose civilization, culture and social structure of life is totally different” (Jamal-ud-Din Ahmed: Some Recent Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah, Sheikh Mohammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1947, p 380).
The new Muslim leadership was supported by the colonial power to counter the All India Congress’s claims of independence of India. Formation of the Muslim League in 1906 in Dacca had a queer synchronisation with the victory of the Liberal Party at the polls in Great Britain the same year, which had brought John Morley (1836-1923) to the helm of the India Office as Secretary of State for India. A year earlier in 1905 the Government of India had carved the first Muslim-majority province consisting of Eastern Bengal and Assam out of the Raj’s premier Presidency, Bengal. Morley was a leading radical social reformer and liberal political thinker who was determined to open constitutional windows throughout British India for representation of Indians in governance. Morley was influenced by his political science philosopher friend John Stuart Mill, who had started inspiring a generation of Indian liberals like Gopal K Gokhale and Romesh C Dutt. As a Lincoln’s Inn barrister, Morley also inspired Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), who followed him through the mighty labyrinth of law to the pinnacle of British India’s Bar and Privy Court corridors before veering off to become the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) of India’s Muslims.
Four years later John Morley and British Viceroy in India Lord Minto combined to introduce the Councils Act of 1909, which opened up opportunities for the Muslim community according to their numerical strength, not as a result of any political movement but as a gift of the colonial ruler. Lord Minto was warmly congratulated by the British authorities for “pulling back” India’s 62 million Muslims by granting them separate electorates from joining the “seditious opposition” of a Hindu majority. One of the beneficiaries of separate electorates in Hindu majority Bombay was Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
The All India National Congress leadership had viewed separate electorates as the first signs of the colonial power’s policy of ‘divide and rule’, aimed at separating Muslims from the struggle for the independence of India. This point was proved in the Muslim League’s session at Lucknow on March 22, 1913, where the delegates resolved to achieve self-rule under the British Crown as its aim (Jamil-ud Din Ahmed: Muslim Political Movement Early Phase, United Publishers, Lahore, p.140). The proximity of the Muslim League with the colonial power may be gauged from the fact that Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, who had formed the Muslim League in 1906, was appointed as India’s representative in the League of Nations in 1932. Thereafter he became a member of the Privy Council in 1934, and later President of the League of Nations from 1937 to 1938. Both Jinnah the founder of Pakistan and A K Fazlul Huq, the proposer of the Pakistan Resolution in 1940, became dual members of both the Muslim League and the All India Congress Party, but resigned from the Congress when Gandhi emerged on the political scene in the early 1920s and started the freedom movement Satyagraha (peaceful and passive resistance). The Congress leadership had passed out of the hands of moderates like the Parsi British Indian political leaders Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Pherozeshah Mehta.
Till the emergence of Nehru and Patel on the political scene, the spirit of Hindu-Muslim harmony prevailed and the concept of separate electorates was consolidated in the shape of the 1916 Jinnah-Tilak Pact, also known as the Lucknow Pact. Both Jinnah and Fazlul Haq had represented Muslims in the parleys. This landmark pact opened the doors for the British colonial power to formally incorporate separate electorates in the Government of India Acts of 1919 and again in 1935. These legislations were the Constitution of colonial India.
Thus the political isolation of Muslims since the early 19th century was ended by these two political decisions of the colonial power and the Lucknow Pact between Congress and the Muslim League.
Both Jinnah and A K Fazlul Huq veered into the Pakistan Movement because of the change of character of the All India Congress after its leadership passed to Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. In order to alienate Jinnah from the masses, Congress encouraged and sponsored the Orthodox Islamists belonging to Jamaat-i-Islami and Deoband Madrassah-educated clerics. After forming provincial governments under the Government of India Act 1935, Nehru and Patel forced Muslims to abandon the Muslim League and join Congress as a precondition for being included in the national and provincial Cabinets. Dr Ambedkar, a Harijan (untouchable), who later drafted the Indian Constitution, described the Congress’s decision as causing “the political death of the Muslims as a free people”. Jinnah’s Muslim League was to gain in popularity due to this sense of insecurity among Muslims.
Ever since the consolidation of the secular, educated, modern Muslim tendency on the political landscape, orthodox Islam has emerged as a destabilising force in the Muslim society of India, as this school of thought has lost the popular support of the community. The role of this orthodoxy has become disruptive, divisive and negative since the 1940s. They have consistently exploited their disruptive potential through Takfir due to their mosque power to discredit the new leadership. A Takfiri cleric is one who frequently dubs his opponents as infidels. A cleric has the unrestricted opportunity to have an audience at least once a week on Friday prayers to declare his ideological rivals as Kafir.
While the name Quaid-e-Azam (the greatest leader), given to Jinnah, became universally popular, Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar, the leader of the Orthodox Ahrar called him Kafir-e-Azam (the greatest apostate). Azhar coined the couplet: “Ik Kafira Ke Liye Islam ko Chora, Yeh Quaid-e-Azam Hai Keh Kafir-e-Azam” (He left Islam when he married a non-Muslim. Is Jinnah the Grand Leader or the Grand Infidel?). He was referring to Jinnah’s love marriage with a non-Muslim Parsi (Zoroastrian) young lady Ruttie Bai in 1918. There are some sources that endorse that Gandhi gave him the title of Quaid-e-Azam for his leadership of the Muslims (Was Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah the only founder of Pakistan? The Milli Gazette, May 8, 2011).
Decades earlier Sir Syed Ahmed Khan too was dubbed by the orthodox clerics including Jamaluddin Afghani as a heretic when he applied Mutazila interpretation to find sanction for an Indian Muslim Nation. Sayyid Jamālal-Dīn al-Afghānī (1839-1897), was a staunch proponent of pan-Islamic unity.
The disruptive potential of the Orthodox, Rigid, Formal Islam was represented by Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat-i-Islami and Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam in the Pakistan Movement.
Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam was formed in 1929 at Lahore as a proxy of the All India Congress and consisted mainly of firebrand Deobandi orators opposed to Pakistan. Jinnah was a Shia and according to a fatwa (religious decision) issued by clerics of Darul Aloom Doeband before partition, signed among others by the most prominent takfiri cleric Maulana Mohammad Shafi, who had spearheaded the anti-Ahmedi riots in later years, even Asna Ashri Shias are infidels (Justice Munir Commission Report on Anti Ahmedi Riots). The orthodox Islamists could not accept even Sir Agha Khan in 1906 as a leader of the Muslim community as he was an Ismaili Shia. Another firebrand Ahrar orator Atta Ullah Shah Bokhari called Pakistan Khakistan (dirty land) (Milap, December 27, 1945).
The more serious ideological clerics like Maududi rejected the Two Nation Theory also as a political concept because they did not recognize sub-nationalism in the Pan-Islamism concept of Ummah (Muslim Nation). Their rigid political concepts considered the whole Muslim communities dispersed throughout the world as one Ummah. They quoted the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “There are no genealogies in Islam.” Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi of Jamaat-i-Islami said that the state based on Jinnah’s conception of nation was Shaitani (Satanic). Maulana Maududi called Pakistan as Kufr (apostasy) and Na Pak (filthy). After the creation of Pakistan, the Jamaat-i-Islami was so professedly opposed to it that it declared all persons appointed in the government as administrators or submitting to its authority as sinners. Interestingly, they had earlier forbidden Muslims from taking up government jobs in British India as it was an un-Islamic state.
The influential Sajjada Nasheen (descendants of original Sufis) of Sufi shrines opposed the idea of Pakistan as they felt that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was snatching away their hold over their followers. However, the Pirs and Sajjada Nasheens had lost control over their liberal followers and they generally defiantly supported Jinnah.
The Muslims of India gave overwhelming support to Jinnah in this clash between the Nationalist, Secular, Modern class and Orthodox Islam. On August 14, 1947, this class achieved the impossible by creating the largest Muslim State and the fifth largest country in the world, i.e. Pakistan. Stanley Wolpert summarises the profound effect that Jinnah had on the world. He wrote: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three” (Stanley Wolpert: Jinnah of Pakistan, New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). Jinnah himself said while addressing the inaugural session of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947: “The whole world is wondering at this unprecedented cyclonic revolution which has brought about the plan of creating and establishing two independent sovereign Dominions in this subcontinent. As it is, it has been unprecedented; there is no parallel in the history of the world…Any idea of a united India could never have worked and in my judgment it would have led us to terrific disaster.”
On August 14, 1947, the Orthodox Islamists had lost the leadership of the Indian Muslims to the new class of Educated, Liberal, Modern nationalist leaders.
When Jinnah died on September 11, 1948, neither any member of Jamaat-i-Islami nor of Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam nor Ahrar nor any Khaksar attended his funeral. Jinnah stated in 1947 after the creation of Pakistan: “The greatest gift of Muslim League to you (Muslims) is that it has rid you of reactionary elements by which I mean the Mullahs and Maulanas, Pirs and Sajjada Nasheens.”
Jinnah’s successor Liaquat Ali Khan failed to keep the Pakistan Ideology in traction by associating Jinnah’s other authentic ideological partners Khawaja Nazim-ud-Din, Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy and A K Fazlul Huq from East Pakistan with it. He alienated Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy and A K Fazlul Huq from power by his hostile attitude. Liaquat Ali Khan became increasingly dependent upon three bureaucrats whom he inducted into his cabinet. They were Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza and Chaudhry Mohammad Ali. The bureaucrats on their part inducted Army Chief General Ayub Khan also into the group, thus creating what came to be known as the Establishment, the first Establishment in the history of Pakistan. Their influence on him even further alienated the East Pakistan-based leadership of Jinnah’s Muslim League.
The inevitable fallout was the disillusionment of the general public of East Pakistan. A K Fazlul Huq, who had presented the Pakistan Resolution in 1940, left the Muslim League in 1950. Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy too was disillusioned with Liaquat Ali Khan and left the Muslim League in 1949 to form the Awami League. Both had remained Prime Ministers of united Bengal before partition. They had fought for Muslim nationhood, which had been achieved in 1947, and for the East Pakistan leaders there was hardly any motivation for keeping the two wings of Pakistan united after the Muslim League had degenerated. Hence both embarked on the path of Bengali nationalism.
With the passage of time, the Orthodox Islamists shifted their position on Pakistan and gradually adopted Jinnah too as their leader in order to occupy the national political space vacated by Liaquat Ali Khan. Defeated and frustrated, finding no place for himself in India, even Maulana Maududi moved his Jamaat-i-Islami headquarters from Pathankot to Lahore, thereby increasing the concentration of orthodox Islamists in Punjab. They began posing themselves as the custodians of Pakistan. Maududi started putting forward the demand that since Pakistan had been achieved in the name of Islam, it should have Shariah as the Constitution. Jamaat-i-Islami started owning Jinnah in the 1970s and Mian Tufail Muhammad, its Amir (chief) started claiming that there was a secret understanding between Jinnah and Maududi in the 1940s to work separately for Pakistan. In the 1965 Presidential elections, Maududi supported the candidacy of Jinnah’s sister Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan and even protested on the streets when the elections were rigged.
Liaquat Ali Khan fell prey to the disruptive potential of the Orthodox Islamists and in the absence of the genuine Bengali leadership that had been sidelined by Liaquat Ali Khan, it was not possible for the West Pakistan leadership consisting of mutually feuding feudal lords and bureaucrats-turned-politicians to resist the resurgence of the Orthodox Islamists.
The Islamists had also received a decisive boost from the partition of Punjab in terms of their mosque power. It caused a great holocaust and the exodus of the Muslim and non-Muslim populations on a scale never before witnessed in history. Starting from Rawalpindi in March 1947, the communal riots caused 500,000 Muslim and 600,000 non-Muslim killings (Michael Edwards: Last Days of the British Raj) and displaced 12 million from their homes. If there had been no transmigration and indiscriminate slaughter and the non-Muslims had stayed on in Pakistan, they would have had a weightage of 30 percent of the population and there would have been no possibility of the Orthodox Islamists attempting to make Pakistan a religious state. No West Pakistan politician would have ignored the wishes of 30 percent of his electorate. Maulana Maududi in the journal Tarjaman-ul-Quran of February 1946 said that he was opposed to Pakistan on the ground that if it was established, it would become a Secular state and not an Islamic one.
In contrast, in East Pakistan no migration had taken place and society remained secular. During the proceedings of the Justice Munir Inquiry Commission investigating the anti-Ahmedi disturbances in 1953, Maududi conceded that if East Pakistan had become a separate country, a purely Islamic government could not have been formed there. “There will be difficulties there, the percentage of non-Muslims there being 25 percent…they have now left and we have in West Pakistan a completely Muslim population.”
Within six months of the death of Jinnah, on March 25, 1949, Liaquat Ali Khan, under pressure of the orthodox ulema of Punjab, introduced in the Constituent Assembly a resolution called the “Objectives Resolution”, which was quite contrary to Jinnah’s secular conception of the State. According to Ms Rubina Saigol, an eminent Pakistani intellectual, Maulana Maududi’s theory of Divine Sovereignty was incorporated into the Pakistan Resolution when it said that Sovereignty of God would be exercised by the State “within the limits prescribed by God”.
Significantly, the members of Parliament from East Pakistan did not support the Resolution. Out of 75 members, only 21 voted for it (Hamid Khan: Constitutional and Political History of Pakistan, Karachi: OUP, 2017). All the amendments proposed in the Constitution by minority members were rejected. Consequently, all 10 of them walked out of the Assembly.
The Objectives Resolution was to be used by the Orthodox lobby to press for Shariah Laws in later years. Maulana Maududi became the biggest supporter of the Objectives Resolution and started demanding enforcement of Shariah in the Constitution. He described the resolution as “such a rain which was neither preceded by a gathering of clouds nor was it followed by vegetation”. Following Maududi, the Barelvi pulpit leaders too started advocating application of Shariah Law across the country.
Emboldened by the Objectives Resolution, the Orthodox Islamists who had been comprehensively defeated in 1947 by Jinnah, staged a comeback on the streets in 1953 by igniting anti-Ahmedi riots in West Pakistan. The Orthodox and Deobandi ulema made Ahmedis who had supported the Pakistan Movement as their target and demanded them to be declared a non-Muslim minority. One of the earliest casualties of anti-Ahmedi hatred was Major Mehmood, an Ahmedi, whose car had failed near a crowd being addressed by a mullah in Quetta. He was mercilessly lynched. During the proceedings of the Inquiry Commission investigating the anti-Ahmedi riots, the ulema admitted that their demands against Ahmedis were based on the Objectives Resolution (Justice Munir Commission Report, pages 229-361).
According to Khan Abdul Wali Khan, the leader of the National Awami Party, a secular party of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Ahmedis were targeted by the Orthodox Islamists because the community had supported the Pakistan Movement and even shifted their headquarters from Qadian in India to Rabwah in Pakistan after the partition. About the role of Ahmedis in the creation of Pakistan, Abdul Wali Khan wrote in his book Facts are Facts that Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, the thinker of Jamaat Ahmedia had erred in leading his people away from secular India to Pakistan. He was among the top political intellectuals of undivided India, at par with Ambedkar, who drafted the Indian Constitution after independence. In March 1940, when World War II had just begun, Gandhi and Congress were against India joining the war but Muslim League agreed to cooperate with the British if they could get Pakistan after the War. Viceroy Lord Linlithgow sought the help of Zafarullah Khan who prepared a draft proposal for dividing India and forming Pakistan. The Viceroy wrote a minute: “Upon my instruction Zafarullah wrote a memorandum on the subject. Two Dominion States. I have already sent it to your attention. I have also asked him for further clarification, which, he says, is forthcoming. He is anxious, however, that no one should find out that he has prepared this plan. He has, however, given me the right to do with it what I like, including sending a copy to you. Copies have been passed on to Jinnah, and, I think, to Sir Akbar Hydari. While he, Zafarullah, cannot admit its authorship, his document has been prepared for adoption by the Muslim League, with a view to giving it the fullest publicity” (Abdul Wali Khan: Facts are Facts). Zafarullah kept his role a secret due to expected criticism of the orthodox lobby.
The anti-Ahmedi campaign opened the doors for Army intervention. Thus the phenomenon, which later came to be known as the ‘Establishment’, stepped in directly into civil administration. The breakdown of law and order could only be controlled by the imposition of Martial Law in Lahore.
Subsequent to the passage of the Objectives Resolution, all of Pakistan’s subsequent Constitutions contained religious provisions and the name of the country was changed from the ‘Republic of Pakistan’ to the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’.
Seven years after the creation of Pakistan, the first Constitution of Pakistan was made in 1956. But its contents were totally different from what Jinnah had said in his speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. In this Constitution, Pakistan was named the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’. It also named a Commission to bring the laws in conformity with the Quran and Sunnah. But the spirit of secularism prevailing in East Pakistan prevented the Orthodox Islamists from making Pakistan a religious state in practice. In East Pakistan, where the majority of Pakistan’s population lived, the Muslim League had suffered a crushing defeat in the 1954 Provincial Assembly elections at the hands of the United Front coalition consisting of Suhrawardy’s Awami League and A K Fazlul Huq’s Krishak Sramik Party. Even Khawaja Nazim-ud-Din had lost his seat in the elections that returned only nine Muslim League candidates, not enough to even allocate them separate seats in the Assembly. Neither in the manifesto of the Awami League nor in that of the Krishak Sramik Party was there any reference to Islam or the Quran and Sunnah, hence the Islamic Commission remained a dead letter during the two and a half years the Constitution remained in force. Maulana Maududi thus was provoked to remark about the 1956 Constitution: “If a secular and Godless instead of an Islamic Constitution was to be introduced, what was the sense in all this struggle for a separate Muslim homeland?” (H Tinker: India and Pakistan, Mall Press, London, 1962, p206).
When East Pakistan separated from West Pakistan in 1971, the new country was named the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, with secularism as its basic principle. In West Pakistan, society acquiesced in the disruptive potential of mosque power, notwithstanding the failure of the Orthodox class at polling stations.
(To be continued)
The writer is a retired officer of the Police Service of Pakistan and has a keen interest in political science and jurisprudence. He has remained the head of intelligence agencies in three out of four provinces of Pakistan, namely Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. He is an expert observer and analyst of emerging political issues in Pakistan and regularly contributes analytical and researched writeups on related subjects in the national press.