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Iqbal & Pakistan

The concept of Pakistan in the light of Iqbal’s Allahabad Address. Allama Iqbal’s presidential address to the 25th session of the All-India Muslim League that was held at Allahabad on 29 December 1930 — commonly known as the Allahabad Address — holds a great significance in the Pakistan Movement because in this address, he conceptualized the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims. Poet-Philosopher Allama Iqbal had a clear vision and profound outlook regarding the future of Indian Muslims. Like Jinnah, he had also passed through stages of political evolutionary growth to arrive at the conclusion that the best alternate for Muslims was to have a separate homeland of their own.

Pakistan was demanded on the fundamental basis that the Indian Muslims constituted a nation by themselves and were, therefore, entitled to the right of self-determination. During the period of the struggle for Pakistan, the Quaid-i-Azam made it clear, more than once. For instance, he refused Mr Gandhi’s offer in 1944 that the Muslim-majority areas could separate from an all-India union by invoking the right of self-determination on a territorial basis. But, Mr Jinnah emphatically told him that the Muslims claimed the right of self-determination as a nation, not as a territorial unit; indeed, they were entitled to exercise their inherent right as a Muslim nation which was their birthright.

This, at that time, appeared to be a novel concept of Muslim nationhood, but its theoretical foundations had already been worked out by Allama Iqbal in Allahabad Address whereby he said:

“It cannot be denied that Islam, regarded as an ethical ideal plus a certain kind of polity — by which expression I mean a social structure regulated by a legal system and animated by a specific ethical ideal — has been the chief formative factor in the life-history of the Muslims of India. It has furnished those basic emotions and loyalties which gradually unify scattered individuals and groups, and finally transform them into a well-defined people, possessing a moral consciousness of their own.”

In other words, Islam was the main factor which set the Indian Muslims apart from the rest and made them into a nation. True, even at the height of their political supremacy in India, the Indian Muslims allowed themselves to be Indianised and influenced by their Hindu neighbours in several spheres. But they ever stuck firmly to the anchor of their Islamic heritage. They retained their own distinct individuality in the Indian body politic and to this, several European travellers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries bear testimony.

The loss of political power was the signal for the Indian Muslims to begin exhibiting their old intense feeling of nationality. In the eighteenth century, for instance, the Muslims exhibited a growing separation from the Hindus which they had never thought necessary in the days of their   own supremacy. This growing anxiety on part of the Indian Muslims was amply reflected in the movements launch­ed by them since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Sayyed Ahmad Shaheed’s Mujahidin Movement, Uprising of 1857, the Aligarh Movement, the Muslim League and the Khilafat Movement; all were raised on the basic assumption that the Indian Muslim community represented a distinct politico-cultural unit on the broad canvas of India.

The idea of a religious community entitling itself as a nation could hardly fit into the prevalent Western concept of nationalism in which considerations of race, language or territory occupy an important place. The Indian Muslims comprised a host of linguistic groups possessing certain well-defined characteristics; they differed considerably from each other in social customs, food and even national predilections.

What explained the concept of Muslim nationhood was not these mundane factors but a spiritual principle which Iqbal termed as the ethical ideal. Iqbal said:

“The truth is that Islam is not a Church. It is a State conceived as a contractual organism long before Rousseau ever thought of such a thing, and animated by an ethical ideal which regards man not as an earth-rooted creature, defined by this or that portion of the earth, but as a spiritual being understood in terms of a social mechanism, and possessing rights and duties as a living factor in that mechanism.”

Iqbal visualized a nation as a living soul, the product of a spiritual principle. And viewed from this angle, a people dedicated to a spiritual ideal, sharing a rich heritage of memories and possessing a desire to live together would fully qualify itself for the status of a nation.

Indeed, this spiritual factor more than others is basic to the very idea of a nation. In the case of Indian Muslim nationalism, however, this ideological factor was of supreme significance and was represented by Islam. There could be no doubt that Islam provided the strongest link binding the Indian Muslims into a single living soul and thus welding them into a nation. And this sense of unity created by Islam was further heightened by a common history which the Muslims shared in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent. They felt proud of the glorious victories won by their forefathers against formidable odds; of cultural achievements that gave the world unique cultural and architectural gems; of establishing empires like the Mughal Empire that either in territory or in splendour excelled every other empire in that age. They also shared the memory of the humiliation to which they were increasingly subjected since the beginning of the eighteenth century. Nor could they forget the fact that they were treated with hostility in every walk of life by the dominant community, the Hindus.

Thus, when Iqbal pleaded for a separate Muslim state in India, he was not asking for the creation of yet another independent territorial unit in the Subcontinent. What he emphasised in his address was that the life of Islam as a cultural force in India very largely depended on its centralisation in a specified territory. The driving force behind the concept of Indian Muslim nation-hood was, therefore, essentially ideological in character. It was not merely a question of establishing a state but of giving Islam a political and territorial expression.

And it was on this plank that the Quaid-i-Azam subsequently launched the struggle for Pakistan. He exhorted the Muslims to sacrifice their all in building up Pakistan as a bulwark of Islam and as one of the greatest nations.

On more than one occasion, the Quaid-i-Azam tried to elaborate the theoretical basis of Pakistan which had earlier been spelt out by Iqbal. He knew that without an intellectual basis to nourish and sustain it, no movement stood any chance of success. He knew that, devoid of its ideological content, the movement for Pakistan would fail. And the very fact that this movement galvanized a scattered community into a determined, united nation, which ultimately wrested its freedom from unwilling hands, goes to prove the existence of a powerful ideological force behind it.

The object of the Pakistan Movement, it cannot be over emphasized, was not the separation of a few provinces in the Subcontinent. If it were merely that, the Muslims of the minority provinces would never have gladly agreed to bear the main brunt of the freedom struggle. They knew that they would stand to gain nothing, indeed might lose everything, if Pakistan was created. And yet they joined the Muslims of the majority provinces in their struggle simply because the battle was not for territory, but as Iqbal put it, for the preservation of the life of Islam in the Subcontinent.

Again, it was this ideological force that enabled the new state of Pakistan to survive the stresses and strains to which it was subjected in its infancy.
If, as Iqbal visualized, the ethical ideal or the spiritual principle was the very fountainhead of the concept of Indian Muslim nationhood, there can be no doubt that Pakistan can organise and build herself up only by honouring that principle. In other words, it is only in the Islamic atmosphere which facilitated her birth that Pakistan can hope to survive and make progress.

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