Pakistan: between Iqbal's and Jinnah's visions

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 19.03.14

It was the Khilafat Movement of the early 1920s that introduced and strengthened four main
trends in the thought of Muslims in the subcontinent: first, religion could be mixed with
politics to achieve certain objectives; second, emotional appeals could be used to achieve
political purposes; third, the desire for pan-Islamism could be fulfilled; and fourth, the
concept of a contiguous political entity ruled by a Caliph was still valid. The Khilafat
Movement failed to meet its objectives but affected the thought of Muslims in the
subcontinent. In the poetry of Allama Mohammad Iqbal, that change of thought secured a
reflection, as Iqbal was a poet close to the masses. Iqbal earned popularity by speaking the
language understood by the Muslim masses that were stirred by the spirit of the Khilafat
Movement. The poetry of Iqbal reinforced the above four trends in the politics of Indian

During the Khilafat Movement, Iqbal participated through his poetry but Mohammad Ali
Jinnah decided to keep away (although he expressed his concerns about the proposed
disintegration of the Ottoman Empire to the All-India Khilafat Conference). The Khilafat
Movement can be seen as a defining moment in the divergence between the visions, and
subsequent approaches, of these two leaders. Unlike Iqbal, Jinnah was averse to mixing
religion with politics and appealing to the emotions of Muslims to achieve political
objectives. These included pan-Islamism and support for a centralised authority (in the form
of a Caliphate) at the head of geographically contiguous Muslim populated regions or
states. One of the reasons was that, unlike Iqbal who was a poet, Jinnah was a
constitutionalist. Similarly, unlike Iqbal, who was a philosopher, Jinnah was a pragmatist who
was against extra-constitutional activities and solutions.

One of the implications of the failure of the Khilafat Movement was that several schemes to
divide united India were bandied about in the late 1920s: if a vast territorial oneness in the
name of religion was not possible, why not think of smaller version of the same. In the end,
Iqbal took the privilege of presenting one such scheme, the creation of a Muslim state in
northwest India, using the platform of the All India Muslim League (AIML) as its president in
Allahabad on December 29, 1930. Bengal was not included in this formula because Bengal
was not geographically contiguous, though it was mostly populated by Muslims. In this way,
a case for the division of united India was constructed. Another implication of the movement
was that the AIML had become an ineffective political party. Jinnah, who had left in disgust
for England in 1928, was asked to come back and rejuvenate the AIML, unite the Indian
Muslims onto a single platform, and safeguard their interests. Later on, in his confidential
letter written to Jinnah on June 21, 1937, Iqbal declared Jinnah the “only Muslim in India
today to whom the community has a right to look to for safe guidance through the storm
that is coming to North-West India, and perhaps to the whole of India”. The letter also
included Bengal in the plan to create a “separate federation of Muslim provinces”.

Unlike Iqbal, Jinnah did not rely on emotions but on reason and, also unlike Iqbal, he was
skilled in negotiation and winning arguments. Following his return, Jinnah made a case for
the unique constitutional rights of Muslims in political, economic, social and cultural matters.
Religious rights were one component of that demand. Again, unlike Iqbal, Jinnah was a
rationalist and his idea was to secure constitutional guarantees for Muslims, which is why he
agreed to the terms of the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946. Later on, Jinnah delivered a
speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, to give a roadmap of
what he believed were the biggest challenges for the country’s law-makers. Jinnah might
have delivered many speeches on several occasions but all those cannot dwarf the
importance of this one speech on August 11. The needs of the venue matched the words of
the speech. If the acts of Jinnah in accepting the terms of the Cabinet Mission Plan and
delivering a message through his August 11 speech are taken together, his real vision
becomes crystal clear.

Unlike Iqbal, who was against (western) democracy, Jinnah was in its favour. Iqbal was not
in favour of western democracy for two reasons: first, he believed that under the system,
heads were counted but not weighed and second, that it was a manifestation of capitalism.
This point implies that Iqbal favoured a political system based on a group of selected wise
men, whether or not under the patronage of a Caliph. Nevertheless, and amongst his many
other gifts, there are three major contributions Iqbal made to the future of the Muslims of
the subcontinent: first, vocalising the need for carving out a country for the Muslims from
united India; second, suggesting
Ijtihad (intelligent interpretation) within religion for Muslims
to solve the issues of the new age; and third, selecting Jinnah to lead Muslims to safeguard
their interests and protect their rights.

Though Jinnah never uttered the slogan ‘Pakistan Ka Matlib Kiya’ (What is the meaning of
Pakistan?) to stir the masses, he must have been aware of the undercurrent in the Pakistan
Movement, which derived its energy and strength from the Khilafat Movement — the same
movement that inspired Iqbal. Subsequent to these events, two schools of thought have
emerged in Pakistan, one that interprets Jinnah’s August 11 speech as the final word on
the legislative future of Pakistan and the other one that dilutes that speech with other
sayings by Jinnah on different occasions. In the latter, the spirit and tempo of the Khilafat
Movement still persists and dictates its terms. The latter school is divided into two sub-
schools: the first considers the territory of today’s Pakistan as meant for a minuscule
Caliphate (sometimes the concept of Caliphate is substituted with that of a centralised,
military-led government) while the second considers Pakistan an area to be prepared for
merger into a bigger Caliphate. Both these sub-schools draw their strength from Iqbal’s
vision. Unfortunately, Jinnah’s vision is fading further away.

Back to columns in 2014