Jinnah’s legacy

Published September 11, 2010

IN advancing the cause of Muslim regeneration and Islamic renaissance in India, Jinnah had made a pivotal contribution along with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Allama Iqbal. Sir Syed had laid the foundational groundwork for Muslim education and social reform.

He had also reclaimed the Muslims from despondency and despair, crafted a viable platform for a pan-Indian Muslim community and injected in them a community consciousness so that they become buoyant, vibrant and progressive enough to envision a place and destiny for themselves in the Hindu-dominated subcontinent.

Iqbal, on the other hand, had diagnosed and intellectualised the Muslim problem in India, roused their community consciousness to a new pitch, inspired them with a grand vision and spelled out the intellectual justification for separate Muslim nationhood in India.

Jinnah carried the campaign further; he mobilised the Muslim masses as never before and adroitly translated the concept in terms of ground reality to raise the edifice of Pakistan through the ballot box. Sir Syed was the father of Muslim education and the foremost proponent of social reform. Iqbal was the ideologue of Muslim nationalism. And Jinnah was the political messiah who created a homeland for that nationalism. Therein lies Jinnah’s prime importance in the arduous odyssey from the highly traumatised post-1857 Muslim situation to the glorious dawn of a fledgling, but promising, Muslim state. Therein, also, lies Jinnah’s significance for the ongoing venture called Pakistan.

As against Sir Syed and Iqbal, Jinnah was essentially a student and practitioner of politics. He had a penchant only for two things in life: law and politics. Given his overriding commitment to politics and political action and his belief in its efficacy in resolving problems of all sorts, it is not too surprising that, à la Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, he believed in seeking “the political kingdom” which would ensure that “all things shall be added unto you”.

In demanding Pakistan, therefore, Jinnah was seeking the political kingdom, hoping that everything else would fall into place. “We shall have time for domestic programme and policies, but first get the government. This is a nation without any territory or any government,” he told a Bombay audience in August 1945.

Translated into the present context, this pronouncement would mean something like ‘work for Pakistan’s security in an uncertain world, for political stability, economic buoyancy, educational advancement, cultural enrichment, emancipation of the weak, the marginalised and the underprivileged segments of the population, and for the creation of a just, egalitarian, tolerant and self-propelling social order and polity’.

Despite his deep involvement in politics and political problems,, despite the time-consuming task of crafting a viable political destiny for the Muslims, Jinnah had spelled out certain basic ground rules for governance, for political practitioners and the nation at large.

His beliefs and principles may be summarised as follows. Jinnah believed in moderation, gradualism, constitutionalism and consensual politics. He believed in building up a consensus over an issue, step by step, rather than imposing a decision by fiat.

Controversies should be resolved through debate and discussion in the assembly chamber, rather than through violence in the streets through sheer muscle power. He believed in democracy, not mobocracy. Like Benjamin Disraeli, he believed in educating the masses, the masters in a democracy, not pandering to their preferences and prejudices.

He abhorred demagogy and rhetoric to advance personal and political agendas. He frowned upon oligarchy and feudalism, and stood for an egalitarian society, for the emancipation of the downtrodden, for a fair wage, ameliorative measures and justice for both industrial labour and a famished peasantry, and for the welfare of the masses. He called for the emancipation of women, for conceding them their due rights, and for taking them along, side by side with men in all spheres of national life.

He stood for an ‘Islamic democracy’, with equal rights for one and all, whatever one’s race, colour, religion or language. “I am sure,” he declared in his broadcast to the people of the US in February 1948, “that it [the constitution of Pakistan] will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam…. It has taught equality of man, justice and fair play to everybody.” At the same time, he ruled out theocracy and any role for the clergy. Thus, he stood for the positive face of Islam. He stood for the pluralist and progressive face of Islam.

Of course, he also stood for the “Muslim ideology… which” he hoped, “others will share”.

But it is an ideology that others — i.e. the non-Muslims — would share with us by their own volition, and not something that is imposed on them by a “brute” majority. And in his response to Lord Mountbatten, he emphasised that Pakistan would routinely and religiously follow “the humane and great principles” preached by the Prophet (PBUH) in the treatment of one and all, without any distinction of race, religion and colour. And, in his Aug 11 address, he consecrated Pakistan to the concept of a united, integrated nationhood, assuring one and all of equal citizenship, equal rights, equal privileges and equal responsibilities.

This is the enduring legacy that Jinnah has bequeathed us and to it we should remain steadfast. Owning it afresh would recreate ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’, for which there has been snowballing demand over the past few years.

The writer, HEC Distinguished National Professor, has recently co-edited Unesco’s History of Humanity, Vol. VI, and edited In Quest of Jinnah (2007), the only oral history on Jinnah.

smujahid107@hotmail.com

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