Thursday, August 11, 2016

Did Pakistan's Founder Envision an Islamic Republic?

"Who am I to give you the constitution? The Prophet of Islam had given us a constitution 1300 years ago." Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Did Quaid-e-Azam envision Pakistan as an Islamic Republic? What constitution was he referring to when he said "the Prophet of Islam had given us a constitution 1300 years ago"? These questions need to be explored and answered to understand what Pakistan's founder intended.


The Islamic state the Prophet of Islam established 1400 years ago was the state of Madina. The constitution of this state is referred to as "Misaq-e-Madina" or the Charter of Madina.  Let's examine the contents of this document.

Here's the opening line of Misaq-e-Madina:

"This is a document from Muhammad the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), governing relations between the Believers i.e. Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib and those who followed them and worked hard with them. They form one nation -- Ummah."

It clearly says that all citizens of "Yathrib" (ancient name of Madina), regardless of  their tribe or religion, are part of one nation--"Ummah". So the word "Ummah" here does not exclude non-Muslims.

Further into the "Misaq" document, it says: "No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew. The enemies of the Jews who follow us will not be helped. If anyone attacks anyone who is a party to this Pact the other must come to his help."

The Mesaq assures equal protection to all citizens of Madina, including non-Muslim tribes which agreed to it. The contents of Misaq-e-Madina, Islam's first constitution approved by Prophet Mohammad 1400 years ago, appear to have inspired Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah vision of Pakistan where people of all religions and nationalities live in harmony with equal rights and protections under the law.

Quai-e-Azam's Pluralistic Vision:

Pakistan's founder's pluralistic vision is reflected in the word's of what he described as Prophet Muhammad's constitution. It is also found in Quaid-e-Azam's other speeches that are mistakenly seen by some as conflicting with his quote: "Who am I to give you the constitution? The Prophet of Islam had given us a constitution 1300 years ago."

Here is another quote that reaffirm Jinnah's pluralistic vision of Pakistan:

"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State"


Some might now ask what was the need for the Two-Nation-Theory given the above vision of the Quaid? The Quaid's search for Pakistan as an independent state for Muslims was inspired to give India's minority Muslims better opportunities to grow and prosper. While it's true that Pakistan has not lived up to the Quaid's expectations, it is also true that, in spite of all their problems, Muslims in Pakistan are still much better off  than their counterparts in India.

The growing intolerance in Modi's India and the Indian government commission headed by former Indian Chief Justice Rajendar Sachar confirm that Muslims are the new untouchables in caste-ridden and communal India. Indian Muslims suffer heavy discrimination in almost every field from  education and housing to jobs.  Their incarceration rates are also much higher than their Hindu counterparts.

According to Sachar Commission report, Muslims are now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men are unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% are unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 ca not read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims account for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they hold less than 5% of government jobs.

Those who say that the Two-Nation-Theory died with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 are wrong. They need to be reminded that the Lahore Resolution of March 23, 1940, in fact called for two "independent states", not "state", in Muslim majority areas of India in the north east and the north west. The other fact to remember is that Bangladesh did not choose to merge with India after separation from Pakistan.


The Quaid-e-Azam sought to follow the Misaq-e-Madina, a very progressive and pluralistic charter, when he said, "who am I to give you the constitution? The Prophet of Islam had given us a constitution 1300 years ago." The rise of fanatic Hindu Nationalists in India and the worsening conditions of Indian Muslims have reinforced the rationale for the Quaid insisted on pursuit of the Two Nation Theory.  Pakistan has indeed been a great blessing for vast majority of Muslims who chose to make it their home.

Here are a couple of video discussions on this and other subjects:

Nawaz Sharif Govt Survival Questioned; ISIS Advances in Iraq from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Jinnah’s birthday, Bangladesh Independence, Abdul Qadir Molla hanging, Aam Aadmi Party success India from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Jaswant Lauds Jinnah

Are Muslims Better Off in Jinnah's Pakistan?

Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh

Is This a 1971 moment in Pakistan's History?

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

Pakistan: A Great Blessing for Muslims


Majumdar said...

Prof sb,

Within a few years of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) misaq-e-Madina, 3 of the first 4 rightly guided Caliphs got bumped off by fellow faithfuls. And within a generation, his family was massacred at Karbala by fellow faithfuls. Hopefully, Bakkkiland would have a different fate.


Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "Within a few years of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) misaq-e-Madina, 3 of the first 4 rightly guided Caliphs got bumped off by fellow faithfuls. And within a generation, his family was massacred at Karbala by fellow faithfuls. Hopefully, Bakkkiland would have a different fate."

It's easy to criticize them for their actions in the 6th century by judging them by today's standards. Even their extreme actions were mild compared to the norms in that period.

The fact is that they rose fro the barren Arabian desert to great heights of human civilization within a short period of time and remained at the peak for centuries.

Arts, literature and sciences flourished under Muslim rulers for several centuries as they made great contributions in every sphere of life.

Even India's reputation as "golden bird" was built under Muslim rule.

Here's an except of a recent Pankaj Mishra piece published in NY Times:

Mr. Modi doesn’t seem to know that India’s reputation as a “golden bird” flourished during the long centuries when it was allegedly enslaved by Muslims. A range of esteemed scholars — from Sheldon Pollock to Jonardon Ganeri — have demonstrated beyond doubt that this period before British rule witnessed some of the greatest achievements in Indian philosophy, literature, music, painting and architecture. The psychic wounds Mr. Naipaul noticed among semi-Westernized upper-caste Hindus actually date to the Indian elite’s humiliating encounter with the geopolitical and cultural dominance first of Europe and then of America.

Syed S.S. said...

The Quaid was forced to consider the two nation theory when the Hindu nationalists, in retaliation for the 'Hindu Code Bill' that was initiated by a British Viceroy,in 1880s, who forbade and outlawed 'Satee' and 'Kanya Daan' - which had remained a part of the Hindu traditions for ages. Then the task of putting these into law was assigned to Dr. Ambedkar who worked, with Congress Party support, on changing the archaic Hindu laws more in line with natural laws. The Congress party government passed the Hindu Code Bill into law in 1953.
The Hindu nationalists had started to oppose any change in their traditional Hindu laws and when they felt they can not win the battle they asked to do similar realignment into the Islamic jurisprudence to be at par with the forthcoming change in the Hindu religion.
This issue came to head about early 1930s - when the Muslims of India stood up to oppose all anticipated change of Islamic laws in free India. The RSS types then indicated they would force the change because Hindus would be in a majority in a free India and can force a change in Islamic law because of their plurality. That was when many Muslims including the Quaid decided to ask for a separate nation, Pakistan, to preserve the Islamic laws.
Though, it was nowhere the Quaid wanted to create a theocratic Islamic nation. The purpose of Pakistan was only to insulate the Indian Muslims from the changes in Muslim laws the Hindu majority wanted to impose on Muslims in a free India.


Kal said...

"Even India's reputation as "golden bird" was built under Muslim rule."
What does that mean? Even the Muslim rulers were product of intermarriage. Muslims of all ethnicities from Bengali to hydrebadi and in addition to Marathas and Rajput elite are responsible for the golden period. Even then the masses were ignored or heavily taxed.

Riaz Haq said...

India’s 17th century Mughal emperor Akbar earned an annual revenue of some £17.5 million, according to Aberdeen. At that time India’s share of the global GDP had been relatively stable at 25% for around 200 years. This began falling during colonisation and the slide continued till the late 1970s. Things got better after liberalisation in 1991 when the country opened up the economy. Since then, India’s share has steadily risen.