Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ulema and Pakistan Movement, Azlan Haider

Ulema and Pakistan Movement, Azlan Haider

Muslim religious organisations of the sub-continent -- Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, Majlis-i- Ahrar- i-Islam and Jamat-i-Islami [1]-- were politically very active during the struggle for Pakistan but all of them opposed tooth and nail the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims. The opposition of Jamiat and Ahrar was on the plea that Pakistan was essentially a territorial concept and thus alien to the philosophy of Islamic brotherhood, which was universal in character. Nationalism was an un-Islamic concept for them but at the same time they supported the Congress Party's idea of Indian nationalism which the Muslim political leadership considered as accepting perpetual domination of Hindu majority. Jamat-i-Islami reacted to the idea of Pakistan in a complex manner. It rejected both the nationalist Ulema's concept of nationalism as well as the Muslim League's demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims.

The most noteworthy feature of the struggle for Pakistan is that its leadership came almost entirely from the Western-educated Muslim professionals. The Ulema remained, by and large, hostile to the idea of a Muslim national state. But during the mass contact campaign, which began around 1943, the Muslim League abandoned its quaint constitutionalist and legalist image in favor of Muslim populism which drew heavily on Islamic values. Wild promises were made of restoring the glory of Islam in the future Muslim state. As a consequence, many religious divines and some respected Ulema were won over.

The Muslim political leadership believed that the Ulema were not capable of giving a correct lead in politics to the Muslims because of their exclusively traditional education and complete ignorance of the complexities of modern life. It, therefore, pleaded that the Ulema should confine their sphere of activity to religion since they did not understand the nature of politics of the twentieth century.

It was really unfortunate that the Ulema, in general and the Darul Ulum Deoband in particular, understood Islam primarily in a legal form. Their medieval conception of the Shariah remained unchanged, orthodox and traditional in toto and they accepted it as finished goods manufactured centuries ago by men like (Imam) Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf. Their scholasticism, couched in the old categories of thought, barred them from creative thinking and properly understanding the problems, social or philosophical, confronting the Muslim society in a post-feudal era. They were intellectually ill-equipped to comprehend the crisis Islam had to face in the twentieth century. 

The struggle for Pakistan -- to establish a distinct identity of Muslims -- was virtually a secular campaign led by men of politics rather than religion and Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his lieutenants such as Liaquat Ali Khan who won Pakistan despite opposition by most of the Ulema.

Jinnah was continuously harassed by the Ulema, particularly by those with Congress orientation. They stood for status quo as far as Islam and Muslims were concerned, and regarded new ideas such as the two nation theory, the concept of Muslim nationhood and the territorial specification of Islam through the establishment of Pakistan as innovations which they were not prepared to accept under any circumstance. It was in this background that Jinnah pointed out to the students of the Muslim University Union: "What the League has done is to set you free from the reactionary elements of Muslims and to create the opinion that those who play their selfish game are traitors. It has certainly freed you from that undesirable element of Molvis and Maulanas. I am not speaking of Molvis as a whole class. There are some of them who are as patriotic and sincere as any other, but there is a section of them which is undesirable. Having freed ourselves from the clutches of the British Government, the Congress, the reactionaries and so-called Molvis, may I appeal to the youth to emancipate our women. This is essential. I do not mean that we are to ape the evils of the West. What I mean is that they must share our life not only social but also political." 

The history of the Ulema in the sub-continent has been one of their perpetual conflict with intelligentsia. The Ulema opposed Sir Syed Ahmad Khan when he tried to rally the Muslims in 1857. Nearly a hundred of them, including Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, the leading light of Deoband, ruled that it was unlawful to join the Patriotic Association founded by him. However, the Muslim community proved wiser than the religious elite and decided to follow the political lead given by Sir Syed Ahmad.

The conflict between conservative Ulema and political Muslim leadership came to a head during the struggle for Pakistan when a number of Ulema openly opposed the Quaid-i-Azam and denounced the concept of Pakistan. It is an irony of history that Jinnah in his own days, like Sir Syed Ahmad before him, faced the opposition of the Ulema.

The Ahrar Ulema -- Ataullah Shah Bukhari, Habibur Rahman Ludhianawi and Mazhar Ali Azhar -- seldom mentioned the Quaid-i-Azam by his correct name which was always distorted. Mazhar Ali Azhar used the insulting sobriquet Kafir-i-Azam (the great unbeliever) for Quaid-i-Azam. One of the resolutions passed by the Working Committee of the Majlis-i-Ahrar which met in Delhi on 3rd March 1940, disapproved of Pakistan plan, and in some subsequent speeches of the Ahrar leaders Pakistan was dubbed as "palidistan". The authorship of the following couplet is attributed to Maulana Mazhar Ali Azhar, a leading personality of the Ahrar:

Ik Kafira Ke Waste Islam ko Chhora

Yeh Quaid-i-Azam hai Ke hai Kafir-i-Azam.

(He abandoned Islam for the sake of a non-believer woman 
[7], he is a great leader or a great non-believer)

During the struggle for Pakistan, the Ahrar were flinging foul abuse on all the leading personalities of the Muslim League and accusing them of leading un-Islamic lives. Islam was with them a weapon which they could drop and pick up at pleasure to discomfit a political adversary. Religion was a private affair in their dealings with the Congress and nationalism their ideology. But when they were pitted against the Muslim League, their sole consideration was Islam. They said that the Muslim League was not only indifferent to Islam but an enemy of it.

After independence, the Ahrar leaders came to Pakistan. But before coming, the All India Majlis-i-Ahrar passed a resolution dissolving their organization and advising the Muslims to accept Maulana Azad as their leader and join the Congress Party.

The Jamat-i-Islami was also opposed to the idea of Pakistan which it described as Na Pakistan (not pure). In none of the writings of the Jama'at is to be found the remotest reference in support of the demand for Pakistan. The pre-independence views of Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of the Jamat-i-Islami were quite definite:

"Among Indian Muslims today we find two kinds of nationalists: the Nationalists Muslims, namely those who in spite of their being Muslims believe in Indian Nationalism and worship it; and the Muslims Nationalist: namely those who are little concerned with Islam and its principles and aims, but are concerned with the individuality and the political and economic interests of that nation which has come to exist by the name of Muslim, and they are so concerned only because of their accidence of birth in that nation. From the Islamic viewpoint both these types of nationalists were equally misled, for Islam enjoins faith in truth only; it does not permit any kind of nation-worshipping at all.

Maulana Maududi was of the view that the form of government in the new Muslim state, if it ever came into existence, could only be secular. In a speech shortly before partition he said: "Why should we foolishly waste our time in expediting the so-called Muslim-nation state and fritter away our energies in setting it up, when we know that it will not only be useless for our purposes, but will rather prove an obstacle in our path." 

Paradoxically, Maulana Maududi's writings played an important role in convincing the Muslim intelligentsia that the concept of united nationalism was suicidal for the Muslims but his reaction to the Pakistan movement was complex and contradictory. When asked to cooperate with the Muslim League he replied: "Please do not think that I do not want to participate in this work because of any differences, my difficulty is that I do not see how I can participate because partial remedies do not appeal to my mind and I have never been interested in patch work."

He had opposed the idea of united nationhood because he was convinced that the Muslims would be drawn away from Islam if they agreed to merge themselves in the Indian milieu. He was interested more in Islam than in Muslims: because Muslims were Muslims not because they belonged to a communal or a national entity but because they believed in Islam. The first priority, therefore, in his mind was that Muslim loyalty to Islam should be strengthened. This could be done only by a body of Muslims who did sincerely believe in Islam and did not pay only lip service to it. Hence he founded the Jamat-i-Islami (in August 1941).
[12] However, Maulana Maududi's stand failed to take cognizance of the circumstances in which the Muslims were placed [13] at that critical moment.

The Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind, the most prestigious organization of the Ulema, saw nothing Islamic in the idea of Pakistan. Its president, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, who was also Mohtamim or principal of Darul Ulum Deoband opposed the idea of two-nation theory, pleading that all Indians, Muslims or Hindus were one nation. He argued that faith was universal and could not be contained within national boundaries but that nationality was a matter of geography, and Muslims were obliged to be loyal to the nation of their birth along with their non-Muslim fellow citizens. Maulana Madani said: "all should endeavor jointly for such a democratic government in which Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis are included. Such a freedom is in accordance with Islam." 
[14] He was of the view that in the present times, nations are formed on the basis of homeland and not on ethnicity and religion.[15] He issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from joining the Muslim League.

Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani accepted the doctrine of Indian nationalism with all enthusiasm and started preaching it in mosques. This brought a sharp rebuke from Dr. Mohammad Iqbal. His poem on Hussain Ahmad 
[16] in 1938 started a heated controversy between the so-called nationalist Ulema and the adherents of pan-Islamism (Umma).

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a member of Indian National Congress regrets that he did not accept Congress president ship in 1946, which led Nehru to assume that office and give the statements that could be exploited by the Muslim League for creation of Pakistan and withdrawal of its acceptance of the Cabinet Plan that envisaged an Indian Union of all the provinces and states of the sub-continent with safeguards for minorities. 
[17] He had persuaded the pro-Congress Ulema that their interests would be better safeguarded under a united India, and that they should repose full confidence in Indian nationalism. However, they should make efforts to secure for themselves the control of Muslim personal law, by getting a guarantee from the Indian National Congress, that the Muslim personal law would be administered by qadis (judges) who were appointed from amongst the Ulema.[18]

In a bid to weaken the Muslim League's claim to represent all Muslims of the subcontinent, the Congress strengthened its links with the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind, the Ahrars and such minor and insignificant non-League Muslim groups as the Momins and the Shia Conference.

Along with its refusal to share power with the Muslim League, the Congress pursued an anti-Muslim League policy in another direction with the help of Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind . It was not enough to keep the Muslim League out of power. Its power among the people should be weakened and finally broken. Therefore, it decided to bypass Muslim political leadership and launch a clever movement of contacting the Muslim masses directly to wean them away from the leadership that sought to protect them from the fate of becoming totally dependent on the sweet will of the Hindu majority for their rights, even for their continued existence. This strategy -- called Muslim Mass Contact Movement -- was organized in 1937 with great finesse by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. 

Congress leaders .... employed Molvis to convert the Muslim masses to the Congress creed. The Molvis, having no voice in the molding of the Congress policy and program, naturally could not promise to solve the real difficulties of the masses, a promise which would have drawn the masses towards the Congress. The Molvis and others employed for the work tried to create a division among the Muslim masses by carrying on a most unworthy propaganda against the leaders of the Muslim League. 
[21] However, this Muslim mass contact movement failed.

It is pertinent to note here that a small section of the Deoband School was against joining the Congress. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (1863-1943) was the chief spokesman of this group. Later Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Othmani (1887-1949), a well-known disciple of Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and a scholar of good repute, who had been for years in the forefront of the Jamiat leadership quit it with a few other Deoband Ulema, and became the first president of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam established in 1946 to counteract the activities of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind. However, the bulk of the Deoband Ulema kept on following the lead of Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and the Jamiat in opposing the demand for Pakistan.

Contrary to the plea of the nationalist Ulema, the Muslim intelligentsia was worried that the end of British domination should not become for the Muslims the beginning of Hindu domination. They perceived through the past experience that the Hindus could not be expected to live with them on equal terms within the same political framework. Therefore they did not seek to change masters. A homeland is an identity and surely the Muslims of the sub-continent could not have served the cause of universal brotherhood by losing their identity, which is what would have inevitably happened if they had been compelled to accept the political domination of the Hindus. The Ulema thought in terms of a glorious past and linked it unrealistically to a nebulous future of Muslim brotherhood. This more than anything else damaged the growth of Muslim nationalism and retarded the progress of Muslims in the sub-continent.

The nationalist Ulema failed to realize this simple truth and eventually found themselves completely isolated from the mainstream of the Muslim struggle for emancipation. Their opposition to Pakistan on grounds of territorial nationalism was the result of their failure to grasp contemporary realities. 
[23] They did not realize that majorities can be much more devastating, specifically when it is an ethnic, linguistic or religious majority which cannot be converted into a minority through any election.[24]

The Ulema, as a class, concentrated on jurisprudence and traditional sciences. They developed a penchant for argument and hair splitting. This resulted in their progressive alienation from the people, who while paying them the respect due to religious scholars, rejected their lead in national affairs. While their influence on the religious minded masses remained considerable, their impact on public affairs shrank simply because the Ulema concentrated on the traditional studies and lost touch with the realities of contemporary life.

The conflict between the educated Muslims and the Ulema was not new. It started in the early years of British rule and reached its culmination during the struggle for Pakistan. Since the movement for Pakistan was guided by the enlightened classes under the leadership of a man who was brought up with western education, the prestige of the Ulema had been badly damaged.

The Muslims Renaissance in the sub-continent began with Shah Waliullah (1702-63) who started probing into the past and thinking in terms of the future. During the decline of Muslim power, Shah Waliullah emerged as an outstanding scholar-reformer who predicted a return to the original purity of Islam. He was not just a scholar of theology and law, but a social thinker with a keen sense for economic reforms. Without economic justice, he asserted, the social purpose of Islam could not be fulfilled. He emphasized the need for ijtihad, decrying the convention of closing the gates of ijtihad. He criticized the contemporary Ulema for their elaborate rites and rituals, which he believed, were not part of the Shariah, but un-Islamic innovations.

Then came Sir Syed Ahmed Khan with his message that the Muslims could not progress without acquiring knowledge of modern sciences and technology. He asserted the simple truth that knowledge is not the exclusive preserve of any nation, it belongs to the whole mankind. Quickly he was dubbed a kafir (non-believer) by a section of Ulema. But Sir Syed Ahmed, in spite of all the calumny that was heaped on him, refused to be browbeaten. He maintained a valiant posture and succeeded in realizing the intellectual energy of a nation. As more and more Muslims got educated in the western sciences the hold of the Ulema over the Muslim community began to weaken.

The leadership of the Muslim community had passed out of the hands of the Ulema after the Rebellion of 1857. The Ulema stood aloof, except for the issuance of a fatwa, supporting the entry of the Muslims into the Congress, when Sir Syed Ahmed opposed it. The Muslim nation followed the political lead of Sir Syed Ahmad, in the nineteenth century and rejected the Ulema. But in religion they followed the Ulema and rejected Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Much the same happened in the 40's of the twentieth century. The Indian Muslims followed the political lead given to them by Jinnah (who could have been a knight like Sir Syed but he resolutely refused both title and office during the British rule) who had no pretensions to leadership in the sphere of religion. 
[28] The Muslim community was wiser than the ostensible defenders of its faith, culture and existence. It rejected their advice and followed others who were more realistic, more wide awake, better informed and more in line with the history of the community.[29]

After independence the conflict between the intellectuals with liberal orientation and the Ulema manifested itself in a judicial enquiry conducted by Justice Mohammad Munir in Lahore anti-Qadiani riots in 1953. The learned judge said something which the intellectuals and politicians had for long refrained to say openly. The enquiry findings, known as the Munir Report, publicized the fact that the Ulema were not only unfit to run a modern state but were deplorably unable under cross-questioning even to give realistic guidance on elementary matters of Islam. The court of enquiry was presented with the sorry spectacle that Muslim divines differed sharply on the definition of a Muslim yet each was adamant that all who disagreed should be put to death.

At one point the report emphasized: " But we cannot refrain from saying here that it was a matter of infinite regret to us that the Ulema whose first duty should be to have settled views on this subject, were hopelessly disagreed amongst themselves." 
[31] The result of this part of the enquiry, however, has been but satisfactory, and if considerable confusion exists in the minds of our Ulema on such a simple matter, one can easily imagine what the differences on more complicated matter will be.

"Keeping in view the several definitions given by the Ulema, need we make any comment except that no two divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the Ulema, we remain Muslims according to the view of that Alim but Kafirs (unbelievers) according to the definition of every one else." 

"The net result of all this is that neither Shias nor Sunnis nor Deobandis nor Ahl-e-Hadith nor Barelvis are Muslims and any change from one view to the other must be accompanied in an Islamic state with the penalty of death if the government of the state is in the hands of the party which considers the other party to be Kafirs. And it does not require much imagination to judge the consequences of this doctrine when it is remembered that no two Ulema have agreed before us as to the definition of a Muslim."

The creation of Pakistan was the greatest defeat of the "nationalist" Ulema. But soon after the establishment of Pakistan power-monger Ulema raised their voice in the political field with new modulations. They argued that Pakistan was created to establish an Islamic state based on traditional Shariah law. However, the irony of the argument that Pakistan was founded on religious ideology lies in the fact that practically every Muslim group and organization in the Indian subcontinent that was specially religious -Islamic - was hostile to Jinnah and the Muslim League, and strongly opposed the Pakistan movement. 
[34] The claim of the Muslim League to be the sole representative of the entire Muslim community in India was gravely weakened by the opposition of the most important group of Indian Ulema. [35] A great deal of effort was devoted by Muslim League leaders to winning over the Ulema. Eventually they succeeded in doing so, but only partially, and only when the creation of Pakistan was just over the horizon.[36]

A claim that Pakistan was created to fulfill the millenarian religious aspirations of Indian Muslims is therefore contradicted by the fact that the principal bearers of the Islamic religion in India were alienated from the Pakistan movement. Conversely, the English-educated leaders of the Pakistan movement, not least Jinnah himself, were committed to secular politics. 

Some zealous religious activists are now attempting to distort the role of Ulema in the struggle for Pakistan. 
[38] As the old generation is gradually vanishing from the political scene of the country these Ulema are now being projected as the co-founders of Pakistan. "In some cases even the name of Quaid-i-Azamhas been eliminated and all the credit for the establishment of Pakistan is being bestowed upon these Ulema." [39] 

In recent years, there has been a systematic attempt by Mullahs and the rightist lobby to misrepresent Jinnah on Islam and they have tried hard to buildup an image of the father of the nation as a religious bigot. He is being projected by Mullahs, who once branded him as Kafir, as an Islamic fundamentalist.

In a TV discussion on Shariah bill in April 1991, two prominent Molvis of Lahore, Maulana Abdul Qadir and Mufti Mohammad Hussain Naeemi, implied that the Shariat bill was "the will of the Quaid. " They claimed that the rule of Quran and Sunnah was pledged by the Quaid and that Mullahs never opposed Pakistan since it was to be a religious rather than a national state. One of them said "was it not said that Pakistan ka matlab kia: La Ilahah Illallah." 

However, the fact is that this oft quoted statement is an election slogan coined by a Sialkot poet - Asghar Saudai. But it was never raised by the platform of the Muslim League. First and the last meeting of All Pakistan Muslim League was held under the chairmanship of the Quaid-i-Azam at Karachi's Khaliqdina Hall. During the meeting a man, who called himself Bihari, put to the Quaid that "we have been telling the people Pakistan ka matlab kia, La Ilaha Illallah." "Sit down, sit down," the Quaid shouted back. "Neither I nor my working committee, nor the council of the All India Muslim League has ever passed such a resolution wherein I was committed to the people of Pakistan, Pakistan ka matlab....., you might have done so to catch a few votes." This incident is quoted from Daghon ki Barat written by Malik Ghulam Nabi, who was a member of the Muslim League Council. The same incident is also quoted by the Raja of Mehmoudabad. 


1. After independence "some of the Ulema decided to stay in India, others hastened to Pakistan to lend a helping hand. If they had not been able to save the Muslims from Pakistan they must now save Pakistan from the Muslims. Among them was Maulana Abul Aala Maududi, head of the Jamat-i-Islami, who had been bitterly opposed to Pakistan." Mohammad Ayub Khan, Friends not Masters, P-202

2 Ishtiaq Ahmed, The Concept of an Islamic State in Pakistan, p-66

3. Ziya-ul-Hasan Faruqi, The Deoband School and the Demand for Pakistan, p79-80

4. Speech on Feb. 5, 1938

5 Afzal Iqbal, Islamization of Pakistan, p-28

6. Ibid. p-54

7. Alluding to Quadi-i-Azam's marriage to a Parsi girl.

8. Munir Report, p-256

9. Maulana Maududi, Nationalism and India, Pathankot, 1947, p-25

10. The Process of Islamic Revolution, 2nd edition, Lahore 1955, p-37

11. Syed Abul Ala Maududi, Tehrik-i-Adazi-e-Hind aur Mussalman (Indian Freedom Movement and Muslims), pp 22-23

12. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics, p-368

13. Ibid., p-368

14. Zamzam 17.7.1938 cited by Pakistan Struggle and Pervez, Tulu-e-Islam Trust, Lahore, p-614

15. Ibid. p-314

16. Hasan (rose) from Basrah, Bilal from Abyssinia, Suhaib from Rome, Deoband produced Husain Ahmad, what monstrosity is this? He chanted from the pulpit that nations are created by countries, What an ignoramus regarding the position of Muhammad! Take thyself to Muhammad, because he is the totality of Faith, And if thou does not reach him, all (thy knowledge) is Bu Lahaism.

17. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, in his biography, India Wins Freedom, fixes the responsibility for the partition of India, at one place on Jawaharlal Nehru, and at another place on Vallabh-bhai Patel by observing that "it would not perhaps be unfair to say that Vallabh-dhbai Patel was the founder of Indian partition." H.M. Seervai, Partition of India: Legend and Reality, p-162

18. Dr. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, op. cit., p-328

19. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, The Struggle for Pakistan, p-237

20. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, Ulema in Politics p-334

21. Justice Sayed Shameem Hussain Kadri - Creation of Pakistan - Army Book Club, Rawalpindi ,1983 -- p-414

22. Ayub Khan, op. cit., p-200

23. According to Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, the present state of affairs of the Moslem world. Dr. Iqbal said: "It seems to me that God is slowly bringing home to us the truth that Islam is neither nationalism nor imperialism but a league of nations which recognizes artificial boundaries and racial distinctions for facility of reference only and not for restricting the social horizon of its members." (Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p-159) Dr. Iqbal had apparently in mind the following verse from the Holy Quran: O Mankind ! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. (49:13)

24. Qureshi, op. cit., p-378

25. Afzal Iqbal, Islamization in Pakistan, p-26

26. Ayub Khan, op. cit.,p-202

27. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Modern Islam in India, Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1963, p-173

28. Afzal Iqbal, op. cit., p-29

29. Qureshi, op. cit., p-383

30. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Islam in History, p-215

31. Munir Report, p-205

32. Ibid. p-218

33. Ibid. p-219

34. Anita M. Weiss, Reassertion of Islam in Pakistan, p-2

35. Leonard Binder, Islam and Politics in Pakistan, University of California Press, 1961, p-29

36. Anita M. Weiss, p-21

37. Ibid. p-21

38. When Pakistan appeared on the map, they (Ulema) found no place for themselves in India and they all came to Pakistan and brought with them the curse of Takfir (calling one another infidel). Munir, From Jinnah to Zia, p-38

39. Prof. Rafi-ullah Shehab - The Quaid-e-Azam and the Ulema - The Pakistan Times, Islamabad 25.12.1986.

40. Ahmad Bashir, Islam, Shariat and the Holy Ghost, Frontier Post, Peshawar, 9.5.1991

41. Ibid.

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