Debate in Pakistan often surrounds the vision of the founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, with both ends of the political spectrum claiming him. The arguments tend to cloud the message of Jinnah and the ideals which he promoted.
Borders are an interesting phenomenon. Lines drawn on maps divide through people and mountains, we see communities having lived together for cenuries, divided up. Oftentimes these communities then harbour hatred for each other in the examples of India-Pakistan or North Korea-South Korea. Even if the communities remain friendly, the people living on one side of the Norway-Sweden border will grow patriotic sentiment to the achievements of their nation over the achievements of the nation on the other side of an imaginary line.
So what divides and defines us? In the case of India and Pakistan it was not religion, but law.
We can see this in today’s India and Pakistan. Just like the musicians of Pakistan and India share their love of music beyond borders often doing collaborations, we see actors, scientists and many other groups of people on both sides of the border who share an ideology collaborating despite hostile political relations. In the same way any Indian or Pakistani Maulana, Mufti or Shaikh will collaborate on research and conferences on Islam despite the borders. The people themselves and their specific ideologies transcend borders.
The difference between them is governance and law. As India became a secular nation, Pakistan became a Democratic-Shariah state.
While India has gone down the never ending rabbit hole of Hinduvta right wing nationalism and away from secularism, Pakistan has become torn in two. One side claiming Pakistan, like India, was also founded as a secular state and the other claiming Pakistan has always been a shariah; both sides citing the words of Jinnah.
I can see why the confusion exists, Jinnah’s words sound very secular at times. The truth, however, lies outside of snippets and quotes.
Jinnah’s Vision of Pakistan
Muhammad Ali Jinnah died soon after the founding of Pakistan. In the years that led to the birth of the nation, the ideology of Pakistan was discussed often. Such as in a conference in 1938, Jinnah laid out his vision for the nation.
When we say ‘This flag is the flag of Islam’ they think we are introducing religion into politics – a fact of which we are proud. Islam gives us a complete code. It is not only religion but it contains Laws , philosophy and politics. In fact, it contains everything that matters to a man from morning to night. When we talk of Islam we take it as all embracing word. We do not mean any ill. The foundation of our Islamic code is that we stand for liberty, equality and fraternity.– Muhammad Ali Jinnah addressing the Gaya Muslim League Conference in January 1938 while pointing at the flag of Pakistan
This view seems to have changed from his earlier view when he was not the leader of the Muslim League. In 1933 before his election to lead the Muslim League in the struggle for a Muslim nation he had stated “Religion should not be allowed to come into Politics”. At almost every point after this and after moving from the UK back to India, Jinnah’s tune had changed. Secularist within Pakistan seem to be unable to grasp that he, like all of us, changed his views throughout his life.
Similarly in a broadcast to talk to the people of the United States, in February 1948, Jinnah discussed the constitution of Pakistan which had yet to be written, saying about the constitution of Pakistan “I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principle of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago.” Jinnah believed that certain values of democracy were found also in Islam “Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fairplay to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions”
In 1948 addressing the Karachi Bar association, Jinnah showed he was shocked at the suggestion that the constitution of Pakistan would not be Shariah. He called such people mischievous and said “Islamic principles today are as much applicable to life as they were 1300 years ago”
It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great lawgiver, the Prophet of Islam.– Muhammad Ali Jinnah addresses the Sibi Darbar 1948
Pakistan not only means freedom and independence but Muslim ideology– Muhammad Ali Jinnah addresses the Frontier Muslim Students Federation, 1945
“The Quran is the general code for the Muslims, a religious, social, civil, commercial, military, judicial, criminal and penal code…Islam is not merely confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines or ritual and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society, every department of life, collective and individual”– Jinnah in September 1945.
The secular groups in Pakistan will often propagate following of Western values. Yet Jinnah stood staunchly opposed to Western values stating that “The Western world, in spite of its advantages, of mechanization and industrial efficiency is today in a worse mess than ever before in history. The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contended people.” so his proposal for Pakistan was “We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice.”
Where does the confusion come from?
The confusion arises from lack of understanding that what Jinnah stated was not in contradiction to promoting the rights and safety of minorities. This concept is found throughout the Shariah itself and the Prophet Muhammad (saws) never killed minorities nor forced their conversion. The Quran clearly states:
There is no compulsion in religion…– Quran 2:256
Jinnah also stated at the founding 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” going on to say “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state”
While this sounds like he is promoting a secular ideology, these principles exist in Islam already. The Shariah itself forbids desecration of places of worship or the killing of minorities. With this in mind, one can see how quotes of Jinnah are made to seem secular when they are misunderstood but firmly grounded in Islamic values.
“You will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state”– Jinnah addresses the constituent assembly on 11 August 1947
As is pertinently obvious, Jinnah is saying that Hindus or other non-Muslims will not be second class citizens. Twisting this to mean Jinnah promoted secularism in Pakistan and wanted shariah law away from the constitution stems from the misunderstandings many have of shariah itself.
From Sultan Muhammad Fateh to Salahuddin Ayyubi, Muslim leaders have always addressed minorities and ensured them that they are safe under the rule of a Muslim state.
The difference for Jinnah is, perhaps, that he wanted it interpreted in a modern sense. Once again this is not calling for the abandonment of Shariah, rather that the scholars should codify the shariah accordingly; something which Jinnah did by asking Islamic scholars to write a democratic shariah constitution of Pakistan.
The constitution of Pakistan follows many democratic values excluding the first principle of democracy, changing “sovereignty belongs to the people” to “sovereignty belongs to Allah” which is still in the constitution of Pakistan.
So why does Jinnah seem opposed at times?
Among those who believe Jinnah promoted Shariah in Pakistan we see a split between centre-right and extreme-far-right. This is demonstrated by the blasphemy related killing in Pakistan of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer for wishing to revoke certain laws. While many opposed his ideas, going to the extent of killing him showed a huge divide between the fanatical and centre right-wing.
While Jinnah’s words are being read as his opposition to Shariah, it can be read as his opposition to fanatical elements within the religious political spectrum. With this in mind, his comments can be seen in a different light:
Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic (priest ruling) State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission.– Muhammad Ali Jinnah in February 1948
Reading Jinnah’s speeches can seem to promote a conflicted and contradictory man, if one does not understand Islamic law. Jinnah was a lawyer who understood this well.
Another issue is separating his personal life from the role he was given. While Jinnah himself dressed in a Western way, this did not mean he valued Western values more. Many often show how Jinnah’s wife was a convert to Islam, as if converting to Islam was an indication of hating Islamic values. Jinnah disowned his only daughter for opposing the laws of Islam around marriage, for which she lived the rest of her life in India, not her father’s Pakistan.
Secularists have even gone to the extent of conspiracy theories, claiming that Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s addresses and speeches have been hidden. The reality is that such a personality can not be hidden, as seen above. His clear desire for a modern, yet Shariah ruled Pakistan is clear to anyone reading about what he propagated after election to the Muslim League.
I end reminding the readers of the slogan for the founding of Pakistan: Pakistan ka matlab kya, La ilaha ilAllah. It was not secular either.