Sunday, October 19, 2008

Behind Pakistan's Islamic Ideology - 5

Syed Hassan Tanwir Wasti wtote:

There are lots of confusion in this endless debate. Pakistan is a created as muslim welfare state. One of the Forgotten Pakistatni Heroes. Lets start to appriciate them. Prof Asghar Sodai’s verse “Pakistan Ka Matlab Kia - La Ilaha Illallah” became the central slogan of the Pakistan Movement which was read by every Muslim of the Subcontinent and became the basis of the country. Pakistan's ideology is based on the Two-Nation Theory, and as the Quaid-e-Azam summed it, "..we have our distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of International Law we are a nation."

Consciousness of Muslim identity in the Indian Sub-Continent before 1947 by -- Mubarak Ali --

The question of Muslim Identity in the Indian Subcontinent may be analysed on the basis of social, religious and political consciousness. Socially Muslim communities of India have never been united as a single cohesive entity. Its religious identity was transformed from a passive state to an active one according to the changing of the ruling classes. They invoked religious sentiments when they fought against Hindu rulers and suppressed them when the Shariah hindered their absolute rule. The concept of a Muslim political identity was a product of British rule when the electoral process the so-called democratic institutions and traditions were Introduced. That created a minority complex amongst Indian Muslims and thereby a consciousness of Muslim political identity. After passing through a series of upheavals, the Muslim community got rid of its minority complex and declared itself a nation, asserting Its separateness. Northern India remained the centre of Muslim power, historically. The class of leading Muslim elites played an active role in determining and affirming Muslim identity, according to their economic and political interests. Muslims of the other parts of India followed in their footsteps and looked at issues and problems from the point of view of Northern Indian Muslims. We shall look at the changing concepts of Muslim identity in the Indian subcontinent before 1947.

Three elements were amalgamated in the making of Muslim communities in India namely Conquerors who came from the North-West, immigrants and local converts. The Conquerors and their entourage had a sense of higher rank and superiority, as they were the ones who wielded political power. Arab, Persian, Turkish, Central Asian and Pathan immigrants, who came to India to make careers for themselves, were treated as if they shared a common ethnic background and were integrated with the Conqueror class as the ruling elite. Local converts, on the other hand, were treated as being lower down the social ladder and never accorded an equal place in the ethnically divided Muslim society. That ethnic identity was more powerful in dividing Muslim society than the religious factor was in unifying it.

We can find an example of this in Chachnama, which is a basic source of the history of Sindh Muslim conquerors of Sindh are referred to in the Chachnama as Arabs. Similarly the early conquerors of Northern India were known by their ethnic Identity as Turks. After the foundation of their kingdom (1206) they maintained exclusive ethnic domination and did not share their power and privileges with other Muslim groups. The same policy was followed by other Muslim dynasties. The founder of the Lodhi dynasty, BahIul (1451-1489), did not trust non-Afghan Muslims and Invited Afghans from the Mountains (Roh) to support him.

Locally converted Muslims were excluded from high positions and were despised by their foreign (Muslim) brothers. Ziauddin Barani (14th century) cited a number of examples in the Tarikh-I-Firuzshahi when the Sultans refused to appoint lower caste Muslims to high posts, despite their intelligence, ability and integrity. Barani propounds his racist theory by advising Muslim rulers to appoint only racially pure family members to high administrative jobs. He advised that low caste Muslims were not to be allowed to acquire higher education as that would make them arrogant. (Barani,1972) The theory of racial superiority served to reserve the limited available resources of the kingdom for the benefit of the privileged elite who did not want to share them with others. The ruling dynasties kept available resources in the hands of their own ethnic communities and excluded others.

The Mughals wrested power from a Muslim dynasty (1526). On their arrival therefore they posed a threat to other Muslim rulers as well as to Hindu rulers. The danger of Mughal hegemony united Muslim Afghans and Hindu Raj puts in a common cause. They fought jointly against Babar In the battle of Kanwaha (1527). However, Mughal rule changed the social structure of the Muslim community in India, as a large number of Iranians and Turks arrived in India after opening of the North-West frontier. These new immigrants revived Iranian and Central Asian culture which was in a process of decline during Afghan rule. To monopolise top positions in the state, Muslims of foreign origin formed a socially and culturally privileged group that not only excluded locally converted Muslims but also Afghans who were deprived of high jobs. The Mughals were also very conscious of their fair colour, which distinguished them from the converted black and brown Muslims. Being a Muslim of foreign origin having become prestigious, most of the locally converted Muslim families began to trace their origin to famous Arab tribes or to prominent Persian families.

The social structure of the Mughal aristocracy changed further when the Empire extended its territories and required more people to administer them. Akbar (1556-1605) as the Emperor, realised that to rule the country exclusively with the help of Muslims of foreign origin posed a problem of getting an adequate number of administrators that the state needed. He realised that the administration had to be Indianised. Therefore, he broadened the Muslim aristocracy by including Rajputs In the administration. He eliminated all those signs and symbols which differentiated Muslims and Hindus and made attempts to integrate them as one. Despite that, in that social structure lower class (caste) Hindus and Muslims had no opportunity to move from their lower position in society to a higher status. Class rather than faith was the true dividing line. The Muslim aristocracy preferred to accept upper caste Raj puts as their equals rather than integrate with lower caste Muslims. The policy of Akbar was followed by his successors. Even Aurangzeb, in spite of his dislike of Hindus, had to keep them in his administration. He tried to create a semblance of homogeneity in the Muslim community by introducing some religious reforms. But all his attempts to create a consciousness of Muslim identity came to nothing. During the entire Sultanate and Mughal periods, politically there was no symbol that could unite Muslims in to a single cohesive community. In the absence of any common economic interest that might bind the different groups of Muslims, they failed to cohere and achieve homogeneity as a single community. Biraderis, castes, professions and class interests kept them politically and culturally divided.

The ulama made strenuous attempts to foster a religious consciousness and to build a Muslim identity on such consciousness, by dividing Indian society into believers and unbelievers. They fulminated against 'Hindu rituals' being practised mainly by lower-class Muslims and warned them to reform and keep their religion 'pure'. Their attitude towards locally converted Muslims was particularly hostile. They argued that by retaining some of their indigenous Indian customs, they were half Muslims and half Hindus. The Ulama further argued that true Islam could be understood only through knowledge of Arabic or Persian. Therefore, to integrate with the 'Muslim Community' locally converted Muslims should abandon their vernacular culture and learn Arabic and Persian (the everyday language of the ruling elite). By that definition, Muslims of foreign origin were taken to be better than those who had been locally converted. These latter were categorised as ignorant, illiterate and bad Muslims. However, it must be said that in that period (1206-1707) when power of Muslim rulers in India was at its height, no attempts were made to arouse a religious, political or social consciousness of a Muslim identity. It was only in the period of Akbar, when Raj puts were being Integrated with Mughal nobility, that some ulama raised a voice against his religious, political and social reforms and asserted the separateness of Hindu and Muslim communities. Later on, Auranzeb tried to rally Muslim support by trying to unite them all under a state-imposed version of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), compiled as the Fatwa-i-Alamgin.. But all his efforts failed to arrest the process of political disintegration which he was thus trying to avoid.

During the later period, the decline of Mughal political power dealt a heavy blow to the ruling Mughal aristocracy. New arrival of immigrants from Iran and Central Asia stopped due to lack of patronage. The dominance of the Persian language weakened. Urdu emerged as the new language of the Muslim elite. The social as well as the political hegemony of Muslims of foreign origin was reduced. Locally converted Muslims began to claim and raise themselves to a new higher status. The rise and successes of the East Indian Company undermined the role of the Muslim ruling classes. Defeats in the battles of Plassey (1557), Buxar (1762) and, finally, the occupation of Delhi by the British (1803) sealed the fate of Mughal power and threatened the privileged existence of the Muslim ruling elite, as the Mughal Emperor became incapable of defending their interests. Under these circumstances, after Shah Alam II (1806) the practice of reciting the name of the Ottoman Caliph in the Khutba began. That signified the idea that the Ottoman Caliph, and not the Moghul Emperor, was the defender and protector of the Muslim community in India. Another significant change was that with the eclipse of the political authority of the Moghul Emperor, the Ulama raised their heads and represented themselves as the protectors and the custodians of the interests of the community. They were now contemptuous of the Moghuls whose decline they attributed to their indifference towards religion. They embarked on revivalism that they claimed was to lift the community from the low position to which it had fallen. Their revivalism was intended to reform the Muslim community and infuse homogeneity In order to meet the challenges that confronted them.

Sayyid Ahmed's jihad (1831) and Haji Shariatullah's (Faraizi) movements were revivalist and strove to purify Islam of Hindu rituals and customs. Their ultimate goal was to establish an Islamic state in India and to unite Muslims into one community on the basis of religion. Two factors played an important role. In reinforcing the creation of a separate identity amongst Indian Muslims. They were, firstly, the activities of Christian Missionaries and secondly the reformist and revivalist movements of Hindus. Muslims felt threatened by both of these. The fear of Muslims being converted into another faith and of by being dominated by others, led the Ulama to organise 'to save Muslims from extinction'. Recognising the authority of the Ulama, Muslims turned towards them for guidance. They sought fatawa over whether they should learn the English language, serve the East India Company, and regard India as Dar-ul-Islam (under which they could live peacefully) rather than a Dar-ul-Harb (which imposed upon them an obligation to rebel). Thus external and internal challenges brought Muslims closer. Religious consciousness paved the way towards their separate identity. The Madrassa, Mosque, and Khanqah became symbols of their religious Identity. However, the hopes that they placed in religious revivalism as the path to political power came to an end when Sayyid Ahmed was defeated and his Jihad movement failed to mobilise Muslims to fight against British rule. Bengali Muslims were subdued with the suppression of the Faraizi movement and the brutal repression that followed the rising of 1857 reduced the Muslim upper classes to a shadow of what they had been.

Indian Muslims were demoralised after the failure of the rebellion of 1857. Sadness and gloom prevailed everywhere. Muslims felt crushed and isolated. There came a challenge from British scholars who criticised Islamic institutions that they declared to be unsuitable for modern times. Never before had Indian Muslims faced such criticism of their religion. This frightened and angered them. In response Indian Muslim scholars came forward to defend their religion. This led them to study Islamic history in order to rediscover what they believed to be a golden past. In reply to Western criticism they formulated their arguments, substantiated by historical facts, that Europe owed its own progress to contributions of Muslim scientists and scholars, that were transmitted to it through the University of Cordoba in Moorish Spain, where, under Umayyid rule, there was a policy of religious toleration towards Christians and Jews. Muslim contributions to art literature, architecture and science, thus, enriched human civilisation. To popularise this new Image of the role of Muslims in history there followed a host of historical literature, popular as well as scholarly, to satiate the thirst of Muslims for recognition of their achievements. Such images of a golden past provided consolation to a community that felt helpless and forlorn. Images of the glories of the Abbasids, the grandeur of the Moors of Spain and conquests of the Saljuks healed their wounded pride and helped to restore their self-confidence and pride. Ironically, while glorifying the Islamic past from outside India they ignored the past of the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal India. In their eyes the distant and outside past was more attractive than the past that they had actually inherited. It was left to the nationalist historians of India, mainly Hindu, who reconstructed the glory of Muslim India in building a secular nationalist ideology in the struggle against British rule during the freedom movement.

Muslim search for pride in their Islamic past, thus, once again turned the orientation of Indian Muslims outwards, towards the rest of the Muslim world. That consciousness of a greater Muslim identity obscured their Indian identity from their minds. Their sense of solidarity with the Muslim world found expression, especially, in sympathy for the Ottoman Empire. Although most educated Indians were quite unaware of the history of the Ottomans, it became a focal point of their pride, displacing the Mughals. Sayyid Ahmad Khan, while explaining the attachment of Muslims to Turkey, said 'When there were many Muslim kingdoms we did not feel grief when one of them was destroyed. If Turkey is conquered, there will be great grief, for she is the last of the great powers left to Islam.' (quoted in Nanda, 1989:108)

During the Balkan wars (1911-1914) when the existence of the Turkish Empire was threatened, feelings of Indian Muslims reached a new height. Muhammad All expressed those feelings in these words 'The Musalman's heart throbs in unison with the Moors of Fez ... with the Persians of Tehran ... and with the Turks of Stamboul'. (quoted in Nanda, 1989:383) Highly emotional articles that appeared in Muslim newspapers such as al-Hilal, Zamindar, Hamdard, Comrade and Urdu-I-Mualla, aroused feelings of religious identity. Even secular Muslims turned towards religion, growing beards and observing religious rituals.

The Khilafat Movement extended the consciousness of a greater Muslim identity amongst Indian Muslims. It also united the ulama and Western educated Muslims. The Muslim League, in its session of 1918, invited leading ulama who grasped that opportunity and soon established control of the Movement. When Gandhi supported the Khilafat issue and launched his non-cooperation movement (1919-20) he brought out Hindus to protest in solidarity with Muslims. But the withdrawal of the non-cooperation movement and the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Khliafat itself in 1924, greatly disillusioned Indian Muslims and their unity with Hindus evaporated. Support of Pan-Islamism and the Khilafat was the emotional need of the growing Muslim middle class, which was in search of an identity. Rejecting the territorial concept of nationhood, they turned to the Muslim world in order to bring weight to their demands. The failure of the Khilafat Movement weakened their relationship with the Muslim World. On the other hand the logic of extra-territorial nationalism came to an end with the end of the Turkish Caliphate. The Muslim elite felt that to fulfil their demands they had to assert their separate Identity in India. In the words of Prabhha Dixit, the Khilafat movement 'constituted an intermediary stage in the transformation of a minority into a nation'. (Dixit, 1985:78)

Indian Muslim's assertion of a separate national identity brought them into conflict with Hindus. The factors that had contributed to distance the two communities were uneven development of Western education among them, the Urdu-Hindi conflict, the Partition of Bengal, the Muslim demand for separate electorates, their demand for quotas for Government jobs and political representation. Communalist feelings in both communities were deepened by revivalist movements of the 1920s. In 1928, in response to the Shuddhi (purification) and Sangathan (Hindu unity) movements of Hindus, the Muslims formed Tabligh (proselytising) and Tanzim (organisation) movements to protect Muslim peasants from reconversion to Hinduism. In order to 'purify' the Muslims peasants, Muslim preachers visited far off villages and thus made them conscious of their religious identity. The consequently heightened awareness of their religious identity affected their relationship with the Hindu peasants and communalism greatly damaged their centuries old friendly social and cultural relationship.

That heightened religious consciousness was fully exploited by Muslim politicians when the question of distribution of government jobs and political representation arose. The Muslim elite, In order to get a better share in the name of the Muslim community, fully used appeals to Muslim identity. Thus the two-nation theory arose out of political necessity and for the first time it highlighted differences between the Muslim and the Hindu culture, social life, history as well as religion.

Muslim Intellectuals provided the theoretical basis of the two-nation theory by reconstructing Indian history on the basis of religion. Those Muslim conquerors who had long been forgotten and had vanished into the dry pages of history, were resurrected and presented as champions of Muslims of India. Conquests and achievements of those heroes infused Muslims, high and low, with pride. Ahmad Sirhindi of the 17th century and Shah Waliullah of the 18th century, who were not so well known in their own time, were re-discovered by the Muslim elite who searched their writings for legitimation of their theory of two nations in India. Aimad Sirhindi was the first Indian Muslim 'Aiim who declared that cow slaughter was an important ritual of Islam and should never be abandoned. (Darbar-I-Milli, 1966:308)

There followed an abundance of published literature, which was widely read by the Muslim educated classes during this period. The Novels of Abdul Hakim Sharar, the poems of Hall and Iqbal and the writings of Muhammad All enthralled Indian Muslims and reinforced consciousness of a distinct Muslim identity. This was essentially on an emotional basis rather than by rational arguments.

The ulama also contributed to the infusion of religious feelings amongst ordinary Muslims by organising milad festivals and giving a call to go 'Back to the Quran, Back to the Prophet'. (Smlth,1947: 62,76) They involved and mobilised the common people to take an active part in the religious and political Issues concerning the interests of the Muslim community. Political developments of the 19305 promoted further the consciousness of a Muslim identity. The propaganda of the Muslim League, the success of the Indian National Congress in the 1937 election, and the emergence of Jinnah as the sole spokesman of Indian Muslims, widened the political gulf between the two communities that led ultimately to the Partition of the Subcontinent.

In the first phase of the history of Muslim rule, the fact that the Muslim elite was in power kept Muslim religious consciousness dormant. It was invoked only when its grip on power was threatened. For example, Babar appealed to the religious sentiments of Muslim soldiers on the eve of the battle of Kanwaha but forgot that once the crisis was over. Rather than a religious identity, the Muslim ruling elite asserted an ethnic identity, in its bid to hold political and economic privileges. In the second phase, the fall of the Mughals deprived that elite of political power. The task of reviving the sense of their past glory was then left to the ulama. The jihad movement of Savyid Ahinad Shaheed and the Faraizi movement of Haji Shariatullah were outwardly religious but aimed at political goals. These leaders, however, sincerely believed that only after the revival of the pure and orthodox faith, could worldly and material success be achieved. Religious piety and political ambitions were interlaced and both provided the incentives to those movements. In the third phase, the association of the Muslim elite with Pan-Islamism, was an attempt to derive strength and protection from the Muslim world in order to respond to challenges from Hindus and the British Government. That movement united Western educated Muslims with the ulama. Anti Imperialist sentiments, on the other hand, brought them closer to Hindus. In their efforts to maintain unity they gave up some of their religious symbols such as cow slaughter. With the end of Pan-Islamism and the break up of Hindu Muslim unity, brought about radical change in Indian Muslim politics. This led to the politicisation of religion.

Thus in the last phase, consciousness of Muslim identity was exploited by the leadership not so much for a religious cause but for achieving political goals. The leadership was privately secular. But in public they greatly emphasised religion and its values. It is here that foundations were laid of hypocrisy in appeals to religion, which has been inherited from generation to generation, to this day. The Partition was regarded as the recognition of a separate identity of Indian Muslims. But that identity instead of solving their problems created more crises for Muslims of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.


Barani, Ziauddin 1862 Tarikh-I-Firuzshahi, Calcutta

Barani, Ziauddin 1972 Fatawa-I-Jahandari, Lahore

Darbar-I-Milli 1966 Darbar-I-Milli (edited by S. M. Akram), Lahore

Dixit, Prabha 1985 'Political Objectives of the Khilafat Movement in

India', in Mushirul Hasan (ed) Communal and Pan-Islamic Trends in Colonial India, Delhi

Nanda, B. R. 1989 Gandhi, Pan-Islamism, Impen~alism and Nationalism, Oxford

Smith, W. C. 1947 Modem Islam in India, Lahore

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