Thursday, March 27, 2014

English Translation of Hamid Mir's column in Jang, 27 March 2014

In the course of some exchanges on Twitter I ended up promising an Indian gentleman to translate parts of Hamid Mir's article on Muhammad Ali Jinnah, published in Jang today. The original article can be read here . I have already posted several blogs relating to Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, most recently here which is relevant in the context of comments Hamid Mir has made.

Jaswant Singh and Muhammad Ali Jinnah

In his article Hamid Mir shows that Jinnah was neither secular nor a maulvi. The main points he makes are:

      Jaswant Singh is one of the founder members of BJP. A few years ago he wrote a book entitled “Jinnah” in which he said that those really responsible for the division of India were Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, not Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The Hindu leaders could have  worked amicably with the secular and liberal Jinnah but they antagonised him needlessly.
This book infuriated the leadership of Bharatia Janata Party because the BJP and Congress had always held Jinnah responsible for the break-up of India. Jaswant Singh was expelled from the BJP following publication of his book. He maintained that he had been expelled because he dared to present some plain historical facts.

    Some BJP members supported Jaswant. In their view he had laid bare the fake secularism of BJP’s political rival Congress. Moreover, by holding the Congress leadership responsible for the division of India the book had actually benefited BJP at the expense of  Congress.

      It was also thought that L K Advani considered Jaswant Singh a dangerous political rival because of his previous experience as Foreign and Defence Minister, which would make him a candidate for the office of Prime Minister. Advani thus manoeuvred to have him expelled from the Party.

     Jaswant Singh’s exile lasted 10 months before he was admitted back into the party. For the 2014 Election Jaswant Singh wanted his party’s ticket for his traditional constituency in Rajasthan but his request was refused. He said he was being punished for declaring Jinnah to be a secular politician. He announced that he would fight the election from his constituency as an independent.

       It is now obvious that Narainder Modi has taken control of BJP and he has pushed aside not just Jaswant but Advani as well. Modi is now the sole candidate for Prime Ministership from his party.

     Jaswant Singh is not the first Indian writer to consider Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah a secularist. Previously, a lecturer in Political Science at Delhi University, Dr Ajit Javed, authored a book “Secular and Nationalist Jinnah” in which he acknowledged the honesty, courage and fearlessness of the founder of Pakistan. He also stated that the demand for the establishment of Pakistan was merely a political ploy to put pressure on Congress. He claimed that Maudoodi [a religious leader active in politics] refused to lead the Janazah prayer for Jinnah and instead performed a prayer of thanks.

     Many claims made in Ajit Javed’s book defy historical facts. Apart from the Indian writers there are also some Pakistani writers and intellectuals who do their best to present Jinnah as secular. Their amazing antics include:
    (a) always quoting a brief excerpt from a single speech of Quaid-e-Azam (one delivered on 11 August 1947),
    (b) taking delight in quoting falsehoods or half-truths contained in American author Stanley Wolpert’s book “Jinnah of Pakistan”, and
    (c) always referring to Jinnah’s wife Ruttie as a Parsee even though she had converted to Islam before her marriage to Jinnah and she was buried in a Muslim cemetery after her death.

       Quite recently, an English language magazine, published in Karachi, showed a picture of Quaid-e-Azam, with a white beard superimposed. An article in the magazine lamented that some people were trying to present Jinnah as a maulvi!

It is true that there are people who look only for Shariat in the speeches of Pakistan’s founder while they ignore references to justice, equality, tolerance and democracy. On the other hand, those people who are hell-bent on proving the Quaid to be secular are guilty of intellectual and historical dishonesty. It is well known that the founder of Pakistan entered politics as a member of Congress but, over the years, his political evolution and maturity took him to the Muslim League. He was neither a maulvi nor a secularist. He was an ordinary Muslim, free of sectarian and religious prejudices. He married Ruttie for love, whose Muslim name was Maryam. Owing to his legal practice and political activities he could not spend as much time with her as the couple would have wished. There were ups and downs in Jinnah’s marriage. When Ruttie died Jinnah was inconsolable and he wept uncontrollably at her grave.

    In 1929 Jinnah defended Ghazi Ilm Deen in court and in 1931 he refused to speak against Bhagat Singh.

    It was Allama Iqbal who persuaded Jinnah to study Islamic laws. Iqbal’s letter to Jinnah, dated 28 May 1937, is extremely significant. In it the great poet-philosopher is telling his friend that putting genuine Islamic laws into practice in a Muslim state will mean each and every individual will have a right to an assured income. This letter also mentions Islamic Sharia. 

Later the same year, on 16 September 1937, Jinnah ensured that a Shariat Bill, concerned with Muslim Personal Law, was passed by India’s Legislative Assembly. When this Bill was introduced in the Assembly it was criticised on the grounds that the shariat followed by each Muslim sect was  different which made the Bill highly controversial. Jinnah overcame that objection by getting Muslim members of the Assembly to agree to a common concept of shariat acceptable to their respective sects.

     In one of his books Mufti Rafee Usmani has written extensively about Quaid-e-Azam’s meetings with his father and other Muslim scholars. He says there were some religious leaders who had issued fatwas of Kufr in relation to Jinnah while other religious leaders (Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, Mufti Muhammad Shafee etc) supported him. They also severed their links with Dar-ul-aloom Deoband.

    Mufti Muhammad Shafee issued a fatwa, declaring support for Congress to be Kufr. On 23 March 1940 it was not just Pakistan Resolution that was passed but also one supporting the Palestinian Muslims. Jinnah worked hard to end sectarian differences among Muslims and to organise a conference of Muslim scholars of all sects. Many religious leaders and scholars supported Jinnah in his efforts to unify Muslims and to establish a separate homeland for them.

    Quaid-e-Azam had met the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al-Bana and they were in close touch. In his speech on 1st July 1948, at the inauguration ceremony of State Bank of Pakistan, the Quaid spoke about the importance of conducting banking on Islamic principles. It was not a theocracy that Quaid-e-Azam wished to establish but an Islamic welfare state in which non-Muslims had the same rights as those that Rasul-e-Kareem gave to the Jews of Madinah in the Madinah Pact.

    In brief, Quaid-e-Azam was just an honest and sincere Muslim who was neither a secularist nor a maulvi.

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