One of the criticisms sometimes made of Jinnah (by Louis Fisher, for example) is that Jinnah was not a religious man. In this selection, Abdul Qayyum demonstrates how the problem of Jinnah’s alleged lack of interest in religion is handled in Pakistan. We are given a brief discussion of the characteristic of the Islamic reform movement led by Sayed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) and Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938), which helped to create some degree of consensus among “modernized” Muslims as to the significance of Islamic values for twentieth-century problems. Qayyum sees Jinnah as representatives of those who followed the reforms of Sayed Ahmad Khan and Muhammad Iqbal.
In 1875, Sayed Ahmad founded the Muhammadan Educational Conference, and remained the moving spirit behind it until his death. Even at the age of seventy-eight he would enthusiastically sit for six hours a day at the annual session of the Conference at Shahjahanpur, guiding its deliberations as secretary. The conference held its annual session in different parts of the country and aroused enthusiasm among the Muslim masses for western education and social reforms.
Sayed Ahmad’s efforts showed promise of success when, nearly six months after his retirement from service, Lord Lytton, Viceroy of India, performed the opening ceremony of the Muslim Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, on 8th January 1877. The M.A.O. College, which later grew into the famous Muslim University of Aligarh, imparted, through English as the medium of instruction, knowledge of western arts and sciences, together with instructions on Islamic thought and philosophy.
Sayed Ahmad filled the big void created in the life of the Muslim community by the disappearance of the Muslim rule. But he did more. His long life, spanning almost a century, bridged the gulf between the Medieval and the Modern Islam in India. Himself, a relic of the palmy days of the Great Mughals, he ushered in a new era. He gave the Indian Muslims a new prose, a new approach to their individual and national problems, and built up an organization which could carry on his work. Before this there was all disintegration and decay. He rallied together the Indian Muslims, and became the first prophet of their new nationhood.
For the next three years, Iqbal’s thought developed in the libraries of Cambridge, London and Munich. He studied philosophy at Cambridge, took his doctorate degree on the Development of Persian Metaphysics from Munich, and was called to the Bar in London. He studied the old masters of the East and the West, discussed philosophy and metaphysics with the renowned Dr. McTaggart, and conversed on literature and Islamics with Professors Nicholson and Browne.
The vision of a “new world” for the Muslims of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent was projected by Iqbal when he acclaimed that the future of Muslims, with their distinct cultural and spiritual urges, lay in separate homeland. Presiding over the 1930 session of the Muslim League at Allahabad, he declared that he would “like to see the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan, amalgamated into a single State….”
Iqbal was the first to see the vision of Pakistan. The role he played in promoting that intellectual revolution among the Muslims of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, which heralded the emergence of Muslims as a separate political force, conscious of their national destiny, decidedly constituted his most valuable contribution of the Muslim cause.
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said about him: “To me Iqbal was friend, guide and philosopher, and during the darkest moments throughout which the Muslim League had to go, stood like a rock and never flinched for one single moment….Iqbal was the bugler of Muslim thought and culture. He was the singer of the finest poetry represents the true aspirations of the Muslims. It will remain an inspiration for us and for generations after us.”
Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) personified the liberal spirit of Islam released by Sayed Ahmad Khan and Amir Ali, as well as the dynamic philosophy of Iqbal with its emphasis on relentless action. His able leadership of their struggle for freedom, culminating in the creation of Pakistan as an independent State, brought unprecedented hope and vitality to the Muslims of the sub-continent, producing in its wake a whole cultural renaissance and youthful idealism.
Jinnah’s pre-occupation with political issues left him little time to devote himself to writing; but his speeches and sayings have been compiled by his admirers into a series of volumes, and they are all permeated with a liberal outlook.
Like Iqbal, Jinnah believed in Islam as a dynamic religion. “The discipline of the Ramzan fast and prayers will culminate today in an immortal meekness of the heart before God, “he said in a broadcast speech on Eid day, “but it shall not be the meekness of a week heart, and they who would think so are doing wrong both to God and to the Prophet, for it is the outstanding paradox of all religions that the humble shall be the strong, and it is of particular significance in the case of Islam; for Islam, as you all know, really means action. This discipline of Ramzan was designed by our Prophet to give us the necessary strength for action….”
Religion for Jinnah implied not duty to God, but to Mankind. “Man has indeed been called God’s caliph in the Quran, and if that description of man is to be of any significance, it imposes upon us a duty to follow Quran, to behave towards others as God behaves towards his mankind, in the widest sense of word, his duty is to love and to forebear. And this, believe me, is not a negative duty but a positive one. If we have any faith and love for tolerance towards God’s children, to whatever community they belong, we much act upon that faith in the daily round of our simple duties and unobtrusive pieties. It is a great ideal and it will demand effort and sacrifice. Not seldom will your minds be assailed by doubts. There will be conflicts not only material, which you perhaps will be able to resolve with courage, but spiritual also. We shall have to face them; and if today, when our hearts are humble we do not imbibe that higher courage to do so, we never shall.”
Whenever Jinnah got an opportunity to speak on religion, he advocated a rational approach. “In the pursuit of truth and the cultivation of beliefs,” he said, “we should be guided by our rational interpretation of the Quran, and if our devotion to truth is single-minded, we shall, in our own measure, achieve our goal. In the translation of this truth into practice, however, we shall be content with so much, as so much only, as we can achieve without encroaching on the rights of others, while at the same time nor ceasing our efforts always to achieve more. “In another context, he remarked: “The test of greatness is not the culture of stone and pillar and pomp but the culture of humanity, the culture of equality….and only a man who is dead to all the finer instincts of humility and civilization can call a religion based on determination and exploitation a heritage.”
Jinnah was outspoken in his condemnation of reactionary elements which generated retrograde tendencies in religion. Dealing with the contribution of the Pakistan movement to our national life, he said: “We have to a great extent to free our people from the most undesirable reactionary elements. We have in no small degree removed the unwholesome influence and fear of a certain section that used to pass off as Maulana and Maulvis. We have made efforts to make our women with us in our struggle….
He championed the cause of womanhood, advocating for women an equal share with men in social and national life. “In the great task of building the nation and maintaining its solidarity, women have a most valuable part to play. They are the prime architects of the character of the youth who constitute the backbone of the State. I know that in the long struggle for the achievement of Pakistan, Muslim women have stood solidly behind their men. In the bigger struggle for the building up of Pakistan that now lies ahead let it not be said that the women of Pakistan had lagged behind or failed in their duty.”
The liberalism of Jinnah freed the minds of the Indo-Pakistan Muslims, turning their intellectual activities towards tackling traditional Islamic ideas and ideals in terms of modern standards and requirements. Thus the final phase of the intellectual movement among the Muslims of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent that was ushered in by Iqbal, began to be re-enforced by Muslim thinkers under the inspiring leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. With the growing strength of Pakistan that phase is gathering momentum and spreading in every widening concentric circles, permeated with the spirit of both the Seer and the Leader.
Source: From Abdul Qayym, "Jinnah and Islam", in The Cultural Heritage of Pakistan, eds. S.M. Ikram and P. Spear (Karachi, 1955), pp. 186, 188, 192-193, 201-204. Copyright © 1955 by the Department of films and Publications, Government of Pakistan. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press for the Department of Films and Publications, Government of Pakistan.