Jinnah was not Iqbal’s first choice to lead the Muslims

Published: November 17, 2016
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Apparently their relationship was not free of rancour even in the end.

To say Allama Muhammad Iqbal was an extremely complex individual is an understatement. The poet, philosopher and political thinker that Allama Iqbal was, he constantly evolved, or some might argue, regressed in his approach to the idea of a Muslim political identity and how it translated politically.

Iqbal was, at various times, a Muslim modernist (he endorsed the founding of secular Turkish republic as a seminal event in Islamic history), a Muslim reformer (his lectures compiled as the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam show the breadth of his reformist vision) and an uncompromising Islamist believing in theological unity and purity of the Muslim community (his views towards the Ahmadis towards the end of his life are an indication of this).

The undercurrent of Islamic identity was always evident in Iqbal’s poetic endeavours. It is important to place him, for after all a person is a product of his social and material conditions. Mirza Ghalib was the poet of Muslim political decline and embodied the despondence of the Delhi’s Ashrafia at the loss of political power. Iqbal was the poet of Muslim resurgence and revival embodying the growing aspirations of a nascent Muslim middle class. His poetic classics Shikwa, the lament, and Jawab-e-Shikwa, the response to the lament, encapsulate his thinking from very early on.

The idea of the loss of Muslim political power had been the preoccupation of many modernists amongst Muslims, most notably Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. A recurring theme in this line of thinking was the idea of ‘theft’ – worldly progress and glory was the inheritance of the Muslims stolen from them by the West. In the lament and its response, Iqbal strongly emphasises this theme. His solution was a subtle departure from Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Whereas Sir Syed Ahmad Khan only exhorted the Muslims to edify themselves with western education, Iqbal pointedly refers to the failure of Muslims to live by Quran, which he argues the West has already done. He also denounces mindless aping of the west by pointing out that Muslims dress and act like the Christians and Jews, while Christians and Jews have internalised the lessons of the Quran. This idea took a life of its own.

Iqbal’s earlier outlook on Muslim identity was decidedly inclusive rather than exclusive. This explains his close ties to the Ahmadi community and his effusive praise for Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of that sect (such was his closeness that there is speculation that Iqbal had converted to Ahmadi beliefs at one point in his life).

By the 1930s, however, Iqbal’s views seem to have undergone a sea change. Iqbal argued for a separate status for Ahmadis as a religious community. In his essay, Islam and Ahmadism, a rejoinder to Nehru’s articles on the subject, Iqbal exposes his basic anxiety; solidarity of Islam and the danger impacting it by the ideas propounded by Ahmadism. Arguing that the founder of Ahmadism, who he had praised earlier, may have heard a voice, he puts it down to spiritual impoverishment of the Muslim people. He proceeds to vilify Ahmadis as pre-Islamic Magianism which takes on – or steals – the important externals of Islam.

The idea of theft comes into play. Iqbal argues that the finality of prophethood is the key to establishing Muslim solidarity and that Ahmadis, by denying this tenet, would cause the pre-Islamic Magian condition where societies would be broken down and recast in a new light. As a corollary of this argument Allama Iqbal goes on to argue against religious tolerance or the state’s indifference towards being “harmful” to religious communities. In other words, Iqbal was opposed to absolute religious freedom.

Therefore modern historians of thought in Pakistan must grapple with the fundamental discord between Iqbal’s ideas and Jinnah’s vision both of Muslim solidarity and religious freedom. Jinnah as the leader of the All India Muslim League repeatedly ruled out the idea that Ahmadis could not join it.  Contrary to Iqbal’s view of Muslim solidarity emanating out of theological consensus, Jinnah’s test was simple: if a person professed to be a Muslim, he was welcome in the Muslim League.

This became a major point of contention in Punjab, where elements in the Punjab Muslim League wanted to exclude Ahmadis from the Muslim League on the ground that Ahmadis were non-Muslims.  Simultaneously Jinnah was attacked by pro-Congress Islamic parties like Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind for his tolerance of Ahmadis in the Muslim League. However Jinnah did not budge from his principled position on the issue, going so far as to call such theological and sectarian issues as a danger to Muslim unity.

Similarly, Jinnah was a lifelong advocate of the state’s neutrality in matters of religion – an idea which Iqbal considered as problematic. Throughout the Pakistan movement Jinnah promised freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the future state of Pakistan and on August 11, 1947, as the founder of the country, he made his policy plain once again in that memorable address. Jinnah was also wary of theological issues creeping into political discourse. He understood that the question of who is a Muslim would open up a Pandora’s Box where everyone would be fair game, including his own Shia community. He therefore tiptoed carefully around Iqbal’s ideas which he disagreed with, never endorsing them.

The All India Muslim League itself had utilised Allama Iqbal selectively. They had pointed to his address in Allahabad in 1930 as having laid the foundations of Pakistan. On his part, Iqbal had realised the importance of winning over Jinnah and had written a series of letters in 1936 and 1937 asking Jinnah to take up the cause of Muslims in North-West India and to ignore Muslim minorities in the rest of India.

How influential were these letters in Jinnah’s eventual transformation from ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity to an apostle of Muslim separatism, is a matter for a historian to determine. What we do know, however, is that these letters were long forgotten until Muhammad Sharif Toosi chanced upon them in Jinnah’s personal library. When these were published in the 1940s, Jinnah wrote in the preface that he had not saved his replies to these letters and therefore the famed Iqbal-Jinnah correspondence would remain incomplete. As an amateur biographer of Jinnah, I find it very strange because Jinnah usually saved his replies.

Jinnah in any event was not Iqbal’s first choice to lead the Muslims. They had not seen eye-to-eye during the Round Table Conferences in England. Apparently their relationship was not free of rancour even in the end. Iqbal told Nehru in his last days,

“What is common between Jinnah and you? He is a politician and you are a patriot.” (Nehru mentions this in his book Discovery of India).

These differences are very conveniently swept under the rug by our ideologues who want to concoct the false equation “Iqbal+Jinnah=Pakistan”.

In fact Iqbal has long trumped Jinnah in Pakistan. Pakistan of today, a befuddling religious state that has taken upon itself the burden of spiritual wellbeing of its people is precisely the kind of state Iqbal, the theocrat, had in mind and precisely the kind of state Jinnah, the democrat, wanted to avoid. A great part of the blame, however, lies with Jinnah himself for not having disavowed more clearly Iqbal and his ilk who he took on his fellow travellers in his political struggle to his own detriment.

Yasser Latif Hamdani

Yasser Latif Hamdani

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He tweets as @theRealYLH (twitter.com/therealylh)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Muhammad

    A cheap attempt to downplay and create controversy in the personality of Allama Iqbal. The author is biased against Allama Iqbal because of the view which Allama held towards a self-proclaimed “prophet”who rose from Qadian.
    Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Not everything is a conspiracy. Everything that I have written is based in fact. Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    @yasserlatifhamdani:disqus Some people are going to be very angry at you after this but truth is, this jihad ideology has ruined everything and everyone and Iqbal was no different as long as the concept of Jihad is concerned.Recommend

  • Hameed

    What good did Iqbal ever do? He even left Jinnah league at one point to join Jinnah’s opponent’s party. In his lifetime Muslim League never won more than two seats in whole of Punjab. Muslim League gained momentum after Iqbal was dead and long gone and had no bearing on the situation. Try to read up history instead of just demonstrating ignorance and prejudice.Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    How are they facts?

    It’s your opinion of different historical events.

    Like Jinnah’s 11 Aug speech.Recommend

  • Syed Abbas Ali

    Let’s say you are presenting the facts. But then even Jinnah never disavowed Allama Iqbal for greater interest of Pakistan. and here you are doing the opposite.Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Just a correction. It is Jamiat e Ulema Hind and not JUI-F…. though what is not JUI-F is essentially Mufti Mahmood faction which was originally JUH. In my draft I wrote JUH but it was mistakenly changed to JUI-F. Small difference but for the sake of consistency here it is. Recommend

  • Akram Muhammad

    Very well written. These facts need to be discussed now in order to unearth the truth that lies in the foundation of this country and that ideologues never wanted us to know.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    Iqbal’s son (late Javed Iqbal) admitted to Dr. Israr Ahmed that Iqbal had been an Ahmedi for some time.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    I once heard of a letter by Iqbal saying “I have nothing to do with this Pakistan nonsense” or words to that effect. Is there such a letter?Recommend

  • jay

    Allam died a bitter man since Tagore got the Nobel and was invite by the Shah of Iran ! Iqbal was very ordinary poet as well! Many like him, better than him came and passed !Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Actually you are wrong. Jinnah attended the first and second roundtable conferences. He was not invited to the third. So now perhaps you should try and find India on the map because based on just this I don’t trust you to find it even if it jumped off the paper and bit you.Recommend

  • http://nabtron.com/ Nabtron

    then why does iqbal’s nephew wrote in his book “meray chacha” that iqbal was Ahmadi? Recommend

  • MR.X

    yes that jihad ideology is there but not properly following it ruined Muslims. Jihad is part of islam Recommend

  • ab

    Yes, not everything is conspiracy. So Let the people decide about it. Why imposing?Recommend

  • Hameed

    “He brought Jinnah back.. Or you reject that?”

    Totally! When did he do that? Provide evidence.Recommend

  • Hameed

    Not properly following it? All your senior Mullahs have been leading it how could it have gone wrong?Recommend

  • ab

    Wow , how these people linked everything.

    Pakistan is long created, Both our greatest heroes are long gone. I pray for both of them to grant highest place in jannah for what they have done. So why not move forward and create a great Pakistan. Or for ever we will be indulged in this debate Pakistan is created in the name of religion or not. Was Jinnah was a non muslim etc.Recommend

  • MR.X

    Written in books ive read “called history of something”..
    I actually read it many times ,not only in that book…Now get proper information before writing blogs. He was the one who called Iqbal back.Also see this lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQkIaF3lHQA.. But off course this scholar is a liar in your views..Only thing matching your thinking are correct desi liberalRecommend

  • farhan

    Of course they are killing innocent childrenRecommend

  • farhan

    where do you live mars..??Written in many books and narrated by the scholars also.Get a life.Also answer mr.x’s other question..He beat you to it so you tried to shift your focus on something else(diversion tactics)Recommend

  • farhan

    desi liberal,acting sickRecommend

  • farhan

    Also proper Mullahs dont harm innocent people.Get a lifeRecommend

  • MR.X

    nailed it broRecommend

  • Azam Gill

    So then who was Iqbal’s first choice to lead Muslims?Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    As HV Hodson said not even Jinnah’s worst enemies accused him of being an opportunist or self serving. Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Iqbal had nothing to do with Jinnah’s return. Read Jinnah of Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert. Jinnah returned in 1934 and the Iqbal letters are from 1936 and 1937.Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    You obviously only read the title but did not read the article. What I am saying is precisely that Iqbal was is and should be immaterial to Pakistan. Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Please point out which of the things I have written are untrue.Recommend

  • Saucy. Seems like I touched a nerve.Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Jinnah answered the Ahmadi question on 23 May 1944 when he said that anyone who professed to be a Muslim is a Muslim and is welcome in the League. So yes Jinnah would have acted differently than Bhutto. Recommend

  • Hameed

    Who are proper Mullahs? Because most leading Mullahs support violence or don’t do much to stop it; Deobandis, Brelivis you name it.Recommend

  • Hameed

    Nailed what? As the sun shining during the day is fact just like support of Mullahs for terrorism and violation of human rights is. Khatm e Nabuwat violence and sectarian killings are one example and Jihads all across the world is another.Recommend

  • Hameed

    Nonsense. All lies copying one from the other. If 100 liars repeat something quoting each other that doesn’t make it not lie. Where is real original evidence?

    You obviously are a typical Mutalia e Pakistani person who has no sense of authenticity of information. You whole history is a lie pretty much, proven numerous times. This is your understanding so you have difficulty separating truth from propaganda.Recommend

  • Hameed

    “mullah do not have enough firepower..”

    Mullahs killing people in Pakistan every day and all over the work and they don’t have enough firepower? How much fire power is enough?Recommend

  • MR.X

    He simply pays no attention to facts..Recommend

  • MR.X

    alright leave all my other sources..And then read your specific book..Brother a man below also told you the same thing..No point in arguying with you..Everyone knows that iqbal persuaded Jinnah whether you like it or not..Agree to disagreeRecommend

  • iconoclast

    Brilliant. Crisp, direct and to the point. Another well-written one YLH !Recommend

  • iconoclast

    This guy is making up stories that no one can verify. Like Jinnah had a dream and then he changed his ideology! Hypocrite lying Mullahs!Recommend

  • Bharat Indian

    Please don’t quote firangis, they can prove a demon as saint and vice-versa, if it serve their interests. Please read Jinah’s personality objectively without any favour or hatred: (1) He was genuine liberal and secular just like Nehru but, quickly re-packaged himself as Islamic hardliner, when he smelt the leadership position of muslim league. (2) He knew very well he is going to die soon due to TB. Still he insisted for separate country and it’s top position. What else will you call it other than self-serving? You must know that just before the independence, whole congress elected Patel as first PM of India. But, Gandhi told Patel that you are too old, hence won’t be able to give the leadership for too long and he adviced him to allow Nehru to be PM. Patel accepted Gandhi’s suggestion without any malice. This is called selflessness. And this later proved crucial turn as Patel died just in few years while Nehru gave stable leadership for next 16 years. (3) In spite of knowing fully well about his nearing death, he didn’t give any concrete written vision about the newly borned country nor did he nurtured any second rung leadership (as Gandhi and also Nehru did during his lifetime). It created cheos and confusion after his death. Nobody knew what to do of this newly created country.
    What else will you call opportunism and self-serving? Jinah snatched whole Aligarh educated liberal muslim leadership from India and we were left with hardcore Islamists, who knew nothing except few Quranic verses. It is a different matter that later you converted those liberal into hardcore Islamists and we converted or still trying to convert our side of Islamists into liberals… hahahaha…Recommend

  • BJK

    Jinnah was a smart cookie, but I wish he had not been a smoker! :)
    Then he would have had a longer life and could have been of immensely greater benefit to his new country.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=mvIz2-x3LUo&t=3m23s why should natives worry about alien books be they of Anglo’s or Bedouin’s? We are sick up of meaningless secularism, liberalism etc.Recommend

  • Fruck Off

    Erdogan endorses that message. You should’ve added the hashtag #TheWorldIsBiggerThan5 like Lohan and something about FETO; but then, that would’ve given it away so you did the right thing.Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    This way whatever happened 70 years ago is immaterial to Pakistan.

    Whatever Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be. It needs to be an Islamic Republic.Recommend

  • SD

    Iqbal remained an Ahamdi for 40 years of his adult life and had very close rapport with the founder of the Ahamdi community. Check fact !!!Recommend

  • SD

    The author has provided no proof only his opinion. The first choice was always Jinnah. There was no body more capable of working for a Pakistani homeland. It was also the Ahmadis who influenced Jinnah to return from England to take up the Pakistani cause. They met him continuously in London to convince him to return back to India and take up the Pakistan cause.Recommend

  • SD

    Iqbal broke away from the Ahamdis because he could not submit to their leadership. He had not only accepted Ahmadiyat but also maintained very close ties with their leadership for several years.Recommend

  • SD

    Yes you are right and he had solved the problem based on the Quran. This is why he chose to appoint Zafrullah Khan as Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister even though some of the Mullahs of the time had opposed it.Recommend

  • MR.X

    Why dont you see the video(of a scholar) and read my books ??Believe what you want to believeRecommend

  • farhan

    i can say the same about you, you also told him a book name..”if its in a book that dosent mean its true”.#hypocrysyRecommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    You assume too much. I am not an Ahmadi. However as a Pakistani I am concerned about the denial of fundamental rights to Ahmadis. Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    The onus is on you to show which part of the 14 points was against the idea of a secular federated India. Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    “That jihad ideology” wow. MR.X will tell me what a Jihad ideology is!!

    Do you think of anything else other than warfare, I am sure there are many things in Islam which should appeal to you other than waging violent jihad on innocents all the time while getting your own men women and children killed at the ratio of 1000:1. Something is not right here. And this has been going on since your so called Mullahs are waging jihad everywhere, it has never changed ever since 1000:1. This is not Jihad. this is not even Qitaal. This is hell. wake up and smell the coffee.Recommend

  • MR.X

    when did i ever say that killing innocent is jihad. That is why i said proper jihad, smelling the cofee you judgemental manRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Wikipedia link is on RamChandra Baba, anti feudalism crusader.Recommend

  • MR.X

    Foreign funded terrorists are no proper Mullah who are killing innocent..Enough with youe judgemental arguments..Do you as a muslim reject Quran verses about jihad??Recommend

  • MR.X

    he showed you the video of the scholar.You just want to believe what suits your feelings.Your the hypocriteRecommend

  • MR.X

    Let him be content with dishonorable behavior and look he also has english superiority complex mocking “Mutalia-e-Pakistan”Recommend

  • http://nabtron.com/ Nabtron

    can you please provide references? thanks.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    No , they are too old to do that.
    they incite others for it.Recommend

  • farhan

    even those who incite young are not proper. any knowledge of islam?i doubt thatRecommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Good for you if you are smelling it.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    I really didn’t wanted this to come this far, but now I am really curious what you mean by Proper Jihad? do elaborate please.Recommend

  • Sane

    There are writers, who are given an agenda to undermine Muslim leaders, Pakistan and Muslims. This is another kind of war waged anti-state elements. We as Pakistani nation must understand this and identify such anti-state writers.Recommend

  • Sane

    He has not written a fiction. If you don’t know about the truth of facts, then to what you are saying is well written. You mean the English he wrote. By the way what he has written (facts not English) is totally baseless.Recommend

  • Sane

    Hello Mr. Indian Troll! why don’t you reveal your name?Recommend

  • Sane

    From my perspective……… you are the brainwashed.Recommend

  • Sane

    Liaquat Ali Khan migrated to Pakistan leaving his state. He belonged to a Nawab family. When assassinated his vest has holes. He had some 12 rupees in his pocket or may be less and his bank account was almost nil. You cannot belittle by heroes heroes like him. He was a great man. After his death his family did not led a lavish life. By what standards he was selfish? Would you explain or this is just a remark out of some hatred.Recommend

  • MR.X

    read quran.I would post the verses but tribune removes them..salamRecommend

  • farhan

    thats the spirit. You are blessed with spiritual knowledge from the unseen. O great one!Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Actions speak louder than wordsRecommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Again as I suspected you haven’t read the 14 points. The federating units were existing provinces and not based on religious divide. So your entire claim falls flat. My suggestion would be to read more and critically. Recommend

  • Rajiv
  • Salim Alvi

    Wish had the real native name instead of meaningless name.Recommend

  • Saeed

    Great article by YLH.Generated a whole lot of thought provoking discussions among the readers.Express Tribune,do come up with such discussion generating articles in the future also.Makes us all go to history books and go over some of the original ideas on which the Partition on of India happened leading to creation of Pakistan and then Bangla Desh.Recommend