Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Desecularizing Jinnah


Maryam Sakeenah

‘The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams with open eyes.’

This year, the celebration of the Quaid’s day acquires a somewhat greater significance. The adoption of the sly new slogan of ‘Pakistan First’ to justify all that is not Pakistan, has ironically brought about the country’s dissociation from its very identity and defines our ‘patriotism’ as what Iqbal called “a fanaticism for country … a subtle form of idolatry; a deification of a material object”, what Islam’s eternal mission is geared against. This new orientation of what I would call our ‘ideology-less ideology’ reduces Pakistan to a hollow materialism completely alien to what the makers of this land envisioned. In this context, there is, therefore, a greater need to turn back and see the worth in what we set out with, and to reassess our values on that basis.

Because of our pseudo-Westernised ‘men of letters’, the Quaid e Azam’s vision for Pakistan has been clouded over by an ambiguity that leaves the average Pakistani confused about what the vision that made Pakistan really was. A large number of our writers and thinkers are at pains to somehow create a justification for Pakistan’s repudiation of its ideology by improvising the history of our struggle, or reinterpreting it their own way. The apathetic ‘dumping’ of Iqbal, (the government’s indifference to and lack of interest in the proper celebration of what it called the ‘Official Iqbal year’ proves it), and the ‘secularisation’ of the Quaid e Azam through our media and even the recent literature coming up on this topic are parts of the strategy. Sadly, because the Quaid did not leave us with a written down delineation of his beliefs, this twisting up of his vision becomes easier. The need, therefore, for an unbiased search for the Quaid’s vision for Pakistan and his great cause for which he gave of himself becomes a pressing need.

There is a tendency among our contemporary ‘media monopolists’ to focus on the Quaid’s thoroughly Westernised lifestyle, mannerisms and culture as a result of his British education without indicating his thoroughly de-Westernised mind. Portrayed in this manner, the Quaid, among naïve minds who do not know much about him except what the media tells them, has acquired a kind of westernised image. With this, it is easier to accept when our writers tell us that Jinnah won Pakistan on the basis of legality alone, and not for a religion and an identity. Perhaps that is why, while researching for this article, since I too am a part of the system, I was astounded by the sheer Islamic content of the text of the Quaid’s speeches and statements. Obviously, his words were not charged rhetoric with little belief, used for the expedient ends of emotionally arousing a people who held their religion close to their sentiments. There can be nothing so far from the truth. The Quaid was as little of a politician as it is possible to be. He was a statesman, a man of principle who meant intensely what he said. Unafraid of speaking his mind, honest and upright, he hated hypocrisy and expediency or any tactics of populism.

A deeper and incisive study into his life and career shows a steady evolution of his mind towards what became at the end, a ripened and mature Islamic vision, which led him to remark so candidly, simply and sincerely: ‘All that is good is Islam, and all that is not good, is not Islam’. At the end of his days, he used to carry a copy of the Quran at all times with him. This gives a rationale easy to understand, to his devoted struggle against British ascendancy and Hindu bigotry that threatened Islam in the subcontinent. For without a firm ideological basis, it is impossible to dedicate yourself so completely, and to sacrifice yourself for a cause.

The Quaid e Azam believed that the greater task was not in the winning over of, but in the construction of Pakistan on the ideology that won it. This was the duty he left us with, which we failed to raise ourselves to. And this outright rejection of his vision is what makes his words sound today like a tragic encore played to a deaf audience, unheard in the wilderness. But it is this very distancing from that vision that has brought us to this abject state of lost identity, lost nationhood. So while we pay our customary ritual of conventional lip-service to the forgotten leader this time round, let us also try and rediscover the dream that made a nation.

The Quaid was unequivocal in laying down the imperatives of that vision on which Pakistan was to be built. The force that made the fragmented Muslims into a nation was to make that nation build a State. The aim, as put by the Quaid, was to “secure liberty, equality, fraternity as enjoined upon us by Islam”. In simple words, Pakistan was to be an Islamic Welfare State. Quaid e Azam believed that the creation of Pakistan was not an end in itself, but a means to a greater end: “The idea was that we should have a state in which we could … live and develop according to our own lights [sic] and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play”. With the means being gifted to us, our journey should have directioned itself towards reaching that end. We strayed, and having distanced away our destination, consoled ourselves by calling the journey redundant. Iqbal prophecised: “they that move on, win clear, the late and laggard are trampled underfoot” and it has proven true for us. The goal of all movement in life is to a higher station of self-realization (‘khudi’). With the direction lost, identity is lost. For regaining that, a return to the beginning of that journey when the ideals were defined, is necessary.

The Quaid’s words were unequivocal as regards the question of the Islamic identity of the nation. He knew that without it Pakistan was a mere ring of smoke and stressed its significance as a galvanising –force: “How can there be unity of government between areas so widely separated? I can answer that in one word. It is ‘faith’: Faith in Almighty God, in ourselves… the great majority of us are Muslims. We follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). We are members of the brotherhood of Islam in which all are equal in right, dignity and self-respect”.

It is very important to be clear about what the Quaid wanted Pakistan to be. As a hard-won triumph and a haven for the suffering Muslims of India, it had to provide to its citizenry all that a secular united India could not. It had to provide security, the dignity of freedom and basic civil rights as laid down in Islam. As a system of government, democracy provides the right to influence government policy to the masses, and gives them the weight of an enfranchised vote bank. The Islamic system of governance imbibes this positive spirit of democracy. However, there is an important distinction. In Islam, ‘the will of the people’ is to be instrumental in making decisions only within the framework of the Divine Law that is not subject to any variation. Islam’s political system does not take inspiration from man-made Western democracy with all its loopholes__ a system which edifies itself on the ignorance and unawareness of the easily swayed ordinary. Islam’s democracy is a class apart, for it does not condone demagogism or populist tactics, nor does it allow God’s Law to be tampered with by self-serving autocrats. In a time when tribalism and hereditary rule were en vogue, Islam first came up with a system of majority voting for deciding matters that could be referred to public consent. The Quaid wished for this Islamic system which had in it the spirit of true democracy minus its flaws. This is what he meant when he spoke his historic, ideology-setting lines: “It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great law-giver, Prophet Mohammad (SAW) of Islam. Let us lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of true Islamic ideals and principles. Our Holy Book has taught us that our decisions and affairs of the State shall be guided by discussions and consultations.” This statement clearly alludes to the essentially Islamic idea of government by consent and council. It is important to note that wherever in his speeches the Quaid talks about democracy, he takes care to supplement it with the epithet ‘Islamic’, which is in marked distinction to the ‘democracy’ as the West applies it. Islamic democracy is practically the spirit of true democracy sans its flaws.

Another aspect that I found a lot of emphasis on in the Quaid e Azam’s speeches was socio-economic equality in the new Pakistan. The expression ‘Islamic socialism’ occurs wherever he talks of the character of the new constitution: “You are only voicing my sentiments and the sentiments of millions of Musalmans when you say that Pakistan should be based on sure foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism which emphasizes equality and brotherhood of man. Similarly you are voicing my thoughts in asking and aspiring for equal opportunities for all…We demanded Pakistan, we struggled for it, we achieved it so that physically as well as spiritually we are free to conduct our affairs according to our traditions and genius. Brotherhood, equality and fraternity of man__ these are all the basic points of our religion and civlization. And we fought for Pakistan because there was a danger of denial of these rights in the subcontinent.”

Islamic socialism aims at equity of the masses by the dissolution of all racial and financial barriers and distinctions, by establishing a system of ‘Zakat’ or compulsive charity to purge away the destructive concentration of wealth and the spiritual detriment that it brings by maintaining an equal distribution of national wealth. It involves the provision of basic rights for all free and law-abiding citizens of the State. It means freedom from basic want for all, justice and equal opportunity through a homogenised educational system and a free and open job market. It means a rejection of Capitalistic tendencies of lusty acquisitiveness, materialism, exploitation in all forms, profiteering etc. It means making the welfare of the common man your motive towards which all economic activity of the state is directed. Most significantly, Islamic socialism means breaking free from the tentacles of an interest-based economy that anomalously creates money out of money even when it is idly hoarded in bank coffers and not put in healthy investment for economic progress. This system exploits the classes which do not have a lot of idle capital lying in banks, multiplying itself. This way, it increases social disparity until the rich get richer (and automatically, the ‘exploiters’ in an exploitative system), and the poor, poorer (automatically the exploited of this exploitative system). The interest-based economy is a system of exploitation and parasitism, detrimental to the spirit of Islamic socialism that the Quaid wanted for Pakistan.

It is not without significance that the Quaid attached the epithet ‘Islamic’ with socialism either. With the social experiment in Russia bringing economic boons and progress for that nation at that time, it was not easy to see the system’s inherent flaws very clearly. Yet the seasoned vision of the Quaid could see the superiority of the Islamic system over all Marxist economies. Marxism sees the individual only as an ‘entity’ in the state-economy. Islam, on the other hand, sees Man whole, and values the individual. With its spiritual aspect and the State’s obligation to provide basic amenities to all human beings so that they can break free from a primeval and stunting ‘struggle for survival’ into a higher station of moral growth, the individual soul receives a spiritual flowering and can positively play a role in the community. Besides, Marxism has in it the tendency to change from the romanticised ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ to the ‘dictatorship of the ruling oligarchy’. When the totalitarian state invests all power in a few individuals, the way for corruption and power-abuse is opened. Communism’s reduction to Stalinism points towards this inherent flaw in Marxism. In Islam, on the other hand, there is the unchangeable Divine Law above all human machinations, and the ruler is an agent to carry out its implementation, with his usefulness only in as far as he does his duty to the Real Sovereign. Islamic socialism, therefore, is set apart from any other kind of socialistic system. It is the socialism of Abu Zar Al Ghifari (RA)__ Allah’s humble slave and the servant of his Lord’s created beings. Called ‘the enemy of wealth and luxurious living’, he hated the unfair privileges of wealth. Having renounced them so completely in his own life, he fought for its fair and equal distribution. This is where Islamic socialism seeks its inspiration from.

It is important though, to see how the Quaid e Azam has streamlined the extremities of the ideological State. ‘It is not to be a theocracy ruled by priests’, he said. An Islamic state certainly should not be like the theocracies in medieval Europe where the clergy was given all political power to legislate as ‘God’s anointed’, and hence went beyond accountability to the masses. This inevitably led to corruption. An Islamic State is as far from this as can be. Pakistan, in the Quaid’s vision, was to be an Islamic state in the sense that all legislation should flow from Islam’s law, and that the character of the nation should be the ‘Muslim’ character__ socially, culturally, spiritually, to create an ideal community who can work, as the Quaid said, ‘with the spirit of true mujahids’ for the realization of their cherished ideals; a people who have the capacity to “show the same spiritual sacrifice as was shown by Ibrahim (AS)…the spirit of sacrifice enjoined by Islam (to make us) resolve that we shall not be deterred from our objective of creating a State of our own (Islamic) concept… by any amount of sacrifice, trials or tribulations which may lie ahead of us and that we shall bend our energies and resources to achieve our goal…to emerge triumphant and strong from the dark night of suffering, and to show the world that the State exists not for life, but for good life”.

This is how our patriotism ought to have been defined for it to make us abandon our comfortably laid-back state and rise to the forefront as builders of a nation. In order to pick up the threads and go forth in our journey, we first must seek out the path that shall lead to salvation. We must first rediscover the ideal for the achievement of which Pakistan was made. Our energies must be directed towards the realization of that very ideal for Pakistan to have any meaning. When we sever Pakistan from what is its very essence, we sin against that vision which won us this home of ours. And while we mindlessly chant our newfound slogans in a deluded ‘patriotism’, we are straying far from our only identity that gives our struggle for nationhood a purpose. This is only pseudo-patriotism__ heated, warm and zealous, but misdirected and insidiously destructive of the true essence of what patriotism means. Patriotism is a loyalty to your identity as a nation, a commitment to the cause that the ideology aims at. And it is only in returning to it that we can hearken to Quaid e Azam’s call to duty.

Let his words not become poignant today. Let them not become a tragic anthem of a vision betrayed, but a clarion call that should spur us on to the only road to salvation:

“Remember, we are building up a state which is going to play its full part in the destiny of the entire Islamic world. We, therefore, need a wider outlook, an outlook which transcends the boundaries of provinces, limited nationalism and racialism. We must develop a sense of patriotism which should galvanise and weld us all into one united and strong nation. That is the only way in which we can achieve our goal, the goal of our struggle, the goal for which millions of Muslims have lost their all and laid down their lives”.