Posts Tagged ‘ Allama Iqbal ’

Jinnah’s Pakistan

By Ziyad Faisal for The Friday Times

When a suicide-bomber targets a market-place, a rabid Islamist kills a figure who is not pious enough or Independence Day comes, we are reminded of the psychosis of the Pakistani state. We are reminded that in addition to shaky material foundations, the Pakistani state rests upon highly flimsy and contested ideological grounds. At such times, there is almost always a chorus from the literate urban middle-classes of the country: they want “Jinnah’s Pakistan”. For the more conservative sections of our urban middle-class, the Pakistan they long for is the “laboratory” which Jinnah claimed he sought, to implement Islamic values. For the more liberal sections of the urban middle-class, the Pakistan they want was described by a secular Jinnah in his speech on August 11, 1947. The more perceptive reader will already realize that while every historical figure can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, if a single leader can be held up by secularists, conservatives, nationalists and Islamists alike, perhaps the leader himself was not so sure about certain things.

But what exactly was Mr Jinnah’s own vision for Pakistan, and how did it interact with the nature of the Pakistan Movement and the realities of post-1947 Pakistan? To understand the yearning for “Quaid-e-Azam ka Pakistan”, one must look at the founding myths of Pakistan and Jinnah’s place therein.

Almost any child who goes to school in Pakistan learns a certain story. The story involves a young man, burning the proverbial midnight oil as he studied at night, trying to shield the light he was using with cardboard sheets, so as not to disturb his siblings. When asked by his sister as to why he would not simply go to bed, he said something along the lines of how important this hard work was, for him to become a great man. The Pakistani reader will recognize immediately the young man we are talking about: the Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Most modern nation-states actively propagate their foundational myths: based on a kernel of truth but embellished greatly with fantasy, exaggeration and historical omissions. It is only natural that such myths centre around the integrity, heroism or ambition of one or more “founding fathers” who were instrumental in creating the state it in its modern, institutional form. So, for instance, Israel has its Bar Kochba and its Ben Gurion. Turkey has its Attaturk leading the fight for independence from barren Anatolia. The United States has its George Washington, who supposedly would not lie to his father about cutting a cherry tree, even as a boy. Latin American countries have their Simon Bolivar, Italy has its Garibaldi, Ireland has its Michael Collins. The Indian state has its own pantheon of founding fathers, from Asoka to the Rani of Jhansi, all the way down to Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose. Even Saudi Arabia has its epic tale of Bedouin raiders from the sand-dunes of Najd turning into majestic kings and defenders of the Holy Kaabah.

As for the foundational myths of Pakistan, let us bear in mind the following: every modern nation-state is ultimately a very artificial social construct, and the more artificial a state, the more artificial its founding myths.

And what is the Pakistani child taught about the founding fathers of the country? Well, if we put aside the valuable nation-building efforts of Muhammad bin Qasim and Mahmud of Ghazni, what we are left with is essentially Allama Muhammad Iqbal and, of course, the Quaid-e-Azam. Iqbal, as a brilliant poet and an aspiring philosopher, who dreamt of Pakistan. Mr Jinnah, the great political leader who brought this vision to fruition. Such is the clichéd narrative we are given.

In that famous story about the hard-working youthful Jinnah, the Pakistani student is being taught that a boy in his mid-to-late teens had already within him a young Quaid-e-Azam: the Great Leader. He would go on to study the legal system of the British colonialists, gain the respect of the British and the adulation of the Muslim masses of South Asia and eventually this epic tale culminates in the heroic Muslim League’s achievements of Partition and its accompanying bloodbath.

The historical record suggests that the budding Leader was not exactly convinced about the need for communal Muslim politics until at least the early 1920s. He was, after all, the chief architect of the Lucknow Pact of 1916: the “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” as Sarojni Naidu famously described him. Even as late as 1946, Jinnah as a practical politician could entertain the possibility of some sort of compromise with the Congress leadership and the British. The Muslim League leadership would have been satisfied with adequate guarantees of limited autonomy for Muslim-majority regions of Punjab, Sindh and Bengal. The Pashtun leaders of the north-western Frontier, of course, were not to be taken on board, because their loyalty to the Congress amounted to some sort of treachery. As for the Baloch, one imagines, it was assumed that they need not be considered in any calculations: they would somehow automatically be convinced to join the new nation-state and forget centuries of distinct history.

The Muslim League itself, founded in 1905-06 by disinherited and disgruntled members of the former Muslim elite of South Asia, was not committed to mass politics or independence from British rule – and certainly not an independent Pakistan. Unlike the populist appeals of Congress leaders like Gandhi, Nehru and others, the Muslim League’s political programme was for a long time directed towards the Aligarh-educated ex-nobility among Muslims. In the 1940s, were it not for a last-minute alliance with Muslim feudal lords in Punjab and some urban elements from Sindh, the Muslim League could never have mustered the political resources to make their demand for an independent Pakistan into a reality.

Conservative nationalists and Islamists in Pakistan are likely to be disappointed by the real Mr Jinnah. He was an intelligent, British-educated barrister, and had little time for the discourse of village mullahs. Steeped in the traditions of British liberalism, Jinnah could bring only a tiny minority of the Muslim clergy to his side even in the 1940s. It is obvious that he was looking for some form of constitutional liberal democracy, no matter how inspiring the pan-Islamic yearnings of Allama Iqbal might have been.

But perhaps our secular liberals are even more likely to be disappointed, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Jinnah laid out a set of principles for a secular Pakistani state in his speech to our first Constituent Assembly, on the 11th of August, 1947. To quote his memorable words on that occasion:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. ”

While these are admirable sentiments, perhaps we can be forgiven for pointing out the glaring contradiction here. If a citizen’s religion is not the business of the state, how does one explain the creation of Pakistan as a separate state? If it were not differences in religion with the Hindus and other religious communities of India, what else was it that motivated the Muslim League to demand Pakistan?

Allow me go one step further and remind the reader of the many occasions on which Mr Jinnah invoked Islamic rhetoric in his various speeches to justify the idea of Pakistan. With apologies beforehand, allow me to recall that it was the same Mr Jinnah who would not accept his daughter marrying a non-Muslim man, even though he himself had married a non-Muslim woman. One is reminded of the typical mindset of the contemporary Pakistani Muslim father or brother.

For years, Mr Jinnah brilliantly argued for federal autonomy in Muslim-majority provinces…until Partition happened and the Pashtuns, Bengalis, Baloch and other nationalities within Pakistan demanded the same autonomy. For years, Mr Jinnah pointed out the distinct cultural identity of South Asian Muslims…until Partition happened and Bengalis asked for their language to be given the status of a national language. Urdu and Urdu alone, Mr Jinnah firmly reminded them.

I understand that quite a few readers ought to be exasperated by now. What am I trying to say? What exactly was Muhammad Ali Jinnah? Was he socially liberal or conservative? Was he secular or not? What future did he envision for Pakistan?

The historical record shows that Mr Jinnah was himself has given us adequate arguments for just about any side we choose. Despite the personal integrity, intelligence and political skill of Mr Jinnah, it has to be recognized that the Muslim League was not exactly what it claimed to be. It was supposed to speak for the Muslims of South Asia, but its actual representative credentials were not very credible, even in the “moth-eaten and truncated” (to quote Mr Jinnah) Pakistan of 1947.

To limit ourselves to an imagined version of what Mr Jinnah wanted would mean limiting our political vision and perhaps the very frontiers of our political morality.

What sort of Pakistan does the hari from Sindh want? What sort of Pakistan does the silenced rape victim want? What sort of Pakistan does the tortured body of the young Baloch student want? What sort of Pakistan does the textile worker from Faisalabad want, considering he is paid some 6000 rupees a month? What sort of Pakistan does the terrified Ahmadi want? What sort of Pakistan do you want? What sort of Pakistan do I want?

You see, perhaps the real question is not what our founding father(s) wanted, but what today’s unfortunate Pakistanis want.

Perhaps it is time to consider a possibility: that the laboratory for implementing Islamic teachings was created, and the experiment went horribly wrong. And perhaps it is time to consider another possibility: given the many different interpretations which Mr Jinnah left himself open to, might we be forgiven for concluding that this is it? That this, where we live today, is Jinnah’s Pakistan in all its glory?

Sufi Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Spirituality

By Fahad Faruqui for The Huffington Post

After two bombs recently claimed dozens of innocent lives at the shrine of esteemed Sufi Ali Hajviri, fingers were pointed at the al-Qaeda-linked militants who see Sufism as the work of heretics. The New York Sufi Music Festival was brought to U.S. to showcase the spiritual dimension of Islam and the rich heritage of Pakistan, counteracting a view that Pakistan is predominantly a country known for its terror factories. Sadly, the image of militants waging war is overwhelming and hard to supersede.

Hearing Abida Parveen sing Bulleh Shah’s ecstatic poetry, which enriched the centuries-old Sufi tradition of the Indus valley, made me realize how the Islamists have stripped away spirituality from the religion and left believers with rituals, sketchy interpretations of the divine laws and fear of God’s wrath. Sufi Muslims of the subcontinent, who converted to Islam in the pre-partition era, were drawn to the Sufi path of knowledge that has been hijacked by the al-Qaeda ideology of violence.

The rapturous quality of Sufi poetry continues to fascinate me, but the very idea of loving and seeking God while listening to radical mullahs (like the clerics of Red Mosque) is deeply troubling. Prostration to God devoid of spirituality is no different from doing sit-ups. Surely, the label Sufi is not necessary. What’s important is the sentiment. It helps the cause of clarity to call those on the path “Sufis” rather than “mystics,” which will more likely conjure images of Aladdin on his flying carpet.

Islam is the fastest-growing religion but has too few religious scholars with requisite understanding to link rituals and divine laws to creative spiritual ascension. I reached a level of comfort with my faith through good guidance from prominent Muslim thinkers such as Hamza Yusuf, Faraz Rabbani and Zaid Shakir, who drink deeply of the Quran’s spring of wisdom.

Faith is ineffable; so is our search for God. Ecstatic poetry and Sufi treatises speaking of “annihilation of self” and “Oneness with the Creator” are merely tools to evoke the Sufi sentiment, which is not peculiar to Islam. Teresa of Avila’s “Libro de la Vida,” Bulleh Shah’s ecstatic poetry, Allama Iqbal’s intimate conversation with God in “Shikwa” (complaint) and Mansoor Al-Hallaj’s proclamation “Anal-Haq” (I am the Truth) are all expressions of the acquired wisdom gleaned from deep introspection.

Though unsuccessful, Iqbal tried to revive the true spirit of Islam. He was quick in identifying that the hardline mullah was a hopeless case. But the Sufis were either consumed in “other worldliness” or digressing from the core of Sufism. For Iqbal, a profound religious experience is one that benefits humanity, which is most unlikely if the seeker retreats to constant seclusion.

Saudi Arabia’s government is often accused of demolishing tombs of the companions of the prophet, fearing veneration of graves, and of discouraging Muslims from praying at prominent sites like the Cave of Hira (where Muhammed received his first revelation). Why they discourage is another column, but one thing is certain: visiting graves and sites mentioned in the Quran will not miraculously lead to divine illumination. The essence of Sufism is to dig into the depths of your soul to seek the One. In the shrines of Sufi masters in the subcontinent, one can expect to find numerous vagabonds pretending to be Sufis, who earn a living by giving false hopes to troubled wives, jobless men and childless couples. This defeats the premise of Sufism — absolute reliance on Almighty.

In a phone conversation, a prominent Sufi scholar, William Chittick, said, “The core of Sufism is to strive for nearness to God.” Even though God is absolutely Other, he presupposes a direct relationship with the seeker. No doubt. Allah says in the Quran (50:16): “I am closer to you than your jugular vein.”

It is our egos that have created boundaries between sects within Islam and ensuring rivalries with non-Muslims. Reviving the spiritual dimension of Islam may be the only way to fight intolerant radical elements internally.

Allama Iqbal: The Great philosopher Poet of Pakistan

By G. Sabir for Iqbal Academy Scandinavia

Nature gives birth to great philosophers and poets when the need arises. Natural calamities, wars, epidemics, storms and earthquakes etc causing human sufferings have always given birth to creative minds. Plato was born in 420 BC when his country had almost been ruined as a result of Peloponnesian war. Iqbal was born in 1877 AD when the inhabitants of India were suffering from miseries and deaths while struggling for the Independence of their country from British rule.

The people of Muslim community of India were the worst hit. They were being crushed ruthlessly. At that time Iqbal’s poetry played miraculous role. It awakened the people from slumbering hopelessness, made them stood on their own feet. They were united and then fought courageously for Independence with the result that they achieved a free homeland for them within a few years time.

Creative thinker

This means that despite being a creative thinker, Iqbal was addressing the situation at hand. The ideas he enunciated, though intrinsically creative in themselves and abiding in appeal beyond a particular time and place, were yet primarily meant to salvage the bleak Muslim situation in India and the world at large. This makes Iqbal, in a sense, oriented towards the Indian Muslim psyche and situation.

This framework makes his periodic forays into discussing and suggesting solutions to the problems of the Muslim world at large and his consuming concern with the ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (1930) – a logical extension of his role as a modern Muslim ideologue, attempting to analyze and, see Muslim India’s problems and predicament on a wider canvas and in a total context. After all, Iqbal regarded India, if only because of the Muslim numerical strength, as ‘the greatest Muslim country in the world’, to quote his own words. These tasks, both critical and onerous as they were, he fulfilled squarely.

Effective medium

His emotion-leaden and soul-lifting poetry was the medium Iqbal chose to bring his people a new awareness of the depths of degradation to which they had fallen, to diagnose their ailments, their predicament and the prime cause of their decline and to warn them of the dire consequences if they failed to mend themselves in good time. A more effective medium he could not have possibly chosen.

For one thing, poetry is the most powerful medium for touching the deepest emotions of people and for driving a message into their subconscious. For another, the Indian Muslims had been among the most poetry-oriented people in the wold, with a long tradition of readily taking to heart what was written in verse. Political orations may stir and audience into action, but their impact is bound to be restricted to a particular audience and dissipate with time and events. In contrast, a poetic message seeps through the ethos of a nation, working on its psyche all the while.

Political leaders

Hence Iqbal achieved through his poems what a thousand speeches could not. But for the silence mental preparation that had gone on for long decades, the people would not have responded to the call of political leaders – in this case, especially of Jinnah during the 1937-47 epochal decade. No wonder, the pandals of the League sessions from Lucknow (1937) onwards were plastered with Iqbal’s couplets, calling on Muslims to rise and take their destiny in their own. Iqbal was quoted oft and on to rouse Muslims to a new awareness of their destiny. All this had an electrifying effect on the audience since Iqbal, though generally complex and couched in an appropriate idiom, was, straightforward and yielded clear guidelines.

Besides being a poet of extraordinary merit, Iqbal was a thinker of a high order. Thus, while Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Mohammed Ali and Jinnah provided political leadership to Muslims, Iqbal took upon himself the task of setting the intellectual tone for Muslim thought and action. (Previously, this was done by Sir Syed’s, writing and the Aligarh school). In addressing himself to this task, Iqbal brought a revolution in Muslim thinking at various levels, he also made a significant contribution to keeping them stolidly anchored to their pristine ideology and historical legacy.

New consciousness

His role in awakening the Muslims to a new consciousness began in 1899 when he recited a poem at the annual session of the Anjuman-i-Islam, Lahore. His moving ‘Nala-i-Yatim’ was symbolic of the echoing cry of the faceless masses of the Indian Muslims, who had long felt themselves sidelined neglected.

What pained him most was the impact of nationalism on various Muslim countries, eroding the pan-Islamic concept, enfeebling the Muslim world and laying it open to European aggression and exploitation.

To the ailments the Muslim world was afflicted with, Iqbal found the solution in Islam and its message. In order to reach the innermost recesses of their consciousness, he invoked the past glory of Islam, telling Muslims of the accomplishments of their ancestors. In so doing, he tried to fight off the prevalent slough of despondency, raising drooping spirit of Muslims and replacing it with a sense of soaring confidence.

Message of hope

Next, he gave them a message of hope. He told them that they could still redeem themselves if they could only recapture their soul and regain their pristine moral and spiritual values.

He emphasized the imperative need to develop human qualities and the right type of character. He attributed their degeneration to their taking to a life of passivity and resignation for several generations. That debilitating trend could be reversed by opting for initiative and endeavour which, he believed, Islam stood for. To him, an active, struggling non-believer was preferable to a sleeping Muslim.

But if Muslims were to be beckoned to a new destiny, they must first be confirmed as Muslims and they must own up their pristine values. This was all he more necessary in the context of the rise of positivism and skepticism, which posed a serious challenge to the modern Muslim.

Modern Muslim

To Iqbal, the task before the modern Muslim is to re-think the whole system of Islam without completely breaking with the past. And this crucial task he undertook in a series of lectures since compiled as ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (1930). In these he argued that Islam represented a philosophy of action, for faith without action was a life bereft of any significance. Seldom does a poet exert such profound influence on the course of history and in changing the destiny of a nation. But Iqbal did because his accomplishments extended far beyond the realm of mere imagination and into the sphere of objective realities, because in the final years of his eventful life he donned the mantle of an ideologue, besides being a national poet. And, to be sure, all of Iqbal’s efforts throughout the whole span of his active life were directed towards the regeneration of Muslims and the resurgence of Islam.

Human rights

The question, ‘do we need Iqbal today?’ The reply is a clear ‘Yes’. It is a need of the time, because the honour of humanity is at stake. The preachers of human rights are abusing humanity. Masses of men are being trampled ruthlessly under the heavy feet of the powerful. There is dearth of love in the world these days. Iqbal is a messenger of love. His message of love is universal… the humanity needs him.. we do need him without any doubt.

The Education System of Pakistan- Past, Present, and Future

By Nagwa Malik for Pakistanis for Peace

Pakistan, when it appeared on the world map was referred to  by the Muslims of India as the “Land of Dreams”—not just because of the ideology behind its creation, nor by the method of its creation, both of which were unique in world history, but also because of the untiring work put out immediately by the masses and the leaders together making the world sit up, especially China, Korea and Singapore who, inspired by the fast “overnight” progress Pakistan was making, decided to follow our footsteps and are now farther ahead of us.

The ideology penned down and explained at length by Dr. Allama Iqbal created a wave. This two-nation theory, once accepted by the practical renowned barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was put to effect, and Pakistan was born in the name of religion (Gandhi had tried a truce with Jinnah, agreeing to divide the country as brothers divide property, but not in the name of religion. Jinnah maintained the ideology of Islam and the two-nation theory, refusing Gandhi’s offer), and it was born constitutionally. The people were so excited over the power to make their future, that no one lost time or drive to get down to it. Pakistan made the Muslim world sit up again through its people’s drive, sincerity, talent and growing renown in the field of science, following in the footsteps of  many Muslim scholars and doctors that first brought science in an organized manner to that part of the world.

Have we forgotten that Pakistan already? Has it been so long since Pakistan last made an impression? Have we forgotten that not less than 20 years ago royal families from around the world, especially the Arab and African world sent their sons to study in our schools and colleges and universities? Have forgotten the massive immigration to this “Land of Hope” from all over Asia whenever people wanted to live in peace and prosperity? Pakistan was called the “Country of Doctors and Engineers” in the West and when there was an educational boom in African countries, amongst the most wanted and accepted educationists were those from Pakistan.

Even today most of the engineers in America and Europe, securing good positions in their jobs are from Pakistan, and even today most of the competent doctors we find in the West are from Pakistan—difference is, today nobody seems to note that fact. Nobody seems to count it anymore.

In the late sixties, especially in 1969, articles were written on the youth of Britain referring them to be probably the best generation yet, where strings of charity and community works were detailed and even there Pakistani youths were mentioned amongst the immigrants that added to community work, for example the Pakistani boys in Southall, Middlesex, going shopping for elderly people, and in the process learning colloquial English.

What happened then? Where did all the disillusionment begin? Why did all this positive images of Pakistan suddenly allow itself to flicker and burn out? Why did the education system fail us not more than ten years ago? We know that even today our education quality is higher compared to the quality abroad—then why do we choose to go abroad for education? Because we have lost the standard, not the quality, of educational system. The system has broken the backbone of our educational sectors. We have fake degrees allotted, we have references, and we have papers switched. Nothing is wrong with the actual standard of our education even now—but then again, what good is quality education when we cannot benefit from it? Schooling till Matric level  is compulsory and reportedly free—but nobody avails himself of the government schools because there are no teachers, and despite the fact that it is claimed free, it is not: payment of books, of a lot of miscellaneous stuff add up to a normal tuition fee anyway.

Only the colleges and professional universities are managing to maintain their merit—then again, the system has penetrated them so it doesn’t matter either way.

What went wrong was the generations before us, especially the previous two, lost the meaning of Pakistan. They indulged in materialism, selfishness and corruption. They were greedy children who ate everything that was cooked, and plucked the unripe ventures. The youth today is no less than the generation that made Pakistan. This present generation has been given nothing to run. It has to build; it has to start from scratch. The problem is this generation isn’t given the tools or the chance to start anything. If given even the slightest chance, the youth of today is capable and has the loyalty and the drive to reach Pakistan to its heights with the same overnight progress that was made by the creators of Pakistan.

This generation needs to remember the glory days of Pakistan and to gain confidence in itself rather than sit glumly and state, “What can we do”. A nation of 160 million cannot do anything? That is not possible. Our ancestors made their chance to make Pakistan; they were not given any chance. Our youth needs to pick itself up and march forward, remove all the dead wood (the old generation that still sits in power even after corrupting the very soil of our country) and begin afresh.  To quote Adlai Stevenson, “Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.” And to further quote a solution, “To fulfil a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labour, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy” (Bette Davis). Everything will be rendered useless without honesty. Our country, our individuals are corrupted to the core so that lying is as breathing: we must search our souls and bring back our lost integrity through honesty: the first and foremost rule in Islam.

A country that produced success stories in its diaspora all over the world in such a short space of time is a country worth working hard for, worth looking into. It is a promising country with a promising past and an equally promising future, if only we take the step.

We haven’t lost anything yet. We can relive the glory of our small but so rich country. We ourselves are enough to turn things around. We don’t need help from anyone. In order to get things done properly, one must do them oneself. Dependency results in and breeds despondency, as we have experienced these past years.

We only need confidence and unity. We are already patriots, of that there is no doubt. We are united in our hearts, but we lack the confidence of success, but without toil how can one know? It is better to try rather than to wonder for the rest of our lives how things could or would be had we taken action. It’s only been 60 years, and this is a small length of time for the country is still young and all the mistakes have been made, so there is no more mistake left to make—that is an encouraging factor. Pakistan can still shine again as it did, in education, in sports, in talent, in technology and in every other profession imaginable. We were a nation that inspired, what’s to stop us from inspiring again? It is just a matter of cause and effect as it has always been.

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