South Asia

I would argue that until a film as, if not more profound than Ghandi’s, of Jinnah is made, Pakistan will remain in the state of chaos that it is in currently. Jinnah’s life is one to be admired.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah: A Muslim Enigma

Elliot Roper

Islam and Democracy

Summer 2005

For hundreds of years, prior to independence, Muslims living inSouth Asiafelt restricted by European colonialism and Indian political rule. Pakistan, which has a history of leaders’ whose desire it was to shape it into a particular Muslim identity, sought out a new democratic state for Muslims to practice their religion and govern themselves accordingly.  Migrating from an uncomfortable and often cruel situation inIndia, 1947 was the point in time they got their aspiration. Since its founding, wars still occurred with its former land, most notably, over the formation ofBangladeshout of what used to beWest Pakistan.

Presently,Pakistancontinues to have a tender relationship with its Hindu neighbor to the east.  The existence ofPakistanis due in large part to the years of suppression towards the Islamic minority inIndia.  Finally, reaching the breaking point, combined with extraordinary leadership, Muslims accomplished the idea that had been contemplated for years, their own democratic state.  Examined in this paper is analysis of writings provided by the first governor general ofPakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his impact on forming a democratic state withinPakistan.  Other questions discussed at length are what Jinnah’s ideas and motivations were that helped form a homeland for Muslims inSouth Asia.  Also, in what context did he view Islam in South Asia as compared to other parts of the world, such as Africa and theMiddle East?

Muhammed Ali Jinnah, member and eventual leader of the All Muslim League in Indiaprior to independence, emphasized the need for a democratic state in support of Muslims residing in India. Influenced by the writings of Muhammad Iqbal, Jinnah indicated the need for an Islamic state to ensure the survival and cultural development of Muslims.  At an All Parties National Convention in Calcutta, Jinnah pleaded for increased protection for Muslims who were a minority.  “Believe me there is no progress for Indiauntil the Musalmans and Hindus are united.”[1]  Having debated in England as a lawyer for many years, Jinnah developed into a persuasive and blunt politician.  “Jinnah is a very clever man, and it is, of course, an outrage, that such a man should have no chance of running the affairs of his own country.”[2]  Jinnah did eventually become leader of a country,Pakistan, sadly for just one year, dying in 1948.  This paper is designed to better understand and extrapolate from his writings, the idea that he had of a democracy functioning within an Islamic state inSouth Asia.

Leading to independence, Jinnah had become more aggressive in his pursuit for an independent democratic state for Muslims living in India.  “I have no doubt in my mind that a large body of us visualizes Pakistanas people’s government”.[3] Once Pakistan was formed after the partition of the subcontinent, Jinnah emphasized the role of the new democratic government and the freedom’s that Muslims would now enjoy in a speech to the Constituent Assembly. “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of 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.”[4]

While it is difficult to know just exactly what would have happened to Pakistanif Jinnah stayed in authority for longer than he did, we can hypothesize what the consequences might have been.  Examination of his writings provides insight into what his vision was for Islam in a democratic state in South Asia.  This Islamic movement in South Asiawas the largest and deadliest migration of people in the history of the world; it included 14 million people ethnically shifting the subcontinent.  “Within less than a year refugees in their millions had moved both ways between the two wings of Pakistanand India, the largest transfer of populations in recorded history.”[5]  Muslims had been a suppressed minority in India and the hope for a free democratic country was something the minorities relished.  The opportunity for change is a concept delighted by the underground masses.  So what was Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for Muslims in Pakistan and in what context did he see democracy playing a role within an Islamic government?  “I have on underlying principle in mind: the principle of Muslim democracy”.[6]



Born into a trading family in Karachihe, like his Indian rival Gandhi, studied law in Englandwhere he honed his political skills.  He joined the law school, Lincolns Inn, which most founded on the teachings of the Prophet.  He even disputed frequently with his only sibling who married a Christian rather than a Muslim.  Upon returning to India, Jinnah’s presence could be felt among the Muslim population where he advocated for rights of Muslims living in India.  Eventually becoming the leader of the Muslim League formed in 1906 in Dhaka, Jinnah fought for the recognition of an Islamic Nation existing in India.  He negotiated with the British government on several occasions, such as the Cripps mission, to allow greater freedoms for the Muslim minority.  While Gandhi spoke highly of him, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister seemed to be Jinnah’s nemesis and greatest stumbling block to the identification of a Muslim nation living in India.  Eventually Islam outgrew its confinement in India, due in large part to the efforts of Jinnah. “It is not because “a demand for Pakistan” had been made, but because the congress preferred India’s partition to sharing power with the Muslim League in a united India.”[7]

Now the new nation-state had been formed, West and East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh), had achieved their independence.  Some look back and pose the idea that the two nations of Muslims and Hindus cooperated sufficiently until politics arose.  “Differences between the two communities remained unproblematic until the differences were problematized and politicized … Invention of nation relies on both remembering as well as amnesia.”[8]  So how was Muhammed Ali Jinnah able to generate the largest migration of people and convince them of a future democratic state inSouth Asia?  What were his views on Islam and what was his interpretation of the Qur’an?  A movement such as this requires a tough religious conviction molded into a very believable man.

Jinnah on Islam


How did the founder of Pakistaninterpret the Qur’an and in what context did he view Islam in South Asia?  What were his views about religious leaders in the newly formed country? How would Islam fit into the politics of Pakistan?  With the creation of a new state, anywhere in the world, tough questions need to be answered.  It has been argued that Jinnah was known as a national secularist, but also an Islamic fundamentalist around the world.  “Jinnah saw himself as a champion not only of Muslims in India.  After the First World War he had championed the cause of the Turks; later he spoke on behalf of the Arabs; he met Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and received admiring letters from them.”[9]  While he was recognized in various Islamic zones around the world, inSouth Asia, Jinnah differed in some aspects, namely the role of women. In 1942 he addressed a college for girls inLahore:

“I am glad to see that no only Muslim men but women and children also have understood the Pakistanscheme.  No nation can make any progress without the co-operation of its women.  If Muslim women support their men, as they did in the days of the Prophet of Islam, we should soon realize or goal.”[10]

When religious and cultural freedoms are the cause for a new state, it can be even more difficult to reach a compromise.  “The first recorded political move to incorporate Islam in the state apparatus was through the Objective Resolution 1949, that acting like a blue-print outlined the aims and objectives for all the future constitutions of Pakistan”[11]  That resolution, however, was two years after Jinnah passed.

Jinnah was concerned about religious leaders and how they would govern a country.  “Jinnah’s view on religious leaders was painfully realistic.  He called them rulers who could bring in despotic oppression misusing their religious authority over a people who would not question clergies, simply to respect religion.”[12]  Those thoughts originated in India where the aforementioned attributes were seen in Indian and British political leaders.  Scholars note that for Islam and religion in general, Jinnah viewed it as personal and concerned himself with the political area of Muslims.  “Jinnah considered religion a purely personal matter.  He was neither concerned with the world of Islam nor even with Indian Muslims exclusively … and whatever concern he did show was entirely political, not even social and never religious.”[13]

Lahore Resolution

Jinnah’s emphasis on politics, rather than religion, was highlighted in the 1940 Lahore Resolution where he made his first case for a separate state in South Asiawhere Muslims living could reside. On the contrary, he did show glimpses of support for Islam in Indiathat would eventually catalyze his move for a separate Islamic state. Muhammad Iqbal’s religious influence on him was profound.  It was thru Jinnah that Iqbal was able to accomplish his own purposes for Islam to surface and be recognized in India, or leave and form the state of Pakistan.  Without this influence in his life, Jinnah might have been seen even more as a political leader, having no shred of religious purpose, for which he has been scrutinized. “Conversely, the English-educated leaders of the Pakistanmovement, not least Jinnah himself, were committed to secular politics.  It is only in retrospect, when history is being rewritten, that Jinnah is pictured as a religious bigot.”[14]

So did Muhammad Ali Jinnah use Islam as a means to accomplish his purpose of establishing a state where he could display his political aspirations?  How much of his policies and principles centered on this religion, if any?  Jinnah knew that Islam was important in the Muslim personal life, as well as for the development of a democracy.  “Religion is there and religion is dear to us.  All the worldly goods are nothing to us when we talk of religion, but there are other things which are very vital, our social life, our economic life, and without political power how can you defend your faith and your economic life”.[15]  From that statement the priority of Islam, for a chain smoking, whiskey sipping liberal, is illustrated brilliantly.  He only worried about religious radicalism or Islam having too much control over government affairs and it affecting his long standing wishes for an Islamic democracy.

Some scholars disagree that Jinnah was more of a fundamentalist, rather than a secularist stating that he, “… died with the Muslim declaration of faith on his lips.”[16]  Criticism has been made at the basic level, prayer, where it has been said that he refused to pray at the mosque or anywhere. This story was denounced by a lawyer who prayed beside him regularly when in Bombay.  “On three of these occasions I had the opportunity to be standing close to him, and I saw him offering prayers as the Sunnis do, namely by holding the hands”[17]   Were Jinnah’s religious actions politically motivated?  Would he have been able to accomplish Pakistan without it?  “Many but by no means all mullahs were with him, and they helped to swing the masses for the Pakistan cause.  That is why from the mid-1940s the Muslim League won landslide victories throughout India.”[18]   Is it possible for Jinnah to be both a fundamentalist and a secularist?  Even though he wasn’t the “Gandhi” of Islam, Jinnah still respected and upheld what it thought.


Jinnah on Democracy


While not the most outspoken Muslim politician, on religious matters, his secular ideas and policies were needed at a time of the formation of a democratic state.  His political life was one of advocacy for Muslims living in India.  Before joining the All Muslim League, he actually was a member of India’s National Congress where he originally labored for unity among Hindus and Muslims.  During one of his first speeches before congress he said, “… the Mohammedan [Muslim] community should be treated in the same way as the Hindu community.  The foundation upon which the Indian National Congress is based … is that there should be no reservation for any class of community.”[19]

He labored for unity, although often disputed, between Muslims and Hindus living in India.  Jinnah attempted to have an Indian state where the two religious groups could coexist in harmony, but his behavior would always plague him.  “Jinnah’s personality and experience disposed him to feel bitterly to the Congress denial of the Muslim political identity.”[20]  After failing to achieve consensus with the Indian National Congress and British rulers to have a Muslim voice heard in the government, he accelerated his movement towards a separate Islamic republic in South Asia.  “Seeing this, Jinnah had to show a little more of his hand: the principle of Pakistan, he now explained, meant that the old unitary centre of British India had to be replaced by two distinct and separate political entities or federations organized by two constituent assemblies, one for the Muslim provinces and the other for the Hindu provinces.”[21]

How did he accomplish this?  What measures did he take to strike political accord between the two diverse religious groups? At an All-India Muslim League session in Lahorehe made his case for Pakistan.  He knew, based on past incidents, that a resolution to unite Indiaand give Muslims a greater voice in the political infrastructure was inconceivable. “We reminded them (Congress) of their special responsibilities to us and to other minorities and the solemn pledges they had given to us.  But all that had become a dead letter”. He further elaborated by saying, “We are now, therefore, very apprehensive and can trust nobody.  I think it is a wise rule for everyone not to trust anybody too much.”[22]

In 1906, when Jinnah arrived home from a politically nurturing experience in England, he assumed a new role within the political environment in India.  Pairing up with Muhammad Iqbal and other members of the All Muslim League, he embarked on a road that would lead to the formation of Pakistan.  Jinnah knew from his experience in Indiathat a state would be necessary for Muslims to progress politically.  By 1908, little, if any steps had been made with the British and Congress to recognize Muslims in India, both politically and culturally, prompting him to join the All Muslim League.  Jinnah often emphasized a stumbling block to both Indian and Muslim progress: the British Empire.  “If the British Government are really in earnest and sincere to secure peace and happiness of the people of this sub-continent, the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands by dividing India into ‘autonomous national states’.”[23] Some argue that this was Jinnah’s plan from the beginning; to create a separate state for Islam inSouth Asia. In an All Muslim League conference in 1941, as the idea ofPakistan was gaining momentum, he emphasized the role of democracy:

“Democracy means, to begin with, majority rule. Majority rule in a single nation, in a single society is understandable … Representative government in a single nation, harmonious, homogenous, and one is understandable.  But you have only got to apply your mind for a few minutes to see the truth. Can such a system ever work or succeed when you have two different nations-indeed more than two different nations-in this subcontinent, when you have two totally different societies, the Muslim Society and the Hindu Society?”[24]

Islam was his bargaining chip for creating of Pakistan.  He used it to his advantage to create support for political objectives. He knew there would never be a peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims in India.  This is evident in one of his first speeches as governor general of Pakistan.  “Pakistanwas made possible because of the danger of complete annihilation of human soul in a society based on caste.”[25]  Jinnah wanted to eliminate caste and create a democracy that would function to serve all Muslims.  He previously attempted this while inIndia by creating the famous Fourteen Points, a counter to the Nehru Report put out by the Congress, which many of the points draw comparisons to democratic fundamentals:

  • “Full religious liberty, liberty of belief, worship and observance, propaganda, association and education, shall be guaranteed to all communities.”
  • “Representation of communal groups shall continue to be by means of separate electorates as at present, provided it shall be open to any community, at any time, to abandon its separate electorate in favour of joint electorate.”
  • “In the Central Legislature, Mussulman representation shall not be less than one-third.”[26]

The basis for Jinnah’s argument in the Fourteen Points was to allow Muslims an even portion of seats within the government and establish certain rights. This attempt was not welcomed by both the British and Indians. This created a swing in feelings for the Indian government and gave him even more motivation to press on for a separate Islamic state. “Though there had been an apparent shift in Jinnah’s advocacy of nationhood, from one nation to that of two nations, this shift had been a matter of redefinition of boundaries, not of the nature or the basis of the nationality as it had been with Iqbal.”[27]   So how was Jinnah going to establish democracy in Pakistan?   “Indeed, democracy, as he had repeatedly said, was nothing new for Muslims since ‘we learned it 1400 years ago’”.[28]

His studies in Englandhad led him to pursue the Westminstermodel of democracy in Pakistan, appointing himself as the first head of state in the new country.  Like previously mentioned, after the democratic state had been formed, Jinnah died within its first year and so it is difficult to know what would have become of Pakistan.  “Had he lived long and had Pakistanstabilized, it is conceivable that Jinnah might have paid attention to the need for translating his concept of the Islamic egalitarian democracy into the development of Pakistan’s institutions.”[29]

Jinnah was a secular leader that accomplished a goal envisioned by both Iqbal and himself.  After thirty years of witnessing the treatment of Muslims in India, democracy would have been sustained and managed under this sharp and intelligent politician.  “The essential link between Jinnah’s leadership and the emergence of a Muslim national consciousness was that Jinnah personified the Muslims’ sense of persecution by the Congress denial of their achieved status.”[30]  From the beginning, in his speeches and writings, it is evident that the motive was to make Muslims free in nearly every sense.  In his last speech on August 14th, 1948 Jinnah stated, “The foundations of your State have been laid and it is now for you to build and build as quickly as well as you can.”[31]  Clearly this man longed not only for Muslims to be free, but self governing.  To his credit it was said, “Gandhi died by the hands of an assassin; Jinnah died by his devotion toPakistan.”

[1] Hay, Stephen.  Sources of Indian Tradition.  Columbia University:  New York.  2nd ed.  P. 228.

[2] Hay, Stephen.  Sources of Indian Tradition.  Columbia University:  New York.  2nd ed.  P. 224.

[3] Hay, Stephen.  Sources of Indian Tradition.  Columbia University:  New York.  2nd ed.  P. 224.

[4] Hay, Stephen.  Sources of Indian Tradition.  Columbia University:  New York.  2nd ed.  P. 387

[5] Jalal, Ayesha.  The Sole Spokesman. Cambridge:London.  1985.  p.1.

[6] Bennet-Jones, Ownen.  “Screening the life of Jinnah”. 13Sep98.

[7] Riaz, Ali.  “Nations, Nation-State and Politics of Muslim Identity inSouth Asia”.  Comparative Studies ofSouth Asia.  Vol. XXII.  2002.  p.54.

[8] Khondker, Habibul Haque.  “A Pendular Theory of Nationalism”.  Asia Research Institute National:University ofSingapore.  NOV 2003.  p. 13.

[9] Ahmed, Akbar.  Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity.  Routledge:New York.  1997. p.196.

[10] Qureshi, Saleem. Jinnah The Founder of Pakistan. Oxford: 1998. p. 104.

[11] Aslam, Maleeha. “The Process and Impact of Ideologization of Islam inPakistan”.University ofCambridge: 2003.  p. 6.

[12] Aslam, Maleeha. “The Process and Impact of Ideologization of Islam inPakistan”.University ofCambridge: 2003.  p. 6.

[13] Naim, C.M.  Iqbal, Jinnah, and Pakistan: The Vision and the Reality. SyracuseUniversity: New York. 1979.  p. 18.

[14] Weiss, Anita.  Islamic Reassertion in Pakistan. SyracuseUniversity: New York. 1986.  p. 21-22.

[15] Aslam, Maleeha. “The Process and Impact of Ideologization of Islam inPakistan”.University ofCambridge: 2003.  p. 6.

[16] Ahmed, Akbar.  Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity.  Routledge:New York.  1997. p.194.

[17] Ahmed, Akbar.  Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity.  Routledge:New York.  1997. p.195.

[18] Ahmed, Akbar.  Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity.  Routledge:New York.  1997. p.195.

[19] Khairi, Saad.  Jinnah Reinterpreted. Oxford:Karachi.  1995. p.79.

[20]Moore, R.J. “Jinnah and thePakistan Demand”.  Modern Asian Studies.  1983.  p.532.

[21] Jalal, Ayesha. The Sole Spokesman.Cambridge:London. 1985.  p. 174.

[22] Qureshi, Saleem. Jinnah The Founder of Pakistan. Oxford: 1998. p. 84.

[23] Sherwani, Latif Ahmed. Pakistan Resolution to Pakistan.  Daya:Delhi. 1985.  p. 24.

[24] Qureshi, Saleem. Jinnah The Founder of Pakistan. Oxford: 1998. p. 104

[25] Naim, C.M.  Iqbal, Jinnah, and Pakistan: The Vision and the Reality. SyracuseUniversity: New York. 1979.  p. 145.

[26] Burke, S.M. and Quraishhi, Salim Al-Din.  Quaid-I-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah His Personality and His Politics.OxfordUniversity:Karachi.  1997.  p.166.

[27] Naim, C.M.  Iqbal, Jinnah, and Pakistan: The Vision and the Reality. SyracuseUniversity: New York. 1979.  p. 33.

[28]  Naim, C.M.  Iqbal, Jinnah, and Pakistan: The Vision and the Reality. SyracuseUniversity: New York. 1979.  p. 35.

[29] Naim, C.M.  Iqbal, Jinnah, and Pakistan: The Vision and the Reality. SyracuseUniversity: New York. 1979.  p. 37

[30]Moore, R.J. “Jinnah and thePakistan Demand”.  Modern Asian Studies.  1983.  p.532

[31] “Quaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah”.  Government ofPakistan official website. 4Jun2005


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