Iqbal & Jinnah vs Rahmat Ali in Pakistan’s creation

Iqbal & Jinnah vs Rahmat Ali in Pakistan’s Creation

 

By Dr Subroto Roy

First published in Dawn (Karachi) Encounter September 3, 2005

 

MUHAMMAD IQBAL (1877-1938) was the poetic and spiritual genius who (at least in the 20th Century) inspired the notion of a Muslim homeland in northwestern India. His seminal 1930 presidential speech to the Muslim League in Allahabad laid the foundation stone of the new country that was yet to be. He said “I would like to see the Punjab, Northwest Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North West Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims at least of Northwest India…”.

 

Iqbal did not see such a Muslim state being theocratic and certainly not one filled with anti-Hindu bigotry:

 

“A community which is inspired by feelings of ill-will towards other communities is low and ignoble. I entertain the highest respect for the customs, laws, religious and social institutions of other communities… Yet I love the communal group which is the source of my life and my behaviour… Nor should the Hindus fear that the creation of autonomous Muslim states will mean the introduction of a kind of religious rule in such states… I therefore demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim state in the best interests of India and Islam. For India it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power, for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and the spirit of modern times”.

 

Now such a Muslim country as conceived by Muhammad lqbal — and which, as it happens, constitutes more or less the territory of present-day Pakistan other than East Punjab— did not necessarily have to receive the name it did come to receive. It might have been named “Dar-e-Islami-Hind” or the “Indus Islamic Republic” or “Indic Islamabad” or “The Republic of North-Western India” or some other such appropriate appellation — even “Iqbalistan” perhaps or some name deriving from Iqbal’s notion of “khudi” which he had developed from his admiration as a young man for the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

 

Nor did Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) himself, the explicit and acknowledged political founder of the new country, use the appellation that it did come to have, not even when he introduced the Lahore Resolution in the 1940 meeting of the Muslim League which aimed to implement Iqbal’s idea. It was Iqbal who persuaded Jinnah to return to India from England, where Jinnah had settled in a law practice again after his first stint in Indian politics, and in 1934 Jinnah had done so when elected to the Central Legislative Assembly in a reserved seat for Bombay Muslims.

 

By 1938 Jinnah had declared his permanent opinion: “Congress leaders may shout as much as they like that the Congress is a national body. But … (the) Congress is nothing but a Hindu body”. Finally, at the Lahore session of the Muslim League in 1940, Jinnah introduced the idea: “That geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute Independent States in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”.

 

Who had seconded Jinnah’s Lahore Resolution? It had been Sikander Hyat Khan, leader of the Punjab Muslims, and Fazlul Haq, leader of the Bengal Muslim peasantry. Jinnah as of 1940 had been most conspicuously a leader of Muslims only in the Muslim-minority provinces of British India, and clearly had felt it necessary to demonstrate that in proposing the Lahore Resolution he had the support of the two leaders of the two largest Muslim-majority provinces, Punjab and Bengal.

 

Sikander Hyat Khan had been due to become Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India in Bombay in 1936 when instead he returned to Punjab to lead the Unionist Party of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu landlords in 1937. “The Sikander-Jinnah pact stipulated that the Unionist Party of the Punjab, led by Sikander, would retain full autonomy of the affairs of the province.” Fazlul Haq would later conceive with Sarat Bose (elder brother of Subhash Bose) of a Muslim majority “United Bengal” in an attempt to keep Calcutta out of the new India, a notion which would have Jinnah’s backing but otherwise would not get anywhere. Support for the Lahore Resolution among the Muslims of the princely states like Jammu and Kashmir or Hyderabad was conspicuous by its absence. Neither were they mentioned in Iqbal’s seminal 1930 speech nor in Jinnah’s 1940 Lahore Resolution backed by Sikander Hyat Khan and Fazlul Haq. What has been called the “Paradox of Kashmir” is that prior to 1947 Jammu and Kashmir did not seem to appear in any discussion whatsoever, and yet it has consumed almost all discussion ever since.

 

To this must be added now another newly understood dimension having to do with the conceptualization and foundation of the new country not only by lqbal the poet and Jinnah the politician, but by the third and upstart founder of Pakistan: its young radical Islamist ideologue, Chowdhury Rahmat Ali (1895-1951).

 

Official Pakistan has venerated Iqbal and accorded Jinnah due honour and respect but has apparently treated Rahmat Ali as the lunatic uncle who has needed to be locked up secretly in the attic. Yet Rahmat Ali’s impact on the creation of Pakistan and events in the subcontinent equalled those of his two better educated, more respectable and eminent compatriots — and may yet come to exceed them (not necessarily salubriously).

 

Rahmat Ali was born in a village in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab in 1895, making him almost 20 years younger than Iqbal and Jinnah. He matriculated from Jullunder and graduated in 1919 from Islamia College, Lahore. About 1931, having “accumulated some money as a legal advisor to a Baluchi landlord”, he arrived in England and took admission in Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

 

By way of studies, Rahmat Ali may have passed a set of Part I exams but not perhaps the Part  II. There does not seem to be any record of him attending the Inns of Court or of being called to the Bar, though he styled himself “Barrister at Law” in his writings. According to the obituary he received in the Emmanuel College Magazine of 1950-51, “he made Cambridge his home, shifting a little unhappily from lodging to lodging, and using, perhaps rather more than was proper, the College as an accommodation address.”

 

Interviews with his landlady and housekeeper-secretary, conducted by Dr Taufiq Shelley in 1970-71, yielded that Rahmat Ali was a devout pious Muslim who along with a few compatriots had been secretly and secretively very active as a pamphleteer from England creating and spreading among India’s Muslims a radical Islamist ideology for Pakistan, even founding something called the “Pakistan National Liberation Movement”.

 

Rahmat Ali was inspired by Iqbal’s 1930 call for a Muslim state in northwest India but felt Iqbal had been too vague and was disappointed that Iqbal had not pressed the issue at the Third Round Table Conference. In 1933, apparently on the top floor of a London bus, Rahmat Ali invented for Iqbal’s imagined political entity the name “PAKSTAN”, the P standing for his native Punjab, the A for Afghania, K for Kashmir, S for Sind, and the STAN allegedly doubling up for Balochistan.

 

Rahmat Ali sought a meeting with Jinnah in London, met him and pressed the name ‘Pakstan’ upon him as a possible nomenclature. “Jinnah disliked Rahmat Ali’s ideas and avoided meeting him”. Jinnah pointed out to Rahmat Ali he had failed to consider the other Muslim majority province, Bengal, as well as Muslim minority regions.

 

At this, Rahmat Ali produced a general scheme of Muslim domination all over the subcontinent: there would be “Pakistan” in the northwest including Kashmir, Delhi and Agra; “Bangistan” in Bengal; “Osmanistan” in Hyderabad; “Siddiquistan” in Bundelhand and Malwa; “Faruqistan” in Bihar and Orissa; “Haideristan” in UP; “Muinistan” in Rajasthan; “Maplistan” in Kerala; and even “Safiistan” in “Western Ceylon” and “Nasaristan” in “Eastern Ceylon”, etc. The map deriving from such a crank view of history was published by Rahmat Ali in 1934 and came to be widely circulated in his pamphleteering among Indian Muslims at the time.

 

Rahmat Ali was vituperative in his bigotry against Hindus, referring to the Indian nationalist movement as a “British-Banya alliance” presumably in reference to MK Gandhi’s caste. He even declined to refer to an “India” as having ever existed at all and instead personally renamed the entire subcontinent as “Dinia”, and the oceans and the seas around India as the “Pakian Sea”, the “Osmanian Sea” etc. He urged Sikhs to rise up against the Hindus in a “Sikhistan” (and might have interacted with Master Tara Singh), and indeed urged all of India’s peoples who were not Hindus to rise up in war against Hindus. Given the obscurity of the facts of his life before his arrival at Emmanuel College, what experiences may have led him to such extreme bigotry towards Hindus are not known.

 

When in 1947 a new but “moth-eaten” country had come to be named with the word he had coined on a London bus more than a dozen years earlier, and was a country which had two “wings” after a partition — the more populous “East Pakistan” and the more arrogant “West Pakistan” — Rahmat Ali turned his wrath from England upon its new government. He condemned Jinnah as being treacherous, and then newly re-interpreted his letters P, A, K, I, S, T, A, N to now refer to Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Iran, Sindh, Tukharistan (sic), Afghanistan, and Balochistan.

 

The word “pak” coincidentally meant pure in Arabic, so Rahmat Ali began to speak of Muslim believers anywhere as being the “Pak” i.e. “the pure” people, and of how the national destiny of the new Pakistan should be to liberate “Pak” people everywhere, including the new India, and create a “Pak Commonwealth of Nations” stretching from Arabia to the Indies. The map he now drew placed the word “Punjab” over Jammu & Kashmir. Thus as of 1947 or so, Rahmat Ali’s crank view of history led to an Asia dominated by a “Pak” empire: However, when Rahmat Ali landed in the new country whose name had been invented by him, he was apparently placed under arrest and deported back to England immediately. In a previous visit to Sikander Hyat’s Punjab, he had been apparently assaulted. He had not been invited to the promulgation of the Lahore Resolution, which, even though it did not refer to his name Pakistan, came to be called the Pakistan Resolution.

 

Shunned by the officialdom of the new country which now carried the name he had invented, Rahmat Ali died in poverty and obscurity in England during an influenza epidemic in 1951; the Master of Emmanuel College paid for his funeral and was later reimbursed for this by the Government of Pakistan.

 

In recent years Rahmat Ali has been undergoing a restoration, and his grave at Cambridge has become a site of pilgrimage today for Pakistan’s Islamist ideologues, while his maps, writings and rantings have been reprinted in, e.g., The Nation newspaper in Pakistan as recently as February 2005.

 

At best, Rahmat Ali may be described as a pious and devout Muslim who was a sincere and ardent Islamist ideologue. At worst he was a deeply bigoted crank and a reactionary Muslim imperialist. His views on Hindus are not far in the level of their depravity from the views of the author of Mein Kampf on the Jews — and ironically the author of Mein Kampf had been a model for a few Hindu authors at the time who wrote with equal bigotry about the Muslims of India.

 

Indeed Rahmat Ali’s views against Hindus may be classified with those of other bigoted views at the time such as those against Jews or against Muslims, which may all well have been examples or models or counterfoils for one another in the crank fringes of rival ideological movements at the time.

 

The anti-Hindu bigotry of Rahmat Ali’s views would explain why they were anathema to Jinnah, the secular-minded constitutionalist. Like other Muslim nationalists of his time such as Attaturk, Nasser, Mossadeq or even Saud himself, Jinnah would have been embarrassed to be promoting a reactionary Islamic imperialism in that modernising era that was the middle of the 20th century.

 

Dr Roy along with WE James created the book Foundations of Pakistan’s Political Economy: Towards an Agenda for the 1990s (Sage, Delhi, OUP, Karachi 1992). His most recent book is one edited with John Clarke, Margaret Thatcher’s Revolution: How it Happend and What it Meant (Continuum, London & New York 2005, 2006).

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