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Faith and good works free us from fear and anxiety. Surely God's friends: no fear shall fall on them, neither shall they sorrow. Quran 10:62.
What do we mean by Pakistan?
by the late Muhammad Asad

I quote myself: in the Februrary 1947 number of Arafat (p. 166): "The Pakistan movement… can become the starting-point of a new Islamic development if the Muslims realize - and continue realizing it when Pakistan is achieved - that the real, historic justification of this movement does not consist in our dressing or talking or salaaming differently from the other inhabitants of the country, or in the grievances which we may have against other communities, or even in the desire to provide more economic opportunities and more elbowroom for people who - by sheer force of habit - call themselves 'Muslims': But that such a justification is to be found only in the Muslims' desire to establish a truly Islamic polity: in other words, to translate the tenets of Islam into terms of practical life.'

This, in short, is my conception of Pakistan: and I do not think that I am far wrong in assuming that it is the conception of many other Muslims as well. Of many: but not all; and not even of most of them. For, by far the larger part of our intelligentsia do not seem to consider Pakistan in this light. To them, it means no more and no less than a way to freeing the Muslims of India from Hindu domination, and the establishment of a political structured in which the Muslim community would find its 'place in the sun' in the economic sense.

Islam comes into the picture only in so far as it happens to be the religion of the people concerned - just as Catholicism came into the picture in the Irish struggle for independence because it happened to be the religion of most Irishmen. To put it bluntly, many o four brother and sisters do not seem to care for the spiritual, Islamic objectives of Pakistan, and permit themselves to be carried away by sentiments not far removed from nationalism.; and this is especially true of many Muslims educated on western lines. They are unable to think otherwise than in western patterns of though, and so they do not believe in their hearts that the world's social and political problems are capable of being subordinated to purely religious considerations. Hence, their approach to Islam is governed by convention rather than ideology, and amounts, at best, to a faintly 'cultural' interest in their community's historical traditions.

Now this is a very poor view of Pakistan: a view, moreover, which does not do justice to the Islamic enthusiasm at present so markedly - if chaotically - displayed by the overwhelming masses of our common people. While many of our so-called intelligentsia are interested in Islam only in so far as it fits into their struggle for political self-determination, the common people most obviously desire self-determination for the sake of Islam as such.

As far as the Muslim masses are concerned, the Pakistan movement is rooted in their instinctive feeling that they are an ideological community and have as such every right to an autonomous political existence. In other words, they feel and know that their communal existence is not - as with other communities - based on racial affinities or on the consciousness of cultural traditions held in common, but only - exclusively - on the fact of their common adherence to the ideology of Islam: and that, therefore, they must justify their communal existence by erecting a socio-political structure in which that ideology -the Shariah -would become the visible expression of their nationhood.

This, and not a solution of the all-India problem of Muslim minorities, is the real, historic purpose of the Pakistan movement. Insofar as there will always remain non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan as well as Muslim minorities in the rest of India, Pakistan cannot be said to solve the minorities problem in its entirety.

But this is precisely a point which we - and our opponents - would do well to understand: the problem of minorities, however important in all considerations of India's political future, is, in itself, not fundamentally responsible for the Pakistan movement, but is rather an incidental accompaniment to the movement's intrinsic objective - the establishment of an Islamic polity in which our ideology could come to practical fruition. Only thus can we understand why the Muslims in, say, Bombay or Madras - who of course cannot expect that their provinces would become part of Pakistan, are as much interested in its realization as are the Muslims of the Punjab or of Bengal.

They are interested in Pakistan not because they hope to come within its orbit in a territorial sense, but because they feel, as intensely as their brethren in the so-called 'Muslim majority' provinces, that the birth of an Islamic polity in Pakistan would vindicate the claim that Islam is a practical proposition, and that the Muslims - because of their being Muslims - are a nation unto themselves, irrespective of their geographical location.

For, in this respect, the Pakistan movement is truly unique among all the political mass movements now evident anywhere in the Muslim world. No doubt, in the vast territories that go by this name there are many other lovers of Islam besides us, but nowhere in the modern world, except in the Pakistan movement, has a whole Muslim nation set out on the march towards Islam. Some of those states, like Turkey and (the then Shah's) Iran, are explicitly anti-Islamic in their governmental aims, and openly declare that Islam should be eliminated from politics and from the people's social life. But even those Muslim states in which religion is still being valued - in varying degrees - as a spiritual treasure, are 'Islamic' only insofar as Islam is the religion professed by the majority of their inhabitants: while their political aims are not really governed by Islamic considerations but, rather, by what the rulers or ruling classes conceive as 'national' interests in exactly the sense in which national interests are conceived in the West.

In the Pakistan movement, on the other hand, there undoubtedly exists such a direct connection between the people's attachment to Islam and their political aims. Rather, more than that: the practical success of this movement is exclusively due to our people's passionate, if as yet inarticulate, desire to have a state in which the forms and objectives of government would be determined by the ideological imperatives of Islam - a state, that is, in which Islam would not be just a religious and cultural 'label' of the people concerned, but the very goal and purpose of state-formation.

And it goes without saying that an achievement of such an Islamic state - the first in the modern world - would revolutionize Muslim political thought everywhere, and would probably inspire other Muslim peoples to strive towards similar ends; and so it might become a prelude to an Islamic reorientation in many parts of the world.

Thus, the Pakistan movement contains a great promise for an Islamic revival: and it offers almost the only hope of such a revival in a world that is rapidly slipping away from the ideals of Islam. But the hope is justified only so long as our leaders, and the masses with them, keep the true objective of Pakistan in view, and do not yield to the temptation to regard their movement as just another of the many 'national' movements so fashionable in the present-day Muslim world.

There is an acute danger of the Pakistan movement being deflected form its ideological course by laying too much stress on a 'cultural' nationalism - on a community of interests arising not so much from a common ideology as from the desire to preserve certain cultural traits, social habits and customs and, last but not the least, to safeguard the economic development of a group of people who happen to be 'Muslims' only by virtue of their birth. Nobody can doubt that the cultural traditions and the immediate economic requirements of the Muslim community are extremely important in our planning the Muslim fixture on Islamic lines. But this is just the point: they should never be viewed independently of our ideological goal - the building of our fixture on Islamic lines.

It appears, however, that the majority of our intelligentsia are about to commit just this mistake. When they talk of Pakistan, they often convey the impression that the 'actual' interests of the Muslim world could be viewed independently of what is described as the 'purely ideological' interests of Islam; in other words, that it is possible to be a good Pakistani without being primarily interested in Islam as the basic reality in one's own and in the community's life.

[However], such an arbitrary division between 'Muslim' and 'Islamic' interests is sheer nonsense. Islam is not just one among several characteristics of Muslim communal existence, but its only historical cause and justification: and to consider Muslim interests as something apart from Islam is like considering a living being as something apart from the fact of its life.

It should [therefore] be our leaders' duty to tell their followers that they must become better Muslims today in order to be worthy of Pakistan tomorrow: instead of which they merely assure us that we shall become better Muslims 'as soon as Pakistan is achieved'.

This easy assurance will not do. It is self-deceptive in the extreme. If we do not sow the seeds of Islamic life now, when our enthusiasm is at its fighting pitch, there is no earthly reason to expect that we will suddenly be transformed into better Muslims when the struggle is over and our political autonomy secured.

I can almost hear some of our leaders say: 'Brother, you are too pessimistic - or perhaps a little bit too apprehensive. Almost every one of us desires a truly Islamic life. Only, it would be impolitic to insist on this ideal right now. In our ranks there are many people who render the most valuable services to our political cause, but - owing to a wring upbringing - do not care too much for religion; and if we stress the religious side of our struggle from the very beginning, those valuable workers might cool down in their zeal, and so be lost to our cause. We do not want to lose them: we cannot afford to lose them: and so we are obliged to postpone our work for the people's religious uplift until after we have won a state of our own. At present, we must concentrate all our energies on the short-term objective before us - the freeing of the Muslims from non-Muslim domination - and not dissipate them on purely religious considerations. If we insist, at this stage, too loudly on our long-term objective - the deepening of Islamic consciousness in the Muslims and the creation of a truly Islamic polity - we might not only estrange many of our westernized brothers and sisters from our cause, but also increase the apprehensions of the non-Muslim minorities who live in the area of Pakistan.'

The above reasoning is extremely fallacious and intellectually dishonest.

As for the apprehensions which our insistence on an Islamic life might cause among the non-Muslim minorities, I should like you to ask yourselves: What is it that makes non-Muslims so bitterly antagonistic to the idea of Pakistan? Obviously, a fear of what they describe as a 'communal raj' and the probability of the Muslim-dominated areas being cut off from the rest of India. The question as to whether the Muslims truly intend to live according to the principles of Islam or not leaves the non-Muslims cold. They are afraid of Muslim political preponderance in certain areas, and it does not make prima facie the least difference to them whether the Muslims are inspired in their endeavors by Islamic or any other considerations. Hence, they will oppose Muslim endeavors in any case, and with all strength at their disposal.

With all this, the attitude of our opponents might - though I do not say that it definitely will - be to some extent influenced by the thought that what we Muslims really aim at is justice for all: provided that we succeed in convincing them that we are really moved by moral convictions and not by a wish to exploit non-Muslims for the benefit of Muslims. It is, therefore, our duty to prove to the whole world that we really mean to live up the standard laid down in these words of the Holy Qur'an: 'You are the best of community that has been sent forth unto mankind: for you enjoin the Right and forbid the Wrong, and have faith in God' (Al-I-'Imran 3:110).

Our being a worthy ummah in the sight of God depends on our being prepared to struggle, always and under all circumstances, for the upholding of justice and the abolition of injustice and this should preclude the possibility of a truly Islamic community being unjust to non-Muslims. I can well imagine that a non-Muslim feels apprehensive about his fixture in a state which, in his opinion, would aim at giving economic preference to the Muslim community at the expense of non-Muslims: but he will have less reason to feel such an apprehension if he becomes convinced that the Muslims are determined to ensure justice to Muslim and non-Muslim alike. And we cannot convince our opponents of our bona fides unless we prove, firstly, that an Islamic polity connotes justice for all, and secondly, that we Muslims are really serious in our avowals that precisely such polity is our goal - in other words, that we truly believe in the tenets of our religion. It is, therefore, quite erroneous to assume that the fears of non-Muslim minorities could be allayed by our discreetly avoiding, as much a s possible, any direct references to our ultimate, religious objectives. This only creates in them a suspicion of hypocrisy on our part. The real way to allaying or at least alleviating their fears would be our clear exposition, in as great detail as possible, of the ethical ideals towards which we are striving; but even such an exposition will be of no avail unless we are able to show, in our day-to-day life, that those ideals mean more to us than mere slogans.

Apart from its probable effect on non-Muslims, an evasive postponement of our 'long-term', Islamic objectives in favor of what some people regard (quite wrongly) as momentarily 'expedient' or 'politic', must have a detrimental effect on our community's moral tenor; and can only result in our greater estrangement from the ways of true Islam. Instead of becoming increasingly aware of the ideal goal before them, the Muslims will again become accustomed to think - as they did for many centuries - in terms of 'expediency' and immediate conveniences, and the Islamic objective of Pakistan will most definitely recede into the realm of theoretical idealism - in exactly the same manner as the true objectives of Christianity have receded among the so-called Christian nations of the West.

We do not want that. We want, through Pakistan, to make Islam a reality in our lives. We want Pakistan in order that every one of us should be able to live a truly Islamic life in the widest sense of the word. And it is admittedly impossible for an individual to live in accordance with the scheme propounded by God's Apostle unless the whole society consciously conforms to it and makes the Law of Islam the law of the land. But this kind of Pakistan will never materialize unless we postulate the Law of Islam not merely as an ideal for a vaguely defined future but as the basis, wherever possible, of all our social and personal behavior at this very hour and minute.

There is [on the other hand] a definite, though perhaps involuntary, tendency on the part of many of our leaders to ignore the spiritual, Islamic background of our struggle and to justify the Muslims' demand for freedom by stressing their unfortunate experiences with the Hindu majority, as well as to base the Muslims' claim to being a separate nation on the differences between their and the Hindus' social usage and cultural expressions.

In short, there is a mounting inclination to consider the fact - for a fact it is - of a separate Muslim nationhood in the conventional, western sense of the word 'nation' instead of considering it in the Islamic sense of ummah or millah? Why should we hesitate to proclaim, loudly and without fear, that our being a nation has nothing to do with the conventional meaning of this word: that we are a nation not merely because our habits, customs and cultural expressions are different from those of the other groups inhabiting the country, but because we mean to shape our life in accordance with a particular ideal of our own?

It cannot be often enough repeated that our adherence to the teachings of Islam is the only justification of our communal existence. We are not a racial entity. We are - in spite of the great progress of Urdu as the language of Muslim India - not even a linguistic entity within the strict meaning of this term. We are not, and never can be, a nation in the sense in which the English or the Arabs or the Chinese are nations. But precisely the fact that we are not, and never can be, a nation in the exclusive, conventional sense of the word is the innermost source of our strength: for it makes us realize that we - we alone in the modern world, - can, if we but want it, bring again to life that glorious vision which arose over the sands of Arabian nearly fourteen centuries ago: the vision of an ummah of free men and women bound together not by the accidental bonds of race and birth, but by their free, conscious allegiance to a common ideal.

If our desire for Pakistan is an outcome of our creative strength and purity; if we attain to that clarity of vision which encompasses the goal of our endeavors long before it is achieved; if we learn to love that goal for its own sake - in the conviction that it is supremely good in an absolute sense (or, as I would prefer to phrase it, in God's sight), and not merely because it appears to be economically advantageous to ourselves and our community, then no power on earth could stop Pakistan from being born and from becoming a gateway to an Islamic revival the world over.

And if, on the other hand, our cry for self-determination is due to no more than a fear of being dominated by a non-Muslim majority; if our vision of the fixture is merely negative; if it does not encompass the hope of our being free for something, but contents itself with the beggarly hope of our being free from something; if Islam, instead of being a moral obligation and an end in itself, means no more to us than a habit and a cultural label: then - even then - we might achieve some sort of Pakistan by virtue of our numerical strength in this country; but it would be an achievement far short of the tremendous possibilities which God seems to be offering to us.

It would be only one 'national state' more in a world split up into numberless national states - perhaps no worse than some of the others, but certainly no better than most: while the subconscious dream of the Muslim masses, and the conscious dream of those who first spoke of Pakistan (long before even this name had been thought of) was the birth of a polity in which the Prophet's Message could fully come into its own as a practical proposition.

[What] the common man desires is not merely a state in which Muslims would have greater economic facilities than they have now, but a state in which God's Word would reign supreme. Not that the 'common man' does not care for economic facilities. He cares, rightly, very much for them. But he feels, no less rightly, that an Islamic theocracy would not only give him all the economic justice and opportunity for material development which he now so sadly lacks, but would enhance his human dignity and spiritual security as well. (Most Muslim scholars have tried to differentiate between the Islamic concept of a state based on the principle of Khilafah or vicegerency and European medieval religious states based on rule by holy and 'infallible' clergy).

To give valid Islamic content, as well as a creative, positive direction to the people's dreams and desires; to prepare them not only politically (in the conventional context of this word) but also spiritually and ideologically for the great goal of Pakistan: this is the supreme task awaiting our leaders. They must not think that to organize the masses and to give voice to our political demands is all that he millah expects them to do. Organization is, no doubt, urgently necessary; political agitation is necessary, but these necessities must be made to serve our ideological goal - and not, as we so often find in these days, allowed to reduce it to secondary rank.

To a Muslim who takes Islam seriously, every political endeavor must, in the last resort, derive its sanction from religion, just as religion can never remain aloof from politics for the simple reason that Islam, being concerned not only with our spiritual development but with the manner of our physical, social and economic existence as well, is a 'political' creed in the deepest, morally most compelling sense of this term. In other words, the Islamic, religious aspect of our fight for Pakistan must be made predominant in all the appeals which Muslim leaders make to the Muslim masses. If this demand is neglected, our struggle cannot possibly fulfill its historic mission.

The need for the ideological, Islamic leadership on the part of our leaders is the paramount need of the day. That some of them - though by far not all - are really aware of their great responsibility in this respect is evident, for example, from the splendid convocation address which Liaquat Ali Khan, the Quaid-e-Azam's principal lieutenant [later first prime minister of Pakistan], delivered at Aligarh a few months ago. In that address he vividly stressed the fact that our movement derives its ultimate inspiration from the Holy Qur'an, and that, therefore, the Islamic state at which we are aiming should derive its authority from the Shari'ah alone. Muhammad Ali Jinnah [d. 1948] himself has spoken in a similar vein on many occasions. Such pronouncements, coming as they do from the highest levels of Muslim League leadership, go a long way to clarifying the League's aims.

Never before have Muslim leaders been endowed with such power to guide the destinies of the millah in the right direction - or in the wrong. It is within their power to decide, here and now, whether the Indian Muslims shall becomes Muslims in the true sense of the word and, thus, the core and backbone of a resurgent Islam - or just another 'national group' among many other so-called Muslim groups and states where Islam is good enough to be displayed as a cultural label, but not good enough to provide the basis on which to build the community's social, economic and political existence. The present leaders of the Muslim League, I repeat it deliberately, have it within their power to make such a decision: for the wave of enthusiasm for Pakistan which has swept over the Muslim masses in this country, and which has united them as they have never been united in the past, has endowed those leaders with a prestige - and a power to lead - the like of which was never enjoyed by the leaders in the past centuries.

Because of this, their moral responsibility is all the greater. In short, it is the foremost duty of our political leaders to impress upon the masses that the objective of Pakistan is the establishment of a truly Islamic polity; and that this objective can never be attained unless every fighter of Pakistan - man or woman, great or small - honestly tries to come closer to Islam at every hour and every minute of his or her life: that, in a word, only a good Muslim can be a good Pakistani.

And this holds goo-d for the leaders themselves as well. They must show in their social behavior that they regard Islam as a serious proposition and not merely as a slogan. To put it plainly 'that they themselves are trying to live up to the demands of Islam. I do not mean to say that all of them are remiss in this respect. There are among them many people to whom Islam is a living inspiration, and to these our homage is due. But, on the other hand, very many of our leaders have Islam only on their lips - and that only when they address a public meeting or make a statement to the press - while their personal behavior and outlook is as devoid of Islam as the behavior and outlook of the average political leader in Europe or America is devoid of Christianity. This must change if our struggle for Pakistan is not to degenerate into a pitiful copy of the 'nationalist' endeavors from which the rest of the Muslim world is suffering.

As I have already said the Muslim masses instinctively realize the Islamic purport of Pakistan, and genuinely desire a state of affairs in which la ilaha ill'Allah would become the starting point of the community's development. But they are inarticulate and confused in their thoughts. They cannot find their way unaided. They must be led. And so, again, we come back to the question of leadership and of its duties.

It seems to me that the supreme test of the present-day Muslim leadership will be its ability - or inability - to lead the community not only in the purely political and economic but also in the moral sphere: the ability - or inability - to convince the Muslims that 'God does not change the condition of a people unless they change their inner selves' (Ar-Ra'd 13:11), which means no more and no less than that a community's political and economic status cannot be lastingly improved unless the community as a whole grows in moral stature.

Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:06:35 AM


Readers' Comment

Nauman Tasleem: 6/25/2006 9:29:59 AM
It was a great and important writing by the late Muhammad Asad. All the things written in the article are very right and it will to happen in future.

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