Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
In an interview conducted in April 1946 – about one and a half years before the creation of Pakistan in 1947 – prominent Indian Islamic scholar and politician Maulana Abul Kalam Azad warned that the Hindu-Muslim hatred that was the driving the demand for the Islamic state of Pakistan would continue to threaten Pakistan's existence later.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), who would become independent India's first education minister, forecast not only that Pakistan would fall under dictatorships and that its eastern wing would secede (known today as Bangladesh), but also discussed a range of issues about Pakistan, Muslims and Islam, which are proving true today. He also forecast that India's independence would lead to an era of freedom for African and Asian nations, a process that would later be known as decolonization. Azad remains the youngest person ever to become the president – at the age of 35 – of the Indian National Congress, the current ruling party.
Maulana Azad's prophetic statements about Pakistan's future and the role of politicians and Islamic clerics were given in an interview to journalist Shorish Kashmiri of the Lahore-based Chattan magazine. Recently, Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan reproduced excerpts from the historical interview in his weekly column published in The News, a Pakistani daily. Khan noted that the interview was originally translated by Arif Mohammed Khan, former Indian minister, scholar, and well-known columnist.
In view of the current developments in Pakistan and its continued slide into a deepening religious war involving the fundamentalist religious parties and the jihadi forces, excerpts are given below from Maulana Azad's interview, as produced in Khan's columns, originally in English.
"The Way The Leadership Of The Muslim League Is Conducting Itself Will Ensure That Islam Will Become A Rare Commodity In Pakistan"; "Pakistan, When It Comes Into Existence, Will Face Conflicts Of A Religious Nature"; "Despite The Increased Role Of Ulema [Islamic Scholars], The Religion Will Lose Its Sheen In Pakistan"
Question: "The Hindu Muslim dispute has become so acute that it has foreclosed any possibility of reconciliation. Don't you think that, in this situation, the birth of Pakistan has become inevitable?" Azad: "If Pakistan were the solution of Hindu-Muslim problems, then I would have extended my support to it. A section of Hindu opinion is now turning in its favor. By conceding NWFP [North West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], Sindh, Baluchistan, and half of Punjab on one side and half of Bengal on the other [for Pakistan], they think they will get the rest of India – a huge country that would be free from any claims of communal ["communal" in the context of this article refers to inter-community/inter-religious strife] nature. If we use the Muslim League terminology, this new India will be a Hindu state, both practically and temperamentally.
"… The communal hatred it has generated has completely extinguished all possibilities of spreading and preaching Islam. This communal politics has hurt the religion beyond measure. Muslims have turned away from the Koran… By the time of the decline of the Mughal rule, Muslims in India were a little over 22.5 million. Since then the numbers kept increasing. If the Muslim politicians had not used the offensive language that embittered communal relations, and the other section acting as agents of British interests had not worked to widen the Hindu-Muslim breach, the number of Muslims in India would have gone up… Under British influence we turned Islam into a … hereditary community.
"The Indian Muslims have frozen Islam and its message and divided themselves into many sects … clearly born at the instance of colonial power… They prefer the religion of politics, not the religion of the Koran. Pakistan is a political standpoint. Regardless of the fact whether it is the right solution to the problems of Indian Muslims, it is being demanded in the name of Islam. The question is when and where Islam provided for the division of territories to settle populations on the basis of belief and unbelief.….
"How shall we explain the ever-growing Muslim presence in non-Muslim lands, including India? Do they realize that if Islam had approved this principle, then it would not have permitted its followers to go to non-Muslim lands, and many ancestors of the supporters of Pakistan would not even have entered the fold of Islam?... The impact of Western thought and philosophy has made the crisis more serious. The way the leadership of the Muslim League [party advocating creation of Pakistan] is conducting itself will ensure that Islam will become a rare commodity in Pakistan …. Pakistan, when it comes into existence, will face conflicts of a religious nature.
"As far as I can see, the people who will hold the reins of power will cause serious damage to Islam. Their behavior may result in the total alienation of the Pakistani youth who may become a part of non-religious movements…. You will see that, despite the increased role of ulema [Islamic scholars], the religion will lose its sheen in Pakistan."
"Our History Is Replete With The Doings Of The Ulema Who Have Brought Humiliation And Disgrace To Islam In Every Age And Period"; "I Must Warn That The Evil Consequences Of Partition Will Not Affect India Alone; Pakistan Will Be Equally Haunted By Them"
Question: "But many ulema are with Quaid-e-Azam [M. A. Jinnah]."
Azad: "Many ulema were with Akbar-e-Azam [Akbar the Great, 1542-1605] too; they invented a new religion for him [called Din-e-Illahi, or multicultural Religion of Allah]. Do not discuss individuals. Our history is replete with the doings of the ulema, who have brought humiliation and disgrace to Islam in every age and period. The upholders of truth are exceptions. How many ulema find an honorable mention in the Muslim history of the last 1,300 years?
"There was one Imam Hanbal, one Ibn Taimiyya [scholars who wrote books of hadiths]. In India we remember no ulema except Shah Waliullah [Islamic scholar of Delhi, 1703-1762] and his family. The courage of Alf Sani [Islamic scholar, 1564-1624] is beyond doubt, but those who filled the royal office with complaints against him and got him imprisoned were also ulema. Where are they now? Does anybody show any respect to them?"
Question: "Maulana [Azad], what is wrong if Pakistan becomes a reality? After all, 'Islam' is being used to pursue and protect the unity of the community."
Azad: "You are using the name of Islam for a cause that is not right by Islamic standards. Muslim history bears testimony to many such enormities… If Pakistan was right for Muslims, I would have supported it. But I see clearly the dangers inherent in the demand. I do not expect people to follow me.… Muslims will not hear anything against Pakistan unless they experience it. Today they can call white black, but they will not give up Pakistan. The only way it can be stopped now is either for the government not to concede it or for Mr. Jinnah himself – if he agrees to some new proposal.
"… But I must warn that the evil consequences of Partition will not affect India alone; Pakistan will be equally haunted by them. The Partition will be based on the religion of the population and not on any natural barrier a like mountain, desert, or river. A line will be drawn; it is difficult to say how durable it would be. We must remember that an entity conceived in hatred will last only as long as that hatred lasts. This hatred will overwhelm relations between India and Pakistan… The politics of Partition will act as a barrier…. Indian Muslims will have three options before them:
"i) They become victims of loot and brutalities and migrate to Pakistan; but how many Muslims can find shelter there?
"ii) They become subject to murder and other excesses. A substantial number of Muslims will pass through this ordeal until the bitter memories of Partition are forgotten and the generation that had lived through it completes its natural term.
"iii) A good number of Muslims, haunted by poverty, political wilderness, and regional depredation, decide to renounce Islam."
"I Feel That It Will Not Be Possible For East Pakistan To Stay With West Pakistan For Any Considerable Period Of Time [East Pakistan Became Bangladesh In 1971]"; "I Feel That, Right From Its Inception, Pakistan Will Face Some Very Serious Problems: Incompetent Political Leadership Will Pave The Way For Military Dictatorships"
"Prominent Muslims who support the Muslim League will leave for Pakistan. The wealthy Muslims will take over the industry and business and monopolize the economy of Pakistan. But more than 30 million Muslims will be left behind in India. What promise does Pakistan hold for them?… Pakistan itself will be afflicted by many serious problems. The greatest danger will come from international powers who will seek to control the new country, and with the passage of time this control will become tight. India will have no problem with this outside interference as it will sense danger and hostility from Pakistan.
"The other important point that has escaped Jinnah's attention is Bengal. He does not know that Bengal disdains outside leadership and rejects it sooner or later. During World War II, [Bengali Muslim leader] Fazlul Haq revolted against Jinnah and was thrown out of the Muslim League. [Bengali Muslim leader] H. S. Suhrawardy does not hold Jinnah in high esteem. Why only Muslim League? Look at the history of the Congress. The revolt of [Bengali Hindu leader] Subhas Chandra Bose is known to all. Gandhi ji was not happy with the president-ship of Bose and turned the tide against him by going on a fast unto death at Rajkot. Subhas Bose rose against Gandhi ji and disassociated himself from Congress. The environment of Bengal is such that it disfavors leadership from outside and rises in revolt when it senses danger to its rights and interests.
"The confidence of East Pakistan will not erode as long as [leaders from West Pakistan] Jinnah and Liaquat Ali are alive. But after them any small incident will create resentment and disaffection. I feel that it will not be possible for East Pakistan to stay with West Pakistan for any considerable period of time [East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971 war]. There is nothing common between the two regions except that they call themselves Muslims. But the fact of being Muslim has never created durable political unity anywhere in the world. The Arab world is before us; they subscribe to a common religion, a common civilization and culture, and speak a common language. In fact, they acknowledge even territorial unity.
"But there is no political unity among them. Their systems of government are different and they are often engaged in mutual recrimination and hostility. On the other hand, the language, customs, and way of life of East Pakistan are totally different from West Pakistan. The moment the creative warmth of Pakistan cools down, the contradictions will emerge and will acquire assertive overtones. These will be fuelled by the clash of interests of international powers, and consequently both wings will separate.
"After the separation of East Pakistan, whenever it happens, West Pakistan will become the battleground of regional contradictions and disputes. The assertion of sub-national identities of Punjab, Sindh, Frontier, and Baluchistan will open the doors for outside interference. It will not be long before the international powers use the diverse elements of Pakistani political leadership to break the country on the lines of Balkan and Arab states. Maybe at that stage we will ask ourselves what have we gained and what have we lost.
"The real issue is economic development and progress, it certainly is not religion… I feel that, right from its inception Pakistan will face some very serious problems: incompetent political leadership will pave the way for military dictatorships, as has happened in many Muslim countries; the heavy burden of foreign debt; absence of friendly relationships with neighbors and the possibility of armed conflict; internal unrest and regional conflicts; the loot of national wealth by the neo-rich and industrialists of Pakistan; the apprehension of class war as a result of exploitation by the neo-rich; dissatisfaction and alienation of the youth from religion and the collapse of the theory of Pakistan; the conspiracies of the international powers to control Pakistan.
"In this situation the stability of Pakistan will be under strain and the Muslim countries will be in no position to provide any worthwhile help. The assistance from other sources will not come without strings..."
"[Demand For] Pakistan Has Nothing To Do With Islam; It Is A Political Demand That Is Projected By The Muslim League As The National Goal Of Indian Muslims.… The Holy Prophet [Muhammad] Has Said: 'God Has Made The Whole Earth A Mosque For Me'"
Question: "But the question is: how can Muslims keep their community identity intact and how can they inculcate the attributes of the citizens of a Muslim state?"
Azad: "Hollow words cannot falsify basic realities, nor can slanted questions make answers deficient. It amounts to distortion of the discourse. What is meant by community identity? If this community identity has remained intact during British slavery, how will it come under threat in a free India in whose affairs Muslims will be equal participants? What attributes of the Muslim state do you wish to cultivate?
"The real issue is the freedom of faith and worship, and who can put a cap on that freedom? Will independence reduce the 90 million Muslims into such a helpless state that they feel constrained in enjoying their religious freedom? If the British who, as a world power, could not snatch this liberty, what magic or power do the Hindus have to deny this freedom of religion?…
"Muslim history is an important part of Indian history. Do you think the Muslim kings were serving the cause of Islam? They had a nominal relationship with Islam; they were not Islamic preachers. Muslims of India owe their gratitude to Sufis [mystics] and many of these divines were very cruelly treated by the kings… If the Muslims still feel under threat and believe that they will be reduced to slavery in free India, then I can only pray for their faith and hearts… Muslims as a community have become cowards. They have no fear of God, instead they fear men. This explains why they are so obsessed with threats to their existence – a figment of their imagination…
"Islam is a universal call to establish peace on the basis of human equality. They know that Islam is the proclamation of a Messenger who calls to the worship of God and not his own worship.... Pakistan has nothing to do with Islam; it is a political demand that is projected by the Muslim League as the national goal of Indian Muslims. I feel it is not the solution to the problems Muslims are facing… The Holy Prophet [Muhammad] has said: 'God has made the whole Earth a mosque for me.' Now do not ask me to support the idea of the partition of a mosque. If the nine-crore [90 million] Muslims were thinly scattered all over India, and demand was made to reorganize the states in a manner to ensure their majority in one or two regions [i.e. within the Indian union], that would be understandable.…
"Tell me, who can eliminate these populations? By demanding Pakistan we are turning our eyes away from the history of the last 1,000 years and, if I may use the League terminology, throwing more than 30 million Muslims into the lap of 'Hindu Raj.' The Hindu-Muslim problem that has created political tension between Congress and League will become a source of dispute between the two states.
"The question is often raised that if the idea of Pakistan is so fraught with dangers for the Muslims, why is it being opposed by the Hindus? I feel that the opposition to the demand is coming from two quarters. One is represented by those who genuinely feel concerned about imperial machinations and strongly believe that a free, united India will be in a better position to defend itself. On the other hand, there is a section that opposes Pakistan with the motive to provoke Muslims to become more determined in their demand and thus get rid of them."
"Muslims Have Every Right To Demand Constitutional Safeguards, But Partition Of India Cannot Promote Their Interests; The Demand [For Pakistan] Is The Politically Incorrect Solution Of A Communal Problem"
"Muslims have every right to demand constitutional safeguards, but partition of India cannot promote their interests. The demand is the politically incorrect solution of a communal problem. In the future, India will be faced with class problems, not communal disputes; the conflict will be between capital and labor. The communist and socialist movements are growing and it is not possible to ignore them. These movements will increasingly fight for the protection of the interests of the underclass.
"Muslim capitalists and the feudal classes are apprehensive of this impending threat. Now they have given this whole issue a communal color and have turned the economic issue into a religious dispute. But Muslims alone are not responsible for this. This strategy was first adopted by the British government and then endorsed by the political minds of Aligarh [students and teachers at the Aligarh Muslim University, situated near Delhi]. Later, Hindu short-sightedness made matters worse, and now freedom has become contingent on the partition of India.
"Jinnah himself was an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. In one Congress session, Sarojini Naidu had commended him with this title. He was a disciple of [nationalist leader] Dadabhai Naoroji. He had refused to join the 1906 deputation of Muslims that initiated communal politics in India. In 1919 he stood firmly as a nationalist and opposed Muslim demands before the Joint Select Committee.
"On October 3, 1925, in a letter to The Times of India, he rubbished the suggestion that Congress is a Hindu outfit. In the All Parties Conferences of 1925 and 1928, he strongly favored a joint electorate. While speaking at the National Assembly in 1925, he said: 'I am a nationalist first and a nationalist last' and he exhorted his colleagues, be they Hindus or Muslims, 'not to raise communal issues in the House…'
"[Editorial note: In later part of his political career, especially from 1937 to 1947, Jinnah worked under the Islamist influence of Urdu poet Muhammad Iqbal and often used religion to advance the cause of Pakistan, the driving argument contained in the concept of Two-Nation Theory, i.e. the idea that Muslims and Hindus cannot live together because they are two separate nations."
"Today Muslims Are Not Walking, They Are Flowing [Like An Unthinking Mob]"; "Muslims In India Are Not One Community; They Are Divided Among Many Well-Entrenched Sects; You Can Unite Them By Arousing Their Anti-Hindu Sentiment, But You Cannot Unite Them In The Name Of Islam"
Question: "It is clear that Muslims are not going to turn away from their demand for Pakistan. Why have they become so impervious to all reason and logic of arguments?"
Azad: "It is difficult, rather impossible, to fight against the misplaced enthusiasm of a mob, but to suppress one's conscience is worse than death. Today Muslims are not walking, they are flowing [like an unthinking mob]. The problem is that Muslims have not learnt to walk steadily; they either run or flow with the tide. When a group of people lose confidence and self-respect, they are surrounded by imaginary doubts and dangers and fail to make a distinction between right and wrong…"
Question: "But Hindus and Muslims are two different nations with different and disparate inclinations. How can unity between the two be achieved?"
Azad: "This is an obsolete debate. I have seen the correspondence between Allama Iqbal [the Islamist poet] and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani [Islamic scholar] on the subject. In the Koran the term 'qaum' has been used not only for the community of believers, but also for distinct human groupings generally. What do we wish to achieve by raising this debate about the etymological scope of terms like 'millat' (community), 'qaum' (nation) and 'ummat' (group)? In religious terms, India is home to many people – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, etc…
"Muslims must realize that they are bearers of a universal message. They are not a racial or regional grouping in whose territory others cannot enter. Strictly speaking, Muslims in India are not one community; they are divided among many well-entrenched sects. You can unite them by arousing their anti-Hindu sentiment, but you cannot unite them in the name of Islam. To them, Islam means undiluted loyalty to their own sect.
"Apart from Wahhabi, Sunni, and Shia, there are innumerable groups who owe allegiance to different saints and divines [Sufi mystics]. Small issues like raising hands during prayer and saying 'amen' loudly have created disputes that defy solution. The ulema have used the instrument of 'takfeer' (fatwas declaring someone an infidel) liberally. Earlier, they used to take Islam to the disbelievers; now they take away Islam from the believers…
"But today the situation is worse than ever. Muslims have become firm in their communalism; they prefer politics to religion and follow their worldly ambitions as commands of religion. History bears testimony to the fact that, in every age, we ridiculed those who pursued the good with consistency, snuffed out the brilliant examples of sacrifice and tore the flags of selfless service. Who are we, the ordinary mortals; even high-ranking Prophets were not spared by these custodians of tradition."
"I Was Firm In My Belief That Freedom Of Asia And Africa [From Colonial Rule] Largely Depended On India's Freedom, And Hindu-Muslim Unity Is The Key To India's Freedom"; "Even Before The First World War, I Had Realized That India Was Destined To Attain Freedom"
Question: "You closed down your journal Al-Hilal a long time ago. Was it due to your disappointment with the Muslims who were wallowing in intellectual desolation, or did you feel it was like proclaiming azan (call to prayer) in a barren desert?"
Azad: "I did not abandon Al-Hilal because I had lost faith in its truth. This journal created great awareness among a large section of Muslims. They renewed their faith in Islam, in human freedom, and in consistent pursuit of righteous goals. In fact, my own life was greatly enriched by this experience and I felt like those who had the privilege of learning under the companionship of the Messenger of God.
"My own voice entranced me and under its impact I burnt out like a phoenix. Al-Hilal had served its purpose and a new age was dawning. Based on my experiences, I made a reappraisal of the situation and decided to devote all my time and energy for the attainment of our national freedom [from the British colonial rule, leading to independence of India in 1947]. I was firm in my belief that freedom of Asia and Africa largely depended on India's freedom and Hindu-Muslim unity is the key to India's freedom.
"Even before the First World War, I had realized that India was destined to attain freedom, and no power on earth would be able to deny it. I was also clear in my mind about the role of Muslims. I ardently wished that Muslims would learn to walk together with their countrymen and not give an opportunity to history to say that, when Indians were fighting for their independence, Muslims were looking on as spectators. Let nobody say that, instead of fighting the waves, they were standing on the banks and showing mirth on the drowning of boats carrying the freedom fighters."
Source: The News (Pakistan), December 4, 9 & 16, 2013. The original English of the articles has been mildly edited for clarity and standardization.