By Riaz Haq
An ongoing debate about the vision of Pakistan’s founder flares up every year around Christmas time which coincides with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s birthday. It is centered on one key question: Did the Quaid want an Islamic state or a secular one?
Islamic or Secular Pakistan?
Here are a couple of excerpts from Quaid-e-Azam’s speeches given at different times which are often cited in this “Islamic vs Secular Pakistan” debate:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place 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”
“Who am I to give you a constitution? The prophet of Islam had given us a constitution 1,300 years ago. We have to simply follow and implement it, and based on it we have to establish in our state Islam’s great system of governance.”
The secularists insist that the first excerpt from the Quaid’s speech of August 11, 1947 to the constituent assembly should be accepted as his true vision for a secular Pakistan. The Islamists vehemently disagree and cite the second excerpt in which the Quaid talked about the fact that “prophet of Islam had given us a constitution 1,300 years ago” and we must implement it.
The question is: Do the two speech excerpts conflict or support each other? On the surface, the Quaid’s speeches appear to send conflicting messages. However, a deeper examination of Misaq-e-Madina (Charter of Medina), Islam’s first constitution approved by Prophet Muhammad (SAW), suggests the Quaid’s speeches are consistent with each other and conform to the original Islamic constitution.
Here’s the opening line of Misaq-e-Madina:
“This is a document from Muhammad the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), governing relations between the Believers i.e. Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib and those who followed them and worked hard with them. They form one nation — Ummah.”
It clearly says that all citizens of “Yathrib” (ancient name of Madina), regardless of their tribe or religion, are part of one nation–“Ummah”. So the word “Ummah” here does not exclude non-Muslims.
Further into the “Misaq” document, it says: “No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew. The enemies of the Jews who follow us will not be helped. If anyone attacks anyone who is a party to this Pact the other must come to his help.”
The Mesaq assures equal protection to all citizens of Madina, including non-Muslim tribes which agreed to it. The contents of Misaq-e-Madina, Islam’s first constitution approved by Prophet Mohammad 1400 years ago, appear to have inspired Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah vision of Pakistan where people of all religions and nationalities live in harmony with equal rights and protections under the law.
Some might now ask what was the need for the Two-Nation-Theory given the above vision of the Quaid? The Quaid’s search for Pakistan as an independent state for Muslims was inspired to give India’s minority Muslims better opportunities to grow and prosper. While it’s true that Pakistan has not lived up to the Quaid’s expectations, it is also true that, in spite of all their problems, Muslims in Pakistan are still much better off than their counterparts in India.
An Indian government commission headed by former Indian Chief Justice Rajendar Sachar confirms that Muslims are the new untouchables in caste-ridden and communal India. Indian Muslims suffer heavy discrimination in almost every field from education and housing to jobs. Their incarceration rates are also much higher than their Hindu counterparts.
According to Sachar Commission report, Muslims are now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men are unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% are unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 ca not read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims account for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they hold less than 5% of government jobs.
Those who say that the Two-Nation-Theory died with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 are wrong. They need to be reminded that the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, in fact called for two “independent states”, not “state” in Muslim majority areas of India in the north east and the north west. The other fact to remember is that Bangladesh did not choose to merge with India after separation from Pakistan.
Here’s a video discussion on this and other current subjects: