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Chapter II

Ulema and Pakistan Movement
Muslim religious organisations of the sub-continent -- Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, Majlis-i-
Ahrar- i-Islam and Jamat-i-Islami [1]-- were politically very active during the struggle for
Pakistan but all of them opposed tooth and nail the creation of a separate homeland for
the Muslims. The opposition of Jamiat and Ahrar was on the plea that Pakistan was
essentially a territorial concept and thus alien to the philosophy of Islamic brotherhood,
which was universal in character. Nationalism was an un-Islamic concept for them but at
the same time they supported the CongressParty's idea of Indian nationalism which the
Muslim political leadership considered as accepting perpetual domination of Hindu
majority. Jamat-i-Islami reacted to the idea of Pakistan in a complex manner. It rejected
both the nationalist Ulema's concept of nationalism as well as the Muslim League's
demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims.

The most noteworthy feature of the struggle for Pakistan is that its leadership came
almost entirely from the Western-educated Muslim professionals. The Ulema remained,
by and large, hostile to the idea of a Muslim national state. But during the mass contact
campaign, which began around 1943, the Muslim League abandoned its quaint
constitutionalist and legalist image in favor of Muslim populism which drew heavily on
Islamic values. Wild promises were made of restoring the glory of Islam in the future
Muslim state. As a consequence, many religious divines and some respected Ulema were
won over.[2]

The Muslim political leadership believed that the Ulema were not capable of giving a
correct lead in politics to the Muslims because of their exclusively traditional education
and complete ignorance of the complexities of modern life. It, therefore, pleaded that the
Ulema should confine their sphere of activity to religion since they did not understand the
nature of politics of the twentieth century.

It was really unfortunate that the Ulema, in general and the Darul Ulum Deoband in
particular, understood Islam primarily in a legal form. Their medieval conception of the
Shariah remained unchanged, orthodox and traditional in toto and they accepted it as
finished goods manufactured centuries ago by men like (Imam) Abu Hanifa and Abu
Yusuf. Their scholasticism, couched in the old categories of thought, barred them from
creative thinking and properly understanding the problems, social or philosophical,
confronting the Muslim society in a post-feudal era. They were intellectually ill-equipped
to comprehend the crisis Islam had to face in the twentieth century. [3]

The struggle for Pakistan -- to establish a distinct identity of Muslims -- was virtually a
secular campaign led by men of politics rather than religion and Mohammad Ali Jinnah
and his lieutenants such as Liaquat Ali Khan who won Pakistan despite opposition by
most of the Ulema.
Jinnah was continuously harassed by the Ulema, particularly by those with Congress
orientation. They stood for status quo as far as Islam and Muslims were concerned, and
regarded new ideas such as the two nation theory, the concept of Muslim nationhood and
the territorial specification of Islam through the establishment of Pakistan as innovations
which they were not prepared to accept under any circumstance. It was in this
background that Jinnah pointed out to the students of the Muslim University Union:
"What the League has done is to set you free from the reactionary elements of Muslims
and to create the opinion that those who play their selfish game are traitors. It has
certainly freed you from that undesirable element of Molvis and Maulanas. I am not
speaking of Molvis as a whole class. There are some of them who are as patriotic and
sincere as any other, but there is a section of them which is undesirable. Having freed
ourselves from the clutches of the British Government, the Congress, the reactionaries
and so-called Molvis, may I appeal to the youth to emancipate our women. This is
essential. I do not mean that we are to ape the evils of the West. What I mean is that they
must share our life not only social but also political." [4]

The history of the Ulema in the sub-continent has been one of their perpetual conflict
with intelligentsia. The Ulema opposed Sir Syed Ahmad Khan when he tried to rally the
Muslims in 1857. Nearly a hundred of them, including Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi,
the leading light of Deoband, ruled that it was unlawful to join the Patriotic Association
founded by him. However, the Muslim community proved wiser than the religious elite
and decided to follow the political lead given by Sir Syed Ahmad.

The conflict between conservative Ulema and political Muslim leadership came to a head
during the struggle for Pakistan when a number of Ulema openly opposed the Quaid-i-
Azam and denounced the concept of Pakistan. It is an irony of history that Jinnah in his
own days, like Sir Syed Ahmad before him, faced the opposition of the Ulema.

The Ahrar Ulema -- Ataullah Shah Bukhari, Habibur Rahman Ludhianawi and Mazhar
Ali Azhar -- seldom mentioned the Quaid-i-Azam by his correct name which was always
distorted. Mazhar Ali Azhar used the insulting sobriquet Kafir-i-Azam (the great
unbeliever) for Quaid-i-Azam. One of the resolutions passed by the Working Committee
of the Majlis-i-Ahrar which met in Delhi on 3rd March 1940, disapproved of Pakistan
plan, and in some subsequent speeches of the Ahrar leaders Pakistan was dubbed as
"palidistan". The authorship of the following couplet is attributed to Maulana Mazhar Ali
Azhar, a leading personality of the Ahrar:

Ik Kafira Ke Waste Islam ko Chhora
Yeh Quaid-i-Azam hai Ke hai Kafir-i-Azam.[6]

(He abandoned Islam for the sake of a non-believer woman [7], he is a great leader or a
great non-believer)

During the struggle for Pakistan, the Ahrar were flinging foul abuse on all the leading
personalities of the Muslim League and accusing them of leading un-Islamic lives. Islam
was with them a weapon which they could drop and pick up at pleasure to discomfit a
political adversary. Religion was a private affair in their dealings with the Congress and
nationalism their ideology. But when they were pitted against the Muslim League, their
sole consideration was Islam. They said that the Muslim League was not only indifferent
to Islam but an enemy of it.

After independence, the Ahrar leaders came to Pakistan. But before coming, the All India
Majlis-i-Ahrar passed a resolution dissolving their organization and advising the Muslims
to accept Maulana Azad as their leader and join the Congress Party.[8]

The Jamat-i-Islami was also opposed to the idea of Pakistan which it described as Na
Pakistan (not pure). In none of the writings of the Jama'at is to be found the remotest
reference in support of the demand for Pakistan. The pre-independence views of Maulana
Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of the Jamat-i-Islami were quite definite:

"Among Indian Muslims today we find two kinds of nationalists: the Nationalists
Muslims, namely those who in spite of their being Muslims believe in Indian Nationalism
and worship it; and the Muslims Nationalist: namely those who are little concerned with
Islam and its principles and aims, but are concerned with the individuality and the
political and economic interests of that nation which has come to exist by the name of
Muslim, and they are so concerned only because of their accidence of birth in that nation.
From the Islamic viewpoint both these types of nationalists were equally misled, for
Islam enjoins faith in truth only; it does not permit any kind of nation-worshipping at all.

Maulana Maududi was of the view that the form of government in the new Muslim state,
if it ever came into existence, could only be secular. In a speech shortly before partition
he said: "Why should we foolishly waste our time in expediting the so-called Muslim-
nation state and fritter away our energies in setting it up, when we know that it will not
only be useless for our purposes, but will rather prove an obstacle in our path." [10]

Paradoxically, Maulana Maududi's writings played an important role in convincing the
Muslim intelligentsia that the concept of united nationalism was suicidal for the Muslims
but his reaction to the Pakistan movement was complex and contradictory. When asked to
cooperate with the Muslim League he replied: "Please do not think that I do not want to
participate in this work because of any differences, my difficulty is that I do not see how I
can participate because partial remedies do not appeal to my mind and I have never been
interested in patch work."[11]

He had opposed the idea of united nationhood because he was convinced that the
Muslims would be drawn away from Islam if they agreed to merge themselves in the
Indian milieu. He was interested more in Islam than in Muslims: because Muslims were
Muslims not because they belonged to a communal or a national entity but because they
believed in Islam. The first priority, therefore, in his mind was that Muslim loyalty to
Islam should be strengthened. This could be done only by a body of Muslims who did
sincerely believe in Islam and did not pay only lip service to it. Hence he founded the
Jamat-i-Islami (in August 1941).[12] However, Maulana Maududi's stand failed to take
cognizance of the circumstances in which the Muslims were placed [13] at that critical

The Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind, the most prestigious organization of the Ulema, saw nothing
Islamic in the idea of Pakistan. Its president, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, who was
also Mohtamim or principal of Darul Ulum Deoband opposed the idea of two-nation
theory, pleading that all Indians, Muslims or Hindus were one nation. He argued that
faith was universal and could not be contained within national boundaries but that
nationality was a matter of geography, and Muslims were obliged to be loyal to the nation
of their birth along with their non-Muslim fellow citizens. Maulana Madani said: "all
should endeavor jointly for such a democratic government in which Hindus, Muslims,
Sikhs, Christians and Parsis are included. Such a freedom is in accordance with Islam."
[14] He was of the view that in the present times, nations are formed on the basis of
homeland and not on ethnicity and religion.[15] He issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims
from joining the Muslim League.

Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani accepted the doctrine of Indian nationalism with all
enthusiasm and started preaching it in mosques. This brought a sharp rebuke from Dr.
Mohammad Iqbal. His poem on Hussain Ahmad [16] in 1938 started a heated
controversy between the so-called nationalist Ulema and the adherents of pan-Islamism

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a member of Indian National Congress regrets that he did
not accept Congress president ship in 1946, which led Nehru to assume that office and
give the statements that could be exploited by the Muslim League for creation of Pakistan
and withdrawal of its acceptance of the Cabinet Plan that envisaged an Indian Union of
all the provinces and states of the sub-continent with safeguards for minorities. [17] He
had persuaded the pro-Congress Ulema that their interests would be better safeguarded
under a united India, and that they should repose full confidence in Indian nationalism.
However, they should make efforts to secure for themselves the control of Muslim
personal law, by getting a guarantee from the Indian National Congress, that the Muslim
personal law would be administered by qadis (judges) who were appointed from amongst
the Ulema.[18]

In a bid to weaken the Muslim League's claim to represent all Muslims of the
subcontinent, the Congress strengthened its links with the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind, the
Ahrars and such minor and insignificant non-League Muslim groups as the Momins and
the Shia Conference.[19]

Along with its refusal to share power with the Muslim League, the Congress pursued an
anti-Muslim League policy in another direction with the help of Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind .
It was not enough to keep the Muslim League out of power. Its power among the people
should be weakened and finally broken. Therefore, it decided to bypass Muslim political
leadership and launch a clever movement of contacting the Muslim masses directly to
wean them away from the leadership that sought to protect them from the fate of
becoming totally dependent on the sweet will of the Hindu majority for their rights, even
for their continued existence. This strategy -- called Muslim Mass Contact Movement --
was organized in 1937 with great finesse by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. [20]

Congress leaders .... employed Molvis to convert the Muslim masses to the Congress
creed. The Molvis, having no voice in the molding of the Congress policy and program,
naturally could not promise to solve the real difficulties of the masses, a promise which
would have drawn the masses towards the Congress. The Molvis and others employed for
the work tried to create a division among the Muslim masses by carrying on a most
unworthy propaganda against the leaders of the Muslim League. [21] However, this
Muslim mass contact movement failed.

It is pertinent to note here that a small section of the Deoband School was against joining
the Congress. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (1863-1943) was the chief spokesman of this
group. Later Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Othmani (1887-1949), a well-known disciple of
Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and a scholar of good repute, who had been for years in
the forefront of the Jamiat leadership quit it with a few other Deoband Ulema, and
became the first president of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam established in 1946 to counteract
the activities of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind. However, the bulk of the Deoband Ulema
kept on following the lead of Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and the Jamiat in
opposing the demand for Pakistan.

Contrary to the plea of the nationalist Ulema, the Muslim intelligentsia was worried that
the end of British domination should not become for the Muslims the beginning of Hindu
domination. They perceived through the past experience that the Hindus could not be
expected to live with them on equal terms within the same political framework. Therefore
they did not seek to change masters. A homeland is an identity and surely the Muslims of
the sub-continent could not have served the cause of universal brotherhood by losing
their identity, which is what would have inevitably happened if they had been compelled
to accept the political domination of the Hindus. The Ulema thought in terms of a
glorious past and linked it unrealistically to a nebulous future of Muslim brotherhood.
This more than anything else damaged the growth of Muslim nationalism and retarded
the progress of Muslims in the sub-continent.[22]

The nationalist Ulema failed to realize this simple truth and eventually found themselves
completely isolated from the mainstream of the Muslim struggle for emancipation. Their
opposition to Pakistan on grounds of territorial nationalism was the result of their failure
to grasp contemporary realities. [23] They did not realize that majorities can be much
more devastating, specifically when it is an ethnic, linguistic or religious majority which
cannot be converted into a minority through any election.[24]

The Ulema, as a class, concentrated on jurisprudence and traditional sciences. They
developed a penchant for argument and hair splitting. This resulted in their progressive
alienation from the people, who while paying them the respect due to religious scholars,
rejected their lead in national affairs. While their influence on the religious minded
masses remained considerable, their impact on public affairs shrank simply because the
Ulema concentrated on the traditional studies and lost touch with the realities of
contemporary life.[25]

The conflict between the educated Muslims and the Ulema was not new. It started in the
early years of British rule and reached its culmination during the struggle for Pakistan.
Since the movement for Pakistan was guided by the enlightened classes under the
leadership of a man who was brought up with western education, the prestige of the
Ulema had been badly damaged.[26]

The Muslims Renaissance in the sub-continent began with Shah Waliullah (1702-63)
who started probing into the past and thinking in terms of the future. During the decline
of Muslim power, Shah Waliullah emerged as an outstanding scholar-reformer who
predicted a return to the original purity of Islam. He was not just a scholar of theology
and law, but a social thinker with a keen sense for economic reforms. Without economic
justice, he asserted, the social purpose of Islam could not be fulfilled. He emphasized the
need for ijtihad, decrying the convention of closing the gates of ijtihad. He criticized the
contemporary Ulema for their elaborate rites and rituals, which he believed, were not part
of the Shariah, but un-Islamic innovations.[27]

Then came Sir Syed Ahmed Khan with his message that the Muslims could not progress
without acquiring knowledge of modern sciences and technology. He asserted the simple
truth that knowledge is not the exclusive preserve of any nation, it belongs to the whole
mankind. Quickly he was dubbed a kafir (non-believer) by a section of Ulema. But Sir
Syed Ahmed, in spite of all the calumny that was heaped on him, refused to be
browbeaten. He maintained a valiant posture and succeeded in realizing the intellectual
energy of a nation. As more and more Muslims got educated in the western sciences the
hold of the Ulema over the Muslim community began to weaken.

The leadership of the Muslim community had passed out of the hands of the Ulema after
the Rebellion of 1857. The Ulema stood aloof, except for the issuance of a fatwa,
supporting the entry of the Muslims into the Congress, when Sir Syed Ahmed opposed it.
The Muslim nation followed the political lead of Sir Syed Ahmad, in the nineteenth
century and rejected the Ulema. But in religion they followed the Ulema and rejected Sir
Syed Ahmad Khan. Much the same happened in the 40's of the twentieth century. The
Indian Muslims followed the political lead given to them by Jinnah (who could have been
a knight like Sir Syed but he resolutely refused both title and office during the British
rule) who had no pretensions to leadership in the sphere of religion. [28] The Muslim
community was wiser than the ostensible defenders of its faith, culture and existence. It
rejected their advice and followed others who were more realistic, more wide awake,
better informed and more in line with the history of the community.[29]

After independence the conflict between the intellectuals with liberal orientation and the
Ulema manifested itself in a judicial enquiry conducted by Justice Mohammad Munir in
Lahore anti-Qadiani riots in 1953. The learned judge said something which the
intellectuals and politicians had for long refrained to say openly. The enquiry findings,
known as the Munir Report, publicized the fact that the Ulema were not only unfit to run
a modern state but were deplorably unable under cross-questioning even to give realistic
guidance on elementary matters of Islam. The court of enquiry was presented with the
sorry spectacle that Muslim divines differed sharply on the definition of a Muslim yet
each was adamant that all who disagreed should be put to death.[30]

At one point the report emphasized: " But we cannot refrain from saying here that it was
a matter of infinite regret to us that the Ulema whose first duty should be to have settled
views on this subject, were hopelessly disagreed amongst themselves." [31] The result of
this part of the enquiry, however, has been but satisfactory, and if considerable confusion
exists in the minds of our Ulema on such a simple matter, one can easily imagine what
the differences on more complicated matter will be.

"Keeping in view the several definitions given by the Ulema, need we make any
comment except that no two divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our
own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given
by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition
given by any one of the Ulema, we remain Muslims according to the view of that Alim
but Kafirs (unbelievers) according to the definition of every one else." [32]

"The net result of all this is that neither Shias nor Sunnis nor Deobandis nor Ahl-e-Hadith
nor Barelvis are Muslims and any change from one view to the other must be
accompanied in an Islamic state with the penalty of death if the government of the state is
in the hands of the party which considers the other party to be Kafirs. And it does not
require much imagination to judge the consequences of this doctrine when it is
remembered that no two Ulema have agreed before us as to the definition of a

The creation of Pakistan was the greatest defeat of the "nationalist" Ulema. But soon after
the establishment of Pakistan power-monger Ulema raised their voice in the political field
with new modulations. They argued that Pakistan was created to establish an Islamic state
based on traditional Shariah law. However, the irony of the argument that Pakistan was
founded on religious ideology lies in the fact that practically every Muslim group and
organization in the Indian subcontinent that was specially religious -Islamic - was hostile
to Jinnah and the Muslim League, and strongly opposed the Pakistan movement. [34] The
claim of the Muslim League to be the sole representative of the entire Muslim community
in India was gravely weakened by the opposition of the most important group of Indian
Ulema. [35] A great deal of effort was devoted by Muslim League leaders to winning
over the Ulema. Eventually they succeeded in doing so, but only partially, and only when
the creation of Pakistan was just over the horizon.[36]

A claim that Pakistan was created to fulfill the millenarian religious aspirations of Indian
Muslims is therefore contradicted by the fact that the principal bearers of the Islamic
religion in India were alienated from the Pakistan movement. Conversely, the English-
educated leaders of the Pakistan movement, not least Jinnah himself, were committed to
secular politics. [37]
Some zealous religious activists are now attempting to distort the role of Ulema in the
struggle for Pakistan. [38] As the old generation is gradually vanishing from the political
scene of the country these Ulema are now being projected as the co-founders of Pakistan.
"In some cases even the name of Quaid-i-Azamhas been eliminated and all the credit for
the establishment of Pakistan is being bestowed upon these Ulema." [39] In recent years,
there has been a systematic attempt by Mullahs and the rightist lobby to misrepresent
Jinnah on Islam and they have tried hard to buildup an image of the father of the nation as
a religious bigot. He is being projected by Mullahs, who once branded him as Kafir, as an
Islamic fundamentalist.

In a TV discussion on Shariah bill in April 1991, two prominent Molvis of Lahore,
Maulana Abdul Qadir and Mufti Mohammad Hussain Naeemi, implied that the Shariat
bill was "the will of the Quaid. " They claimed that the rule of Quran and Sunnah was
pledged by the Quaid and that Mullahs never opposed Pakistan since it was to be a
religious rather than a national state. One of them said "was it not said that Pakistan ka
matlab kia: La Ilahah Illallah." [40]

However, the fact is that this oft quoted statement is an election slogan coined by a
Sialkot poet - Asghar Saudai. But it was never raised by the platform of the Muslim
League. First and the last meeting of All Pakistan Muslim League was held under the
chairmanship of the Quaid-i-Azam at Karachi's Khaliqdina Hall. During the meeting a
man, who called himself Bihari, put to the Quaid that "we have been telling the people
Pakistan ka matlab kia, La Ilaha Illallah." "Sit down, sit down," the Quaid shouted back.
"Neither I nor my working committee, nor the council of the All India Muslim League
has ever passed such a resolution wherein I was committed to the people of Pakistan,
Pakistan ka matlab....., you might have done so to catch a few votes." This incident is
quoted from Daghon ki Barat written by Malik Ghulam Nabi, who was a member of the
Muslim League Council. The same incident is also quoted by the Raja of Mehmoudabad.