There has been a decades long debate between secularism and Islamic nationalism within Pakistanis, which has bought a lot of controversy recently. Whether it be the Gen Z individuals calling for a total secular social atmosphere all over the country or the patriotic Islamist nationalists re-calling on what basis Pakistan was actually formed, both sides have misinterpreted historical facts to suit their own arguments.
There has been a lot of controversy when it comes to Jinnah’s religion. Some sources highlight that he was a Twelver Shi’a, some say he was born to an Ismaili household and lastly, a few say that although he was born to a Shi’a family, he later on converted to Sunni Islam, but all the evidence was presented after his death. So, for the sake of being neutral and not sparking unnecessary controversies, we will assume his identity as a sect-less Muslim who believed in both, Sunni and Shiite teachings. Nevertheless, no matter what his religious identity was, there is no doubt on the fact that Jinnah lived an extremely posh lifestyle. According to the records at the Mumbai Bar Association, Jinnah simply rejected all dietary restrictions because he was often seen eating at Bombay’s most fine restaurants that did not serve halal food such as the Cornaglia’s Restaurant. To the bar association, Jinnah was the perfect embodiment of the ‘Macaulay’s Ideal Indian’; someone with the skin of an Indian, and desires of a British. This was simply based on the fact that he rejected all racial discrimination and old traditions such as taking women as slaves, which is also a very major part of Islamic beliefs, so we cannot possibly say for the least that he was totally secular in this regard, for no one knows whether he was influenced by British liberal values or the teachings of The Holy Prophet PBUH’s last sermon.
On the other spectrum of things, this partially-liberal identity of Jinnah short-lived. After his selection as the President of Muslim League in 1934, it was a due obligation on Jinnah to present Islamic teachings at its finest. Back in the day, it was felt by the Muslims of the subcontinent that they should have a different identity. They felt like there shouldn’t be any collaboration with the ‘kuffar’, and hence Muslims should work on their own for supremacy. Jinnah rejected this belief, which could be seen by his support of the Lucknow Pact of 1916. Furthermore, when he delivered his first speech in 1948 at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, he explicitly mentioned equal rights for Hindus living in Pakistan, despite how unfairly Hindus treated Jinnah politically throughout the whole struggle of making Pakistan a reality. This tells us about his open nature of treatment for people of all religions, and according to my belief, he would have never minded a Hindu or a Christian practicing their religion openly in Pakistan as long as they did not come into conflict.
As much Jinnah’s partially leftist mind might tease you into thinking that he was a fully secular person, let us all see who had supported Jinnah. First and foremost, his greatest supporter was Allama Muhammad Iqbal, someone with a partially opposite thinking mind of Jinnah, who wanted the Muslim country to be based entirely on Sharia Law, and labelled himself as a true ‘Ashiq-e-Rasul’ or ‘Lover of the Prophet’. Followed by Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, an Islamist who even led Jinnah’s funeral prayer and lastly, Allama Ashraf Ali Thanvi, who was responsible for all the Sufi Shrines that existed all over the sub-continent. Apart from Jinnah, none of these gentlemen approved the Lucknow pact, nor were they in favor of any collaboration with the ‘kuffar’. To conclude, we can for the least say that there was something about Jinnah’s final agenda of governing Pakistan that truly aligned with Islamic principles which caught the attraction of these Ulema to join his cause. This is backed by what he said on 25th December on the occasion of his Birthday at the Karachi bar association, “The Prophet PBUH of Islam was a great teacher. He was a great law-giver. He was a great statesman and he was a great sovereign who ruled. The life of the Prophet PBUH was simple according to those times. He was successful in everything he did from as a businessman to as a ruler. The Prophet PBUH was the greatest man that the world had ever seen. 13 hundred years ago he laid the foundation of democracy.” At another occasion, at Air Force Khaliqdina Hall in Karachi on 11th October 1947 he said, “It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great law-giver, The Prophet Muhammed PBUH. Let us lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of true Islamic ideals and principles”. On another occasion, a man approached Jinnah from a crowd, who was holding the Holy Quran in one of his hand to ask what he will use to formulate the constitution of Pakistan, and in response, Jinnah pointed at the Quran he was holding in his hand.
There is surely a lot much more to say and to support both sides of the argument, but the fairest of all conclusions might represent the whole story by saying that Jinnah wanted a secular state, established by Islamic Law. What this means is that although the true principles of Islam were to be followed, there was also a space dedicated to leftism as long as it aligned with Islamic principles. This includes freedom of religion, freedom of thought and belief, freedom to carry out normal life routines, freedom to wear anything a person desires and lastly, the freedom of being equal regardless of race, religion, gender and social status yet this too under certain limitations. As a Muslim, Jinnah would’ve never allowed LGBTQ to become legal in Pakistan, yet he would have not stopped a woman from pursing her dreams and demanding her rights openly. It is to a certain level that we allow Islamists and liberal Gen Z to express their beliefs because to a levelled extent, both of them are right but when it comes to agreeing 100% with either of their views, it becomes really hard to draw conclusions. ‘Jinnah was a proud Muslim, who supported every leftist ideology that aligned with Islamic principles.’ This might be the safest definition to tell what sort of a country Jinnah wanted and I certainly hope to see that day when this long neglected definition becomes a reality.