Historic perspective on Two-Nation Theory


Malik Ashraf
The independence movement for the creation of Pakistan was arguably the shortest ever struggle to throw off the yolk of subservience to a colonial power. What made that miracle to happen owes it to the fact that despite a thousand years co-existence with Hindus in the sub-continent, the Muslims ever since their arrival in India either as conquerors or traders, maintained their distinct identity culturally and politically and were already a homogenous nationality in India before the movement to end the colonial rule in India started. Muhammad Ali Jinnah who initially was a staunch supporter of Hindu-Muslim Unity and believed in peaceful co-existence with Hindus under a constitutional arrangement that protected the political rights of the Muslims and gave them their due share in governance—after his disillusionment with the designs of the Hindus who only wanted India for Hindus and did not acknowledge the Muslims as a separate entity—used this factor to rally round the Muslims to the cause of an independent state for the Muslims. The process of his transformation into a supporter and leader of the independence movement began with his statement in 1937 that asserted “India is not a national state. India is not a state but a sub-continent composed of nationalities, the two major nations being Hindus and Muslims whose culture, art, architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, laws and jurisprudence, social moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions, outlook on life and of life are fundamentally different. By all cannons of international law we are a nation” The vision given by Allama Muhammad Iqbal provided a clear direction to this thought process. Pakistan Resolution was finally adopted on 23rd March 1940 and within a span of seven years Pakistan became a reality on 14th August 1947, notwithstanding the fact that the Hindus and British did not want partition of the sub-continent and made several overt and covert attempts to sabotage Muslim claims to a separate statehood.
It is said that achieving independence is not as difficult as the consolidation of the gains of independence and maintaining strong connection with the ideological moorings that guides a nation towards a right path to achieve its cherished goals. Unfortunately Pakistan has failed in both these areas and consequently finds itself at the cross-roads even after nearly seven decades of its independence due to the shenanigans of the political leaders and the military dictators. There was never ever a greater need to go back to the drawing board and rediscover the contours of Pakistan envisioned by its founding father and the ideology that spurred the independence movement than at present. While celebrating the independence, those who have brought Pakistan to where it stands now, need to introspect their conduct with a view to retrace their steps to the path chartered by the Quaid and take inspiration from the ideological strands that wove Pakistan into reality. It is also probably the right occasion to apprise the younger generation about Pakistan ideology and the struggle that went into making Pakistan, to instill in them the right spirit behind the independence movement and the path they are supposed to tread as future architects of this god gifted country.
Perhaps a brief insight into the history of co-existence of Hindus and Muslims in the sub-continent is justified to make the concept of Pakistan Ideology and the two-nation theory more clear. All historic accounts in this regard ungrudgingly concede that the differences between Hindus and Muslims were not confined to the struggle for political supremacy, but were also manifested in the clash of two social orders as enunciated by Jinnah in his 1937 speech highlighting differences between the two nationalities. The ideology of Pakistan took shape through an evolutionary process. Historical experiences helped to sharpen its footprints making it a discernible political reality. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan began the period of Muslim self-awakening; Allama Iqbal provided the philosophical explanation and Quaid-i-Azam translated it into a reality. The Muslims of South Asia believed that they were a nation in the modern sense of the word. The basis of their nationhood was not territorial, racial and linguistic or ethnic; rather they were a nation because they belonged to the same faith, Islam. The Ideology of Pakistan has its roots deep in the history. The history of South Asia is largely a history of rivalry and conflict between the Hindus and Muslims of the region. Both communities have been living together in the same area since the early 8th century. Yet, the two failed to develop harmonious relations. In the beginning, one could find the Muslims and Hindus struggling for supremacy in the battlefield. Wars between Muhammad Bin Qasim and Raja Dahir in 712, Mahmud of Ghazni and Jaypal, Muhammad Ghuri and Prithvi Raj, Babur and Rana Sanga and Aurangzeb and Shivaji are cases in point.
When the Hindus of South Asia failed to establish Hindu rule through force, they opted for back door conspiracies. Bhakti Movement with the desire to merge Islam and Hinduism was one of the biggest attacks on the faith of the Muslims of the region. Akbar’s diversion from the main stream Islamic ideology was one of the greatest success stories of Hindus. However, due to the immediate counterattack by Mujaddid Alf Sani and Sufis belonging to Chishtia and Suharwardia sects, this era proved to be short-lived. Muslims once again proved their separate identity during the regimes of Jehangir, Shah Jehan and particularly Aurangzeb. The attempts to bring the two communities close could not succeed because the differences between the two were fundamental and had no meeting point. At the root of the problem were the differences between the two religions. So long as the two people wanted to lead their lives according to their respective faith, they could not be one.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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