May 6, 2014 By Ziauddin Sardar


zia imageHERE is a cliche : Pakistan was created as an Islamic state, as a separate home for Muslims of the Indian sub-continent, as an expression of their desire to establish an Islamic society. The Pakistan Movement was inspired by the “Ideology of Islam”, India was partitioned and millions sacrificed their lives, honour and millions sacrificed their lives, honour and property, to demonstrate the contemporary significance of the Islamic way of life.
And here is another cliche: Pakistan is a military dictatorship where Islam is presented as a cruel, super-annuated joke, a state run by colonial bureaucracy and mortgaged to a few rich families. It is a society conspicuous by the absence of social justice, where inferiority complex and corruption are the dominant modes of thought and behaviour.
Somewhere between these two truisms lies a sublime dream now all but lost to the vagaries of history. The creation of Pakistan was a major upturn in the contemporary Muslim epoch. But the momentum was never sustained, sacrifices never rewarded, promises never realised.
What went wrong? Was there something lacking in the original ideals? Were those who led the ideological revolution not quite up to the task? What can we learn from this impasse of the Pakistan Ideal? And, perhaps more important, can Pakistan’s failure be turned into a resounding success?
In reality, nothing went wrong, everything worked as it should have. If Pakistan now appears to be in a political mess, it is not because the ideals of the founding fathers were at fault but largely because the ideas that they were working with, were applied to the wrong group of people. If the same ideas had been applied to a secular vision of Pakistan, the ingenuity, competency and potency of the Pakistani people would have ensured that Pakistan was a celebrated success. The confusion and accompanying failure arose from the fact that the world-view of Islam were squeezed into ideas and concepts which only have meaning within a secular world view. The ideals did not match the ideas. Indeed, at that juncture of history, with the colonial rulers just departing from India, there were no ideas anywhere in the Muslim world that could match the vision of Pakistan. In that respect, the idea of Pakistan was far ahead of its time.
Indeed, Mohammad Iqbal, the poet-philospher of the East, who conceived the idea of Pakistan, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who turned the idea into reality, were visionaries who really belonged to a future age. Iqbal saw that within a Hindu-dominated India, Muslims would have little chance of cultural and physical survival. A glance at the Muslims of India today confirms the worst of Iqbal’s fears. Jinnah also saw that all too clearly. All around him he saw the liberty and faith of Muslims under attack: internally, atrocities against Muslims by both the British and Hindus continued to multiply; externally, the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate had crumbled. Jinnah thus had no other choice but to fight for “a consolidated Muslim State.” It was his genius, commitment and sheer hard work that ensured the creation of a homeland for the Muslims of India.
However, while Jinnah rescued the Muslims from British as well as Hindu imperialism, he did not deliver them to Islam. He could not do that for a number of reasons. He had a love-hate relationship with the West; he knew that Western ways of being and doing were not healthy. Listen to him on his deathbed:
“The economic system of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity, and to many of us it appears that only a miracle can save it from the diaster that is now facing the world. It had failed to do justice between man and man and to eradicate friction form the international field. On the contrary, it was largely responsible for the two world wars in the last half-century. The Western world, in spite of its advantages of mechanisation and industrial efficiency, is today in history. The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contented people. We must work our destiny in our own way, and present to the world an economic system based on the true Islamic concept of equality of man kind and social justice. We will thereby be fulfilling our mission as Muslims and giving to humanity the message of peace which alone can save it and secure the welfare, happiness and prosperity of mankind.”
He said this on 1 July 1948, before it became fashionable to talk about Islamic economics or to worry about a New International Economic Order. Yet Jinnah was very much a product of the Western system. That he presented Islam in western terms as “ideology” and moulded Pakistan as a western-type “nation state” is hardly surprising. What else could he have done? There were few other models he could have followed.
Jinnah’s predicament was that he had no intellectual back up to help him realise the true vision of Pakistan. The few traditional scholars who could have provided him with fresh ideas were too astonished at the speed with which things happened to have full control of their intellectual faculties. Consider, for example, the confusion in the mind of Maulana Abul Ala Maududi: first he taught that Pakistan was a bad idea, but when it became a reality, he changed his view. He was originally of the opinion that constitutional reform was the way to an Islamic state, then he opted for democracy and when that did not work either, he thought that working with a benevolent military dictatorship may be the way forward. Maulana Abu Kalam Azad, perhaps the most intellectually powerful of the traditional scholars, simply sold out: he preferred the company of Gandhi and Nehru to that of Jinnah. An assortment of other ‘ulama’ were too busy arguing over the translation of bismillah and how the constitution of the new state would guarantee that sovereignty belongs to Allah (as if it could belong to anyone else!) to worry about the formidable intellectual agenda of the new country.
Given the status of the traditional scholars, it was natural that a modernist leadership would take over the running of Pakistan. Jinnah had more confidence in the bureaucracy than in the politicians or the ‘ulama’. He thus placed Pakistan in the hands of a civil service which was originally trained to administer the Raj. And this bureaucracy did what it was programmed to do – it turned Pakistan into a replica of a colonial state. In this task, the bureaucracy was ably assisted by the Government of India Act 1935, a product of the British parliament designed to give dictatorial powers to a provincial governor, which became the basis of Pakistan’s constitution.
In the early days of Pakistan, the civil service scored a few initial victories: it ensured the survival of Pakistan in its infancy against enormous political and economic pressures from India. It even believed in the goals of Pakistani nationhood. What Liaquat Ali khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, told the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in early 1949, echoed not only the thoughts of the politicians but also the sentiments of the bureaucracy:
“The State is not to play the part of neutral observer, wherein the Muslims may be merely free to profess and practice their religion, because such an attitude on the part of the State would be the very negation of the ideals which promoted the demand of Pakistan and it is these ideals which should be the cornerstone of the state which we want to build. The state will create such conditions as are conducive to the building up of a truly Islamic society, which means that the state will have to play a positive part in this effort.’’
But how was the state to do this? Liaquat Ali Khan did not live to tell us. But the civil service and those who followed him certainly did not have a clue.
The bureaucracy, however, did know how to build a state. After all, its sole function is to run the apparatus of the state and without a state it has no function. So, while the politicians fought it out amongst themselves and debated the pros and cons of an Islamic constitution, the civil service set out to build a modern state. And they adopted the only model at hand, the only model they understood, the only model they could work; the model of a western nation state.
The western concept of state has its origins in the city-states of Greece. The modern western state is a direct descendant of the Socratic theory of a “just state”. For Socrates, and the Greek philosophers who followed him, an ideal state is organized into three types of citizens. First, there are the common people, artisans and merchants, who provide the material wealth for the state’s existence. Next is the military who have the responsibility of protecting the state and keeping internal law and order. Finally, there is the class of rulers and guardians, who govern and legislate. To ensure the stability of the state, the three orders are kept separate. To make everyone feel content with his role in society, the “rule of and by the people’’ or democracy, was introduced. However, in the Greek states, the “people” and the “citizens” were synonymous: democracy for Greeks implied a strictly oligarchic form of government. The “people” were the free-born inhabitants of the state, who were rarely more than one-tenth of the total population. The majority, for whom democracy had little meaning, were the serfs and slaves who actually oiled the wheels of state – the working class in Marxist terms.
The modern state contains all the trappings of its Greek counterpart. Pakistan adopted the model well; the only difference being that the military, in its zeal to maintain law and order became part of the ruling oligarchy.
Meanwhile, the ideology of Pakistan ensured the legitimacy of such a state. The founding fathers envisaged the Muslims of India as a “separate nation”. In the pre-independence days, and to some extent in the early stages of Pakistan, this “nation” was said to embrace the “ideology of Islam.” Later, the ‘ideology of Islam’ became synonymous with the “ideology of Pakistan.” In either case, this ideology was not seen as a system of ideas and concepts, but as a catalogue of do’s and don’ts whose only binding force was emotion. However, with Pakistan standing for Islam, it was natural for some people to confuse national emotions with Islamic sentiments. Almost every Pakistani leader, from Sikendar Mirza to Ayub Khan, Zulfikar Ali Butto and Zia ul Haq, has used “Pakistan’s ideology”, and the arch-spokesman of this ideology, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as an excuse to legitimize their abhorrent actions. Perhaps the most notorious example of this was Bhutto’s attempt to introduce “Islamic socialism”. He justified it by saying that Jinnah himself supported the idea and talked about it as could easily be confirmed by examining his speeches!
Ideology, like state, is a western notion. And here too, just as in the case of “State”, the logic and grammar of the notion has remained paramount in the Pakistani mind; indeed it has transformed it. As originally conceived by the French philosopher Destutt de Tracy, ideology was meant to denote a “Science of ideas” which revealed one’s biases and prejudices. De Tracy believed only in sense perception and was an empiricist. Thus ideology for him was a kind of secular religion. The concept soon gained wide currency, signifying not a science of ideas, but a set of beliefs, ideas, values and emotions. Marx and Mannheim gave the concept their individual colour. In Marx’s hands, ideology became associated with the vested interests of a ruling class or the aspirations of the petty bourgeoisie. It is something that is by its nature anti-people. Marxists, therefore, are always “unmasking” and “exposing” ideology. Mannheim used the term to present all thought distorted by passion to conserve the status quo or restore the past. For him, ideology represents the programme of action of a vested groups; it is reactionary and conservative.
Thus ideology is the antithesis of Islam. It is an enterprise of suppression and not a force for liberation. Islam is an invitation to thought and analysis, not to imitation and emotional and political freebooting. Ideology ensures that mistakes and errors are perpetuated; Islam requires an open attitude where mistakes are freely admitted and efforts made to correct them. Islam is not, and cannot be, moulded into ideological boundaries.
Whatever role Islam may have played in the creation of Pakistan, the two dominant ideas, “nation state” and “ideology” have worked like clock -work to turn Pakistan into a poor imitation of a western state. In this respect, nothing has gone wrong with Pakistan. It has become what it set out to become.
However, the fact that Islam was the underlying motivation for Pakistan has led many to conclude that Pakistan presents a picture of contemporary “Islamic state”. By equating Islam with ideology, Pakistani intellectuals presented Islam as a reactionary force, the concern of various vested groups such as mullahs and against the interest of the vast majority. And when Islam became associated with the “ideology of Pakistan”, even the legitimate existence of Pakistan was brought into question. If “Islam” and the “ideology of Pakistan” are the same, and if Pakistan came into existence to implement this ideology, and if Islam is reactionary, anti-people and the concern of a vested interest, then Pakistan by definition is a despotic place where the suppression of the people is, and ought to be, the norm. Who needs such a state?
The traditional sector provides ample illustrations to ensure that this image has crystalised. From the average Imam of a mosque to the ‘ulama’ active in politics, Pakistani traditional leaders are amongst the most narrow minded, bigoted, antiquated, thoroughly chauvinistic and opportunistic bunch in the business. For them, Islam is personal property to be rented out and leased, hired and sold. The demand of Nizam-e-Mustafa for them is essentially a demand to have a piece of the political action. If one were to specifically look for a single pair of shoulders on which to place the responsibility for the failure of Pakistan as an Islamic state, it would be on those of the traditional sector. To a very large extent, the failure of the Pakistan is the failure of the ‘ulama’ and the traditional leadership. In its entire history, Pakistan has not produced one traditional scholar who has the undisputed attention of the people, the intellectual acumen to understand the complexities of modern life and a contemporary appreciation of Islam.
No wonder, then, that the average Pakistani cringes with fear at the mention of “Islamic rule” to turn Pakistan into an “Islamic state”, as in the case of General Zia’s Islamization programme, their worst fears are realized. Consider the picture: a military dictator sits on the throne charged with the belief that he has a divine mandate to impose Islam on the masses. His first actions are to introduce “Islamic punishments” – as if Islam begins and ends with them – and various public floggings take place to convey the message that he means business. Various groups of the ‘ulama’and Islamic parties seek appointments in his government and applaud his actions. He declares women to be non-entities, establishes a “Council of Islamic Ideology” and various “Sharia” courts where summary justice is seen to be done. Can there be a better invitation to Islam than this?
Given this state of affairs, what does the future hold for Pakistan? Despite all the short comings of the traditional leadership which is out of touch with contemporary realities, modernist scholars who suffer from an acute sense of inferiority, a bureaucracy that is determined to mould the country in the image of the Raj, and an army that has been more active against its own people than outsiders, Pakistan has still a lot going for it. There is perhaps more talent and pure intellectual power amongst the Pakistanis than any other Muslim community in the world. This is not a biased view: simply witness the position, respect, wealth and, in some cases, power that Pakistani expatriates – scientists, engineers, economists, doctors, academics, intellectuals and radicals – have acquired in the United States, Canada and Britain, as well as in international bodies like the World Bank and various US institutions, their role in supporting the rich Arab states as well as the thriving Pakistani communities as far afield as South Africa and the Fiji Isles. Pakistani intellectual resources are making their presence felt simply everywhere; except perhaps in Pakistan. And Pakistani idealism for Islam is simply unmatched. This talent and idealism have the ability to become a formi dable Islamic force.
But for this transformation to occur, Pakistan has to re-examine many of its hitherto dominant themes. Perhaps the theme that has the strongest hold on the Pakistani psyche is the notion that the ultimate justification for Pakistan is as an Islamic state. This notion has become an end in itself; and all means, Islamic and un-Islamic, Just and unjust, have been used and will be used, to turn Pakistan into an “Islamic state”. If there were a magic formula by which this could be done, it would be a productive endeavour. The fact is would we be able to recognise – and by “we” I include all ‘ulama’, modern scholars and intellectuals of the Muslim World – an Islamic state if we came face to face with it? Mohammad Asad, who was the first Director of the Department of Islamic reconstruction in Punjab, admits in the preface to his book, The Principles of Government and State in Islam (Dar al-Andalus, Gibraltar, 1980, first published in 1961) that just after its birth no one in Pakistan had the foggiest idea what constituted an Islamic state, how it could come about and indeed be recognized when it arrived.
“What was needed was the outline of a constitution which would be Islamic in the full sense of the word and would also take the practical requirements of our time into consideration: a demand that was justified by our conviction that the social scheme of Islam supplied valid answers to problems of all times and all stages of human development. Nevertheless, the existing Islamic literature offered no guidance in our difficulty. Some Muslim scholars of earlier centuries – especially of the Abbasid period – have bequeathed to us a number of works on the political law of Islam; but their approach to the problems had naturally been conditioned by the existing cultural environment and by the socio-political requirements of their time and the results of their labours were therefore inapplicable to the needs of the Islamic state of the 20th century. The available modern Muslim works on the same subject, on the other hand, suffered as a rule from too great a readiness to accept the political concepts, institutions and governmental methods of modern Europe as the norm to which (in the opinion of these authors) a modern Islamic state should conform: an attitude which in many cases resulted in the adoption by these authors of many concepts which are diametrically opposed to the true demands of Islamic ideology. Thus, neither the works of our predecessors nor those of our contemporaries could furnish a satisfactory conceptual basis on which the new state of Pakistan could be built”.
Not much has changed since Mohammad Asad wrote these lines. If one does not know one is looking for (even the term itself is self contradictory; Islam is uncompromisingly universal; state is unquestionably parochial), how can one find it? And if the pursuit of an Islamic state becomes an ideology itself, then reason and justice are readily sacrificed at the altar of emotions. And there are always those who take upon themselves the role of the guardians of the ideology, who regard themselves more equal than others and are ever ready to prove it.
If in seeking to transform itself into an Islamic state Pakistan is chasing a chimera, what other right does it have for existing? Are the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for Pakistan to be written off? On the contrary, nothing but Islam can provide legitimacy for Pakistan’s existence. But Pakistan’s desire to become an “Islamic State” should not become an end in itself, only a means to make Islam the dominant order of the country. Instead of seeking to be “Islamic State” Pakistan should seek to realize certain manifestations of Islam which are clear and distinct. Instead of seeking the Grand Goal of becoming an Islamic state, perhaps administrators and Islamic activists could concentrate on such simple and admittedly boring issues as justice and fair play, tolerance and social equality, a more even distribution of wealth, freedom of expression and creativity. “Islamic State”, if it has a meaning, is a process of becoming, not an instant product that is imposed from above irrespective of ills and injustices that are dominant in society. Pakistani intellectuals and ‘ulama’ owe it to their integrity to articulate such basic notions of Islam as justice and equity, brotherhood and political consent in accordance with contemporary reality and to fight for policies through which these principles can be integrated within the fabric of society. The state will then automatically become “Islamic”.
The ultimate goal of Pakistan, indeed of any Muslim community, is the creation of a community of people where at least a few basic principles of Islam are clearly paramount. These principles are best expressed in terms of such Islamic concepts as adl (justice), khilafa (trusteeship), shura (consultation) and istislah (public interest). No society, however many devout and pious Muslims it may contain, has the right to categorize itself as Islamic if it does not fulfill these minimum conditions.
Justice, in all its multi-disciplinary facets, is the ultimate social, economic and political goal of Islam. Without justice a Muslim community becomes a pathetic caricature. Islamic ideals of justice are concrete and readily recognizable: they aim at universal equity, individual freedom and social dignity. To achieve these goals, national, economic and political affairs have to be arranged in such a way that every member of society is able to fulfill his physical needs and finds as few hurdles and as much encouragement as possible in the development of his potential and personality. Everyone is equal before the law and every man and woman has the opportunity to realize the ethical goals of Islam in the practical spheres of their lives. It is obvious that such notion of justice cannot permit wealth to be concentrated amongst a few families, a rural population that is largely landless, a social structure that reserves unfair advantages and privileges for a certain class (including the military) and oppressive social customs (mostly borrowed from Hindus) that aggravate the miseries of the poor. Neither can it allow the aggregation of political power in a single class or individual.
When the concept of adl is combined with the ideas of khilafa, istislah and shura, the true nature of social, economic and political goal of a Muslim community come to the fore. As a Khalifah, or trustee of Allah, man is accountable for his trust. This accountability is not just for the Hereafter (akhirah), but accountability is sought here and now. This accountability is sought in terms of istislah or public interest. Istislah has to be the guiding principle for all public policy, social development and economic reforms. Thus a feudal lord who owns more land than he obviously needs for his family’s needs is clearly violating the dictates of istislah. Or an industrialist putting up a factory that will pollute the environment and kill off the local river is going against the dictates of both khilafah and istislah. Finally, the principle of shura presupposes that the government which is making policies based on the dictates of justice, trusteeship and public interest and undertaking urgently needed reforms has come into existence on the basis of the community’s free choice and is fully representative of this choice. Shura does not mean hand-picking a group of your psychophants and seeking their approval. It means consulting the community as a whole. Acquisition of power without the consent of the whole community amounts to, as Mohammed Asad points out, the “conquest” of the Muslim community. Those who seek to impose Islam by such means, no matter how sincere their intentions, are only worthy of the community’s contempt.
No Muslim would disagree with the fact that unlike democracy, where sovereignty belongs to the people, in Islam sovereignty belongs to God. However, this does not mean that Islam requires that people should be excluded from the political processes. Or because the people completely agree that the Qur’an and Sunnah are their guide, they do not have different opinion or ideas about how to make Islam the dominant order of the community. Why should an individual group have the monopoly of ideas on how best to implement the principles and injunctions of Islam? Just because two groups of people share a set of goals does not mean that they cannot develop two alternative and equally valid approaches to achieve those goals. And why shouldn’t the community as a whole be given the choice of selecting which group has the best policy and therefore the best chance of realizing the goals that everyone cherishes? The efforts of various Pakistani intellectuals, not least the group that produced the benign Ansari Commission’s Report, to justify the muzzling of dissent and banning of political parties, silencing of creativity in arts and television, and suppression of thought, is truly dumbfounding. Such endeavours are based not just on perverse logic but also make a mockery of Islam.
Equally perverse is the logic of those who seek to implant alien physical and mental structures on Pakistan. If the Muslims of India desired a secular state they would have stayed in India. If they wished to create a socialist or communist country, they would have joined the Soviet Union whose appetite for colonizing the Muslim people has no limits. There is a large segment of Pakistani intelligentsia which is trying to turn Pakistan into something it can never become. To hope that Pakistan will become a Marxist paradise or a secular heaven is to be a benighted imbecile. To actually work for such a goal is to negate the legitimacy of the country.
However, if those who have mortgaged their minds to alien thinkers and those who spend their intellectual energies justifying demagoguery and despotism are concerned about the issues of justice and equity, accountability and public interest, consultation and participation, they ought to turn their thought to a number of pressing issues that have to be tackled before Pakistan can take the initial steps to become a viable Islamic community:


  •  The persistence of poverty. A prime objective of an Islamic society is to fulfill the basic physical needs of the community. What attitudinal and institutional changes and land and organizational reforms are needed to ensure that the basic needs of every Pakistani are satisfied?
  •  The management of fairness, Shariah courts and military tribunals notwithstanding. Pakistan is a very unfair society. What institutional and organizational changes will ensure that unfair privileges are curtailed, including the privileges of the military, and equality or opportunity and participation, the true dictates of istislah and shura become the norm?
  •  The acceptance of diversity. Pakistan is an amalgam of numerous ethnic minorities and cultural groups; and despite the oft-repeated slogan that Islam unites them all, each group is suspicious of and detests the other groups. What can be done to remove this suspicion and ensure mutual cooperation and community spirit? What institutional and organizational changes are needed to ensure that each group has equal access to power? What steps can be taken to promote cultural flowering of each group? In short, what can be done to turn cultural and ethnic diversity into a major source of Pakistan’s strength?
  •  The indigenization of science. Science and technology are a community’s basis tools for solving its physical problems. What attitudinal and organizational changes are needed to give Pakistani scientists and engineers self respect and to ensure that science and technology take social and intellectual roots in the country. What can be done to make Pakistan self-reliant in science and technology?
  •  The quality of environment. Pakistani cities are ugly, badly planned and over-populated. Rural areas are neglected and under-nourished. What institutional changes are needed to enhance the urban and rural environment of the country? What attitudinal changes are needed to persuade the people to improve the quality of their own environment? And fight for it when it becomes essential?
  • The spread of ideas. Pakistan has no publication industry worthy of the name, no intellectual forums of journals that deserve respect, no arena where ideas are knocked about and shaped. What institutional and organizational changes would produce a thriving intellectual industry? How can the vast reading public be saved from the onslaughts of pestiferous “digests” and other emotionally cheap and mentally vacuous publications that pour out of the printing presses up and down the country?

This, by no means, is supposed to be a complete catalogue of issues that need attention. There are, of course, numerous other issues some of which are theoretical and have relevance even outside Pakistan (how to combine individual self-fulfillment with individual acceptance of social responsibility? How to define limits to dissent in an Islamic society increasingly vulnerable to disruption? How to achieve social change and much needed reforms while preserving a concern for the individual and a caring community? But the point is that Pakistani intellectuals have never addressed such issues, despite the fact that they are there for all to see. Instead they have taken the easy way out by political slogan mongering and borrowing ideas and solutions.
An Islamic society, let alone a state, cannot come about in the absence of proper intellectual home work. As long as intellectuals and ulama have no real answers but only slogans, as long as Islam remains the business of a few and not the purview of the vast majority, opportunist politicians and the military will continue to exploit the confusion that is paramount in Pakistani society and culture.

However, if the Pakistani intellectual community manages to solve some of the pressing problems of the country, they will not only put Pakistan on course towards its true destiny, but will also shape the future of the entire Muslim ummah. In many respects the problems of Pakistan are not unique: they are plaguing every Muslim country and community. Thus solutions to Pakistan’s problems could well turn out to be the answers to the contemporary needs of the ummah. As such no Muslim can afford to be complacent about Pakistan and its future.

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