Allama Iqbal and the Muslim League
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

Unlike other Muslim League stalwarts of his day Allama Iqbal’s main contribution to the Pakistan Movement is mainly in the evolution of Muslims of India’s demand for a separate homeland.

This idea first expounded by Maulana Abdul Haleem Sharar in Weekly ‘Muhazzab’, Lucknow (August 23, 1890) and advocated by Khairi Brothers (Jabbar Khairi and Sattar Khairi) in Stockholm’s Socialist International (1917), Chaudhry Rehmat Ali in his book ‘Pakistan’ (1915), Sardar Muhammad Gul Khan, (1922) and Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan (1929). Even Lala Lajpal Rai, a Hindu leader from the Punjab supported the idea of Muslim India comprising four regions. Allama Iqbal not only agreed with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s two-nation theory, but he is the only Muslim leader who intensely thought over and ventilated Muslims’ demand for separate homeland in his poetry and writings. The first phase of Iqbal’s poetry (1898 – 1905) is for a concept of homeland which overrides any distinctions of creed. He was a staunch nationalist tilting towards the Islamic concept of Oneness of Being (Wahdat-ul-Wujood).

However, a significant change occurred in his thought with the increasing fury of the Congress protest against the partition of Bangal in 1905 which had provided a sense of security to the Bengali Muslims. The partition was actively supported by the All India Muslim League, formed in 1906 with its headquarter in Aligarh. Iqbal has given vent to his feeling of disgust over the Congress protest in his poem ‘Abdul Qadir Ke Nam’ in 1906. This poem signifies a break from his ardent belief in Indian nationalism. He clearly adopts in this poem a new concept of Muslim Millat.

Alas! See that a new darkness has engulfed the eastern horizon

Let us spreads light with flames of our voice

Look! In the holy land, the lovers way of life has been renounced

Let us inspire other Qais (the lover) with new dreams

Later on we see in 1908 that he composes a Tarana-i-Milli (The Anthem of the Islamic Community) Translated by: D. J. Mathews.

Even some ghazals composed during this period signify a change which has occurred after his European sojourn with the growing belief that Asia will eventually rise for its as proved by the Japanese victory over Russia in 1903. In his poem on Wataniat (Territorial Nationalism) and in his ‘Stray Reflections’ (1910) Allama Iqbal is seen providing intellectual muscles to the vague and abstract notion of what the Muslim Millat could do in its hour of trial. In his analytic article Political Thought in Islam which appeared in Hindustan Times, Vols. 42-43 (1910-1911) Iqbal wrote:

… Nationality, with Islam, is not the highest limit of political development. For the general principles of the Law of Islam rests on human nature, not on the peculiarities of a particular people. The inner cohesion of such a notion would consist not in ethnic or geographic unity, nor in the unity of language or social tradition, but in the unity of religious and political ideal. Or, in the psychological fact of like mindedness.

Now, if we closely study Iqbal’s thought from 1905 – 1908, we see that most of the Muslim leaders have expressed these strands of thought in their own way but no one seems to be escaping from the stamp of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Allam Iqbal’s arguments in favour of Muslim Nationalism or against Indian nationalism. Iqbal as we know was not a great supporter of the Caliphate Movement because he thought that the symbol of Muslim aspirations was himself a captive of Imperialism. We can see his support to Mustafa Kamal in the “Reconstruction of Islam” to vouchsafe the result of this statement. Hence the whole hullabaloo about Khilafat, Hijrat and Non-Cooperation for Iqbal was only grist to the mills of Indian nationalism. These movements amounted to undermine of the success of Muslim nationalism. M. A. Jinnah was also a bit lukewarm about the Caliphate agitation simply because of the fact that Mahatama Gandhi, through his support to the Khilafat Movement, was weaning the Muslims away from the focus of their priorities.

Iqbal didn’t want to enter regular politics but, in 1926, some Muslim leaders of Punjab prevailed upon him to contest election for Punjab Assembly for the Lahore Urban Muslim Constituency. He was officially declared as a member of the Assembly on December 05, 1926. Soon thereafter he joined the Unionist Party of Mian Fazl-i-Husain.

Later on he joined the Muslim League in January 1927. Though his sympathies for Muslim League were evident right from 1906. Thereafter he became a Member of Punjab Muslim League Council on November 13, 1927. It was possible in those days to be associated with two parties. Iqbal, however, continued to oppose the brazen-faced feudalism. Allama Iqbal’s views were, in consonance with the Muslim League right from 1906 when he wrote his poem ‘Abdul Qadir Ke Nam’. Iqbal proved himself to be a great champion of the Muslim urban population which remained neglected for years owing to the Unionist Party’s support among the Muslim feudal, and Hindu-Sikh mercantilist lobby. However, the records of the Punjab Assembly show Iqbal’s strong support for universal education, Muslim Quota in services, increased aid to Muslim schools, healthcare transfer of Income Tax from the Centre to the Province and economic development of Punjabi Muslims will be gratefully remembered by the posterity.

However, in early 1927, the central Muslim League faced an inner dissention over the Simon Commission. Mian Muhammad Shafi’s group favoured the Simon Commission and M. A. Jinnah’s faction opposed it. Iqbal, being a close associate of Mian Muhammad Shafi, found himself arraigned against Jinnah’s faction. There was a split in the Muslim League. It was for the first time that the Annual Conference of Shafi Group was held in Lahore and that of the Jinnah Group in Calcutta. Shafi League then changed its faction’s name to All Parties Muslim Conference and persuaded the Aga Khan, Nawab Chatari and Dr. Sir Ziauddin to join its first session, held on December 31, 1928. Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar and Maulana Hasrat Mohani also attended the Conference.

The Jinnah group appointed a committee to draft a constitution for India. However, the tenacity of the Congress not to budge from the Nehru Report – which had made short shrift of the Lucknow Agreement, disappointed Jinnah. In March 1929, Mian Shafi and Jinnah met at Delhi in December 1930 and agreed to unite the two groups of Muslim League. Jinnah and issued a statement to the League Council that the Nehru Report was not acceptable to the Muslims. Iqbal and Jinnah became the leaders of the United Muslim League.

Muslim League’s turning point: The 1930 Session had Allama Iqbal as its President and it was his address in Allahabad which could truly be called the Turning Point in the Muslim politics of the sub-continent. Almost all historians and chroniclers of the Pakistan Movement have regarded this Address on December 29, 1930 as a masterpiece for its clarity of exposition of the communal problem of the sub-continent. It is a pity that only one book ‘Talash-i-Iqbal’ has provided Urdu readers the most authentic translation of this address so far. Iqbal’s argument was:

“The religious ideal of Islam is organically related to the social order which it has created. The reflection of the one will eventually involve the rejection of the other. Therefore, the construction of a polity on national lines, if it means a displacement of the Islamic principle of solidarity, is simply unthinkable to a Muslim – I would like to see the Punjab, NWFP, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire appears to me the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India – I therefore demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim state in the best interest of India and Islam”.

(Note: The state of Jammu & Kashmir could not to be referred to in this state as its accession related the Maharajah’s formal accession to either of the two states in any scheme of Transfer of Power. Hence it was not to be treated as an Indian province under the administrative control of the British government).

Assuring full cooperation to other nations of the India, sub-continent, Iqbal had observed: “And as far as I have been able to read the Muslim mind, I have no hesitation in declaring that if the principle that Indian Muslim is entitled to full and free development on the lines of his own culture and tradition in his own Indian homeland is recognized as the basis of a permanent communal settlement, he will be ready to stake his all for the free down of India – the need not alarm the Hindus or the British…”

But the idea alarmed the British as well as the Congress. The British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald “was highly displeased with the views expressed by Iqbal”. A dispatch, published in Daily Leader, Allahabad, the next stated that the British as well as Indian circles in the Round Table Conference expressed resentment against what is called an assault made by Iqbal on the idea of an all India Constitution being worked over there. Iqbal further elaborated this point in his address to the National League of London on December 10, 1932. “The point of Muslims of India is that as a people representing a distinct historical tradition and homogeneity, which is not possessed by any other community in India, as such people they want to live and develop on their own cultural lives. We are 80,000,000 in India and we want to protect our own culture and our own historical tradition. It is on Allama Iqbal’s above quoted statements and other speeches that the publicity booklets, prepared by Pakistan Study Circle, Bombay, have mainly drawn upon in 1945-1946. Allama Iqbal was Secretary of Punjab Muslim League during the crucial 1936 elections to the Provincial Assemblies under the government of India Act 1935. It was during this period that: We come across his differences with the Quaid-i-Azam on the Jinnah-Sikandar Pact Allama Iqbal saw it as a sign of weakness of the AIML and a compromise on the political strength of the Muslims. On the contrary the Quaid-i-Azam held the view that this Pact would strengthen the bargaining position of the Muslim League as the representative of one of the most popular Muslim majority province. Allama Iqbal, later on, agreed with the Quaid-i-Azam and supported the Muslim League candidates despite his illness. However, it was eventually proved beyond any doubt that the Unionists were not prepared to honour their commitment to lend their full support to in its dealing with the Congress and the British the Muslim League. This fact is evident from the fact that very few Muslim seats were won by the Muslim League in the election. Truly Allama Iqbal, as a Muslim League leader, was much move ahead of most of the Muslim League leaders. He sounds a bit idealist but deep down he was a pragmatist.

In a letter to M. A. Jinnah dated May 28, 1937 he wrote: The League will have to finally decide whether it will remain a body representing the upper classes or Muslim masses… the problem of bread is becoming more and more acute. The Muslim has begun to feel that he has been going down and down during the last 200 years. Ordinarily he believes that his poverty is due to Hindu money-lending or capitalism... The atheistic socialism of Jawaharlal is not likely to receive much response from the Muslims. The question therefore is how is it possible to solve the problem of Muslim poverty?

The above letter, emphatically, proves that the poet-philosopher, who looked upon Quaid-i-Azam as the only leader of Muslims India to lead them towards the goals of the flowering of Islamic values and eradication of their poverty, was no one else but Iqbal and his contribution to the Muslim League was seminal in so far as philosophical mentorship was concerned. Iqbal was wedded to the idea of change and adaptability in response to the modern challenges – a view which has always been contested by these who are averse to the idea of moving with the times and his Allahabad Address proves that he was a pragmatic politician.


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