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  Jinnah and Secularism  


By: Prof.Dipak Basu
July 03, 2005
iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

(The author is a Professor in International Economics at Nagasaki University, Japan)


The recent statement of Advani in Pakistan to declare Jinnah as a secularist has raised a lot of emotions in India. Jinnah’s claim to secularism is derived from just one speech he made on 11 August 1947 in the constituent Assembly in front of Lord.Mountbatten for the consumption of the eminent Britishers gathered there. In that speech, Jinnah said that in future Pakistan, everyone would be treated equally irrespective of their religion and non-Muslims would be free to practice their religions in Pakistan. Does that speech makes Jinnah a “secularist”?

Definition of secularism:

Secularism is defined in the Webster’s dictionary as: "A system of doctrines and practices that rejects any form of religious faith and worship" or "The belief that religion and ecclesiastical affairs should not enter into the function of the state especially into public education.” The Oxford English Dictionary states that secularism is the doctrine that morality should be based solely on regard to the well being of mankind in the present life to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God or in a future state.
George Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh were two leading secularists and atheists of England in the 19th Century, from whom we have obtained the word ‘secularism’. According to Holyoake, secularism maintains the sufficiency of secular reason for guidance in human duties. Secularism also includes the utilitarian rule that makes the good of others, the law of duty.

Equal treatment of people of different religions or equal respects for all religions, is not secularism, which implies the affairs of the state must not be influenced by any religious or moral consideration at all. The state must adhere to the strict code of ‘rationality’, which means maximization of its utility irrespective of moral or religious codes.
Jinnah, who has devoted his life to create a nation for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, was not secular at all in this sense.

Muslims and Secularism:

Secularism has no support in Islam. According to Islam, what Mohammed spoke is the law that controls everything in the Universe. This is the system of life that has been responsible for the creation of everything existing in it, and their continuity. "God can guide you to the Truth. Who is more worthy to be followed: He that can guide to the Truth, or he that cannot and is himself in need of guidance? What has come over you that you so judge?” (`The Koran` 10:35) "He that fights for God`s cause fights for himself. God needs no man`s help.” (`The Koran` 29:6).

The Rule of Allah (Shariah) is compulsory and has basic laws and regulations that cannot be changed. Some of these laws are concerned with the acts of worship, the relations between men and women, etc. What is the position of secularism with regard to these laws? Secularism makes adultery lawful if the male and the female are consenting adults. Riba or interest on borrowed money is the basis of all financial transactions in secular economies. On the contrary, The Koran forbids it. As for alcohol, all secular systems allow the consumption of alcohol and make selling it a lawful business.
Secularism is based on separating religion from all the affairs of this life and hence, it rules by law and regulations other than Allah`s laws. Hence, secularism rejects Allah`s rules with no exception and prefers regulations other than Allah and His Messenger`s. For Muslim societies, the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shariah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions.
If someone says Jinnah was a secular, it makes Jinnah anti-Islam. To judge Jinnah it is essential to examine his activities and motive, which would prove beyond doubt that Jinnah was devoted to the cause of a Muslim nation, not a secular state.

Activities of Jinnah:

Jinnah was the most Westernized political leader in all the annals of Indian Islam; no other Muslim political leader could match him in terms of modernity and a modern outlook. He was completely at home with the Anglo-Indian society in cosmopolitan Bombay and metropolitan London. During his chequered career, Jinnah encountered an exceedingly large number of non-Muslim leading personalities and a host of British officials, more than any other Muslim leader and had interacted with them for some four decades. However, during that time Jinnah married a Zoroastrian girl only after getting her converted to Islam. So much so for the ‘Secularist’ Jinnah.

Since 1897, Jinnah was active in Anjuman-I-Islam, Muslim Bombay`s foremost religio-political body. In 1906, Jinnah opposed the demand for separate electorates, but before long his opposition thawed when he realized that the demand had "the mandate of the community" of the Muslims in India. In 1910, he was elected to the Imperial Council on a reserved Muslim seat. From then on, he came in close contact with Nadwah, Aligarh and the All India Muslim League (AIML), and he was chosen by the AIML to sponsor a bill on Waqf alal Aulad, a problem of deep concern to Muslims since the time of Syed Ahmad Khan.

He joined the AIML formally in October 1913 (although he gave up his membership of the Congress in 1920 opposing Gandhi’s policy to confront the British) and became its President in 1916. One result of his efforts was the Congress-Muslim League Lucknow Pact of 1916, which settled the controversial separate electorate for the Muslims, paving the way for Pakistan in future.

For Jinnah, while national freedom for both Hindus and Muslims continued to be the supreme goal, the means adopted to achieve it underwent a dramatic change. The ultimate objective was to ensure political power for Muslims.

The period after 1937 Jinnah has developed close friendship with Mohammed Iqbal, the spiritual founder of the concept of Pakistan. Jinnah called Muslims `a nation`, stressing their distinct religion, culture, language, and civilization, and calling on them to "live or die as a nation". He even called the League flag `the flag of Islam`, arguing, "you cannot separate the Muslim League from Islam.

In an address to Gaya Muslim League Conference in January 1938, Jinnah begun mapping out his new worldview. He said, “When we say ‘This flag is the flag of Islam’ they think we are introducing religion into politics - a fact of which we are proud. Islam gives us a complete code. It is not only religion but it contains laws, philosophy, and politics. In fact, it contains everything that matters to a man from morning to night.”

In his address at Patna session of the Muslim League (26-29 December 1938) he declared: - “The behaviour of the Congress Ministers in the six or seven provinces in which they had gained power under the 1935 Act was that they had compelled Muslim children to accept ‘Bunde Matram’ as their national song though it was idolatrous and a hymn of hate against Muslims.”

In his historic declaration for Pakistan in the Muslim League conference in Lahore in 1940, he spelled out his reasons for reaching out towards the `Pakistan` goal arguing that, "Islam and Hinduism... are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are... different and distinct social orders", that "the Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literature", "to two different civilizations", that they "derive their inspiration from different sources of history"... (with) different epics, different heroes, and different episodes."

In his marathon talks with Gandhi in September 1944, Jinnah demanded the constituency for the plebiscite to decide upon the Pakistan demand would comprise only the Muslims, and not the entire population of the areas concerned.

After independence, as head of the state he had founded, Jinnah talked in the same strain. He talked of securing "liberty, fraternity and equality as enjoined upon us by Islam" (25 August 1947); of "Islamic democracy, Islamic social justice and the equality of manhood" (21 February 1948); of raising Pakistan on "sure foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism which emphasized equality and brotherhood of man" (26 March 1948); of laying "the foundations of our democracy on the basis of true Islamic ideals and principles" (14 August 1948); and "the onward march of renaissance of Islamic culture and ideals" (18 August 1947).
He called upon the mammoth Lahore audience in 30 October 1947, to build up "Pakistan as a bulwark of Islam", to "live up to your traditions and add to it another chapter of glory", adding, "If we take our inspiration and guidance from the Holy Quran, the final victory, I once again say, will be ours" (30 October 1947).

As for the specific institutions of the new state, he exhorted the armed forces to uphold "the high traditions of Islam and our National Banner" (8 November 1947); and commended the State Bank research organization to evolve "banking practices compatible with Islamic ideals of social and economic life" and to "work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice" (1 July 1948).

For Jinnah, "the creation of a State of our own was a means to an end and not the end in itself. The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play" (11 October 1947).

He told Edwards College students that "this mighty land has now been brought under a rule, which is Islamic, Muslim rule, as a sovereign independent State" (18 April 1948). He even described Pakistan as "the premier Islamic State" (February 1948).

Jinnah`s broadcast to the people of the United States (February 1948) was in a similar vein: “I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. …… ..We have many non- Muslims -- Hindus, Christians, and Parsis -- but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

This is the repetition of what Jinnah said on 11 August 1947, which was quoted by many as the proof that Jinnah was ‘Secularist par Excellence’, but it is misleading to say the least. Jinnah has said clearly that he wanted equal treatments of people of all religions within an Islamic state, not in a secular state.

While he laid a good deal of stress on Islamic ideals and principles, he ruled out theocracy, saying, "Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it. Islam demands from us the tolerance of other creeds." Technically speaking, theocracy means a government "by ordained priests, who wield authority as being specially appointed by those who claim to derive their rights from their sacerdotal position”.

Of all Jinnah`s pronouncements, his 11 August 1947 address has received the greatest attention since the birth of Pakistan, and spawned a good deal of controversy. That address contains:

“I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

Jinnah’s pronouncement was purely a political speech designed to please the gathered Britishers of some of the highest ranks, including Lord Mountbatten and to appease the Hindu minorities in Pakistan in order to protect the Muslims from the growing threat of communal violence in India.

A close study all of Jinnah`s pronouncements during 1934-48, and most of his pronouncement during the pre-1934 period, shows that the word, `secular` (signifying an ideology) does not find a mention in any of them. Even when confronted with the question, he evaded it -- as the following extracts from his 17 July 1947 press conference indicates:

Question: "Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?"

Mr. M.A. Jinnah: "You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means."

A correspondent suggested that a theocratic State meant a State where only people of a particular religion, for example, Muslims, could be full citizens and Non-Muslims would not be full citizens.

Mr. M.A. Jinnah: "Then it seems to me that what I have already said is like throwing water on duck`s back (laughter). When you talk of democracy, I am afraid you have not studied Islam. We learned democracy thirteen centuries ago."

Two-Nation Theory and Jinnah:

Pakistan is the result of the ‘Two Nation Theory”, propagated by Jinnah in the Lahore conference of the Muslim League in 1940, where Jinnah has expressed clearly that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together in one country as they are of separate nations. Mohammed Iqbal is credited with coming up with Two Nation theory in his speech at Allahabad in 1930 to the Muslim League.
” I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind, and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Moslem State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Moslems, at least of North-West India.”
Jinnah has supported Iqbal’s idea wholly. During 1937-39, several Muslim leaders inspired by Iqbal`s ideas, presented elaborate schemes for partitioning the subcontinent according to two-nation theory. It all culminated in 1940`s Lahore declaration for the creation of Pakistan.

Jinnah and the Exchange of Population:

Muslim League leaders, Jinnah included, had long advocated exchange of population between Muslim and non-Muslim India. All those, who advocated the establishment of a Muslim State – Pakistan, also advocated as its necessary corollary the exchange of population. Rahmat Ali, Syed Abdul Latif, and Jinnah, all these have been quoted to have expressed strong and unmistakable views for the exchange of Muslim and non-Muslim populations so as to make the future Muslim State more homogeneous, and to solve the minority problem.

Mr. Jinnah said, referring to the driving out of Hindus from Noakhali in 1946, that it was already transfer of population in action, and some machinery should be devised for affecting it peacefully and on a large scale. At a press conference in Karachi on November 25, 1946, Jinnah had appealed to the central as well as provincial governments to take up the question of exchange of population between future Pakistan and India based on religion.

The Dawn, then edited by Jinnah himself, in December 3, 1946 published a statement, entitled `Exchanged of Population a most practicable solution`, by Khan Iftikhar Hussain Khan of Mamdot, President of Punjab Muslim League. The Dawn, on December 4, 1946, said, the Muslim League demanded exchange of population and Sind Premier Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah had offered land for the Muslims of northern India. Sir Feroze Khan Noon, who later rose to be Prime Minister of Pakistan, while addressing Muslim League legislators in Patna, had gone to the extent of threatening re-enactment of the murderous orgies of Chengez Khan and Halagu Khan if non-Muslims did not agree to an exchange of population. Shaukat Hayat Khan, son of the more famous Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, had also given out threats to support transfer of population".

Post-partition Pakistan rapidly exercised its terror mechanism to expel and decimate Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist population - probably in expectation of Muslims from India to arrive, under the full view of the then Governor General of Pakistan – Jinnah. When Pakistan became a serious political proposition after the statement of Clement Atlee, the then British prime-minister, on February 20, 1947 and progressively as August, 15, 1947 approached, the Muslim pace of eliminating non-Muslims from Pakistan was accelerated. Just on the eve of August 15 and after, when Jinnah was proclaiming his secularist credential in his speech, it became a ruthless driving out, an all-out campaign. Jinnah, as the first Governor General of Pakistan, has all the means to control the situation, but he was then busy to prepare for the invasion of Kashmir, which took place on 20 October 1947.

Exchange of population or even driving out of Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist population from the Muslim State, was inherent in the very conception of the State of Pakistan. When Pakistan was established, this inevitable finale to the process of its establishment was executed with equal zeal and collaboration by the people (Muslims) and Government of Pakistan. The process of elimination of minorities went on without check by the Muslim police, officials, and military, all under the control of Jinnah.

No responsible Pakistan or Muslim League leaders condemned such attacks on Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. Governor Mudie of West Punjab revealed in his letter to Jinnah his determination to throw Sikhs out of Pakistan at all costs. Jinnah did not have a word to utter about the murder of over 800 Sikhs in Karachi on 6 January 1948; Karachi was the hometown of Advani. Nor for the matter of that, a word about the massacres of Calcutta, Noakhali, the North-Western Frontier Province, Rawalpindi, Multan or any other.

Partition had its genesis in the Muslim refusal to live as equal partners with the non-Muslims in India after having ruled over them for centuries from 664AD before the European took over. Partition could also be attributed to Jinnah`s personal ambition of becoming the overlord of a part of India, when he knew that he could never be in charge of India as a whole.

Jinnah’s Islamic credential and the Two-Nation theory:

The two-nation theory has its roots in Islam`s two-world theory that splits humanity into momins and kafirs --- believers and infidels. It is the history, the political culture, and the passion of the Muslim to live in Dar-al-Islaam, or the Abode of Islam. Muslims everywhere have always striven to live within it. Islam even makes it the onerous duty of every Muslim, should he be unfortunate enough to find himself therein, to quit Daar-al-Harb (the House of War, or Non-Islam) and to seek refuge in a land ruled by a Muslim state. Pakistan was the dream of the Muslims in India before 1947 and Jinnah has made that dream into a reality.
In the national legislative elections held in 1945 across British India, the Muslim League captured all 30 seats reserved for Muslims in the Central Assembly; and in the elections for state legislatures in 1946, the Muslim League won 439 of the 494 seats allotted for Muslims in all British Indian states. Congress has then ceased to represent the Muslims.

The Cabinet Mission Plan of 16th May, 1946 was intended to divide India into the states grouped into Hindu and Muslim majority groups: (a) Bihar, U.P., Orissa, C.P., Bombay and Madras; (b) Assam and Bengal; (c) Punjab, NWF Province and Sindh.

Congress party agreed to this scheme. The Muslim League accepted it first, but rejected it subsequently, and announced in August 1946, its plan of Direct Action, announced by Jinnah himself. This led to the outbreak of riots in Calcutta in August 1946 and then in Noakhali in Chittagong area of East Bengal. The riots soon spread through Bihar to Rawalpindi in Punjab, and the NWFP. The statement in the House of Commons by Clement Attlee on 22 Feb. 1947, that Britain was handing over power by June 1948, set the smouldering fires into a full blaze. The riots broke out in Rawalpindi district in March 1947, and Nehru flew over the riot affected areas, and was shown the deep well into which Sikh and Hindu women had jumped to save their honour. He then agreed to the principle of partition of Punjab and Bengal, which had been vigorously demanded by the Sikhs all along in Punjab and later by the Hindus in Bengal as well. Jinnah has never condemned the riots and the massacres.


The life of Jinnah and his activities demonstrates very clearly a man driven by the idea of an Islamic state for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, although it would mean destruction of lives of millions and uprootments of millions more. The revisionists have tried to put a lot of emphasis on the life of Jinnah before 1937, however a close analysis of that life would show a deeply devoted Empire loyalist Muslim living in an Anglo-Saxon world and trying to gain acceptability from the British rulers by emulating the outward styles of them. He was the perfect example of the type of Muslims Syed Ahmed, the founder of the Aligarh University, has advocated, to enhance the interests of the Muslims in British India.

As a successful lawyer he was a very good actor, giving different speech to satisfy different audience, yet at the same time was ruthless and determined to achieve his target – to create a state only according to Islam, where the non-Muslims have to accept the supremacy of the Islamic way of life. This is not secularism in any sense of the term. The constitution of Pakistan, which he had proposed, and, was implemented in 1955, was for the Islamic State of Pakistan, not a secular state.

There is a growing body of opinion in India today, calling for a confederation of India and Pakistan to solve the problem of Kashmir. They, following the clue from the United States, are advocating autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir, visa free entry for the Pakistanis to India, regular trade and commerce between India and Pakistan, forgetting the torturous history of the subcontinent altogether. The appeasement policy towards Pakistan and Bangladesh by the previous government of Vajpayee and the current government of Man Mohan Singh provides ample examples of that route. The unfortunate statement of Advani, to declare Jinnah as a secularist, is the ultimate expression of that wrong policy.

Prof.Dipak Basu

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