DAWN, Books &
Authors November 4, 2007
The Inevitable Destination
Pakistan has one of the richest
foundational documents in the world. It is the presidential
address delivered by Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal at the annual
session of the Muslim League in Allahabad in December 1930.
So far the document has only been studied from the perspective
of political science and obviously such studies ignore the
literary aspects of the text. An alternate study of the
Allahabad Address (as it is popularly called) can
be rewarding and may bring out some futuristic aspects of
this national treasure.
For instance, here are the two famous two sentences (italicised
by Iqbal himself), which every school-going child in Pakistan
recognises very well:
‘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 Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny
of the Muslims at least of the North-West India.’
It may be noticed that the same thing is being said in each
sentence but the second sentence is more detailed. Since
that detail could have been included in the first sentence
itself and Iqbal as a wordsmith was especially known for
compactness, this ‘redundancy’ cannot be without
a reason. This is where stylistics comes in. We see that
the first sentence is a wish (‘I would like to see…’)
while the second is information (‘appears to me to
be the final destiny…’). Iqbal’s wish
is only to see the four provinces amalgamated into a single
state (as they are now in the shape of the present-day Pakistan).
However, ‘the final destiny’ of his people holds
some open possibilities, and which ones of these materialise
depends on how people react to events and the choices they
The ‘self-government’ of Muslims could occur
‘within the British Empire, or without the British
Empire.’ Leading Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal
has shown in her study of Jinnah, The Sole Spokesman (1985),
that right up to 1946 both options were open to the people
of India. Hence Iqbal worded his statement in a way that
could accommodate either possibility.
This self-government is the destiny, ‘at least’
of the Muslims of North-West India. The phrase ‘at
least’ has also revealed its significance since East
Bengal joined the federation of Pakistan at one time and
seceded afterwards. The future of Kashmir also remains undecided
as yet. But North-West India has remained self-governing
as the state we know as ‘Pakistan’, and hence
the phrase ‘at least’ is most appropriate.
Hence, while informing his audience about ‘the final
destiny’ or the future events of history he structures
his sentence in a manner that could include all the possible
‘ifs’ of history. Indeed, this is a very extraordinary
manner of making a political statement but if we list the
major theme of each section of the document we find that
this extraordinary statement is not hanging in midair but
in fact the whole document is carefully woven around it.
Quite frankly, it is something which we need to understand
if we care to know why Pakistan was conceived or if we are
curious about its destiny in the world.
Iqbal says at the very opening, ‘I lead no party;
I follow no leader.’ Instead, he says, he has given
the best part of his life to a careful study of Islam and
has developed, he thinks, ‘a kind of insight into
its significance as a world-fact.’ Then comes the
first section, ‘Islam and nationalism’, where
he admits that he is going to discuss things only from the
point of view he has already expressed in the opening lines.
From this point of view, ‘Man is not the citizen of
a profane world to be renounced in the interest of a world
of spirit situated elsewhere.’ Matter and spirit are
essentially a single unity and we ought to take a holistic
approach towards issues.
The second section, titled
‘The unity of an Indian nation,’ defines the
role of spirituality from the holistic perspective established
earlier. From this point of view, the highest order of spiritual
experience cannot be completely ascetic. ‘It is individual
experience creative of a social order,’ says Iqbal.
Hence spirituality requires the formation of a society where
each religion becomes supportive of other religions. Referring
to the non-Muslims he says, ‘Nay, it is my duty, according
to the teachings of the Quran, even to defend their places
of worship if need be.’ This is what he calls in another
writing a ‘spiritual democracy.’
The third section is ‘Muslim India within India.’
It is here that he proposed, as a practical step towards
achieving this spiritual democracy, a Muslim state in North-West
India. As we have already seen, it is more than wishful
thinking. It is an opinion pragmatically based on the expected
direction of future events. The ‘wish’ he is
making is the best way of utilising the possibilities embodied
in those future events.
In the fourth section, ‘Federal States’, he
points out a misunderstanding about the principle of nationality.
The Congress understands the word nation to mean ‘a
kind of universal amalgamation in which no communal entity
ought to retain its private individuality,’ he observes.
If spirit and matter are one (as established earlier) then
the error of this approach becomes self-evident.
The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth sections, ‘Federation
as understood in the Simon Report’, ‘Federal
scheme as discussed in the Round Table Conference’,
‘The problem of defence’ and ‘The alternative’
comprise of an analysis of the British India and establish
the fact that democracy and communal identities should not
be separated from one another. The proposed Muslim state
is a good way of achieving that end, and in the ninth section,
‘Round Table Conference’ he describes such a
state as a practical step towards ‘a final combination
The leaders required for such
a task are persons who, ‘by Divine gift or experience,
possess a keen perception of the spirit and destiny of Islam,
along with an equally keen perception of the trend of modern
history.’ Paying attention to the finer details of
the document we do not find such a statement to be out of
place by the time we arrive at it in this last section.
The Allahabad Address takes us into an intellectual
atmosphere where leaders who have an insight into the future
are a plausible thing. Since the destiny of Islam, according
to him, is something that can be predicted to a great extent,
the ‘Conclusion’ of the document suggests that
‘at critical moments in their history it is Islam
that has saved Muslims and not vice versa.’ By Islam,
he means more than a set of social norms. He means an insight
into what twists and turns life is going to take in its
onward march towards ‘a final combination of humanity.’
That final combination, where
a holistic approach becomes the rule of life, is the inevitable
destination of humanity although the way to it may be rough
and strewn with mishaps.