From When They Were Being Made …
Edited Version Of The Interview Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Gave In April, 1946.
Full Version Published May 28, 2012 In Journal : The Poet… Watching History : I
Q : But the question is how Muslims can keep their community identity intact and how they can inculcate the attributes of the citizens of a Muslim state.
A : Hollow words cannot falsify the basic realities nor slanted questions can make the answers deficient. It amounts to distortion of the discourse. What is meant by community identity ? If this community identity has remained intact during the British slavery, how will it come under threat in a free India in whose affairs Muslims will be equal participants ? What attributes of the Muslim state you wish to cultivate ? The real issue is the freedom of faith and worship and who can put a cap on that freedom. Will independence reduce the 90 million Muslims into such a helpless state that they will feel constrained in enjoying their religious freedom ? If the British, who as a world power could not snatch this liberty, what magic or power do the Hindus have to deny this freedom of religion ? These questions have been raised by those, who, under the influence of western culture, have renounced their own heritage and are now raising dust through political gimmickry.
If the Muslims still feel under threat and believe that they will be reduced to slavery in free India then I can only pray for their faith and hearts. If a man becomes disenchanted with life he can be helped to revival, but if someone is timid and lacks courage, then it is not possible to help him become brave and gutsy. The Muslims as a community have become cowards. They have no fear of God, instead they fear men. This explains why they are so obsessed with threats to their existence — a figment of their imagination.
The world needs both, a durable peace and a philosophy of life. If the Hindus can run after Marx and undertake scholarly studies of the philosophy and wisdom of the West, they do not disdain Islam and will be happy to benefit from its principles. In fact they are more familiar with Islam and acknowledge that Islam does not mean parochialism of a hereditary community or a despotic system of governance. Islam is a universal call to establish peace on the basis of human equality.
In future India will be faced with class problems, not communal disputes; the conflict will be between capital and labour. The communist and socialist movements are growing and it is not possible to ignore them. These movements will increasingly fight for the protection of the interest of the underclass. The Muslim capitalists and the feudal classes are apprehensive of this impending threat. Now they have given this whole issue a communal colour and have turned the economic issue into a religious dispute. But Muslims alone are not responsible for it. This strategy was first adopted by the British government and then endorsed by the political minds of Aligarh. Later, Hindu short-sightedness made matters worse and now freedom has become contingent on the partition of India.
Jinnah himself was an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. In one Congress session Sarojini Naidu had commended him with this title. He was a disciple of Dadabhai Naoroji. He had refused to join the 1906 deputation of Muslims that initiated communal politics in India. In 1919 he stood firmly as a nationalist and opposed Muslim demands before the Joint Select Committee. On 3 October 1925, in a letter to the Times of India he rubbished the suggestion that Congress is a Hindu outfit. In the All Parties Conferences of 1925 and 1928, he strongly favoured a joint electorate. While speaking at the National Assembly in 1925, he said, “I am a nationalist first and a nationalist last” and exhorted his colleagues, be they Hindus or Muslims, “not to raise communal issues in the House and help make the Assembly a national institution in the truest sense of the term”.
In 1928, Jinnah supported the Congress call to boycott Simon Commission. Till 1937, he did not favour the demand to partition India. In his message to various student bodies he stressed the need to work for Hindu Muslim unity. But he felt aggrieved when the Congress formed governments in seven states and ignored the Muslim League. In 1940 he decided to pursue the partition demand to check Muslim political decline. In short, the demand for Pakistan is his response to his own political experiences. Mr Jinnah has every right to his opinion about me, but I have no doubts about his intelligence. As a politician he has worked overtime to fortify Muslim communalism and the demand for Pakistan. Now it has become a matter of prestige for him and he will not give it up at any cost.
Q : It is clear that Muslims are not going to turn away from their demand for Pakistan. Why have they become so impervious to all reason and logic of arguments ?
A : It is difficult, rather impossible, to fight against the misplaced enthusiasm of a mob, but to suppress one’s conscience is worse than death. Today the Muslims are not walking, they are flowing. The problem is that Muslims have not learnt to walk steady; they either run or flow with the tide. When a group of people lose confidence and self-respect, they are surrounded by imaginary doubts and dangers and fail to make a distinction between the right and the wrong.
The true meaning of life is realised not through numerical strength but through firm faith and righteous action. British politics has sown many seeds of fear and distrust in the mental field of Muslims. Now they are in a frightful state, bemoaning the departure of the British and demanding partition before the foreign masters leave. Do they believe that partition will avert all the dangers to their lives and bodies ? If these dangers are real then they will still haunt their borders and any armed conflict will result in much greater loss of lives and possessions.
Q : But Hindus and Muslims are two different nations with different and disparate inclinations. How can the unity between the two be achieved ?
A : This is an obsolete debate. I have seen the correspondence between Allama Iqbal and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madni on the subject. In the Quran, the term “qaum” has been used not only for the community of believers but has also been used for distinct human groupings generally. What do we wish to achieve by raising this debate about the etymological scope of terms like millat [community], qaum [nation] and ummat [group] ?
In religious terms, India is home to many people — the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs etc. The differences between Hindu religion and Islam are vast in scope. But these differences cannot be allowed to become an obstacle in the path of India gaining her freedom nor do the two distinct and different systems of faith negate the idea of unity of India. The issue is of our national independence and how we can secure it. Freedom is a blessing and is the right of every human being. It cannot be divided on the basis of religion.
Muslims must realise that they are bearers of a universal message. They are not a racial or regional grouping in whose territory others cannot enter. Strictly speaking, Muslims in India are not one community; they are divided among many well-entrenched sects. You can unite them by arousing their anti-Hindu sentiment but you cannot unite them in the name of Islam. To them Islam means undiluted loyalty to their own sect.
Apart from Wahabi, Sunni and Shia there are innumerable groups who owe allegiance to different saints and divines. Small issues like raising hands during the prayer and saying Amen loudly have created disputes that defy solution. The Ulema have used the instrument of takfeer [ fatwas declaring someone as infidel ] liberally. Earlier, they used to take Islam to the disbelievers; now they take away Islam from the believers. Islamic history is full of instances of how good and pious Muslims were branded kafirs.
Prophets alone had the capability to cope with these mindboggling situations. Even they had to pass through times of afflictions and trials. The fact is that when reason and intelligence are abandoned and attitudes become fossilised then the job of the reformer becomes very difficult. But today the situation is worse than ever. Muslims have become firm in their communalism; they prefer politics to religion and follow their worldly ambitions as commands of religion. History bears testimony to the fact that in every age we ridiculed those who pursued the good with consistency, snuffed out the brilliant examples of sacrifice and tore the flags of selfless service. Who are we, the ordinary mortals; even high ranking Prophets were not spared by these custodians of traditions and customs.