Wahabhi Movement and Muhammad Iqbal

Subsequent to the attack on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon there has been a spate of emails about the Wahabi movement, its orthodoxy and fanaticism. Since the site has articles on the birth of Pan Islamicism in India i.e. the Aligarh Movement and its consolidation by Gandhi i.e. Khilafat movement I thought it might be useful to cover the Wahabi movement and another doyen of Muslim India Sir Muhammad Iqbal, widely believed to be one of the founders of the two nation theory.

This article was written in November 2001 and edited in May 2017.

Coming back to Sept 11, it is the Law of Karma at work, you reap as you sow. It is the Americans who, anxious to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, poured in billions of dollars into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Arms, money, buying out opponents, turning a blind eye to Islamic fundamentalisms and trading of narcotics were some of the means used. Eventually the Soviets were out of Afghanistan but!

The Americans left behind tons of arms, ammunition and a war ravaged country. Islam had to find a new enemy. It was Indians read as Hindus of Jammu and Kashmir. Around 1989 Gen Zia started the Proxy war in that state and it shows no signs of ending. Thousands of people have died, become homeless and refugees in their own country. Did the world care? Sections of the Church with the help of evangenlists in the U.S. have taken to the gun in India’s North East for nearly fifty years. Here again thousands died and local culture destroyed.

The worst terrorists attack in world history prior to Sept 11 were the Bomb blasts in Mumbai 1993, 250 lives lost and about 700 injured. Aided by the Pakis and Indian Muslims the intent was cripple India’s commercial capital just as what Muslims have tried to do to New York. Where was the U.S. then? Even today how much publicity has its media given to the fact that atleast 250 persons of Indian origin died in the WTC incident.

So what I am saying is that the U.S. has followed double standards, promoted terrorists organizations worldwide to suit its convenience. Life evens out. You have to pay for your misdeeds.

Much as I pray for the families of every person who lost his life I cannot but go back to the concept of Karma. Is it not amazing that thousands of years ago the Rishis of India had discovered this very elementary truth of life?

Yet the Western world is repeating the mistakes that Gandhi, Nehru, Congress, BJP made. They refused to accept and understand the pan Islamic Muslim mind for which Indians have paid for very dearly, before and after partition. They are scared of publicly criticizing Islam because the Muslims will take to violence immediately. Now which head of state wants Violence not realizing that acts of violence are merely being postponed to events like Mumbai blasts or Sept 11?

In order to appease the Arab and local Muslim population George Bush and Tony Blair are calling Islam the epitome of peace. Honestly the civilized man in them is scared of the destruction Islam can cause. The holy Koran, probably, says so but ask any professor of history or even a blind Indian what he has to say about Islam. Better ask the Hindus of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Jammu & Kashmir what it means to live in a Muslim majority country / state.

As Pandit Vamadeva Shastri alias David Frawley has very rightly said “By targeting Osman Bin Laden the West has made him the most popular man of all times. He has become a role model for every Muslim child in the world”. See how one soldier of Islam has brought the world’s only superpower to its knees.

If you want to solve this problem one of the ways is to examine source of funding. In this case it is three, one narcotics, two Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and three Oil. Most of us know that the biggest market for narcotics is the West. Saudia Arabia is a trusted ally of the U.S. Now is the West willing to come down heavily on the drug lobby within its borders and allies like Saudia! Coming to Oil, ask yourself, did Islam have such a hold on world affairs read terrorism till the advent of the oil crisis of the seventies? If oil consumption comes down, some Muslim states would have less money to spare for terrorists activities and would have to use limited resources for the benefits of its citizens.

Since democracy is alien to Islam, there are a large number of disgruntled groups in nearly every Muslim state. Today petro dollars keeps them under check but if the dollars were to dry up then! After seeing Pakistani, I doubt if the above argument holds good. Here is a country that is bankrupt but spends millions of dollars on funding terrorist’s activities and trying to keep pace with India read Hindus.

The saddest part is that post Sept 11 the U.S. and Western Europe have become secular like India. Which means that Islamic terrorists can blow up buildings, take to the streets at random, and convert Hindus forcibly or through inducements but no? Islam is a great religion; it preaches peace and universal brotherhood. Secularism is important, national security and nationhood be dammed.

Before you label me, here is a thought that I like to leave with you is, Why is it barring Ireland and Sri Lanka every act of terrorists violence involves Islam? What is it about this religion that makes people lose their intellect (ability to discriminate between the right and wrong), take to the gun and die in the name of religion?

The Christians of today are as fanatic in their efforts to convert Hindus worldwide but except for India’s North East one has not heard of them take to the gun with as much gusto. They are smarter. They start schools, hospitals, orphanages etc. Yes I admit that some of them do good work but the underlying intent is prosleytization. If these children of Christ are so concerned about the poor and downtrodden, why do they not go to Bangladesh or Indonesia? Or better they could go to Pakistan. Do I need to spell out their fate thereafter? Are there not poor people in Eastern Europe or the U.S. for that matter?

As an Indian I blame ourselves for current state. As a cultural unit, nation we lacked a strategic culture. We were not united and were willing to join a foreigner to defeat an Indian enemy. Our philosophy is inward looking because of which we looked within and did not keep track of world developments.

We have an English print, electronic media whose sole objective is to criticize whatever the government does and highlight what is wrong with India. Can anybody tell me of a state or human being who is perfect but the media!

We have a head of government namely Atal Vajpayee who like Gandhi believes that making unilateral concessions to Pakistan read Muslims will make them take up the path of peace. Have these people read history! Can you think of a country India that has been humiliated so badly by another read Pakistan be it terrorist’s killings in Punjab/Jammu and Kashmir, Mumbai blasts, Kandhar hijacking yet we talk peace. Ask the super cop of Punjab KPS Gill; would similar goodness have enabled him to wipe out terrorism from Punjab?

This trait of Indian politicians to be good, make concessions unilaterally baffles me. Indian businessmen are not like that. Ask Sabeer Bhatia how hard he negotiated with Microsoft when he sold Hotmail to them.

This compilation is based on inputs from volumes 9 to 11 of the History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. This essay has two chapters, Muhammad Iqbal and Wahabi Movement.

Sir Muhammad Iqbal

Prior to Jinnah there were atleast three political leaders, thinkers who greatly influenced Islam in India. One is Siayid Ahmad; founder of the Wahabi movement referred to above, two Sir Syed Ahmad, founder of the Aligarh movement referred to in the essay on Aligarh movement and three is Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1873 to 1938) referred to below.

If Syed Ahmed was the greatest political leader, Iqbal was the greatest political thinker of the Muslims in British India. Born is a family of Kashmiri Brahmin origin he studied philosophy in England and Germany after completing his M.A. from Lahore. At first he had nationalist’s ideas but gradually he gave a new interpretation to the ideals of Islam that is believed to have eventually resulted in Pakistan. He was comfortable in Persian and Urdu. His doctrine went counter to the quietism and acceptance preached by traditional Sufism. It was a rather militant doctrine of action, of fight to achieve an ideal placed before man, and this ideal was of primitive Islam which in Iqbal’s opinion was preached by the Prophet – to select the narrow path of shaping one’s destiny and forging ahead, heart within and God overhead.

This doctrine of action made Iqbal the great leader of Indian Muslims. His two longer poems Shikwa (complaint) and Jawab-I-Shikwah (Reply to the Complaint) are looked upon as the Mein Kampf of Muslim revivalists in India who were for separation from India in both spirit and political rehabilitation. These poems give in the form of a complaint before Allah about the adverse circumstances in which the Indian Muslims had fallen, and the sequel given the remedies prescribed by God for Muslim uplift.

Although he was a member of the Punjab legislature (1925-8) and presided over the Muslim League session at Allahabad in 1930, he never shone in politics or became a party leader. However, his political thoughts exercised a deep influence on the Indian Muslims in the second quarter of the 20th century.

The essence of Iqbal’s political ideas were enlightened Pan Islamicism. The brotherhood of Islam was a well-known idea. The importance and novelty of Iqbal’s philosophy lay in practical application of these ideas in Indian politics. Iqbal reiterated that Islam was non-territorial in character and the idea of brotherhood applied to the Muslims. The Islamic brotherhood might be a model for the final combination of humanity, but for now it is divided into two parts, Muslims and non-Muslims irrespective of racial considerations.

Iqbal leaves in no doubt of his ideal. Quoting from the Birth of Pakistan by Dr Sachin Sen “I confess to be a pan-Islamist. The mission for which Islam came into this world will ultimately be fulfilled, the world will ultimately be purged of infidelity and the worship of false gods, and the true soul of Islam will be triumphant. This is the kind of pan-Islamicism that I preach”. “Islam as a religion has no country” quote Ibid.

So Iqbal said that Muslims are Muslims first and Indians later? Inspite of his being a Brahmin convert note his distaste for false gods read idol worship. Please remember that when Muhammad entered Mecca he destroyed 360 idols and said that truth shall prevail. Both Iqbal and the Prophet are saying one and the same thing. However, Iqbal used poetry to convey his thoughts.

Still being in India, he expressed his views as follows “The present struggle in India is sometimes describes as India’s revolt against the West. I do not think so for the people of India are demanding the very institutions, which the West stands for. Educated urban India demands democracy. The minorities, feeling themselves as distinct cultural units and fearing that their very existence is at stake, demand safeguards, which for obvious reasons the majority community refuses to concede. The majority community pretends to believe in nationalism theoretically correct, if we start from Western premises, belied by facts, if we look at India. The real parties to the struggle are the majority and minority communities of India which can ill afford to accept Western democracy until it is properly modified to suit the actual conditions of life in India”. Syed Ahmed too had in 1887 expressed reservations against the parliamentary form of governance.

I cannot but help agree with Iqbal in parts. After partition India read Nehru carried forward all the government institutions created by the Brits, as they existed then. These were and are Western institutions. They were not adjusted for Indian conditions. A number of people believe that one of the causes of our present day problems is that we have not Indianized the government enough. A simple example is our lawyers continue to wear black coats in court, a dress that is comfortable in British climate but not in hot and humid India.

It is unfortunate that in economic policy we have tried to emulate the world. First we followed the Central Planning model of the Soviet Union; the results are for all to see. There is now a new mantra called globalization. Here again we are blindly adopting the capitalistic policies of the West. We believe that foreign direct investment is the cure to all ills. We forget internal Liberalization is a pre requisite to foreign investment. Privatization of PSU’s, reforming the power sector but na that is tough and would invite political opposition. Keep it simple, attract FDI. On this count alone I appreciate Iqbal’s understanding of India.

Iqbal’s Presidential address at the Allahabad session of the Muslim League in 1930 deserves more than a passing notice, as it is generally been looked upon as laying the foundation of Pakistan. “It cannot be denied that Islam, regarded as an ethical ideal plus a certain kind of polity- has been the chief formative factor in the life-history of Muslims of India. It has furnished those basic emotions and loyalties, which has gradually unified individuals into a well-defined people. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that India is perhaps the only country in the world, where Islam, as a people-building force, has worked at its best.

Is it possible to retain Islam as an ethical ideal and to reject it as a polity in favor of national politics, in which religious attitude is not permitted to play a part? The proposition that religion is a private matter on the lips of a European is not surprising. The religious ideal of Islam, therefore, organically is related to the social order, which it created. Therefore, the construction of a polity on national lines, if it means displacement of the Islamic principles of solidarity, is simply unthinkable to the Muslim”.

Here again only the naïve would believe that 1930 was a turning point. Partition was bound to happen, what with the inability of Muslims to live peacefully in a country where they are not in a majority. Also the Congress read Gandhi, Nehru were so obsessed with the mirage of Hindu Muslim unity that concession after concession followed.

Referring to the requisites of nationality Iqbal observes, “Experience shows that various caste and religious units in India have shown no inclination to sink their respective individualities in a larger whole. The unity of the Indian nation, must not therefore, be sought not in negation but in the mutual harmony and co-operation of many. True statesmanship cannot ignore facts, however unpleasant as they may be. The only practical course is not to assume the existence of a state of things, which does not exist, but to recognize facts as they are, and to exploit them to our greatest advantage. The attempts to discover such internal harmony have failed but if the principle that the Indian Muslim is entitled to full and free development on the lines of his own culture and tradition in his Indian homelands is recognized as the basis of a permanent communal settlement, he will always be ready to stake his all for the freedom of India”.

By saying that India read Sanatan Dharam was never one nation, consists of people with different cultures Iqbal was only reiterating what Sir Syed Ahmed had said earlier. You might recall that the words used by the English media, leftists and secularists of today are quite similar to those of Iqbal.

Iqbal defends himself against the charge of preaching narrow communalism “A community that is inspired by feelings of ill-will towards other communities is low and ignoble. I entertain the highest respect for the customs, laws, religion and social institutions of other communities. Yet I love the social group which is the source of my life and which has formed me what I am by giving me its religion, literature, culture and thereby recreating its whole past as a living factor in my present consciousness”. “The units of Indian society were not territorial as in European countries. India is a continent of human groups belonging to different races. The principle of European democracy cannot be applied without recognizing the fact of communal groups”.

It is this ground that Iqbal justifies the “Muslim demand for the creation of a Muslim rule within India. The resolution of the All Parties Muslim conference at Delhi says he “is, to mind, wholly inspired by this noble ideal of a harmonious whole which, instead of stifling the respective individualities of its component wholes, affords them chances of fully working out the possibilities that may be latent in them. And I have no doubt this house will endorse the Muslim demands in the resolution”.

Now what was this resolution all about? In response to a speech in the House of Lords on 7/7/1925 Lord Birkenhead said that let the Indians produce a constitution, which carries behind it as a fair measure of general agreement among the peoples of India. In response to the same the Congress has issued our invites to a large spectrum of parties. On the Communal question there were differences between what the Nehru Constitution (there was a Nehru committee that drafted it) proposed and Jinnah wanted. Jinnah wanted one-third reservation for Muslims in the Central legislature, residuary powers to be vested in the States and not Centre amongst others. Since Jinnah’s amendments did not hold water, along with Aga Khan, other Muslims he organized an All Parties Conference on 1/1/1929.

Here Jinnah’s amendments were endorsed, demanded separate electorates for Muslims, constitution of Sindh as a separate province and raising the status of N.W.F.P., Baluchistan to that of other provinces, Punjab and Bengal should have Muslim representation on population basis for ten years in the event of adult suffrage not being granted.

You see the Muslims wanted to win the toss both ways. Where they were in majority Muslim representation based on population, where not one-third reservations. Such unreasonableness, some might call it double standards have come to be associated with sub-continent Muslims and Pakistan today.

This resolution did not satisfy Iqbal though. He said, “Personally, I would like to see Punjab, N.W.F.P., Sind and Baluchistan amalgamate into a single State. Self-government within or without the British Empire seems to be the final destination of Muslims, atleast of Northwest India. Thus they will prove the best defenders against a foreign invasion. To my mind a unitary form of Government is simply unthinkable to self-governing India. What are called residuary powers must be left to the States, Central federation exercising only those powers which are expressly vested in it by the free consent of states”.

What Iqbal suggested was a federation of states with a weak center. If we look at India’s history it has always succumbed to foreign invasions when there was a weak central authority. Which is why at the time of independence Sardar Patel did not accept any arrangement that would have resulted in a weak center?

After independence Pakistan attacked India because its leaders thought that India’s center was weak. Since law and order is a State subject, India's opponents have capitalized on lack of coordination between states and with the Centre. The Intelligence Bureau informs the state police. After that it is up to them to take action. With a friendly government in Maharashtra the Karachi based dons are making the best of this lacuna.

What India needs is an agency styled on the lines of U.S.’s Federal Bureau of Investigation? Will we have one? Not until we have a strong center.

The most important consequence of the Iqbal doctrine was a slow but steady growth of the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims in India. The idea took a definite shape in the idea of a young man Rahmat Ali, educated in Cambridge; he communicated the same to the Muslim members of the Round Table Conference in London. Having endorsed Sir Syed Ahmad’s views and forestalled Jinnah’s two nation theory Iqbal continued “Therefore for us to seal our national doom in the interest of one Indian nationhood would be a treachery against our posterity, a betrayal of our history and a crime against humanity for which there would be no salvation”.

When the idea of an All India Federation emerged out of the deliberations of the Round table Conferences, Rahmat regarded it as a tragedy and founded the Pakistan National Movement in 1933. When he met Madame Halide Edib sometime between 1935 and 1937, he told her that the movement had its propaganda centers all over Pakistan. Thus the foundation for Pakistan was laid before the leaders ever dreamt of it, it was part of the subconscious Muslim mind.

It would be interesting to note that five years before Iqbal, Lala Lajpat Rai suggested the creation of Muslim provinces in the northwest, east of India to set at rest the ceaseless Hindu Muslim bickerings in these provinces. It is unfortunate that leaders before and after him failed to read the Muslim mind correctly. Islam desires total domination and rule of Bharat, bickerings like creation of Pakistan or Kashmir are only manifestations of their hatred for Sanatan Dharam. One of the realizations post Sept 11 is that Islam desires to dominate the world, nothing more or less.

Iqbal was the man who influenced Islamic thought and educated Muslims the most. His influence on Islamic thought is of permanent value and his contribution to the revival of Islamic spirit among the Muslims is of great importance. By his philosophical, charming and forceful poems, Iqbal revived the original Islamic spirit and kindled in them the fire of faith and urge for spiritual, physical activity as had not been experienced by them for centuries. While he admired the western race for its achievements in science and technology he condemned it for its domination of the East, which had destroyed its spirituality and mental freedom.

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