Presidential Address to All-India Muslim Conference by Muhammad Iqbal-1932
Presidential Address to All-India Muslim Conference (1932)
by Muhammad Iqbal
Presidential address delivered at the annual session of the All-India Muslim Conference, Lahore, 21 March 1932.
Gentlemen! The Muslims of India have listened to so many addresses from their political platforms that the more impatient of them have already begun to suspect our deliberations which, they think, tend to enfeeble, and eventually to kill, the spirit of action that lies dormant in the heart of Islam. “The present situation in the country,” said one of them, “whets our appetite for action; and if our leaders fail to point to a definite course of action suitable to the peculiar position of the Indian Muslims, the sheer force of imitation will do its work, and make our youth thoughtlessly plunge into the stream of events.” “Action,” said another with characteristic youthful impatience, “does not need a previously thought-out plan; it is not subject to the logic of schools, but develops its own peculiar logic as it emerges out of the heart of man into open space.” Such is the present psychology of our youth.
I am grateful to you for the confidence you have placed in me at this critical moment; but I certainly cannot congratulate you on your choice of a man, who is nothing more than a visionary idealist. Perhaps you think you need a visionary at this juncture; for where there is no vision the people perish. Perhaps you think I am better equipped for the presidential chair of this assembly after my experiences at the London Conferences. To reveal an ideal freed from its temporal limitations is one function: to show the way how ideals can be transformed into living actualities is quite another. If a man is temperamentally fit for the former function, his task is comparatively easy, for it involves a clean jump over temporal limitations which waylay the practical politician at every step. The man who has got the courage to migrate from the former to the latter function, has constantly to take stock of, and often yield to, the force of those very limitations which he has been in the habit of ignoring. Such a man has the misfortune of living in the midst of perpetual mental conflict and can be easily accused of self-contradiction. However, I gladly accept the difficult position in which you have placed me, not because I consider myself fit for that position, but because the issues have fortunately become so clear, the whole thing now depends not so much on the guidance of one particular individual, as on the force of all the individual wills focused on a single purpose.
“Politics have their roots in the spiritual life of man. It is my belief that Islam is not a matter of private opinion. It is a society. … I am opposed to nationalism … because I see in it the germs of atheistic materialism, which I look upon as the greatest danger to modern humanity.”
Politics have their roots in the spiritual life of man. It is my belief that Islam is not a matter of private opinion. It is a society, or if you like, a civic church. It is because present-day political ideals, as they appear to be shaping themselves in India, may affect its original structure and character, that, I find myself interested in politics. I am opposed to nationalism, as it is understood in Europe, not because, if it is allowed to develop in India, it is likely to bring less material gain to Muslims. I am opposed to it because I see in it the germs of atheistic materialism, which I look upon as the greatest danger to modern humanity. Patriotism is a perfectly natural virtue and has a place in the moral life of man. Yet that which really matters is a man’s faith, his culture, his historical traditions. These are the things which, in my eyes, are worth living for and dying for, and not the piece of earth with which the spirit of man happens to be temporarily associated. In view of the visible and invisible points of contact between the various communities of India, I do believe in this possibility of constructing a harmonious whole whose unity cannot be disturbed by the rich diversity which it must carry within its bosom. The problem of ancient Indian thought was how the one became many without sacrificing its oneness. Today this problem has come down from its ethical heights to the grosser plane of our political life, and we have to solve it in its reversed form, i.e., how the many can become one without sacrificing its plural character. In so far as the fundamentals of our policy are concerned, I have got nothing fresh to offer. Regarding these I have already expressed my views on my address to the All-India Muslim League. In the present address, I propose, among other things, to help you, in the first place, in arriving at a correct view of the situation as it emerged from a rather hesitating behaviour of our delegation at the final stages of the deliberations of the Round Table Conference. In the second place, I shall try, according to my lights, to show how far it is desiable to construct a fresh policy now that the Premier’s announcement at the last London Conference has again necessitated a careful survey of the whole situation. Let me begin with a brief history of the work of our delegation.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WORK OF THE MUSLIM DELEGATION
The first two meetings of the Minorites Committee were held on the 28th of September and the 1st of October 1931, respectively. On both occasions the meeting was adjourned for a private settlement of the communal problem. Mahatma Gandhi first told the Muslim delegation that matters could not proceed until the Muslim delegation had lifted the embargo on Dr. Ansari. Falling in this, he gave the Muslim delegation to understand that he would personally agree to Muslim demands and would try to persuade the Congress, the Hindus and the Sikhs to agree to them, provided the Muslims agreed to three things: (1) adult suffrage; (2) no special representation for the Untouchables; and (3) Congress demand for complete independence. The Mahatma declined to refer the matter to the Congress and failed in his efforts to get the the Hindus and the Sikhs to agree to this arrangement. On the 7th of October, two prominent Hindu leaders proposed that the whole matter might be referred to a board of seven arbitrators. This too was rejected by Hindu and Sikh representatives. On the 8th the Minorities Committee met for the third time. In this meeting Mahatma Gandhi set to the account of the British Government his failure to brinig about a communal settlement, sinice, according to him, they had deliberately chosen for the British Indian delegation men who, as he said, had no representative character. On behalf of the Muslim delegation, the late Sir Muhammad Shafi refuted the Mahatma’s uncalled for remarks, questioning the representative character of the various delegations, and opposed the proposals put forward by him. The meeting came to an end, and, owing to the British general elections, could not meet till the 12th of November. In the meantime, private conversations recommenced on the 15th October. A prominent feature of these conversatons was Sir Geoffrey Corbett’s scheme to the Punjab. This scheme, very similar to the one I had suggested in my address to the All-India Muslim League, proposed the adoption of joint electorates with the exclusion of the Ambala Division from the Punjab. It, too, was rejected by Sikh and Hindu representatives who could not tolerate a Muslim majority in the Punjab even with a system of joint electorates. These conversations also remaining fruitless, the representatives of the Indian minorities which constitute nearly half of India, began to consult one anohther on the possibility of an Indian Minorities Pact. On the 12th of November all these minorites, with the exception of Sikhs, signed a pact, which was formally handed over to the British Premier in the last meeting of the Minorities Committee held on the 13th of November.
THE ERRONEOUS DECLARATION OF THE FEDERAL STRUCTURE COMMITTEE
This brief account of our informal conversations speaks for itself. It is obvious that our delegates did their best to arrive at a communal settlement. The only thing which is a mystery to me, and which will perhaps ever remain a mystery, is the declaration made on the 26th of November by our spokesmen in the Federal Structure Committee to the effect that they agreed to the simultaneous introduction of provincial autonomy and central responsibility. Whether this was due to their anxiety for conciliation and political advance of the country, or to some conflicting influences which operated on their minds, I cannot say. On the 15th November, the day on which I dissociated from our delegation, Muslim delegates had decided not to participate in the discussions of the Federal Structure Committee. Why did they participate then in these discussions contrary to to their own decision? Were our spokesmen on the Federal Structure Committee authorised to make the declaration of 26th November? I am not in a position to answer these questions. All that I can say is that the Muslim community considers the declaration a very grave error and I have no doubt that this Conference will give an emphatic expression to their views on this important matter. In my address to the All-India Muslim League, I raised my voice against the idea of an all-India federation. Subsequent events have shown that it is working only as a drag on the political advance of India. If the introduction of central responsibility is dependent on the completion of an all-India federation, which I fear will take a fairly long time, then the Government should immediately introduce responsible government in the British Indian provinces, so that the foundation thus delineated may, till the coming of central responsibility, fully prepare itself by experience to bear the weight of the federal superstructure. A great deal of spade work is needed before we can have a really modern federal state.
I have reason to believe, and had suspected this some days before I dissociated myself from our delegation, that our spokesmen were badly advised by certain English politicians in rejecting the immediate introduction of responsible government in the provinces of British India. Recently Lieutenant-Commander Kenworthy has expressed the same view. He says:
“I understand that the moderate leaders in London were badly advised on this matter by certain English politicians, that they listened too readily to their advice and rejected the great installment of provincial autonomy. And the curious thing is that the Mahatma was apparently ready to consider this installment sympathetically.”
Who are the moderate leaders alluded to by the Lieutenant-Commander? In view of the attitude taken up by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru in London, and now in the Consultative Committee regarding the immediate introduction of provincial autonomy, it is obvious that the writer of the passage quoted, could not have meant Hindu Liberals. I think he probably means Muslim moderate leaders whose declaration in the Federal Structure Committee on the 26th of November seems to me to be really responsible for the British Premier’s announcement regarding the simultenous introduction of central and provincial responsibility. And since immediate introduction of responsible government in the provinces would have involved a definite announcement regarding the demands of our community as to majority rights in the Punjab and Bengal, we must not forget, while judging the present situation, that the conduct of our own leaders is mainly responsible for the British Premier’s silence which has raised all sorts of suspicions in the mind of the Muslim community.
A NEW POLICY
The next question is to explore the possibilities of shaping, if necessary, a new policy after the disappointing announcement made by the British Premier at the close of the last London Conference. Muslims have naturally grown apprehensive of Government’s attitude towards the problem of communal settlement. They suspect that the Government will purchase Congress’ cooperation at any cost, and that its delay in conceding Muslim demands is only a cover for the possibility of finding some basis for negotiations with that body. The policy of trusting the Government in regard to political issues seems to be rapidly losing its hold on the mind of community. The Franchise Committee has postponed consideration of matters relating to the formation of constituencies. As for the promised provisional settlement, it is obvious that no communal settlement, provisional or permanent, can satisfy the Muslim community, which does not recognize, as its basic principle, the right of the community to enjoy majority rights in provinces where it happens to be in actual majority. The continuance of separate electorates and the status of the Frontier Province are no doubt assured, but complete provincial autonomy, transfer of power from Parliament to Indian provinces, equality of federal units, classification of subjects not into federal, central and provincial, but into federal and provincial only, majority rights in the Punjab and Bengal, unconditional separation of Sind and one-third share in the centre, constitute no less essential elements of our demand. The Premier’s silence on these points has only resulted in the unsound policy of war with the Congress and no peace with the rest of the country. Shall we then join the Congress in their present campaign? My answer without a moment’s hesitation is “No”. A careful reading of the underlying motives of this movement will make it perfectly clear.
To my mind this movement has its roots in fear and resentment. The Congress leaders claim that they are the sole representatives of India. The last Round Table Conference made it abundantly clear that they were not. This they naturally resent. They know that the British people and the rest of the world now fully realize the importance of communal settlement in India. They further know that the minorities of India have arrived at a pact, and that the British Government has given a notice to enforce a provincial settlement of their own, in case the Indians themselves failed to arrive at one. The Congress leaders fear that the British Government in their provisional settlement of the communal problem may concede to the minorities what they demand. They have, therefore, started the present campaign to bolster up a claim which has no foundation in fact; to defeat a pact which, they fear, may find a place in the coming constitution, and to force the Government to settle the matter of minorities with the Congress alone. The Congress resolution in pursuance of which the civil disobedience campaign was launched, made it perfectly clear that since Government had refused to regard Mahatma Gandhi as the sole representative of the country, the Congress decided on civil disobedience. How can then a minority join a campaign which is directed as much against itself as against Government?
In the circumstances, therefore, to join the Congress in their present campaign is simply out of the question. But there is no denying that at the moment you are called upon to make important decisions. I am sure you are fully aware of the present state of the community’s mind. Government’s delay in conceding Muslim demands and the treatment meted out to our brave Frontier brethren on the eve of the constitutional reform in their province, are making Indian Muslims suspicious of British methods; and most people are already asking the question whether the power of a third party in India does constitute a real safeguard for the Muslim minority against a politically hostile and economically exploiting majority in India. There seems to be a deeper reason also. The rapid movement of events, and often sudden changes of situation in the political world, cannot permit an Imperial democracy, especially in the case of Party Government, to adhere for any long periods of time to definite policies. Lack of imagination is a virtue rather than a fault in a modern politician. And owing to this lack of imagination, which is incapable of synthesizing permanence and change in a higher political concept, modern politics is driven to live from hand to mouth. In the case of a subject country like India, therefore, cooperating communities are naturally led to think that the firmness of their political attitude in difficult times for the Government, may be of little or no value in the eyes of this or that political party which may come to power at any time in England. Whatever may be the character and ideals of political parties in England, you must base your policy on enlightened self-interest and conceive it in a spirit calculated to impress the whole British nation. It is folly to fight a battle in which there is likelihood of the fruits of victory going to those who are either hostile to, or have no sympathy with our legitimate political aspirations. The present circumstances are such that in thinking out a line of policy with a view to get over the immediate difficulties of the community, it is your duty to see that the likelihood I apprehend is eliminated, and the benefit of the action advised by you, finally accrues to your community.
“The British Government … are indirectly driving … mainly Hindus and Muslims, to a kind of civil war. … The British … took the country from the Muslims … Your immediate duty is to prepare the community for the kind of self-sacrifice without which no self-respecting people can live an honourable life. The most critical moment in the history of the Indian Muslims has arrived. Do your duty or cease to exist.”
Let me state the position as plainly as possible. The British undertook to give a provisional decision of the communal problem in case the communities of India did not arrive at a mutual settlement after their representatives had returned from the second Round Table Conference. This undertaking was thoroughly consistent with the claim and the policy of the British as a third party holding the balance between the contending communities of India. The British Government’s present attitude, however, would show that they do not mean to function as an impartial holder of balance in India, and are indirectly driving the Indian communities, which are mainly Hindus and Muslims, to a kind of civil war. We tried the majority community and found them unwilling to recognize the safeguards which we can forego at a risk of complete extinction as a nation determined to live its own life. The alternative was to hope for justice from the British who, ever since they took the country from the Muslims, have claimed, as I have said above, to function as an impartial holder of balance in India. In their case too, we find that the old British courage and straightforwardness are replaced by a constantly shifting policy which can inspire no confidence and seems to be calculated only to facilitate their own position in India. The Muslim community is thus brought to face the question whether it is in the interest of the community that their present policy, which has so far obviated British difficulties and brought no gain to the community, shall continue for any further period of time. This is a question for the open Conference to decide. All that I can say at the present stage is that, if you decide to discontinue this policy, your immediate duty is to prepare the community for the kind of self-sacrifice without which no self-respecting people can live an honourable life. The most critical moment in the history of the Indian Muslims has arrived. Do your duty or cease to exist.
ON NORTH-WEST FRONTIER PROVINCE AND KASHMIR
Gentlemen! I now request you to turn for a moment to two matters of gravest concern to the Muslims of India — I mean the Frontier Province and Kashmir which, I have no doubt, are uppermost in your mind.
It is indeed gratifying to see that Government have at least conceded our demand regarding the political status of North-West Frontier Province, though it remains to be seen what this status means to the actual administration of that province. Newspaper reports show that in the matter of franchise, Government rules have been more liberal than in other Provinces. The reform machinery will, it is understood, be set in full working order from the next month. What however, has taken grace out of the whole affair is the simultaneous launching of a campaign of repression which is not essentially different from martial law. The consideration shown in the matter of constitutional issue has been more than neutralized by the severity and short-sightedness shown in the case of the administrative issue. Government may have reasons for counteracting extremist activities of the certain people in that part of the country, but it has surely not been able to defend a policy of wholesale repression. During this struggle in other parts of India, British’s dealing with the situation has not been entirely devoid of restraint. In the Frontier Province alone repression has assumed forms unworthy of a civilized Government. If oral reports are true then the heart of the British official in the Frontier Province stands in need of a reform far greater in importance for the British Empire than the constitutional reform sought to be introduced into that province. There is no definite and final information about the number of arrests and prosecutions; but it is roughly mentioned in newspapers, thousands have been arrested and convicted or interned. It is for the Government to consider whether the incongruent policies of concession and repression will result in the pacification of a proud race like the Afghans. Abdul Ghaffar Khan certainly commands a great deal of influence among the young border Afghans, but what has extended the sphere of his influence to the farthest ends of the territory and to the ignorant folk of the Frontier villages, is the present thoughtless policy of repression. Government cannot be unaware of the fact that the all-India policy of Indian Muslims was, at this juncture, effectively keeping in check the tendencies of the Muslims of that province to join hands with those who were for an unconditional alliance with the Congress. Perhaps there have been difficulties from the Government point of view; yet I think a little different handling of the administrative action could have saved the whole situation. The political situation in the Frontier, it appears, was allowed to deteriorate during the period when a policy of relaxtion was the order of the day, and attempts to deal with it in a repressive manner have been made at a time when the real remedy of the disease had been prescribed. The sooner the Government withdraws all repressive measures from the Province, the better for the Province and the Government itself. The situation has caused deep concern to the whole Muslims community in India, and it is hardly wise for the Government not to allay Muslim feeling in this respect.
As to Kashmir, it is hardly necessary for me to describe the historical background of events which have recently happened in that country. The apparently sudden resurrection of a people in whom the ego-flame had been almost extinguished ought to be, in spite of the suffering which it has necessarily involved, a matter of rejoicing to all those who possess an insight into the inner struggle of modern Asiatic peoples. The cause of the people of Kashmir is absolutely just, and I have no doubt that the rebirth of this sense of reality of their own personality in an intelligent and skilful people will eventually prove a source of strength not only to the State but also to the people of India as a whole. What, however, is most deplorable is that the communal ill-feeling existing in India, and the perfectly natural sympathy of the Indian Muslims with their Kashmir brethren, led to a kind of counter-agitation among the Hindus, which in its despair, sought to protect a barbarous administration by attributing its inevitable consequences to such wild fancies as Pan-Islamic plots and conspiracies for British occupation of Kashmir. Such agitation and the communal colour thereby given to the Kashmir question could have led only to one thing—resort to violent repression leading to prolonged lawlessness in the State. In parts of the Jammu Province, as newspaper reports tell us, the administration has been completely broken down and it is only the presence of British troops which is keeping things in control, at least in places where they are present. Oral reports of a most violent and shameful repression practised by State authorities in many places are still pouring in. Nor can commissions of enquiry be of any help in such a state of things. The Middleton Report which admits important facts and fails to draw legitimate conclusions therefrom, has already failed to satisfy Muslims. The truth is that the matter has passed the stage in which enquiries can lead to effective results. The growing sense of self-consciousness in the people all over the world is now demanding recognition in the shape of a desire for an increasing share in the administration which governs them. Political tutelage is good for a primitive people, but it is in the best interests of an administration itself not to shirk of radical reform, when a change in the outlook of a people demands it. Among other things which have probably arisen from the peculiar conditions obtaining in Kashmir, the people of that country demand some kind of a popular assembly. Let us hope that the ruler of the State and the Government of India will consider the people’s demand as favourably as they possibly can. I have no doubt that the new Prime Minister, with characteristic British administrative acuteness, will see into the heart of the matter, and provide scope for the activity of a fine but downtrodden people who gave some of the best intellects to ancient India, and later added a real charm to Mughal culture. There may be difficulties in the way of constitutional reform in Kashmir as in the case of our own country; but the interests of permanent peace and order demand that these difficulties must be speedily overcome. If the meaning of the present upheaval is not properly understood and its causes are sought in directions where they cannot be found, the Kashmir Government, I fear, will have made its problem much more complicated.
THE REAL PARTIES TO THE PRESENT STRUGGLE IN INDIA
“The real parties to the present struggle in India are not England and India, but the majority community and the minorities of India which can ill-afford to accept the principle of Western democracy until it is properly modified to suit the actual conditions of life in India.”
It is obvious, therefore, that the attitude of the British Government towards our demands and the gravity of the situation in the Frontier Province and Kashmir claim our immediate attention. But what claims our immediate attention, is not our only concern. We must have a clear perception of the forces which are silently moulding the future, and place a relatively permanent programme of work before the community in view of probable direction of events in the country. The present struggle in India is sometimes described as India’s revolt against the West. I do not think it is a revolt against the West; for the people of India are demanding the very institutions which the West stands for. Whether the gamble of elections, retinues of party leaders and hollow pageants of parliaments will suit a country of peasants to whom the money-economy of modern democracy is absolutely incomprehensible, is a different question altogether. Educated urban India demands democracy. The minorities, feeling themselves as distinct cultural units and fearing that their very existence is at a stake, demand safeguards, which the majority community, for obvious reasons, refuses to concede. The majority community pretends to believe in a nationalism theoretically correct, if we start from Western premises, belied by facts, if we look to India. Thus the real parties to the present struggle in India are not England and India, but the majority community and the minorities of India which can ill-afford to accept the principle of Western democracy until it is properly modified to suit the actual conditions of life in India.
Nor do Mahatma Gandhi’s political methods signify a revolt in the psychological sense. These methods arise out of a contact of two opposing types of world-consciousness, Western and Eastern. The Western man’s mental texture is chronological in character. He lives and moves and has his being in time. The Eastern man’s world-consciousness is non-historical. To the Western man things gradually become; they have a past, present and future. To the Eastern man they are immediately rounded off, timeless, purely present. That is why Islam, which sees in the time-movement a symbol of reality, appeared as an intruder in the static world-pictures of Asia. The British as a Western people cannot but conceive political reform in India as a systematic process of gradual evolution. Mahatma Gandhi as an Eastern man sees in this attitude nothing more than an ill-conceived unwillingness to part with power and tries all sorts of destructive negations to achieve immediate attainment. Both are elementally incapable of understanding each other. The result is the appearance of a revolt.
ISLAM AND THE INDIAN MUSLIMS
“The faith which you represent recognizes the worth of the individual, and disciplines him to give away his all to the service of God and man. … Our ideal is well-defined. It is to win in the coming constitution a position for Islam, which may bring its opportunities to fulfil its destiny in this country.”
These phenomena, however, are merely premonitions of a coming storm, which is likely to sweep over the whole of India and the rest of Asia. This is the inevitable outcome of a wholly political civilization which has looked upon man as a thing to be exploited and not as a personality to be developed and enlarged by purely cultural forces. The peoples of Asia are bound to rise against the acquisitive economy which the West has developed and imposed on the nations of the East. Asia cannot comprehend modern Western capitalism with its undisciplined individualism. The faith which you represent recognizes the worth of the individual, and disciplines him to give away his all to the service of God and man. Its possibilities are not yet exhausted. It can still create a new world where the social rank of man is not determined by his caste or colour or the amount of dividend he earns, but by the kind of life he lives; where the poor tax the rich, where human society is founded not on the equality of stomachs but on the equality of spirits, where an untouchable can marry the daughter of a king, where private ownership is a trust and where capital cannot be allowed to accumulate so as to dominate the real producer of wealth. This superb idealism of your faith, however, needs emancipation from the medieval fancies of theologians and legists. Spiritually, we are living in a prison-house of thoughts and emotions which during the course of centuries we have woven round ourselves. And be it further said to the shame of us — men of older generation — that we have failed to equip the younger generation for the economic, political and even religions crises that the present age is likely to bring. The whole community needs a complete overhauling of its present mentality in order that it may again become capable of feeling the urge of fresh desires and ideals. The Indian Muslim has long ceased to explore the depths of his own inner life. The result is that he has ceased to live in the full glow and colour of life, and is consequently in danger of an unmanly compromise with forces which, he is made to think, he cannot vanquish in open conflict. He, who desires to change an unfavourable environment, most undergo a complete transformation of his inner being. God changes not the condition of a people until they themselves take the initiative to change their condition1 by constantly illuminating the zone of their daily activity in the light of a definite ideal. Nothing can be achieved without a firm faith in the independence of one’s own inner life. This faith alone keeps a people’s eyes fixed on their goal and saves them from perpetual vacillation. The lesson that past experience has brought to you must be taken to heart. Expect nothing from any side. Concentrate your whole ego on your self alone, and ripen your clay into real manhood, if you wish to see your aspirations realized. Mussolini’s maxim was: “He who has steel, has bread.” I venture to modify it a bit and say: “He who is steel, has everything.” Be hard and work hard. This is the whole secret of individual and collective life. Our ideal is well-defined. It is to win in the coming constitution a position for Islam, which may bring its opportunities to fulfil its destiny in this country. It is necessary in the light of this ideal to rouse the progressive forces of the community and to organize their hitherto dormant energies. The flame of life cannot be borrowed from others; it must be kindled in the temple of one’s own soul. This requires earnest preparation and a relatively permanent programme. What then shall be our future programme? I am inclined to think that it should be partly political, partly cultural. I venture to offer a few suggestions for your consideration.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE PROGRAMME
“I suggest that the Indian Muslims should have only one political organization. … This is the only way to … reintegrate and discipline our scattered forces to the best interests of Islam in India.”
First, we must frankly admit that there is yet a sort of chaos in the political thought of those who are supposed to guide the activities of the Indian Muslims in the present-day political struggle. The community, however, is not to blame for this state of things. The Muslim masses are not at all lacking in the spirit of self-sacrifice when the question of their ultimate destiny in the country is involved. Recent history bears ample testimony to what I say. The fault is ours, not theirs. The guidance offered to the community is not always independently conceived, and the result is ruptures, sometimes at critical moments, within our political organizations. Thus these organizations cannot properly develop the kind of disciplines which is so absolutely essential to the life and power of political bodies. To remedy this evil I suggest that the Indian Muslims should have only one political organization with provincial and district branches all over the country. Call it whatever you like. What is essential is that its constitution must be such as to make it possible for any school of political thought to come into power and to guide the community according to its own ideas and methods. In my opinion this is the only way to make ruptures impossible, and to reintegrate and discipline our scattered forces to the best interests of Islam in India.
Secondly, I suggest that this central organization should immediately raise a national fund of at least 50 lakhs of rupees. No doubt, we are living in hard times but you may rest assured that the Muslims of India will not fail to respond to your call if a genuine effort is made to impress upon them the gravity of the present situation.
Thirdly, I suggest the formation of youth leagues and well-equipped volunteer corps throughout the country, under the control and guidance of the central organization. They must specially devote themselves to social service, custom reform, commercial organization of the community and economic propaganda in towns and villages, especially in the Punjab where enormous indebtedness of Muslim agriculturists cannot be allowed to wait for the drastic remedies provided by agrarian upheavals. Things appear to have reached the breaking point as in China in 1925 when peasant leagues came into being in that country. The Simon Report admits that the peasant pays a ‘substantial portion’ of his means to the State. The State, no doubt, gives him in return peace and security, trade and communication. But the net result of these blessings has been only a kind of scientific exactitude in taxation, destruction of village economy by machine-made goods and the commercialization of crops which makes the peasant almost always fall a prey to money-lenders and commercial agents. This is a very serious matter especially in the Punjab. I want the proposed youth leagues to specialize in propaganda work in this connection, and thus to help the peasantry in escaping from its present bondage. The future of Islam in India largely depends, in my opinion, on the freedom of Muslim peasants in the Punjab. Let then, the fire of youth mingle with the fire of faith, in order to enhance the glow of life and to create a new world of actions for our future generations. A community is not merely a purely present and numerable whole of men and women. Indeed its life and activity as a living reality cannot be fully understood without a reference to that unborn infinity which lies asleep in the deeps of its inner being.
Fourthly, I suggest the establishment of male and female cultural institutes in all the big towns of India. These institutes as such should have nothing to do with politics. Their chief function should be to mobilize the dormant energy of the younger generation by giving them a clear grasp of what Islam has already achieved and what it has still to achieve in the religious and cultural history of mankind. The progressive forces of a people can be roused only by placing before them a new task calculated to enlarge the individuals to make them comprehend and experience the community, not as a heap of isolated fragments of life, but as a well-defined whole, possessing inner cohesion and solidarity. And when once these forces are roused, they bring fresh vigour for new conflicts, and that sense of inner freedom which enjoys resistance and holds out the promise of a new self. These institutes must keep in close touch with our educational institutions—old and new—with a view to secure the ultimate convergence of all the lines of our educational endeavour on a single purpose. One practical suggestion I can immediately make. The Hartog Committee’s Interim Report, now apparently forgotten in the rush of other political problems, makes the following recommendation which I consider of the utmost importance for the Muslims of India:
“There can be do doubt that if in Provinces where the educational progress of the Muhammadan community is impeded by religious difficulties, such arrangements for religious instruction can be made as will induce that community to send its children to ordinary schools; the public system will gain both in economy and efficiency and much will be done to free community from the handicap and the reproach of educational backwardness.”
“We are fully aware that such arrangements are not easy to make and that in other countries they have given rise to much controversy……But in our opinion the time is ripe and more than ripe for a determined effort to devise practical plans.” (pages 204-205).
And again on page 206 while discussing reservations, the Report says:
“If therefore, special arrangements inside the public system were made now, and possibly for some time to come, to enable the Muhammadan community to take its full share in the life and in the advance of the nation, this would not, in our opinion, be inconsistent either with sound democratic or sound educational principles. We could say that no reservations are necessary and we should certainly wish that they should be as small as possible. As complications of an educational system, they are undesirable in themselves, but since, in our belief, they represent a necessary alternative to the Muhammadan community in its present backward state, and leaving it to take the poor chances afforded by a system of segregate institutions, we have no hesitation in embracing that alternative as justifiable on broad grounds of national policy.”
The proposed cultural institutes, or till their establishment, the All-India Muslim Conference must see that these recommendations, based as they are on a clear perception of the present handicaps of our community, are carried into effect.
“I suggest the formation of an assembly of ulama, which must include Muslim lawyers who have received education in modern jurisprudence. The idea is to protect, expand and, if necessary, to reinterpret the law of Islam in the light of modern conditions, while keeping close to … its fundamental principles.”
Fifthly, I suggest the formation of an assembly of ulama, which must include Muslim lawyers who have received education in modern jurisprudence. The idea is to protect, expand and, if necessary, to reinterpret the law of Islam in the light of modern conditions, while keeping close to the spirit embodied in its fundamental principles. This body must receive constitutional recognition so that no bill affecting the personal law of Muslims may be put on the legislative anvil before it has passed through the crucible of this assembly. Apart from the purely practical value of this proposal for the Muslims of India, we must remember that the modern world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, has yet to discover the infinite value of the legal literature of Islam and its significance for a capitalistic world whose ethical standards have long abdicated from the control of man’s economic conduct. The formation of the kind of assembly I propose will, I am sure, bring a deeper understanding of the usual principles of Islam at least in this country.
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