Islam and Nationhood - Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

Islam and Nationhood

Like colour, ethnicity, language, culture and country, religion is also an important factor is determining nationhood. Muslims, through over centuries, have become a nation on the basis of their religion. If they are faced with a challenge, at least in the Indian sub-continent, they fervently express this nationhood. On this very basis, Quaid e Azam had said that the Muslims of this region are a separate nation with regard to all the principles of international law. This is because their culture, social trends, language and literature, disciplines of knowledge, customs and traditions, mental framework, temperament, law, moral principles, style of life and even their calendar and way of naming children is distinct from other nations.[1] This statement of the Quaid was based entirely on truth and an expression of reality from which no one can differ. Accordingly, this writer too did not express any such difference and at no place in my article “Islam and the State: A Counter Narrative” did I say that Muslims are not a nation or cannot become a nation.

All that I had stated in that article was that it is not a requirement of Islam or a directive of its sharī‘ah that the nationhood of Muslims should be based on religion and hence all Muslims must become one nation. I never stated what my critics are criticizing and what I have said need explicit directives of the Qur’ān and H@adīth for their refutation and they are not available in any way. Hence, in order to validate a religions directive people have confined their arguments to the speeches of the Quaid, the poetry of Iqbal and events of the Pakistan movement.

The Muslims of the sub-continent are a nation and this is a self-obvious reality. If someone says that the mosques of Musims have minarets and towers, then who can deny this? It is a factual statement. However, if a person says that it is the requirement of Islam and a directive of its sharī‘ah that mosques must have towers and minarets, then it is the duty of every scholar to refute this claim and inform people that this is a totally unfounded view. Whether a mosque is constructed from hut of grass or whether it is built in the form of a four-walled compound with its roof made of stems and branches of palm trees, Islam has no objection to it.

It is this obligation which I have ventured to fulfil and have explained the correct view of Islam for those of our youth who are lured into terrorist activities by being told that the existence of Arab, Iranian, Pakistani or Afghan nations is absolutely unlawful and that the basis of nationhood of Muslims is Islam and their system is khilāfah; moreover, since this system can in no way be enforced in the nation-states of modern times, hence such states should be obliterated from the face of the earth. I had sought to explain to them that nations-states are not tantamount to kufr (disbelief) and that all natural factors which are regarded to be the foundation of nationhood for other nations are valid for Muslims as well. According to the Qur’ān, the mutual relationship between Muslims is that of brotherhood and not nationhood. Hence, Muslims who by accepting the notion of a nation-state are living, for example, in the US, the UK, Germany, France, India or even Pakistan are not violating any directive of the sharī‘ah. The sources of Islam are absolutely devoid of any directive which says that Islam itself is a basis of nationhood. If in the times of the Pakistan movement, Muslims insisted that they were a separate nation from the Indians and on this very basis demanded for them a separate homeland, then there was nothing wrong in this. Similarly, if right after the creation of Pakistan they declared themselves to be a Pakistani nation, then this too cannot be objected to. From the context of politics, a person can agree with the views of Mawlānā Abū al-Kalām A%zād and regard Quaid e Azam’s views to be incorrect and vice versa and we have the right to give preference to either of these views; however, from as far as the context of religion is concerned, neither of these two political views can be objected to. Thus, Quaid e Azam too never objected to Abū al-Kalām’s view on this basis. This is because his opinion was not that Muslims and Hindus cannot live together as one nation because this would be against Islam and Islamic sharī‘ah and hence they demanded a separate homeland for themselves. His opinion was that in order to protect the Muslim culture, their economic, political and social spheres as well as religious traditions from the hegemony of the Hindus, he was demanding a separate homeland for them; morever, he contended that the basis of his demand according to all statutes of international law was that Muslims were a separate nation, and it is the right of every nation to demand a homeland in areas where it exists in majority.

I have expressed my view on this subject above. Every person has a right to criticize it. However, I respectfully request my readers that they should spend some time in understanding my view before they attempt to do so.

(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem)


[1]. Speeches of the Quaid.


With Thanks To Book: Selected Essays of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Written/Published: 2015
Author : Javed Ahmad Ghamidi