📖[PDF] Pakistan Enigma Pol Dev von Lawrence Ziring | Perlego (2024)

📖[PDF] Pakistan Enigma Pol Dev von Lawrence Ziring | Perlego (1)

The Muslims of South Asia are the descendents of conquerors. This is the essential legacy of Islam in the subcontinent. It colours the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the region, and fixes in Muslim minds notions of superiority and still greater achievement to come. Muslim conquest is an intrinsic article of faith, a faith in Allah and the conviction that what is perpetrated is God’s will. Muslims do not recognize a division between the spiritual and the secular, righteousness and the profane. Religious experience cannot be separated from social, economic or political events. Islam is a total way of life and the obligations imposed on its devotees are explicit and beyond challenge or questioning.1 Islam is not unique in weaving together military performance with holy purpose, but it is different from other contemporary orders in its reluctance to yield to the realities of a world seized and pressured by competing beliefs, philosophies and ideologies. In this regard, Muslims display difficulty in transcending their surroundings: the abstraction that grips them limits empathy with the larger world. In part, hard-pressed by non-Muslims and especially Christian forces over the last several centuries, Muslims perceive themselves in an unrelenting struggle against hostile elements. The general reaction has predictably led to the re-establishment and expansion of Muslim armies with stress on the advancement of military science and overall performance. This is true in virtually every Muslim country in this latter segment of the twentieth century; it is no less true in Pakistan where the military institution has been a centrepiece from the first moments after independence.2

Rise and Decline of Muslim Power in South Asia

The Arabs invaded South Asia in the eighth century bringing the teachings of Islam with them and forcing the Hindu inhabitants to make a permanent place for the new community. The Arabs were followed by the Persians, Afghans and Turks who having adopted Islam, now sought to press its message deeper into the heart of India. The Sultanate of Delhi was established in the thirteenth century and it ruled over much of northen India, while the Moghuls, who were bent on the establishment of their own empire, dominated almost the whole of the subcontinent from the sixteenth through the middle of the nineteenth centuries. Though far fewer in numbers than their indigenous Hindu opponents, the Muslim armies exhibited greater cohesiveness, organization and discipline, and fired by the obligations of their faith were singularly successful against the fragmented followers of Vishnu, Siva, Brahma and a whole host of other Hindu deities. Given the nature of Hindu culture and its political expression, the Muslims found a ready-made divide and rule situation prevailing within the subcontinent and they soon learned how to exploit it. But they were also victimized by it.3 Division not unity is an historic condition in South Asia and the Muslim invaders were heavily influenced by their surroundings. Direct Moghul rule proved impossible as local leaders (predominantly military or the descendente of military officials) continued to hold sway over their distinct populations. This guaranteed protracted conflict between the central Moghul administration and the distant territories. Although allegedly under Moghul control, numerous independent and quasi-independent Muslim, as well as Hindu rulers, exerted their own authority and pursued their own ambitious programmes.

These were the prevailing circ*mstances when the Europeans filtered into the subcontinent. Arriving in the guise of traders, they soon revealed their political and military intentions and after a period in which they jockeyed for position, testing one another’s determination, it was the British who emerged as the most potent force challenging Moghul authority. The British victory over the Moghuls at Plassey in 1757 at once marked the decline of the Muslim kingdom and the rise of English power. By 1858 the dominant Muslim political role in South Asia had been eclipsed, but the glories of the past were not forgotten and efforts to revive Muslim power were instituted in the last quarter of the nineteenth century by members of the Muslim intellectual community. Indeed, the view that Muslims were a nation entitled to self-government and separate from the larger population was the principal idea behind their movement.

Great Britain and the Muslims

British Indian rule was largely bureaucratic. Civilian administrators predominated in the governing institution while the Army had the responsibility for enforcing and maintaining law and order. There was little political give-and-take with the Indian population before the beginning of the twentieth century, a situation that was dramatically altered with the onset of World War I. Britain’s participation in that war heralded its loss of role as the balancer in the European balance of power, a role it had sustained for almost one hundred years.4 Britain’s involvement in World War I also necessitated drawing heavy reserves from its Indian Army which were deployed in Europe and the Middle East. The British promised their subjects on the subcontinent increased opportunities for self-government in return for their loyal services and this gesture not only signalled Britain’s relative weakness vis-à-vis the forces influencing world events at the time, it also whetted the appetite of those Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, who sought to regain their political independence. But the Muslims were noticeably more wary over the sudden shift in fortunes and although anxious to be rid of the British, began to question the Muslim condition given the concerted efforts of the Hindus to shape unfolding events.

In 1857 elements of the British Indian Army had rebelled against their British superiors and a series of incidents ignited violent acts in a number of areas throughout northen India. The rebels used the Moghul Emperor as their symbol of legitimacy and sought to rally their troops behind his command. The British ruthlessly crushed the insurrection and banished the Emperor from the country.5 As a result the Muslims bore chief responsibility for the disorder and the British developed their own form of divide and rule by seeming to favour the Hindu population, especially when recruitment procedures were relaxed and indigenous personnel were accepted into the ruling organization. Largely demoralized and indifferent to British customs and educational opportunities, the Muslim community withdrew into itself, hence leaving the field to the Hindus who seized every opportunity to enter the governing circle.6 When the Muslims awoke to their circ*mstances and realized they were being surpassed in all fields of endeavour by the Hindu population, attempts were made to correct the situation. But it was clearly too late to alter the pattern of events. The Hindus, with British encouragement, had given birth to a new form of popular leadership that was not only politically conscious and astute, but determined to give India its political renaissance.

It was this situation that the Muslims worried about as they began to entertain the view that the British capacity to control the subcontinent was diminishing and that eventually Hindus and Muslims would be left to sort out their destinies alone. The awareness that the Moghul dynasty was beyond re-creation, along with the rise of Hindu organization under British tutelage, particularly through the development of the Indian National Congress (1885), compelled the Muslims to realize that their ability to reimpose an essentially Muslim government over the country was nil.7 The Muslims had to content themselves either with joining the Hindu-dominated Congress Party and working toward the development of a multinational and multi-religious state, or take a separate course which would exaggerate the importance of the largest minority group within the South Asian land-mass. In creating the Muslim League in 1906 the Muslims seemed to suggest that they had chosen the latter course. The Muslim sense of distinctiveness, isolation and superiority prevented any genuine move toward integration with the Hindu majority. Therefore, as it became clear that the British would one day vacate their Indian possession, many Muslims were convinced they could not live under a Hindu-controlled government and hence would have to manifest independent political views. The rallying cry for the establishment of a separate Muslim polity within the subcontinent was ‘Islam in Danger’ and to many of the faithful it was a cry they could not ignore.8

The Muslim Separatist Movement

The British had exploited differences between Muslims and Hindus and they were not surprised with the separate course promoted by the Muslim League. Nevertheless, their firm control over the Indian Army and the tradition which had long been in vogue of maintaining hom*ogeneous units of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs and their being further subdivided into distinct ethnic and regional units, seemed to insulate the military from the political forces that were slowly reshaping the larger communities. The Muslim military contingents were basically neutralized and non-participant in this phase of the Muslim reawakening in South Asia. Muslim politicians had the field virtually to themselves as they attempted to excite and enlist popular support. Muslim lawyers, teachers and medical practitioners, largely trained by the British, many actually in England, were in the Vanguard of the so-called ‘Freedom Movement’. They attracted the support of the Muslim student community as well as that of a number of Muslim princes whose authority over local kingdoms had not been interrupted by British rule. Added to this élite circle were Muslim landlords, merchants and commercial entrepreneurs, who together comprised an important source of revenue from which the campaign was financed.

Noticeably absent from the Freedom Movement as conducted by the Muslim League were important members of the religious fraternity, the ulema. The ulema were teachers, learned in the scriptures and commentaries who played a significant role in the daily lives of the Muslim people. Although not quite a priesthood (orthodox Islam does not call for the establishment of a church or a religious hierarchy), their authority among the masses was considerable. In the period following World War I the more articulate and well-known members of the ulema did not ignore politics, nor the needs of their fellow Muslims, but they did see a necessity to work with the Hindus in an effort to force an early British withdrawal from India. Many important ulema joined the Congress Party in an attempt to allay Muslim fears of Hindu intentions by cooperating in a common endeavour to rid the subcontinent of its European masters rather than set a course for the partition of the region, which they argued only played into English hands. Moreover, a major problem perplexing the ulema, which they felt would only be exacerbated by the demand for a separate Muslim homeland, was the burden that would be placed upon those Muslims left behind in the Hindu-dominated portion of India. By all esimates these Muslims would represent tens of millions.

For the ulema the creation of self-governing Islamic polity would place Indian Muslims in even greater danger and they insisted that another formula had to be found other than that being pressed by the Muslim League. Among Muslim leaders, the ulema stood almost alone in their effort to thwart the establishment of an independent Muslim state, and they were criticized by the intellectuals for being too naive. They were also unaffected by the excitement that attracted the masses towards the Muslim League. All indications pointed to a popular shift from traditional to modern Muslim leadership. Rather than those previously most closely identified with Islam, it was the educated and modernist Muslim leaders whom the masses looked to for guidance. As I. H. Qureshi notes: ‘Thus the ulema were left high and dry and were angry with the new leadership mostly out of jealousy because the people listened to it and had no use for the ulema who had gradually come to sing a tune that was completely out of harmony with the feelings of the community.’9

The creation of an Islamic state in South Asia therefore was not the work of clerics and religious divines but rather the determined effort by informed, westernized, materially conditioned elements who had the capacity to articulate the desires of a population that could feel but not necessarily express its desires. Cognizant of the larger Muslim awakening, the world-wide movement toward the establishment of national states, the universal cry for self-determination, and political forces at home and abroad, these leaders were drawn to take up the cause of separate nationhood for the Muslims of South Asia. But the masses who followed them had no clear idea about their objectives, nor could their leaders provide them with one. They came together more as a result of circ*mstances than design; they drew their inspiration from personal attachment and emotional involvement rather than objective fact; they had a clearer idea about what they opposed than about what they supported. But they were all Muslims and the call for a separate homeland for Muslims, free from Hindu influence, was all they needed to coalesce.

The absence of an Islamic church or priesthood in orthodox or Sunni Islam (as distinguished from Shi’a Islam as in Iran with its more prominent mullahs and ayatullahs) has already been noted. It is important to understand that the masses who followed the Muslim League rather than the ulema were not making a secular rather than a religious choice. Islam is not as dependent upon the ulema as it is on congregational prayer and such prayer is a direct responsibility of the Muslim umma (community). Beyond this it is the state organized government which regulates the upkeep of holy places and houses of worship. But the primary responsibility falls on the leading members of the larger community who constitute a working body for the maintenance and condition of religious structures. They also support the small staff that oversees mosques and other sacred sites. Moreover, any Muslim can lead the community in prayer or even conduct holy rites such as marriage (which, by-and-large, is a civil contract). As Qureshi has commented: ‘Thus, ulema do not, in any way, monopolize any function in any rites that non-Muslims would consider exclusively religious… even learning is not prerequisite for performing any of these functions: only the limited knowledge adequate for the purpose is needed.’10 The essential point in this argument is that in following the modernist leaders of the Muslim League the community was neither rejecting tradition, nor committing an irreligious act. In point of fact, the Muslim League leaders were as much representative of the Islamic cause as any religious scholar in the flowing robes of the Arabian desert. The complications of the Muslim legacy in South Asia can be noted in this juxtaposition of political and religious forces, but it is even more complex when efforts are made to examine the stated Muslim objective of establishing a new Islamic state within the region.

The Muslim Legacy and the National State

Muslims identify with a universal brotherhood that supposedly draws people from distant corners of the globe into a single, unified community. In other words, nationalism (which is the subject of the next chapter) could be considered a violation of the basic objective of Islam, the union of believers in a covenant with God. Indeed, Muslims seem to be in agreement that sovereignty belongs neither to government nor people, but to God.11 Those endowed with power therefore hold it in trust for God, the ultimate authority, and do not possess it themselves. The corporate state with fixed frontiers separating one political entity from another divides the faithful. It is therefore perceived as an alien and particularly Western contrivance, imposed upon the Muslim world in a period of weakness. Pan-Islamism still claims many supporters drawn from all walks of life and they envisage a day when national frontiers between Muslim states will fade away. The many divisions among Muslims today, according to this school, are temporary phenomena which will be overcome as Muslims sense the real purpose of their actions and gather new strength from their joint inheritance. References to Pan-Islamism have been nourished by the Arab world (at least in the promotion of Arab unity) down to the present, but it is in South Asia where it has manifested its broadest appeal in modern times.12

No better example exists than the modern Khalifate Movement, whose origins can be traced to World War I. The Caliphate (Khalifate) has its institutional origins in the period immediately following the death of the Prophet Mohammad in the seventh century A.D. Not unlike the Catholic Papacy, the Caliphs (successors to the Prophet) had considerable religious and secular responsibilities. So long as the Caliphate existed, the entire Muslim community from the Atlantic to the Pacific could respond to one symbol, and in theory the institution was the embodiment of faith and sacred law. In practice, however, the independent rulers throughout the Muslim world suppressed any attempt to interfere in their affairs and tended to follow imperial traditions that long pre-dated the Islamic movement.13

The idea of a central authority for all Muslims was kept alive by the Muslim middle classes, the religiously-inspired legalists and the ulema. But they could not expect to achieve more than psychic fulfilment given the sweep of history and misfortune that coursed through the Muslim world. The raw struggle for power and position that gave the Umayyad kings of Damascus control over the Caliphate con...

📖[PDF] Pakistan Enigma Pol Dev von Lawrence Ziring | Perlego (2024)
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