How the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Fought Against the Partition of India

08 March, 2015

In the mid 1940s, as the Muslim League began to realise its vision of a separate nation state for the subcontinent's Muslim population under Muhammad Ali Jinnah, it met with resistance not only from the Congress' high command but also from the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), a political organisation that was founded in 1919. In this excerpt from Venkat Dhulipala's Creating a New Medina, the leader of the JUH, Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, presents his reasons for his opposition to the Muslim League and the two-nation theory.

The JUH now formed a separate party, the Azad Muslim Parliamentary Board, to fight the elections and ward off the criticism that it was merely a handmaiden of the Congress. Its chief campaigner was Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, the principal of the Darul Uloom, Deoband, and one of the foremost Islamic scholars in the country. Madani, as his name suggests, had an intimate connection with Medina as he had been a renowned teacher of Hadith in that holy city for nearly fifteen years. Madani remained steadfast in his advocacy of a composite undivided India and emerged as the most prominent alim opposed to the ML and its Pakistan demand. Reacting to the accusation that he had ‘joined the Hindus’, he wrote to a correspondent in Rawalpindi

You write that I have joined the Hindus and you are stunned by that. Why do you get affected by such propaganda?  Muslims have been together with the Hindus since they moved to Hindustan. And I have been with them since I was born. I was born and raised here. If two people live together in the same country, same city, they will share lot of things with each other. Till the time there are Muslims in India, they will be together with the Hindus. In the bazaars, in homes, in railways, trams, in buses, lorries, in stations, colleges, post offices, jails, police stations, courts, councils, assemblies, hotels, etc. You tell me where and when we don’t meet them or are not together with them? You are a zamindar. Are not your tenants Hindus? You are a trader; don’t you buy and sell from Hindus?  You are a lawyer don’t you have Hindu clients? You are in a district or municipal board; won’t you be dealing with Hindus? Who is not with the Hindus? All ten crore Muslims of India are guilty then of being with the Hindus.

Madani believed that the ‘fundamental institution of contemporary political life was the territorial nation-state’ and India was indeed such a State . The main problem facing India was British imperialism which could only be overthrown through a joint Hindu-Muslim struggle. This would have the effect of also freeing other parts of Islamic world from British yoke, since it was control over India that allowed them to hold on to their worldwide Empire. Madani opposed Pakistan since he saw it as a British ploy to divide and weaken the nationalist movement and extend British control over the subcontinent. He pointed to their dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and reducing its component parts to colonial appendages. Madani therefore attacked ML and Pakistan in a number of different ways. To begin with, he accused Jinnah of deliberately not coming up with a concrete plan about Pakistan. Quoting a news report from the Haqiqat of Lucknow, he pointed out that when Jinnah was asked at a press conference in Karachi about what Pakistan meant, the Qaid asked for more time to provide clarifications on the matter. On being pressed further, Jinnah directed the inquisitive newsman to existing writings and his own statements on Pakistan. When a Muslim editor reportedly pointed out that he had read all the existing literature and concluded that Pakistan was suicidal for the Indian Muslims, Jinnah got upset and refused to take further questions. For Madani this meant that Mr. Jinnah till date had not fully thought through or worked out the implications of Pakistan.

By contrast, Madani claimed that he himself had thought deeply on the matter and proceeded to lay out Pakistan’s devastating consequences for the Indian Muslims. While earlier JUH commentators had highlighted its dangers for the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims, Madani added that even those belonging to the majority provinces would find themselves in the lurch. He made it clear that according to the principles of the Lahore Resolution itself, existing provincial boundaries would have to be altered. It would entail Muslims in eastern Punjab and western Bengal being excluded from Pakistan. After all numerical majority was the deemed principle for partition, and non-Muslim districts in the Muslim majority areas could not be forced to join Pakistan. Assam too would not be a part of Pakistan as Muslims were a small minority in the Brahmaputra Valley. Madani noted that Iqbal too had talked of severing the Ambala division from Punjab to make it more religiously homogenous. By echoing the official Congress stance on the issue of territorial division Madani squarely called into question Jinnah and Liaquat’s claims that Pakistan would include six provinces in their entirety.    

Madani also ridiculed the idea that Pakistan would be an Islamic State based on principles of the Sharia. He noted that the Asr-i Jadid of Calcutta had quoted Jinnah as saying that Pakistan’s constitution would be created by a Constituent Assembly elected by its people. Madani also referred to the Shahbaz of Lahore that carried an Urdu translation of Jinnah’s interview to the News Chronicle of London, in which he likened Pakistan to a European style democracy. Jinnah had also made it clear that Pakistan’s basic industries would be state controlled thus making it more akin to a socialist State. Madani’s extensive and careful citation of various newspaper reports in his pamphlets against Pakistan attests to the importance of the popular press not only in terms of being a critical site for debating Pakistan but also as a vehicle for dissemination of information and ideas to a wide audience.

Madani was however selective in quoting Jinnah since he largely ignored his many public statements wherein the Qaid asserted that Pakistan’s government would be established according the principles of the Sharia. Even if Madani quoted one such speech where Jinnah asked the minority provinces Muslims to sacrifice themselves for the purpose of establishing such a State, he dismissed it as a charade (dhong). After all Jinnah was not a practicing Muslim and Islamic practices had no meaning for him. The JUH ulama would go on to call Jinnah Kafir-iAzam and Churchill’s showboy. Madani also pointed out that Jinnah did not particularly care for even the worldly needs of fellow Muslims. Jinnah had after all sacrificed Muslim legislative majorities in Punjab and Bengal in the 1916 Pact. Closer home, Madani noted that the staff of Jinnah’s newspaper the Dawn, included only three Muslims while it had six Hindus, two Christians, a Jew, and even a Qadiani such as Z.A Suleri.

The League’s anti-Islamic character, its close association with the imperialist government, its dangerous ploy of Pakistan and the devastating consequences it would have for Indian Muslims were themes that Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani reiterated in a number of pamphlets on the eve of the elections as he tried to wean Muslim voters away from the ML. These were pithily summarized in a widely circulated appeal to the Muslim voter that listed all the anti-Muslim activities of the ML over the past three decades.

1)      The ML had betrayed Islam by undermining a comprehensive Shariat Bill in the Central Assembly by adding conditions that rendered it useless and dead.

2)       The ML toed the government line by passing the Divorce (Khula) Bill which made it unnecessary for Muslim judges to adjudicate divorce in Muslim families. When the JUH ulama sought to redress this issue by introducing a Qazi Bill, the ML at the government’s behest opposed and killed this bill since it did not want the ulama to be invested with any authority.

3)      The ML had co-operated with the government to enable the passage of the Army Bill even though 500 ulama signed a fatwa opposing it.

4)      The ML had not objected to the transfer of the Shahidgunj court case from Punjab to Calcutta thus sinking the Muslim cause forever in the Bay of Bengal.

5)      The ML supported amendments to the Civil Marriage Act allowing marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims even though it knew that such marriages were against the Quran.

6)      The ML forced the Sarda bill upon Muslims with government help even though the ulama protested against such an imposition.

7)      The ML signed the Lucknow Pact of 1916 reducing the Muslims to legislative minorities in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal.

8)      During the 1930 Round Table Conference, the ML got together with Europeans, Indian Christians, and Anglo-Indians and again reduced Bengal and Punjab Muslims to a minority in their own province, making their demand for establishing Pakistan in these very areas rather ironic.

9)      The ML repeated this despicable tactic again after the Communal Award of 1932.

10)  The ML supported the government in imposing stiff conditions for obtaining drivers licenses making life more difficult for poor drivers.

11)   The ML did not condemn the government for shooting dead 47 Muslims who were part of a public procession mourning the hanging of Abdul Qayyum by the Sind government.

12)  The ML government in Bengal was responsible for the death of 35 lakh people during the Bengal famine, a majority of who were Muslims.

13)  The government of Sir Nazimuddin was extremely corrupt and government contracts were mostly handed over to friends and relatives of the high and mighty including many Hindus.

14)  The Central government dropped 700 bombs from the air upon the NWFP as part of its offensive against the rebellion killing a number of Muslims. When the Congress member from Madras, Mr. Satyamurthy introduced a motion to condemn these wanton acts of the government, the ML did not support him and instead kept silent.

15)   While the ML raised a hue and cry over atrocities perpetrated upon Muslims in the minority provinces by the Congress governments, when Rajendra Prasad offered an enquiry to be headed by the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the ML flatly declined and instead demanded a royal commission to probe the charges.

16)  The ML did not raise even a murmur of protest when the government itself declined to set up a Royal Commission for this purpose.

17)  The ML did nothing for the cause of the Palestinians or the Muslims of Zanzibar.

An excerpt from Venkat Dhulipala's Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial North India.  Reproduced with the permission of Cambridge University Press.

Venkat Dhulipala Venkat Dhulipala is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and teaches courses on the history of modern South Asia, comparative colonial histories and introductory surveys in Global History.