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.    

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.