Muslim nationalism in South Asia

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Muslim nationalism in South Asia is the political and cultural expression of nationalism, founded upon the religious tenets and identity of Islam, of the Muslims of South Asia.


  • What was the difference between Jinnah and the nationalist Muslims? While Jinnah wanted a separate state, the nationalist Muslims wanted the whole of India... The nationalist Muslims ... were generally no less hostile to the Hindus, or at least to Hinduism, than the Pakistan party.
    • H.Dalwai, Muslim politics in secular india, 1968, p 62. also in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 739-40
  • Some of them, particularly of Ulema class, sounded a warning that Pakistan might impede the establishment of Dinia by arousing unnecessary resistance among the Hindus; therefore, they stayed away from the Pakistan campaign and some of them even opposed it. They came to be known as “nationalist Muslims.”
  • These fatwas ... are the fatwas of the leading light of what would today be called the nationalist ulema: they reflect the premises, the axioms, the objectives of the ulema who supported joint action with the Congress, who endorsed participation in the Khilafat movement, in the Non-Cooperation movement, they reflect the position of the ulema who opposed the demand for Pakistan. The first thing which becomes apparent upon reading the fatwas of these ulema is that they were always on the defensive, that they had to labour endlessly to justify their position. This was so in part because, as I.H. Qureshi stresses in his Ulema in Politics, they were a minority among the ulema, but even more so because the course which they were proposing ran counter to what the Quran and Hadis so manifestly prescribe at so many places. For the latter reason, as will be evident from reading the fatwas, Kifayatullah and others could seek to justify their positions on pragmatic grounds alone. Moreover, they too affirmed that a Muslim is first and foremost a Muslim. They too held that his overriding objective, his ‘supreme’ objective is, and must be the advancement of the interests of Islam and of Muslims. They too saw the interests of Muslims to be distinct and separate from the interests of Indians—or to use the expression they used, of Hindustanis—in general. In their reckoning too, far from a non-Muslim actually furthering and protecting these separate interests, a non-Muslim could not even be acknowledged to be the one doing so. Indeed, even a non-orthodox Muslim, one who was not adhering to the requirements of the shariah could not be acknowledged to be the defender and protector of these distinct and separate interests. Their point was merely that the circumstances in which Muslims were placed at that time necessitated that they work jointly with one set of kafirs— the Hindus—to weaken and oust the other set of kafirs—the British. This necessity, they explained, arose from the conjunction of two factors: both the Hindus and the Ahl-i-Kitab are the enemies of Islam, they declared, but as at that time as the Ahl-i-Kitab, specifically the Christian British, were the more powerful, they constituted the greater danger to the interests of Islam and of Muslims; third, at that time Muslims could not rid the place of the British on their own—a trinity of aims which in today’s circumstance would entail the opposite course.
    That apart, even while urging joint action with kafirs they incessantly stressed separateness. Indeed on their reckoning joint action was justified precisely because it was the best available way, because in the given circumstances it was the only way for safeguarding that separateness. They repeatedly declared, as we have seen, that had it been possible for Muslims to safeguard their interests by their own efforts, it would indeed have been wrong to associate with kafirs even in joint action against the British. And their opposition to the demand for Pakistan was not that Hindustan is one and should therefore remain one. They opposed the demand on the grounds that Pakistan was not going to be realized, that if attained it would confine the sway and glory of Islam to a corner of the country alone, that Muslims in the rest of India would be weakened, and that, in any case, the aim of the Muslim League was not to create a truly Islamic state. [...]
  • Why do the secularists never comment on such material? Where do the fatwas leave the ecumenical homilies of our Sarva dharma samabhava school? The fatwas of the ‘nationalist’ ulema were surprising enough: they urged joint action with kafirs on strictly pragmatic grounds, on the ground in particular that such joint action was the best, indeed the only available way to maintain separateness. But here we have fatwas which proclaim even that pragmatism to be kufr. Notice that the person in question, the one whose leadership occasioned the fatwas was Mahatma Gandhi—a more saintly person is not likely to be available in our public life for decades and decades. And yet these were the fatwas. The cause too was as noble as a cause can be—the country’s Independence. Often—as during the Khilafat movement—the cause was of direct concern to the Muslims. And yet these were the fatwas. Notice too that while, for urging even that minimal cooperation with the kafir Hindus, an alim even of the eminence of Mufti Kifayatullah had to confine himself to pragmatic reasoning, Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan was able to justify his fatwas by citing chapter and verse from the Quran and Hadis. For the Quran and Hadis ordain the position elaborated by Ahmad Riza Khan, and not the one the ‘nationalist’ ulema strained to justify. That is the fact which our intelligentsia does not want to face.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)

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