Following Zaid Hamid’s recent appearance on Meher Bokhari’s show Crossfire, South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) announced that it was planning to file a libel notice against Zaid Hamid for accusations he made during the programme. Last night, to discuss the issue on his show Shahid Nama, Shahid Masood invited as his guests two individuals whose views could not be further apart.
On the one hand was SAFMA co-founder Marvi Sirmed, a political commentator and journalist who holds Masters’ degrees in Political Science, Science Education and English Linguistics and has worked with Members of Parliament. She has also been the Institutional Development Specialist with the Ministry of Women Development, Government of Pakistan and as Policy Advocacy Specialist with National Commission on the Status of Women.
On the other hand was Zaid Hamid, a political commentator who has a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) degree in Computer Systems Engineering and the individual at the center of SAFMA’s complaint. Mr Zaid Hamid is the former host of the programme Brasstacks.
During the debate between Marvi Sirmed and Zaid Hamid one point of disagreement related to a claim by Marvi Sirmed that Allama Muhammad Iqbal was against the creation of an Islamic state. Miss Sirmed claimed that she had proof in a letter written by Iqbal to The Times newspaper of London in 1931. Due to the research of a reader of this blog, we are able to confirm that this letter was written. A photocopy of the letter is below:
The question is part of an ongoing debate about the way that Zaid Hamid presents Allama Iqbal in his media programmes as an advocate of the creation of a new Khalifat. An example can be seen in this video clip:
But was this the view of Allama Iqbal? According to Dr Javid Iqbal writing in October 1987 issue of Iqbal Review, the answer is no. Justice Iqbal wrote that Allama Iqbal “has no hesitation in approving the establishment of a multi-party system or political groupings in modern Islamic Democracies, for, in his opinion, this was in accordance with the practice of early republican phase in Islam”. He goes on to quote Allama Iqbal as supporting an expressly democratic system of governance and rejecting an imperialist Khalifat as “failed in practice”.
Let us now see how the Grand National Assembly has exercised this power of Ijtihad in regard to the institution of Khilafat. According to Sunni law, the appointment of an Imam or Khalifah is absolutely indespensable. The first question that arises in this connexion is this – Should the Caliphate be vested in a single person? Turkey’s Ijtihad is that according to the spirit of Islam the Caliphate or Imamate can be vested in a body of persons, or an elected Assembly…Personally, I believe the Turkish view is perfectly sound. It is hardly necessary to argue this point. The republican form of government is not only thoroughly consistent with the spirit of Islam, but has also become a necessity in view of the new forces that are set free in the world of Islam*…In order to understand the Turkish view let us seek the guidance of Ibn Khildun – the first philosophical historian of Islam.
Ibn Khildun, in his famous ‘Prolegomena’, mentions three distinct views of the idea of Universal Caliphate in Islam.
(1) That Universal Imamate is a Divine institution, and is consequently indispensable.
(2) That it is merely a matter of expediency.
(3) That there is no need of such an institution. The last view was taken by the Khawarij.
It seems that modern Turkey has shifted from the first to the second view, i.e. to the view of the Mu‘tazillah who regarded Universal Imamate as a matter of expediency only. The Turks argue that in our political thinking we must be guided by our past political experience which points unmistakably to the fact that the idea of Universal Imamate has failed in practice. It was a workable idea when the Empire of Islam was intact. Since the break-up of this Empire independent political units have arisen. The idea has ceased to be operative and cannot work as a living factor in the organisation of modern Islam*…Such is the attitude of the modern Turk, inspired as he is by the reality of experience, and not by the scholastic reasoning of jurists who lived and thought under different conditions of life.
Would Allama Iqbal have supported Zaid Hamid’s desire to see “the flag of Pakistan fly atop Delhi fort”? Did he believe in “Two Nation Theory”? Unfortunately, Iqbal is not here to answer the question himself, and so we are left to debate our own interpretations and hypotheses about his beliefs. Debates about interpretations of the words and intentions of Jinnah and Iqbal will continue, and it is perfectly reasonable to debate these issues as a part of discussions about politics and history. But these debates should be based in the actual words of the fathers of the nation, and not fantasy re-imaginings of what someone might wish Iqbal or Jinnah had said.
Marvi Sirmed and Zaid Hamid are both entitled to their own visions for the future of Pakistan. But nobody is entitled to re-writing the past.