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‘Sare Jahan Se Achcha’ fame and ‘liberal’ hero Iqbal seeded two-nation theory in the presidential address on December 29, 1930: Read details

After talking in detail about having "equal opportunities" within Indian Federal State, either under British Empire or without it, Iqbal said if the demands were not met, the Muslims of India should prepare for an "Independent and concerted political action".

Muhammed Iqbal, one of the most significant proponents of the two-nation theory and the creation of Pakistan in the first half of the 20th century. Indians know him as the man behind the famous composition ‘Sare Jahaan Se Achcha’. For Nehruvian Secularists, Iqbal has come to be regarded as a beacon of unity and tolerance between Hindus and Muslims in India.

However, with a little knowledge about him, one would realise that Muhammad Iqbal was an ineffective representative of the outlandish idea of Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb. With Nehruvian Secularism destroying his sense of reality, the liberals only saw Iqbal as someone worth admiring. It’s no surprise then that in India, the last country that needs any more violence, Iqbal’s words were praised.

In modern-day India, his legacy is largely thought to be contained to these two lines alone and largely ignored. And it’s not hard to see why – there’s no mention of the Tarana-e-Milli that he composed in 1910. In Tarana-e-Milli, the Islamist nature of Muhammad Iqbal becomes apparent. It was written using the same metre and rhyme scheme as ‘Sare Jahaan Se Achcha’ and is for children. The first stanza in this composition contrasts with the sixth, which says, “Cīn o-ʿArab hamārā, Hindūstāṉ hamārā, Muslim haiṉ ham, wat̤an hai sārā jahāṉ hamārā”. This vision of the Ummah in poetry; is an Ummah which does not constrain itself to any national boundaries but believes it has an Allah-given right to rule over the world. Unfortunately for Ummah lovers, that vision is unlikely to come true.

There was a radical transformation in Muhammad Iqbal’s worldview. He’d been on this path for years, but it came to fruition when he left the United Kingdom from 1904-1910. It’s believed that his transformation into an Islamic fundamentalist took place during this time, which in turn led him to become fervently dedicated to the creation of Pakistan. Toward the end of his life, Muhammad Iqbal would be seen as a tireless advocate for Pakistan.

The presidential address at the 25th Annual Session of the All India Muslim League on the 29th of December, 1930

In his speech, Iqbal said by carefully studying Islam, its laws and polity, culture, history and literature, he became aware of its significance as a “world fact”. While speaking about Islam and Nationalism, Iqbal talked about how Luther challenged the idea of Christianity, and a similar revolt was impossible in Islam. He stated that though European values had entered the minds of the young Muslims of that time, it was not possible to see the fate Christianity was facing happening to Islam. He added in Islam, God and the universe, spirit and matter, Church and State, are organic to each other, unlike in Europe, where the duality of spirit and matter was uncritically accepted. In a way, Iqbal presented Islam as a better religion than Christianity.

Seeding the idea of two nations

While speaking about the unity of an Indian Nation, Iqbal started propagating the idea of ‘homelands’ based on the ideas and principles of Islam for Muslims. He emphasised Muslims being a minority in India and how it was not possible to find a principle of mutual harmony and cooperation among religions and castes. Iqbal added that the experiences showed individualities in a larger whole in India, and every group, divided on caste and religion, had ‘intense jealousy towards the collective existence’. He stated that in the historic space, the ancient land (India) suffered greatly due to the ‘inherent incapacity of the people’ to cooperate and live in harmony. The reason, according to him, was the people suspect each other’s intentions and have ‘inwardly aim at dominating each other’.


“Perhaps we are unwilling to recognise that each group has a right to free development according to its cultural traditions. But whatever the causes of our failure, I still feel hopeful. Events seem to be tending in the direction of some sort of internal harmony. And as far as I have been able to read the Muslim mind, I have no hesitation in declaring that if the principle that the Indian Muslim is entitled to full and free development on the lines of his own culture and tradition in his Indian home-lands is recognised as the basis of a permanent communal settlement, he will be ready to stake his all for the freedom of India,” he added and seeded the idea of two nations in his speech.

Citing Nehru Report, he said, “Even the authors of the Nehru Report recognise the value of this higher aspect of communalism. While discussing the separation of Sind, they say, “To say from the larger viewpoint of nationalism that no communal provinces should be created is, in a way, equivalent to saying from the still wider international viewpoint that there should be no separate nations. Both these statements have a measure of truth in them. But the staunchest internationalist recognises that without the fullest national autonomy, it is extraordinarily difficult to create an international state. So also without the fullest cultural autonomy – and communalism in its better aspect is culture – it will be difficult to create a harmonious nation.””


‘Muslims’ demand for a Muslim India within India is justified’

It was interesting to note that initially, during his speech, Iqbal emphasised having a “separate Muslim autonomous state” within India. This is the point that most ‘Iqbal sympathisers’ pick that he was not in favour of a separate country but an equal opportunity for Muslims in India.

Iqbal said that while comparing India to European countries, people do not consider that India has different races, languages and religions, and a “common race consciousness does not determine their behaviour”. Stating it was not possible to apply European democracy to India without recognising the existence of communal groups, he said that the demand of Muslims for the creation of a Muslim India within India was “perfectly justified”.


In a personal capacity, Iqbal said he would like to see a single self-governed state comprising Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan under British Empire or without it. He said, “The formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.” He added, “The proposal was put forward before the Nehru Committee. They rejected it on the ground that, if carried into effect, it would give a very unwieldy State. This is true in so far as the area is concerned; in point of population, the state contemplated by the proposal would be much less than some of the present Indian provinces. The exclusion of Ambala Division, and perhaps of some districts where non-Muslims predominate, will make it less extensive and more Muslim in population – so that the exclusion suggested will enable this consolidated state to give more effective protection to non-Muslim minorities within its area.”

Calling India ‘the greatest Muslim country in the world’, Iqbal claimed that the idea of a separate Muslim nation should not raise the alarm either for the Hindus or for the British. Iqbal further noted the importance of troops from the “North-West Indian Muslims” as part of the Indian Army at that time. He said that the centralisation of Indian Muslims would have intensified a “sense of responsibility” and “deepened” patriotic feelings. Interestingly, he noted that Punjab was providing 54 per cent of the Indian Army troops, an area that has a 56 per cent Muslim population. However, he did not mention how many of the troops were Sikhs and Hindus, as they were a large part of the Indian army under British Empire.

Notably, according to the National Army Museum (UK) website, there were around 4 lakh soldiers in the armed forces at the time of partition. 2,40,000 men, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, went to India, and 1,40,000 Muslims went to Pakistan. In this number taken into consideration, the idea that 54 per cent of Indian Army men were from Punjab, it would not be correct to say that most of them were Muslims.

He cited Srinivasa Sastri’s thoughts on creating a separate Muslim state along the northwest border, where he stated that the demand by the Muslims was actuated by a desire “to acquire means of exerting pressure in emergencies on the Government of India.” Negating his thoughts, he said, “I may frankly tell him that the Muslim demand is not actuated by the kind of motive he imputes to us; it is actuated by a genuine desire for free development which is practically impossible under the type of unitary government contemplated by the nationalist Hindu politicians with a view to secure permanent communal dominance in the whole of India.”

According to Iqbal, Hindu politicians of that time desired “communal dominance” across the country. He also negated the speculations of Islamic rules in Muslim-controlled states and said the meaning of the word religion was differently applied to Islam.

He added, “The character of a Muslim State can be judged from what the Times of India pointed out some time ago in a leader on the Indian Banking Inquiry Committee. “In ancient India,” the paper points out, “the State framed laws regulating interest rates; but in Muslim times, although Islam forbids the realisation of interest on money loaned, Indian Muslim States imposed no restrictions on such rates.” I, therefore, demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim State in the best interests of India and Islam. For India, it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power; for Islam, an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times.”

The ‘fear’ of power going to the hands of Hindus

Iqbal talked extensively about how the British Empire was ‘playing’ behind the curtains, and possibly the complete power would go to the hands of Hindus. He was against the inclusion of Princes in the formation of British India or Federal India as a whole. According to him, the demand of a 33 per cent share in the house of British India’s parliament and the same in the case of Federal India’s parliament was the right thing to ask so that there was an “equal” distribution of the power among the communities.

If demands are not met, revolt

After talking in detail about having “equal opportunities” within Indian Federal State, either under British Empire or without it, Iqbal said if the demands were not met, the Muslims of India should prepare for an “Independent and concerted political action”. He said, “If these demands are not agreed to, then a question of very great and far-reaching importance will arise for the community. Then will arrive the moment for independent and concerted political action by the Muslims of India. If you are at all serious about your ideals and aspirations, you must be ready for such an action.”


This is the point where Iqbal talked about Muslims coming together and working as a single force. He talked about the importance of having a ‘herd’ consciousness that connected Muslims to Islam. He further expressed his concerns towards the fact that Muslims had desires for individuality that were harming the community. Furthermore, the lack of born leaders was also a problem for the community, as per Iqbal.

In conclusion, he talked about the importance of 70 million Muslims in India to Muslim communities across Asia. He said being largely concentrated in India, the country’s Muslims not only have to think about the “Indian crisis” of that time from an Asian point of view but also from the point of Indian Muslims. He said, “Our duty towards Asia and India cannot be loyally performed without an organised will fix on a definite purpose. In your own interest, as a political entity among other political entities of India, such equipment is an absolute necessity.”

Speaking about the importance of political action in the near future, he said, “Our disorganised condition has already confused political issues vital to the life of the community. I am not hopeless of an inter-communal understanding. Still, I cannot conceal from you the feeling that in the near future, our community may be called upon to adopt an independent line of action to cope with the present crisis. And an independent line of political action, in such a crisis, is possible only to a determined people, possessing a will focalised by a single purpose.”

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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