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Pakistan : An Islamic State
Wilfred Cantwell Smith
May 2012

Background:For most Hindus, Mahatma Gandhi was the greatest Indian leader who brought freedom to India. It never occurs to them that the rise of Gandhi on the political horizon of India in the 20s of the 20th century was the greatest tragedy that struck the Hindus in recent history. Throughout his political career till his death in 1948 he had misled the Hindus. Gandhi's one point agenda was to bring about Hind-Muslim unity whereas Muslim League's leaders call was that by religion, language, culture and by any other yardstick they were different from Hindus and wanted separation. Gandhi failed and failed miserably in this mission. Muslim leaders, irrespective of the party or the class to which they belonged always pressed for Muslim separatism, separatism and nothing but separatism. Eventually, they got a separate homeland for the Indian ummah. 

Gandhi's Interactions with the Muslims : Gandhi has had the maximum experience of interacting with the British rulers as well as the Muslim leaders. Yet he completely ignored the sentiments of the Muslims. Maulana Mohammad Ali was so much annoyed with Gandhi's antics such as : Ram Rahim ek hain; Hindu Mussalman bhai bhai; Gita Quran ek hai et al. that he openly asserted in his speeches made at Meerut and Lucknow that according to his religion Gandhi was worse than a Mussalman without character.

Professor Wilfred Cantwell Smith's Thesis : After independence the Indian leaders have deliberately kept the people in the dark about the real causes which had led to the division of India.Very few Hindu intellectuals have contributed to this debate. Most of the research in this area has been done by the British and American authors. This is what Professor Wilfred Cantwell Smith of Mcgill University, Canada, wrote in his essay entitled, Pakistan: An Islamic State, which was published in 1951. He had visited that country in 1949 and interacted with the Muslim intellectuals of that time. Some excerpts from his noteworthy essay are given below. Those born in India particularly, after the Partition would find these excerpts interesting:

The Basis of Pakistan : The principle on which Pakistan was mooted and then established was Islam. It was not a territorial or an economic community that was seeking a state, but a religious community. The drive for an Islamic state in India was in origin not a process by which a state sought Islamicness but one by which Islam sought a state�, when Jinnah proposed to them (Muslims) that they should work to get themselves one, they responded with surging enthusiasm. Their attainment, on that date, of a state of their own was greeted with an elation, which was religious as well as pesonal; it was considered a triumph not only for Muslims but for Islam� To appreciate this, we must recognize, why Islam sought a state for itself� Islam is a religion: and like other religions, is transcendent, no form can contain or exhaust it. It is characterized by the particular emphasis which it has from the beginning given to the social order. The Prophet Muhammad not only preached ethics he organized a state. Indeed, 
Islamic history is calculated to begin not with the year Muhammad was born nor when he began to receive divine revelations; but when the Muslim community came to power in a state of its own. The year 1 A.H. marks the establishment of Islam as a religio-political sovereignty in al -Madinah� And never very far from central has been its concern with itself as an organized community. There are many illustrations of this fact. One is the superlative importance, in Islam, of the Law. 

Difference between Christianity and Islam : 

As theology is the dominant symbol of Christian faith, so the Law is the dominant symbol of Islamic. Islam has been a social gospel from the beginning. Major sectarian differences in Islam have had to do with divergences not primarily over dogma but over questions as to how the community should be organized. While Protestantism seceded from the Catholic Church on a point of doctrine, the Shiah seceded from the majority community on a point of political leadership; while Christian groups organized themselves around diverse interpretations of theology, Muslim groups organized themselves around diverse interpretations of procedure. There is in Arabic no term quite corresponding to the Christian concept Orthodox - nearest counterpart would be orthoprex-. Islam is by tradition and by central genius a practical religion. In the western tradition, the striving towards autonomy for the religious community has led to struggle between Church and State ; in the Islamic, to a struggle for a state. The Muslim community has within itself, and pre-eminently so by virtue of being Muslim, with Islam's legal and community norms, an impulse towards social self-fulfilment which aims at independence not only from alien control but also for self-implementation � The Muslim of (the last quarter of the 19th and the 20th centuries) apprehended that in a united independent India they would find themselves in a considerably less secular regime. The religious impulse towards Islamic community autarchy, therefore, already simmering under British secularism, became ebulently operative at the threat of Hindu domination. 

Islam, then by its own dynamic seeks a state for the social expression of its faith. The Muslims of India established Pakistan in order to live Islamically. They are setting up a �sovereign independent State of Pakistan� Wherein they shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accord with the teachings and requirements of Islam; declared The Objective Resolution adopted by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on March 12, 1949. The intention here involved is decisive. An Islamic state is not one merely in which Muslims live or rule; but one through which their purpose is to live or to rule as Muslims. 

Difference between Egypt and Pakistan : Pointing out the difference, Pakistanis told Professor Cantwell Smith that Egypt may be individually Muslims, but politically they are Egyptians. Whereas in the case of Pakistan the whole raison d'etre of the state is Islam: it is Islam alone which brought it into being, and Islam alone which holds it together. A country is not more Islamic than its people intend it to be. Thus Pakistan would never have happened had it not been for the Muslim's ideal of a religious community, the inherent striving within the heart of Islam towards social self expression. Yet equally, its coming into existence was conditioned by the multitude of mundane, human and concrete factors obtaining at this particular juncture in time and place. Many outside observers fail to apprehend the former, the ideal, gave all their attention to the latter, the circumstancing agencies, the material and efficient causes. Consequently they could describe and analyze, but could hardly understand or appreciate, what was going on.


Wilfred Cantwell Smith
July 21, 1916- February 7, 2000

Wilfred Cantwell Smith, was one of the past century's most influential contributors to interfaith dialogue and the comparative study of religion. 

He established an Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill, where he taught from 1949-63. He was involved in planning the Centre for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, and moved there in 1964 to take up its directorship. 

After graduating moved to England, where he studied at Cambridge, and continued on to India, where he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry and taught at the Forman Christian College in Lahore (then part of India, before the formation of Pakistan).

His first book, Modern Islam in India, was published in 1946. Smith completed a Ph.D. at Princeton University after the war, and his Islam in Modern History followed in 1957. The Meaning and End of Religion (1963), regarded by many as his most important book.


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