What Is Muhammad Umair Khan’s Argument In Secular Muslim?

Khan traces Jinnah’s classical liberalism and support for the Suffragette movement in contrast to Gandhi’s infusion of religion with politics, racism and misogyny

What Is Muhammad Umair Khan’s Argument In Secular Muslim?
Caption: Wax statues of MA Jinnah and MK Gandhi in conversation - at the Pakistan Monument Museum exhibition

Hamdani and Khan – Independent Efforts 

I came across Yasser Latif Hamdani’s interview with Subh Savaray Pakistan where he shared how more than two decades ago, he started to read about Jinnah.

I came across his writings in the mid-2000s and became impressed with his substantive command in projecting the Pakistani perspective. I followed his articles on various platforms through the years and eventually reviewed both his books, Jinnah: Myth and Reality and Jinnah: A Life

More recently, I came across Muhammad Umair Khan, who has independently arrived at similar conclusions in his book Secular Muslim. Khan is noted for his documentary, A Politician Named Jinnah. He pays homage to Hamdani for encouraging him to write the book.

I find both Hamdani and Khan’s approach to better provide the Pakistani perspective than the apologist or defeatist approach of some other thinkers from Pakistan.

Consociationalism – Power Sharing

Hamdani wrote the foreword, where he reiterates the thesis that Jinnah was after ‘consociationalism’ – a power sharing agreement between Hindus and Muslims. He adds that while Jinnah and the Muslim League conciliated with the Cabinet Mission Plan and tried to maintain unity, it was Congress that was responsible for Partition in their all-or-nothing approach. 

Khan shares this thesis and supplies copious details in the 16 short chapters that follow in his book. 

Jinnah believed that “straight forward democracy and majority rule” would not work in India due to multicultural nature of the region (p. 74). He was after something like “Canadian Federalism” with “power sharing agreement between different regions” (pp. 75, 76).

To achieve safeguards through parity for the Muslim minority, he pushed the Lahore Resolution, which was about creating autonomous Muslim and Hindu “zones under one loose centre” so that Muslims would have “equal status in constitution making” (p. 79). 

The Lahore Resolution did not include words like “partition” or “Pakistan” (p. 79), as complete separation was not a solution to the problem of Muslim minorities in India and Hindu minorities in Pakistan (p. 80). 

Overall, Jinnah’s approach through the Lahore Resolution was about a “shared centre and a single constitution for the whole Indian subcontinent” (p. 80). He was clear that the “solution to the communal issue was sharing of power” (p. 81).

Caste-Hindus - Power and Partition

However, the “Congress propaganda machine” spread fear-mongering that “Jinnah was demanding Pakistan and was about to break India” (p. 82). This is important, as the Congress was “a lot more organised and well-funded across British India” (p. 118).

While the Muslim League heavily opposed partition, Caste Hindus “declared themselves a separate nation in 1867” and demanded separation of Muslim India and Hindu India along with partition of their provinces (p. 163). 

In contrast, Jinnah was against partition of the provinces, as a “truncated Pakistan didn’t give enough leverage to negotiate for Muslim minorities in the Hindustan region” (p. 170). 

With the Cabinet Mission Plan, Jinnah deemed ‘Scheme A’ favourable, that offered a “federation with one constitution” (p. 133). The Congress went begrudgingly with ‘Scheme B’ which was like the CR Formula (p. 134). 

This CR Formula was offered by Gandhi (p. 126), which Jinnah rejected, as it offered “a separate and sovereign Pakistan with partitioned provinces” (p. 131). In general, Gandhi deemed “parity with Muslim regions worse than […] complete separation and partitioned provinces” (p. 136). 

Viceroy Wavell observed all this and expressed that all that the Congress wanted was “power, complete power, and power at once” (p. 138) and that after tasting power, the Congress did “not want to share it” (p. 147). 

He was wary of the Congress for its ability to “twist words and phrases” (p. 141) and was concerned about handing over “Muslims and other minorities to the unchecked domination of Congress” (p. 142). He stated that “the only real solution” was for the “Congress to take the generous attitude as the stronger party” (p. 143). 

Wavell also expressed that Jinnah was well justified, that the “Congress always meant to use its position” to “break up the Muslim League” and to “destroy the Grouping scheme”, which was the “one effective safeguard for the Muslims” (p. 145). 

Overall, the blame for partition lay with the Congress because of its refusal to share power.

Two Nation Theory by Caste Hindus

Khan states that the Two Nation Theory was “the creation of Caste Hindus and not Muslim politicians” (p. xiv). He reiterates that the demand for “separate sovereign states for Muslims and Hindus” was pushed by Caste Hindus “before the creation of the Muslim League in 1906” and way before Iqbal’s Allahabad address where he simply “demanded autonomy” (p. xv). 

He states that way before Sir Syed articulated that Hindus and Muslims are two eyes of a bride, Nabagopal Mitra stated in 1872 that “Hindus are a nation” and that the “basis of national unity in India is the Hindu religion” (p. 17). In 1887, Mitra and Rajnarayan Basu formed an organisation with the goal of creating “an Aryan state or a Hindu Raj” (p. 17). 

Then there was Bankimchandra Chattopadhya who “concluded that religion and politics couldn’t be separated,” glorified “the ritual of burning widows alive,” and projected the killing of Muslims and the Hindutva state in his novels (pp. 40-41). Later, Aurobindo Ghosh opined “Sanatana Dharma is our nationalism. Hindu Rashtra was born along with Sanatana Dharma” (p. 45). 

In 1909, the Punjabi Hindu Sabha “proposed that Hindus need a separate nation and that Muslims should not be given any rights in that nation” (p. 15). While many Muslims were “local converts” (p. xv), they were called ‘Mlechaas’ by Hindu nationalists – ie people who “didn’t belong in their holy land of India” (p. 16). 

In 1925, the RSS was founded, and Golwalkar opined that non-Hindus “must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture […] or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges […] not even citizen’s rights” (p. 45). 

Similarly, Savarkar, who is currently lionised in India, stated that “Hindustan must be looked upon both as fatherland and holy land. Muslims and Christians cannot be incorporated into Hindutva because their holy land is far off, like Arabia or Palestine” (p. 46).

Punjabi Hindu politicians like Lal Har Dayal also opined “the future of the Hindu race and Hindustan rests on […] Hindu Raj; forced conversion of Muslims […]” (p. 47). In 1923, BS Moonje opined that “India belongs to the Hindus,” who can establish their world “through forced conversion of Muslims and Christians” (p. 47). 

In Punjab, Bhai Parmanand “gave the idea of separate sovereign states for Hindus and Muslims in 1904” and then throughout the years (p. 47), he opined that “The territory beyond Sindh could be united with North-West Frontier Province into a great Mussalman Kingdom. The Hindus of the region should come away, while at the same time, the Mussalmans in the rest of the country should go and settle in this territory” (pp. 47-48). 

Likewise, Lala Lajpat Rai who co-founded the Hindu Mahasabha, saw partition “as a lesser evil compared to ‘tolerating’ Muslims” and opined that “under my scheme, the Muslims will have four states: Pathan province […] Western Punjab, Sindh and Eastern Bengal […] It means clear partition of India into Muslim India and a non-Muslim India” (p. 49). 

Overall, Hindu nationalists deemed they were “polluted by the unpure genes of the Muslims” and who “were responsible for the decline of the Hindu Nation” (p. 17). All of this is manifest with the Hindutvist ideology that shapes the socio-political discourse in contemporary India.

Liberalism vs. Superstition - Jinnah vs. Gandhi

Khan traces Jinnah’s classical liberalism and support for the Suffragette movement in contrast to Gandhi’s infusion of religion with politics, racism and misogyny.

He shows that Jinnah was inspired by liberals like Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Dadabhai Naoroji and John Morley, and wanted to be a “Muslim Gokhale” (p. 5). He adds that Jinnah supported a bill to “enable interfaith marriages,” drafted the act to “stop child marriages,” and that “because of him, Indian soldiers” were allowed to become officers instead of being used as “cannon fodder” (pp. 18, 19). Additionally, Jinnah married a Parsi woman who “continued to practice her old religion and kept her original name intact” (p. 22). 

In contrast, Gandhi considered Indians as racially superior to the Africans, whom he called “kaffirs” and “uncivilised” (p. 14). It is therefore not surprising that a few years ago, Malawian groups opposed the statue of Gandhi.

He viewed “western secular states as corrupt, atheistic, and destructive” and “considered the caste system as a natural order” which he refused to abolish (p. 28). 

He “opposed military action against Nazi Germany” and asked “Jews to stop their struggle against Hitler and sacrifice themselves” (p. 28). He opined that “I do not consider Herr Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted” (p. 29). It is therefore not surprising that on General Dyer’s Jallianwala Bagh massacre, he opined that the victims “were definitely not heroic martyrs” and criticised them for running instead of looking death in the eye” (p. 31).

In the early days of marriage, Gandhi “prevented his wife from going outside” and once “dragged her across the floor […] to throw her out” (pp. 24, 25). He was “strictly against cross-communal marriages” (pp. 25-26). He had the heads of some women shaved off for arousing “his men with their looks” and rejected his son for falling in love with “a Muslim woman, Fatima” (p. 27). He believed that “women should not struggle while being raped” (p. 28).

Khan shows that Gandhi was “an overly religious and superstitious person” (p. 24). He “believed that doctors violated their religious values by curing diseases that people deserved because of their sinful acts” and rejected vaccination as a “dirty act [...] equivalent to eating beef” (p. 26).

Where Gandhi stated that “I am a Hindu first, therefore, a true Indian”, Jinnah was clear that he was an Indian first, second, and last (p. 29). In general, while Gandhi pandered to the Caste Hindus and the Islamists through the Khilafat movement, Jinnah admired Ataturk and rejected the Islamists as undesirables (pp. 31-32).

Finally, Jinnah rejected the street politics of Gandhi as “a pseudo-religious approach to politics” that radicalised people and created “mob hysteria” (p. 35). Viceroy Wavell also concurred that Gandhi’s non-violence was “pure hypocrisy” and that he was “pursuing a course deliberately”, which he “knows and admits” would lead to “bloodshed” (p. 149).

Overall, Gandhi’s tactics led to mob hysteria that remains alive through blasphemy mob lynching in Pakistan and cow mob lynching in India.

Pakistan – A Secular State

Khan notes that the Lahore Resolution did not “mention the implementation of Islam” even once (p. 81). Jinnah himself was clear that “Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission” (p. 97).

This is confirmed by the opposition of the Islamist groups to Jinnah and his secular approach. 

For instance, Maududi of the Jamaat Islami viewed Pakistan as the “homeland of looters, murderers, whores”, and deemed Jinnah as a “sinner of the highest order” (p. 89). He was clear that “In no Muslim League resolution” was there any goal of “establishing an Islamic system of government” (p. 90).

Madani of the Jamiat Ulema Hind referenced Jinnah’s Pakistan as akin to a “European-style democracy” (p. 92). The Majlis Ahrar, which had the financial backing of the Congress, deemed Jinnah as the “great infidel” and declared “jihad” against him (p. 91). Similarly, the Khaksar launched two assassination attempts on Jinnah for “not declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims” and for not committing to a “theocratic state” (p. 93).

Overall, Jinnah “refused to declare Islam as the state religion,” “stopped bills calling for Sharia” (p. 182) and “got religious oaths removed entirely” (p. 185). He was clear in warning that “make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it” (p. 204). Later, Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan confirmed that “their interpretation of Islam was inspired by Classical Liberalism” and that Pakistan was founded as a “secular state” (p. 213).

Minority Safeguards against Caste Hindu domination

Alluding to Caste Hindus and the Congress, Khan states that Muslim “grievances were ignored and the demands to safeguard their political, economic and social interests were considered ‘communal’” (p. 62).

Under Congress rule from 1937 to 1939, cow slaughter was prohibited, “cow vigilantes roamed the streets,” converted a mosque into a cattle pen, Vande Mataram was made compulsory, new mosque construction was banned, Muslims were harassed during prayers and “threatened with death if they joined the Muslim League,” and generally the Hindutvist ideology emerged throughout British India (pp. 62, 64).

Thus, the current discrimination against Muslims and cow mob lynching in India has precedent in India that goes way back to Congress rule and before.

In contrast, according to the Lahore Resolution “it was not up to the majority to tell minorities how they should be safeguarded” and that “minorities in both zones were to be consulted” before finalizing the constitution (p. 80).

Therefore, it is not surprising that the “Justice Party of Tamil Nadu and Scheduled Caste Federation allied themselves with the Muslim League and took part in the Day of Deliverance” from Congress rule (p. 65). In fact, many “non-Caste Hindus, Christians, communists” and others joined the Muslim League after the draconian Congress rule of 1937 (p. 102).

The Scheduled Caste Federation issued a report in 1947 stating that Congress propagandists in Western countries minimise “untouchability in India” and claim that Dalits “do not suffer” (p. 109).

MC Rajah, a Dalit leader, wrote, “I regard Mr. Jinnah as the man who has been called upon to correct the wrong ways […] under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi” (p. 103). He added that “… in advocating the cause of the Muslims, he is championing the claims of all classes” that stand to be crushed under a “Caste Hindu Majority” pp. 103-104).

Similarly, Musafar Karamchand, a non-Brahmin Hindu, stated that without Jinnah the British would have ceded control to a “Brahmin junta as ruthless as the Hitlerian one” (p. 106).

Dukhrai Basi, a Christian, stated that the Congress is “determined to see a Muslim or a Christian out of job regardless of their worth or qualification” (p. 104). Another Christian wrote that the “Congress is purely a Hindu organisation, its motto is solely selfish to achieve long-lost Hindu Raj” (p. 105). Similarly, L Lobo stated that the “Congress is predominantly a Hindu organisation” with a “racial attitude” (p. 106).

On the bloodshed that followed Partition, Jinnah stated that by attacking Hindus and Sikhs, Muslims “will be stabbing Pakistan” (p. 175). He told Mountbatten that “I don’t care whether you shoot Muslims or not, it has got to be stopped” (p. 176). In contrast, Patel bragged that “Hindustan could quickly make an end of its Muslim inhabitants if Pakistan did not behave” (p. 176).

Jinnah asserted that “minorities have to be treated not only justly but generously in Pakistan” (p. 195). He added that “despite the treatment” given to Muslims in India, “we must “honour and safeguard the lives of minority communities (p. 199).

He told the Scheduled Castes that “you have been downtrodden for centuries and deserve more help than any other community” (p. 206). He also expressed that, “a nation that found itself in a minority […] cannot be unmindful of the minorities within” (p. 203).

Similarly, Liaquat Ali Khan stated that the white colour of the flag symbolised “seven different colours” so that there is room for “oppressed communities of the future” (p. 194).


Overall, like Hamdani, Khan makes a strong case for Jinnah’s Pakistan as a secular state that came about when the power-hungry Congress refused to share power and allow parity to the Muslims of the subcontinent. Hindutvist India today is a natural extension of the power consolidation and domination by Caste Hindus and the Congress.

Likewise, a truncated and institutionally weak Pakistan was an outcome of this encounter with Hindutvists and the Islamists that were radicalised by the tactics entrenched by Gandhi. The radicalisation today therefore has deep roots when religion was infused with street politics. The solution therefore is to reject Indian narratives and to support Jinnah’s Pakistan.