Muslim nationalism in South Asia

the political and cultural expression of nationalism founded upon the religious tenets and identity of Islam of the Muslims of South Asia

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
  • The Qaid-e-Azam had two sets of teeth in his mouth like that of a rogue elephant — one set was for show of beauty, and the other was for the real purpose of mastication. His first declaration from the throne of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan as its President was that the ‘The Hindus would cease to be Hindus and the Muslims would cease to be Muslims in matters of administration henceforth and thus form into a Pakistan Nation.’ ... This was the set of his outer teeth for show of beauty but the real teeth for mastication lay covered elsewhere within the mouth — nobody could see that; only the victims could feel and appreciate the monstrosity of them. The great leader Mr. Jinnah had the real teeth for mastication in his policy of internal administration which stood for chauvinistic aggressive Muslim nationalism.
    • Lahiry P. C. (1964). India partitioned and minorities in pakistan. (p.11-12) quoted in Kamra A. J. (2000). The prolonged partition and its pogroms : testimonies on violence against Hindus in East Bengal 1946-64. pp. 11
  • 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)
  • The Moslems in general and Indian Moslems in particular have not as yet grown out of the historical stage, of intense religiosity and the theological concept of state. Their theology and theocratical [sic] politics divide the human world into two groups only—The Moslem land and the enemy land. All lands which are either entirely inhabited by the Moslems or are ruled over by the Moslems are Moslem lands. All lands, which are mostly inhabited by non-Moslem power are enemy lands and no faithful Moslem is allowed to bear any loyalty to them and is called upon to do everything in his power by policy or force or fraud to convert the non-Moslem there to Moslem faith, to bring about its political conquest by a Moslem power. It is no good quoting sentences here or there from Moslem theological books to prove the contrary. Read the whole book to know its trend. And again it is not with books that we are concerned here but with the followers of the book and how they translate them in practice. You will then see that the whole Moslem history and their daily actions are framed on the design I have outlined above. Consequently, a territorial patriotism is a word unknown to the Moslem—nay is tabooed, unless in connection with a Moslem territory. Afghans can be patriots for Afghanisthan is a Moslem territory today. But an Indian Moslem if he is a real Moslem—and they are intensely religious as a people—cannot faithfully bear loyalty to India as a country, as a nation, as a State, because it is today ‘an Enemy Land’ and doubly lost; for non-Moslems are in a majority here and to boot it is not ruled by any Moslem power, Moslem sovereign. Add to this that of all non-Moslems the Hindus are looked upon as the most damned by Moslem theologians. For Christians and Jews are after all ‘Kitabis’, having the holy books partially in common. But the Hindus are totally ‘Kafirs’ as a consequence their land ‘Hindusthan’ is pre-eminently an ‘enemy’ and as long as it is not ruled by Moslems or all Hindus do not embrace Islam . . . What wonder then that the Muslim League should openly declare its intention to join hands with non-Indian alien Moslem countries rather than with Indian Hindus in forming a Moslem Federation? They could not be accused from their point of view of being traitors to Hindusthan. Their conscience was clear. They never looked upon our today’s ‘Hindusthan’ as their country, nation. It is to them already an alien land, and enemy land—‘a Dar-ul-Harb’ and not a ‘Dar-ul-Islam!!’
    • V.D. Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan, 27ff, in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 (2021)
  • The foundation of the Muslim League and Minto’s concessions had the effect of dividing the Hindus and Muslims into almost two hostile political camps. A remarkable example of this is afforded by a letter written about 1908 by Mr. Ziauddin Ahmad, later Vice- Chancellor of the Muslim University, Aligarh, to Mr. Abdulla Shuhrawardy, both of whom were then prosecuting their studies in Europe. Abdulla Shuhrawardy shared the national feelings which then characterized Indian students in Europe, and for this he was rebuked by Ziauddin in a letter from which we quote the following extract; “You know that we have a definite political policy at Aligarh, i.e. the policy of Sir Syed. I understand that Mr. Kirshna Varma has founded a society called ‘Indian Home Rule Society’ and: you are also one of its vice-presidents. Do you really believe that the Mohammedans will be profited if Home Rule be granted to India de lene. There is no doubt that this Home Rule is decidedly against the Aligarh policy...What I call the Aligarh policy is really the policy of all the Mohammedans generally—of the Mohammedans of Upper India particularly.” Mr. Asaf Ali wrote to Pandit Shyamji in September, 1909: “I am staying with some Muslim friends who do not like me to associate with nationalists; and, to save many unpleasant consequences, I do not want to irritate them unnecessarily.” Thus the Muslim antagonism to the Freedom Movement of India dates back to its beginning itself. (151ff)
    • RC Majumdar, ed., Volume 11: Struggle for Freedom [1905-1947]