India as the hydra against Islam

In some versions of the legend of the Hydra, every time you cut off one of the heads of the monster two more grow in its place.

I have been thinking about why and how India remained predominantly non-Muslim despite most of the subcontinent being under Muslim ruling for 500 years (dating from 1250 to 1750 approximately). The contrast here would be most stark with Iran and Turan. While the zone of the Islamic Empire between Mesopotamia and the Maghreb was dominated by a Christian populace which spoke an Afro-Asiatic language, Iran and Turan retained their language and their cultural distinctiveness, as evidenced in the nationalism clear in the Shahnameh.

There was a comment on this weblog that implied India was unique because of violent resistance to Islamicization. This is patently false. To give a concrete example, the region of Tabaristan in northern Iran was dominated by warlords and dynasties which adhered to the Zoroastrian region until the 9th century, 200 years after the Arab defeat of the Sassanians. Despite the inroads of Islam in the 9th century, after more thorough integration into the Abbassid Caliphate, Tabaristan was still throwing up Zoroastrian anti-Muslim warlords into the 10th century.

But most attempts to infer the religious demographics of Iran, which are to a great extent guesswork, suggest that it was in the 10th century the region became majority Muslim. One indication of this that this is so is that this period correlates with a more muscular and resurgent Iranian high culture and reemergence of political non-Arab political power. As Zoroastrianism was no longer seen as a threat to Islam, Persian cultural identity could reassert itself without a non-Islamic connotation (there is in the 10th century a shift away from ostentatiously Arab names by Persian Muslim elites).

Basically, it seems that it took about 300 years for Iran to become majority Muslim. I’ve seen similar numbers for Egypt and the Maghreb, though in the latter region indigenous Christianity became extinct by the medieval period.

There are two related issues that I want to suggest for South Asia: scale and complexity. Though the Indian subcontinent is geographically smaller than the Arab Caliphates as their height on paper, the reality is much of the Near  East and North Africa are empty of people. Islamic rule really consisted of a string of cities and fortifications interlaced over broad swaths of the territory occupied by pastoralists, as well as a few regions of dense cultivation.

Iran, Turkey, and the Arab world consist of between 400 and 500 million people. The Indian subcontinent has 1.7 billion people. The population in the past may have been different, but I think it gives one a rough sense of the differences in magnitude over the long-term.

Second, the social complexity of South Asia is astounding. I say this as a geneticist: the differences between different castes in the same region are hard to believe. Though there is a great deal of ethno-religious diversity in the Middle East, they are not surprising. Arabs engage in a consanguinity. Ethno-religious minorities such as Copts or Assyrians have less cosmopolitan ancestry than their Muslim neighbors. This is all to be expected.

In contrast, any analysis of ethnic “Telugus” has to take into account local structure because it is so extreme. Dalits are different from middle castes are different from Brahmins. Some of this is due to genetic drift, but much of it is due to continental-scale differences in genetic admixture.

The genetic differences tell us something us deep about the nature of South Asian social relations. Defection to Islam occurred on the individual scale, but generally, quantity could only be had by mass conversions. Even when groups of people of the same community are of different religions it was probably through mass conversion of particular subsegments.

Which brings me to Bengalis. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier was written many years ago, and I read it long before I ever knew much about the genetics of South Asians. In it the author explains that the dominance of Islam on the eastern march of Bengal was due to the fact that it was a frontier society that emerged during the period of Islamic rule. Meanwhile, western Bengal was a culture which was in a stationary state.

The ability of Islam to penetrate into the Bengali-speaking peasantry was due to its fluid and unordered character. In contrast in western Bengal, a more traditional South Asiab society with well-delineated caste boundaries had already crystallized by the time of the Muslim conquest.

So here’s the thing that genetics adds: the topology of genetic variation of Bangladeshis is totally different than what you see in other South Asians. There’s very little structure. Basically aside from a few half-Brahmins and a small community of Dalits, the 1000 Genomes sample from Bangladesh shows none of the genetic variation partitioned by the community you see in most Indian samples. Or, that you see in the Indian Telugus, Gujuratis and Pakistani Punjabis (the Tamils from Sri Lanka are somewhat less structured, but still have more than the Bangladeshis).

To me, this confirms the thesis of The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier. As a frontier society, eastern Bengal was mixed in a way where the structure socially and genetically that was the norm in most of South Asia by the time the Muslims arrived simply wasn’t present. Without the powerful collective substructure, Islam was able to swallow up the rural society in toto. Perhaps the best analogy might be to Indian communities in Trinidad, where caste has mostly disappeared, and Christianity has made extensive inroads.

So why didn’t India become Muslim? What is this “India” of which you speak?

Note: I moderate comments, please don’t stupid spam me.


Review: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam

Allama Iqbal

In the late 1920s the Indian Islamist and poet Mohammed Iqbal delivered six lectures at Madras (to the Madras Muslim Association), Hyderabad and Aligarh, in which he set out his vision of the reconstruction of religious thought in Islam. Apparently Iqbal himself intended to write a second, larger book to be called “The Reconstruction of Legal Thought in Islam”, to which these lectures formed a sort of philosophical prelude.  That second book was never written, but the lectures were combined with a seventh lecture (“is religion possible”) that was delivered to the Aristotelian society in England, and published as a book “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”.  By the time the book was published (first in Lahore in 1930, by Kapur Art Press, then with the seventh lecture included, by Oxford in 1934), Iqbal had been knighted for his services to the crown and was already a famous poet (in both Urdu and Persian) and was being honored by the Islamicate elite of India as their philosopher and thinker par excellence. Since this is the only work of philosophy that he ever composed after his PhD thesis, his status as a philosopher is heavily dependent on this slim volume.

The book is primarily targeted at contemporary Muslims, who were keenly aware of their weakness vis-a-vis Europe, as well as of their historic role as a “worthy opponent” that at some point in the past held the upper hand against Western Christian competitors. Iqbal’s primary mission here is not some open ended search for philosophical truth, it is the revival of Muslim greatness, the basic fact of which is taken for granted and is an element of faith. In his own words:

“I have tried to meet, even though partially, this urgent demand by attempting to reconstruct Muslim religious philosophy with due regard to the philosophical traditions of Islam and the more recent developments in the various domains of human knowledge.”

Like many other religiously minded thinkers of the day, he was also quite taken with modern physics and believed “the present moment is quite favorable for such an undertaking. Classical Physics has learned to criticize its own foundations. As a result of this criticism the kind of materialism, which it originally necessitated, is rapidly disappearing; and the day is not far off when Religion and Science may discover hitherto unsuspected mutual harmonies.”

In terms of his education and training, Iqbal was firmly in the Western philosophical tradition (tending mostly towards its German, orientalist, idealist and romantic currents) and like other Islamist modernizers, he took it for granted that the “Muslim world” has to come to terms with modern knowledge, but this was to be done from within the Islamic tradition and while maintaining the distinctive character of Muslim society. His grandfather may have been a Kashmiri Hindu (his son claims the conversion happened 400 years earlier) and it has been claimed that there were branches of the family that remained Hindu, but either because of this relatively recent conversion, or because of his mother’s strong Muslim faith, his commitment to Muslim separatism and supremacism was strong and unbending. He was willing to admire other traditions (including the learning of the Brahmins, about whom he has interesting things to say elsewhere) and learn from them, but they are always “other” traditions, about this there is never any doubt.

Iqbal’s (supposed) Hindu cousins
Mom and dad

The books is interesting, especially if you are philosophically inclined towards the “spiritual” and the mystical; on the other hand, if you are somewhere on the “new atheist” spectrum then the book can only be of historical interest. Even those who are willing to entertain metaphysical speculation should be aware that this is not a systematic philosophical text. All the central claims of the book are simply asserted (there is rarely any detailed argument showing why they are correct) and the historical views are very early 20th century, with the ghosts of Spengler and countless lesser writers hovering in the background. Entire cultures and historical epochs are summed up in ex-cathedra pronouncements of the sort that were popular in that age but seem to have fallen out of favor since then. For example  “the cultures of Asia, and in fact, of the whole ancient world failed because they approached reality exclusively from within and moved from within outwards. This procedure gave them theory without power, and on mere theory no durable civilization can be based”.

Always hovering in the background is his (not so original) view that history is progressive and something is gradually unfolding and developing as we move from ancient cultures (India, Greece, never China) to Islam to modern Europe. In this great drama, the “spirit of Islam” is essentially anti-classical and empiricist and it is Islam that created the foundations of modern science by introducing this attitude into humanity (“European culture, on its intellectual side, is only a further development of some of the most important phases of the culture of Islam”). This basically Hegelian view of history was all the rage in the circles that Allama Iqbal frequented (its echoes survive to this day), and if this is still your cup of tea, jump right in, Iqbal will not disappoint you. Continue reading “Review: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”


Homoeroticism, Blasphemy, and Classical Muslim Society

The following stray thoughts on Islamicate homo-eroticism were penned by Irfan Muzammil on Twitter and I am posting them here for the sake of generating more discussion. My own “off the top of my head” comments are at the end in Italics.

A thread on homoeroticism, blasphemy, and classical Muslim society
By Irfan Muzammil 

In my class on Arabic literature today, we read an anecdote about one of the earliest and greatest of Arab poets, Abu Nuwas. Abu Nuwas lived during the height of Islamic civilization in the early Abbasid period, and rose to such esteem that he taught the sons of caliph Harun al-Rasheed. One of those sons al-Amin became the next caliph and Abu Nawas’ greatest patron. What’s most interesting is that his poetry is filled with eroticism of both homo and hetero kind, and with love for wine and for young boys. The anecdote we read was written by Abu Faraj, who was himself one of the descendants of Umayyad caliphs, and wrote one of the classics of Arab literature, Kitab al-Aghani (Book of Songs), a 20 volume collection of anecdotes on Arabs poets, singers, and musicians.

One of his anecdotes on Abu Nuwas, which we read in class, is about Abu Nuwas seducing a young boy but the conversation between Abu Nuwas and the boy is entirely in Quranic verses. I was frankly shocked, and told my professor that I’d be killed or jailed for even  posting this, much less writing it out in a book or teaching it in a class. But according to the professor, who is an Arab himself and an expert in Arabic and Islamic studies, this anecdote has often been quoted even in religious texts as a great example of Arab literature.  And it was only in 2001 that the Egyptian Ministry of Culture burned 6000 copies of Abu Nuwas’ books. The amount of homo-eroticism in both classical Persian and Arabic poetry is just staggering.

By the way, yesterday in my class on early Islamicate societies, we saw the naked women painted on the palaces of Umayyad caliphs. I wonder if the classical Muslim civilization was far more liberal than the modern one -unless you were a slave, or a non-elite woman, or a young boy or girl. But it does trash all those silly theories of Iqbal and Sayyid Qutb etc. about the downfall of Muslim civilization because of its moral lassitude. We were far more liberal, at least in terms of sexual mores and wine drinking, when we were at our mightiest, and our downfall began as our society became more severe and intolerant.

(I would be cautious about interpreting this in terms of liberal (then) vs intolerant (now). Times were different all round. And the elites frequently lived lives that did not concern themselves with the moral standards regarded as ideal for commoners or spouted by priests and theologians. Augustus promoted strict Roman virtue without feeling too closely bound by its strictures in his own private life. The Catholic church had a slew of libertine popes without any discernible change in the morality the church was trying to teach their followers. Every Ummayad caliph except Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was supposedly an alcoholic. As were most of the Delhi Sultans and Mughal Kings, but the religious texts in their times all had the same prohibitions they have today. And last but not the least, classical Islam developed within the womb of the Arab empire, it was not present fully formed when that empire rose to power. There is much more interesting stuff to be said about this, but perhaps another day.. meanwhile, I expect commentators will add value)


Eclipse of the Turkish Armed Forces

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Eclipse of Turkish Armed Forces

Hamid Hussain

“In Turkey, we have marriage of Islam and democracy.  The child of this marriage is secularism.  This child gets sick from time to time.  The Turkish armed forces are the doctor which saves the child.  Depending on how sick the child is, we administer the necessary medicine to make sure the child recuperates”.   General Cevik Bir; former Deputy Chief of General Staff of Turkish army

Turkish Armed Forces (known by the Turkish initials TSK – Turk Silahli Kuvvetleri) have gone through a dramatic change in the last two years.  In July 2016, a faction of TSK tried and failed to bring back TSK on the center stage of Turkey.  This failed coup attempt was the result of rapidly deteriorating relations between ruling Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials AKP – Adalat ve Kalkinma Partisi) and TSK spanning over fifteen years.

TSK assigned itself the role of the guardian of the state and Kemalist tradition.  TSK had a key role in making decisions about national security, economy and foreign relations. Supreme Military Council (known by its Turkish initials YAS – Yuksek Askari Shura) was the instrument used for military’s dominance.  Civilian bureaucracy and judiciary dominated by secular elite were junior partners of TSK

In 1997, TSK forced removal of Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan what was later called ‘post-modern coup’.  In 2000, AKP came to power and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan gradually increased his power while avoiding direct conflict with powerful army. There was now conflict between two power centers.   AKP didn’t have qualified cadres to control state bureaucracy. Erdogan made an alliance with cleric Fethullah Gulen.  Gulen’s organization Hizmet has been focused on excellence in education for three decades.  Gulenist sympathizers joined state bureaucracy especially police and judiciary.  Repeated electoral successes of AKP with control of legislature combined with penetration of state structure by Gulenist sympathizers strengthened the civilian hand.  They now felt confident to confront TSK and snatch back some powers.

Gulenist sympathizers in police and judiciary embarked on an ambitious plan of state restructuring by clipping the wings of TSK.  Several former and later serving officers were accused of plotting coups.  Hundreds of officers were charged, arrested and prosecuted in two notorious alleged conspiracies; Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer). Later, hundreds of officers including high ranking officers were convicted and sentenced to long prison sentences.  TSK was gradually losing its internal cohesion due to emergence of various factions.  Senior officers lost the confidence of junior officers for failing to protect officer corps from real and imagined conspiracies propagated by pro AKP and pro Gulenist media houses and large-scale arrests of officers.

A group of second and third tier TSK officers decided to strike before Erdogan further clipped TSK wings in upcoming August 2016 YAS meeting.  Elements from major army formations, special forces, army headquarters, air force and helicopter pilots and naval officers were involved in the coup attempt.  TSK senior brass was not in the loop.   Headquarter of coup plotters was at Akinci air force base.

On 15 July afternoon, a helicopter pilot Osman Karaca went to MIT headquarters to warn about impending coup.  MIT chief Hakan Fidan informed head of military police and later army chief General Hulusi Akar.  General Akar issued orders banning military flights over Turkish air space and prohibited movement of armored vehicles.  This upset the original coup launch time of 3 am July 16.  Coup plotters moved the time to 8:30 pm July 15.  This proved to be a fatal error as streets were bustling and Erdogan was able to rally his supporters.  Major General Mehmet Disli of strategic planning branch at General headquarters went to Akar’s office informing him that coup was in motion and asking him to take charge.  When angry Akar refused, he was arrested and flown to Akinci air base.

Coup plotters bombed Turkish parliament building and police headquarters.  Erdogan made the courageous move of flying back to Istanbul and asking his supporters to come out in streets.  Protestors confronted soldiers on the streets.  Coup attempt failed in few hours and government forces quickly restored order.  Erdogan on landing at Istanbul airport declared that ‘if we accept that everything happens for a reason, then this uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be the reason to cleanse our army’.  He truly cleansed the armed forces by sacking and arresting thousands of officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs).  Almost half of flag rank officers of Turkish army, air force and navy were sacked.

Deeply suspicious of the army, Erdogan closed all military colleges and academies and transferred several military institutions including hospitals and business interests of TSK to civilian control.  To counter military’s coercive power, he has strengthened police special forces, paramilitary forces and civilian intelligence.  In Syria, during recent operations against Syrian Kurds, army was used only initially especially tanks but later police special forces and Gendarmerie were deployed on Syrian territory. Erdogan has also expanded the role of private security contractors to fill the security gap. He hired retired Brigadier Adnan Tanriverdi as his military advisor.  Adnan was retired in 1997 on suspicion of having Islamist leanings.  In 2012, he started a private security firm SADAT.

In the aftermath of the coup, Erdogan had two choices. A transparent trial of accused officers and strict punishments or using failed coup attempt to silence all opposition.  Unfortunately, he embarked on the later course with large scale sacking and arrest of not only army personnel but civilian bureaucracy, police and judiciary.  In addition, all opposition including Gulenist sympathizers and Kurds are on the receiving end.  Hundreds of academics were sacked and many journalists have been arrested and large media houses taken over by the government.  This has divided Turkey right in the middle.  Half of Turkey hates and other half loves Erdogan.  This is a recipe for long term instability.  In this environment, it is inevitable that this polarization will affect TSK.  It will take more than a decade to restructure TSK on professional grounds while at the same time keep it under civilian control.

 This article is based on author’s talk at The Democracy Forum in London on 19 March 2018.  

Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

 Defence Journal, May 2018


Race Stereotypes in Medieval Islam (and some lines on cousin marriage)

This is just a short note from Irfan Muzammil. I hope to have Irfan writing blog posts directly on Brownpundits, but he is a busy man (and a real scholar), so this may take a while. Until then, I will be copying and pasting some of his musings..


Medieval Muslim scholars and courts seem to have been obsessed with the question of superiority of races: Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Indians, Franks, etc. (a debate that still rages). Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdi’s al-Imtāʿ wal-muʾānasah (Enjoyment and Geniality), a classic of Arab literature, presents discussions conducted in Baghdad at the court of the vizier Ibn Saʿdān al-ʿĀriḍ, who was executed in 984 AD after a short period in office. It illustrates the debates regarding a movement called Shuʿūbiyyah, which claimed cultural equality or superiority for the Persians over the Arabs. But the most surprising part, at least for me, is at the end.

First he quotes Ibn al-Muqaffa’, a prominent 8th century Persian philosopher, and seemingly a massive racist:

We said, ‘The Byzantines!’
“But he replied, ‘Not them either. They have strong bodies, they are good at building and at geometry but know nothing besides these two things and are good at nothing else.’
“we said, ‘The Chinese then!’
“He said, ‘They are good at handicraft and making artefacts; they have no deep thought or reflection.’
“we said, ‘well then, the Turks!’
“He said, ‘They are wild animals that can be made to fight.’
“we said, ‘The Indians?’
“He said, ‘People of delusion, humbug, and conjurer’s tricks.’
“we said, ‘The Africans!’
“He said, ‘Dumb beasts to be left alone.’
“Then we left the matter to him, and he said, ‘The Arabs!’ Continue reading “Race Stereotypes in Medieval Islam (and some lines on cousin marriage)”


Early Indian Islamists (An Overview)

Part 1

Islamism or Political Islam are ideas that emerged in the early twentieth century and were formulated in different parts of the world mainly in response to fall of the Ottoman Caliphate. Two major figures that contributed to this debate immensely were Syed Qutb from Egypt and Abul Ala Maududi from India. The practical expression of this ideology came to fore in the later part of twentieth century and at the start of the twenty first. Browsing through the archives of history, one encounters figures that have been all but forgotten for the roles they played in the grand scheme of things. One such character that needs to be resurrected or at least identified for his role in popularising Islamism is that of Raja of Mahmudabad.

Amir Ahmad Khan (his given name) was a prominent landlord from United Provinces (U.P.). He received education from Lucknow and later from England. He was the youngest member of the Central Working Committee of All India Muslim League and its National Treasurer. He was the chief organizer of the Muslim League National Guard (till 1944) and the chief patron of the All India Muslim Students Federation (AIMSF) formed by Muslim students till August 1946. Despite his aristocratic background, he cultivated an austere personal style. He habitually wore khaddar, was known for his generosity towards his tenants, and his piety as a practicing Shia.

He was ultimately sold on the idea of Pakistan, but he chose to see the future state in a different light than Mr. Jinnah. He claimed that the Lahore resolution possessed global—and not just regional—significance. He exclaimed in a speech that it had been passed not just for Muslims in India but for Muslims in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan and indeed the whole Islamic world. He held half-baked ideas about democracy and an ‘Islamic political system’ which he articulated in the following words: “When we speak of democracy in Islam it is not democracy in the government but in the cultural and social aspects of life. Islam is totalitarian — there is no denying about it. It is the Quran that we should turn to. It is the dictatorship of the Quranic laws that we want — and that we will have — but not through non-violence and Gandhian truth”.

He outlined some features of ‘Pakistan’ as he envisioned it in his Presidential address to Bombay Muslim League in May 1940: “There will be prohibition, absolute and rigorous, with no chance for its ever being withdrawn. Usury will be banished. Zakat will be levied. Why should not we be all allowed to make this experiment? In treading this path, we will not be crossing the path of any right-minded individual”.

Among contemporary ideologies, he found socialism to be compatible with Islam by and claimed that socialism was first inaugurated by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Arabia long before it came into existence in Russia under the Bolsheviks. To the Raja, socialism just like Islam was based on a new vision of the world where there would be no discrimination based on colour, class, sect, region, or language. Before the Peoples’ Party of Zulfikar Bhutto appropriated the slogan of ‘Islamic Socialism’, Raja of Mahmudabad (and even Liaqat Ali Khan) had blown this trumpet.

Mr. Jinnah was not in favour of an overt theocracy at any time in his career and was irked by the frequent outbursts of Raja of Mahmudabad. An anecdote from Isha’at Habibullah’s unpublished autobiography demonstrates this attitude perfectly: “The Raja started the conversation by saying that since the Lahore resolution had been passed earlier that year, if and when Pakistan was formed, it was undoubtedly to be an Islamic State with the Sunna and Sharia as its bedrock. The Quaid’s face went red and he turned to ask Raja whether he had taken leave of his senses?

Mr. Jinnah added: Did you realize that there are over seventy sects and differences of opinion regarding the Islamic faith, and if what the Raja was suggesting was to be followed, the consequences would be a struggle of religious opinion from the very inception of the State leading to its very dissolution. Mr. Jinnah banged his hands on the table and said: We shall not be an Islamic State but a Liberal Democratic Muslim State.”

Major differences between Mr. Jinnah and Raja of Mahmudabad developed in 1946, due to the Raja’s espousal of violence in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and his opposition to the Third June Plan that laid the way for partition of India. On the eve of the Partition, the Raja was in Hyderabad but refused to visit Karachi for the 14th August Independence ceremony.

He was appalled by the violence that accompanied the   Partition and left for Iran with his family soon after India was divided.

They travelled from there to Mashhad, then Tehran and finally to Karbala. The Raja and his family stayed in Iraq for ten years. In 1957, the Raja went to Pakistan and changed his Indian passport for a Pakistani one. He had thought of going into politics but then Pakistan was a different country. He was a Mohajir, a refugee in Pakistan, a Shia in a predominantly Sunni country. The Raja left Pakistan again and travelled to London where he finally settled down and passed away in 1973.

Part 2

Browsing through the archives of history, one encounters figures that have been all but forgotten for the roles they played in the grand scheme of things. One such character that needs to be credited for Islamist tendencies was Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, a political figure from United Provinces (UP).

Early in his political career, he had visited Turkey as part of Red Crescent Society’s medical mission to Turkey led to Dr. M.A. Ansari during the Balkan Wars (1912-13). During the First World War, Ottoman Turkey (ruled by Pashas) decided to side with Kaiser Wilhem’s Germany (part of the Central Powers). Following the defeat of Central Powers, Ottoman Turkey was deprived of its territories and this sparked a furious reaction amongst Muslims in India. A ‘Khilafat Movement’ was led by clerics from India to pressurise the British Government into restoring the Ottoman territories. Khaliq was actively involved in the movement during the early 1920s and led Indian Muslim delegations in the 1930s to international conventions organised to defend Palestinian Arab rights in the face of the Zionist movement and the perceived British attempt to appease world Jewry.

In 1935, British Government introduced the ‘Government of India Act’ which proposed a Federal Structure for running the country under limited Indian rule and elections in provinces. Khaliquzzaman was a member of All India Congress for many years before officially joining All India Muslim League (AIML). He was the Secretary of Muslim Unity Board (MUB) comprising mostly of Muslim politicians with close links to the Congress party, and Ulema belonging to the Jamiatul Ulama-i-Hind. He was involved in a power struggle for leading the Muslim League Parliamentary Board in UP with Raja of Salempur. Before the 1937 Elections, Khaliquzzaman, was parleying with the Congress leadership over ministry making, against Mr. Jinnah’s wishes. He started an Urdu newspaper named Tanveer for propagating pro-AIML’s message.

Speaking at the Pakistan session of the Punjab Muslim Students Federation conference in March 1941, Khaliq said that, “Just as the Prophet had created the first Pakistan in the Arabian Peninsula the ML now wanted to create another Pakistan in a part of India.”

Addressing a gathering in his hometown of Lucknow, he explored the relationship between territorial nationalism and Islam. The Hindus, he noted, saw nationalism as a Hindu Goddess (Devi) that needed to be worshipped. This practice was abhorrent to a Muslim for even though he loved his nation, he could never worship this Devi and become a slave of nationalism. In May 1942, he stated his Islamist goals in following words, “Pakistan is not the final goal of the Muslims. We want more. Pakistan is only the jumping off ground. The time is not far distant when the Muslim countries will have to stand in line with Pakistan and then only the jumping ground will have reached its fruition.”

Soon after the Lahore Resolution, Nawab Ismail Khan convened a conference of Ulema and prominent Muslim intellectuals to draft a blueprint for an Islamic Constitution that would inaugurate an Islamic state in Pakistan. The first meeting was held at the Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow and was attended by Ismail Khan, Khaliquzzaman, Syed Sulaiman Nadwi, Azad Subhani and Abdul Majid Daryabadi. He firmly believed that a solution to the communal problem can be found by use of force. At a public meeting at Fyzabad, he said: “If the Musalmans of India pursue the policy of tooth for tooth, eye for an eye, nail for a nail, no power on earth can dominate them.”  On the question of the Muslims in the ‘minority provinces’ such as the U.P., Khaliq subscribed to the ‘Hostage population theory’ which he explained in the following words: “After Pakistan is established, the Hindu majority provinces will think a hundred times before they resort to any tyrannical act. They know the Indian Muslim who can shed his blood for his Muslim brethren of Turkey can also do something to save his Indian Muslim brethren of the minority provinces.”

He was fond of recalling past Muslim victories in the subcontinent for furthering political causes. Before the 1946 Elections to the UP Assembly, Khaliq asked Muslims to win the fourth and fifth battles of Panipat corresponding to the central and provincial assembly elections, by casting their votes in favour of the All India Muslim League. After the elections, Khaliquzzaman joined the Constituent Assembly as the leader of the opposition and pledged his loyalty to the Indian Union (although he resigned and left for Pakistan after Partition. Once in Pakistan, he resumed his Islamist activities. He was a founding member of the ‘Islamic World Brotherhood’ alongside Molana Shabbir Usmani. They convened a ‘World Muslim Conference’ in January 1949. A brochure at the conference titled ‘Muslims of the World Unite’ stated that ‘it was but natural that such an effort is made by Muslims of a country who do not subscribe to the theory that a nation is based on geography or race, but whose country’s very foundation is laid on a theory of religious nationality.’

Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman was appointed the President of Pakistan Muslim League a year after he moved from UP. Khaliq affirmed the World Muslim Conference promoted by Shabbir Usmani, as the first step in the creation of a permanent world organization, which would have branches not only in Muslim countries of the world but also in countries with Muslim minorities. It could soon be extended to become an organization similar to the Organization of American States. Expressing the long term aims of the Conference, he noted that in the context of the failure of the Arab League and Arab racial sentiment, he expected the ‘natural reaction’ of Muslims in Arab countries to work for the creation of a ‘central authority for Muslim States which can protect them against further political and economic inroads of other powerful States.’ He conceived this supervening authority in terms of the ‘Quranic State’, which he believed could be brought about through ‘political associations, social contacts, economic co-operation, and linguistic changes.’ This state would embrace any and all Muslim countries that wished to join and would be structured as ‘a loose federation of autonomous states bound together alike by adherence to the principles of Islam and mutuality of interests.’

His last political appointment was to the Governorship of East Pakistan. He passed away in 1973, two years after East Pakistan seceded. Religion did not play the role of ‘glue’ between the two halves of Pakistan, despite the claims of Islamists from UP.


Open Letter to the Taliban

Open Letter to the Taliban

I agree with this letter 100%, and not just because I have greatly respected its author, Barnett Rubin, for over a decade. Barnett Rubin has conducted secret negotiations with the Taliban on behalf of the US government and has a very distinguished academic and diplomatic career.

I strongly urge every reader of Brown Pundits to read this Open Letter to the Taliban in full.

A few days ago, magic happened. The “ENTIRE” international community, led by  China, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and USA placed Pakistan on a Terrorism Financing List. Please read the comments on this historic development by our very own Brown Pundit, the ever wise ever erudite Slapstik. Everything has changed.

Our best friends at Deep State GHQ [General Headquarters] are considering new possibilities for the first time since . . . well for the first time since the 1970s. The Taliban issued a peace letter. And we are off to the races! Where will we end up? Do you think I have a clue? :LOL:

Please share the “Open Letter to the Taliban” with all your friends. And share your comments below.

For reference Barnett Rubin has written a summary of the situation in Afghanistan, the various internal players and their external sponsors that is worth reading. Additionally, the UN has released their 2017 report on Afghan civilian casualties. Of special note are pages 45-47 on civilian casualties caused by the growing Afghanistan Air Force (AAF).

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The North-West Frontier in 1947

A piece from military historian Dr Hamid Hussain. It includes some details (including the role played by Governor George Cunningham, a Scotsman and an “old frontier hand”) about the mobilization of Pakhtun tribesmen to attack Kashmir in 1947, an invasion covered in greater detail in a recent detailed Brownpundits article about the Kashmir war. 

Following piece is outcome of several related questions about frontier policy at the time of independence in 1947, order of battle, question of British officers staying in Pakistan etc.  It was linked with Kashmir incursion; a fact not noticed by most historians.



Frontier in 1947

Hamid Hussain

Sir George Cunningham, Governor of the NWFP

In August 1947, British departed from India after partitioning the country into two independent states.  Two pillars of stability; Indian Civil Service (ICS) and Indian army were divided between two countries.  Pakistan inherited the north-western frontier of India and its associated tribal question.

A tribal territory under British protection separated Indian administrative border from Afghanistan that in turn served as a buffer state between British India and Tsarist Russia; later Communist Soviet Union.  East India Company encountered these tribes after the demise of Sikh Durbar in 1849 when Punjab was annexed. In the next four decades, this relationship evolved over various stages.  By 1890s, Afghanistan’s borders were stabilized with demarcation of boundaries with Persia, Russia and British India.

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