Founders of Pakistan pledged Loyalty to British Rule of India (Muslim League declared Loyalty to British Government its First Objective)

Extracts from Reports of Muslim League’s Public Meetings

Complied by Dr. Zahid Aziz

The Light & Islamic Review (US), November/December 1992 Issue (Vol. 69, No. 6, pp. 5–7)

A charge laid against Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, circulated throughout the world today, is that he expressed, indeed urged, loyalty to the British Government of India of his time. On this basis, an entirely unfounded theory is fabricated that he was somehow acting on behalf of, and for the interests of, British imperialism. It is conveniently ignored or forgotten what views were expressed on this subject by the vast majority of Muslim leaders in India at exactly that time, including those who are regarded as the pioneers of Muslim nationalism, whose struggle led directly to Muslim freedom and the establishment of Pakistan. A wholly false and forged history of that period is taught to Muslims today, particularly in Pakistan, claiming that it was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who stopped keen and eager Muslim freedom-fighters from undertaking a war of jihad against the British Government. This view is palpably absurd for the simple reason that the great majority of Muslim religious leaders were bent on blindly opposing Hazrat Mirza on every question, at all costs; so how could he possibly manage to have such influence on the general body of Muslims as to dissuade them from marching forth for jihad?

Foundations of Pakistan — All-India Muslim League Documents: 1906–1947 is a compilation in two volumes, consisting of the proceedings of the annual sessions of the Muslim League from its inception to the founding of Pakistan. It is edited by Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, and was published in Pakistan by the National Publishing House Ltd. some 23 years ago. The Muslim League, as is well-known, was the political and nationalist organisation which successfully campaigned to bring the state of Pakistan into existence under the leadership of Mr. M. A. Jinnah [Muhammad Ali Jinnah]. According to the account of the Inaugural Session, held at Dhaka (old spelling Dacca) on December 30, 1906, the very first resolution, which brought the League into being and defined its objectives, was as follows:

“Resolved that this meeting, composed of Musalmans [Muslims] from all parts of India, assembled at Dacca, decide that a Political Association be formed, styled All-India Muslim League, for the furtherance of the following objects:

  1. To promote, among the Musalmans of India, feelings of loyalty to the British Government, and to remove any misconception that may arise as to the intention of Government with regard to any of its measures.
  2. To protect and advance the political rights and interests of the Musalmans of India, and to respectfully represent their needs and aspirations to the Government.
  3. To prevent the rise, among the Musalmans of India, of any feeling of hostility towards other communities, without prejudice to the aforementioned objects of the League.”

This is the resolution passed unanimously by the meeting, which we have reproduced in its entirety in the original English, lest we be accused of quoting out of context. The very first objective of the Muslim League was to promote feelings of loyalty to the British Government among the Muslims of India! Let the opponents of Hazrat Mirza, particularly those belonging to Pakistan, now consider what verdict they must pass on the party which brought a free Muslim state into existence.

This resolution was moved by Nawab Salim-ullah Bahadur of Dhaka, who made a speech explaining these objectives. We quote below a section of his speech describing why it had been inadvisable to form a political body in the previous decade, and what was the change of circumstances which allowed its formation now:

“In 1893, we were naturally very anxious to impress upon the British Government that we were loyal subjects and law-abiding citizens, for it was considered that our rulers had some doubts on the subject, which, however unnecessary, were perhaps not wholly unnatural at the time. Again, education had not toned down the passions of a war-like community, and turned the irascible temper of a newly fallen race into sweet reasonableness. There was, in addition, the great danger of our giving up the difficult and constructive work of education in favour of the easy task of a destructive critic in politics. The need of self-help might then have been ignored on account of the less taxing effort of criticizing others. The endeavour to deserve might then have been paralysed by the intensity of the desire to obtain. The voice of the reformer might have been drowned in the babel of the demagogue.”

It was in exactly the same period, and for very similar reasons, that Hazrat Mirza made his statements of loyalty to British rule. There is almost no difference between the position of the Muslim League as expressed in the above words and that taken by Hazrat Mirza. He did, however, stress one particular reason for fidelity to the government not mentioned by the Muslim League. This was that Muslims were free both to practise their own faith and to propagate its teachings to others, and had the freedom not only to rebut Christian attacks on Islam, but to refute and demolish the doctrines of Christianity, the religion of the rulers. Hazrat Mirza believed that, Islam being the religion of truth, this freedom gave Muslims a great opportunity to convert to Islam the nation which ruled them.

The Nawab’s speech then continues:

“Today the aspect of affairs has greatly changed. The Government has been convinced of our steadfast loyalty under the most trying situations. In 1897, Lord Elgin bore testimony to the unflinching fidelity of the Mohammedan troops that opposed their own co-religionists on the battlefields of Chitral and the borderland, and shed their own blood and the blood of their brothers for their king and country. This, gentlemen, was a situation which no other community has had a chance of being tried in. If, then, we have special claims on the Government, it is because the test of our loyalty has been specially searching and unique. From those who were considered so dangerous as to be allowed no other career than that of the ploughman in the fields, we have risen so much in the estimation of our rulers, that leading statesmen of England call us the forces of loyalty in India and one of the greatest assets of the Empire, some portion of which has been won with our own support, and the whole of which we are guarding today. It is no more necessary to waste whole regiments in the interior in order to guard against an imaginary danger of rebellion, and the Commander-in-Chief can set free with a light heart the major portion of our army for guarding the frontier of the Empire.”

So, this leader and co-founder of the Muslim League proudly proclaims that the Muslims have done their duty of proving their loyalty to the British Government, like no other subject community, by fighting and dying in defence of the British empire, even against other Muslims. Yet, on the other hand, our critics are offended by Hazrat Mirza’s statements in which he reminded the government of his father’s support for it in the rebellion of 1857.

Towards the close of the speech, the Nawab summed up as follows:

“A more active propaganda, a more candid statement of our needs and aspirations, and the giving of a more public and more representative character to our Political Association, are more necessary today than was the case in 1893. But nothing of the spirit of loyalty is lost thereby, and no amount of candour shall rob us of our traditional courtesy. The resolution which I have the honour of moving today has been so framed that the object of our League is frankly the protection and advancement of our political rights and interests, but without prejudice to the traditional loyalty of Musalmans to the Government, and goodwill to our Hindu neighbours. Whenever it is necessary to do so, we shall represent our views to the Government, and respectfully submit our claims for due consideration. But whenever the intention of any measure of Government is misunderstood by our people, it shall equally be our duty to remove that misconception.”

Amendment in 1913:

A few years on, at the sixth session of the Muslim League, held at Lucknow on March 22–23rd, 1913, a revised constitution was discussed. The chairman of the meeting was Mian Mohammad Shafi, a leader of the Punjab Muslim League. In his presidential address, he referred to an amendment in the first objective of the League as follows:

“According to the revised Constitution, the first object of the League is ‘to maintain and promote among the people of this country feelings of loyalty towards the British Crown’. The substitution of the words ‘the people of this country’ in place of ‘Indian Musalmans’ and ‘British Crown’ in place of ‘British Government’ constitutes a distinct improvement which, I have no doubt, you will unhesitatingly accept. The traditional loyalty of the Indian Musalmans to the Empire, under the banner of which we live in peace and prosperity, does not need to be proclaimed with a flourish of trumpets: nor is it one of those monopolies the successful possession of which depends upon extensive advertisement. The solid foundation of our loyalty rests not upon its profession, but upon deeds the incontrovertible proof of which is writ large upon the pages of history. And the substitution of the words ‘British Crown’ in place of ‘British Government’ in relation to our devotion to the Empire of which India is a component part constitutes a more dignified and faithful expression of our real feelings. … It is the British Crown alone which is the permanent and ever-abiding symbol of Empire. It is not to this Government or to that we acknowledge allegiance: it is to the British Crown itself that we owe unswerving and abiding loyalty.

“But what, you will ask, is my conception of loyalty to the British Crown? In my humble judgment, it is the paramount duty of every loyal subject of the King Emperor to abstain from doing anything calculated to impair the permanence and stability of British rule in India.”

Please Answer!

The detractors of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, especially those from Pakistan (the homeland of the opposition and propaganda against him), must now face the following question: What ruling should one issue about the Muslim League and its founders whose very first objective was “to promote feelings of loyalty to the British Government”, and who announced that everyone must “abstain from doing anything calculated to impair the permanence and stability of British rule in India?” Should they be branded tools and stooges of British imperialism?