Secularism and the Founder of Pakistan
Political Issues
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

There are some political leaders of Pakistan who say that the founder of Pakistan, Quaid i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted to create a secular Pakistan. If this is true, then are we bound by our founder’s vision?


The debate whether Pakistan had been created in the name of Islam or its founder had intended to establish in it a secular democracy has been going on here ever since its creation. In this regard, the Quaid’s speech in the Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947 is often presented as evidence on the fact that his intentions were to establish a secular Pakistan. It seems that this speech of the Quaid has unfortunately been misinterpreted.

The non-Muslims of Pakistan are Mu‘āhids ie, those have come under an Islamic State on account of a treaty with it. In their case, the Sharī‘ah permits an Islamic state to conclude a treaty with them on whatever terms it deems proper and can even treat them equally with the Muslims politically by accepting for them all the rights which Muslims citizens are given by the Sharī‘ah on the condition that the Mu‘āhids, as faithful citizens, accept the superiority of the Sharī‘ah at the state level. Consequently, the Prophet (sws), in his own times, concluded a similar treaty with the Jews of Madīnah. In this document, which came to be known as ‘The Mīsāq-i- Madīnah’ the Jews acknowledged the superiority of the Sharī‘ah by accepting Allah and His Prophet (sws) as the final authority in all differences of opinion. By virtue of this treaty, the Jews, as Mu‘āhids, were granted equal rights of citizenship in the state of Madīnah:

وان يهود امة مع المؤمنين لليهود دينهم وللمسلمين دينهم مواليهم وانفسم

And [according to this pact], the Jews are acknowledged with the Muslims as one nation. As far as religion is concerned, the Jews shall remain on theirs and the Muslims and their allies on theirs.1

The non-Muslims who became citizens of Pakistan at its birth agreed to live in this country of their own free will knowing full well its ideological status. They were well aware that at if they were to live as its citizens, they would have to accept the superiority of the Sharī‘ah because the Quaid had unequivocally declared: ‘The Qur’ān shall be the constitution of this state’, and had stated in one of his speeches: ‘We have not demanded Pakistan merely as a piece of land for the Muslims; we intend to make it a testing place for the implementation of Islam’.

It was this status of the non-Muslims which the Quaid as the founder of Pakistan and the leader of the Muslims of the sub-continent announced on 11th August 1947 in the Constituent Assembly. It was neither a statement concerning the secular nature of a state nor a statement annulled by subsequent statements. It was something which was in direct accordance with the Sharī‘ah as regards the position of the non-Muslims of the newly founded state. It said:

 ... Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in the course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of an Islamic Sate.*

It is evident that this part of the Quaid’s speech actually means that there shall be no discrimination between citizens of Pakistan on the basis of religion. The words ‘because that is the personal faith of each individual’ have not be said in the context of deciding the religion of a state; the context, clearly concerns the rights of Muslim minorities and these words mean that an individual’s personal faith must not become the basis of special treatment by the state. Consequently, in light of these terms of the treaty, the non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan are liable to accept the supremacy of the Sharī‘ah at the State level and not to challenge this status and in return the state of Pakistan is committed to accept them as politically equal to the Muslims as long as they remain faithful to this country and abide by the terms of the treaty concluded with them.


1.Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Beirut: Dāru’l -Khayr, 1995), p. 107

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