NAIMAT KHAN – Karachi (AFKAR-Affairs Exclusive)
The results of recent intraparty polls of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) Sindh chapter once again brought to the fore the ethnic influence over one of the strong religo-political parties of Pakistan. A report published by Pashtun gazette on July 12, 2019 has discussed how the party’s Sindh Secretary Dr Rashid Soomro side-lined senior leader Qari Usman by not considering him for the party’s 15-member provincial executive council and 45-member provincial Shura۔
In fact, we have a few recent instances of mixing of religion and nationalism by Fazlu Rehman led JUI-F for making inroads into the upper Sindh. However, the party has a ‘little discussed’ but long history of Sindhi nationalism in this southern Pakistani province.
Rewinding 47 years of political history one sees central leadership of this religo-political party finding it hard to differentiate between the Sindhi separatist leader Ghulam Murtaza Syed – popularly known as G.M Syed – and his own party’s provincial leader and one of the country’s leading cleric, Maulana Muhammad Ismail.
“While reading your resolution I felt if G.M Syed is speaking and Sindhi nationalism stands objective of the JUI”, Mufti Mehmood, the then central secretary general of JUI, in his letter on March 13, 1972 to Maulana Muhammad Ismail, writes.
Mehmood – who was father of the incumbent JUI-F Chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman – was pointing towards content of a resolution passed with 95% majority by the JUI Sindh executive council in its meeting held on January 30, 1972.
“This way you will confine JUI Sindh to few persons and the party will not go beyond of G.M Syed [viewpoint],” Mufti Mehmood further writes in the letter. G.M Syed was a Sindhi Nationalist, who spearheaded the Pakistan Independence bill in the British Sindh Assembly – now Sindh Assembly, but later in 1972 founded the Sindhi nationalist movement, Jeay Sindh, for the freedom of Sindh from Pakistan.
The JUI Sindh meeting was held after the fall of Dhaka, which according to JUI-Sindh’s clerics was result of “bad acts of the rulers over last twenty years”.
“Moreover, the Pakistan’s rulers have usurped the rights of the people living in different parts of the country. The rulers have snatched the political rights of the people of East Bengal, Sindh, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP – now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the JUI Sindh’s clerics noted.
Point one of the resolutions, which had criticized the formation of One-Unit, reads. “For the restoration of political, economic, cultural and domestic rights of people of Sindh, all higher education should be imparted in Sindhi whereas all official correspondents should be done in Sindhi language. Moreover, the Sindhi should not only be made official language of Sindh but it should also be brought as per Pakistan’s national languages.”
The resolution also demanded that fresh factories should be set up in Sindh’s small cities, others than Karachi and including Hyderabad and Sukkar, where all skilled labor, including engineers should be local. “If the needs are not fulfilled only then engineers from other provinces should be employed”.
The resolution, which demanded the establishment of agricultural, medical, engineering and cadet colleges in Sindh with “all local enrolment”, urged that only four departments should rest with center – the foreign affairs, defense, currency and foreign trade.
According to resolution only those having come to province before creation of one-unit should be called as Sindhis. “The domicile certificates of children of those who don’t qualify to be called Sindhi shall be cancelled”. “The officers hailing from other provinces should be sent back to their respective provinces” further reads the resolution, which urged for erasing names of those from voter rolls who had come from other provinces. The resolution also demanded that lease of land allotted as compensation to people of other provinces should be cancelled.
This resolution came as utter shock to Mufti Mehmood and he didn’t approve Mufti Ismail’s Sindh policy, pushing him to form his own party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Sindh but it couldn’t become popular.
The new party couldn’t excel and so the historically seminary founded by Maulana Abdullah, grandfather of Maulan Ismail.
At the heart of this ethnic-cum-religious ideology was a family of clerics and their 134-yeards old Seminary.
Madrasa Arabia Mazharul Uloom
A 134-year-old religious seminary, Madrasa Arabia Mazharul Uloom, in Karachi’s oldest town of Lyari has lost its charm for a significantly large number of young students due to its moderate approach to issues like jihad and nationalism.
Situated in the Khadda Market neighborhood, the madrasa experienced its downfall in recent decades since it continued to follow the ideology of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Hind, instead of its Pakistan chapter, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan.
After Subcontinent’s Partition in 1947, the seminary administration adopted a Sindhi nationalist outlook that was unacceptable to parties doing politics in the name of religion, instead of ethnicities, languages or provinces.
According to the seminary’s current administrator, Maulana Mahmud Hasan, who is named after Shaykh al-Hind, Maulana Mahmud al-Hasan, the madrasa was established by his great-grandfather Maulana Abdullah in 1884.
Maulana Hasan, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Karachi, says that Maulana Abdullah sent his grandfather Maulana Muhammad Sadiq to Darul Uloom Deoband, which is located in a town in Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh in present-day India. “He enrolled himself on the advice of Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, who along with my grandfather remained close to Shaykh al-Hind Maulana Mahmud al-Hasan.”
According to the current seminary administrator, the aim behind establishing the Deoband madrasa in Uttar Pradesh was to provide a platform where people with “correct Islamic thought” could struggle against British imperialism. “The purpose revolved around the independence of India, and this struggle was nationalistic and not religious,” he claims.
“After 1947, the ideology of Deoband [Pakistan] has undergone many changes,” he added. “Today, when we talk of nationalism, some of our religious scholars say it’s not in accordance with religion.”
According to him, the religious scholars of Sindh have always taken a different view on most issues since Partition, “whether it pertained to the shifting of capital from Karachi to Islamabad or creation of One Unit.”
“Shaykh al-Hind had opposed Partition because religion cannot become a basis for a nation. A nation is formed on the basis of creed, area and language … That said, nationalism does not allow hatred towards others,” Hasan clarified, adding: “In Pakistan every province has its rights.”
“If Pakistan has been created, the provinces have created it. Every province has its rights. The partition on basis of religion was not ideology of Deoband. But today most of the Deoband madaris have adopted the ideology of Muslim League. When we openly say it then why won’t they differ with us?”
No To Kalabagh Dam
The people of Sindh have the biggest rights over the resources of their province. “Even religion establishes this right,” he argued. “If their needs are fulfilled, the remaining resources can be spent on non-Sindhis living in the province.”
He contended the construction of Kalabagh Dam was un-Islamic because all people have rights over the waters of river Indus. “When you stop water the people of Sindh will be deprived. It will also create environmental problems due to the continued coastal erosion. Several villages have vanished due to sea erosion. Since Kalabagh deprives the province of its rights, it’s un-Islamic.”
Despite these differences Darul Uloom Deoband has ties with mainstream Deoband madaris of Pakistan because we can’t gather thousands of people for them, Maulana Hasan says.
“My nationality is Sindhi, whereas our collective nationality is Pakistani and the forums like OIC are Ummah,” Hasan explains.
No to Afghan & Kashmir Jihad
According to Hasan, the Afghan Jihad of the 1980s and the ongoing fight by the Taliban in Afghanistan were not Islamic jihad, either. Going against some prominent religious clerics belonging to his own school of thought in Pakistan, Maulana Hasan said: “We consider neither of these conflicts an Islamic jihad. If you call it national resistance, we will support it. Similarly, fighting in Indian Occupied Kashmir should not be described as Islamic jihad. It’s a fight for self-determination by the people of the Valley.”
Maulana Hasan maintained that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was the alternative to Islamic Caliphate in today’s world. Under OIC’s institutional structure, the governing units were autonomous but only the Caliphate “could wage Jihad.”
To Hasan, the just concept of nationalism was compromised when the Afghan resistance against the USSR was declared Islamic jihad. “Instead of confining the Afghan refugees to camps, like Iran did, Pakistan allowed them to settle in Karachi and other cities and, as a result, we saw a boom in the business of narcotics and firearms.”
Seminary different from mainstream Madaris
Asked how his seminary was different from other mainstream Deobandi schools in the country, Hasan said: “Our aim is to produce graduates with vast understanding of religion.”
“The madrasa wants to create an ability in its students to learn the Quran and the Hadith in their true sense. We further work on a comprehensive understanding of Deen. For this, we have included Hujjatullah al-Baligha of Shah Waliullah in syllabus which is not taught in other Pakistani Deobandi seminaries.”
“This is not the only book aimed at broadening the understanding of our students,” Hasan continued, adding The Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun (Ibn Khaldun’s Prolegomena) was also part of syllabus.
Minhajul Abedin of Imam Ghazali is also taught at the seminary, he added. The library of the madrasa, which is open to all students, offers variety of books in English, Urdu and Sindhi languages along with newspapers and magazines. “This stops the students from thinking narrowly about their religion and prevents them from falling for extremist narratives. We reject religious extremism and oppose liberal fascism due to which we are not liked by both.”
“Deen doesn’t preach violence. We are not allowed to kill any human being,” he added.
A few enrolments
“We have around 40 full-time boarding students. Around 150 are day-time students, several of them attending Madrasah for Nazra-e-Quran,” Mustafa Rajpar, one of the faculty members told. Among them most are from Balochistan. In its popular days hundreds of students from across the country would attend the seminaries.
Unpopular views regarding popular subjects like Jihad and nationalism are major but not the only reason of decline in enrolments. Due to lack of funding the seminary is unable to provide facilities like Mukafa Shihria (scholarship) to its students. Other seminaries, where thousands study, provide such facilities, says Maulana Zahid Shafi, former graduate of the Madrasah.
“Elsewhere there is inertia whereas the curriculum at Mazharal Uloom is pluralistic and great but several students leave due to lack of facilities,” he says, adding since the seminary – though called Deoband Sani – is not registered with Deoband Broad Wafaq ul Madaris Al-Arabia, Pakistan, it also pushes the students to switch to other seminaries.