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Iqbal expresses support for British rule over Muslims of India during his London visits in 1931–32
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Iqbal expresses support for British rule over Muslims of India during his London visits in 1931–32

Says he never demanded a separate Muslim state outside British rule

Allama Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s speech to the conference of the Muslim League in December 1930 at Allahabad is regarded as a great landmark in Muslim history of the Indian subcontinent because it is considered to be the first time that the creation of a Muslim state from Muslim-majority provinces in India was proposed, which later took the form of Pakistan.

However, even after this speech (to say nothing of before it) Iqbal expressed support for continuing British rule over Muslims of India.

Below is reproduced a letter Iqbal wrote to The Times newspaper of London when he was in London in 1931, which was published in The Times in its issue of October 12, 1931, on page 8. The text of this letter is also given in the book Letters and Writings of Iqbal published by the Iqbal Academy Pakistan from Lahore in 1967, reprinted in 1981 (pages 119–120). It is as follows:

Text of Iqbal’s letter to The Times

Sir,— Writing in your issue of October 3 last, Dr. E. Thompson has torn the following passage from its context in my presidential address to the All-India Moslem League of last December, in order to serve as evidence of “Pan-Islamic plotting”:

I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind, and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Moslem State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Moslems, at least of North-West India.

May I tell Dr. Thompson that in this passage I do not put forward a “demand” for a Moslem state outside the British Empire, but only a guess at the possible outcome in the dim future of the mighty forces now shaping the destiny of the Indian sub-continent. No Indian Moslem with any pretence to sanity contemplates a Moslem state or series of States in North-West India outside the British commonwealth of Nations as a plan of practical politics.

Although I would oppose the creation of another cockpit of communal strife in the Central Punjab, as suggested by some enthusiasts, I am all for a redistribution of India into provinces with effective majorities of one community or another on lines advocated both by the Nehru and the Simon Reports. Indeed, my suggestion regarding Moslem provinces merely carries forward this idea. A series of contented and well-organized Moslem provinces on the North-West Frontier of India would be the bulwark of India and of the British Empire against the hungry generations of the Asiatic highlands.

Yours faithfully,
Muhammed Iqbal
St. James’s court, S.W.1, Oct. 10.

Click here to see an image of his letter as printed in The Times.

As can be seen, Iqbal is replying to what he regards as a misrepresentation of his speech by Dr. Edward Thompson. Iqbal says that he never demanded a separate Muslim state independent of British rule and that the State or States envisaged by him would be the bulwark of the British Empire against invasion from central Asia.

Speeches in London in 1932

The following year, 1932, Iqbal again visited London in connection with the Third Round Table Conference held between Indian leaders and the British government.  At a reception in his honour on 24 November, attended by members of the British Parliament and diplomats from many countries, Iqbal made a short statement which ended with the words:

“Muslims have courage and have always shown loyalty and affection for Great Britain. I hope the Muslims’ legitimate claims and aspirations would be fully safeguarded in the final settlement.” (Letters and Writings of Iqbal, page 70)
A similar function was held on 15 December in a room in the Houses of Parliament where foreign diplomats and members of the House of Lords and Commons were invited to meet Iqbal and other members of the Muslim delegation. Iqbal summarised the case for the Muslims of India, and ended his speech as follows:

“I, therefore, respectfully submit that the demands the Muslims of India have placed before you are worth your consideration, because a powerful India will solve for ever the question that is most prominent in politics at the present time, the question of the cooperation of the East and West. India lies between the East and West, and if the Muslims are allowed an opportunity, with the co-operation of England, they can serve the people of Asia and of England.”

Here Iqbal approves that Muslims should work with the co-operation of England and thereby serve the interests of the people of England, in addition to the people of Asia.