Iqbal's Letters to Jinnah, May-June 1937

Extra(11)  Muhammad Iqbal's letters  to M.A. Jinnah in May-June 1937

Documents included:
  • Muhammad Iqbal's letter to M. A. Jinnah, 28 May 1937 (full text)
  • Muhammad Iqbal's letter to M. A. Jinnah, 21 June 1937 (full text)
  • M.A. Jinnah's Comment on Iqbal's letters, 1943

From 'Pathway to India's Partition', Vol. II,  Bimal Prasad, Rajendra Prasad Academy, New Delhi, Manohar, 2009


The texts of two letters written by Iqbal to Jinnah in 1937 have been included in Bimal Prasad's three volume series 'Pathway to India's Partition'. The series is described thus :' Rejecting the widely held view that Partition was the result mainly of British manipulation and the mistakes or intransigence of certain Indian leaders, the author asserts that it was the result primarily of a powerful movement of Muslim nationalism.'. 

Also 'Again, contrary to what has been generally imagined so far, Jinnah as well as Iqbal had become converts to that idea [of an independent Muslim state], as early as June 1937, before even the beginning of any serious talk for the installation of a so-called coalition government in U.P., and not after its failure.' (end quote)

In 1937, what would be the future of India and its various communities was anyone's guess, and these letters offer interesting revelations of Iqbal's beliefs about the political future of Hindus and Muslims. 

It is also noteworthy that Iqbal believed that the Muslim masses would not be interested in political campaigns unless these addressed the problem of Muslim poverty. This was in complete contrast to the reality of Muslim mass mobilization around identity in the next 75 years, starting with Jinnah rejecting even in 1936-1937  the Congress notion that economic issues or issues of 'daal-bhat'  were of primary concern to Muslim voters[Jinnah speeches in 1937: Extra 8 ]. 

Another point is that while the Congress (and sympathetic Labour factions in Britain) considered the 1935 Government of India Act to be so designed via its federal legislative quotas as to explicitly keep elected Congress nationalists out of power at the center, Iqbal had a different perception.  

Iqbal's sense that the Hindu  and Sikh minorities were thwarting the Muslim prerogative in Muslim majority provinces is also visible in these letters. In the pre-independence period, Indian provincial legislatures had  'weightages' (or excess representation) provided for minority religious communities: for minority Muslims in Hindu majority provinces and for Hindus and Sikhs in Muslim majority provinces. The concept of weightages was upheld by the 1916 Lucknow Pact agreed upon under M.A.Jinnah's tutelage by the Congress and the Muslim League. These weightages were probably a contributory factor to the overall situation. Such a sentiment as Iqbal expressed, has however had continuous play in the subsequent 75 years as well, most notably after the 1970 Pakistan general elections were held under joint electorates. In those elections, the Awami League of East Pakistan won a majority in the Pakistan National Assembly with the contribution of East Pakistani Hindu votes, and this circumstance was deemed to be inimical to Pakistan by its rulers, resulting in military action.

(end comment)

Iqbal's letter to Jinnah, 28 May 1937(full text)

Confidential                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Lahore

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 28th May, 1937

My dear Mr. Jinnah,

    Thank you so much for your letter which reached me in due course. I am glad to hear that you will bear in mind what I wrote to you about the changes in the constitution and programme of the League. I have no doubt that you fully realise the gravity of the situation as far as Muslim India is concerned. The  League will finally have to decide whether it will remain a body representing the upper classes of Indian Muslims or Muslim masses who have so far, which good reason, taken no interest in it. Personally I believe that a political organization which gives no promise of improving the lot of the average Muslim cannot attract our masses.

Under the new constitution the higher posts go to the sons of upper classes; the smaller ones go to the friends or relatives of the ministers. In other matters too our political institutions have never thought of improving the lot of Muslims generally. The problem of bread is becoming more and more acute. The Muslim has begun to feel that he has been going down and down during the last 200 years. Ordinarily he believes that his poverty is due to Hindu money-lending or capitalism. The perception that it is equally due to foreign rule has not yet fully come to him. But it is bound to come. The atheistic socialism of Jawaharlal is not likely to receive much response from the Muslims. The question therefore is: how is it possible to solve the problem of Muslim poverty? And the whole future of the League depends on the League's activity to solve this question. If the League can give no such promises I am sure the Muslim masses will remain indifferent to it as before. Happily there is a solution in the enforcement of the Law of Islam and its further development in the light of modern ideas. After a long and careful study of Islamic Law I have come to the conclusion that if this system of Law is properly understood and applied, at least the right to subsistence is secured to everybody. But the enforcement and development of the Shariat of Islam is impossible in this country without a free Muslim state or states. This has been my honest conviction for many years and I still believe this to be the only way to solve the problem of bread for Muslims as well as to secure a peaceful India. If such a thing is impossible in India the only other alternative is a civil war which as a matter of fact has been going on for some time in the shape of Hindu-Muslim riots. I fear that in certain parts of the country, e.g., N.W.India, Palestine may be repeated. Also the insertion of Jawaharlal's socialism into the body-politic of Hinduism is likely to cause much bloodshed among the Hindus themselves. The issue between social democracy and Brahmanism is not dissimilar to the one between Brahamnism(sic) and Buddhism. Whether the fate of socialism will be the same as the fate of Buddhism in India I cannot say. But it is clear to my mind that if Hinduism accepts social democracy it must necessarily cease to be Hinduism. For Islam the acceptance [o]f social democracy in some suitable form and consistent with the legal principles of Islam is not a revolution but a return to the original purity of Islam. The modern problems therefore are far more easy to solve for the Muslims than for the Hindus. But as I have said above in order to make it possible for Muslim India to solve these problems it is necessary to redistribute the country and to provide one or more Muslim states with absolute majorities. Don't you think that the time for such a demand has already arrived? Perhaps this is the best reply you can give to the atheistic socialism of Jawaharlal Nehru.

    Anyhow I have given you my thoughts in the hope that you will give them serious consideration either in your address or in the discussions of the coming session of the League. Muslim India hopes that at this serious juncture your genius will discover some way out of our present difficulties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yours sincerely

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (Sd.) Mohammad Iqbal

P.S.     On the subject-matter of this letter I intended to write to you a long and open letter in the press. But on further consideration I felt that the present moment was not suitable for such a step.

Iqbal's letter to Jinnah, 21 June 1937(full text)

Private and Confidential                                                                                                                                                                                                    Lahore

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    21st June, 1937

My dear Mr. Jinnah,

    Thank you so much for your letter which I received yesterday. I know you are a busy man; but I do hope you won't mind my writing to you so often, as you are the only Muslim in India today to whom the community has a right to look up for safe guidance through the storm which is coming to North-West India, and perhaps to the whole of India. I tell you that we are actually living in a state of civil war which, but for the police and military, would become universal in no time. During the last few months there has been a series of Hindu-Muslim riots in India. In North-West India alone there have been at least three riots during the last three months and at least four cases of vilification of the Prophet by Hindus and Sikhs. In each of these four cases, the vilifier has been murdered. There have also been cases of burning of the Koran in Sind. I have carefully studied the whole situation and believe that the real cause of these events is neither religious nor economic. It is purely political, i.e., the desire of the Sikhs and Hindus to initimidate Muslims even in the Muslim majority provinces. And the new constitution is such that even in the Muslim majority provinces, the Muslims are made entirely dependent on non-Muslims. The result is that the Muslim Ministry can take no proper action and are even driven to do injustice to Muslims, partly to please those on whom they depend, and partly to show that they are absolutely impartial. Thus it is clear that we have our specific reasons to reject this constitution. It seems to me that the new constitution is devised only to placate the Hindus. In the Hindu majority provinces, the Hindus have of course absolute majorities, and can ignore Muslims altogether. In Muslim majority provinces, the Muslims are entirely dependent on Hindus. I have no doubt in my mind that this constitution is calculated to do infinite harm to the Indian Muslims. Apart from this it is no solution of the economic problem which is so acute among Muslims.

     The only thing that the communal award grants to Muslims is the recognition of their political existence in India. But such a recognition granted to a people whom this constitution does not and cannot help in solving their problem of poverty can be of no value to them. The Congress President has denied the political existence of Muslims in no unmistakeable terms. The other Hindu political body, i.e., the Mahasabha, whom I regard as the real representative of the masses of the Hindus, has declared more than once that a united Hindu-Muslim nation is impossible in India. In these circumstances it is obvious that the only way to a peaceful India is a redistribution of the country on the lines of racial, religious and linguistic affinities. Many British statesmen also realise this, and the Hindu-Muslim riots which are rapidly coming in the wake of this constitution are sure further to open their eyes to the real situation in the country. I remember Lord Lothian told me before I left England that my scheme was the only possible solution of the troubles of India, but that it would take 25 years to come. Some Muslims in the Punjab are already suggesting the holding of a North-West Indian Muslim Conference, and the idea is rapidly spreading. I agree with you, however, that our community is not yet sufficiently organized and disciplined and perhaps the time for holding such a conference was not yet ripe. But I feel that it would be highly advisable for you to indicate in your address at least the line of action that the Muslims of North-West India would be finally driven to take.

    To my mind the new constitution with its idea of a single Indian federation is completely hopeless. A separate federation of Muslim provinces, reformed on the lines I have suggest above, is the only course by which we can secure a peaceful India and save Muslims from the domination of non-Muslims. Why should not the Muslims of North-West India and Bengal be considered as nations entitled to self-determination just as other nations in India and outside India are.

    Personally I think that the Muslims of north-West India and Bengal ought at present to ignore Muslim minority provinces. This is the best course to adopt in the interests of both Muslim majority and minority provinces. It will therefore be better to hold the coming session of the League in the Punjab, and not in a Muslim minority province. The month of August is bad in Lahore. I think you should seriously consider the advisability of holding the coming session at Lahore in the middle of October when the weather is quite good in Lahore. The interest in the All-India Muslim League is rapidly growing in the Punjab, and the holding of the coming session in Lahore is likely to give a fresh political awakening to the Punjab Muslims.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yours sincerely,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (Sd.) Mohammad Iqbal


Jinnah's Comment (excerpt) (Concluding paragraph of Jinnah's Foreword to Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah), 1943

It is... much to be regretted that my own replies to Iqbal are not available. During the period under reference I worked alone unassisted by the benefit of a personal staff and so did not retain duplicate copies of the numerous letters that I had to dispose of. I made enquiries from the Trustees of Iqbal's estate at Lahore and was informed that my letters were not traceable. Hence I had no alternative but to publish the letters without my replies as I think these letters are of great historical importance, particularly those which explain his views in clear and unambiguous terms on the political future of Muslim India. His views were substantially in consonance with my own and had finally led me to the same conclusions as a result of careful examination and study of the constitutional problems facing India, and found expression in due course in the united will of Muslim India as adumberated in the Lahore Resolution of the All-India Muslim League, popularly known as the "Pakistan Resolution", passed on 23rd March, 1940.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    M.A. Jinnah


CMP(1) -  From Ayesha Jalal's 'The Sole Spokesman'

CMP(2) -  Congress and Muslim League positions on 12 May 1946

CMP(3) -  The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946

CMP(4) - Jinnah  and ML  responses to the CMP 22 May  and June 6 1946

CMP(5) -  Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 4 April 1946

CMP(6) -  Jinnah's meeting with Missiion Delegation on 16 April 1946

CMP(7A) - Maulana Azad's meeting with Mission Delegation on 17 April 1946

CMP(7) -  The Congress unease with parity  8-9 May 1946

CMP(7B) - Jinnah and Azad responses to preliminary proposals 8-9 May 1946

CMP(8A) - Simla Conference meetings on 5 May 1946 on the powers of the Union

CMP(8) -  More exchanges on parity, Simla Conference meeting  11 May 1946

CMP(9) -  Jinnah and Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and CMP, 8 Jan. and 25 May 1946

CMP(10) -  Jinnah and Wyatt(2) on the interim government, 11 June 1946

CMP(11) -   Congress opposition to grouping. Gandhi, Patel and Azad, May 1946

CMP(12) - Congress Working Committee resolutions, May-June 1946

CMP(12A) - Arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim, June 1946

CMP(12B) - Behind the scenes-Gandhi, June-July 1946

CMP(12C) - Behind the scenes-Jinnah, June-July 1946

CMP(13) - Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946

CMP(14) - League rejected Plan, called Direct Action,  July-August 1946

CMP(15) - Viceroy strong-arming Nehru, Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick-Lawrence to Attlee, Aug -Sept 1946

CMP(16) - Intelligence assessment on Jinnah's options and threat of civil war, Sept. 1946

CMP(17) - League Boycott of the Constituent Assembly Dec. 1946

CMP(17A) - Congress "climbdown" on grouping and Jinnah's rejection, January 1947

CMP (A1) - Plain speaking from Sir Khizr Hayat, Abell on the Breakdown plan, Wavell

CMP(A2) - North West Frontier Province, Oct-Nov 1946 and Feb-March 1947

CMP(A3) - Bengal and Bihar, August - November 1946

CMP(A4) - Punjab, February - March 1947

CMP (18) - My take

CMP (19) - What did parity and communal veto mean in numbers?

CMP(20) - Another take -with links to reference material

CMP(21) - Mountbatten discussing CMP with Patel and Jinnah, 24-26 Apr 1947

CMP(22) - A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan

Extra(1) - Jinnah's speech in March 1941 on independent sovereign Pakistan

Extra(1A) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1941-1942

Extra(1B) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1938-1940

Extra(1C) - Jinnah's speeches and Statements from 1943-45

Extra(2) - Gandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan

Extra(3) - BR Ambedkar quoted from his book 'Pakistan or the Partition of India'

Extra(4) - Congress and Muslim parties' on the Communal question 1927-1931

Extra(4A) - Excerpts of Motilal Nehru Committee Report 1928

Extra(4B) - Nehru, Bose, Jinnah Correspondence 1937-38

Extra(5) -  BR Ambedkar on Communal Representation 1909-1947

Extra(6) - Gandhiji's scheme of offering the Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947

Extra(6A) - Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43

Extra (6B) - Apr-Jul 1947 Negotiations on Pakistan between Mountbatten and Jinnah

Extra(7) - M.A.Jinnah and Maulana Azad on two nation theory

Extra(8) - On Separate electorates, Joint electorates and Reserved constituencies

Extra(9) - Links to cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys from the Daily Mail, UK, 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth

Extra(10) -Nehru Report 1928 (10 MB pdf)
Extra(11) -Iqbal's letters to Jinnah, May-June 1937

Extra(12) -Jinnah, Linlithgow, Sikander Hayat, Pakistan rumblings 1942-43

Durga Das (1) 1919-1931, Jallianwala Bagh to Bhagat Singh

Durga Das (2) 1931-1936, Crescent Card: Jinnah in London to Fazli Husain in Punjab

Durga Das(3) 1937-1940, Provincial Autonomy to Jinnah gets the veto

Durga Das(4) 1940-1945, The War Years: India's War Effort-Pakistan on a platter

Durga Das(5) 1945-1947, The Cabinet Mission to Divide and Quit

1937-1940(2)  Congress and Jinnah fall out in U.P., Jinnah's anti-Congress campaign and the Viceroy gives Jinnah a Veto: Ayesha Jalal, Sarvepalli Gopal and Stanley Wolpert

1937: Congress-Jinnah tussle over coalition government in U. P., M.J. Akbar

1937: Nehru, Jinnah and Coalition Governments, Bimal Prasad

1939-1940: India and the War, Anita Inder Singh

1945-1946: The Elections of 1945-46, Anita Inder Singh

1857-1938 Glimpses of British policy in Punjab: Ian Talbot and David Page

1930-1939 Congress Decline in Bengal, John Gallagher

Glendevon (1) 1937: Congress's Office Acceptance Saga over Governor's Powers

Glendevon (2) 1937-1940: Federation, Jinnah, Congress activism in Princely States

Glendevon (3) 1939-1942: Linlithgow, Congress, Jinnah,War-time Realignments

1939-1947: Jinnah and the Anglo-Muslim League Alliance, Narendra Singh Sarila

1944: Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Jaswant Singh

1830s-1898: British Forward Policy(1)

1899-1947: British Forward Policy(2)

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