Tag Archive for freedom

Three Giants and Systems

My brother recently pointed out to me that with the publication of Khurram Ali Shafique’s Iqbal: His Life and Our Times, I can now claim to have covered three great Muslim personalities of the last century: Jinnah, Iqbal and Parwez. This was something that had never crossed my mind before.

Jinnah and Iqbal rank among the most important figures for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, while Parwez has had an enormous impact that has yet to be appreciated whether among academia or in the public eye. For myself personally however, the fact that I have had the good fortune to cover these particular three is especially significant. Have a look at the three men in turn, and I hope you’ll see what I mean.

First, each respectively represents one of the three Cohesive Ethics principles. Visiting them in chronological order of my publications:

Parwez: Justice

G.A. Parwez

G.A. Parwez (1903-85)

My earliest writing work was the translation of my father’s Quran aur Pakistan, which was a book containing his poetry and a compilation of various writings from G.A. Parwez’s work. One of the chapters from this book was a reproduction of a pamphlet of Parwez on Jinnah that I eventually published many years later. And of course, my work on this pamphlet also led directly to my work on Jinnah.

Parwez was a prolific writer, but arguably his most important contribution as a scholar was his 1955 book Nizam-i-Rabbubiyyat (System of Divine Sustenance), an economic treatise that took a holistic and groundbreaking view of Quranic terms normally identified with capital interest and religious charity. My father and I have translated this book under the title The Qur’anic System of Sustenance. Parwez’s strong emphasis on social justice and criticism of capitalism in that book has led even some of his supporters to wrongly think he was a closet communist – despite the fact that he described communism as “a grave danger to humanity” and went to great lengths to reveal the stark differences between materialist communism and his Quran-inspired work. In any case, Parwez’s work in this field makes him an unequivocal representative of the justice principle.

Jinnah: Unity

M.A. Jinnah

M.A. Jinnah (1876-1948)

My first full book was on M.A. Jinnah, and so was its better known sequel, Secular Jinnah & Pakistan.

Jinnah represents the unity principle. No, he practically personifies it. He was dubbed the “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” in his early political career; and later, both as the leader of the Pakistan independence movement and as the founding father of the country, “unity” remained his watchword both for “Muslim unity” and for a Pakistani nationality that encompassed its multicultural population. The Pakistani national motto “Faith, Unity, Discipline” was coined by Jinnah during the Pakistan movement. The word “unity” turns up countless times in his speeches and statements and is probably the word that he used more than any other.

Iqbal: Liberty

M. Iqbal (1877-1938)

M. Iqbal (1877-1938)

I wrote a full chapter on M. Iqbal in Secular Jinnah & Pakistan on the crux of his philosophy. My imprint Libredux Publishing has also published two books on his philosophy: 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen and Iqbal: His Life and Our Times. Iqbal’s references to the three principles of “equality, solidarity and freedom” are of course the “muse” of the Cohesive Ethics Theorem in Systems.

Iqbal undoubtedly represents the liberty principle owing to his emphasis on human will and action, and his calls for a “reconstruction of religious thought in Islam” in the famous lectures of the same name. He wanted Muslims to revive the long-abandoned practice of ijtihad (lit. “strive”), which amounts to freeing the Muslim community from the shackles of tradition so it can learn to actively adapt with the needs of its time. He dedicated his fifth lecture solely to this topic, describing ijtihad as the “principle of movement”.

Second, these men have some striking similarities with the characters from Systems who also represent the same respective principles.

Parwez and the Peace Man

Peter Manner

Peter Manner

Though they are worlds apart, Parwez and Peter Manner (the Peace Man) have some uncanny parallels. Both are lone warriors. Both possess keen insight into the failings of humanity, and its potential. In his writings Parwez calls for a revolution against the three forms of tyranny mentioned in the Quran, while Peter is on a crusade against an unnamed “them” – that is, E3, who represent the same three evils.

Both are totally committed to the idea of total justice, though Peter takes it to the extreme: He kills one “worthless” criminal for every friend he has lost in his previous life, and returns every single penny he has taken from the innocent people he robs. Parwez’s work on economics, despite not being nearly as dramatic in practice, is nevertheless driven by a similar level of conviction in the possibility of absolute justice. (And incidentally, Peter’s past life incarnation was also an economist). Both Parwez and Peter are absolutely determined to see their causes through, irrespective of how others may respond to them. Parwez’s sheer tenacity and courage easily match Peter’s, as he was more forthright in his calls for religious reformation than even Iqbal, literally risking his life in upholding his views in a hostile religious environment.

Iqbal and the Shaman

Hitoshi Katayama

Hitoshi Katayama

The strange similarities between Iqbal and Hitoshi Katayama are too numerous to list in full. Iqbal’s poetical inspirations from Revelation include David (The Persian Psalms) and Adam (in various works including Javid Nama), the namesakes of the twins who are tied to Hitoshi (also known as the Shaman in Systems). Both Iqbal and Hitoshi are poets, and both possess musical talent. Both have complex, larger-than-life personalities. Some of the things they say are incorrectly interpreted as being esoteric. Both are frequently accused of ambivalence and contradiction – though this accusation is more justified in Hitoshi’s case – and both are aware of, and comfortable with, being a mystery to others.

Each of the two also fulfils his “destiny” in an apparently ironic way – Iqbal through his choice of the seemingly “secular” Jinnah to lead the Muslims of India, and Hitoshi through his decision to destroy the only proof that the Systems Experiment was a success. This reveals how they each symbolise the conflicting nature of the liberty principle. Both also acknowledge their dark sides, though in different ways: “I have a certain amount of admiration for the Devil,” says Iqbal, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, in his first English-language lecture in 1908. Hitoshi would definitely return that remark with his characteristically devilish smile. Indeed, an early edit of Hitoshi’s song This is my Fate in the novel contained the lyrics “blessed in the Devil’s light”.

Jinnah and Agent Numbskull

Aaron Lloyd

Aaron Lloyd

Jinnah and Aaron Lloyd (named after the Prophet who also represents unity) both uphold the unity principle in precisely the same way, through a shared sense of inclusiveness. Aaron asks Hitoshi to join forces with him to try and defeat their common enemy, even after learning the truth about Hitoshi’s background. Similarly Jinnah asked Muslim religious and political leaders alike to set aside their differences in order to rally around a common goal, though he was well aware of their shortcomings.

Jinnah also shares what Hitoshi rudely calls the “numbskull” trait with Aaron – that is, both Aaron and Jinnah come across as cold and unreadable, one by virtue of a cranial chip, the other by his behaviour. Yet in fact both are deeply compassionate underneath the surface, and are really using the system to fight the system. Jinnah uses his British training in constitutional law to fight against the British Raj, while Aaron is an agent working for, and secretly fighting against, the very organisation responsible for killing his father and destroying his legacy. And on that note, both Jinnah and Aaron stand against benevolent dictatorships.

Hanif Omar

Hanif Omar

Finally, a disclaimer.

The connections between these three makers of history and the three leading men from Systems are remarkable, but by no means were any of the fictional characters consciously (or unconsciously) inspired by the historical figures. However, one of the three men did directly inspire another character in Systems, namely the eccentric professor Dr. Hanif Omar, the man behind the Cohesive Ethics Theorem and the Systems Experiment.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which one it was.

If you can think of any other links between the three men and the characters that I have failed to mention, please let me know here in the comments.

When we choose liberty

Scales of justice

Today I came across a fascinating post at renowned author Lynn McTaggart’s blog, in which she explains why modern society might be on the verge of collapse:

… our biggest group delusion … has to do with the collective assumption and acceptance of the idea that individual ambition serves the common good.  That idea, which built modern capitalism, will be at the heart of its downfall. 

(Emphasis in original. See full post here)

What she is practically describing is the ‘invisible hand‘ concept in economics, used to defend capitalism. But it is also another way of saying, in theorem-speak, that when we actively choose ‘liberty’ (individual ambition) over ‘justice’ (common good), we are doomed to fail. In the Systems Experiment too, capitalism fails because, to quote Omar, it ‘focuses on freedom, at the cost of stability’.

McTaggart adds that if society wants to succeed in the long term, its people must adopt a ‘good for me, good for all’ mindset.

In other words, we must choose justice.

Hopefully this sheds light on why the theorem in Systems is summed up in the line: Choose justice and return to Liberty.

 

Postscript: Liberty (with a capital L) is different to liberty (with a lowercase l). The latter, as individualist ambition, is illusory and not really freedom at all, however it may appear in a society focused on short-term gains. Only by choosing justice can society earn authentic freedom for every individual.

Can sci-fi redefine our political system?

Ballots for the world - DemocracyCompletely by accident this morning I have seen a post at the Science Fiction & Political Thought blog that briefly reviews my novel. The blog’s name is pretty self-explanatory. Its author, Dadrocant, is interested in exploring the links between sci-fi and political thought. In his latest post, ‘Can Science Fiction help us redefine our political system?‘, he mentions Systems as an example of sci-fi that questions whether or not democracy really is the best possible political system. This passage from that post caught my attention:

The center dilemma of this story lies in a social experiment simulation conducted 20 years before the events of the book, where several political systems are put to the test in a comparison, and even though there is no explanation as to what exactly the ideal system that is the center of the test [Libredux] is exactly like, it does hint at some interesting points, which can be seen today in some of the discourses from those who are discontented about the current state of affairs in western democracies …

That, of course, is the point Systems attempts to make. There is no such thing as a fixed ideal system. The distinguishing characteristic of an ideal system is that it is never fixed. That’s why you won’t find a blueprint for the Libredux model in Systems. And for any Pakistanis reading this post, this should be big clue as to why Iqbal also never offered any sort of blueprint for an ideal political system, and why even that epitome of pragmatism, Mr Jinnah, was supposedly ‘vague’ about what Pakistan’s system would be like. ;)

So, does Systems question democracy? Yes, it questions the modern democratic state – just as it questions all fixed ideologies – but not democracy in principle, which is based on both the ideals of liberty and justice. In fact, I always assumed that the Libredux model would likely be set up as some sort of democracy and evolve from there, in line with what I have said in SJ2 about ideal systems being able to develop by using any contemporary polity as a starting point. To reiterate: A ‘Libredux’ system would be one that theoretically takes the shape of almost any system, as long as it was fit to survive in the conditions of its time, and it retained its ideals (as per the theorem). Like a living organism, its body or structure can take any shape but its ethical DNA remains ultimately the same. I wrote this in an earlier draft of the manuscript for Systems – in its long-winded synopsis, actually – but it never made it into the final version of the novel. I didn’t want too much technical stuff to get in the way of the story.

The whole post on sci-fi as a medium for exploring future political systems can be found here.

Systems in an Iqbal education programme

Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

Yesterday I learned that the Systems trailer has been included in a course (Title: DNA of History: History According to Iqbal) being run by the Marghdeen Learning Centre, a body affiliated with the Iqbal Academy. I felt truly honoured at the mention, especially because of the particular focus of the lesson in which the trailer appeared. (I would have linked to the lesson page, since the course is run online, but you can’t view it unless you’re a participant on the course).

THE AGE OF POTENTIAL

Here are some of the most interesting points made in the lesson by the course teacher, Khurram Ali Shafique:

“Do we find any common strand” in the events of our times? Yes. Everything happening in our times is related to “Potential.”

In the field of natural sciences, we have already moved on from principles to potentials: the “principles” of natural sciences discovered in the previous phase gave birth to an age of invention in our times.

The problem is that while we discovered the tremendous potential of the physical world, we have not matched it with similar progress in discovering the potential of the human soul …

… Let’s begin with the most basic thing: Tawhid, or the Unity of God. According to Iqbal, the three principles implied in the Unity of God are “equality, solidarity, and freedom.” …

… Let me summarize. What I have tried to share is that we are now living in the age of potential. The three traits of this age are:

  1. Nations cannot be forced into slavery anymore, although they can still be deceived into it – and this is regardless of how weak the victim or how strong the oppressor. This is the potential of freedom.
  2. The world is rearranging itself into nation states, which are likely to develop a symbiotic relationship. This is the potential of solidarity.
  3. Nations can become aware of their destinies and make informed choices based on this awareness. This is the potential of equality.
Snapshot from Systems trailer

Snapshot from Systems trailer

LITERALLY TRUE

So once again, the focus is on the three ideals that appear in the Cohesive Ethics Theorem. Most interestingly of all, Mr Shafique has stressed that Iqbal’s own reference to these three principles in his famous Reconstruction lectures should be understood literally. In other words, the key to unlocking human potential in full can only come from mastering our understanding of these specific three principles, just as we have begun to unlock the creative potential of the physical universe by mastering our understanding of the laws of nature. As someone says in Systems:

‘Some would say that what I have suggested is utopian, and moreover impossible. This is not so. As I see it, humanity cannot realise its true potential until we accept that an ideal society is not only possible, but absolutely mandatory.’

The lesson opens with this question: Do you think that this video (Systems trailer) is relevant to what is being discussed in this post?

I reply: Why yes, and not in a small way!

But then, I would say that. :)

And a final note: I highly recommend joining the courses at the Marghdeen Learning Centre. They are cleverly designed to be as informal as possible, while introducing some thought-provoking ideas.

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 4: Reversal

Chief Justice AR Cornelius

Chief Justice Cornelius. Public domain image.

[I] am slowly beginning to understand what is built into the Constitution of Pakistan, in the way of political obligation … I have learnt that a non-Muslim can only be a full citizen of Pakistan if, on the secular side, he conforms to the requirements of the Objectives Resolution, read with the first 8 Articles, that is Parts I (the Republic of Pakistan) and II (Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy). So far as I can see, at present, this is entirely possible, and would be easy, if there were some formulation of the basic principles contained in the Scriptures of Islam, in regard to equality, tolerance, social justice etc.

These are the words of Alvin Robert Cornelius (1903-1991), one-time Chief Justice of Pakistan, in a personal letter dated July 1965. A practising Christian, he was one of the many people who supported the Pakistan idea. He was also amongst the few who understood the content of the Objectives Resolution as a statement of universal human ideals and one that made great promises to all its citizens regardless of caste and creed. But, he said, these ideals hadn’t been spelled out.

AN OVERLOOKED ISSUE

And Cornelius wasn’t the only person to say this. Two other Pakistanis (Mian Iftikharuddin and PD Bhandara, father of MP Bhandara) also made similar remarks in criticism of Pakistan’s constitution-making body during Pakistan’s fledgling years. All three of these individuals stated in no uncertain terms that some fundamental principles had not been accounted for. Iftikharuddin complained in 1949 that the Objectives Resolution didn’t …

incorporate those principles which will make real democracy possible …

– and PD Bhandara said in 1954:

The very essence of an Islamic Constitution which is brevity and simplicity is conspicuous by its absence. … In the process of evolution gained by experience, I trust our Constitution will be remodelled to conform more to the tenets of Islam

But their words went unheeded, and with time the Objectives Resolution became an issue of enormous contention.

MA Jinnah on 14 August 1947

MA Jinnah on 14 August 1947, and not 11 August as shown on Wikipedia. Image from my personal collection.

Critics of the Objectives Resolution see it as some sort of backdoor to theocracy, even though a religious state was the last thing on the minds of those who penned it. MP Bhandara’s 11 August 1947 bill (introduced in 2006) was an attempt to insert one of Jinnah’s most famous speeches on civil equality alongside the Objectives Resolution in the constitution. Bhandara said the speech would act as an ‘ideological balance’. Ironically, unlike his father, MP Bhandara had actually misinterpreted the Objectives Resolution and his bill (his version of it, anyway) was only going to make things worse by causing a conflict. I tried to tell him this, but I don’t think he heard me.

THREE WORDS

All this made me think of the theorem. By now I saw the connection to the three words in Iqbal’s Reconstruction – the three basic ideals of equality (justice), solidarity (unity), and freedom (liberty). That passage of Iqbal became my muse. Even Jinnah had been subconsciously drawn to these three ideals, which was why he quoted the French equivalent liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) several times during those last few months of his life as Pakistan’s first Governor General.

By 2009, a publisher in the UK and another in Pakistan had both already offered me a contract for SJ1’s revised edition. They expected me to get it to them in a few weeks. It took me 14 months, and thankfully both publishers were very patient with me. By the time it was finished, SJ2 was a brand new book containing new and original research, and only parts of it coincided with SJ1.

LEFT UNSAID

Snapshot from trailerIn SJ2, I briefly mentioned this ‘missing’ element of Pakistan’s constitution, and even said that my old appendix (imported from SJ1 and improved in SJ2) contained the very same ‘core principles’ of the Quran that could help complete the constitutional work begun back in 1949. What I didn’t mention – though I discussed it with one or two people including a prominent Pakistani retired senior judge – was that I also had an idea for a bill that could introduce the same ideals as those listed in my old appendix, the source of the theorem. To my mind the introduction of binding, interconnected values would not only strengthen and clarify the promises made in the Objectives Resolution, but would also put an end to the misinterpretation of what it contains.

And what happened after that? Well, the idea remains an idea. In the end, I made it – the theorem, that is – ‘real’ only in my fictional universe. But there it makes for useful commentary on the human condition … and it’s my way of paying homage to the Pakistan idea.

This is the final part. Earlier posts in this mini-series:

Introduction … Pt 1: The first book 

Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle

(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 3: The missing principle

As SJ1’s readership grew, so did the requests for a sequel. At first I only intended to release a revised edition and call it SJ2. And yet, all sorts of new information kept cropping up on the Pakistan story. My minor list of revisions soon became a monster file of notes which couldn’t be organised except in the form of a new book.

EVOLUTION

Then between late 2006 and mid-2007, two things happened to affect both the as-yet unwritten SJ2 and Systems. First, I came up with the ‘theorem’ for the novel in a kind of eureka moment, though this had been building up for some time. As I mentioned in Part 2, before this point my ‘ideal’ system model for the fictional Systems Experiment had been nothing more than a name. This was because I’d been semi-consciously aware that a fixed system was problematic. If I described the features of this system in the fiction in detail, it might be set in stone and treated as some fixed ideology. Fictional or not, I’d instinctively known I wanted to avoid that.

Single Source PrincipleThe fact that an ideal system is never fixed (because evolution itself is a Natural Law) now registered in my conscious knowledge for the first time. This was thanks largely to my in-depth study of the Pakistan story and in particular the thoughts of Jinnah and Iqbal (in that order. Jinnah’s  intelligence and acute ethical awareness remains greatly under-appreciated even among the experts). And so all the pieces came together. The idea (it had no name at first) was very simple and based on common sense. If you assume that everything in the universe has a common starting point of some sort, and you assume that the laws of nature also have the same starting point, then all ideals have the same starting point too … in principle. And just as the universe – with its zillions of atoms and subatomic particles and other seemingly separated bits and pieces called gravity and black holes and dark matter and space and time – actually remains one in principle, then all universal ideals must really be aspects or derivatives of a single common ideal.

I also remembered my old issue with that SJ1 appendix – the two irreducible ideals of justice and freedom. As it turns out, the two really are irreducible for reasons I won’t explain here, but whilst we often treat them as separate and ultimately incompatible, they really are not. In combination they represent one ultimate principle. I would later call this the Single Source Principle (though this part of the theorem was never explained in detail in the novel). Of course to many people it’s better known as Oneness, or Unity.

DNA cross section

Computer-generated cross section of DNA, from a top-down view.

THE THEOREM

At any rate, I finally had the essence of a testable ‘theorem’ (for the fiction, at least). As I put it in Systems:

… justice and liberty are the only universal ideals; all other ethical principles are either derivatives or aspects of these ideals. But justice and liberty are themselves interconnected because they come, just like the physical universe and every law of nature, from a single source.

It seemed natural to call this relationship cohesive ethics; like a kind of ‘theory of everything’ for universal ideals. (I later tacked on the word ‘theorem’ in the novel for effect). To my mind, any social system built around the ideals of both justice and liberty together would be acting in harmony with the Natural Order and so was bound to succeed. Its exact structure – the minor details – wouldn’t matter. What would matter was its type … what it aimed for … its spirit … its ethical DNA. And by virtue of a beautiful accident, I already had the perfect name for this type of system: Libredux.

a social system with no fixed rules, except for one binding principle which could not be broken under any circumstances.

Now I had almost everything I needed for the novel. But it still wouldn’t be finished for another five years.

CONSTITUTION

Second, in around May 2007 I had some interesting correspondence with the late Pakistani parliamentarian MP Bhandara, which led to my inadvertently becoming involved with his constitutional bill to make the 11 August 1947 speech of MA Jinnah a ‘substantive’ part of Pakistan’s constitution. Again, details aren’t important (though we’ll touch on it in the next part; the whole story is in SJ2’s appendix in any case). But that experience showed me just how important a strong constitution is. It also alerted me to the fact that something extremely important might be missing in Pakistan’s constitution – something that was leaving its fundamental sections open to misinterpretation.

Next: Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series:

Introduction … Pt 1: The first book 

Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle 

 

(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 2: Libredux

A couple of years before SJ1, I was in the middle of a personal journey that was transforming my way of thinking. Details are not important, but the result of it was that I’d learned some incredible things about the untapped potential that is present within each and every one of us. And inevitably this found expression in the novel. To an extent I was using the novel as a space to record my developing ideas, albeit in embryonic form.

Snapshot from Systems trailer

Snapshot from Systems trailer

At this time I was thinking about the possibility of an ideal society, an environment that enables us all to unlock that potential. What’s really stopping us from creating a civilization that resembles something out of Star Trek or Iqbal’s fictional world ‘Marghdeen’ in Javid Nama?

Like many Pakistanis, I’d heard about those who genuinely believed that part of the idea behind Pakistan was to create a society that would aim for the highest of ideals. At this point I didn’t know enough about it to say I had any sort of opinion about this. But it was an intriguing concept. In Pakistan of course, it hasn’t been realised to date, even if it continues to capture the imagination of Pakistan’s youth.

THE SYSTEMS EXPERIMENT

The metaphor of an ideal societyMeanwhile my novel was developing slowly. I had an idea for an experiment that would simulate history and test social systems, including an ‘ideal’ one. Computer simulations are commonly used for predicting weather patterns and observing changes in ecosystems. To my mind a social system simulation seemed perfectly feasible – more feasible, than say, trying to set up an experimental ideal society within an existing country where all sorts of practical obstacles would get in the way. A simulation would provide a controlled environment and in fact would be a more reliable test. In the novel, the Systems Experiment would prove that an ideal society was possible, and then the bad guys would go and ruin it all … as they always do. :)

The only problem was I didn’t know how to test an ideal system when I couldn’t even describe it. ‘Never mind,’ I thought. ‘It’s fiction anyway.’ Still, I did come up with a name for it: Libredux. The word means ‘return to liberty and justice’, since lib means both ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ (the latter by virtue of the Latin libra – literally, ‘balance’). That was as far as I got with the idea at this stage.

THREE MAGIC WORDS

Around this time I also happened to acquire a copy of Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. I was awed by this book, which was the first truly philosophical piece on Islam that I had ever seen. The passages that interested me most were those on the ‘unity of God’ – called Tauheed in the Quran.  Tauheed is the philosophical basis of the so-called ‘Islamic worldview’ – which treats matter and spirit as one (and not two separate things as we do in the West). One of my favourite passages from the book was:

Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Dr. Iqbal. Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

The essence of ‘Tauhid’ as a working idea is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The State, from the Islamic viewpoint, is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realise them in a definite human organisation.

I quoted this and similar passages in SJ1 to try and explain the idealism that motivated many supporters (not all of them Muslim) of the Pakistan idea. But for a very long time, I didn’t see the connection between this passage and my word, libredux. Nor did anything click when I wrote that appendix and only listed freedom and justice as the simplest ideals. I didn’t even connect that appendix to the word libredux. (I’m a bit slow sometimes.) The obvious reason was that since I hadn’t come to the theorem yet – and since I also hadn’t realised the final value of ‘unity’ (solidarity) yet – I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Next: Pt 3: The missing principle … Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series:

IntroductionPt 1: The first book … Pt 2: Libredux 

(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 1: The first book

(If you haven’t seen it already, read the introduction to this mini-series here)

Freedom, represented by feathers, or wingsThe first book I ever started – long before even SJ1 – was fiction. For a long time I had notions about the emotional content, and that it should be an epic. I even developed the characters, and knew that the story would contain a quest for a valuable item, but otherwise there was no solid plot. It refused to come together because it lacked focus. The thing had a beating heart, but no brain. Or maybe it was the other way round.

Justice, represented by scales

Scales, representing justice, were originally going to appear on the cover of 'Systems'

Whilst I said to friends that I was writing a novel, my only published writing was in the form of a few literary columns, and some Urdu-to-English translations of articles. Then suddenly in 2004 through my translation work, I happened to uncover what would later be called the ‘Munir quote’. This was the start of Secular Jinnah (2005), and my journey learning about the Pakistan idea. Funnily enough I didn’t even like politics (and still don’t!), but as I soon discovered, the Pakistan story was more than just political history. It wasn’t just another redrawing of the world map. It had a higher, noble idea at its core that truly resonated with me. I will explain why in the next post.

GERM OF AN IDEA

In mid-2005, I was finishing the final draft of SJ1 and putting in a few appendices. The book was short and didn’t explain anything about Pakistan’s founding history in much detail, but it had discussed the universal principles of the Quran that inspired so many Muslims during the Pakistan movement and which they expected to see become a reality in their new state. For the second appendix item I wanted to create a short list of these principles, about a page long, of the universal human rights that are also mentioned in the Quran. But I wanted to stick to basic principles, i.e. the ideals, in part because this is what the Quran itself does, and also because Jinnah had placed emphasis on the same basic ideals.

So I got thinking about human rights.

  • Freedom of conscience or religion
  • Freedom of speech
  • Equality before the law
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Equality of the sexes

Seed of an idea… And so on. But I soon realised that most of these items could be grouped together by their corresponding ideal. The first two of the above list could be grouped together under the ideal value ‘freedom’, and the latter three under ‘justice’. I also recall thinking that many (if not most) of these and similar principles could be classified both under freedom and justice. In fact these two seemingly separate ideals are ultimately united, but I hadn’t recognised this yet. Nor did I know that this was the germ of the idea for what would later become the Cohesive Ethics Theorem.

And how many ideals were there? Try as I might, I could only think of two: justice and freedom.

Next: Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle  Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series: Introduction