Debunking the ‘founders’ of Two-Nation Theory | Pakistan Today

Debunking the ‘founders’ of Two-Nation Theory

Our selective heroes


Ever since its inception, many efforts have been made to justify the creation of Pakistan. Based on Two-Nation Theory, one that defines both Muslims and Hindus as different nations, the said purpose of its creation was to safeguard the rights of Muslims.

The theory itself is full of glaring paradoxes and has been questioned innumerable times in the past. To counter these questions, many state-sponsored historians, most of them belonging to far-right, have tried hard to prove the authenticity of the theory by relating it to Muslims rulers from the past.

From Muhammad Bin Qasim to Mahmud Ghaznavi, we have named the foreign invaders as the founders of this theory.

One such ‘historian’, Dr Safdar Mahmud, wrote last year that Ghauri was in fact the founder of Pakistan.

Debunking this vile claim, Dr Mubarak Ali wrote, “It is customary to be proud of our invaders such as Muhammad Bin Qasim, Mahmoud of Ghazna and Muhammad Ghori and to denounce other invaders who looted our country from time to time. In fact, all these invaders were mass murderers and should be treated as criminals in history.”

Many such historians trace the spiritual link of Two-Nation Theory to the likes of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi and Shah Wali Ullah. In our textbooks, the foundation of the idea of two different nations has been credited to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

When reading through the original text from these personalities, one comes to conclusion that their ideologies were as contradictory and paradoxical as the theory itself.

Ahmed Sirhindi was the founder of ‘Wahdatul shahood’, which was considered ‘bid’at’ by most of the Muslim theologians. He was against the Mughal’s policy of ‘sulah-e-kul’ and considered it a hurdle in the way of the spread of Islam. Jahangir arrested Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi after he was informed of Sheikh’s activities.

“Jahangir came to know of a man in Sirhind, who had laid the web of deception for the simple and devoted people. He had appointed his khalifas to various areas from where they are misleading people,” Tuzk-e-Jahangiri, page 360.

Sibte Hasan writes in ‘Hindustan Mein Tehzeeb Ka Irtiqa’ that Sheikh Sirhindi considered philosophy as heresy and saw philosophers as idiots. (Page 323)

Hassan’s claim can be verified from Sheikh’s letters. He wrote to one of his disciples, “When Jesus invited Plato (the chief of these idiots) to accept his prophethood, his reply was that they were enlightened people and they didn’t feel the need of someone who wanted to enlighten them.” (Maktoobaat-e-Imam-i-Rabbani, Maktoob No 266)

Interestingly, Plato died 348 years before Jesus was born.

He also claimed few things in his book ‘Mubda-o-Muaad’ which cannot be repeated. (Translated by Hussain Naqshbandi, pp 188-189)

Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi had sectarian inclinations as well, as he wrote Radd-i-Rawafiz or ‘Refutation of Shia-ism. (Rood-e-Kausar by S M Ikram, pp 567-574) The modern fatwas against Shias are derived mostly from his work.

If the founder of Two-Nation Theory is Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, who has apostatised Shias, where do we stand?

Shah Wali Ullah’s character and ideology, again, are inconsistent to say the least. Shah Wali Ullah invited Ahmed Shah Abdali to invade the subcontinent, knowing that the previous foreign invasion by Nader Shah resulted in him looting and plundering the wealth of Mughal Empire.

“God forbid, your act must not be like that of Nader Shah who destroyed Muslims but left Marathas as they were before,” Shah Wali Ullah wrote to Abdali. (Shah Wali Ullah Dehalvi Ke Siyasi Maktoob by Khaleeq Ahmed Nizami, page 106)

Describing the result of his invasion, Dr Mubarak Ali writes, “Although Abdali defeated the Marathas in 1761, he further weakened the Mughal emperor and the nobility by plundering their wealth. The idea of reviving power and stability using foreign help failed; so no lesson can be learned from this dismal episode.”

An estimate tells that 30-120 million rupees were looted by Ahmed Shah Abdali. He married the younger daughter of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah by force. (Gumshuda Tareekh by Dr Mubarak Ali, page 101)

Shah Wali Ullah was faced with death threats when he translated Quran into Persian and he had to leave Delhi due to fatwas of apostasy. (Rood-e-Kausar by Sheikh Muhammad Ikram, page 522)

His son, Shah Abdul Aziz decreed in favour of working for British and be loyal to them but he advised the Muslims must not have any links to them culturally. He even said that it was advisable to wash the utensils used by British before utilising them. (Ulema Aur Siayasat, Dr Mubarak Ali, page 80)

Like Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi, Shah Wali Ullah also apostatised Shias.

“A thorough study of lzatal-Khifa and Qurratal-Ainain and the letters of Wali Ullah in Kalimaat-e-Tayyabaat will reveal that Wali Ullah called the Shias as zindiq, nawabit and mubtadi (heretics and innovators in religion), as did Sheikh Ahmad of Sirhind,” writes Khaled Ahmed in Sectarian Wars. (Page 15)

Likewise, Wali Ullah’s son, Shah Abdul Aziz wrote ‘Tuhfa Ithna Ashariya’, a comprehensive anti-Shia book.

The founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah is well known to be a Shia himself. If we accept Wali Ullah and Sheikh Ahmed as the founders of Two-Nation Theory, we are bound to ‘otherise’ Jinnah, who, in the eyes of the former, was not a Muslim.

Syed Ahmed of Bareli and Shah Ismail are also glorified as the freedom fighters who lost their lives, waging jihad against infidels.

These personalities, instead of fighting against British, who were geographically near to them and in fact were invaders, went all the way up north to fight against Sikhs and their fellow Muslims.

Shah Ismail, when he started lectures on jihad in Calcutta, describing the ‘oppression’ of Muslims by Sikh rulers, was asked the reason behind not waging jihad against the British rulers.

“It’s not obligatory to wage jihad against them because Muslims are subjects of British rulers and they are able to live freely under their rule. In case of a foreign attack, it is the responsibility of Muslims to fight for their government,” Shah Ismail responded. (Hayat-e-Taiba, Mirza Hairat Dehalvi, page 264)

The freedom struggle which led the creation of Pakistan was directed against the British rule. Can we ask how Shah Ismail is a hero of freedom movement when he decreed that there was no jihad against the British?

Ismail was not alone in praising the British government and asking his followers to submit themselves to the ruler. Mian Nazir Hussain Dehalvi, one of the leading Ahle Hadith scholars, was praised by British rulers for his ‘services’.

To avoid any hurdles on his way to Hajj, Nazir approached Commissioner Delhi for a letter, who wrote, “Maulvi Nazir Hussain is a leading scholar in Delhi, who in difficult times proved his loyalty to British Empire and on his pilgrimage to Mecca, I hope that any British Officer whose help or protection he may need, will be given to him, as he fully deserves it”. (Al-Hayat-Baad-Al-Mamat, page 83)

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan has been frequently placed next to Jinnah and Iqbal as the founder of Pakistan in our textbooks. Altaf Hussain Hali, in Hayat-e-Javed, a biography of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, writes, “Sir Syed Ahmed Khan prayed fervently for Queen Victoria in one of his manajaat, thanking God for her. (Page 110)

Ahle Hadith Magazine ‘Ish’at Sunnah’ apostatised him over ‘Tahdhib-ul-Akhlaq’. (Page 194)

Although Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is said to be the founder of the ideology of Pakistan i.e., Hindus and Muslims are two different nations, but Muslims themselves refused to accept him as one of them. All Muslim scholars from subcontinent and Arab unitedly decreed a fatwa of apostasy against him. (Hayat-e-Javed, page 182)

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan writes in ‘Asbab-i-Baghawat-e-Hind’ that Shah Ismail Shaheed’s fight against Sikhs was actually a jihad. (Page 73) The same Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had ardently condemned the 1857 war of independence against British, terming it a mutiny.

His contempt for those who fought in the 1857 war was so great that he called one such fighter a ‘bastard’. (Hayat-e-Sir Syed, Zia Uddin Lahori, page 124)

Under such circumstances, when the alleged ‘founders’ of Two-Nation Theory either apostatised other Muslims, waged selective jihads to protect the interests of British rulers, wrote extensively in their favour, one can totally expect the nation to be a confused crowd.

It is about time historians debunked more of such characters who have falsely been accredited as the founders of this country and how negatively they influenced their followers.

Umer Ali

The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad. He focuses on human rights issues, social problems, and more. He can be reached at: [email protected], and on Twitter at: @iamumer1.


  1. Haji said:

    Sir Syed use of word Qoom should be looked in the right perspective. His idea of Qoom was not a translation of English word the Nation. There is a lack of an appropriate word in Urdu to describe a nation. What Sir Syed meant was just two different religions. He was all for an Indian Nation. Most of the folks before him were just using Persian or their religious bigotry. The Nation was a relatively new concept for Indians of Sir Syed era and they just used qoom which is not equal to a nation as we know it and especially after the Industrial revolution.

  2. Hassan Khan said:

    Kid you need to grow up. I've been following your articles and none of them make sense to anyone with knowledge about the topics you write on. Having a laptop or pen doesn't mean that you become a journalist automatically. Critical analysis and dissecting the topic are the most important factors for becoming a good columnist or journalist. You still have a lot to learn

    • M Ali Khan said:

      "Having a laptop or pen doesn't mean that you become a journalist automatically. Critical analysis and dissecting the topic are the most important factors for becoming a good columnist or journalist."

      chanda, the author has quoted authentic historic texts as proper references as they are and critically analysed them. i dont think you understand what you are trying to say here and merely bashing the author just because you assume your opinion is supposedly fact. have you even heard the names of these books? read some history my friend. you have a whole lot more to learn.

      • Hassan Khan said:

        Merely referencing some books or authors doesn't make one an analyst . Regarding history, I have read a lot of stuff and have personally written articles and research papers on different issues so kindly stop assuming that I am some rookie. Opinions can be differing but limited knowledge or distorted perception is unacceptable. Hence, the author still has a lot to learn

        • M Ali Khan said:

          By all means give references to what you have written and read then. In fact, you should write a critique in response to the original article. good luck

        • Khalid said:

          Hassan Khan Sahib – You are right , if some of the points raised have something to relook m most of the quotations are out of testg and are deductions are blatantly wrong. This writer is 100% under spell of a Big Tree who does not want himself to be named. I am from India but I did not agree at all with the subject and references and deductions at all.

          I can refute this fully.

    • Sridhar said:

      I think the article critically analyzes the "2 nation theory" as propounded by various people. Author has quoted various sources. If you have problem with his analyzes, give your counter analyzes. Do not just criticize for the sake of it.
      I think it is you who needs to grow up.

  3. adeel said:

    don't manipulate the history by hiding truth… sheikh sarhindi concept wahdat-ul-shaoud was to introduce true concept of islam, at that time different movements like "Bakhti" was mixing the Sufism of islam and Hinduism and it was great threat to ideology of Islam so thats why he give the concept of wahgdat ul shahood. he was put into prison but later on who release him from prison with honor???
    you talk about shah wali ullah work against the sectarianism specially against Shias, then why he wrote the book izalat-ul-khifa and Rhilafat-e-khulafat to remove misunderstanding between shias ans sunnies??? why he work on to create the tolerance among followers of four imams???
    you said abdul aziz was loyal to British then why he gives the Fatwa of Dar-ul-Harb against British???? this is loyalty????
    shah ismail shaheed why not fought against British because he was going to make capital of islamic satate in tribal areas and from here to make fight against british? for war finance, military equipment and command system is needed so that why they make first state in tribal areas..
    how many ulema are murdered in 1857 freedom fighting war?? do you have any idea? and was controlling the fighting against British???
    i suggest you to go to library and correct your knowledge and history!!!!!

    • M Ali Khan said:

      You dont deny Ahmed Sirhindi's takfeeri fatwas either. So lets end that point here. I think you need to re-read Shah Waliullah again. His efforts were not to "remove misunderstanding" but to marginalise and overwhelm others with his own brand of Takfeer. This practice was then carried forward by his own sons.

      Shah Abdul Aziz gave a fatwa of Dar ul Harb towards British, but he didnt urge any military action or any resistence to British either. read Muhammad Moj's book "The Deoband Madrassah Movement"

      Shah Ismail took British blessings to wage his "jihad" against Ranjeet Singh and met his fate at the hands of Pashtun tribes who realised that Shah Ismail and Syed Ahmed Barelvi were not doing this for Islam but for themselves – including demanding Pashtuns to hand over their prettiest daughters to them without asking questions.

      You should read Hayat e Tayyaba. It is most authentic historic account of this 'jihad movement' written by a direct descendant of Shah Waliullah. The same Ulema then received generous stipends from British govt and wrote flowery qaseeday in honour of the British royalty too after 1857. I suggest you re-read the books you cited. Thanks

    • Truthis difficult said:

      THe Bhakti movement started in Tamil Nadu in India between th 4th and 8th centuries CE i.e. before Muhammad himself and centuries before Islam came there. It has nothing to do with Islam. IT may have influence Sufism which came only in the 12th century. By that time the Bhakti movement was already pan India for centuries and well established even in areas such as the Gangetic plain, Punjab and Bengal.

      There is little to know influence of Islam in traditional Hinduism.

    • sridhar said:

      Quote your sources.
      Just saying he did this or that won't do.

  4. RHS said:

    This article started off well and ended poorly. Sir Syed had the right idea all along and it is still valid today. But discussion aside, it is time for Pakistan to re-invent itself for the current century. Unfortunately the needle is still stuck in the past. It is time to grow up as a country.

  5. Aftab Ali said:

    A human rights journalist from islamabad should focus more on how divided that city itself is on socio-economic lines before drugging himself and penning something on which he has no authority. The two nation theory will come into existence when this author dies in india and then there's the question of whether to bury him with Islamic rituals or to burn him in the Hindu way. The problem with so called privileged mummy daddy bacha cum journos from Isloo is that they live in a utopia where only money matters. Therefore had India been poorer than Pakistan, these burgers would have been the first one to chant pro-two nation slogans.

  6. Irfan John said:

    great efforts by a young scholar. may God bless such abilities to all our youngest to look back in history to understand the truth

  7. Shakil Chaudhary said:

    Hassan Khan: No offense, but your criticism of Umer Ali represents an ad hominem attack. Your tone is inappropriately condescending. It would have been much better if you had criticized the content of the article with cogent arguments and proper references. You may be a knowledgeable person, but you have not benefited readers with your knowledge.

  8. al3ab-banat01 said:

    اليوم لقد اتيتكم بموقع رائع انا اعجبني شخصيا وهو يحتوي على باقة من العاب بنات جديدة ومتجدد دائما ولمن لا يعرف العاب بنات فهي العاب فلاش تلعب على المتصفح بدون تحميل وتلعب مباشرة والعاب البنات هي بدورها فيها عدة اصناف وهي العاب الماكياج وفي هذا النوع يجب وضع الماكياج للبنت الموجودة في اللعبة وهناك كتير منها ويوجد كذلك العاب طبخ وهذا الصنف عنده محبين اكتر من السابق بفارق كبير وهو المميز عند الجميع سواء كانو بناتا او اولادا وايضا الصغار يلعبون فيه كتيرا وهو الاكتر انتشارا في النت ومواقعه كتيرة ويوجد صنف آخر وهو اقل منه قليلا في الشهرة وهو صنف التلبيس هذا الصنف ايضا يعشقه كتير من البنات وعدد قليل من الاولاد وكل صنف من هذه الاصناف توجد به العاب خاصة بشخصية معينة مشهورة فمتلا باربي ستجدها في جميع هذه الاصناف متلا العاب تلبيس باربي او العاب طبخ باربي او العاب ماكياج باربي وهكذا وهناك شخصيات كتيرة في هذه الالعاب وهي الاكتر شهرة طبعا عن باقي الشخصيات الغير معروفة وهذا الموقع يقدم جميع هذه الاصناف التي تندرج تحت نوع العاب بنات فمرحبا بكم جميعا

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