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Map of the British Indian Empire, 1909, showing the prevailing majority religions of the population for different districts.

The Two-Nation Theory also known as The Ideology of Pakistan was the basis for the Partition of India in 1947. It stated that Muslims and Hindus were two separate nations by every definition, and therefore Muslims should have an autonomous homeland in the Muslim majority areas of British India for the safeguard of their political, cultural, and social rights, within or without a United India.


The Two-Nation Theory/Ideology of Pakistan took shape through an evolutionary process with Muslim Modernist and reformer Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) starting the movement on South Asian Muslim self-awakening and identity. Poet Philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), (the poet of East), provided the philosophical explanation and Barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1871-1948) translated it into the political reality of a nation state. The All-India Muslim League, in attempting to represent Indian Muslims, felt that the Muslims of the subcontinent were a distinct and separate nation from the Hindus. At first they demanded separate electorates, but when they came to the conclusion that Muslims would not be safe in a Hindu-dominated Indiamarker, they began to demand a separate state. The League demanded self-determination for Muslim-majority areas in the form of a sovereign state promising minorities equal rights and safeguards in these Muslim majority areas.

The evidence cited for the differences dates to the beginning of the eleventh century, when the scholar Al-Biruni (973-1048) observed that Hindus and Muslims differed in all matters and habits. Allama Iqbal's presidential address to the Muslim League on December 29, 1930 is seen as the first introduction of the two-nation theory in support of what would ultimately become Pakistan. Ten years later, Jinnah made a speech in Lahoremarker on March 22, 1940 which was very similar to Al-Biruni's thesis in theme and tone. Jinnah stated that Hindus and Muslims belonged to two different religious philosophies, with different social customs and literature, with no intermarriage and based on conflicting ideas and concepts. Their outlook on life and of life was different and despite 1,000 years of history, the relations between the Hindus and Muslims could not attain the level of cordiality.


Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar
his book Pakistan or The Partition of India, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar has written a sub-chapter titled If Muslims truly and deeply desire Pakistan, their choice ought to be accepted. He writes that if the Musalmans are bent on Pakistan, then it must be conceded to them. He asks whether Muslims in the army could be trusted to defend India. In the event of Muslims invading India or in the case of a Muslim rebellion, whom would the Indian Muslims in the army side with, he questions. He concludes that in the interests of the safety of India, Pakistan should be acceded to, should the Muslims demand it. According to him the Hindu assumption that though Hindus and Muslims were two nations they could live under one state, was but a empty sermon, a mad project, to which no sane man would agree.

In an Op-Ed piece in the Pakistan Times, Samina Mallah asserts that the Two-Nation Theory is relevant to this day citing factors such as lower literacy and education levels amongst Indian Muslims as compared to Indian Hindus, long-standing cultural differences, and outbreaks of religious violence such as those occurring during the 2002 Gujarat Riots in Indiamarker, however she adds that even after 60 years of independence, Pakistan has not confirmed to being a One-Nation in that is shows disunity..


Map of British Indian Empire, 1909, showing percentage of Hindus in different districts.
Some historians have claimed that the theory was a creation of a few Muslim intellectuals. Prominent Pakistani politician Altaf Hussain of Muttahida Qaumi Movement believes history has proved the two-nation theory wrong. A newspaper report quotes him sayingAhmad Faruqui, reviewing Stephen Cohen's book, Jinnah's unfulfilled vision: The Idea of Pakistan refers to Cohen's observation that the vision of the two-nation theory is beset with problems. Pakistan was to be a home to the Muslims of South Asia (sic). Before partition in a population of 400 million, 100 million were Muslims. When partition took place, a third of the Muslims were in West Pakistan, a third in East Pakistan and a third remained behind in India. After the secession of East Pakistan, in 1971, only a third of the Muslims of South Asia resided in the "new" Pakistan, making it difficult for Pakistani leaders to defend the two-nation theory. The reviewer also adds that Cohen considers Pakistan's vision unjustifiable because there are as many Muslims in India and in Bangladesh as there are in Pakistan and that though Bangladesh continues to exist as a separate state from India, it does not change the reality that the majority of the Muslims of South Asia now reside outside of Pakistan. Ahmad also mentions Cohen quoting Altaf Hussain,


Critics of the theory point to the fact that after partition, a significant minority, almost a third of the Muslims, remained in the Hindu-majority Indiamarker, whilst almost all the Hindus and Sikhs chose to leave the Muslim-majority Pakistanmarker and migrate to Indiamarker during the violence that accompanied partition, leaving Pakistan (after the separation of Bangladesh) today with a Hindu population of 1.5%.

Creation of Bangladesh

Critics, some in Pakistan, also point to the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, as an example that a homogeneous Muslim majority may not always guarantee unity or security and that this concept was buried in the secession of East Pakistan now Bangladeshmarker. Irfan Husain, in his editorial in the Dawn observes that it has now become an “impossible and exceedingly boring task of defending a defunct theory”. Shaukat Qadir, a retired Pakistani Brigadier in an article in the Daily Times, writes that the theory would have been considered disproved only if East Pakistan had reunited with India.

Statements and sayings

In Muhammad Ali Jinnah All India Muslim League Presidential Address delivered at Lahore, on March 22–23, 1940, he explained:
Jinnah delivering a political speech.

Muhammad Iqbal
Allama Iqbal's statement explaining the attitude of Muslim delegates to the Round-Table Conference issued in December, 1933 was a rejoinder to Jawahar Lal Nehru's statement. Nehru had said that the attitude of the Muslim delegation was based on “reactionarism”. Iqbal concluded his rejoinder with:

Stand of Savarkar

Savarkar in the 1920s-1930s.
The Hindu Maha Sabha under the presidentship of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar,]], was an enemy of all Indian Muslims, but it presented a stand of complete opposition to the formation of Pakistan. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar summaries Savarkar's position, in his Pakistan or The Partition of India as follows,


  1. India and Pakistan in the Shadow of Afghanistan, Amaury de Riencourt, Foreign Affairs, Winter 1982/83
  3. Sixty bitter years after Partition - BBC News
  4. The Largest Hindu Communities
  5. Two Nation Theory
  6. A discourse of the deaf, by Irfan Husain, November 4, 2000 Dawn

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