Choudhry Rahmat Ali

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Choudhry Rahmat Ali
چودھری رحمت علی
Chaudhary Rahmat Ali.jpg
Chaudhry Rehmat Ali as a young man at Cambridge University
Born16 November 1897
Died3 February 1951(1951-02-03) (aged 53)
Cambridge, England
Academic background
Academic work
Notable works"Pakistan Declaration"
Notable ideasConception of "Pakistan"

Choudhry Rahmat Ali (/ɑːˈl/; Urdu: چودھری رحمت علی‎‎; 16 November 1897 – 3 February 1951) was a Pakistani nationalist who was one of the earliest proponents of the creation of the state of Pakistan. He is credited with creating the name "Pakistan" for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia and is generally known as the originator of the Pakistan Movement.

Rahmat Ali's seminal contribution was when he was a law student at the University of Cambridge in 1933, in the form of a pamphlet "Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?", also known as the "Pakistan Declaration".[1][2][3][4] The pamphlet was addressed to the British and Indian delegates to the Third Round Table Conference in London[5] The ideas did not find favour with the delegates or any of the politicians for close to a decade. They were dismissed as students' ideas. But by 1940, the Muslim politics in the subcontinent came around to accept them, leading to the Lahore Resolution of the All-India Muslim League, which was immediately dubbed the "Pakistan resolution" in the Press.

After the creation of Pakistan, Ali returned from England in April 1948, planning to stay in the country, but his belongings were confiscated and he was expelled by the prime minister Liaqat Ali Khan. In October 1948, Ali left empty-handed. He died on 3 February 1951 in Cambridge "destitute, forlorn and lonely".[6] The funeral expenses of insolvent Ali were covered by Emmanuel College, Cambridge on the instructions of its Master. Ali was buried on 20 February 1951 at Cambridge City Cemetery.

Education and career[edit]

Ali was born in November 1897 into a Gujjar Muslim family,[7] in the town of Balachaur in the Hoshiarpur District of Punjab, Punjab, British India. After graduating from Islamia College Lahore in 1918, he taught at Aitchison College Lahore before joining the Punjab University to study law. However, in 1930 he moved to England to join Emmanuel College Cambridge, in 1931. Subsequently, he obtained a BA degree in 1933 and MA in 1940 from the University of Cambridge. In 1933, he published a pamphlet, "Now or Never", coining the word Pakistan for the first time.[8] In 1943, he was called to the Bar, from Middle Temple, London. Rahmat Ali finished education in England, obtaining MA and LLB with honours from the universities of Cambridge and Dublin. In 1946, he founded the Pakistan National Movement in England. Until 1947, he continued publishing various booklets about his vision for South Asia. The final Partition of India disillusioned him due to the mass killings and mass migrations it ended up producing. He was also dissatisfied with the distribution of areas among the two countries and considered it a major reason for the disturbances.


As such, Ali's writings, in addition to those of Muhammad Iqbal and others were major catalysts for the formation of Pakistan. He offered the name "Bangistan" for a Muslim homeland in the Bengal region, and "Osmanistan" for a Muslim homeland in the Deccan. He also suggested Dinia as a name for a South Asia of various religions.[9][10]

Conception of 'Pakistan'[edit]

In 1932, Ali moved to a house in Cambridge, on 3 Humberstone Road. It was in one of the rooms of this house that he is said to have written the word 'Pakstan' for the first time. There are several accounts of the creation of the name. According to a friend, Abdul Kareem Jabbar, the name came up when Ali was walking along the banks of the Thames in 1932 with his friends Pir Ahsan-ud-din and Khwaja Abdul Rahim.[11][unreliable source?] According to Ali's secretary Miss Frost, he came up with the idea while riding on the top of a London bus.[12]

However, Sir Mohammad Iqbal said that Rahmat Ali visited him in London when he was there for the First Round Table Conference in 1930 and asked him what he would call the government of the Muslim state he had proposed in Allahabad. Iqbal told him that he would call it "Pakistan" as an acronym based on the provinces' names.[13]

On 28 January 1933, Ali voiced the idea in a pamphlet titled "Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?".[14] The word 'Pakstan' referred to "the five Northern units of India, viz., Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan".[15][16] By the end of 1933, 'Pakistan' had become common vocabulary, and an i was added to ease pronunciation (as in Afghan-i-stan).[17][unreliable source?] Ali also wrote that this would be followed by "reintegration with the three Muslim 'Asian' homelands of Afghanistan, Iran and Tukharistan", a reference to Northwest India's political, historical and cultural affiliations with West Asia.[18]

In a subsequent book, Ali discussed the etymology in further detail:[19] 'Pakistan' is both a Persian and an Urdu word. It is composed of letters taken from the names of all our South Asia homelands; that is, Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan. It means the land of the Paks – the spiritually pure and clean.

Ali's pamphlet had a clear and succinct description of the Muslims of his proposed 'Pakstan' as a 'nation', which later formed the foundation for the two-nation theory of the All-India Muslim League:

Our religion and culture, our history and tradition, our social code and economic system, our laws of inheritance, succession and marriage are fundamentally different from those of most peoples living in the rest of India. The ideals which move our people to make the highest sacrifices are essentially different from those which inspire the Hindus to do the same. These differences are not confined to broad, basic principles. Far from it. They extend to the minutest details of our lives. We do not inter-dine; we do not inter-marry. Our national customs and calendars, even our diet and dress are different.

— Choudhry Rahmat Ali in January 1933[20]

Ali believed that the delegates of the first and second Round Table Conferences committed 'an inexcusable blunder and an incredible betrayal' by accepting the principle of an All-India Federation. He demanded that the national status of the 30 million Muslims of the northwestern units be recognized and a separate Federal Constitution be granted to them.[20]

Ali's biographer, K. K. Aziz writes,[21] "Rahmat Ali alone drafted this declaration"[22] (in which the word Pakistan was used for the first time), but in order to make it "representative" he began to look around for people who would sign it along with him. This search did not prove easy, "for so firm was the grip of 'Muslim Indian Nationalism' on our young intellectuals at English universities that it took me (Rahmat Ali) more than a month to find three young men in London who offered to support and sign it." Later on, his political opponents used the name of these signatories and other friends of Ali, as creator of the word 'Pakistan'.[11][unreliable source?]

Iqbal and Jinnah[edit]

Choudhry Rehmat Ali (seated first from left) with Muhammad Iqbal (center), Khawaja Abdul Rahim (right) and a group of other young activists during Iqbal visit to England in 1932.

On 29 December 1930, Muhammad Iqbal delivered his presidential address, wherein he said:[23]

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 Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.

According to some scholars,[24] Iqbal had not presented the idea of an autonomous Muslim State; rather he wanted a large Muslim province by amalgamating Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Baluchistan into a big North-Western province within India.[25] They argue that Iqbal never called for any kind of partition of the country.[26][27][28]

On 28 January 1933, Choudhry Rehmat Ali voiced his ideas on 'Pakistan'. By the end of 1933, the word "Pakistan" became common vocabulary where an "I" was added to ease pronunciation (as in Afghan-i-stan). In a subsequent book Rehmat Ali discussed the etymology in further detail: "'Pakistan' is both a Persian and an Urdu word. It is composed of letters taken from the names of all our South Asia homelands; that is, Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan. It means the land of the Pure".[29][unreliable source?][citation needed]

Jawaharlal Nehru had written in his book on the scheme: "Iqbal was one of the early advocates of Pakistan and yet he appears to have realised its inherent danger and absurdity. Edward Thompson has written that in the course of conversation, Iqbal told him that he had advocated Pakistan because of his position as President of Muslim League session, but he felt sure that it would be injurious to India as a whole and to Muslims especially."[30]

In 1934, Choudhry Rahmat Ali and his friends met Muhammad Ali Jinnah and appealed for his support of the Pakistan idea. He replied, "My dear boys, don't be in a hurry; let the waters flow and they will find their own level."[31][32]

Proposed maps and names[edit]

The Continent of Dinia proposed by Choudhry Rahmat Ali. Dinia was an anagram of India

Ali had published several pamphlets where he listed himself as the "Founder of the Pakistan National Movement", In these pamphlets Ali had added various maps of the subcontinent with potential names that the new proposed nation might have according to him. Haideristan, Siddiqistan, Faruqistan, Muinistan, Maplistan, Safiistan and Nasaristan were some of these names.[33] Safiistan and Nasaristan nations were proposed on the map of Sri Lanka[34]

In his maps he had renamed the Indian subcontinent as 'Pakasia' and more often as 'Dinia', (an anagram of "India" with position of 'd' changed). Dinia was represented with dependencies Pakistan, Osmanistan (representing Hyderabad Deccan and neighbouring areas) and Bangistan (representing Bengal). He proposed the former Muslim provinces of Eastern Bengal and Assam in East India to become Bangistan, an independent Muslim state for Bengali, Assamese and Bihari speaking Muslims. He proposed the princely Hyderabad State, to become an Islamic monarchy called Osmanistan.[9][10] Ali also renamed the seas around the Indian subcontinent, and referred the seas around landmass of Dinia as the Bangian, Pakian and Osmanian seas that were his proposed names for the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean respectively.[33][34]

These alternate geographical maps of the subcontinent were followed by the mention of Chaudhry Rehmat Ali’s position as the "founder of the Siddiqistan, Nasaristan and Safiistan National Movements".[33]

Mian Abdul Haq, a contemporary of Rahmat Ali at the University of Cambridge, stated that, after 1935, Rahmat Ali's mental makeup changed resulting from a study of "major Nazi works, of which he knew many passages by heart".[35]

After the creation of Pakistan[edit]

While Choudhry Rahmat Ali was a leading figure for the conception of Pakistan, he lived most of his adult life in England.

After the partition and creation of Pakistan in 1947, Ali returned to Lahore, Pakistan on 6 April 1948. He had been voicing his dissatisfaction with the creation of Pakistan ever since his arrival in Lahore. He was unhappy over a smaller Pakistan than the one he had conceived in his 1933 pamphlet.[36] He condemned Jinnah for accepting a smaller Pakistan,[36] calling him "Quisling-e-Azam".[37][a]

Ali had planned to stay in the country, but he was expelled out of Pakistan by the then Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. His belongings were confiscated, and he left empty-handed for England in October 1948.[39]


Headstone of Ali's Grave

Ali died on 3 February 1951 in Cambridge. According to Thelma Frost, he was "destitute, forlorn and lonely" at the time of his death.[6] Fearing (correctly) that he may have died insolvent, the Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Edward Welbourne, instructed that the College would cover the funeral expenses. He was buried on 20 February at Cambridge City Cemetery in Cambridge, England.[40] The funeral expenses and other medical expenses were repaid by the High Commissioner for Pakistan in November 1953, after what was described as a “protracted correspondence” between the London office and the relevant authorities in Pakistan.[41]


Rahmat Ali is credited by Pakistanis for having coined the term "Pakistan" and envisioning a separate state for Muslims. Beyond that, his ideas are not explored in any detail. The undergraduate Pakistan Studies textbooks give him a mere one line mention.[42] He is all but forgotten in the "country he coined".[43][44]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The branding of Jinnah is found in Ali's 1947 pamphlet titled The Greatest Betrayal, the Millat’s Martyrdom & The Muslim’s Duty. "Quisling" is an allusion to Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian leader who ran a puppet regime under Nazis.[37] Rahmat Ali may have introduced this term into South Asian politics, which was later used by the prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan to brand the Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah.[38]


  1. ^ Aziz, Khursheed Kamal (1987), Rahmat Ali: a biography, Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden, ISBN 978-3-515-05051-7
  2. ^ Malik, Rashida (2003), Iqbal: The Spiritual Father of Pakistan, Sang-e-Meel Publications, ISBN 978-969-35-1371-4
  3. ^ ʻAlī, Choudhary Raḥmat (1978), Complete Works of Rahmat Ali, National Commission on Historical and Cultural Research
  4. ^ "Death anniversary of Ch Rehmat Ali being observed". Dunya News.
  5. ^ Kamran (2017), pp. 49–50.
  6. ^ a b Kamran (2017), pp. 87–88.
  7. ^ Aziz (1987), p. 28: "In the Gujjar caste his sub-caste or got was Gorsi."
  8. ^ Paracha, Nadeem F. (21 July 2015). "Smokers' Corner: The map man". Dawn. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b Jalal, Self and Sovereignty (2002), pp. 392–393.
  10. ^ a b Ali, Choudhary Rahmat. "India: The Continent of DINIA or The Country of DOOM?". Archived from the original on 6 March 2012.
  11. ^ a b Chaudhry Rahmat Ali, history-pak, archived from the original|archive-url= requires |url= (help) on 15 December 2013
  12. ^ "Meeting with Miss Frost, Rahmat Ali's former secretary". Archived from the original on 16 March 2012.
  13. ^ Aziz (1987), p. 352: "As the word Pakistan was then being attributed to Rahmat Ali, Waheed asked Iqbal about the truth of the matter and received this answer: "When I was in London in 1930 [sic.] for attending the Round Table Conference, Chaudhri Rahmat Ali came to see me once and asked me by what name the government [sic.] (hakumat) established under my Allahabad scheme would be called. On this I told him that if you take the first word [Sic.] (lafz) of each province in the northwest of India and the 'tan' of Baluchistan, you get a meaningful and nice word, Pakistan. That will be the name of the government."
  14. ^ Choudhary Rahmat Ali (1933). Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?  – via Wikisource.
  15. ^ Choudhary Rahmat Ali; Mohd Aslam Khan; Sheikh Mohd Sadiq; Inayat Ullah Khan (28 January 1933), Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?: "At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN [sic] – by which we mean the five Northern units of India, viz., Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan – for your sympathy and support in our grim and fateful struggle against political crucifixion and complete annihilation."
  16. ^ Wolpert, Stanley A. (1984). Jinnah of Pakistan. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503412-0.
  17. ^ "Chaudhry Rehmat Ali". Story of Pakistan. June 2003.
  18. ^ Bianchini, Stefano; Chaturvedi, Sanjay; Ivekovic, Rada; Samaddar, Ranabir (2 August 2004). Partitions: Reshaping States and Minds. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-27653-0.
  19. ^ RahmatʻAli, Choudhary (1978) [first published 1947], Pakistan: The Fatherland of the Pak Nation, Book Traders
  20. ^ a b Kamran (2015), pp. 99–100.
  21. ^ Aziz (1987), p. 85.
  22. ^ "Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?" Archived 19 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ A.R. Tariq (ed.), Speeches and Statements of Iqbal (Lahore: 1973),
  24. ^ Aziz (1987), pp. 351–362.
  25. ^ K. K. Aziz, Making of Pakistan (London: 1970), p. 81.
  26. ^ Verinder Grover (ed.), Muhammad Iqbal: Poet Thinker of Modern Muslim India Vol. 25 (New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1995), pp. 666–67.
  27. ^ Tara Chand, History of Freedom Movement in India Vol. III (New Delhi: 1972), p. 253.
  28. ^ lang, 23, 24 & 25 March 2003;[full citation needed] Also see, Safdar Mahmood, Iqbal, Jinnah aur Pakistan (Lahore: Khazina Ilm-wa-Adab, 2004), pp. 52–69.
  29. ^ Cite error: The named reference Choudhry Rahmat Ali 1947 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  30. ^ J.L. Nehru, Discovery of India (New York: 1946), p. 353.
  31. ^ Hiro, Dilip (2015), The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan, PublicAffairs, pp. 69–, ISBN 978-1-56858-503-1
  32. ^ Bose, Madhuri (2015), The Bose Brothers and Indian Independence: An Insider's Account, SAGE Publications, pp. 38–, ISBN 978-93-5150-396-5
  33. ^ a b c "KARACHI: Learning from history". DAWN.COM. 17 August 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  34. ^ a b Jacobs, Frank (5 March 2014). "Purist Among the Pure: the Forgotten Inventor of Pakistan". Big Think. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  35. ^ Ikram, S.M. (1995), Indian Muslims and Partition of India, Atlantic Publishers & Dist, pp. 177–178, ISBN 978-81-7156-374-6
  36. ^ a b Aziz (1987), p. 469.
  37. ^ a b Kamran (2015), p. 82.
  38. ^ Das Gupta, Jyoti Bhusan (2012), Jammu and Kashmir, Springer, pp. 72–, ISBN 978-94-011-9231-6
  39. ^ Aziz (1987), pp. 303, 316.
  40. ^ Aziz (1987), pp. 340–345.
  41. ^ Emmanuel College Cambridge Archives
  42. ^ Kamran (2017), p. 82.
  43. ^ Forgotten in country he coined, Pen News, 26 February 2018.
  44. ^ Karthik Venkatesh, All but forgotten: Choudhary Rahmat Ali, the inventor and first champion of Pakistan, Herald, 26 February 2018.


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