Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby

A study conducted by

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia:

The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat of South Asia

Mumtaz Ahmad

In November 1989, the Jamaat-i-Islami Paki­stan held a three-day national conference in the historic city of Lahore. It was an event that the Jamaat-i-Islami workers had been waiting for since 1963, the year when its last national conference had been held in the same city. The 1989 conference was attended by more than one hundred thousand Jamaat workers and supporters from various parts of Pakistan. Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluch, Pathans, and Muhajirs (Urdu-speaking refugees from India who had immigrated to Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947) mingled together and presented a rare scene of Islamic unity, especially at a time when two major cities of southern Pakistan were under twenty-four-hour cur­fews to quell violence between warring Sindhis and Muhajirs. While the majority of the participants were clad in traditional Pakistani dress—shalwar kamcez—Western attire was also quite common. The meeting ground was full of banners proclaiming the inevitable victory of the Muslim freedom fighters in Palestine, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. The list of foreign guests attending the conference read like a Who’s Who of international Islamic political movements: Dr. Muhammad Siyam of the Islamic resis­tance movement of Palestine, Hamas; Rashid-al-Ghannoushi of the Islamic Tendency Society of Tunis; Mustafa Mashoor of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt; Maulana Abul Kalam of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Bangladesh; Mohammad Yasir of the Hizb-i-Islami of Afghanistan; Mahmud Nahna of the Islamic Movement of Algeria; Dr. Fazal Noor of the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia; Shaikh Issa bin Khalifa of jamiyat-al-Islah of Bahrain; and Necmettin Erbakan of the Rafah party of Turkey. Surveying the huge crowd of devotees from an elevated platform, Jamaat-i-Islami president, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, began his inaugural address with the words:

We are gathered here to reaffirm our pledge to Almighty Allah that we will make Pakistan a truly Islamic state, a state where Shari’a will reign supreme, a state based on justice for the people and accountability of the rulers, a state which will be a model of Islam-in-power for the rest of the Muslim world.1

Simultaneously, at a distance of less than thirty miles from Lahore, another mas­sive crowd—ten times larger than that of the Jamaat-i-Islami—had also gathered in the name of Islam. This was the international conference of the Tablighi Jamaat, an annual event that attracts about a million Muslims from various parts of the world, most of whom are plain folk, dressed in traditional attire; almost none of them can be described as Islamic VIPs. While the Jamaat-i-Islami conference in Lahore made full use of such modern technological devices as video cameras, closed-circuit TVs, fax machines, and IBM computers, the Tablighi Jamaat conference in the small rail­road station town of Raiwind looked like a traditional communal gathering. There were no press reporters and no TV cameras. In tent after tent, people were either praying or reciting the Qur’an or listening to each other’s testimonies of faith and spiritual reawakening. There was no mention of Kashmir, Afghanistan, or Palestine. Concluding his farewell instructions to the Tabligh workers, Maulana Inamul Hasan, the emir (president) of the Tablighi Jamaat, earnestly exhorted:

Go and take the eternal message of Islam to the four corners of the globe. Remind your brethren of their religious duties; remind them of the day of Judgement; and call them to the remembrance of Almighty Allah, to submis­sion to His Will, and obedience to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).2

The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat, the two most important Islamic movements of South Asian subcontinent in the twentieth century, also represent two fundamentally different approaches to Islamic revivalism. While the Jamaat-i-Islami’s main emphasis is on the rcsacralization of political life and the establishment of an Islamic state with the Qur’an and Sunna (the way of the Prophet) as its constitution and the Shari’a as its basic law, the Tabligh movement, on the other hand, focuses its activities on the moral and spiritual uplift of individual believers, asking them to fulfill their religious obligations irrespective of whether there is an Islamic state or not. However, in view of their literalist interpretation of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet, as well as their common hostility toward Islamic liberalism, both of these movements can be described as fundamentalist movements. Both claim that they are working for the revival of pristine Islam. Both are regarded as equally legitimate Is­lamic responses to the challenges of modernity and are thus mainstream rather than fringe movements. Both of them enjoy enormous support in certain important sectors of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi societies, and their influence has reached far beyond the country of their origin.


Apart from these similarities, there are important differences in their ideologies, organizations, and methods of da’wa (call). While the Tablighi Jamaat is a grass-roots movement with followers from all sections of society, the Jamaat-i-Islami’s support base consists mainly of educated, lower-middle-class Muslims from both the traditional and modern sectors of society. The Jamaat-i-Islami’s emphasis on the Islamization of politics and state has tended to transform the movement into a modern cadre-type political party, while the Tablighi Jamaat’s program of strengthening the spiritual moorings of individual believers has helped it retain its character as a da’wa movement. The Jamaat-i-Islami is a highly structured, hierarchically organized, bureaucratic-type organization that has established a clear line of authority and a huge network of functional departments and nationwide branches; the Tablighi Jamaat, on the other hand, is a free-floating religious movement with minimal dependence on hierarchy, leadership positions, and decision-making procedures. Although both are primarily lay movements with minimal participation by the ulama, the Tablighi Ja­maat is definitely closer to traditional forms of Islam than is the Jamaat-i-Islami, which in its own self-perception represents a synthesis of tradition and modernity.


In the following pages, I will attempt to highlight the salient features of the ide­ologies, organizations, and methods of these two Islamic movements. I will also dis­cuss their positions on various social, economic, and political issues that confront Muslims of South Asia and will assess the consequences of these positions for the religiopolitical situation of the South Asian subcontinent.


The Jamaat-i-Islami

Religious revival in the postcolonial era is not limited to newly independent Muslim countries. The Buddhist upsurge in Sri Lanka, the Hindu revival in India, and the recent Sikh reassertion in Indian Punjab are no less important than the activities of Islamic fundamentalist parties. From this perspective, Islamic fundamentalist revival­ism in Muslim countries might be understood as a search for identity and reassertion of tradition in transitional societies.


What might be of interest in the context of Muslim societies, however, is the emergence of disciplined, organized, and mass-based fundamentalist political groups that aim at restructuring the affairs of the state and reorganizing social relations on Islamic principles.3 These groups aspire to reestablish an idealized Islamic system as first introduced and implemented under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad. The Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab countries, Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, Dar-ul-Islam in Indonesia, Islamic National Front in Sudan, Islamic Tendency Society in Tunis, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia in Malaysia, and the Rafah party in Turkey represent an interesting and important phenomenon in their respective countries. These organizations have played an important role in determining and shaping the nature of political debates and events and have occupied center stage during several critical periods in the history of their nations.


By the beginning of the nineteenth century, most Islamic countries were being ruled or effectively controlled by European powers. This loss of political control had been preceded by a steady decline in the intellectual and material capabilities of these societies. Colonial rule challenged Islamic societies at two levels. First, it subjugated them politically and thus shook the Muslims’ self-confidence as a people who had dominated the world politically for centuries. Second, it challenged these societies in the realm of ideas by emphasizing the role of scientific and rational discourse as against the revealed word.4


In the specific case of South Asia, what further compounded the political and psychological dilemma of the Muslims was the fact that, despite their seven-hundred-year rule in India, they still constituted a minority. The loss of political power to the British was a devastating blow to their historically grounded sense of cultural and political superiority. Equally unsettling psychologically was the realization that their Hindu compatriots were advancing far ahead of them as a result of their readiness to acquire Western education and use new occupational opportunities offered by the British. The early phase of the British ascendancy also witnessed a new and vigorous wave of Hindu religious revival and a rearticulation of Hindu national identity rooted in the period before the Muslim conquest of India. Pressured by the British, who considered them the main instigators of the mutiny of 1857, and fearful of the Hindus who had surpassed them in economic and educational pursuits, the Muslims faced choices with monumental consequences at the time when the East India Company formally handed over the reigns of power in India to the British Crown.


The first and seemingly instinctive reaction of the Muslims to the challenge of the West was to withdraw from the mainstream of contemporary developments and to seek comfort in Islam’s past glory. They sought to reassert the cultural traditions derived from their religion and “clung tenaciously … to the memory of a brilliant civilization which, in their eyes, was irreplaceable by anything the West had to offer.”5 The main concern of most orthodox theologians and the great theological seminaries such as the Deoband was to safeguard and preserve the normative and institutional structures of tradition from the increasingly aggressive onslaught of Western ideas and institutions. In order to achieve this objective, the ulama established a network of madrasas (traditional Islamic educational institutions) throughout the Indian subcon­tinent, in which they sought to preserve the purity of tradition. Soon the Deoband School became a center for the reassertion of Sunni orthodoxy and a focus of conser­vative opposition to modern Western thought and institutions.


While the majority withdrew, a small group was greatly impressed by the intellec­tual prowess and material achievements of the conquering West and either grudgingly or gladly decided to adapt to the ways of the conqueror. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98), the great Muslim reformer of the Indian subcontinent, epitomized this modernist reaction. He sought to bring the Muslim community out of medievalism into the new age of scientific and rational discourse. His efforts to persuade his people to learn modern scientific methods, acquire new technological skills, and embody the spirit of liberalism and progress prevalent in late-nineteenth-century Europe culminated in the establishment of such progressive institutions as the Scientific Society (1863), Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (1876), later known as Aligarh Mus­lim University, and the All-India Muslim Educational Conference (1886). The main thrust of Sir Sayyid’s educational and political activities was, first, to convince his fellow Muslims that their very survival as a community demanded that their intellectual outlook be broadened to acquire new ideas from the West in the same spirit that had been the hallmark of Islamic society in its earlier centuries, and second, to impress upon the Muslims that a modus vivendi with the British rule was both possible and desirable for their material progress.


This first phase of Islamic modernism was followed by a period of apologetics. The apologists were no doubt impressed with the new Western ways; nevertheless, in their search for self-identity, they were led to interpret their past on the basis of newly acquired values. Sayyid Amir Ali (d. 1928), the author of The Spirit of Islam (1891), represented this important phase in the history of the intellectual thought of modern Islam. Deeply influenced by the English liberal thought of the late nineteenth century, he presented Islamic history and Islamic ideas, especially with regard to the role of reason, in terms that were understandable and attractive to the new generation of English-educated Muslims. Amir Ali sought to demolish the Western and Christian notions of their intellectual and religious superiority over Islam and defended his faith with the help of the intellectual apparatus he had acquired through English education. He challenged Western critics of Islam on such questions as the role and status of women in Islam, the institution of slavery, the treatment of non-Muslims under Islam, and the conflict between revelation and reason. Amir Ali’s main concerns were to restore self-confidence to the new generation of educated Muslims concerning their own faith, history, culture, and civilization and to demonstrate the essential compati­bility between Islam and Western liberal values.


A third stage of anticolonial upsurge followed, bringing hitherto dormant social forces into action. The answer to the challenge of the West was neither in withdrawing into the shells of tradition nor in embracing the adversary but in aggressive self-assertion. This was the promise of the fundamentalist Muslims: self-assertive Islamic nationalism and simplicity of argument in the hope of recapturing the pristine purity and political glory of Islam. The fundamentalist Muslims were indigenous and tradi­tional, yet not identified with the decline of Muslim societies in the past, as were the ulama and the nobility. They were sufficiently knowledgeable about Western ideas to be able to confront the West, yet not so immersed in them that they would be estranged from their own heritage. Thus they appeared to be the defenders of Islam against the inroads of foreign political and intellectual domination. Maulana Abul Ala Maududi (1903-79), the founder of the Jamaat-i-Islami, is the most definitive rep­resentative of this trend in modern Islam.


Islamic modernists also tried to play the role of defender of Islam, but the mass appeal enjoyed by fundamentalists escaped them. Indeed, the modernist writings were addressed primarily to Westerners and those Muslims who had acquired Western edu­cation; the fundamentalists, on the other hand, targeted the Muslim masses. The former were mostly academic and scholastic, the latter inspirational and devotional.6 With the expansion of education, the development of a vernacular press, the opening of new occupational opportunities, and the emergence of new social groups by the middle of the twentieth century, secular and modernist thinkers found themselves surpassed by fundamentalists, at least in terms of the ability to articulate and respond intellectually to popular concerns.

Indeed the popularity of fundamentalist ideology as a reaction against secular mod­ernism increased in the post independence period. The failure of both liberal and so­cialist paths to development, as pursued by Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, Ayub Khan of Pakistan, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Sukarno of Indonesia, further strengthened the appeal of fundamentalists. The fundamentalists in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world adopted Western ideas of organiza­tion, made full use of modern publishing technology, and accepted the Western premise of instrumental, if not substantive, rationality. They were thus able to com­municate with the large number of young people who had or were obtaining Western education. Their strategy was not that of adaptation to the West but of equality with and independence from the West, without jeopardizing the prospects of using the technological benefits the West had to offer. They wanted socioeconomic changes in their societies and in their pursuit of a share in political power were driven to radicalism. This further increased their attraction to the newly mobilized social groups feeling deprived and/or being victimized by the adverse consequences of moderniza­tion. Fundamentalist organizations became popular because they offered an authentic Islamic cultural identity during a period of Muslim identity crisis, and they effectively articulated in Islamic idioms the socioeconomic and political concerns of social strata that fared poorly in the newly emerging world of modernity.

The Jamaat-i-Islami as a Fundamentalist Organization

The Jamaat-i-Islami became the prime representative of the phenomenon known as Islamic fundamentalist revivalism in modern times. One of the best organized and disciplined religiopolitical organizations of South Asia, it has served as a model for many Islamic political movements in the Muslim world and as a valuable source of intellectual inspiration and moral support for the nascent Islamic political and da’wa groups in many countries of Asia, Africa, and the Western world. Its contribution toward redirecting the ideological orientation of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation from a nationalist to an Islamic one has been enormous. The Jamaat-i-Islami has repeatedly been in the forefront of resurgent Islam as a movement of Pan-Islamic scope and significance.


Before I proceed to give an outline of the history of the Jamaat-i-Islami and discuss its ideology, organization, and activities and policies in the South Asian context, it is important that I identify those aspects of its religious ideas that bind the Jamaat with other Islamic fundamentalist political movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood of the Middle East. These could be considered core ideas of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism.


First, the Jamaat-i-Islami seeks to restore the original teachings of the Qur’an and Sunna and to re-create the socioreligious system established under the direct guidance of the Prophet and his first four successors—”the rightly guided caliphs.”


Second, at least in theory it tends to reject the later developments in Islamic the­ology, law, and philosophy as well as the institutional structures of historical Muslim societies that evolved during the period of empires. In actual practice, however, like most of the other fundamentalist groups, it does not deny outright the legitimacy of historical Islam insofar as the legal-religious structures of Islamic orthodoxy are concerned.


Third, unlike the conservative ulama, who, for all practical purposes, maintain that the gates of ijtihad (independent legal judgment) have long been closed, the Jamaat-i-Islami upholds the right to ijtihad and fresh thinking on matters not directly covered in the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunna. But, unlike Islamic modernists, who would like to institutionalize the exercise of ijtihad in the popularly elected assemblies, the Jamaat restricts this right only to those who are well versed in both the classical sciences of Islam and in modern disciplines. Again, in actual practice the extent to which the fundamentalists of the Jamaat do exercise the right to ijtihad has been rather limited. In many cases, especially those involving a consensus among the orthodox imams of legal schools, they have tended to be one with the conservative ulama. The only areas in which the Jamaat leaders have shown readiness to accept fresh thinking are in the implementation of the socioeconomic and political teachings of traditional Islam: political parties, parliaments, elections, etc. However, if we look at the major issues with which the Jamaat-i-Islami and other fundamentalist movements have con­cerned themselves in modern times and at their opposition to the liberal-modernist trends in Islam, we see very little difference between them and the conservative ulama. Besides their demand for the establishment of an Islamic state and the introduction of an Islamic constitution—the two demands that have become their trademark—the other main questions on which the fundamentalists have taken a rigid and uncompro­mising position include abolition of bank interest, introduction of the zakat system (obligatory alms tax for charitable purposes), introduction of Islamic penal and family laws, enforcement of a strict sociomoral code in sex roles, prohibition of birth control as a state-funded program, and suppression of heretical groups. None of these issues distinguishes them from conservative Islam.


Fourth, fundamentalists do differ from the conservative ulama in their concept of Islam as a deen, which they interpret as a “way of life.” The Jamaat-i-Islami criticizes the conservative ulama for reducing Islam to the five pillars—profession of faith, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage. The Jamaat views Islam as a complete system and a comprehensive way of life which covers the entire spectrum of human activity, be it individual, social, economic, or political. For them, Islam means the total commitment and subordination of all aspects of human life to the will of God.


Fifth, as a revitalized formalism, the Jamaat-i-Islami seeks to replace the folk and popular practices of Sufi Islam with the approved rituals of orthodox Islam. In line with Islamic modernism, fundamentalists militate against the fatalistic quietism of the mystic fraternities. They present Islam as a dynamic and activist political ideology which must acquire state power in order to implement its social, economic, and po­litical agenda.


This brings us to one of the most important defining characteristics of the Jamaat-i-Islami and other Islamic fundamentalist movements: unlike the conservative ulama. and the modernists, the fundamentalist movements are primarily political rather than religio-intellectual movements. While both the ulama and the modernists seek influence in public policy-making structures, the fundamentalists aspire to capture political power and establish an Islamic state on the prophetic model. They are not content to act as pressure groups, as are the ulama and the modernists. They want political power because they believe that Islam cannot be implemented without the power of the state. Finally, as lay scholars of Islam, leaders of the fundamentalist movements are not theologians but social thinkers and political activists. They are less interested in doc­trinal, philosophical, and theological controversies associated with classical and me­dieval Islamic thinkers. The main thrust of their intellectual efforts is the articulation of the socioeconomic and political aspects of Islam. Out of his more than 120 publi­cations, for example, the Jamaat-i-Islami’s founder, Maulana Maududi, has only one title on a purely theological issue. In passages of his celebrated six-volume commen­tary on the Qur’an, Tafhim al Qur’an, Maududi explicates and interprets the verses of the Qur’an that have political and legal implications. His entire commentary on the Qur’an reads like an Islamic legal-political text, clarifying for the modern reader “how Islam furnishes man with definite guidance in the fields of constitutional, social, civil, criminal, commercial and international law.”7


Maududi and the History of the jamaat-i-lslami

The history of the Jamaat-i-Islami is integrally linked with the life and works of its founder, Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (1903-79). Maududi is regarded as one of the most important thinkers of twentieth-century Islam and has become a symbol of the Islamic renaissance in our time. A systematic thinker and a prolific writer, Maududi was also a dynamic orator, a seasoned politician, an astute and in­defatigable organization builder, and a charismatic leader who launched one of the most effective and well-organized Islamic movements of the twentieth century. His abiding faith in Islam and the consistency and perseverance with which he sought to make Islam supreme in the social and political life of the Umma have few parallels among his contemporaries. His influence on contemporary Islam is so pervasive that whether one agrees with him or not, no modern Muslim discourse on the social, economic, and political teachings of Islam can avoid using the terms first coined by him. Maududi gave a new language—a political language—to Islamic discourse. Terms and phrases first used by Maududi, such as “the Islamic system of life,” “Islamic movement,” “Islamic ideology,” “Islamic politics,” “the Islamic constitution,” “the economic system of Islam,” and “the political system of Islam,” have now become common parlance for Muslim writers and political activists everywhere.

Above all, Maududi was an Islamic scholar; his fame and influence rest primarily on his writings. He had a lucid style in Urdu prose and brought to his works an amazing breadth of scholarship. Equally at home in several of the Islamic sciences, he was familiar with the issues in modern social science disciplines. He authored works of tafsir (exegesis of the Qur’an) and Hadith (Traditions of Prophet Muhammad), and wrote on Islamic law and political theory, Islamic economic and social relations, Islamic philosophy and culture, and above all, on Islam as an ideological alternative to both Western liberalism and Soviet Marxism. His books have been translated into all the major languages of the world and arc widely read in most Muslim countries

Born in 1903 in Hyderabad Deccan (India), Maududi received his early education at home. His father, a product of both religious and modern English education, prac­ticed law in the British courts. At the time when Maududi was born, his father had given up his law practice, finding it not in accord with his religious beliefs. Because of his hostility toward modern English education, he did not send his son to the English schools. Instead, he took his son’s education into his own hands and em­ployed tutors to teach him the Qur’an, Hadith, Urdu, Arabic, and Persian. Maududi was not trained as an ‘alim (religious scholar) in a traditional madrasa. In fact, he detested the traditional system of madrasa education and described it as dead weight of an archaic tradition. His growth as a student of Islam was the result of his own efforts. By the time he was sixteen, Maududi had, through self-study, acquired enough knowledge of Arabic, Persian, and English to be able to read scholarly writ­ings in these languages.


Maududi’s public career began in 1920 when, at the age of seventeen, he became the editor of an Urdu weekly magazine, Medina. The next year he was offered the editorship of a daily newspaper, Taj. Later he edited the daily Jamiyat, Delhi, the most outspoken anti-British Muslim newspaper. He left the Jamiyat when the newspaper and the party behind it, the Jamiyat Ulama-i-Hind, became closely allied with the views of the Indian National Congress. Maududi’s most outstanding work of this period was his study of the laws of war and peace in Islam, Al-Jihad fil Islam. This highly acclaimed work on Islamic and comparative international law and on the con­cept and operational procedures of jihad in Islam established Maududi’s credentials as an original Islamic thinker and as a competent defender of Islam against its European and Hindu critics. What was most striking about the book was its “arrestingly confi­dent tone about Islam.”8 There was no apologizing for Islam and no effort to show that Islamic laws of war and peace were in harmony with the respectable ideas of the time.9 The book attracted the attention of Muhammad Iqbal, who invited Maududi to come to Lahore and help him in the codification of Islamic jurisprudence.


In 1933 he took up the editorship of the monthly Tarjuman-al-Qur’an (exegesis of the Qur’an), a responsibility that he continued to shoulder until his death in 1979. Tarjuman-al-Qur’an soon became the most important forum for Maududi to dis­seminate his ideas on Islam and the prevailing political situation in British India. He focused his attention on an exposition of the basic demands and principles of Islam as an ideology and a way of life and later concentrated on the issues arising out of the conflict between Islam and modern Western thought. In these pages he also argued at length that Islam was superior in all respects to such contemporary socioeconomic and political ideologies as capitalism, socialism, and nationalism. During the follow­ing phase of his scholarly career Maududi developed critiques of the religiopolitical movements then operating in India (the Khilafat Movement, the Khaksar Movement, the All India National Congress, Jamiyat Ulama-i-Hind, and the All India Muslim League) and devoted himself to the task of defining the ideological parameters of an alternative movement based on Islamic universalism.


The core concept on which Maududi sought to build the new movement was iqamat-i-deen (literally, “the establishment of religion”)—the total subordination of the institutions of civil society and the state to the authority of divine law as revealed in the Qur’an and practiced by the Prophet. For Maududi, it is not enough to practice Islam in one’s personal life; faith must manifest itself in social, economic, and political spheres as well. The way of life that emerges with the willing acceptance of Allah’s sovereignty and His guidance is al-Deen. This means that al-Deen is not a set of rituals; it encompasses all areas of human life, “from the sanctuary of man’s heart to the arena of socio-political relations; from the mosque to the parliament, from the home to the school and the economy; from art, architecture and science to law, state and international relations.”10


During this formative phase of his religio-intellectual career, Maududi was influ­enced by the writings of Shibli Noamani, Abul Kalam Azad, and Muhammad Iqbal.11 Shibli attracted him with a fresh Islamic theology that entailed a revolt against the traditional system of madrasa education. Maududi also admired Shibli both for the modernism of his early career and the fundamentalism of his later writings. The ratio­nalistic and logical approach that marked the literary style of Shibli later became the main strength in Maududi’s own writings. Although Maududi was deeply influenced by Abul Kalam Azad’s power of persuasion and dialectical reasoning, he had no use for Azad’s romanticism and effusiveness. It was Iqbal, however, who remained Mau­dudi’s ideal throughout his life. In Iqbal he found a Muslim scholar well versed in both the Islamic sciences and Western thought, a passionate protagonist of Islamic renaissance. Maududi’s brief stint as a journalist with Mohammad Ali Jauhar of the Khilafat Movement was also quite an instructive experience for him. He was very much impressed with the dynamism and mass support of the Khilafat movement but was also able to see that the movement had failed because of the lack of organization and programmatic focus.12


With this background, Maududi decided to proceed with his work on two levels: first, the rearticulation in a systematic manner of the intellectual neofundamentalism that had already made its mark on the Indo-Islamic scene, and second, the transfor­mation of this neofundamentalist ideology into an organized political force. In the process of formulating his ideas on Islamic ideology, Maududi was greatly impressed by the then-emerging ideologies of communism and fascism. However, what im­pressed Maududi was not the ideals of the communists and fascists but their methods and organizational strategies. His frequent references in his writings to the ideological purity, organizational discipline, and ascetic character of the communist and fascist movements seem quite consistent with the way he later proceeded to organize his own party. Maududi came to the conclusion that the best way to transform a society was to create a small, informed, dedicated, and highly disciplined group which would work to assume social and political leadership. What he wanted to achieve at that point was the organization of a Saleh Jamaat (a righteous group), or a “holy mi­nority,” that would one day capture political power and establish the Islamic system in its entirety.


In August 1941, Maududi founded die Jamaat-i-Islami to give institutional shape to his ideas on the reconstruction of Muslim society based on Islamic principles and to prepare and train a cadre of Islamic workers who could act as a vanguard of an Islamic revolutionary movement. The seventy-five people who responded to his call to join him in the founding of the new movement came from all walks of life. Al­though the majority of them were lay, educated Muslims who had some exposure to modern English education, some prominent ulama, including Maulana Manzoor Noamani, Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, and Maulana Muhammad Jaafar Phalwari also offered their services. (Within a few years, however, not finding the environment of the Jamaat-i-Islami congenial to their temperament, all of these ulama left the Jamaat).


The Jamaat-i-Islami set as its objective “the establishment of the Islamic way (al-Deen) so as to achieve God’s pleasure and seek salvation in the Hereafter.” In order to achieve this objective, the Jamaat set out the following five programs for itself:

  1. To construct human thought in the light of the ideals, values, and prin­ciples derived from divine guidance
  2. To “reform and purify” individual members of society so as to enable them to develop a truly Islamic personality
  3. To organize these individuals under the leadership of the Jamaat and to prepare and train them to invite humanity to the path of Islam
  4. To take all possible steps to reform and reconstruct the society and all of its institutions in accordance with the teachings of Islam
  5. To bring about a revolution in the political leadership of society, reorga­nize political and socioeconomic life on Islamic lines, and finally, establish an Islamic state

As is obvious from this program, the Jamaat had no intention of directly partici­pating in the political life of Muslim India at that time. In the initial phase, it sought to concentrate its activities on the Islamic training of its members and the strength­ening of its organizational base. But this was precisely the time when the demand for Pakistan had been gaining considerable momentum under the leadership of the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The demand for a separate homeland, based on the ideology of Muslim nationalism as propounded by the emerging Muslim edu­cated middle classes and bourgeoisie, soon captured the imagination of Muslim masses throughout the subcontinent. Although the Jamaat-i-Islami did not actively oppose the Pakistan movement, as did most of the ulama, who sided with the Indian National Congress and launched a vigorous campaign against the Muslim League, it nevertheless expressed serious reservations about the Islamic character of the move­ment. Maududi’s main criticism was that Islam, a universalist ideology, cannot be used as the ideological underpinning of a nation-state. For him, Muslim nationalism, which formed the basis of the demand for Pakistan, was no less abominable than Hindu or German nationalism. Maududi was also critical of the lack of Islamic char­acter in the leadership of the Muslim League and believed that such secular-minded and westernized leadership was not capable of establishing an Islamic state in Paki­stan. Maududi was, however, equally critical of the ulama of the Deoband school, who supported the All India National Congress and espoused the cause of territorial nationalism and secular democracy. Nevertheless, the political stigma created by the Jamaat-i-Islami’s indifferent attitude to the creation of Pakistan has been a persistent source of embarrassment for the Jamaat in independent Pakistan. Various regimes and political rivals have used this to discredit the Jamaat and to delegitimize its participa­tion in national politics.


The period between the founding of the Jamaat-i-Islami and the creation of Pakistan—that is, from August 1941 to August 1947—was devoted to organization building and consolidation. Maududi trained newly recruited Jamaat members so that they would be able to bring about the “required ideological change” when the struggle entered a new phase after independence. This was also a period of great intellectual productivity for Maududi. He published a series of studies on the eco­nomic system of Islam with special reference to such issues as interest, banking, insur­ance, land tenure, capitalism, and socialism. He also wrote on issues arising from the conflict between Islam and modern Western intellectual thought. During this period Maududi began his magnum opus, Tafhim-al-Quran (Toward Understanding the Qur’an), in which the Qur’an was presented as a guidebook, or manifesto, of a uni­versal ideological movement intimately bound up with the prophetic career and mis­sion of the Prophet Muhammad. This Urdu translation and exegesis of the Qur’an remains the finest expression of Maududi’s clarity of thought, depth of scholarship, and elegance of literary style. Tafhim-al-Qur’an has run into several reprints and has been the most widely read commentary of the Qur’an in the Urdu language.13

The Jamaat-i-Islami in Action, 1948-88

Maududi would have preferred to stay away from active politics for a few more years to concentrate on writing, leadership training, and organization building, but the partition of India and the establishment of Pakistan forced him to change his plans. With the emergence of two independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Jamaat-i-Islami had to be split into two separate organizations. At the time of parti­tion, the Jamaat members totaled 625, of which 240 stayed in India and organized themselves as a separate entity.14 Maududi moved to Lahore, the city of Muhammad Iqbal, where he started his work in the new state with 385 members, more than half of whom were refugees from India. While the Jamaat-i-Islami India, under the lead­ership of Maulana Abul Lais Islahi, an Islamic scholar in his own right and a close confidant of Maududi, now focused its activities on the propagation of Islam and the purely religious concerns of the Indian Muslim community, the Jamaat-i-Islami Paki­stan, under Maududi’s leadership, began its new work by mounting a massive cam­paign for the creation of a truly Islamic state in Pakistan. Given the hostile relations between India and Pakistan since their very inception, the Indian and Pakistani Jamaats have had minimal “official” contacts with each other despite their ideological affinities and common origins in the ideas of Maududi. In fact, as will be shown later, their political programs took two different paths in the context of new political reali­ties in India and Pakistan.


“Hamara. Mutalaba: Islami Dastur!” (We Want an Islamic Constitution)

When Pakistan came into being, the main question faced by the country’s rulers con­cerned its relationship with Islam. With the exception of a few secularists, the majority of the political leadership of the new nation agreed that Pakistan’s constitution and government should reflect the teachings and traditions of Islam. The problem, how­ever, was how to relate Islam to the needs of a modern state. The definition of an Islamic state formulated by the ulama and the fundamentalists, which included the application of the Shari’a and the overarching authority of the religious scholars to pronounce judgments on the Islamic character of all legislation, was not acceptable to the modernists. The Jamaat-i-Islami insisted that the laws and practices in force in the country that were in conflict with the Qur’an and Sunna should be repealed or amended forthwith in conformity with Islamic law. In marked contrast were the views held by the Western-educated, Western-oriented politicians, civil servants, judges, and military officers. Although they did not seem to have abandoned the concept of Islam as embracing all spheres of life, they nonetheless allowed it to be overwhelmed by the intellectual approaches produced by Western secular education, which assumed the separation of state and religion. While the Jamaat-i-Islami defined and formulated the goal of the newly born state in terms of Islamic revivalism, very few politicians and administrators saw the goal as anything other than social and economic develop­ment. The only thing they could promise the Jamaat-i-Islami was that they would try to create conditions favorable for the realization of Islamic ideals. They would not, however, commit themselves to the actual legislation of these ideals as public policies. In the context of these religiopolitical debates and differences, the Jamaat-i-Islami launched a massive publicity and public contact campaign in 1948 to seek popular support for its demand for an Islamic constitution. Although the ulama took part, Maududi and his Jamaat played the central role in the demand for an Islamic consti­tution for Pakistan. “Hamara Mutalaba: Islami Dastur” (We want an Islamic consti­tution) became a popular slogan throughout the country. Maududi demanded that the Constituent Assembly make an unequivocal declaration affirming the “supreme sovereignty of God” and the supremacy of the Shari’a as the basic law of Pakistan.15 The existing anti-Islamic laws should be abrogated, and the state, in exercising its powers, should have no authority to transgress the limits imposed by Islam.


The Jamaat-i-Islami found a ready and receptive audience for its demand among the refugees from India, who were led to contrast their “wretched present” with a “glorious future” to be ushered in by the establishment of an Islamic state in Paki­stan.16 In the process, the Jamaat emerged as the sole spokesman for Islam and the Islamic state. Through his speeches and writings on Islam, politics, and the state, Maududi crafted an appeal to the educated classes. The Jamaat also made concerted efforts to reach the masses by sending preachers, spreading its literature, and organiz­ing processions, rallies, conferences, and seminars throughout the country in order to press its demand to make Pakistan an Islamic state. There was no other group in Pakistan at the time so unified, disciplined, and certain of what it wanted.17 The government soon found itself inundated with demands for an Islamic state and Islamic constitution, and the Jamaat appeared to be winning the support of a large number of educated people in the urban areas. The country appeared to be swept with enthu­siasm for an Islamic order, and the Western-educated, modernist groups who were in control of the government began to fear this new force. As a result of these apprehen­sions, the government jailed Maududi under the Public Safety Act, using some of offhand remarks of his on the war in Kashmir as a pretext.


Undaunted, the Jamaat-i-Islami continued to agitate for an Islamic state. When Maududi was released after about eighteen months of detention without trial, he was more powerful and popular than before. The organization had grown to cover a large part of the country; there were branches, study circles, and reading rooms in every city and town of both West and East Pakistan. It had also organized an extensive program of relief work, mobile medical clinics dispensing free medical care, and an elaborate program of publications of books, pamphlets, and periodicals. In the major cities, a network of cell structures was created, each holding weekly workers’ meet­ings, where issues of Islamic ideology and policies and strategies of the Jamaat were discussed.


The Jamaat-i-Islami scored its first major victory in March 1949, when the Con­stituent Assembly of Pakistan passed the Objectives Resolution incorporating “the main principles on which the constitution of Pakistan is to be based.” The resolution accepted the Jamaat’s position that “sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Paki­stan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust.” The resolution also promised that “the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accord with the teachings and requirements of Islam.” But the resolution also accommodated the modernists’ position by stating that “the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed.” The Jamaat interpreted the Objectives Resolution as a document that had laid the foundation for an Islamic state as a “theo-democracy” in order to transform the entire spectrum of collective life in accordance with the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunna. The acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty was seen as an acceptance of the Shari’a as the law of the land.


After the passage of the Objectives Resolution, the Jamaat focused its activities on educating public opinion and impressing upon the policy makers the need for, and modalities of, a truly Islamic constitution for the state. Strong public pressure mobi­lized by the concerted campaign of the Jamaat under Maududi forced the law makers seriously to consider fulfilling the promises they had made in the Objectives Resolu­tion. Maududi and his colleagues toured the length and breadth of the country, ad­dressing public meetings, contacting lawmakers, and motivating their own workers to intensify their efforts to make Pakistan a truly Islamic state. Maududi produced some of his finest writings on Islamic political theory, Islamic law and constitution, and Islamic judicial and legal structures during this period. He presented a compre­hensive scheme for an Islamic political system, elaborating on such issues as the functions and duties of an Islamic state; Islam and democracy; Islam and elections, parliament, political parties, and civil rights; rights of non-Muslims in an Islamic state; and the election and powers of the head of the state. Maududi was able to produce this enormous amount of scholarly writings at a time when he was involved in the most hectic political activities, such as public campaigning for an Islamic po­litical order and restructuring the Jamaat-i-Islami’s organization to meet the chal­lenges of its new role as a political party, not to mention serving periodic jail terms. The Jamaat’s campaign during this period had two aims: to clarify the concept and modalities of an Islamic state and prepare the ground for the framing of an Islamic constitution; and to train a new generation of religiopolitical leaders from among the workers and supporters of the Jamaat who could shoulder the responsibilities of an Islamically oriented administration, judiciary, media, and educational system.


At a time when the Jamaat-i-Islami wanted to focus all its attention on the issue of an Islamic constitution, it was drawn into the anti-Ahmadiya movement launched by the ulama in 1953. This movement subsequently degenerated into widespread and violent anti-Ahmadiya riots. The ulama demanded that the government declare the Ahmadis—a heretical sect founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (d. 1908), who claimed to be a prophet and the promised Messiah—to be outside the pale of Islam. The Jamaat wholeheartedly endorsed this demand but was reluctant to launch a popular movement on the issue, fearing that this would sidetrack the fundamental issue of writing an Islamic constitution. Maududi published a book on the Ahmadiya ques­tion, arguing that since the sect had denied one of the fundamental beliefs of Islam, the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad, it was no longer a part of the Muslim Umma and thus deserved to be declared non-Muslim. However, Maududi disassoci­ated himself and his party from the mob violence against the Ahmadis and asked the government to resolve the issue peacefully. The government nevertheless considered Maududi’s book provocative. Martial law was imposed in Lahore and Maududi and a few other ulama were arrested on the charge of inciting people to violence. A military court tried and sentenced Maududi to death. In view of the popular indignation over the severity of the punishment, however, the sentence was later commuted by the government to life imprisonment.18 Maududi had served about three years of his term when the courts declared his detention illegal and ordered his release.

“Tajaddud Band Karo!” (Stop the Innovations!)

The first permanent constitution of Pakistan, approved in 1956, was mainly a col­lection of modern secular laws for the administration of a Westminister-type parlia­mentary democracy with broad Islamic ideology as its guiding but nonbinding factor. Surprisingly, the Jamaat-i-Islami greeted the 1956 constitution with praise and accepted it with only minor suggestions for amendments. The constitution stated that no law should be enacted that was repugnant to the injunctions of Islam, and that existing laws should be brought into conformity with such injunctions. However, contrary to what the Jamaat had been demanding, the constitution made the parlia­ment responsible for deciding whether any law was repugnant to Islam. Maududi was nevertheless satisfied that most of his demands had been met in the constitution, which he characterized as both Islamic and democratic. He also believed that the new constitutional framework reflected a national consensus and therefore deserved a fair chance to succeed.


The Jamaat-i-Islami was therefore greatly disappointed when General Mohammad Ayub Khan abrogated the 1956 constitution and imposed martial law on the country in October 1958. The Jamaat had gained considerable popularity in the process of its campaign for the Islamic constitution—as was evident from its spectacular success in the Karachi Municipal Corporation elections in early 1958—and was looking forward with great expectations to the scheduled national elections in 1959. The abrogation of the 1956 constitution meant that the decade-long campaign of the Jamaat for the Islamic constitution had been in vain.


The ten-year rule of Ayub Khan, however, raised a new set of issues for the Jamaat. During the years of martial law, the Jamaat, along with other political parties, re­mained outlawed. But unlike other political parties, the Jamaat continued to operate under the cover of religious, educational, and social welfare activities and was thus able to keep its organizational network, leadership, and cadre of workers intact. When political activities were resumed in 1962, the Jamaat-i-Islami was the first among the political parties to come back into political field with full vigor and a long list of criticisms of the government.


Ayub Khan’s coming to power was seen by the Jamaat-i-Islami as a major ideo­logical reversal for the country. Unlike the Jamaat, which maintained that Pakistan had been created to implement Islamic principles, Ayub Khan had a different inter­pretation of why Pakistan had come into being: “one of the major demands of in­dependence was the elevation of national character, progress of the country and prosperity of the masses.”19 He therefore wanted to build a “modern, progressive, united and strong Pakistan.”20 Economic development, national integration, and po­litical stability were the three pillars on which Ayub Khan planned to build the edifice of Islamic Pakistan in order to meet the requirements of modern times. “We must go forward, keep pace with the modern scientific world; we cannot be backward by thou­sands of years,” he declared. To implement his ideas, Ayub Khan undertook a massive program of modernization and institutional reorganization of the state, economy, and religion. He presented Islam as a progressive, liberal, and forward-looking religion. In the religious sector, his two most important measures were (1) to provide for the reform of Muslim Family Laws restricting polygamy, regulating divorce procedures, and improving maintenance provisions for women, and (2) for government takeover of major religious auqaf (endowments) from their hereditary custodians, who were associated with traditional landowning interests. Ayub Khan also established educa­tional and research institutions in order to promote a liberal, rational and innovative approach to the interpretation of Islamic teachings.


The Jamaat-i-Islami charged that Ayub Khan’s government had acted un-Islamically and had undermined the Islamic basis of Pakistan by introducing a Westernized version of Islam, had frustrated the prospects for democracy in the country by intro­ducing an authoritarian type of constitution, and had formed a corrupt administra­tion, unjust and devoid of moral legitimacy.

In retrospect, the most serious challenge to the Ayub regime from religious groups came from the Jamaat-i-Islami. With the exception of the seventeen-day temporary cease-fire during the September 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, the guns of the Jamaat con­tinued to bombard Ayub Khan’s government throughout his reign of power. It was the Jamaat Secretary General, Mian Tufail Mohammad, who took the initiative in March 1961 of organizing the ulama in Lahore to oppose the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance. Mian Tufail was also the first religious leader who was arrested by the martial law authorities. And during the four years of martial law when political parties were banned, the Jamaat-i-Islami continued to operate as “a religious organization.” With its publicity resources, worker’s loyalty, nationwide organizational network con­sisting of hundreds of branches, and its solidly entrenched “nonpolitical” subsidiary organizations of students, laborers, and professionals, the Jamaat was able to launch an effective challenge to the legitimacy of the regime even during this period. How­ever, during the years of martial law, the Jamaat chose not to confront the regime head-on, except on the issue of the Family Laws in 1961. Instead, it launched indirect but possibly more effective counter-ideological warfare against the modernist ideas being propounded by the government-controlled research centers. Professor Khurshid Ahmad, a prominent Jamaat-i-Islami intellectual, brought out two special issues of his monthly magazine Chiragh-i-Rah, one entitled “Ideology of Pakistan” and the other entitled “Islamic Law.” These two volumes became the most frequently quoted works on the ideological basis of Pakistani statehood and the efficacy of the Islamic legal system at the time and provided the ideological opponents of the government with powerful intellectual weapons. At the same time, Maududi’s works Islam and Birth Control, Parda (Veil), Sud (Interest), Family Relations in Islam, Islamic Law and Constitution, and Sunnat ki A’ini Hassiyat (The constitutional status of the Sunna) were reprinted in the thousands and were made widely available through the Jamaat’s extensive marketing and distribution network. In 1963, the Jamaat established its own research institute, the Islamic Research Academy, in Karachi to counterbalance the effects of the modernist interpretations of Islam propounded by the Central Insti­tute of Islamic Research, which was then under the leadership of Professor Fazlur Rahman.


The Jamaat-i-Islami intensified its political-religious opposition to Ayub Khan af­ter the withdrawal of martial law and the restoration of political activities. Maududi undertook a tour of all major cities of the country and attacked Ayub Khan’s religious and political policies in the strongest of terms at mass meetings. In October 1963, the Jamaat held its national convention of workers in Lahore. The convention was marred by government-sponsored violence in which one Jamaat worker was killed. The pub­licity posters announcing the Lahore Convention described the political system estab­lished by President Ayub Khan as “Yeh Holnak Khala!” (This dreadful void!).


The government’s reaction was equally swift and severe. In January 1964, the pro­vincial governments of East and West Pakistan through two separate orders declared the Jamaat-i-Islami to be an illegal organization, locked its offices throughout the country, and confiscated its records and assets.21 Simultaneously all members of its central executive council were arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordi­nance. However, the Supreme Court declared null and void the official ban on the Jamaat in September 1964, just a few months before the proposed presidential elec­tion in January 1965. This allowed the Jamaat to resume its oppositional activities and join the Combined Opposition Parties (COP) in their support of the candidacy of Miss Fatima Jinnah for the presidency of Pakistan.


The main thrust of the Jamaat’s Islamic critique of the Ayub regime could be summed up in its popular slogan during the 1960s: “Tajaddud Band Kara!” (Stop the innovations!). It blasted the regime for its “general secular orientation,” its “deliberate disregard of Islamic norms and way of life,” its clear violation of traditional Muslim personal law, its policy of promoting family planning and birth control, which in the Jamaat’s view was intended to encourage sexual permissiveness and licentiousness, and above all its vigorous campaign to “modernize” Islam and to legitimize the Western way of life by “distorting Islamic teachings.”22 The opposition of the Jamaat to Ayub was so strong that it was ready to reverse the position taken earlier by Maududi, that women were not allowed to hold public offices in an Islamic state. In October 1964, the Central Executive of the Jamaat passed a resolution declaring that “in the present unusual situation the candidature of a woman for head of the state is not against the Shari’at.”23 Although Maududi’s support for Miss Jinnah’s presidential bid was con­sistent with his political goals, it presented “something of a difficulty for him to rec­oncile his new political associations and his advocacy of a woman candidate with his Islamic principles.”24

“Soshalizm Kufr Hai!” (Socialism Is Disbelief!)

The last days of the Ayub regime witnessed an urban-based revolutionary upheaval over such issues as wages, prices, and the economic dominance of twenty-two fami­lies. Despite the fact that the Jamaat-i-Islami was an important part of the coalition that had spearheaded the anti-Ayub movement, religious issues remained peripheral. The main thrust of the popular movement against Ayub was for socioeconomic jus­tice, political participation, and regional autonomy. In East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s demand for complete autonomy and in West Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s new socialist manifesto had changed the nature of political debate in such a funda­mental way that the religious issues came to be seen as irrelevant—or trivial at best—by the emerging political forces. The political initiative had passed from the centrist and religious groups to the regionalists in East Pakistan and to secularists and socialists in West Pakistan.


This realization led the Jamaat-i-Islami to take a pro-status quo political stance during the later part of anti-Ayub agitation. The alarming prospects of the rise of secular, socialist, and regionalist political forces had in fact left the Jamaat with no option but to support the existing power structures, which at least paid lip service to Islam.


The new political scenario fully crystalized after General Yahya Khan took over as the Chief martial law administrator in March 1969, and presented major challenges to the Jamaat-i-Islami. Bhutto challenged the centrality of Islam as the organizing principle of socioeconomic relations in a Muslim society and presented an alternative ideology based on atheistic socialism. The Jamaat saw in Bhutto a man who had nothing but contempt for traditional forms of religiousness and orthodox religious practices. Furthermore, Bhutto’s economic program, which promised nationalization of all major productive sectors of the economy and sweeping land reforms, violated the sanctity of private property, which according to the Jamaat, constituted as one of the basic economic principles of Islam. In addition, the socialist rhetoric of Bhutto was seen as an attempt to undermine the Islamic basis of Pakistani statehood.


Mujib’s emphasis on Bengali ethnic identity and his demand for the cultural, po­litical, and economic autonomy of East Pakistan was equally disquieting for the Jamaat-i-Islami. The Jamaat had seen East Pakistan as a test case to demonstrate the efficacy of ideological bonds in a situation in which the differences in ethnicity, lan­guage, ecology, demography, and culture were relatively acute. Therefore the rise of Bengali nationalist forces and separatist elements in East Pakistan was not only a threat to the integrity of Pakistan but was also likely to be interpreted as an evidence of the failure of Islam as a basis for political unity.


Under these circumstances, the Jamaat-i-Islami joined the forces of the status quo in order to save the country from both dismemberment and socialism. The Jamaat justified its collaboration with the military regime of General Yahya by declaring that it could not be expected to stand aside and watch while the country disintegrated and its ideology was subverted. Perhaps to compensate for its nonparticipation in the creation of Pakistan, the Jamaat now joined the rulers in Islamabad in emphasizing the integral relationship between Islam and Pakistani nationalism. It is no coinci­dence, therefore, that General Yahya Khan’s call to the people on the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet “to come forward and defend the ideology of Pakistan by word or deed” was followed, a week later, by Shawkat-i-Islam (Glory of Islam) Day, organized by the Jamaat-i-Islami. There were processions attended by thousands of the Jamaat workers and sympathizers in all major cities and towns of East and West Pakistan, with slogans such as “Soshalizm kufr hai” (Socialism is disbelief) and “Mus­lim millet ek ho” (Let the Muslim people remain united).25 Earlier the Jamaat had joined a faction of the ulama in Karachi in sponsoring a fatwa (a religious decree), later signed by 113 ulama of all schools of thought, denouncing Bhutto’s socialism as kufr (disbelief).

In fact, the Jamaat-i-Islami’s campaign against socialism during 1968-70 became the most important event in its recent history. The Jamaat was convinced that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was a front organization of Marxists who were planning to stage a communist coup in the wake of the violent mass movement against Ayub Khan. If successful, such a move would frustrate the Jamaat’s thirty years of efforts for Islam, democracy, and political power.26 Hence, in close collaboration with the business community of Karachi, the Jamaat launched a vigorous campaign against the atheistic ideology of socialism. In its struggle against socialism and Bhutto, it formed a coalition with other right-wing and centrist political parties. The workers and sup­porters of the Jamaat’s students and the labor wings engaged themselves in violent confrontation with their left-wing counterparts in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar. The Yahya Khan period thus witnessed the transformation of the Jamaat’s students’ wing, the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT), from a peaceful da’wa organization into a militant force, even willing to meet violence with violence.


In the midst of the violent conflicts between Islam and socialism in West Pakistan and between Islam and Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan, General Yahya Khan announced elections for December 1970. The Jamaat-i-Islami chose to contest them in order to counter the onslaught of both socialism and separatism. During the elec­tion campaign, this strategy appeared to be quite effective, and most observers ex­pected that the Jamaat would win a substantial number of seats in the national legislature.


Although the elections were fair, the expectations were misplaced. The Jamaat, which appeared to be a formidable force throughout the campaign, turned out to be a complete disaster. Out of a total of three hundred National Assembly seats, it was able to win only four, two from Karachi and one each from Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). This was “the greatest political set-back the Jamaat had received ever since its inception.”27 It was as if “the prophecy had failed.” For twenty years the Jamaat had been calling for democratic elections on the assumption that given a free choice, the overwhelming majority of the people of Pakistan would vote for Islam. And now that a fair election had been held, their expectations of twenty years were shattered.


This highly disappointing experience of December 1970 elections had important consequences for the future political thinking and strategy of the Jamaat-i-Islami. First, the Jamaat decided to pay more attention to the practical bread-and-butter is­sues—of food, housing, employment, and the like—which it had neglected in the past in its general enthusiasm for an Islamic constitution. Second, the election defeat diminished the Jamaat’s already feeble belief in democracy. Third, it led the Jamaat to plan a new political strategy based on street power rather than the number of seats in parliament. This subsequently became its most effective weapon against Bhutto dur­ing the Khatmi-e-Nabuwwat (finality of Prophethood) and Nizam-e-Mustafa (System of the Prophet Muhammad) movements. The popular manifestation of Islamic resur­gence at the street level during the mid- 1970s owes much to this new strategic think­ing of the Jamaat and other religiopolitical groups. Finally, the disappointing results of the 1970 elections also psychologically prepared the leadership of the Jamaat to seek influence and power through nondemocratic means, including collaboration with the military regimes. The facility and ease with which the Jamaat joined hands with the martial law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1977 can be explained by their dis­enchantment with the democratic process which they had experienced in 1970.


The first instance of the partnership between the Jamaat-i-Islami and the military came about in March 1971, when the martial law regime of General Yahya Khan decided to take a decisive military action against the separatist forces of Sheikh Mujibs Awami League in East Pakistan. In pursuit of its firm belief that the defense of the territorial integrity of the Pakistani state was a religious obligation, the Jamaat col­laborated with the military government throughout the East Pakistan crisis. Its work­ers and its followers among students organized themselves in the paramilitary unit of Al-Badr and fought side by side with regular Pakistan army troops against the Mukti Bahini rebels and the Indian forces.


The battle of East Pakistan having been lost, the Jamaat continued its jihad against Bhutto and his socialist program under the leadership of Mian Tufail Mohammad, who was elected as the new emir of the Jamaat after Maududi resigned from the position for reasons of health. Surprisingly, simultaneous with its defeat in the na­tional elections, the Jamaat’s student wing swept the student union elections through­out the major campuses in Pakistan. This restored the Jamaat’s self-confidence in its efficacy as a major political force in the country. In 1972 it went on to test its political strength on the issue of the recognition of the newly independent state of Bangladesh and was able to force Prime Minister Bhutto not to extend recognition to the new state unless Pakistani prisoners of war were repatriated.


Although the Jamaat had only four members in the national parliament, their role in the writing of the new constitution in 1973 was critical. Under the leadership of Professor Abdul Ghafoor Ahmad, the Jamaat’s member of the National Assembly from Karachi who later led the joint opposition movement against Bhutto in 1977, the Jamaat’s representatives in the parliament lobbied vigorously for the inclusion of Islamic provisions in the proposed constitution. Veterans of twenty-five years of struggle for an Islamic constitution, the Jamaat leaders were better prepared for and well qualified in the art of constitutional negotiations. In the end, despite the Pakistan People’s Party’s overwhelming majority in the parliament and its insistence on incor­porating its socialist manifesto in constitutional provisions, the 1973 constitution turned out to be “the most Islamic constitution in the history of Pakistan.” Islam was declared the state religion for the first time. All important Islamic provisions of the 1956 constitutions were retained. The constitution stated that both the president and the prime minister of Pakistan had to be Muslims. Above all, the Objectives Resolu­tion was also retained as a preamble to the new constitution.


The cooperation and the truce between the Bhutto government and the Jamaat-i-Islami on the issue of constitution proved to be short-lived. An incident at the Rabwa (Punjab) railway station involving a scuffle between the students of the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT), the Jamaat’s students’ wing, and some members of the Ahmadiya community—also known as Qadiyanis—sparked another nationwide movement de­manding that the sect be declared non-Muslim. Unlike the 1953 anti-Ahmadiya movement, in which the Jamaat-i-Islami was involved as a reluctant partner, the 1974 Khatam-e-Nabuwwat movement saw the Jamaat in the forefront. It is a testi­mony to the great organizational capability of the Jamaat and the IJT that only one day after the incident on 29 May 1974, major protest meetings were staged in Lahore, Bahawalpur, Sargodha, Faisalabad, and Islamabad. The IJT organized the anti-Ahmadiya movement methodically. It divided the Punjab province—the center of the movement—into ten sectors and assigned its prominent leaders to take charge of the agitation by touring all major cities and towns of their respective sectors. Young student leaders of the IJT from different campuses toured throughout the Punjab and in seven days addressed 150 public meetings, led 27 processions, and raised the emo­tional pitch of the people to such an extent that by 27 June the entire law and order machinery of the government in Punjab was in a shambles. The extent of the role and the street power of the ITT can be seen from the fact that during this anti-Ahmadiya agitation, its leaders addressed 8,777 public meetings and led 47 processions.28 Soon the government was forced to concede; through a constitutional amendment, Bhutto declared the Ahmadis to be outside the pale of Islam.


The Khatam-e-Nabuwwat movement, like the struggle for an Islamic constitution in the 1950s, demonstrated the political power of the IJT and its ability to destabilize even a populist regime such as that of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It provided an oppor­tunity to the Jamaat, through the IJT, to penetrate the mosques and the madrasas which were traditionally the monopoly of the ulama. The Jamaat made full use of this new avenue of public contact: all major meetings were held in mosques and most processions were started after the Friday congregational prayers. According to reports filed by IJT workers, for example, in only one day in June, anti-Ahmadiya and anti-government meetings were held in 876 mosques in 43 cities of Punjab, and the num­ber in the audience was estimated to be 1,100,000.29 This linkage with the mosque and the madrasa helped the Jamaat-i-Islami repair its relations with the ulama, which had been strained in the past because of Maududi’s devastating critique of their archaic system of education and their role in pre-independence politics. Indeed, the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat movement turned out to be a rehearsal for the ultimate show­down with Bhutto in 1977.


The Jamaat used the period between 1974 and 1977 to strengthen its cells and chapters in labor unions, teachers’ associations, and other professional organizations and institutions, including the civil service and the military. Through such movements as the Enforcement of the Shari’a campaign in 1975, the Jamaat also renewed its efforts toward mass contact and recruitment of new associates and workers. During the Enforcement of the Shari’a movement, for example, the Jamaat workers individu­ally contacted six hundred thousand people in Punjab, Sind, NWFP, and Baluchistan, as a result of which one hundred thousand people signed up as Jamaat supporters.30 A similar exercise was repeated in 1976, during which, in Karachi alone, the Jamaat workers contacted about two hundred thousand people and obtained pledges from about forty-one thousand to join the Jamaat as associates.31 During this period, the Jamaat also consolidated its organizational outreach in the Gulf states of the Middle East, Europe, and North America, where many of its workers had moved for jobs. The remittances in hard currency from its expatriate workers and supporters in the Middle East and the Western world have become a major source of Jamaat’s income since the 1970s.


The final showdown between Bhutto and the Jamaat-i-Islami came during the March 1977 elections. The religiopolitical opposition against Bhutto consolidated under the leadership of the Jamaat and its associates among the ulama, and formed a grand right-wing alliance to demand the enforcement of Nizam-e-Mustafa and the dislodging of Bhutto and all that he stood for. Just four months before the scheduled elections, the IJT had firmly established itself as a potent and major political force, not only on the streets but also on the campuses. In November 1976 student union elections at the University of Karachi, the IJT won a complete and sweeping victory. Earlier the IJT had won elections in twenty-four out of twenty-eight colleges and professional schools of Karachi. In another twelve colleges, the IJT panels had won all seats unopposed, and the University of the Punjab was already under the IJT control.32 Thus, when the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA)—the coalition of nine parties opposed to Bhutto—launched the Nizam-e-Mustafa movement in March 1977, the IJT was already strategically placed to play an important role in mobilizing the students and using other resources of educational institutions against Bhutto. There is no doubt that without the organizational skills of the Jamaat-i-Islami and the mobilizing capabilities of the IJT, the PNA movement against Bhutto would not have picked up the momentum it did in its earlier phase. Although madrasa students be­longing to other religiopolitical parties also played an important part during this mass movement, they were relatively inexperienced in the arena of political agitation, street demonstrations, barricade building, strikes, and processions. IJT, on the other hand, had a twenty-year history of religiopolitical struggle on the campuses as well as in the conference halls and streets. The Jamiat cadres were also well trained in the art of confrontation with the police and other security forces.


During the 1977 elections and the postelections agitation, Islamic issues came to be politicized so much that Bhutto was forced to give in to the pressure built up by the Jamaat and other religious groups. He introduced several Islamic measures which later became the basis for further Islamization by General Zia-ul-Haq. One can there­fore argue that the Islamization program of Zia was in fact a continuation of the momentum built up for Islam by the Jamaat-i-Islami in the form of political mobili­zation and by Bhutto to seek Islamic legitimacy for his faltering regime.

Cometh the Hour? The Jamaat and Zia’s Islamization

At last, Almighty Allah rid the nation of the rule of socialist despotism [of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto] and the reins of Government fell to the hands of General Zia-ul-Haq on 5th July 1977, who has declared more than once that he would introduce the Islamic Order in Pakistan and would hold fair elections. We are all looking anxiously to the fulfillment of these hopes of the people and for the inauguration of a truly Islamic era in the life of this country.33

This announcement, which was issued from the headquarters of the Jamaat-i-Islami in September 1977—just two months after the military coup that brought General Zia into power—is indicative of the high hopes with which the Jamaat greeted the martial-law regime. The earlier rulers had paid only lip service to Islam and did nothing to incorporate the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunna into public policies. General Zia, on the other hand, promised that the establishment of a social order based on Nizam-e-Mustafa would be the cornerstone of his policies. He was therefore hailed as a welcome change by the Jamaat leaders, who extended their fullest cooperation to Zia’s military regime and even joined his civilian cabinet for about a year—the only time in the history of the Jamaat when it was associated with the power of the state. General Zia was a good, honest, practicing Muslim, the Jamaat leaders reasoned to themselves, who wanted to enforce the Shari’a and therefore de­served their whole-hearted support and cooperation.


In retrospect, however, the decision of the Jamaat-i-Islami to support the military regime was not an easy one. All along, the Jamaat had campaigned for both Islam and democracy. The PNA movement that dislodged Bhutto was also based on the twin slogans of Islam and the restoration of a truly democratic order in the country. In the case of Zia, however, the Jamaat was faced with the dilemma of choosing between Islam or democracy. Here was a military dictator who had overthrown an elected government and had thus violated the fundamental norm of an Islamic political sys­tem that people have “the right to elect their rulers by the exercise of their free will and to replace them in a similar manner.”34 But the dictator also promised to build an Islamic socioeconomic and political order in the country. Within a few months of coming into power, Zia had already instituted several Islamic reforms. His speeches and exhortations seemed to come right from the pages of Maududi’s books. With Maududi in retirement and failing health and Mian Tufail Mohammad at the helm of affairs, the Jamaat-i-Islami chose Islam over democracy and decided to support Zia’s military regime, with the twin objectives of helping it to get rid of Bhutto and of implementing the Shari’a. Unlike Maududi, whose definition of Islamization gave equal emphasis to both the substantive and procedural aspects of the process, Mian Tufail Mohammad, the new emir of the Jamaat, focused solely on the enforcement of the Shari’a. Too much time should not be wasted in discussing the political means to achieve this objective: the people of Pakistan wanted an Islamic system, whether it was introduced by an unelected ruler or an elected parliament. “It is the duty of every Muslim to strive for the establishment of the Islamic system and it is immaterial whether he is a politician, a religious ‘alim, or a military officer.”35 Although based on the formulations of the classical Muslim political theorists, the view that whoever enforces Shari’a—whether he is an hereditary monarch, a military officer, a mullah, or a politician—can claim Islamic legitimacy was nonetheless contrary to what Mau­dudi and the Jamaat had advocated in the past.


The Jamaat’s acceptance of Zia’s military regime and his Islamization program can also be understood with reference to the Jamaat’s views on the process of Islamization. Despite his emphasis on the Islamic tarbiya (training) of a dedicated corps of workers and his recognition of the importance of reforming institutions of the civil society, Maududi saw the process of Islamization as essentially a transfer of state power from the secular-minded (corrupt) elite to the saleheen (pious Muslims), who by appropri­ating authoritative positions in the various institutions of the state, would create con­ditions conducive to the establishment of the complete deen. In one of his earlier works, Maududi described the state as a train and said that in order to change the direction of the train the only thing needed was to remove the present driver and replace him with a new driver.36 Although Maududi’s views on Islamic history became more critical and discriminating in his later writings and showed keen awareness of the socioeconomic and political factors that had determined the policies of various Islamic regimes in the past, most other intellectuals of the Jamaat continued to view major religious developments in Islamic history as reflecting the relative degrees of piety and corruption of various rulers. Thus, the starting point and most important point in the process of Islamization in their view was the capturing of political power by men of piety. The state should be ruled by men of the superior virtue as enunciated by Islam; these virtuous men would then set an example for the rest of the people. General Zia thus represented and embodied the classic formulation of Islamic polity: a good and pious Muslim who was committed to the enforcement of the Shari’a in consultation with the ulama and the Jamaat-i-Islami. True to the medieval Muslim political tradition, no questions were asked about the mode of his coming into power or the methods he chose for Islamizing the society. Much of this formulation was not consistent with what Maududi had advocated in his writings on the Islamic state, but the Jamaat, under its new leadership, had its own pragmatic reasons to support Zia. Mian Tufail Mohamaad and the majority of the members of the Jamaat’s central ex­ecutive committee from Punjab went along with the decision to support Zia’s Islam­ization and his government wholeheartedly. The Karachi leadership of the Jamaat viewed the Jamaat’s collaboration with the military in instrumental rather than affec­tive terms; that is, without committing themselves to affirming or rejecting Zia’s claim of sincerity, they accepted his Islamic rhetoric at face value and tried to use it to promote Islamization. This was also the view of Professor Khurshid Ahmad, the Ja­maat leader who became a close confidant of Zia and played an important role in the introduction of Islamic economic reforms. These leaders maintained that the basic objective they wished to achieve through this collaboration was the introduction of certain important Islamic measures in education, law, and the economy, and the es­tablishment of a network of Islamic institutions within the state apparatus—measures for which, they claimed, there was already a broad consensus in the society. However, the negative motivation of “the Bhutto factor” was also an important consideration that aligned the Jamaat with the military. Both the Jamaat and the military shared the fear of the return of Bhutto until he was hanged in April 1979. They also feared the ghost of Bhutto after his hanging.


Thus the Jamaat joined the martial law government in August 1978, with four cabinet ministers holding the portfolios of information and broadcasting, water and power, national production (incorporating all public sector enterprises), and eco­nomic planning and development. Notwithstanding their initial enthusiasm, the ac­tual experience of the Jamaat cabinet ministers within the corridors of power proved to be highly disappointing.37 With the exception of Khurshid Ahmad, who spear­headed the academic and legislative battles for the introduction of the Zakat system and interest-free banking in his capacity as a minister for economic planning and development, the other three cabinet ministers of the Jamaat proved totally ineffective in the face of opposition by the entrenched bureaucrats and senior generals. Not a single policy initiative by the Jamaat ministers was allowed to pass through the bu­reaucratic hurdles.


While the Jamaat’s cabinet ministers remained ineffective in their own ministries and departments, their influence in the formulation of the Islamization policies of the military regime was not insignificant. The Jamaat succeeded, for example, in having criticized the government for slowing down on Islamization and for not holding elec­tions and lifting the martial law but refused to join the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD)—a coalition of opposition political parties—to oppose Zia directly.40 In the meantime, the Jamaat and Zia had found another common cause that further strengthened their relations: both were intensely committed to the jihad in Afghanistan against the country’s Marxist revolution and Soviet occupation.


The leadership of the Jamaat were painfully aware of the obvious contradictions in their policies of both opposing the martial law administration and supporting Gen­eral Zia. Mian Tufail Mohammad attempted to resolve this contradiction by contend­ing that while Zia was a “sincere Muslim,” the civil administration was responsible for frustrating his Islamic policies.41 There was thus an urgent need, Mian Tufail ar­gued, to support the Islamic thinking that Zia represented and to help him build a support base outside the military and civil service so that he could implement his Islamic reforms.


A large majority of the Jamaat workers, as well as its constituency, endorsed this strategy, which culminated in the party’s support for Zia to continue as president for five more years in a national referendum held in December 1985. The Jamaat had agreed to support President Zia, because in a meeting with Mian Tufail, the president had promised to make the Shari’a the supreme law of the land, to restore the 1973 Constitution, and to lift martial law without delay.42


Although the Jamaat-i-Islami had provided consistent support to Zia, and Mian Tufail Mohammad and Khurshid Ahmad had developed a good personal rapport with him, its relationship with the oligarchy of the military establishment and the higher civil service remained uneasy at best. After instituting his nominated Majlis-i-Shoora (Advisory Council) in 1984, Zia also became estranged from the Jamaat. There were many factors that contributed to the estrangement between the former allies. From the very beginning, the martial law government was ambivalent about the growing political power of the Jamaat’s students’ wing, the IJT. During 1977-82, the govern­ment seemed to have encouraged the IJT activities on campuses in order to counter the influence of the pro-Bhutto People’s Students Federation. During this period, the IJT enjoyed almost complete veto power in most of Pakistan’s twenty universities in matters of student’s admissions and faculty appointments and promotions.43 By 1982, however, things were seen by the ruling establishment in a different perspective. First, Bhutto had already been executed and the threat of a possible PPP-led, youth-dominated antigovernment agitation had passed, thanks to the IJT control over the campuses. Second, with the war in Afghanistan and the newly formed United States-Pakistan relations, the Zia regime no longer considered itself an isolated pariah junta; it had now gained self-confidence and had become confident in its staying power. Third, Zia had found new allies from among the nonpolitical ulama who were equally, if not more, qualified to confer Islamic legitimacy on his regime. He was thus no longer dependent on the Jamaat-i-Islami for Islamic support. Fourth, the growth of an independent, street-based political force such as the IJT with a nationwide orga­nizational network, even though it was supporting the regime at the time, was seen as a potential challenge to the authority of the military regime. Finally, Zia wanted to weaken the national political parties before the scheduled non-party national elections in order to encourage the victory of independent candidates who could constitute his support base in the new parliament.


Meanwhile, the Jamaat-i-Islami’s political strength was based largely on its stu­dents’ wing. Thus, when in February 1984, the government banned all student unions and organizations in the country, it was obvious that the main target of this martial law order was IJT, which had emerged as the strongest student organization in the student union polls held earlier in the year. The objective was to hit at the very base of the Jamaat’s political power. The IJT tried to defy the ban—apparently against the advice of its parent organization, which by that time had become too much involved in the Afghanistan war and had thus become subject to blackmail by the regime. There were clashes between the police and the IJT workers both on and off campus. More than two hundred IJT activists were expelled from colleges and universities.44 There were also reports of severe torture of the IJT workers while they were in police detention. The Jamaat-i-Islami, however, took a low-key position on the issue, and given the “broader understanding” with the regime, especially on the Jihad in Af­ghanistan, did not confront the regime. As expected, the ban on the activities of the IJT affected the performance of the Jamaat in the February 1985 elections. It was only able to win seven seats in the house of two hundred members.


Another major source of the Jamaat’s political influence and power was the city of Karachi, with its population of seven million and its considerable political clout. The Jamaat had earlier won, with a comfortable majority, the elections for the Karachi Municipal Corporation and had succeeded in having one of its members elected as the mayor. In 1986 Zia had the provincial government of Sind quash the elected government of the city and dislodge the Jamaat from the city administration in order to promote the ethnically based Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM). Earlier, the gov­ernment had disbanded several labor unions in the state-run enterprises where Jamaat’s labor wing, the National Labor Federation, had won elections. The ban on the activities of the Jamaat-led labor unions in the Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Interna­tional Airlines, and the Pakistan Steel Mills—the three largest employers in the public sector—was a great setback for the Jamaat’s political influence among the urban white-collar workers.


Given these developments, it is not surprising that the relationship between Zia and the Jamaat-i-Islami that began in 1977 with great expectations and enthusiasm ended in equally intense ill will and antipathy by the time Zia’s reign came to an end. The bitterness on the part of the Jamaat was caused not only because of what it considered Zia’s betrayal of its trust but also because for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the state had taken the Islamic initiative from the Jamaat’s hands. In June 1988, two months before Zia’s death in a plane crash, the new emir of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, vowed to launch a massive popular movement against the government and announced that his party had reached an understanding with Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party “for jointly tackling” the regime. As for Zia, who had earlier been described by Mian Tufail as a “sincere Muslim,” Qazi Hussain Ahmad had this to say: “A man who dissolves a government on charges of corruption and forms a new government with the same faces cannot be regarded as a true Muslim. . . This is sheer hypocrisy.”45

Jamaat-i-Islami in Politics: An Assessment

Looking at the history and activities of the Jamaat-i-Islami during the past four decades, one is struck by the overwhelming importance that the Jamaat gives to political struggle. From its demand for the introduction of an Islamic constitution to its struggle against Islamic modernism, secularism, socialism, and ethnic separatism, it has kept aloft the banner of the Islamic way of life through the primacy of political action. The political struggle of the Jamaat has been based on the assumption that Islamic change in society will occur only when political power is transferred into the hands of a party of God-conscious, Islamic activists, who by taking over the state, will establish the necessary conditions for reforming society. Thus, according to the Jamaat, society is reformed as a consequence of the change in the nature and direction of political power. The transformation of the Jamaat from a religious revivalist move­ment to a political party deeply involved in the national political process had impor­tant consequences for both the ideology and organization of the Jamaat. As a result of its active participation in political life, the Jamaat, like other political parties, had to make compromises and sometimes revise its positions on several issues to accom­modate political exigencies. It has over the years changed its views on such crucial issues as the Islamic character of the electoral process, the authority of the popularly elected parliament to legislate on Islamic religious doctrines and practices, restrictions on private property, and the Islamic legitimacy of a woman becoming the head of an Islamic government. In each case, the Jamaat leadership has used “reasons of politics” to explain its ideological shift and to justify the reinterpretation of a traditional Islamic doctrine.


One of the characteristics of “political religion” is that although it retains religion as the basis of legitimacy, its religious content tends to become increasingly instru­mental. The Jamaat-i-Islami, in its role as a religiopolitical movement of opposition, protest, and change, has been no exception. The prime example of this trend is a recent publication by a Jamaat leader in which the system of proportional represen­tation has been prescribed as an important norm of Islamic polity, obviously because proportional representation suits the Jamaat in the election process.


And unlike the ulama, the Jamaat-i-Islami, as a political party, has not used the mosques and madrasas as the main centers of its activities. Instead the centers of its activities have been the elected assemblies, trade unions, campuses, professional or­ganizations, publishing houses, seminars, conferences, think tanks, and survey re­search institutions. The use of these modern forums of political activities, and of physical and socio-organizational technologies has also tended to dilute the purely religious content of the Jamaat’s ideology over the years. One can argue, therefore, that the fundamentalist movements, by adopting political techniques, organizational technologies, and institutional forms (such as bureaucratic organizations, elections, political propaganda methods, etc.) from the very Western sources they purport to be repudiating, may inadvertently be acting as agents of change in their societies. They side the public sector, which dispensed free medical care to the poor neighborhoods in all the major cities of the country. It had also set up model Islamic schools and colleges in various cities where Islamic subjects were taught along with modern dis­ciplines. In 1972, Mr. Bhutto nationalized these schools and colleges along with other privately owned educational institutions. The emergency relief work of the Jamaat, however, has remained intact and has provided remarkably efficient assistance to the people during floods, earthquakes, and other crises.

The Worldview and the Ideology of the Jamaat

One of the most important contributions of Maududi in twentieth-century Islam has been his presentation of Islam as a system of life, a complete code of conduct that governs all aspects of human existence. Maududi insists that in order to be viable, Islam must be obeyed and implemented in its entirety. Since it is a system of life, the elements constituting Islam cannot be separated from one another. A person cannot be a true Muslim if he fulfills Islamic obligations in his personal life but neglects Islamic teachings in his political and economic behavior.47 Maududi writes: The final purpose of all the blessed Apostle of God was to set up the rule of God so that they could implement the entire system of life in the manner ordained by God. They were not prepared to allow the unbelievers to retain the keys of power. . . . That is why all prophets tried to bring about political revolutions.”48


The task of a Muslim, according to Maududi, is “to try to make the whole of Islam supreme over the whole of life.” It is not enough to give “an Islamic color to one or a few aspects of life. . . . The all-encompassing supremacy of Islam alone can give us an opportunity to fully enjoy the spiritual, moral, and material benefits that are the natural and inevitable results of working according to the guidance of the Lord.”49


The idea that Islam encompasses the whole spectrum of life and that there is no separation of religion and state in Islam is of course not original with Maududi. His real contribution was “to offer a set of clear and well-argued definitions of key Islamic concepts within a coherently conceived framework” and then build a systematic theory of Islamic society and the Islamic state on the basis of these concepts.50 Through a systematic treatment of such key Islamic terms as Allah, rab (lord), malik (master),’ibada (worship), deen (way of life), and shahdah (to bear witness), Maududi demonstrated a rational and logical interdependence of Islamic morality, law, and political theory.51 The key Qur’anic concept that Maududi has used to advance his idea of Islam as a complete system and a way of life is deen. Throughout his commen­tary on the Qur’an, Maududi keeps coming back to this holistic and primarily political meaning of the word deen. At one point, translating the word deen as “law,” Maududi writes: “This use of the word categorically refutes the view of those who believe that a prophet’s message is principally aimed at ensuring worship of the one God, adher­ence to a set of beliefs, and observance of a few rituals. This also refutes the views of those who think that deen has nothing to do with cultural, political, economic, legal, judicial, and other matters pertaining to this world.”52


Another key concept of the Qur’an which in fact constitutes the very raison d’etre of the Jamaat-i-Islami, is iqama-al-deen (establishment of the deen). It is this concept that provides the doctrinal and theological justification for the politico-ideological struggle of the Jamaat in Pakistan.53 But how to enforce al-deen? How to establish a society based on the Islamic principles of taqwa (God-consciousness), brotherhood, equality, fairness, and justice—in short, a society based on Shari’a? Maududi’s answer is that we cannot achieve the ultimate objectives of Islam unless we establish an Is­lamic state. An Islamic state does not come about by a miracle. Such a state or gov­ernment will only come about when there is a movement based on the ideology, worldview, and standards of morality and character of Islam. The movement should consist of leaders and workers who are ready to mold their entire lives in accordance with the standards set by Islam. Then they should preach these ideas and virtues to the larger society and establish a new system of education and training which is capable of preparing a whole new generation along Islamic lines. This system of edu­cation would produce Muslim administrators, Muslim managers, Muslim scientists, Muslim philosophers, Muslim economists, Muslim bankers and jurists—in short, people who are experts in all areas of human activity and are also true and practicing Muslims. This Muslim intelligentsia will act as the vanguard of the movement for the reconstruction of modern thought, and will formulate a “complete blueprint of prac­tical solutions” for contemporary socioeconomic problems in accordance with Islamic principles. These Muslim intellectuals would also establish their “intellectual leader­ship and superiority” over the God-denying ideologies and leaders of the world.


With this intellectual apparatus, the movement would then engage in a struggle against the prevailing secular ideologies and power structures. During the struggle, the leaders and workers of the Islamic movement would face intense opposition from the existing power structures and would suffer numerous hardships. They should re­main steadfast, loyal, and sincere in their commitment to their goal of establishing an Islamic government and should give a practical example of the Islamic way of life through their words and deeds. It is only through their exemplary behavior that the “good-natured elements” of society will be attracted to them. With their sheer moral force and dedicated work, the Islamic workers would be able to bring about a “revo­lutionary change” in the “mental makeup” of the people at large and the society would then “feel a need for Islamic government.” When the majority of the people have thus developed a “longing” for an Islamic government, the prevailing system of govern­ment would find it impossible to sustain itself.54


Maududi describes this process as “natural, evolutionary, and peaceful.” An Islamic revolution can be successfully launched only when a sociopolitical movement based on Qur’anic principles and the prophetic model is first able to change the entire intel­lectual, moral, psychological, and cultural bases of social life.55 Thus, while Maududi’s goals are revolutionary, his methods to achieve these goals are evolutionary. His fre­quent use of the term “revolution” for total Islamic change should not be confused with the methods and processes of change associated with some violence-prone revo­lutionary movements of modern times. In fact, Maududi was at times critical of the revolutionary techniques that engender hatred and use violence.56


The main mission of the Islamic state is, in the words of the Qur’an, “to command what is amicable and forbid what is indecent” (3:110). Such a state uses all its re­sources to ensure that the intent of the Shari’a is fulfilled and conditions are created to promote Islamic principles of economic justice, social harmony, and political equality. An Islamic state would, therefore, not be merely a law-and-order and reve­nue-collecting agency; it would be an interventionist state in the fullest sense of the word. Its overarching moral mission would make it incumbent that it regulate and oversee all aspects of its citizens’ lives.


Although Maududi’s concept of an Islamic state remained all-encompassing in that the state governed all aspects of life, he also emphasized that the methods of gover­nance of the state should not be authoritarian. First, the heads of the state and the government would be elected for a fixed term through free elections based on the universal adult franchise. Similarly, members of the shoora (parliament) would also be elected by the people. Second, the Islamic state would be based on the principle of the distribution of power, that is, with distinct jurisdictions of the three wings of the state: executive, judiciary, and legislature. The Islamic state would ensure the func­tioning of an independent judiciary and no one, including the head of state, would be above the law. Hence, Maududi insists repeatedly that the Islamic state is not a theocratic state, since it does not recognize the right of any religious person or group to rule in the name of God. Maududi describes the Islamic state as a “nomocracy” (government of the law) and at one place as “theodemocracy,” a government ap­pointed and elected by the free will of the people but conforming in its policies to the Islamic principles as contained in the Qur’an and Sunna.


In his earlier formulations, Maududi had given more powers to the executive branch of the government than to the elected parliament. In his later writings, how­ever, Maududi’s definition of the governmental structure of an Islamic state was no different from a Westminister-type parliamentary democracy: universal adult fran­chise, periodic elections, guaranteed human rights and civil liberties, an independent judiciary and the rule of law, and multiple political parties. Maududi also became more concerned with problems of procedural justice, which could partly be explained by his own experience of periodic jail terms, “preventive detention,” and censoring of his writings and speeches by various regimes in Pakistan. The experience of his ideo­logical counterparts—the Muslim Brotherhood—in the Middle East also inspired his aim of building a “sound and unadulterated democratic system.”

Economic Policies and Programs of the jannat

The Jamaat-i-Islami resents its characterization as a right-wing movement. According to the Jamaat, the term “rightist” is used for supporters of capitalism and feudalism and for those who wish to retain and defend the status quo. The Jamaat describes itself as a party of “the middle road,” which is equally opposed to the excesses of both Western capitalism and Soviet Marxism. Islam, according to Maududi, envisages a free economy in which individual initiative and economic freedom of the people are safeguarded by recognizing their right to private property. Also, by making a clear distinction between halal (permissible) and haram (forbidden) methods of earning and spending, Islam restrains people from earning money in prohibited ways. Islam also ensures that wealth does not concentrate in only a few hands, and that it circulates and reaches the weaker sections of society. The Jamaat, in its election manifesto of 1970, promised to abolish all kinds of monopolies of the means of production so that permanent privileged classes may not come into being.57 The Jamaat emphasizes equality of opportunity as a basic principle of its economic philosophy and maintains that those who excel in entrepreneurship must be rewarded and should be allowed to pursue their economic goals and make as much progress as they wish, provided they do so through lawful means.


As for the class distinctions and social imbalances in society, the proper solution, according to the Jamaat, does not lie in the nationalization of the means of production or similar methods of state controls and regulations but in the implementation of such Islamic economic injunctions as the introduction of zakat and the abolition of riba (interest). According to the Jamaat, the natural classes created by God are present in every society, but their constituent groups keep moving from one class to another in a natural process. However, if class distinctions have been created and perpetuated as a result of monopolies, unjust laws, and corrupt state apparatus, then the distinc­tions must be removed through state policies in order to ensure free and unhindered social and economic mobility. In addition, Islam guarantees that there is no hostility between the well-to-do classes and the weaker classes produced by the laws of nature and that the well-to-do classes help the weaker sections to stand on their own feet. The institutional mechanism through which Islam achieves this is the zakat, which obligates the faithful to share their wealth with the poorer sections of the community. The Jamaat also believes that it is the duty of an Islamic state to provide its citizens with the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, dwelling, education, and medical aid.58


Initially the Jamaat-i-Islami did not approve of any restrictions on private prop­erty, either industrial or agricultural. Only in the late 1960s did the Jamaat show a new concern for issues of socioeconomic justice and endorse a ceiling on maximum land holdings. This was obviously in response to Mr. Bhutto’s vigorous campaign on a similar platform and his characterization of the Jamaat as a reactionary party that served the interests of landlords and industrialists. In response to Mr. Bhutto’s elec­tion platform and to the perceived socialist threat, the Jamaat came out with a socio-economic program that was quite revolutionary as compared with its earlier position.

Organizational Structure and Support Base

The Jamaat-i-Islami is headed by an emir (president), who is elected for five years by its members. He is assisted and counseled by a Majlis-i-Shoora (Consultative council), which is also elected by the members. All provincial, divisional, district, and local heads of the Jamaat are similarly elected. In its internal structure, therefore, the Jamaat is among the most democratic political organizations in Pakistan.


One of the most important aspects of the Jamaat-i-Islami’s organizational structure has been its three-level hierarchy of membership. Full membership (rukn) is restricted to an elect few who have fully submitted themselves to the discipline of the Jamaat. On 30 June 1989, there were 6,044 such members of the Jamaat in Pakistan.59 Full membership is awarded only after a lengthy indoctrination and a vigorous training program, during which an individual must prove to the Jamaat authorities that he has adequately internalized the ideas of Maulana Maududi, has gained sufficient knowl­edge of Islamic doctrines and practices as interpreted by Maududi, and has under­gone, as it were, a conversion experience. The emphasis on exclusiveness means that members can be expelled for contravening doctrinal, moral, or organizational norms. Exclusivity of membership privileges also means that the Jamaat conceives itself as an elect group, possessing special insights into the real meaning and purpose of Islam which the traditional ulama have missed.


The second tier in the hierarchy is workers (karkun) or associate members. These people, who aspire to become full members of the organization some day, constitute the backbone of the Jamaat. The workers do not vote in the elections of the emirs or members of the Consultative Council but they have considerable input in the day-to­day working of the Jamaat at local levels. In 1989, there were 16,364 workers in the Jamaat in Pakistan.60 The third tier consists of supporters (muttafiq) who form the majority in the Jamaat. These are the people who agree with the ideology and pro­gram of the Jamaat, support the Jamaat in elections and other activities, and contrib­ute funds, but are not yet ready to subject themselves to the strict discipline of the Jamaat’s organization. There were 389,000 registered supporters of the Jamaat in Pakistan in 1989.61 It is estimated that there are about 150,000 to 200,000 people who agree with the Jamaat’s program and occasionally participate in its activities but have not signed the supporters’ pledge for various reasons.


The Jamaat-i-Islami justifies selectiveness in its full membership by maintaining that it is not a political party in the usual sense of the word; it is rather an ideological movement and as such must insist on the ideological purity and organizational loyalty of its members. It wants the participation only of those who are ideologically com­mitted and are ready to devote themselves to its program of action. Its membership must therefore consist of an ideological cadre that is capable of providing intellectual, moral, religious, and political leadership to the Jamaat’s associates and supporters, on the one hand, and to society at large, on the other. There have been several attempts from within the Jamaat to relax the requirements for full membership in order to broaden the support base of the organization, but the Jamaat’s puritans have always resisted any change in the exclusive character of its membership. Critics have argued that this restrictive system of membership has been a major factor in the Jamaat’s failure to win electoral support in proportion to its organizational strength and po­litical influence. The leaders insist, however, that the present system of membership has ensured an unusually high level of commitment and a deep sense of brotherhood among the Jamaat members. These qualities can only be retained if membership is based on strict screening.


There has been a steady growth in the number of the Jamaat’s local chapters and organizational units consisting of associate members. The most spectacular growth has been in the number of the reading rooms and libraries organized by the Jamaat throughout the country: their number rose from 586 in 1978 to 2,269 in 1983 and 3,801 in 1989. Like the Christian Science Reading Rooms in the United States, the Jamaat-i-Islami-sponsored reading rooms and libraries only carry a select number of approved books, mostly written by the founder of the Jamaat. Another area of notice-able growth has been the women’s membership, which has doubled since 1983. In this regard, the contribution of the Islami Jamiat-i-Talabat, the female student wing of the Jamaat, has been quite significant since the early 1980s.


jamaat members of various categories and organizational units, 1978-89

  1978  1983  1989 
Full members  3,497  4,430  6,044 
Workers  10,800  12,426  16,364 
Supporters  376,289  —  389,000 
Local Chapters  441  529  619 
Circles of associates  1,177  2,858  3,095 
Women’s units  215  317  554 
Reading rooms & libraries  586  2,269  3,801 
Women members  —  160  321 

Sources: Weekly Takbeer (Karachi), 23 November 1989, p. 22, for 1983 and 1989 data as reported by the secretary general of the Jamaat in his report presented at the November 1989 conference in Lahore; and Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan: An Introduction (Lahore: Jamaat-i-Islami, 1978) for 1978 data.


It should also be noted here that the Jamaat has a considerable following in the civil service and the military, but because of government restrictions, it does not reg­ister its supporters from the bureaucracy and the armed forces in its records. However, some civilian employees of the government have been organized in professional or­ganizations that have links with the Jamaat. Thus, the Jamaat-i-Islami-sponsored trade unions, labor and student organizations; professional associations of doctors, engi­neers, teachers, accountants, journalists, and writers have their own separate member­ship, which is not included in the records of the parent organization.


Among the Jamaat-sponsored organizations, the most important is the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT), its student wing. Much of the political strength of the Jamaat-i-Islami, especially its ability to mobilize the masses to confront the government, de­pends on die IJT. Since the 1960s, the IJT has been the most effectively organized arm of the Jamaat and has served as an assured and fertile base for the recruitment, socialization, and training of new members and supporters for the parent organiza­tion. Some prominent leaders of the Jamaat today are former IJT workers.


Through the efforts of the IJT the Jamaat has been able to successfully penetrate and control the educational institutions of the country and organize the urban youth, who constitute one of its most important constituencies, under the umbrella of Is­lamic ideology. The IJT has also helped the Jamaat to impose ideological censorship on educational institutions, neutralize the influence of secular, left-wing, and liberal-minded teachers, and intimidate political opponents. It has also helped the Jamaat to launch agitational movements, whose tactics included forced closing of educational institutions, street processions, violent protests, demonstrations, and strikes. In short the IJT has helped the Jamaat build an image of an invincible political force in the country.


The IJT was established as a separate organization on 23 December 1947 in La­hore by a group of 25 students sympathetic to the Jamaat-i-Islami.62 The constitution adopted by the IJT was a carbon copy of the constitution of the Jamaat. It even retained the three-tiered membership structure from the Jamaat. Since then, the IJT has developed into the largest, best-organized, and most successful student movement not only in Pakistan but in the entire Muslim world. It has offices and branches in almost all cities and towns of the country. Like its parent organization, the IJT re­stricts the privilege of full membership to a select few. In 1987, it had 550 full mem­bers, 2,000 associate members, and close to 240,000 sympathizers and supporters.63 Its organizational reach is even more extensive than that of its parent organization. It has more than 620 branches, which are called local chapters, and units throughout the country. In addition, campus units, of which there are estimated to be about 600, are organized separately.64 In Karachi alone, the IJT has 30 residential units, 35 col­lege units, 40 school units, and 5 madrasa units—a total of 110 organizational units. It operates more than 1,400 libraries and reading rooms in the country and conducts tuition-free coaching classes for students in all major cities.65 This enormous organi­zational power has ensured the IJT its success in student union elections in colleges and universities throughout the country over the past two decades. No mass-based political agitation can be successfully launched in the urban centers without the par­ticipation of the IJT. During his five-year rule, neither Prime Minister Bhutto nor any of his cabinet ministers could visit any major campus in the country because of the IJT’s complete control over the educational institutions.


The IJT also tried to penetrate the madrasas in the 1960s but could not make any headway in view of strong opposition from the ulama. The Jamaat later decided to organize a separate association of the madrasa students, Jamiat Talaba-i-Arabiya (So­ciety of Arabic students), which played an active role in the anti-Ahmadiya agitatiion of 1974, the anti-Bhutto movement of 1977, and later in the Afghan jihad. Since the mid-1970s, the Jamaat has devoted its attention and resources to establishing its own madrasas in order to establish a permanent foothold in the traditional religious sector. The number of Jamaat-sponsored madrasas has increased considerably since 1980, when the Jamaat embarked upon a massive program of establishing religious educa­tional institutions for the 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. At present, the number of Jamaat-administered madrasas, mostly located in the NWFP and Baluchi­stan, is estimated to be 820.


Like most of its counterparts in other Muslim countries, the Jamaat-i-Islami is not a party of ulama. An overwhelming majority of the Jamaat leaders and members are educated laymen and are not trained as religious clergy. The number of ulama (those with formal training from a traditional madrasa) has always been very small in the Jamaat. Maududi was a self-taught scholar of Islam with no formal madrasa educa­tion; accordingly, many of the ulama refuse to acknowledge Maududi’s views on reli­gious issues as authentic.66 His successors, Mian Tufail Mohammad and Qazi Hussain Ahmad, attended modern secular schools and obtained graduate degrees in science. Mian Tufail joined the Jamaat as a full-time worker immediatedly after his graduation, while Qazi Hussain Ahmad became a successful businessman in the pharmaceutical industry before becoming first secretary general and later emir of the Jamaat. Mian Tufail was elected emir on the basis of his life-long service to the Jamaat and his loyalty to Maududi. Qazi Hussain Ahmad impressed the members of the Jamaat with his political skills and his ability to motivate the Jamaat workers at a time when the am­bivalence of the Jamaat toward Zia’s regime had created considerable confusion among the rank and file of the party.


The majority of those who are in leadership positions in the Jamaat come either from the modern professions or from the business sector. A 1975 survey of the lead­ership of the Jamaat at the district and provincial levels and in the central consultative committee found that, besides those who were full-time workers, the majority of the Jamaat leaders (52 percent) were independent businessmen, mostly in small-scale manufacturing or in the retail trade. Professionals (lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.) accounted for 28 percent, and educators 12 percent. The remaining 8 percent were ulama, landlords, and traditional medical practitioners.67 In the 1983 survey, the num­ber of professionals with degrees from modern secular schools rose to 32 percent, and the number of independent businessmen rose to 57 percent.68 A similar pattern can be seen in the candidates of the Jamat-i-Islarni in national elections. Of the 106 can­didates the Jamaat-i-Islami nominated for the national and provincial assemblies during the 1970 elections, 37 percent were independent businessmen, 25 percent professionals, 10 percent full-time Jamaat workers, 8 percent landlords, 7 percent ulama, 5 percent educators, 4 percent student leaders, 3 percent pin (those associated with religious shrines), and 1 percent retired army officers. During the 1985 nonparty elections, the share of independent businessmen and professionals among the Jamaat’s candidates rose to 44 percent and 31 percent, respectively, while the number of ulama and pirs decreased to 4 percent.69


Since the death of Maulana Abdul Aziz, Maulana Moinuddin, and other widely acclaimed traditional Islamic scholars, the leadership of the Jamaat-i-Islami has been placed almost entirely in the hands of modern educated laymen, none of whom is known as a scholar of traditional Islamic sciences. Table 8.2 gives the educational and occupational background of the top fifteen leaders of the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan today.


Another important change that has taken place in the leadership structure of the Jamaat since the 1970s is that both the intellectual and political leadership of the Jamaat and the IJT has passed from the Urdu-speaking refugees to the “sons of the soil.” Thus the locus of power and influence within the Jamaat has shifted from Ka­rachi to Lahore.


The degree of integration and harmony between the leadership, on the one hand, and the general body of members, associate members, and supporters, on the other, is unique to the Jamaat. Unlike other political organizations, the Jamaat has never had a serious problem of dissent. As guardians of a moral community that is dedicated to the task of building an ideal social order, the leaders of the Jamaat have never had their legitimacy questioned. Hence, both “exit” (quitting the organization) and “voice” (expressing dissatisfaction), in Hirchman’s sense, have been rare. To be sure, the ideology of the Jamaat plays an important part in ensuring the total commitment and loyalty of the members. Ata’t-i-Nazm (obedience to the leadership of the Jamaat) is cultivated as a religious virtue and sustained through a concrete set of organiza­tional norms and arrangements. It is a testimony to the high level of commitment to, and confidence in, the leadership that a single call of the emir mobilizes the whole Jamaat and its affiliated organizations for whatever Islamic cause is at stake.



educational and occupational background of the jamaat-i-Islami leaders, 1990

Name  Position in the Jamaat  Education  Occupation 
Qazi Hussain  Emir (president)  M.S., University of  Businessman 
Ahmad    Peshawar   
Khurshid Ahmad  Vice-president  M.A. (economics)  Former university 
    Leicester (U.K.)  professor 
Ahdul Ghafoor  Vice-president  M.A. (commerce)  Former college pro- 
Ahmad    University of  fessor; Corporate 
    Allahabad  Consultant 
Khurram Murad  Vice-president  M.S. (civil  Consulting Engineer 
    University of   
Jan Mohammad  Vice-president  Madrasa graduate  Former teacher in a 
Abbasi      Madrasa 
Rahmatllahi  Vice-president  M.A. (political  Former government 
    science)  employee 
    Karachi University   
Aslam Saleemi  Secretary-general  LL.B.  Former attorney 
    Punjab University   
Hafiz Mohammad  Assistant secretary-  M.A. (humanities)  Full-time Jamaat 
Idris  general  Punjab University  worker 
Liaqat Baluch  Assistant secretary-  M.A. (journalism)  Businessman 
  general  Punjab University   
Patch Mohammad  Emir, Punjab  M.A. (humanities)  Former college 
  Province  Punjab University  professor 
Munawar Hasan  Emir, Karachi  M.A. (sociology)  Research 
  Jamaat  Karachi University   
Asad Gilani  Emir, Lahore Jamaat  M.A. (humanities)  Writer, journalist 
    Karachi University   
Mahmud Azam  Member, executive  M.A. (finance)  Corporate executive, 
Faruqi  committee  Karachi University  publisher 
Naecm Siddiqui  Member, executive    Writer, journalist 
Fazel liahi Qurashi  Secretary, Baluchi-  M.S. (food  Food technology 
  stan Jamaat  technology)   
    Sind University   



Although the religious experience of conversion of die first generation of leaders is considered unique and has acquired the mystique of folklore in the Jamaat, the second generation of leaders is also endowed with its own legends of heroic struggles for Islam and democratic political change in the country. Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Seyyed Munawar Hasan represent the new generation of leadership. While most of the Jamaat leaders of the first generation had their conversion experience in their adult lives, the majority of the current leaders became committed to their Islamic mission while they were still teenagers.

The Social Bases of jamaat’s Support

The question of the social bases of support of the Jamaat-i-Islami has not been ade­quately addressed in the literature. Professor Leonard Binder, in his 1964 collection The Ideological Revolution in the Middle East, briefly addressed this question and pro­vided interesting insights into the class base of the leaders and the followers of con­temporary Islamic fundamentalist movements in Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, and Iran. He found that Jamaat-i-Islami members were drawn from the lower middle class and that its supporters were students and bazaar merchants.70 Although he offered impor­tant suggestions concerning the sociopsychological characteristics of the “small core of adherents” of the fundamentalist movements, he warned against drawing the con­clusion that “all persons filling the description will join a fundamentalist group.”71 With this proviso, I will attempt to identify the social, religious, educational, and occupational backgrounds of the social groups which provide the nucleus of the Ja­maat-i-Islami Pakistan.


It is not the lower classes—the landless peasants, the urban proletariat, the up­rooted migrants from the rural areas struggling for two square meals in the slums of the big urban centers—who join the religious revivalist movement such as the Jamaat-i-Islami; rather it is the lower sections of the new middle classes and traditional petty bourgeoisie who form the backbone of such movements. The latter groups are psy­chologically alienated, socially declining, relatively well-off economically, but insecure and politically ineffective. They are reacting against social deprivation at the hands of the upper social classes and government bureaucrats, on the one hand, and against the increasing militancy of the lower classes, on the other. This amalgamation provides the main strength of the urban and small town-based semi revolutionary struggle for an ideal Islamic social order based on justice and equity. The countryside remains almost completely indifferent toward this movement; whatever support for Islami Nizam comes from the rural sector is essentially from the better-off, middle-range landowners, and to some extent from former servicemen. The landless peasants and big landlords, in both rural Sind and rural Punjab, remain totally unconcerned about Islamic revivalism.


The lower-middle strata, both traditional and modern, are thus the main loci of the social unrest which acts as a propellent for the revivalist upsurge. While demand­ing the revival of traditional Islamic moral-social institutions, they are primarily pro­testing the processes of enslavement by big business and oppressive bureaucratic structures. One must, however, note an important ideological and policy ambivalence here; that is, they are against neither capitalism nor the state per sc. In line with the socioeconomic program of the Jamaat-i-Islami, they seek reform, improvement, and “purification” of institutions in order to facilitate their own entry into them.

It may, however, be argued that the overall material conditions of the traditional petty bourgeoisie and the lower echelons of the new middle class (schoolteachers, clerks, lower-level professionals) have improved considerably since the 1960s. Op­portunities for overseas employment as unskilled or semi-skilled laborers have further improved the economic conditions of these strata in recent years. What matters most to these groups, however, is their sense of political impotency. It was only during the Ayub Khan period when, through the system of Basic Democracy, a section of this stratum was provided with an opportunity to participate in local-level politics, particularly in small towns. The Bhutto period was both economically and politi­cally a period of disenfranchisement for this stratum. Bhutto’s policies favored the upper classes and his rhetoric supported the lower classes, the urban proletariat and the rural peasants. In a way, the intermediate strata were in fact sidetracked into a marginal position. Even in the traditional social stratification pattern, the petty bourgeoisie never had an autonomous power base and were usually uncomfortably situated in the social hierarchy dominated by landlords, courtiers, and state function­aries. In the emerging modern social stratification system, their political powerless-ness, social isolation, status inconsistency, and economic struggle against big business, big government, and relatively well organized and articulate labor has become more pronounced. For the last thirty years, as governmental policies favored the big indus­trial and commercial bourgeoisie on the one hand, and the opposition’s rhetoric championed the cause of the underprivileged and downtrodden urban proletariat and rural peasants on the other, the problems and dilemmas of the petty bourgeoisie’s class and status situations never figured prominently in the policies and manifestos of any political party.


The Bhutto period, during which the material and ideal interests of the traditional petty bourgeoisie merged with the ideology of the Jamaat-i-Islami, was especially disturbing for the petty bourgeoisie. Distributive trade was completely politicized. The sale of essential commodities was licensed to the People’s Party workers. Another major economic blow to the petty bourgeoisie was the nationalization of small-scale rice husking, cotton ginning, and flour mills. Moreover, the credit facilities of the nationalized banking sector were directed to the import-export business, agriculture, and state enterprises rather than to the small-scale sector.72 By monopolizing the pro­duction and distribution sectors and by appropriating a major portion of institutional credit resources, big business threatened the very existence of the petty bourgeoisie. Similarly, the trade unions tended to encroach upon their meager and insecure profits, and the local and national bureacracies appropriated a considerable proportion of their profits in the form of taxes and bribes (in exchange for their minor violations of business laws).


For these reasons the lower-middle strata of society constitutes the backbone of Islamic fundamentalist-conservative politics in Pakistan. This is manifest in their membership in the Jamaat-i-Islami and other religious political parties, their voting behavior, involvement in community religious activities, financial support of mosques and madrasas, and participation in religiopolitical rallies and meetings. Finding them­selves unable to compete technologically or organizationally with the modern, bureaucratized business and industrial sectors and fearing the radicalized lower classes of the society, they seek protection under an umbrella ideology of Islamic fundamen­talism, whose economic program tends to maintain a balance between ruthlessly com­petitive capitalism and property-destroying socialism.


In addition to the traditional petty bourgeoisie, the students, the majority of whom are drawn from lower-middle-class backgrounds, and the mass of elementary, middle, and secondary schoolteachers, clerks, and paraprofessionals in the govern­ment and private sectors, are another significant assortment of groups which are at­tracted to the fundamentalist movement in Pakistan.


It is not uncommon in Pakistan, with its chronic problem of unemployment at all levels, for people to continue acquiring higher degrees in order to be able to compete successfully with others in the job market. The proliferation of degrees, mostly in general studies and humanities, has created a situation in which people with B.A.’s and M.A.’s and law degrees are doing jobs which require only simple mathematics and a minimum level of reading and writing capability. This group of people, mainly from the town-based or urban lower-middle classes, whose sole purpose in acquiring degrees was to enter into the most prized positions in the civil service or to seek admission into professional schools, ultimately are forced to settle down in the lower level clerical jobs in the government or private business or to become schoolteachers. Ironically, the government’s response to the situation—opening new colleges and universities and liberalizing admission criteria to ease the pressure, at least tempo­rarily, from the job market—serves only to encourage students to acquire more de­grees. Yet a growing number of young graduates are poorly trained for the available jobs and are unable to get satisfying employment. This situation is also typical for students in small towns and medium-sized cities. The level of frustration and the feeling in these people of having been let down by the system is tremendous.


In many cases, young men from the lower echelons of the middle strata were unable to compete because of a lack of proficiency in the English language, a lack of proper social etiquette or demeanor associated with the Westernized upper middle classes, and above all, a lack of adequate social and political connections. In seeking to extend to lower-middle-class youth opportunities for upward social mobility which so far have been generally limited to the upper-middle-class urban population, fun­damentalist social ideology offers a normative solution to this phenomenon of status frustration born of structural contradictions. Rather than demolish the existing system of social rewards, the fundamentalist program seeks to make the system more open, honest, and fair. Thus, the relationship between fundamentalist Islam and the domi­nant semi-capitalist structures of society is not necessarily antagonistic; the principal conflict between them is focused on the proper mode of entry into the dominant structures and their relative openness. Whatever conflict appears to exist can be viewed as a result of the mutual perceptions of the actors involved—a false conscious­ness—rather than as originating at the level of structural relationships.


A section of the new middle classes consisting mainly of post-partition refugees from northern India constitutes another important support base for the fundamen­talists. The majority of the theoreticians and intellectuals of the Jamaat-i-Islami (and of the Tablighi Jamaat) come from this class. Their major concentration is found in urban Sind, especially in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, and Nawabshah—the cities which consistently voted for the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamiyat Ulama-e-Pakistan until the middle of 1980s, when the Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM), a political party representing the interests of the Urdu-speaking refugees, emerged as an impor­tant rival to the Jamaat. In Karachi, considered the media center of Pakistan, the refugee intelligentsia have exercised a complete hold over such professions as journal­ism, radio and television broadcasting, publishing, education, business management, the scientific and technical professions, and until recently, federal, provincial, and local government jobs.


Their receptive affinity with the religious and political ideology of the Jamaat-i-Islami is integrally related not only to the question of the preservation of north Indian Muslim culture, including the Urdu language, but also to their very survival in the wake of increasingly assertive ethnic-regional identities and distinctions between the “sons of the soil” and the “outsiders.” As refugees from pre-partition India who left their ancestors’ homes for the sake of Pakistan and adopted this new country as their new home, they view an Islamic Pakistan as the only raison d’etre for their continued survival and the only justification for their being there in the first place. To them, a secular Pakistan would be indistinguishable from the India they consciously rejected when they migrated to Pakistan. A Pakistan which is characterized as consisting of distinct regional subcultures with distinct ethnic nationalities—as some ethnically ori­ented political groups in Pakistan characterize it—would be a Pakistan of Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluch, and Pathans with no place for the refugees. Hence, during the first three decades of independent Pakistan, they continued to support the Jamaat-i-Islami, whose political program showed concern for a strong central government, rejection of the idea of regional autonomy—both political and cultural—and identification of Pakistan with Islam and the Urdu language.


Unlike other, rural-based and feudal class-dominated political parties, the Jamaat-i-Islami had no regional exclusiveness. Led primarily by Urdu-speaking people from the middle and lower classes, it was already predisposed to the ideological and mate­rial concerns of the refugee population. It is no wonder, then, that the middle-class refugee constituencies in Karachi have consistently returned the Jamaat-i-Islami can­didates to the national parliament since the 1970s. The loss of this constituency to the MQM was a great setback for the Jamaat in the Zia era.


This analysis of the relationship between the socioeconomic conditions of certain social classes and the ideology of Islamic neofundamentalism as articulated by the Jamaat-i-Islami is not, however, meant to suggest that the ideology by itself had no independent influence on the people and events. The point emphasized above is that ideas are not impersonal agents; they work through specific social classes. One can argue that it is through the mediatory role of the Islamic neofundamentalist ideology that the social experiences of certain individuals and groups within the contemporary social structure of Pakistani society come to be articulated in political action. How­ever, Islamic neofundamentalism not only provided a coherent ideology which articu­lated their life experiences and gave them a vision of an alternative social order based on the Islamic principles of justice, equality, and brotherhood, but it also created a pool of highly dedicated workers, publicists, and leaders to realize this vision in a moral community of the Jamaat-i-Islami.

The Jamaat-i-Islami as a  Reformist Movement

Some observers who consider fundamentalism synonymous with radicalism have branded the Jamaat-i-Islami a “radical” or “militant” movement. The Jamaat-i-Islami, however, is a reformist party which has used constitutional and legal methods to achieve its Islamic goals. Despite some degree of militancy in its rhetoric, it has been accommodationist in its ideological orientation and evolutionist in its methodology of change. It does not approve of the violent methods adopted by some of its ideo­logical kin in the Middle East and advocates a policy of peaceful transition from the existing state to an Islamic one. According to Khurshid Ahmad, a prominent theore­tician of the Jamaat, Islamically oriented social change does not involve any “friction and disequilibria”: it is a “planned and co-ordinated movement from one state of equilibrium to a higher one, or from a state of disequilibrium towards equilibrium.” As such, he believes, the Islamic movement will work for a change that is “balanced and gradual and evolutionary.”73


Maududi eschewed violence and was a great believer in the ultimate triumph of Islamic forces through democratic elections. He denounced the violence that had crept into the politics of Pakistan and disapproved of the militant and violent tactics of the IJT during the Islam vs. Socialism strife of the late 1960s. He hoped that if the Islamic movement continued to educate people and strive patiently, it would one day succeed in bringing righteous men to power.74 Change of political leadership through agitational politics, coups d’etat, and assassinations is in this view not only unjustifi­able in Islamic terms but also detrimental to the prospects for a permanent and lasting Islamic change. Maududi emphasized that both the ends and the means must be “clean and commendable” in order that a healthy, peaceful, and harmonious Islamic order can take shape.75


This “soft” approach of the Jamaat-i-Islami toward the Islamization of society and the state can also be explained with reference to Pakistan’s political culture. Although Pakistan has experienced periodic military coups and prolonged martial law, the nor­mative appeal of the British legacy of constitutional democracy and the rule of law, including an independent judiciary, political parties, and a free press, has not dimin­ished. The Jamaat-i-Islami not only operates in the context of a political culture that considers democracy its ideal but also accepts this ideal as Islamic. Even during the military regimes, political parties of all persuasions continued to operate, albeit under some restrictions, and take advantage of the freedoms available to them under the constitution. Thus, when the Jamaat-i-Islami was banned by Ayub Khan in 1964, the Supreme Court of Pakistan came to the party’s rescue and declared the government’s action to be illegal. Although different Pakistani regimes have been against both the right- and left-wing radical groups, they have never been as repressive and vindictive as were the regimes of the shah in Iran and of Nasser in Egypt. One can argue that it is usually the repressive policies of governments and the total absence of freedom to pursue normal political activities that tend to drive religious and other political groups to radicalism and violent methods of change.

Moreover, unlike the Takfir wal-Hijrah group of Egypt and the Saudi dissidents who seized control of the Kaaba in 1979, the Pakistani Islamic movement does not exist on the fringe; rather, it is very much in the mainstream of Islamic religious thought and hence does not suffer from the rejection complex which often drives minority-based, sect-like peripheral movements to adopt violent means.

Finally, the social-class base of the Jamaat inhibits radical tendencies. The rank and file consist of sections of the new middle classes and the traditional petty bourgeoisie. Both of these classes take reformist and nonradical approaches to the solution of their problems and want to work through the system and not against it.76

Jamaat-i-Islami Bangladesh

Although the Jamaat-i-Islami received only 6 percent of the total vote in the 1970 elections in East Pakistan, it was fighting against an unprecedented popular movement for regional autonomy led by the Awami League party of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. During the 1971 civil war, the Jamaat was the only political parry in East Pakistan that openly collaborated with the central government and, with arms and weapons supplied by the Pakistan army, organized the Al-Badr paramilitary unit to fight for a united Pakistan. Al-Badr, which consisted mainly of the Jamaat’s student wing, Islami Chatro Shango (Bengali for the IJT), fought pitched battles against the secessionist Mukti Bahini guerrillas and the invading Indian troops. Hundreds of Jamaat workers died for Islamic Pakistan, fighting against their co-ethnics in what was soon to become the independent state of Bangladesh.


Because of the close collaboration with the central government of Pakistan, the Jamaat-i-Islami and its supporters were branded as traitors by the ruling Awami League party after Bangladesh became independent. Many of the Jamaat leaders and activists were taken as prisoners of war by the Indian troops and were sent to various prisoners’ camps in India. Some had to escape to Pakistan—through Burma or In­dia—in order to avoid being captured by the Mukti Bahini. Many of them went underground.


Against this background the revival and increasing popularity of the Jamaat-i-Islami in post-independence Bangladesh can be considered a remarkable accomplish­ment. Since the Jamaat was declared an illegal organization in Bangladesh because of its pro-Pakistan leanings and could not operate under its own name, it worked out another strategy to stage a comeback. It began organizing local-level Islamic youth circles, mosque councils, and religiously based cultural, social welfare and educational associations immediately after the emergence of the new nation. By the end of 1972, the Jamaat was able to set up 120 such local-level units, which held regular weekly meetings and provided institutional resources to the Jamaat workers. The main aim of its activities at this phase was to regroup its scattered forces, to relink Bengali Muslims with their Islamic heritage, and to educate the people against the secular nationalism which had been incorporated in the constitution as the ideology of the new state.


Only after Sheikh Mujib was assassinated in a military coup and General Ziaur Rahman took power was the Jamaat-i-Islami formally revived under its own name. The general disillusionment with the Awami League’s post-independence performance and the resurgence of anti-India feelings further added to the appeal of the Jamaat. The Jamaat scored its first victory when Ziaur Rahman, through a constitu­tional amendment, deleted the article that mentioned secularism as one of the funda­mental principles of state policy and replaced it with the phrase “absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah.”77 The new openness under Zia allowed the Jamaat to revive its organizational units in colleges and universities as well. By 1978-79, its student wing, now renamed Islami Chatro Shibir (ICS), was able to successfully challenge the combined opposition of the Awami League and the communists. The ICS won im­pressive victories in the student union elections in Rajshahi, Chittagong, and Dhaka universities, where only five years earlier even a suspicion that someone was connected with the Jamaat-i-Islami was enough for him to be subjected to a lynch mob. Today the Jamaat has its own daily newspaper, Sangram, its own publishing establishment, and a well-staffed Islamic research institute. It has also organized separate wings for laborers, youth, women, and professionals.

The most important arm of the Jamaat-i-Islami Bangladesh, as for its sister orga­nization in Pakistan, remains its student wing, the ICS. The ICS has branches in more than 60 percent of the high schools in all twenty-one districts of Bangladesh. Since 1980, it has consistently won more that 55 percent of the student union elections in colleges and universities. “One of strongest students fronts in the universities of Dhaka, Rajshahi and Jahangirnagar,” its influence is “steadily increasing not only among traditional elements but also among the modern educated young men.”78 Its activities are primarily focused on religious and cultural programs with a view to “reawaken the Islamic consciousness” among Muslim Bengali youth and to counter the influence of Bengali nationalists, socialists, and secularists. In the late 1980s its parent organization, the Jamaat-i-Islami, resumed its political activities with full vigor. Table 8.3 details the Jamaat’s progress during this period. The political agenda of the Jamaat in 1990 included: (a) the forming of alliances with other like-minded political groups for the restoration of democracy; (b) resistance to Indian hegemony; (c) the strengthening of relations with Islamic countries, especially with Pakistan; and (d) the active involvement of Bangladesh in Muslim world affairs. The Jamaat’s persistent opposition to selling natural gas to India and its insistence that Bangladesh should take a tough stand on the Farakka Dam issue with India are significant given the background of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and the secession of Bangladesh.



Full members                                                                              5,000

Workers                                                                                      50,000

Registered supporters                                                             500,000

Unregistered supporters                                                       2,000,000

District branches                                                                           68

Subdistrict branches                                                                    460

Union Council branches                                                           3,000

Local branches                                                                            5,000

Jamaat-operated schools                                                            500

Jamaat-operated hospitals                                                          200

Source: Tarjuman-ul-Qur’an (Lahore), May 1990, pp. 213-14.


Since 1987, the Jamaat-i-Islami has once again been subjected to persecution by the government of H. M. Ershad and to violence by the remnants of the Mukti Bahini. This renewed harassment of the Jamaat began soon after the student union elections of 1987, in which the Jamaat’s ICS unexpectedly won important victories in many colleges and universities of Bangladesh, defeating the secular nationalist forces of the Awami League. Since then forty leaders and workers of the Jamaat and the ICS have been assassinated by the Mukti Bahini.79 Because of its leading role in the Islamic Democratic League Alliance—a coalition of Islamic groups opposed to the mili­tary regime of General Ershad—the Jamaat became a target of attack by the govern­ment as well. On 12 November 1988, for example, President Ershad, addressing a meeting of freedom fighters, declared his determination to “eliminate the Jamaat-i-Islami.”Those who opposed the liberation war in 1971 and killed the freedom fight­ers have now joined politics with their heads high,” he said. “Will you remain silent? Will you sit idle? It is high time these enemies of liberation are eliminated. They have no place in this country.”80 Within a couple of weeks of this open call to violence against the Jamaat-i-Islami, two of its student workers and two district level leaders were assassinated.81


The catastrophic events of 1971 did not leave the Jamaat-i-Islami unscathed. Al­most all of its Urdu-speaking leaders had to leave East Pakistan when it became Bang­ladesh. Some of its prominent intellectuals and leaders left Bangladesh for the Middle East. Maulana Abdul Rahim, the president of the Jamaat-i-Islami East Pakistan at the time of Pakistan’s dismemberment, left the main body of the Jamaat after the war and organized his own nonpolitical Jamaat-i-Islami to pursue “purely religious” goals and preach the “original revivalist mission” of Maududi. Although the new organization did not last long, it took the Bangladeshi Jamaat leaders four years to heal the wounds of the split. Mr. Ghulam Azam, a former professor of political science and a close confidant of Maududi during the united Pakistan era, was elected president of the Jamaat to preserve the integral ideological links between the four sister organiza­tions—Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Kashmir.

Jamaat-i-Islami India


At the time of partition in 1947, the Jamaat-i-Islami India was organized as a separate organization under the leadership of Maulana Abul Lais Islahi, who continued to lead the Jamaat until 1990. Since the Jamaat was not very active in pre-partition politics and was not associated with the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan, it did not encounter any difficulty in its da’wa work in post-independence India. Initially the Jamaat focused its attention on programs of social welfare, educational development, and the religious reawakening of the Muslim community and stayed away from po­litical activities. Given the fact that India was a secular state and the Muslims consti­tuted only 11 percent of the total population, the Jamaat had no option but to abandon the goal of establishing an Islamic state in India—a goal that became the primary concern of its sister organization in Islamic Pakistan. However, the Indian Jamaat soon became preoccupied with the preservation of the three most vital identity symbols of the Indo-Islamic community: Muslim Family Laws, the Urdu language, and the Muslim University of Aligarh. Coupled with its extensive publishing and Islamic religious educational programs, it was primarily through its struggle to save the Muslim Family Laws and the Urdu language that the Jamaat sought to assert a distinctive Muslim identity in a secular constitutional framework and a communally defined sociopolitical context.


Since the 1950s, the Jamaat-i-Islami has operated at three distinct levels. First, within the Muslim community (estimated at 120 million) the Jamaat’s emphasis has been on Islamization—”purifying” the beliefs and practices of coreligionists in order to bring them closer to the teachings of Islamic orthodoxy as enunciated in the Qur’an and Sunna of the Prophet. Here there has been little difference between the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat. Second, with respect to the rest of Indian society, the activities of the Jamaat have centered on the reassertion of Muslim religious rights and identity. It has also been active in “fighting the menace of communalism” in cooperation with other Muslim and interfaith organizations. The Jamaat believes that it is only through participation in the national political process that the problems faced by the Muslims and the discrimination to which they are subjected can receive national attention and form part of national agenda. It was on the basis of this policy that in the 1960s the Jamaat joined the All India Muslim Majlis-i-Mushawarat (All India Muslim Consultative Committee), a coalition of various Muslim political parties and religioeducational organizations. The emphasis of the Jamaat in this respect has been on promoting “national unity and harmony” on the basis of shared religious values and “within the parameters of a multi-racial, multi-lingual, and multicultural Indian society.”82 According to Maulana Sirajul Hasan, the secretary general of the Indian Jamaat, the moral uplift of Indian society is a joint responsibility of all religious communities of India. Hence, the Jamaat, in its outreach activities among followers of other religions, emphasizes those moral values that are common in all religions and that promote mutual harmony and understanding.83 The Jamaat believes that Islamic missionary work has little chance of success in “an atmosphere charged with com­munal frenzy and moral corruption.” Unless the tensions are defused and the misgiv­ings allayed, there is not much likelihood of “the Islamic message being understood in the right spirit.”84


Third, with respect to its international relations, the Jamaat has campaigned for better Indo-Pakistan relations and has lobbied the Indian government to support the cause of the Palestinians and the Afghan resistance. On the question of Afghanistan, for example, the Jamaat-i-Islami India organized more than three hundred rallies and protest marches during 1980-85 against the Soviet occupation of a fellow Mus­lim nation. Interestingly, while the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan has opposed India’s par­ticipation in the activities of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)—an organization of Muslim heads of states—the Indian Jamaat has been a consistent supporter of its government’s efforts to seek OIC membership. Obviously both Jamaat-i-Islami India and Pakistan are defending in this case what they perceive to be the best interests of the Indian and Pakistani Muslims, respectively.


At the level of ideas and political strategy too, the Indian Islamic scene offers an interesting example of how a religiopolitical movement tends to articulate its ideology in two different political contexts. When the Jamaat-i-Islami became formally orga­nized into two separate entities at the time of partition, the Pakistani Jamaat launched a campaign for the establishment of an Islamic state as the most important means for creating the order envisaged by Islam, while the Indian Jamaat, operating in a secular constitutional framework, deleted all references to the goal of establishing an Islamic state from its program of action.85 The raison d’etre of the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan is that Islam does not admit any separation between religious and public affairs. Hence, the Islamic state is not a matter of choice but a fundamental obligation of Islam. This state, which is based on the political sovereignty of God, is to be governed by people of clear Islamic vision, commitment, and character.86 Jamaat-i-Islami of India, on the other hand, had no alternative but to give up the idea of an Islamic state. It was, however, able to find a plausible justification for its revisionist ideology in the original critique of its founder of the creation of Pakistan. Maududi had argued that the geo­graphical delimitation of the Islamic umma in the territorial confines of Pakistan would obstruct the growth and spread of Islam as a universal message. The Indian Jamaat has thus successfully avoided the question of establishing an Islamic state as it was articulated in its original constitution of 1941 by emphasizing the concept of the worldwide Islamic umma of which the Indian Muslims are an integral part. Further­more, according to the Two Nation theory of the Muslim League, the Muslims who chose to remain in India should still be considered members of the same Muslim nation which had established a separate homeland for itself, namely, Pakistan. The Jamaat-i-Islami India has sought to resolve this anomaly by disassociating the concept of Muslim nation from the nation-state of Pakistan, and instead relating it to the concept of universal ummah Islamiyya. This is not only a politically safe conceptualiza­tion but is also intended to provide Indian Muslims with an enormous psychological sense of security and strength in their immediate context of their numerical and po­litical weakness.


It is on the issue of secularism, however, that the two sister organizations are sharply divided. While the Jamaat in Pakistan denounces secularism and the secular state as “an evil force,” the Jamaat in India is equally vigorous in defending secularism as a “blessing” and as a “guarantee for a safe future for Islam” in India.87 Although both wings of the Jamaat agree that religion and secularism are incompatible, the Indian Jamaat makes a distinction between secularism as an atheistic ideology and “secularism as a state policy which implies that there should be no discrimination or partiality on the basis of religious belief.”88 According to the Jamaat of India, there is nothing wrong with the latter formulation of secularism. In fact, the Jamaat has cate­gorically stated that “in the present circumstances it wants the secular form of govern­ment to continue.”89 But the Jamaat is also quite candid in stating that its approval of secularism as a state policy is based on “utilitarian expediency” and should not be construed as its endorsement of “the deeper philosophical connotations” of secularism that are essentially Western in origin “and carry a spirit and a history which are totally foreign to our temper and need.”90 As Mushir-ul-Haq has noted, the Jamaat seems to believe that “the state must remain secular but the Muslims should be saved from secularism.”91

Jamaat-i-Islami Kashmir

Because of the disputed nature of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Jamaat-i-Islami leadership decided to organize two separate Jamaats on the two sides of the cease-fire line, i.e., the Jamaat-i-Islami Jammu and Kashmir on the Indian side and the Jamaat-i-Islami Azad Kashmir on the Pakistani side. The Azad Kashmir Jamaat has operated mostly as an adjunct to the Pakistani Jamaat and has pursued policies and programs of action decided in Lahore. The Jamaat-i-Islami in the Indian-held Kashmir, how­ever, has emerged as a totally independent movement of Kashmiri Muslims whose interests do not usually coincide with those of the Indian Muslim community. While Muslims in India are scattered and do not form a majority in any of the Indian states, Kashmir is a Muslim majority region with a history of struggle for freedom and self-determination. The Jamaat, like most other Muslim political and religious organiza­tions, has refused to acknowledge the legality of Kashmir’s accession to India and has consistently demanded that the future of Kashmir should be decided through a plebi­scite, as stipulated in the United Nations resolutions of 1949, 1951, and 1957.


During the first three decades of its existence, the Kashmiri Jamaat operated mainly as a religious revivalist movement and did not actively participate in state politics. Although it publically rejected the political status quo in Kashmir and de­manded the right of self-determination for Kashmir’s Muslims,92 it did not join other organizations which were fighting for Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. During this period, the Jamaat leadership in Kashmir believed that the Islamically inspired mobi­lization of Kashmiri Muslims would ultimately culminate in the establishment of an Islamic state, either as an independent entity or as a unit federated with Pakistan.93 It was only after the Iranian revolution in 1979 that the Jamaat-i-Islami Kashmir came into the forefront of the political struggle for “the liberation of Kashmir” and for “Islamic revolution.” In August 1980, the leader of the student wing of the Jamaat in Kashmir publically called upon Kashmiri youth to work for “an Iranian-type Islamic revolution in Kashmir in order to achieve independence” from India.94 This call was issued a few days before a proposed international conference to discuss the relevance of the Iranian revolutionary experience for the Kashmiri Muslims. The Indian govern­ment reacted swiftly and banned the conference. Foreign guests, including an Iranian official delegation, were sent back from the Srinagar airport. The public protest that followed resulted in the arrest of hundreds of Jamaat workers and youth leaders. Again in 1982, Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s government sent the army to curb the Jamaat-sponsored popular movement. More than three hundred Jamaat workers, including its entire top leadership, were arrested under the National Security Act.95 In 1984, Sayyid Ali Geelani, a prominent leader of the Jamaat, was charged with “conspiracy to annul Kashmir’s accession to India through using Islamic religious institutions for this purpose.”96 In October of that year, the Srinagar police arrested seventy-one youth workers of the Jamaat on the charge that they had been distributing pamphlets asking people “to follow the glorious example of Imam Khomeini and bring about an Iranian-type Islamic revolution.”97


Given the peculiar situation in Kashmir, it is not surprising that among the various wings of the Jamaat-i-Islami in South Asia, it is only the Kashmiri Jamaat that has been heavily influenced by the experience of the Iranian revolution and the Afghan jihad. It is possible that the Jamaat in Kashmir may be using Iranian-style revolution­ary rhetoric in order to terrify the Indian authorities and to express widespread anti-India feelings among the Kashmiri Muslims.98 Whatever the reason, the increasingly assertive political role and the militancy of the Jamaat in Kashmir will have important consequences for the future of both the state of Jammu and Kashmir—as is evident from the violent events of January-February 1990—and the Jamaat itself. The Jamaat is in the forefront of the current upsurge of the freedom movement in Kashmir. Hizb-ul-Jihad, the clandestine guerrilla organization that is challenging the Indian army throughout the valley of Kashmir, consists mainly of the youth wing of the Jamaat.


Islamic neofundamentalism is a modern phenomenon that emerged on the intellectual and sociopolitical scene of the Islamic world during the interwar period and assumed worldwide significance in the post-World War II era. It is inspired by the belief that Islam, as a complete way of life encompassing both religion and politics, is capable of offering a viable alternative to the prevalent secular ideologies of capitalism and socialism and that it is destined to play an important role in the remaking of the contemporary world. Islamic neofundamentalism thus has two distinctive but com­plementary dimensions: politico-ideological and cultural-religious.99 At the politico-ideological level, Islamic neofundamentalism is engaged in a war against foreign po­litical domination and economic exploitation and also against cultural influences and ideological intrusions of both Western liberalism and Soviet Marxism. At the cultural-religious level, Islamic neofundamentalism expresses itself in the assertion of a distinc­tive Islamic cultural identity and recovery of faith based on pristine Islamic beliefs, norms, and practices.


The emergence, growth, ideology, and organization of the Jamaat-i-Islami of the South Asian subcontinent is a prime example of the neofundamentalist trend in con­temporary Islam. As we have seen, its program has clustered around four major points: (1) to elucidate the teachings of Islam with reference to the contemporary social, economic, and political situation facing Muslim societies; (2) to create an or­ganization of highly dedicated, disciplined, and righteous people to form an inner core of Islamic revival; (3) to initiate at the level of civil society changes that are conducive to the total transformation of society; and (4) to establish an Islamic state which would implement the Shari’a and would direct all affairs of the society, economy, and polity in accordance with the Islamic scheme of things. Thus, unlike the Tablighi Jamaat, which focuses its activities on reforming the individual, the Jamaat-i-Islami perceives Islamization as a process of the purification of self, society, and state, a process by which Muslims would consciously accept Islam as their only guide in their daily lives and the state would submit to the sovereignty of Allah.


The Jamaat-i-Islami began its work as a religious revivalist movement in 1941 in India. After independence, it split into two separate organizations, the Jamaat-i-Islami India and the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan. While the Indian Jamaat continued to operate as a religious revivalist movement, the Pakistani Jamaat was gradually transformed into a political party as a result of its politico-ideological struggle to make Pakistan into a truly Islamic state. During the past forty-three years, it has fought for an Islamic constitution, Shari’a, democracy, and a united Pakistan. In the process of its active participation in politics, the Jamaat in Pakistan has shown considerable flexibility and has revised its positions on certain important religiopolitical issues. At a more popular level, its energies have been expended on efforts to “reform the education system on Islamic lines; purify the public media from obscenity, vulgarity and sexual permissive­ness; ban the literature based on atheistic ideologies; and abolish the system of coeducation.”100 Since die 1970s, there have been two major pillars of the Jamaat’s religiopolitical strategy: (1) increasing its influence in politically and socially salient loci of decision making, and (2) building coalitions with like-minded socioeconomic and political groups and organizations with a view to molding them into more suit­able vehicles for achieving Islamic sociopolitical transformation. Taken together, these two strategies represent the Jamaat’s efforts to build an Islamic base at the level of civil society and at the same time to seek changes in die state institutions. Although the politics of consensus building has won the Jamaat many new allies and has helped bring it into the mainstream, it has also tended to dilute its distinct revolutionary identity in die process.


The political and economic ideology of die Jamaat remains largely corporatist in its vision of the relationship between civil society and state. The producer should not charge more than a just price for his goods; the laborer should be paid fair wages for his services and should be well treated. Producers and consumers, industrialists and wage laborers, landlords and peasants should fulfill their mutual obligations and thus reap mutual benefits through cooperative efforts and harmonious relations. Their re­lationships should be governed by Islamic ethical considerations rather than by class conflict. Unlike Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Ali Shariati of Iran, who emphasized egalitarianism as the basic norm of an Islamic social structure, Maududi’s view of an Is­lamic society is dominated by notions of cohesion, harmony and solidarity.


At the social-structural level, the main thrust of the struggle of die Jamaat-i-Islami has been to shift the locus of power from die traditional oligarchy to middle sectors. Simultaneously, it has provided ways of absorbing the newly mobilized social groups into the prevailing structures and has helped channel certain benefits to them without much real transfer of wealth and power. The Jamaat has thus helped the political system—although without great success in die case of Muhajirs—to accommodate new contenders of power.


Surprisingly, the Jamaat-i-Islami has not been very successful in converting its enormous organizational strength and widespread political influence into electoral support. From 1970 to 1988, four national elections were held in Pakistan. The Jamaat participated in all of them but failed to obtain more than ten seats in any contest, although its share of popular votes was a little higher. The Jamaat’s lack of electoral success is due in part to the fact that it has not paid sufficient attention to the rural areas where 70 percent of Pakistan’s population lives. Being an urban-based move­ment of a literate population, its electoral appeal remains extremely narrow. Further­more, it is the folk and popular form of Islam that dominates the rural areas of Pakistan, and not fundamentalist Islam with its emphasis on strict observance of Shari’a. Neither is the Jamaat-i-Islami the only champion of Islam in Pakistan’s poli­tics; rival religiopolitical organizations such as Jamiat Ulam-i-Islam and Jamiat Ulama-i-Pakistan, the political parties of the traditional ulama, have equal, if not greater, claims on the religiously inclined voters. These two parties of the ulama have in fact challenged the Islamic religious credentials of the Jamaat more vehemently than the secular parties. The sectarian division of the Pakistani Muslim community has also been an important factor in limiting the electoral support of the Jamaat. The Shi’ites, who constitute about 10 percent of Pakistan’s population, have generally preferred secular political parties over the Jamaat. Finally, the Jamaat has not paid sufficient attention to the bread-and-butter issues and has thus failed to relate its program for the Islamization of society and economy to the day-to-day problems of the masses.101 Despite its narrow electoral base, however, the Jamaat’s ability to influence policy, especially on Islamic religious issues, and to destabilize any regime in Pakistan remain indisputable.


The rise of Islamic neofundamcntalism is often described as a reaction against the kind of modernizing policies pursued by the secular-minded political elite of Mus­lim societies in the recent past. The Jamaat-i-Islami, however, makes a distinction between Westernization and modernization. It defines modernization in terms of those processes and institutional innovations that are necessary for the socioeconomic and technological development of society. It does not believe, however, that these developments must necessarily be accompanied by the marginalization of religion and by secularization, by the breakdown of the family and laxity in sexual morality, or for that matter, by the primacy of human reason over God’s revelation. In other words, the Jamaat does not consider the sociocultural components of modernization—which it describes as “Westernization”—an integral part of the package needed to achieve the technological and economic development of Muslim societies.


The present leadership of the Jamaat-i-Islami has no clear views on modernity except that Muslim societies must strive toward the development of an autonomous science and technology of their own. None of the Jamaat-i-Islami intellectuals—or for that matter intellectuals of Islamic movements in other Muslim countries—has tried to articulate the issues of modernity beyond its instrumental aspects. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the debate on modernity is extended beyond science, technology, and development to include such issues as pluralism, democracy, tolerance of differing views, and freedom of thought and conscience, their attitude is at best ambivalent. However, given the socioeconomic situation in which the majority of Jamaat members and its support groups find themselves, one can argue that the basic thrust of the Jamaat’s struggle is not simple social protest (opposing, for example, having a Pakistani women’s field hockey team play in the Asian games) — as the popu­lar stereotype of the Jamaat would suggest—but ‘^appropriating” the processes of modernization, that is, directing the processes of social change into channels that are easily accessible to its clientele, thereby ensuring their well-being, both materially and morally. Thus, the struggle of the Jamaat-i-Islami members is not merely a reaction against social dislocation which results from processes of socioeconomic change; it is more than anything else an attempt to find a secure place in the new social arrange­ments. Their selective retrieval of the Islamic past is intended to gain a firm foothold in the present.


The Tablighi Jamaat

The Tablighi Jamaat of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent constitutes one of the very few grass roots Islamic movements in the contemporary Muslim world. In 1926 the Jamaat began da’wa work in the limited confines of Mewat near Delhi and consisted of a few dozen disciples of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas (1885—1944). Today the movement claims to have influenced millions throughout the Muslim world and the West. Its 1988 annual conference in Raiwind near Lahore, Pakistan, was attended by more than one million Muslims from over ninety countries of the world. The Raiwind International Conference of the Tablighi Jamaat has now become the second-largest congregation of the Muslim World after the hajj. The 1988 Tablighi Jamaat conven­tion in Chicago, Illinois, attracted more than six thousand Muslims, probably the largest gathering of Muslims ever in North America.


Despite its enormous significance as a mass-based da’wa movement that has influ­enced Asian, African, and Arab Muslims alike, the Tablighi Jamaat has received scant attention in the literature on modern Islamic movements.102 The available litera­ture on Tablighi Jamaat is mostly in Urdu and consists mainly of inspirational works by its leaders and devotional writings by followers and admirers.103 No attempt has been made so far to understand the dynamics of its ideology, methods, and impact either in its own terms or with reference to the work of other Islamic movements operating in the same sociopolitical space. This section is thus an attempt to fill a gap in the available literature on contemporary Islamic movements. It discusses the specific circumstances of Tablighi Jamaat’s origin in Muslim India of the 1920s, its growth in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent and beyond in subsequent years, the nature, content, and methodology of its da’wa, and the religiopolitical consequences of its ideological orientation, especially with reference to the conflict between Islam and secularism in Muslim South Asia.


The two decades preceding World War II witnessed the emergence of a number of Muslim socioreligious and political movements in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. It was a period of considerable stress and uncertainty, yet pregnant with expectations in the wake of major political and constitutional changes during the declining days of the British raj. The Muslim League, although not yet a major political force to reckon with, was engaged in a relentless struggle, under the leadership of the Qaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, to establish its credentials as the only representative of the Indian Muslim community in political affairs. The Khilafat movement, which began in 1920 to protest the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire by the Allied powers under the Treaty of Sevres, had stirred up the Pan-Islamic sentiments of Indian Muslims to an unprecedented magnitude. Although the movement could not save the Ottoman caliphate from the European powers’ machinations and the Arabs’ revolt, the vigor and energy generated by the mobilization of Indian Muslims in the name of Pan-Islamism found other channels in the subcontinent. The Khilafat movement helped restore the self-confidence of the Muslims and assert their separate identity. It also taught them how to use modern organizational and publicity techniques for religio-political mobilization. The training in organization building, mass-contact, the utili­zation of the printing press, religiopolitical mobilization, and articulation of shared Islamic symbols helped the aspiring Muslim religious and political leadership to create and serve an all-India Muslim religiopolitical constituency. The beneficiary of the Khi­lafat movement was not only Mr. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan; Maulana Maududi, Allama Inayatullah Mashraqi (the founder of the militant Khaksar movement), and Maulana Ilyas (the founder of the Tablighi Jamaat) also benefited from the emotion­ally charged religious environment of Indian Islam in the late 1920s. The emergence of these new movements unleashed religious and political forces that had the com­bined effect of directing the Muslim position on a parallel course vis-a-vis Hindus and dividing the two religious communities—a division which ultimately culminated in the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan.


These developments were also facilitated by the emergence of right-wing Hindu revivalist movements, especially the shuddhi (purification) and sangathan (consolida­tion) movements that were founded to reclaim those fallen-away Hindus who had converted to Islam in the past. The special target of the proselytizing movements were the so-called borderline Muslims who had retained many of the customs and religious practices from their Hindu past. The Tabligh movement of Maulana Ilyas, a Muslim missionary response to the militant Hindu efforts of shuddhi and sangathan, should be seen in this proximate context. The essential thrust of the movement was to “pu­rify” the borderline Muslims from their Hindu accretions and to educate them about their beliefs and rituals so that they would not become an easy prey to the Hindu proselytizers. Its aim was thus to bring about a reawakening of faith and a reaffirmation of the religiocultural identity of Muslims. The Tabligh movement, however, did not try to convert non-Muslims to Islam; its exclusive focus remained on making Muslims better and purer Muslims.104 Its message to the Muslims was simple: Ae Musalmano Musalman bano (Oh, you Muslims, be good Muslims.)


The Tablighi Jamaat originated in Mewat, a Gangetic plateau in northern India, inhabited by Muslim peasants who had been converted to Islam long ago but had retained much of their Hindu past.105 Their birth, marriage, and death rituals and their social customs were based on Hindu culture and had very little to do with orthodox Islam. Many of these Muslims even kept their old Hindu names. Their marriage, divorce, and inheritance practices were governed by local customs rather than by the Shari’a. Their religious life consisted mainly of the celebration of rites of passage, the veneration of saints, and a host of magical and superstitious rites and customs associated with both Muslim and Hindu religious occasions and personali­ties. Most of them could not correctly recite the shahadah and did not know how to say their daily ritual prayers. Very few villages in Mewat had mosques or religious schools. Their contacts with the mainstream religiocultural centers of Muslim India were minimal.106


Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, an Islamic religious scholar in the tradition of the orthodox Deoband Seminary, became aware of the situation in Mewat through his disciples in the area. His initial efforts toward the Islamization of Mewat were essen­tially in the Deoband tradition, namely, establishing a network of small scale madrasas in order to promote the Qur’anic education among the local population.107 However, he soon became disillusioned with the madrasa approach to Islamization.


Through his experience with more than one hundred madrasas he had established in Mewat,108 Maulana Ilyas concluded that these institutions were not adequately equipped to produce Muslim preachers who would be willing to go from door to door and remind people of their Islamic obligations. These institutions remained pe­ripheral to mainstream Mewat society and attracted only a very small number of local students. It was because of his dissatisfaction with the madrasas that Maulana Ilyas resigned from a prestigious teaching position at Mazaharul Uloom Seminary in Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh) and came to Basti Nizamuddin in the old quarter of Delhi to begin his missionary work. The Tabligh movement was formally launched from this place in 1926.109 Basti Nizamuddin later became the movement’s international headquarters.


The new movement, which later assumed the name of Tablighi Jamaat, met with dramatic success in a relatively short period of time. As a result, many Muslims joined Maulana Ilyas to preach the message of Islam in every town and village of Mewat. The rapid success of his efforts can be seen from the fact that the first Tabilighi con­ference held in November 1941 in Mewat was attended by twenty-five thousand people. Many of them had walked ten to fifty miles in order to attend the conference.


Maulana Ilyas was neither a charismatic leader like Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar of the Khilafat movement nor an outstanding religious scholar like Abul Kalam Azad of the Jamiyat Ulama-i-Hindi, the party of the nationalist ulama. He was not even an effective public speaker like Sayyid Ataullah Shah Bukhari of the Ahrar move­ment. In fact, he had a stammer and on occasion found it extremely difficult to express himself. Unlike Maududi, Maulana Ilyas did not author a single book in his life. Physically frail and intellectually unassuming, Maulana Ilyas nevertheless had the zeal of a dedicated missionary. His passion to reach out to the Muslim masses and touch them with the message of the Qur’an and Sunna knew no bounds. Like a true mis­sionary, he was persistent, untiring, and wholeheartedly devoted to his cause. During one of his many tours of Mewat, a peasant upon whom he was impressing the importance of leading a religious life struck him. The Maulana, already physically frail, collapsed. When he regained consciousness, he embraced his assailant and said: “You have done your job. Now would you let me do my job and listen to me for a while.” As one of his colleagues put it, “Maulana Ilyas, though a mere skeleton, can work wonders when he takes up anything.” His eagerness and indomitable determination to reach every Muslim and remind him of his obligations as a believer took precedence over everything else. His passionate concern for the spiritual welfare of his fellow Muslims caused him great anguish. On his deathbed Maulana Ilyas greeted a friend by telling him: “People out there are burning in the fire of ignorance and you are wasting your time here inquiring after my health!” He wanted every Muslim to be on his feet and preaching the message of Islam to others. He exhorted his friends and followers to dedicate their whole lives to this purpose. Once, when no one responded to his call to volunteer for a missionary trip to Kanpur (U.P.), Maulana Ilyas asked one of his friends in the audience what prevented him from going to Kanpur. His friend was suffering from a serious ailment and told Maulana Ilyas that he was almost dying and could not travel. The Maulana said: “If you are dying already, you had better die in Kanpur.”110


The method adopted by Maulana Ilyas was to organize mobile units of at least ten persons and send them to various villages. These tablighi units, or jamaats (groups), would visit a village and invite the local people to assemble in the mosque, if there was one, or at any other meeting place, and would present their message in the form of the following six demands.111

1. Recite and know the meaning of the shahadah (‘There is no God but Al­lah and Muhammad is His Prophet”). The idea is not only to teach the Muslims the correct wording and meanings of the shahadah but also to make them realize its implications for their daily behavior. A Muslim who becomes fully conscious of the real import of shahadah will develop com­plete faith in God and will submit to the commands of the Almighty in everything he does in this world.

2. Say salaat (obligatory ritual prayer) correctly and in accordance with its prescribed rituals. Salaat, one of the five pillars of Islam enjoined on all Muslims, is offered five times a day. A Muslim should not only say his daily prayers regularly and earnestly, he should also be mindful of their sig­nificance as an act of submission to the will of God.

3. Learn the basic teachings of Islam and to do dhikr (ritual remembrance of Allah). Dhikr is intended to inculcate a habit of ceaselessly remembering Allah and to create God-consciousness so that submission to the will of Allah becomes an instinctive impulse.

4. Pay respect to and be polite to fellow Muslims. This is not only a religious obligation but is also a basic prerequisite for effective da’wa work. Good manners, modest demeanor, and soft speech will win more converts than elocution and rhetorical skills. The idea of ikram-i-Muslim (respect for Muslims) is also to recognize and respect the rights of others—the rights of elders, neighbors, the poor, etc.—and the rights of those with whom one may have differences.

5. Take time from worldly pursuits and regularly tour areas away from home in the form of groups (jamaats) in order to preach Islam to others. This constitutes the most important and innovative aspect of the Jamaat’s ap­proach to da’wa work. People are usually asked to volunteer for a chilla (forty days of da’wa work), which is the maximum time for the stint of outdoor missionary activity a new member is encouraged to undertake. As Maulana Ilyas put it: The main advantage of this method is to encourage people to come out of a worldly and static environment in order to enter a new, purer and dynamic one where there is much to foster the growth of religious consciousness. Besides, travel and emigration involve hardship, sacrifice and self-abnegation for the sake of God’s cause, and thus entitle one to divine succour.”112

6. Inculcate honesty and sincerity of purpose in such endeavors. The tasks are to be performed only for the sake of Allah and for serving His cause and not for any worldly gains. It is only the purity of motive and intention that can guarantee the success of one’s missionary endeavors.

Hundreds and thousands of groups were organized and sent to almost every vil­lage and town in Mewat. As a result of these efforts a majority of the Muslims in Mewat became what might be called “practicing Muslims.” Illiterate Mewatis who could not even correctly recite shahadah became teachers and muballighs (preachers). The most important impact of the Tabligh movement in Mewat was the Islamization of the social customs. As a result of the efforts of the Jamaat, the Hindu and syncretistic elements of the traditional Mewati culture were replaced by orthodox Islamic practices. Mosques were built and madrasas opened in every corner of Mewat. There was an ambience of religious revival visible everywhere in the area. The program was thus a great success, and by the time Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, who had now be­come a legend, died in 1944, the Tablighi Jamaat had already extended its activities across the Mewat borders and was penetrating other parts of India as well. Every­where they went, the Jamaat missionaries not only taught Muslims the basic teachings and injunctions of Islam but also exhorted them to discard non-Islamic sociocultural practices. The process of Islamization generated by the Tabligh movement thus be­came an important vehicle for the reassertion of Islamic orthodoxy. This in turn strengthened the consciousness of a distinct Muslim identity, the basis of the Two Nation theory and of Pakistan.

After the death of Maulana Ilyas, the Jamaat was led by his son, Maulana Moham­mad Yusuf (1917-65), during whose tenure it spread in the entire Indo-Pakistan subcontinent and its missions visited the countries of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America.113 Since then the movement has grown enor­mously in terms of its numerical strength, though no formal membership counting or registration has ever been undertaken.

Unlike the ulama-led Islamic groups which maintain that in order to be able to preach the message of Islam to others one must be an ‘alim and a model practicing Muslim, the Tablighi Jamaat believes that the da’wa work itself is a mechanism of reform. The fact that a Muslim falls short of the highest standards of Islamic scholar­ship or religious and ethical conduct is no reason for him not to preach the message of Islam to others. The Qur’an and Hadith do not require that Muslims must become fully practicing believers before inviting others to Islam.114 Da’wa is one of those commandments of God that are “absolute requirements.” Muslims therefore cannot postpone the fulfillment of this obligation for any reason or pretext whatsoever.115


The secret of Jamaat’s success lies in its direct, simple, and personal appeal as well as the limited religious demands which it makes on Muslims. The core of its meth­odology is to isolate individuals from their familial, occupational, and geographical environment for a period of time, form them into a microcommunity or a group, and as a result of the group’s inner dynamics and exclusive internal network processes, organize a system of religious learning and other devotional activities. The assump­tion underlying this methodology is that people learn by doing and that the very act of their association with, and involvement in, an Islamic group, even if it is only for a short period, will transform their personalities and mold their characters in accor­dance with the teachings and requirements of Islam. Since the group will not be preoccupied with worldly pursuits, it will devote itself entirely to the learning and preaching of Islam. As a matter of fact, the daily schedule of the group is so tightly arranged that most of the time members remain busy either saying prayers and dhikr or reading the Qur’an and other religious literature and contacting people for pur­poses of tabligh.


Another important reason for the successful appeal of the Tablighi Jamaat is to be found in its communal structure, a normative system of intense personal relationships among the members that is based on shared religious experiences. Maintaining fre­quent contacts, traveling together to far-off places for missionary purposes, and listen­ing to each other’s testimonies of faith and religious reawakening is a spiritually and socially rewarding experience. The members receive moral-psychological support from each other even as they spread the faith. For many recent migrants from the rural areas to the urban centers in Pakistan, the Jamaat is not only a community of worship and a source of spiritual nourishment but a badly needed substitute for the extended family left behind.


As with the eighteenth-century English evangelical Nonconformists, the primary instrument of the Tablighi Jamaat workers is itinerancy. Itinerant preaching has been the hallmark of the Jamaat and also the most important factor in its growth. This fervent and seemingly unsophisticated approach is ideally suited to attracting semi-educated people from small towns and cities. One need not be a scholar of Islamic theology or a professional orator in order to preach the simple message of the Jamaat to others. A few missionary trips in the company of a senior Jamaat worker are enough to teach most people how to deliver the formulaic speech or to read from a prescribed text. The Jamaat has thus become an important religious training ground for aspiring laymen among the small-town shopkeepers, schoolteachers, government clerks, artisans, and para-professionals in the private sector. The heavy reliance on lay preachers and lay initiative in itinerancy has produced a dynamism of its own and has helped expand the movement throughout the subcontinent and beyond.


The da’wa methodology of the Jamaat by its very nature is predisposed to expan­sion rather than consolidation or organization building and has mitigated against the usual processes of institutionalization and bureaucratization which so characterize the Jamaat-i-Islami. After the more than sixty years of its existence the Tablighi Jamaat remains a free-floating and informal association with no full-time workers, no elabo­rate office records, no division of labor, and no institutional network of functional departments and branches. This is despite the fact that its work has expanded to more than one hundred countries. There is an emir, who is elected for life by the elders of the Jamaat, and a shoora (consultative body) which advises the emir. However, there are no formal decision-making procedures. In fact, decisions are sometimes made on the basis of dreams and basharat (inspirations).116 Thus, the Jamaat has been success­ful in maintaining the spirit of informality and spontaneity that gave birth to the movement in the 1920s. However, in the absence of a formal, bureaucratic organiza­tion, the strict discipline of the routine of missionary activities required of the faithful gives the Tablighi Jamaat its strength and vitality. What is lacking in formal organi­zation is amply compensated for by religious discipline.


In some other respects, however, the Jamaat has gradually become a closed system. There has been no change in the da’wa methods first introduced by Maulana Ilyas more than sixty years ago.117 Furthermore, the Tablighi Jamaat workers and followers are discouraged from reading any books other than those written by Maulana Mohammad Zakriya and Maulana Manzoor Noamani, the two scholars whose works are prescribed as texts for all Tablighi workers. A Tablighi worker reads very little outside the prescribed Tablighi curriculum, which consists of seven essays. These essays by Zakriya have been compiled in a single volume entitled Tablighi Nisab (Tablighi cur­riculum) and are now required reading for every Tablighi worker.118 The essays deal with life stories of the companions of the Prophet and the virtues of prayer, dhikr, charity, hajj, and salutation (darood) to the Prophet and the Qur’an. Written in a simple and lucid Urdu and based mostly on inspirational but historically suspect tra­ditions, Tabligbi Nisab is probably the only book that the majority of the Tablighi workers would consider worth reading. The seven essays constitute the basic source material for the formulaic speech delivered by the Tabligh missionaries before the assemblies throughout the world. “Tablighi work is not a book,” says Maulana Man­zoor Noamani, “it is action.” The disdain for kitabi ‘ilrn (book knowledge) is shared by most Tablighi leaders and workers, and they remain deeply suspicious of scholar­ship, especially the Islamic religious scholarship that gained popularity as a result of the intellectual efforts of Muslim reformers and modernists with their emphasis on rational explanations of Islamic religious beliefs and practices. The Jamaat believes that people will become good Muslims not by reading books but by receiving the message through personal contacts and by active participation in da’wa work. The anti-intellectual approach of the Tabligh movement stands in sharp contrast to the approach of the Jamaat-i-Islami, whose da’wa work is based almost entirely on books and pamphlets.


As a true heir to the Deoband tradition, the Tabligh movement is thoroughly orthodox. Although it is not as militant as the Wahabi school of the Ahl-i-Hadith, its rejection of popular forms of religion such as veneration of saints, visiting shrines, and observing the rituals associated with popular Sufism, is categorical. From this perspective, the Jamaat can be considered to be the continuation of the reformist-fundamentalist tradition of Shah Waliyullah of Delhi (1703-62) with its approval of purified Sufism combined with the rigid observance of the Sunna. One can argue, therefore, that the phenomenon known in the history of Indian Islam as “the revival of the orthodoxy” finds its latest expression in the program and activities of the Tablighi Jamaat. The Tabligh workers are extremely rigid in following the orthodox ritu­als and do not approve of what they consider the “modernist” and lax attitudes of the Jarnaat-i-Islami. Unlike their counterparts in the Jamaat-i-Islami, the Tabligh workers emphasize both the form and the spirit of the religious practices. Their insistence on conformity to Shari’a is uncompromising. They strongly believe in the seclusion of women and regard any secular education of girls as unnecessary and un-Islamic. They are also very particular about preserving all outward forms of Islamic culture and following the Sunna of the Prophet to the letter. Most of them, for example, keep the beard to its proper Shari’a length, wear their trousers above their ankles, and cover their heads.119


Notwithstanding its conservative orientation and rigid adherence to the ortho­doxy, the Tablighi Jammat does not look unfavorably at modern secular education. As a matter of fact, many of the young Tabligh Jamaat followers in India, Pakistan, and Malaysia are graduates of modern educational institutions, including professional schools. Because of their implicit acceptance of the separation of what is religious and what is secular, the Tabligh workers do not believe that their pursuit of secular edu­cation will in any way affect their religious beliefs and practices. The two realms re­main distinctly separate and compartmentalized.


The exclusive focus of attention of the Tablighi Jamaat is the individual. In the belief that an individual can sustain his moral character even in the context of a hostile social environment, the Jamaat does not seem to have concerned itself with issues of social significance including the reform of political and social institutions. The Jamaat insists that a political formulation of the basic Islamic beliefs and concepts undermines the authentic religious core of Islamic values and robs them of their spiritual signifi­cance. Emphasis on Islam as a political ideology threatens the integrity of the tradi­tional meanings attributed to the basic concepts of Islam. It is not that the Tablighi Jamaat does not regard the issue of reforming society and its institutions as important; it is that it wants to achieve this goal through the education and reform of individuals. The Tablighi Jamaat maintains that nations and social systems do not have an inde­pendent, separate existence; they exist only by virtue of the individuals who form them. Therefore if a nation or a society is to be changed, the reform effort must begin with the individual and not at the level of political structures.

In fact, the Tablighi Jamaat detests politics and does not involve itself in any issues of sociopolitical significance. It has always taken a neutral or rather indifferent stance about the most deeply divisive sociopolitical issues. Even in controversies relating to the sociopolitical role of Islam in Pakistan and the future of Muslim minority in India, the Jamaat has remained apparently unconcerned. Of course, this stance was helpful to the Jamaat in at least one respect: while other Islamic parties were facing opposi­tion by secular forces and being harassed by various regimes for their Islamic activities, there was little opposition to the Tablighi Jamaat. As a matter of fact, the Ayub Khan regime in Pakistan in the 1960s issued secret memos to government officials ordering them to desist from participating in the Jamaat-i-Islami activities or lose their jobs, and even spied on those who were found reading Maududi’s commentary on the Qur’an. At the same time, the Tablighi Jamaat received encouragement from official circles. Instructions were issued to the State Bank of Pakistan to grant liberally the foreign exchange requested by the Tablighi groups bound for foreign countries. Simi­larly, while the Jamaat-i-Islami public meetings were disrupted and even fired upon by the security forces, the government went so far as to schedule special trains from major cities of Pakistan to convey people to the Tablighi Jamaat’s annual conferences in Raiwind. A former official of the Ayub Khan government confirms that the deci­sion to patronize the activities of Tablighi Jamaat was taken at the cabinet level on direct instructions from the president in order to “neutralize the influence of the Jamaat-i-Islami and other politically activist ulama groups.”120


A similar situation also prevailed in India, where the secular government of Mrs. Indira Gandhi looked favorably at the activities of the Tablighi Jamaat. It is said that workers of the Tablighi Jamaat could obtain exit visas and foreign exchange with no problems during the 1975—77 emergency, while there were severe restrictions on foreign travel by the Jamaat-i-Islami activists.121


The critics of Tablighi Jamaat, especially those associated with the Jamaat-i-Islami, ask who has gained as a result of the political apathy and neutrality of the Tablighi Jamaat—Islam or secularism? Taking an indifferent and neutral stance during a deci­sive conflict between Islam and anti-Islamic forces, these critics point out, deprived the Islamic forces of the potential reinforcement that could have come from the large contingents of the Tablighi Jamaat, and as a consequence helped the cause of the anti-Islamic forces. “It was surprising, and rather painful,” as one Jamaat-i-Islami leader put it, “to see the Tablighi Jamaat completely indifferent during the conflicts on such crucial issues as the introduction of an Islamic constitution in Pakistan in the early fifties, Islam versus socialism during 1969-71, the communal riots in India in the 1970s and 1980s, the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat movement (against the Ahamdiya) of 1974, and the Nizam-e-Mustafa movement of 1977.”122


The Tablighi Jamaat leaders defend their position by saying that it is only by es­chewing political debates and conflicts that the Jamaat has been able to focus its atten­tion on influencing the faithful and reawakening their spiritual consciousness, which is the core of religion. The apolitical program of the Jamaat has helped it to operate freely and without official hindrance, thus enabling it to reach a large number of government officials and to educate them about Islamic beliefs, ethics, and practices.


It has also spared the Jamaat from the vicissitudes of the conflicting ideological ori­entations of the various political regimes in Pakistan. Political neutrality is thus con­sidered as an asset to da’wa work. Jamaat leaders point to the Islamic political groups who, “inspired by a purely political interpretation of Islam,” raise the slogans of Is­lamic revolution against their respective governments and thus invite the wrath of the rulers and create conditions of government hostility against Islam. If Islamic groups would refrain from their “erroneous politicking” and instead preach the message of Islam in nonpolitical terms and in a peaceful manner, they would serve the cause of Islam much more effectively.123


The Tablighi Jamaat leaders also believe that true religious faith can be maintained only in freedom from politics. Politics for them is a realm infested with corruption. A senior Tablighi worker from Pakistan summed up the Jamaat’s attitude toward politics thus: “In order to be successful in politics, one has to tell lies, to cheat and deceive others. One has to indulge in double-dealing and dishonesty. Those who are engaged in politics, whether they call themselves Islamic or secular, are always ready to com­promise on their principles and values in the name of pragmatism, political strategy, tactics, or whatever. The truth is that one cannot remain in politics for long without compromising on the moral values that are so dear to Islam.”124


While Islamists in Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt consider the acquisition of political power and the establishment of an Islamic state a basic prerequisite for creating a truly Islamic society, the Tablighi Jamaat believes that political power does not in itself ensure the effective organization of an Islamic social order. It insists that political change must be preceded by, and consistently augmented with, the moral transfor­mation of individuals and society.125 Maulana Wahiduddin Khan argues that Muslims have been called upon by the Qur’an and the Prophet to organize themselves for religious purposes. An Islamic social organization is thus essentially a religiously based organization and is not necessarily an Islamic state. The task of organizing Muslims for religious purposes such as regular attendance at prayers, collection and distribution of zakat, and the systematic propagation of Islam need not depend on the establishment of an Islamic government or a state; these are obligations that have to be undertaken by individual Muslims. Muslims may form local-level religious or­ganizations and appoint community leaders to supervise the observance of religious duties, but the aims of such organizations will be fulfilled only if they are carried out without the coercive and external power of the state. “A social order,” Wahiduddin maintains, “to be truly Islamic, must evince itself in a spontaneous system of organi­zation, such as we see in a mosque.”126 Thus, the socioreligious order of Islam is not contingent upon the acquisition of political power; on the contrary, if the socio­religious organization of Islam has not developed voluntarily and has been imposed upon the people by the coercive apparatus of the state, it will have no religious value whatsoever.127


Arguing against the Jamaat-i-Islami position, which maintains that the establish­ment of an Islamic political order is a religious obligation, Wahiduddin asserts that Islamic principles enunciated in the Qur’an are of two categories: objectives and duties. Objectives include those imperatives which have to be followed and observed despite the circumstances. Duties, on the other hand, are to be discharged only when one has the requisite wherewithal. Being grateful to God, for example, is an objective to be followed irrespective of circumstantial contingencies. It is a requirement inher­ent in an Islamic scheme and spirit of life. Charity, on the other hand, is a duty which must be discharged only when a person has sufficient wealth. A less fortunate member of the community is not expected to strive to make money at all costs simply in order to be able to implement divine commandments with regard to charity and alms­giving.128 It is obvious therefore that while “on all occasions and in all circumstances, we must be thankful to God,” the commandments regarding money “will be appli­cable to us only when God has already granted it” to us.129


In Wahiduddin’s view political power and government can be categorized as “mat­ters of duties rather than as objectives” to be achieved at all costs. That is, if Muslims enjoy position of power, it becomes their duty to exercise that power in accordance with the teachings of the Qur’an and Hadith. Political power is thus “a gift of God bestowed by Him at His own discretion when and where He wills.”130 Once blessed with political power, Muslims must rule according to God’s commandments. Yet Wahiduddin notes that the verbal forms used in the Qur’an on the wielding of po­litical power are conditional. The policy implication of this formulation for the Indian Muslims is obvious: since Muslims in India are neither in possession of politi­cal power nor in a position to achieve it in the foreseeable future, those portions of the Qur’anic teachings that deal with government, state, and politics do not apply to them and will remain suspended. Moreover, simply to be able to fulfill their duties as rulers, Muslims are not required to wage a struggle to achieve political power, just as a poor man is not expected to make money at all costs in order to be able to pay the almstax.


Even on the issue of communal riots, an almost everyday affair in the Indian con­text, the Tablighi Jamaat has refrained from joining other Islamic organizations. It disapproves of even lodging complaints and protesting the frequent anti-Muslim ac­tions of the local law enforcement authorities: the very act of complaining against police behavior or protesting against the majority community is contrary to the way of the Prophet. Muslims should refrain from reacting to these provocations; instead, they should “pray for the guidance of those who offer provocations” and leave the matter to God.131 The Prophet’s companions, Maulana Wahiduddin reminds his fel­low Indian Muslims, “never marched in processions, burned homes, destroyed prop­erty or even shouted slogans in the streets against non-Muslims.”132 What Indian Muslims need is the preservation and strengthening of their religiocultural identity. For this they do not need to launch one demand movement after another. Their religiocultural identity will be saved by the strength generated from within them­selves. Thus the only solution to the problems faced by Indian Muslims is to look inward to their own weaknesses, rectify the moral lapses in their personal behavior, and realize their potential as bearers of the universal message of Islam. They should raise themselves above the petty concerns of “material injustices and should not enter­tain any bitterness, envy or anger against the majority community.”133 It is only through nurturing moral qualities that Muslims will be able to build “a protective barrier” against all kinds of conspiracies and plots.134 (Wahiduddin applies this logic to the Palestinian problem as well. Despite all the efforts, wars, petrodollars, and human sacrifice Muslims have not succeeded in freeing the holy land because “Mus­lims have not performed the most important of all the tasks set for them by God: they have not communicated the divine message to all nations of the world…. The Pales­tinian question, as well as other problems affecting the Muslim community, can be resolved only if the realization comes to the Muslims that they must once again take up their duty,” i.e., to present themselves to others as “God’s witness on earth.”)135 All else, including international conflicts, become secondary and peripheral to this duty. In fact these conflicts become obstacles in the way of Islamic da’wa. Muslims are therefore asked to unilaterally put all their worldly conflicts with other nations aside and concentrate on spreading the message of Islam in a peaceful and friendly manner. Only in an atmosphere of peace between Muslims and other nations will non-Muslims be favorably disposed to the Islamic message and give it serious thought.136 Hence, the Tablighi Jamaat leaders strongly disapprove of the way politi­cally oriented Islamists present Islam as a rival to contemporary secular political and economic ideologies such as capitalism and socialism. Referring to often-repeated statements by Islamic political groups that the world of today is in need of a “new order,” Maulana Wahiduddin remarks that “the world has got all the order it needs.” Rather, it is “food for soul” and “spiritual nourishment” which mankind requires.137


During its formative phase, the Tablighi Jamaat did not exhibit the intense antipa­thy to politics that became its trademark in the postpartition period. Although Mau­lana Ilyas kept himself completely aloof from politics and focused his program of action exclusively on making Muslims aware of their religious obligations, he never criticized Islamic groups actively engaged in politics. On the contrary, he maintained extremely cordial relations with Maulana Husain Ahmad Madni and other ulama of the Deoband school whose political organization, Jamiyat Ulama-i-Hind, an aggres­sively anti-British and pro-Indian National Congress group, was active in Indian poli­tics. Maulana Ilyas had equally warm relations with the pro-Pakistan faction of the Deoband school led by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. However, he refused to take a position on the issue of a united India vs. a separate Muslim state of Pakistan, for the obvious reasons that this would distract his movement from its main religious tasks and would also create dissension within its ranks. Maulana Ilyas was of the view that the Tabligh movement and politically oriented Islamic groups, although operating in two different spheres, were complementing each other’s work. Hence there should be no competition and rivalry between them.


The change from an apolitical to an explicitly antipolitical stance of the Tablighi Jamaat came about as a result of three developments: the traumatic experience of the partition of India which lead to death and misery for millions, the post-partition Indian situation in which Muslim politics came to be seen as a lingering remnant of Muslim separatism, and the increasing popularity of the politically oriented Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan among the refugees from India, especially during its vigorous and popular campaign for an Islamic constitution in the 1950s. This was also the period when the Tabligh movement was sending exploratory missions to Southeast Asia England, and the United States. It was believed that a rearticulation of the move­ment’s policy explicitly rejecting the legitimacy of political action as a means of achiev­ing Islamic goals would facilitate its work in those countries and would help alleviate the apprehensions of the host governments about its activities.


Harry Hiller has argued that fundamentalists tend to renounce politics because either they do not regard political change as a valued end or they believe that political change is not attainable because of the lack of power or other necessary resources.138 The Tablighi Jamaat has abstained from participating in politics, arguing that Islamic political change is not attainable in a Hindu-majority state. But the Jammat also jus­tifies its repudiation of politics on the ground that compared to much more important religious concerns, political involvement is a low-level activity and hence not worthy of the time, efforts, and energy of an Islamic movement. In contrast to the Tablighi Jamaat’s view of politics as a morally inferior activity, the Jamaat-i-Islami regards poli­tics as a form of ‘ibada (worship) if pursued for the cause of Islam.


Although the Tablighi Jamaat has attempted to isolate itself from social and po­litical issues and to confine itself to moral reform and the religious uplift of the indi­vidual, it must be remembered that individuals do not live in a vacuum. As Daniel Levine has argued, the connection between individual choices and social conse­quences must not be overlooked.139 Individual choices aggregate into social choices and thus have political consequences. “For religion and for politics, whether the origi­nal choice is neutrality or activism, the result is equally political.”140 From this per­spective, even the most profoundly spiritual goals of believers will have political consequences.141


Thus one can argue that the Jamaat’s apolitical stance has had important political consequences. In India, for example, its view of religion as a personal and private affair of the individual was conducive to the acceptance of secularism among Indian Muslims. The Jammat has flourished in the secular political system of India and has lent support and legitimacy to secularism through its doctrines. In Pakistan, Bangla­desh, and to a certain extent, Malaysia, it has depoliticized a large number of reli­giously inclined people by casting them as itinerant preachers. As Seymour Lipset has argued, fundamentalist religion “drains off” energies that would probably have other­wise been channeled into political action.142 In the case of the Tablighi Jamaat, the directing of religious energies into nonpolitical outlets tended to impair severely the efforts of religiopolitical groups, such as the Jamaat-i-Islami, to expand their recruit­ment and support base. Furthermore, the Tablighi Jamaat’s nonpolitical approach to the Islamization of society has posed a serious challenge to the Islamic legitimacy of the politicized alternative offered by the Jamaat-i-Islami and other religiopolitical parties.


The Tablighi Jamaat has also not been completely free from political controversies and doctrinal debates with political consequences. For example, the fatwa issued by its leaders, especially Maulana Mohammad Zakriya, against Maududi and his Jamaat-i-Islami has been a major source of hostility between the two Islamic movements since the 1950s. Furthermore, the Tablighi Jamaat leaders consider the Jamaat-i-Islami’s approach to religion as to be politically motivated and devoid of any spiritual content.

They accuse Maududi of interpreting Islam as a worldly ideology which is concerned only with the mundane affairs of politics and the state. In contrast, the Jamaat-i-Islami, whose ideology is based on the concept of Islam as a “complete way of life,” considers the Tablighi Jamaat to be a “pocket edition” of Islam and accuses it of making an un-Islamic distinction between religion and politics. The political neu­trality of the Tabligh workers is interpreted by the Jamaat-i-Islami as their willingness not only to operate within the existing socioeconomic and political conditions but by their aquiescence, to help perpetuate and strengthen, if not legitimize, them. Besides these doctrinal differences, the hostility between the two major Islamic movements can also be explained by the fact that their recruitment base and constituency of sup­port are approximately the same. The Tablighi Jamaat tends to recruit its itinerant workers from the same social groups which also constitute the main targets of the Jamaat-i-Islami’s ideological appeal.

The Brelvi ulama and their political organization, the Jamiyat ‘Ulama-i-Pakistan, consider the Tablighi Jamaat their main adversary in the rural areas and small towns of India and Pakistan. The puritanical and reformist zeal of Tablighi workers is re­garded as a great threat to the popular and folk-oriented Islam of the Brelvi school. The Brelvi ulama have therefore written extensively against the Tablighi Jamaat, de­scribing it as a popular version of the Wahabi ideas of the Deoband school. Tablighi Jamaat assemblies are completely banned in the mosques controlled by the Brelvi ulama and their followers.


Many of the prominent Deobandi ulama and the leaders of their political party, the Jamiyat Ulama-i-Islam, have been closely associated with the Tabligh movement. Their close relations are based on both doctrinal affinity and institutional affiliations between the Deoband school and the Saharanpur school—the later being the intellec­tual center of the Tabligh movement. As a result of the close relationship, the Tablighi Jamaat workers have consistently voted for the Jamiyat Ulama-i-Islam candidates in Pakistani elections and have thus contributed significantly to the successful showing of the Jamiyat in the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan.


Recently the Tablighi Jamaat and some of its leaders were also mired in a contro­versy with the Shi’ite ulama on the question of the Islamicity of the Iranian revolution. As with most political issues, the Tablighi Jamaat has not taken any official position on the Islamic revolution of Iran. However, two of its most prominent spiritual guides and ardent supporters have published devastating critiques of the Iranian revo­lution, saying that it has nothing to do with Islam.143 They accused Imam Khomeini of being an “archsectarian Shia” out to sow the seeds of dissension within the umma and destroy the solidarity of the Islamic world. They declared Imam Khomeini to be outside the pale of Islam.144 They describe the philosophy of the Iranian revolution as an “unmitigated hatred” which has no relationship to Islamic principles. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan also characterizes the Iranian revolution as a triumph of hatred and accuses the Iranian religiopolitical leadership of driving the world away from Islam by their “macabre witlessness” and vengeful policies that could only come from “sick minds.”145



The Tablighi Jamaat has been one of the most influential religious movements in twentieth-century Islam. It has reached millions of Muslims in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. The apolitical stance of the movement has helped it to penetrate and operate without hindrance in Muslim and non-Muslim societies where politically activist Islamic groups face severe restric­tions. It has truly become an international Islamic movement.


With specific reference to South Asia, one can argue that besides depoliticizing an important segment of the religiously inclined population, the major impact of the activities of the Tablighi Jamaat has been the rapid religious mobilization of a large number of Muslims in the subcontinent. Gathering approximately a million people for a three-day conference in a small town of Punjab, Pakistan, every year is an achievement such that few other movements can boast of. This large-scale religious mobilization has profound consequences for the religious situation of the subconti­nent. First of all, a large number of previously quiescent and inert Muslims have been motivated to come forward and actively participate in the propagation of Islam. Sec­ond, the Jamaat has created a nucleus of trained religious personnel around which a large population can be mobilized and trained for Islamic da’wa. Third, the da’wa methodology and approach of the Tablighi Jamaat has not only tended to blur the distinction between the ulama and lay preachers but has also effectively challenged the monopoly of the ulama on Islamic missionary work.146 Fourth, and possibly more important from the point of view of the long-term prospects of religious establish­ments in South Asian Islam, the Jamaat has relinked the Muslim masses with Islamic religious institutions. As a result, it has helped reassert the authority of orthodoxy and brought it closer to the common people.


Since the beginning of Muslim rule in India, the ulama had remained perma­nently allied to an elite north Indian Muslim culture; hence, the orthodox forms of Islam had not penetrated deeply into the daily lives of the Muslim masses, who continued to cherish the customs and practices they had inherited from their Hindu past. Since the nineteenth-century Mujahideen movement of Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed (1786-1831) and the Faraidhi movement of Haji Shariatullah, the Tabligh move­ment is the most important attempt to bridge the gap between orthodox Islam and the popular, syncretic religious practices that are prevalent among the Muslim masses. However, the Jamaat’s emphasis on the devotional and pietistic aspect of religion differs considerably from orthodoxy’s single-minded concern with doctrinal hair­splitting, legalism, and institutional forms of religion. The Tabligh movement can thus be characterized as what Jaroslav Pelikan has called, in another context, “the affectional transposition of doctrine.”



1. Takb’tr (Karachi), 23 November 1989.

2. Masbriq (Lahore), 6 November 1989.

3. Ijaz Shafi Gilani, “Fundamentalist Po­litical Groups in Muslim Countries” (1975), p.4.

4. Ibid.

5. Stephen Hay and I. H. Qureshi, eds., Sources if Indian Tradition, vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), p. 187.

6. Gilani, “Fundamentalist Groups,” pp. 4-5.

7. Mustansir Mir, “Some Features of Mawdudi’s Tafhim al-Qur’an,” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 2, no. 2 (1985): 244.

8. Khurshid Ahmad and Zafar Ishaq An-sari, Islamic Perspectives (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 1979), p. ix.

9. Ibid.

10. An Introduction to the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan (Lahore: Jamaat-i-Islami, 1978), p. 5.

11. Gilani, “Fundamentalist Groups,” p. 15.

12. Ibid.

13. Several English translations of Taf-htm-al-Qwr’an are available. The latest and most competent English rendering is Zafar Ishaq Ansari, Towards Understanding the Qur’an (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 1988).

14. Introduction to the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan, pp. 3-4.

15. Leonard Binder, Religion and Politics in Pakistan (Berkeley: University of Califor­nia Press, 1962), p. 103.

16. Ibid, p. 99.

17. Gilani, “Fundamentalist Groups,” p. 16.

18. Binder, Religion and Politics, pp. 302-3.

19. Mohammad Ayub Khan, Speeches and Statements, vol. 4 (Karachi: Government of

Pakistan, Department of Films and Publica­tions, 1964), p. 78.

20. Quoted in Edgar A. Schuler and Kathryn R. Schuler, Public Opinion and Constitution Making in Pakistan 1958-1962 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1967), p. 119.

21. Karl von Vbrys, Political Development in Pakistan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), pp. 259-60.

22. See the speech of Maulana Maududi in November 1964 in Karachi, published in a pamphlet, Ayub Khan Ka Daur-e-Haku-mat (Ayub Khan’s rule) (Karachi: Jamaat-i-Islami, 1964), pp. 2-14.

23. Pakistan Observer, 3 October 1964, quoted in Karl von Vorys, Political Develop­ment, p. 175.

24. Gilani, “Fundamentalist Groups,” p. 18. The Jamaat-i-Islami once again returned to its original position in 1989 when it op­posed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto be­cause, among other things, “Islam does not approve of a woman as the head of an Is­lamic government or state.”

25. MorningNews, 1 June 1970.

26. Gilani, “Fundamentalist Groups,” p. 18.

27. Ibid, p. 19.

28. Raja Shafqat Hayat, ‘The Role of Students in National Politics,” (M.A. the­sis, Punjab University, 1979), pp. 67-69; see also die weekly Lail-o-Nihar, August

1974. pp. 11-17, and September 1974, pp. 15-21; and the weekly Asia, June 1974, pp. 21-28.

29. Hamqadam (1980): 10.

30. Data collected from Jasarat (Kara­chi), various issues from 15 to 25 November


31. In Pakistan (New York) 9, no. 6 (September 1976).

32. Jasarat, 28 March 1976.

33. Introduction to Jamaat-e-Islami Paki­stan, p. 10.

34. Maulana Maududi’s speech in Lahore in 1978, published later in Arabia: The Is­lamic World Rerien> (March 1984): 76.

35. Zindagi, 19-25 January 1979.

36. Abu) Ala Maududi, Klmthat (Ser­mons) (Lahore: Islamic Publications, 1957).

37. Javed Ansari, “Jamaat-i-Islami and the Politics of Pakistan,” Arabia: The Islamic World Review (December 1985): 64.

38. Abul Ala Maududi, “How to Estab­lish Islamic Order in the Country?” re­printed in The Universal Message (May 1983): 9.

39. Ibid., pp. 9-10.

40. A Jamaat-i-Marni leader told me in an interview in 1983, “We oppose General Zia with our tongues but support him with our hearts.”

41. Javed Ansari, “Jamaat-i-Islami,” p. 64.

42. Ibid.

43. Trevor Fishlock, “‘Fundamentalists put universities in peril,” London Times, 6 September 1982.

44. Arabia: The Islamic World Rfpiew (April 1984): 27.

45. Jasarat, 19 June 1988.

46. Javed Ansari, “Jamaat-i-Islami,” p. 64.

47. Mir, “Some Features,” p. 243.

48. Abul Ala Maududi, Come Let Us Change This World! (Washington, D.C.: 1972), p. 102-3.

49. Ibid, pp. 104-5.

50. Mir, “Some Features,” p. 241.

51. Hamid Enayat, Modern Islamic Politi­cal Thought, p. 102.

52. Abul Ala Maududi, Taflrim-al-Qttr’ait, vol. 2., p. 422, quoted in Mir, “Some Features,” p. 242.

53. The word iqama used in die Qur’an, according to Maududi, means not only that we should simply preach die religion—as the Tablighi Jamaat does—but that we must “act upon it, promote it and actually enforce it” so that “die entire administration of the state could be run under its supervision.” (Mir, “Some Features,” pp. 242-43).

54. Abul Ala Maududi, “Islamic Government,” reprinted in asm,  20 September 1981, p. 9.

55. Ibid.

56. Ahmad and Ansari, Islamic Penpec-tives, p. 280.

57. }amaat-i-lslami Key Mdashi Program ka, ek Ijmali Khaka. (An outline of the Ja-maat-i-Islami’s economic program) (Kara­chi: Janiaat-i-Islami, 1969), p. 5.

58. In a booklet written more than forty years ago, Maududi defined die nature of die economic problem of man as follows: “In order to sustain and advance civilization, how to arrange economic distribution so as to keep all men supplied widi necessities and to see diat every individual is provided with die opportunities adequate to the develop­ment of his personality.”Abdul Ala Mau­dudi, Economk Problem of Man and Its Islamic Solution (Reprint, Lahore: Islamic Publications, I960), p. 12.

59. These figures were given by the sec­retary general of the Jamat-i-Islami in the re­port which he presented at die conference of the Jamaat held in Lahore in November 1989; see Taiibeer, 23 November 1989, p. 22.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid.

62. Most of these twenty-five founding members of die IJT later rose to positions of political and intellectual leadership in the Ja-maat-i-Islami.

63. Annual Report (Lahore: Islami Ja-miat-e-Talaba Pakistan, 1988), pp. 4-10.

64. Ibid. p. 5-8; see also Pakistan, Janu­ary 1984, pp. 26-30.

65. Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba Pakistan: Pan­oramic View (Karachi: Islami Jamiat-e-Tal-aba, 1981), pp. 13-14.

66. A Deobandi ‘alim, in an anri-Mau-dudi speech, once raised two critical ques­tions: “From which madrasa did he (Maududi) graduate? Who was his teacher?”

67. Author’s survey, September 1975.

68. Audior’s survey, March 1983.

69. Data compiled from the list of the Jamaat candidates for February 1985 elections.

70. Leonard Binder, The Ideological Revo­lution in the Middle East (New York: Wiley, 1964), p. 43.

71. Ibid., p. 45.

72. For a perceptive analysis of the eco­nomic policies of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, see Shahid Javed Burki, Pakistan under Bhutto (New York: St. Martin’s, 1980). Also, see Khalid B. Sayeed, Pakistan: Direction of Po­litical Change (New York: Pracger Publish­ers, 1980).

73. Khurshid Ahmad, “Economic De­velopment in an Islamic Framework,” in Khurshid Ahmad, ed., Studies in Islamic Economics (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 1980), p. 177.

74. Ahmad and Ansari,. Islamic Perspec­tives, pp. 378-80.

75. Ibid, p. 381.

76. A detailed discussion on the issue of Islamic radicalism in Pakistan can be found in my chapter, “Pakistan,” in Shireen T. Hunter, ed., The Politics of Islamic Revivalism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), pp. 230-46.

77. The Bangladesh Observer, 23 April 1977.

78. Emajuddin Ahmed, “Current Trends of Islam in Bangladesh,” Economic and Politi­cal Weekly, 18 June 1983, p. 117.

79. The Message International, January-March 1989, p. 4.

80. The Bangladesh Observer, 13 Novem­ber 1988, p. 1.

81. The Message International, January— March 1989, p. 5.

82. Radiance, 3-9 November 1985, p. 14.

83. Ibid.

84. “Jamaat Campaigns for Harmony in Karnataka,” Arabia: The Islamic World Re­view (May 1984): 87.

85. For my analysis in this section, I have drawn on my previous work, in particular, my “Islamic Revival in Pakistan,” in James W. Bj0rkman, ed., Fundamentalism, Revival­ists, and Violence in South Asia (Riverdale, Md.: Riverdale, 1988), pp. 88-106.

86. Ahmad and Ansari, Islamic Perspec­tive, pp. 378-81.

87. Speech by Maulana Abul Lais Islahi, emir Jamaat-i-Islami India at the Muslim Students Association Convention, Indian­apolis, Indiana, on 31 August 1983.

88. Introducing The Jnmaat-e-Islami Hind (Delhi: Jamaat-e-Islami, 1971), pp. 31-32.

89. Ibid., p. 32.

90. Ibid., p. 32.

91. Mushirul Haq, Islam in Secular India (Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1972), p. 12.

92. Ayeena, 15 August 1984, p. 6; and Aftab, 4 December 1984, p. 7.

93. Interview with Mr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, executive director, Kashmiri-American Council, 12 December 1986.

94. Arabia: The Islamic World Review (January 1985): 13.

95. Ibid (August 1984): 23.

96. Srinagar Times, 14 August 1984; Af­tab, 1 February 1984.

97. Roshni, 20 October 1984.

98. Ghulam Nabi Khayal, “Valley of Un­rest,” Illustrated Weekly of India, 20 October 1985.

99. Abdul Rahman Momin, “Islamic Fundamentalism,” (1988), p. 6.

100. This is a direct quote from Maulana Fateh Mohammad, emir of the Punjab Ja­maat, as reported in Jang, 17 July 1982, p.l.

101. An example of this tendency can be seen in the campaign speeches of Mian Tu-fail Mohammad during the 1970 elections. Mian Tufail, who ran for election for the National Assembly from an urban constitu­ency of Lahore with acute problems of sew­age and waste disposal, continued to deliver lengthy discourses on the evils of dialectical materialism and the merits of the Islamic philosophy of history to his mostly illiterate constituents. Needless to say, his opponent, who promised to get more trucks for waste disposal, was elected.

102. The recent interest in the Islamic resurgence in the West has produced nu­merous books and journal articles on the

contemporary Islamic movements. None of these, however, discusses the significance, role, and impact of the Tablighi Jamaat.

103. For example, Mohammad Ayub Qadri, Tablighi Jamaat ka tarikhi ja’iza (Ka­rachi: Maktaba-e-Muaviya, 1971); Wahi-duddin Khan, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas our un ki deeni tahreek (Lahore: Maktaba-e-Zak-riya, n.d.); Mohammad Sani Hasni, Savaneh Hazmt Maulana Mohammad Yusuf, Amir Tablighi Jamaat Pak-o-Himt (Lahore: Na-sharan-e-Qur’an, n.d.) Mohammad Shahid Saharanpuri, Akaabar key khatut (Lahore: Maktaba-e-Zakriya, n.d.); Maulana Mo­hammad Ilyas, Hazrat Sheikh aur un ki afbeeti (Lahore: Maktaba-e-Zakriya, n.d.): Maulana Manzoor Ahmad Noamani, Da’wat-c-Tabligh (Lahore: Maktaba-e-Zakriya, n.d.); Rashid-ul-Qadri, Tablighi Jamaat (Jamshedpur, India, a.h. 1379); Rashid-ul-Qadri, TaJblighiKam (Delhi: An-juman Taraqqi Urdu, 1967); and Abul Has-san Ali Nadvi, Hazrat Maulana, Mohammad Ilyas aur unki deeni d ‘awat (Karachi: 1965).

104. I. S. Marwa, “Tabligh Movement Among the Meos of Mewat,” in M. S. A. Roa, ed., Social Movements in India, vol. 2 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1979), pp. 96-97.

105. See Maulvi Abdul Shakoor, Tarikb-e-Mewat (Delhi: 1919) for a detailed dis­cussion on the socioreligious situation of Mewat at the turn of the century.

106. Manzoor-ul-Haq Siddiqu, Maathur-al-Ajdad (Lahore: Maktaba-e-Salafiya, 1964), pp. 97-108; Maulvi Abdul Baqi Sehvani, Akhbar Qila’ Rat Seen (Lucknow, 1924), p. 33. See also Nadvi, Hazrat, pp. 76-78.

107. Khan, Maulana Mohammad Ilyas, p. 7; Hasni, Savaneh Hazrat, pp. 138-39.

108. Saharanpuri, Akabar ke khatutu, p. 158.

109. Hasni, Savaneh Hazrat, p. 140.

110. Wahiduddin Khan, Tablyh Move­ment (New Delhi: Islamic Center, 1986), pp. 10-11, 14-16.

111. Qadri, Tablighi Jamaat, pp. 92-93; Hasni, Savaneh Hazrat, pp. 142—43.

112. Quoted in Khan, Tabligh Movement, p. 26.

113. For die contribution of Maulana Mohammad Yusuf toward the daSva work of the Jamaat, see Hasni, Savaneh Hazrat.

114. Wahiduddin Khan, “Reflections,” Al-Risala, February 1987, p. 26.

115. Ibid.

116. Tabish Mahdi, Tablighi Jamaat Afne Bant Key Malfuzat Key A’iney Mem (Deoband, India: Maktaba Al-Iman, 1985), p. 10.

117. The Jamaat leaders maintain that its daVa methodology is based on the Sunna (practice) of the Prophet; hence, there can be no change in it.

118. Maulana Mohammad Zakriya, Tab­lighi Nisab (Lahore: Madni, n.d.).

119. The rigorous manner in which such forms of practice are observed by the Tab­lighi Jamaat are not always seen by other Muslims as doing “something for Islam.” For example, in an obviously unsympathetic observation of a Jamaat “religious gather­ing” in Canada, Iqbal Yunus Khan writes: “Just north of Toronto, we had the Ijtima of Tablighi Jamaat. In the three-day camp, be­tween four to five thousand Muslims partici­pated. Muslims who get easily impressed by statistics in the Western press should read the following with interest. According to one expert, die total length of beards in this diree-day camp was about 20,000 inches; the combined length of turbans was 50,000 inches, and die total length of robes was es­timated at about 80,000 inches.” In “Tab­lighi Jamaat’s Show,” New Trend, Kingsville, Maryland, July 1986.

120. Author’s interviews with former of­ficials of die Ministry of Law and Parliamen­tary Affairs, government of Pakistan, Islamabad, September 1979.

121. Audior’s interviews widi officials of the Consultative Committee of Indian Mus­lims (CCIM), Chicago, June 1981.

122. Author’s interview widi die Jamaat-i-Islami leaders, Lahore, March 1986.

123. Audior’s interview with Tablighi Ja­maat leaders from India and Pakistan, Wash­ington, D.C., September 1989.

124. Author’s interview widi a Tablighi

Jamaat delegation from Pakistan in Wash­ington, D.C., September 1989.

125. Maulana Manzoor Noamani, Mau-lana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, and Maulana Wahiduddin are all former members of the Jamaat-i-Islami. Both Maulana Noamani, who is currently the editor of a religious magazine, Al-Furqan (Delhi), and Maulana Nadvi, who is at present director of a promi­nent seminary, Nadvat-ul-UIama, in Uttar Pradesh, India, left the Jamaat-i-Islami soon after its founding in 1941. Maulana Wahi­duddin, currently the director of the Islamic Center, Delhi, resigned from a prominent position in the Jamaat-i-Islami of India in the 1960s. All three of them accused Mau­lana Maududi and the Jamaat-i-Islami of be­ing overly concerned with temporal power and politics and of neglecting the basic pur­pose of Islamic daSva, which is to bring people closer to God and to raise their reli­gious consciousness.

126. Al-Risala, January 1988, p. 17.

127. Ibid., p. 1826.

128. Al-Risala, July 1987, p. 8.

129. Ibid.

130. Ibid.

131. Al-Risala, January 1987, p. 2; Feb­ruary 1987, p. 3.

132. Al-Risala, January 1987, p. 2.

133. Al-Risala, January 1988, p. 24.

134. Al-Risala, March 1988, p. 13.


135. Al-Risala, September 1988, p. 9.

136. Al-Risala, March 1987, pp. 16-17.

137. Al-Risala, July 1987, pp. 20-21.

138. Harry H. Hiller, “Religious Funda­mentalism and Political Change,” in Changement social et religion (Paris: C. I. S. R., 1975), p. 389.

139. Daniel H. Levine, Religion and Poli­tics in Latin America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. 27.

140. Ibid.

141. Peter Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of Cargo Cults in Melanesia, 2d ed. (New York: Shocken Books, 1968), pp. xxvi—xxvii.

142. Seymour Martin Lipset, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), p. 100.

143. Mohammad Manzoor Noamani, Khomeini aurlnqUab-i-lran (Delhi: Maktaba Al-Furqan, 1986).

144. Ibid. pp. 6-17, 85-96.

145. Al-Risala, April 1988, p. 13.

146. The Jamaat-i-Islami in its formative phase has been much more radical in chal­lenging the monopoly of the ulama on Islamic da’wa. Maulana Maududi’s deva­stating critique of die intellectual impover­ishment, political ineptness, and moral inadequacy of the ulama, remains unsur­passed even by Islamic modernists.

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