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Maudoodi and the Age of Islamic Innocence

[An excerpt from Kaukab Siddique's forthcoming book RETURN TO PAKISTAN.]

Sayyid Abu ĎAla Maudoodi laid the foundations of the modern Islamic movement in South Asia. During his final days, he was with his son, a physician living in America. During one of my conversations with him by phone, he complained about the people who surrounded him in these words: "Inhon nay mujhe zinda muqbara bana lia hay." ["They have made me a living tomb."] The paradox of a great man usually is that his followers focus more on him than on his teachings. Progress becomes difficult because the brilliance of the man stops the very movement forward which he wanted. Fewer and fewer people try to read his books but more and more people buy his books to decorate their living rooms with.

Maudoodi's achievement belongs to an era when Islam was not a socio-political force. Without him Pakistan would have been another secular state like Turkey and the hopes of Allama Iqbal and Mohomed Ali Jinnah would have come to nothing. With his efforts, Pakistan has seen an ongoing tension between the Islamic aspirations of the people and the secularized self-perpetuating ruling class left behind by the British. Maudoodi had the intellectual ability to win supporters for Islam from the very schools and universities dedicating to making Islam irrelevant. His efforts generated intense hatred from the military-landlords-civil services complex which has ruled Pakistan.

I see Maudoodi as the spiritual father of the modern Islamic movement. I also see him as belonging to my past, a kinder, gentler time when most Islamic Pakistanis believed that change could be brought about by peaceful means. It was the era before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and before America decided to take over the world. Our era, the late 20th and early 21st century of the Christian era, is the era of Dajjal, a demonic force which has the ability to move across the globe. We live in a time when the Islamic ethos is confronting the powers of hegemony in ways which few could have thought possible. It is a time of limitless evil confronted by previously unimaginable Islamic challenge. The new Islamic ethos is that of Shaikh Omar ĎAbdel Rahman who taught that Jihad is fard-e-Ďain, as much of an obligation as prayer and fasting. Who could have thought that "Saudi" Arabia would produce Osama bin Laden and that the Taliban would defy America even when faced with B-52s.

Understandably, Pakistan too has responded to the brutality of our times by producing a burgeoning Jihad movement, a major segment of which is led by Hafiz Saeed of Jamaat ad-Da'wa (the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba).

One of the best books on understanding Maudoodi is very recent. Titled Mushahidaat: Maulana Maudoodi, Jamaate Islami, Pakistan, it is by Mian Tufail Muhammad, Maudoodi's closest associate and takes the form of interviews of Mian Tufail conducted by Salim Mansoor Khalid (published in the Urdu language in 2000 and reprinted in 2001 and 2003, 608 pages, hard cover). It is frank, honest and factual. Almost every important moment in the life of Maudoodi as seen by his closest associate is discussed. In addition Mian Tufail's own life, which is typical of the hardcore Islamic activist, is well presented.

What's so wonderful about this book is that the author does not try to be politically correct. He doesn't seem to care what people will say and how they will attack him or Maulana Maudoodi because of it. Here are some major impressions:

Maudoodi was truly dedicated to the relationship he had with Allah. All else came second. Unfortunately he was living in a society which was corrupt to the nth degree and most people though emotionally tied to Islam were ignorant and superstitious. He and Mian Tufail and the entire Jamaate Islami started organized Islamic work from zero and built it into a formidable force in Pakistan.

Mian Tufail and other central personalities of the Jamaat were sufaid poosh [middle class] people who believed in rule of law, discussion, dialogue and peaceful means. Right from the beginning they ran into state oppression coming from corrupt politicians and military rulers. The secularized Pakistani ruling class which has been pillaging Pakistani relentlessly saw Maudoodi as the obstacle in their way. He was subjected to incredible abuse by those in power.

The Pakistani rulers were not interested in Islam. They were not willing to listen to basic issues related to state ideology. The peoples' movement to define Qadianis (Ahmeddis) as non-Muslims was seen as a threat. Maudoodi was great at defining things and believed that by writing well he could solve issues. The rulers thought otherwise. In response to his book on Qadianis, they arrested him and sentenced him to death for sedition. [He was released following street protests and changes in government.] Maudoodi refused to ask for mercy when he was sentenced. That was the spiritual power of the man which energized the movement.

The history of Pakistan is linked at every step to the Islamic struggle led by Maudoodi, both in its successes and in its failures. He defied the military power of Field Marshal Ayub Khan and was imprisoned along with the entire central committee of Jamaate Islami. On the other hand, the Field Marshal knew that Maudoodi was the essence of Islamic Pakistan. When India crossed into Pakistan in 1965, Maudoodi, forgiving what the government had done to him, came on the radio to urge people that Jihad against India was their religious duty.

Mian Tufail's book is also about the HUMAN EFFORT which was required at the level of everyday life to make organized Islamic movement a reality. When Mian Tufail, with his wife, first joined Maudoodi in Pathankot, there was no electricity and the land was covered with tall weeds. The foundations of the Jamaat were laid in poverty and with hard and persistent effort.

An amazing insight which comes out of Mian Tufail's narration in MUSHAHIDAAT is about his wife, Mahmudah. Such women are the foundation of Islamic society, though seemingly not attracting any attention at all. She went with her husband through thick and thin, often in intense poverty, bearing him numerous children, never complaining about his repeated arrests by the government. She worked steadily, studied much, and supported the Islamic struggle with all her power by supporting her husband. Such women might be the reason why Pakistan has survived. Together Mian sahib and his wife were the kind of couple, old fashioned but invincible, about whom Milton wrote in his unabashed male chauvinism:

He for God
She for God in him

I have never agreed with Mian Tufail on the policies of Jamaate Islami but it can be said in all honesty: He is a real gentleman but not the kind of person one can defeat. In fact quite complex.

MUSHAHIDAAT is also antidote for the poison the opponents of Islam have spread about Jamaate Islami in the form of propaganda that: Maudoodi opposed Pakistan, or that Maudoodi got money from America, or other such frivolities. Mian Tufail does a good job of pointing out who were the opponents of Maudoodi who spread this propaganda and the emptiness of their claims.

The saddening part of Pakistani politics is that many of the traditional religious groupings did not understand the modern world and were skillfully used by Pakistani rulers against Jamaate Islami. Jamaat for long could not succeed in Pakistani politics not because of secular rulers but because the sectarian religious people saw him as a threat to their narrow view of religion.

2003-08-02 Sat 17:58ct