Abul Ala Maududi: An existentialist history

By Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

Maulana Maudoodi

Maulana Maududi

To most Pakistanis and to those who have been associated with various Islamic political outfits in countries like Egypt, Indonesia, Syria and Malaysia, Abul Ala Maududi is to ‘Political Islam’ what Karl Marx was to Communism.

Both western and South Asian historians have described him as one of the most powerful Islamic ideologues of the 20th century, whose ideas and writings went on to influence a vast number of Islamic movements in the Muslim world.

For example, the well-known American journal, The New Statesman, in its July 2013 issue, suggested that the impact of Maududi’s ideas can be found in modern Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood (first formed in Egypt) and similar outfits across the Muslim realms, all the way to the more aggressive postures of men like Osama Bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda and once the most wanted terrorist in the world.

In Pakistan, Maududi is mostly remembered as an Islamic scholar who founded the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). But he also still remains a controversial figure here. To the left and liberal segments, he is remembered as the man who let the US use JI (during the Cold War) to undermine leftist and progressive politics in Pakistan, whereas many Islamic parties opposed to the JI once went on to declare him to be a religious innovator who attempted to create a whole new sect.

Also read: Maududi’s Children

He arrived in Pakistan from India as a migrant and scholar with the ambition to turn what to him was a nationalistic abomination into becoming a ‘true Islamic state’ based on the laws of the shariah.

Maududi had formed his party in 1941 like a Leninist outfit in which a vanguard and select group of learned and ‘pious Muslims’ would work to bring an ‘Islamic revolution’ and do away with the forces of what Maududi called modern-day jahiliya (socialism, communism, liberal democracy, secularism and a faith ‘distorted by innovators’).

To that end, he began to lay down the foundations of what came to be known as ‘Islamism’ — a theory that advocated the formation of an Islamic state by first ‘Islamising’ various sections of the economy and politics so that a fully Islamised polity could be built to launch the final Islamic revolution.

Maududi’s theories in this context attracted certain segments of Pakistan’s urban middle-classes and was also adopted by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which tried to jettison the process through a ‘jihad’ within Egypt.

Not only did Maududi and his party face resistance from leftist groups, it also entered into a long tussle with Ayub Khan’s secular/modernist dictatorship (1958-69), and with the ZA Bhutto regime, which was based on populist socialism (1971-77).

Maududi was also taken to task by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, which accused the JI of creating a separate Muslim sect called ‘Maududiat’.

Explore: Parliamentary democracy, caliphate and Islamists

Nevertheless, Maududi’s ideas were eventually adopted by General Ziaul Haq, who had pulled off a successful military coup in July 1977 and then invited Maududi to help him shape policies to help make Pakistan a ‘true Islamic country’ run on ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa.’

The course charted by Zia eventually mutated into becoming a destructive and highly polarising legacy that the state, politics and society of Pakistan has been battling with till this day.

But the irony is that none of what went down in the name of faith and ‘Islamisation’ during and after the Zia dictatorship was witnessed by the ideologue who had first inspired it, because Maududi passed away in 1979.

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2 replies

  1. Life history of Maulana Maududi, General Zia ul Haq and ZA Bhutoo is a testament that ‘Sharia Law’ has become a tool for the Islamomaniacs and even the Islamophobes.

    In this day and age, when we live in a global village, Secularism is the way forward. You can get your golden ideas from any source, but, ultimately the political process has to be secular and follow the principles of democracy and modern society.

    For an extensive collection about “Secularism,” in the Muslim Times, please click here.

    To understand, where I am coming from, allow me to suggest one of my articles: Shariah and Constitution: A Personal Journey.

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