Jinnah, within days of Pakistan’s creation, asked Muhammad Asad to establish the Department of Islamic Reconstruction
M Aamer Sarfraz
December 7, 2018
Allama Iqbal had lost faith in the Ahmadia Jamaat a decade earlier due to its divisive nature and Imperialist designs, and Aligarh boys seemed too ‘worldly’ to undertake the tedious task of propagating the Quranic model of Islam. He lamented about his own lack of resources and the absence of generosity among affluent Muslims for this project. This was until Choudhry Niaz Ali, a retired civil servant and landlord, came to his rescue.
Niaz Ali offered hundred acres of land in Pathankot (India) and financial resources to build and run a Dar-ul-Islam according to Iqbal’s vision. Iqbal wrote to the Jaamia Al-Azhar immediately to provide a scholar-cum-administrator for this Institution. After receiving their apology, he approached Syed Suleiman Nadawi, among others, to spearhead this project. He declined due to old age but agreed to be a part of the faculty. He and Allama Jairajpuri recommended Chaudhry Ghulam Ahmed Parwez, an Iqbal protégé and a civil servant, for this role. Parwez, when asked, sought counsel from Mr Jinnah who refused to release him from his similar but discrete work for the Muslim League. Parwez, in turn, endorsed someone who visited him from Hyderabad (Deccan), and had penned impressive articles in leading journals about Islam.
Allama Iqbal wrote to the young man to come to Lahore to discuss the project. Iqbal had two meetings with him at Javed Manzil in 1938 to illustrate his own vision and assess his potential. Iqbal was not impressed…he thought that the clean-shaved man was regressive, and lacked religious academic depth and administrative experience. There was a discussion that he was ‘a mullah’ and more suited for Khitabat at the Badshahi Mosque. However, Niaz Ali and others prevailed because the project was already late and a faculty needed to be formed immently. Following Iqbal’s reluctant agreement, a formal announcement was made…Abul A’la Maududi had arrived.
Maududi made an impressive start at Dar-ul-Islam as he prepared a curriculum, published a Journal, and gathered an inspired faculty. Maududi’s task was to establishan academic and research centre to preparea community of competent scholars to produce works of outstanding quality on Islam. He instead went about making it a nerve centre of political ‘Islamic revival’ in India, through an ideal religious community, providing leaders and laying the foundation for a religious movement. He wrote to various Muslim luminaries and invited them to join him there. Leading scholars including Nadawi, Islahi, Farahi, Asad and others came on board. The community was composed of rukns (members), a shura(a consultative council), and a sadr (head).
Meanwhile, Allama Iqbal died after a bout of acute illness. Maududi was reportedly in Lahore but could not find time to attend his funeral. It soon became clear to Niaz Ali and colleagues that Maududi was more interested in politics than academics; and was being critical of Jinnah and Muslim League. Maududi was soon to declare the League to be ‘a party of pagans’ and of ‘nominal Muslims’ who wanted to create a secular country in the name of Pakistan. This led to parting of the ways, and Maududi took most of his faculty to Lahore and laid the foundations of Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941. Maududi’s fervent attacks on Pakistan could not stop the momentum that the League had gathered by 1946 and an independent Muslim state came into being.
Allama Iqbal had lost faith in the Ahmadia Jamaat a decade earlier due to its divisive nature and Imperialist designs, and Aligarh boys seemed too ‘worldly’ to undertake the tedious task of propagating the Quranic model of Islam. He lamented about his own lack of resources and the absence of generosity among affluent Muslims for this project
Maududi opted for Pakistan and commenced his mission of ‘Islamising’ it from day one. He has a significant following and his Islamic vision or journalism are the topic of a separate article. However, he remained sheepish about Iqbal and Jinnah all is life. Leading lights in his movement, including Amin Islahi, Dr Israr Ahmed and Irshad Haqqani left him after the Machigot meeting in the mid-sixties. They wanted him to focus on human beings as the Islamic agent of change as opposed to Maududi’s vision of trickle down Islam after getting into power. He had amalgamated organisational aspects of Leninism, Hegel’s dualism, Afghani’s Pan-Islamism into his political thesis, which appealed to movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and youth outfits like the Islami Jamiat-e-Taleba. The mujahedeen who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan and the Al-Qaida were also inspired by him. His brainchild, Jamaat-e-Islami, lies in tatters while Javed Ghamidi of the dissident faction is flying high today.
Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss)never joined Maududi as he supported the idea of a separate Muslim state in India. After the independence of Pakistan, Asad was conferred citizenship by Pakistan and become the first passport-holder. Jinnah, within days of Pakistan’s creation, asked him to establish the Department of Islamic Reconstruction (DIR) in Lahore to “help our community to reconstruct its life on Islamic lines.” The DIR was also asked to help draft Pakistan’s first Constitution. Some of Asad’s work at the DIR features in the Objectives Resolution. Soon after the death of Jinnah, Sir Zafarullah Khan got Asad transferred to the Foreign Ministry. Asad left Pakistan in dubious circumstances soon after and DIR was abolished not long afterwards. Most of the DIR’s record was destroyed in a mysterious fire in October 1948, only a month after Jinnah’s death.
To be continued
The writer is a Consultant Psychiatrist & Visiting Professor. He tweets @AamerSarfraz