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Jamaat-e-Islami: where it stands today?
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

Jamaat founder Maulana Maududi (left); 
 Maulana Sirajul Hasan, the current amir of JIH

Jamaat-e-Islami is one of the most envied names among the Muslim organizations around the world. Hate and admiration both flow together for it in a seemingly intermittent way. To say the least brickbats and accolades have courted the organization since its inception in August 1941. 

It is sixty years when it was launched by Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, a young but acclaimed Muslim intellectual of the time. The Maulana can rightly be described as the greatest revivalist of Islam in the twentieth century whose writings and thoughts inspired similar movements in a large part of the world. Muslim Brotherhood, or Al-Ikhwanul Muslimoon as it is better known, has borrowed a lot from the man who brought a sea change in the Muslim perspective in this part of the world. Unlike conventional thinkers of the time who blamed others for every malaise affecting the Muslim society Maulana Maududi asked Muslims to do some real introspection and exhorted them to change themselves and follow true Islamic teachings.

His writings not only denounced nationalism being preached by different Hindu and Muslim organizations but also Muslims’ total behaviour at a time when the whole community was reeling under intense moral and psychological pressure after the failure of Khilafat movement and rise of far rightist Hindu organizations. He was most bitter critic of Muslim League that was preaching nationalism and was trying to create a separate country for Muslims. An ideal Muslim for Maulana Maududi was one who was prepared to withstand every pressure and lure of life and could work for Islam throughout his life. He was far from anything that could be described wrong or unlawful. A man with all the qualities. 

He wanted to have model Muslims with him, a model that can represent Islam and its true messenger. And with such people he wanted to form an organization that could work for the religion of Allah. And this did not come easily. He received brickbats from all corners. In the first ever meeting of the Jamaat cadres Maulana Maududi described it in following words, ‘the purpose to initiate the deen in a form of movement is that religiosity does not become a static form in our personal lives, but we struggle to practically implement this deen and also try to crush those forces that are against its implementation.’ He also said in the same meeting that most of the organizations formed by Muslims are either working for some worldly gains or are trying to work for a part of Islam, but we are taking only and the whole of Islam and we are taking up the same form of organization that was the form of the Jamaah formed by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He also made it clear that ‘we do not take anyone as a Muslim on assumption that he was born as a Muslim so he will definitely be a Muslim. We take a person in Jamaat when he understands the meaning of Kalima-e-Tayyiba and makes it mandatory that he fulfills the minimum criteria of Islam.’ 

And as he predicted, Jamaat was condemned by all the organizations and religious schools in the country. Maulana was accused of calling everyone not in Jamaat as non-Muslim. Not only the religious organizations but also even nationalist Muslim organizations were in the front-line condemning the Maulana and his organization. 

For most people it will be something alien even to believe that the Maulana was a staunch critic of partition theory being advocated by the Muslim League on religious line. He was one of the fiercest opponents of two nation theory and division of the nation on those lines. On 26 April 1947 in Madras, Maulana said that ‘Muslims in Hindu dominated areas will shortly feel that the nationalism over which they had based their collective attitude has left them at a dead end and their war of nationalism they fought without giving a thought has left them at a corner that doesn’t contain anything for them except destruction.’ He added that ‘after a deadly struggle spanning over several years this foolhardy struggle has reached ‘success’ and the thing they were fighting for is within reach. But here the Muslims will be governed by those with whom they were fighting a national war.’

So he and his organization were equally hated by ulama who thought that they were upto something that was their own prerogative and nationalists because they were opposed to nationalism.

But there was something more. Jamaat in its beginning was jolted when severe internal differences cropped up in it and several leading figures revolted and the Maulana was so much distressed that he even went on to present a suggestion that the Jamaat should be scrapped. It was one of the three suggestions forwarded by the Jamaat. But it was unanimously rejected and all the four leading figures opted to resign voluntarily from the Jamaat. 

After the partition the Jamaat ceased to function as an organization in the ensuing chaos for quite a while. It regrouped later under late Maulana Abullaith Islahi. The Jamaat here severed its ties from its parental organization and was named Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. It was not easy to function in those days. But the few people who regrouped showed unparalleled courage and on the strength of their resolve it survived in the post-Partition days. These people faced detention, threats, abuses and humiliations even from their own community, but kept their resolve and never deterred.

So it made its mark. A Jamaat member could be distinguished in a crowd of common Muslims. The Jamaat people were respected for their resolve and their steadfastness. Despite abuses coming from every direction they kept their cool and worked relentlessly. As a senior Jamaat leader puts it, Jamaat benefited most from criticism it received from its bitter enemies and it gave them their best cadres. 

Their sacrifices and steadfastness in their resolve gave them unexpected success in the country and they were able to regroup themselves in a short time in the whole country. Jamaat in the post partition scenario paid its full attention on work in the Muslim community for their moral reconstruction. Their efforts in providing necessary literature for Muslims also gave good dividends to them. Their hard work in the field gave them the name of a literary organization.

The Jamaat should be credited with providing necessary Islamic literature for all groups. For non-Muslims too they have developed a considerably vast literature in almost all important languages spoken in the country. Jamaat from its beginning has given great attention to preparation of literature in all languages that include languages like Hindi, Urdu, English, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Malyali, Assamese and Telugu besides Turkish, Burmese and several others. Jamaat’s publishing house was the main source of revenue for it in the beginning and it continues to be so even today, though not in the same way. It has also given stress on preparation of course material for primary and junior classes on several subjects. These books are taught in a large number of schools and madrasas established by it in recent years. Though these books are being neglected by English medium schools being run by it or its cadres as the books have become obsolete and outdated. It has not been able to get the books reviewed by equally qualified authors who wrote them two or three decades ago. Jamaat distinctly lacks people of the same caliber now as it had earlier. 

This has become a big handicap of Jamaat and it has cast shadow on every aspect of its activities. Though Jamaat leaders do not admit this fact publicly, but in private conversations it is admitted with least hesitation. It is evident in all spheres of their activities. Though Jamaat people will never like to admit it but it is a fact that the top Jamaat leadership has survived to stay on top so far due to non-availability of a suitable candidate for the top post.

A big shortcoming that is not just limited to it but has affected several other ideology based organizations is that its people believe that the whole world is limited to them, and there is nothing beyond them. This has not only curtailed their reach to common people but has also created a sort of suspicion for them even in their own community. Jamaat rarely seems to have taken any initiative to bridge the gap between its cadres and commoners and reach out to all.

Some misconceived Jamaat policies have also harmed its interests in the community. Its open arm policies towards RSS and its affiliates in the post Emergency scenario also cost it dearly. The Sangh fully exploited this opportunity and used Jamaat’s own platforms to condemn it and its activities. The trend in a different form continues even today. Some acharyas and swamis who escort top Jamaat leadership day in and day out could also be seen writing inflammatory pieces against the community and Islam in different newspapers and magazines. Either it is unaware of their hobnobbing with others or has blissfully ignored their such activities. 

Its experiment with Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity also cost it dearly and alienated a large part of its cadres from it. Though there may not be a considerable desertion of cadres due to it, but it created suspicion in its diehard supporters and workers. Anyhow, later on Jamaat abandoned it.

Notwithstanding some of its shortcomings, Jamaat’s contribution as a leading national organization of the Muslims can never be questioned. It has worked relentlessly for the welfare of community in the post-partition era and has always given a voice to the community when everyone thought it best to keep quiet. The rehabilitation work and services done by its cadres following riots in Bhopal, Meerut, Maliana, Bhagalpur, Samastipur, Mumbai and Moradabad and around the country in the post-Babri riots are just a few examples enough to prove the claim. Literature prepared by it has no parallel in recent times. Its efforts to reach out to non-Muslim population in the country in recent times and its dawah efforts are exemplary in nature and should be commended by the whole community. This relentless work undertaken by the Jamaat has helped remove misconceptions about Islam and Muslims among the non-Muslim population. 

INTERVIEW: Maulana Shafi Moonis: ‘Nothing has changed in Jamaat’
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