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INTERVIEW: Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari
‘Most Muslims do not observe Islam’ 

Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari
Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari is Naib Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. But it is not fair to describe him merely as the Naib Ameer of Jamaat. He is more famous for his writings. His emphasis on a number of neglected or less tackled issues has set him apart from other authors and Jamaat leaders. His work on women and their rights in the Islamic society has been quite impressive and has received accolades from all corners. He has also tackled issues related to Muslims in non-Muslim societies and their relation with non-Muslims besides Muslim personal laws. Syed Ubaidur Rahman of the MG interviewed him recently. Excerpts:
What Jamaat is doing now?
Jamaat selects its office bearers every four years and formulates its policies. We have formulated our policies till March 2003. We are focusing on three issues. First and foremost thing is that-in India we can not imagine any change till the majority of the people are acquainted with Islam and understand what Islam is and misgiving about a plethora of issues concerning Islam are erased from their minds. It is essential for any fundamental change and it will also be discharging of duties on the part of Muslims. People associated with Jamaat-e-Islami Hind should take it as their responsibility.
Secondly a large number of Muslims-around 150-200 million Muslims are residing in the country. We know that most of them don’t know much about Islam. And even if they know they don’t observe it. They are also beset with a number of malaise and problems. There are educational, economic and other problems confronting them. Jamaat is trying to take up their issues and solve them as much as possible and prepare them to follow Islam in its true spirit so that they may become useful for Islam and the country.
Service to the common people is another important part of Jamaat. Jamaat has been in the forefront in providing assistance to the sufferers of tragedies like earthquake, cyclone and riots. Everyone has recognized Jama'at’s positive roles it played in such circumstances. In Gujarat after the earthquake Jamaat is one of the most important organizations providing assistance to the people. Gujarat government seeing the great role played by the Jamaat has offered to accept it as an NGO. In normal circumstances too we are involved in a number of other social welfare programs.

Where lies the main emphasis?
Jamaat gives foremost emphasis on the tarbiyah of Muslims more importantly of people associated with it. But it believes that no great change is possible in the country without the acceptance of Islam by the majority of the people or at least change its perception about Islam. So it tries to reach out to all the people of the country and tries to alleviate their misgivings about Islam.

Jamaat launched Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity. Is it an effort to streamline itself?
Jamaat wants democracy to continue in the country. In democracies every person has a right to follow the ideas he believes. But there are forces that don’t want to allow the present form of democracy to continue in the country. They believe that continuance of democracy will not be in their favour. On the other hand the majority of the people favour continuance of the democracy in its present form. They abhor ideology being preached by these people. Jamaat has its own vision for the development and the prosperity of the country and it doesn't want to allow these forces implement their unholy plan. We believe that as long as democracy continues in the country Muslims will have opportunities to present Islam before the common people.
So we felt the need to form a forum with the help of other like minded people from other sections of the society. It was a great success and we were able to form its chapters in several states.

A number of people believe that those like minded people exploited the forum for their own benefits?
Whenever any organization or forum is launched, a number of people who believe in the same philosophy come together. With committed people some other people also make their way in the set up for their own interest. But in the case of Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity we didn't find any person who was not sincere for the development and welfare of the country. We have also no idea if they were able to get personal gain out of the forum. If they are getting media attention due to their involvement in the forum, it is imminent. You will have to tolerate at least these things.

You have been writing on social issues, particularly on women issues for quite some time. What do you believe is the reason for their present deplorable condition in the Indian Muslim society.
Women have been accorded a just status in Islam. We will have to differentiate between their rights accorded and rights they are receiving in the society. If they have been accorded rights but they are not being allowed to enjoy it, it is not the fault of Islam, but of the people. If they are not getting their lawful rights by the society, it is the fault of the people.

Do you agree that Muslim women's condition is precarious in Muslim society?
Yes. It is. They are not being given the rights accorded to them in the shari'ah. Women are being oppressed in the society. But I also believe that the media is exaggerating it. Their condition is not as bad as is being projected by the media.
In fact the loose attachment of Muslims with Islam is responsible for their present state of affairs. It will change with strong deeni awareness among Muslims. And I see that change is taking place, though slowly.

What are the other issues you are writing on?
My last published book is Ghair Muslimon se Ta’lluqat aur Unke Huqooq. I have written the book for those people who live in non-Muslim countries. It deals with their relation with their non-Muslim compatriots.
I was writing a series of articles on human rights in Islam in Tahqeeqat-e-Islami. It will be published after a review. While writing the articles I have taken the guidelines set by Qur'an and Hadith in this regard. It is believed that Islam does not accord much emphasis on human rights. Nothing can be farther from truth than this wrong notion. Islam is very serious on the rights of weaker sections and their protection in the society.
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