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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Book Review

Maududi and Indian Muslims

By Yoginder Sikand


Between Muslim Nationalists and Nationalist Muslims: Mawdudiís Thoughts on Indian Muslims
Author: Omar Khalidi
Publisher: Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi
Year: 2004. Pp: 80. Price: Rs. 120

The attitude of Islamists to nationalism and the project of the nation-state is marked by a distinct ambiguity. On the one hand, they generally see nationalism as divisive, as setting up what they regard as artificial barriers between Muslims, whom they regard as members of a united global ummah. Some Islamists even go to the extent of denouncing nationalism as an alleged Ďanti-Islamicí conspiracy, branding it as akin to the unforgivable sin of shirk or setting up partners with God. On the other hand, many Islamist groups also function as quasi-nationalist parties, appearing to equate the interests of the nation-states where they operate as synonymous with the interests of Islam itself. 

This book purports to discuss the complex stances of Islamist groups on the question of national identity through an examination of the writings of the founder of one of the most influential contemporary Islamist groups, the JamaĎat-i Islami. The JamaĎat was set up by the scholar-activist Sayyed Abul Ala Maududi in 1941. Maududiís impact on global Islamism has been profound and extends far beyond the confines of South Asia, where the JamaĎat enjoys a fairly significant presence.

In understanding the evolution of Maududiís approach to nationalism, an appreciation of his own social location is crucial. In the first of the two chapters of this book Khalidi discusses Maududiís formative years in the princely state of Hyderabad, where he was born. Maududiís years in Hyderabad, Khalidi seems to suggest, exercised a profound influence on his way of imagining Islam. Hyderabad was the largest of the Indian princely states, a Hindu majority state ruled by a Muslim Nizam and a largely Muslim administrative and military elite, mainly of foreign or north Indian extraction. Maududiís own family was drawn from the feudal elite, which saw its interests as intricately connected to the continuance of the rule of the Nizam. From the 1920s onwards this class came to be increasingly confronted with the challenge posed by Hindu organisations as well as by communist activists. Although Khalidi does not say so, it is possible that this proved to be a major factor in shaping Maududi

Khalidi traces the trajectory of Maududiís own attitude towards the rule of the Nizam, showing how it underwent a marked transformation over time. Several of Maududiís relatives were officers in the Nizamís administration, and Maududi himself worked for a while with the Nizamís translation bureau, with the state education department and with leading Hyderabadi Muslim notables to propagate Islam among the stateís Hindus. He also penned numerous articles in support of the Nizamís claims against the British, of whom the Nizam had been a consistent ally. In return, the Nizamís administration, Khalidi tells us, financially supported Maududiís own journalistic ventures.

While Maududi thus appeared to be a firm supporter of the Nizamís regime, which he saw somewhat as a beleaguered bastion of Islam, Khalidi writes that as Indian independence drew closer Maududiís views appear to have undergone a distinct shift. He seems to have realised that it was inevitable that Hindu-majority Hyderabad would sooner rather than later be absorbed into the Indian Union. He believed that this would pose a grave danger to the Muslims of the state, particularly for the ruling elites. Maududiís rather unrealistic remedy for what he saw as this unenviable situation was to plead with the Nizam to launch a programme to preach Islam among the Hindus of the state. As Maududi himself put it, ďI tried to explain to a few influential personalities that nothing could save the State from crumbling unless the roots were strengthened and Muslims took to the preaching of IslamĒ (pp.38-39). In short, as Maududi saw it, the interests of Islam and of the Muslim-ruled state were synonymous.For his part, the Nizam is said not to have seriously considered his proposal, and, much to Maududiís chagrin, appeared to be more concerned with protecting Muslim communal interests rather than Islam as such. 

This fact is significant, mirroring Maududiís later opposition to the Muslim nationalism of the Muslim League and its demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. As Maududi now seemed to believe, the defence of the communal interests of the Muslims, whether of Hyderabad or of India as a whole as championed by the Muslim League, represented, in some sense, a deviation from what he saw as the demands of the Islamic missionary enterprise. It was pointless, he argued, for Muslims to hanker after political power, whether in Hyderabad or for a separate Pakistan, if they did not lead what he described as Ďproperí Islamic lives themselves. This explains his qualified opposition to the Ďtwo nationí theory of the Muslim League, which he saw as led by westernised Muslims who were not particularly pious in their own lives. He went along with the League in defining Muslims as a nation by themselves (echoing, interestingly enough, rightwing Hindu ideologues in this regard). But where he differed with it was in his conviction that Muslims throughout the world were a single nation, and that Islam demanded that they work for a global Islamic state rather than a secular, democratic Muslim-majority state or states. 

Consequently, Maududi appears to have opposed the Nizamís efforts to prevent the absorption of Hyderabad into the Indian Union. He believed that resisting the inevitable would invite bloody reprisals, in which Muslims would suffer badly. His warnings were soon to prove prophetic. In the course of the Police Action of 1948 when Indian forces overran Hyderabad, several thousand Muslims are said to have lost their lives. Maududi, as Khalidi tells us, suggested that the Hyderabadi Muslims should not resist the merger of the state with India. Apparently, he seems to have believed that the disadvantage that this might have posed to Muslims could be offset by Muslim missionary work among the Hindus, so that one day, so he hoped, Hyderabad would itself become a Muslim majority state. 

The second chapter of the book deals with Maududiís writings on the political future of India as British rule was drawing to a close. This is based on a close examination of Maududiís voluminous writings on the subject. Khalidi describes Maududiís opposition to both the Muslim nationalism of the League and the composite nationalism of the JamiĎat ul-ĎUlama-i Hind and the Congress Party. He shows how Maududiís belief in global Muslim nationalism, as opposed to the Indian Muslim nationalism of the League, did not necessarily mean that he was wholly opposed to a united India at the same time. Maududi appeared to hesitatingly acquiesce in a united India provided Muslims were given their due share in the administration of the country and the right to freely practice and propagate their religion. He was of the view that in a free India Muslims should devote all their energies to spread Islam and to work for the eventual establishment of an Islamic state in the country. Maududi, however, proved to be unable to counter the Leagueís demand, and no sooner had Pakistan come into being than Maududi decided to shift there, despite his consistent opposition to the Leagueís political project. This laid him open to the charge of political opportunism.

Khalidi describes, albeit wholly uncritically, Maududiís advice to the Muslims who remained behind in the Indian Union once the country was partitioned. Given Maududiís opposition to nationalism, his suggestion to the Indian Muslims was simply that they should lead Ďproperí Islamic lives and to work for the spread of Islam in India, believing that, in this way, India would one day turn Muslim. This, in short, was his rather naÔve solution to the discomforting predicament of Muslims living as a minority in India. Indeed, he went so far as to argue that the Indian Muslims should refrain from asserting their mundane demands and claims, because, as he put it, this would, Ďonly help intensify the communal prejudices of the Hindusí. He believed that the Indian Muslims Ďshould, as a community, have nothing to do with the government and its administration, and should assure Hindu nationalism that there is no competing Muslim nationalismí. This was essential, so Maududi seemed to believe in order to Ďremove the extraordinary prejudice the non-Muslim majority has against Islamí (p.75). In other words, struggling for community rights was to be sacrificed at the altar of Maududiís grand Islamic missionary project. In his advice to the Indian Muslims, Maududi even went to the extent of arguing that the future political set up of India was a task for Hindus alone to decide, since he believed that the Hindus would not take Muslim opinion into account at all. Thus, he suggested that even if the Hindus decided to establish a Hindu Raj and impose the cruel laws of Manu on the Ďlowerí castes and the Muslims, it was not for the Muslims to protest!. 

Unfortunately, Khalidi does not critically interrogate Maududiís advice to the Indian Muslims at all. Completely absent also is a critique of the Maududian notion of Islamic nationalism and of Maududiís argument of Hindus and Muslims being two different and radically separate nations by themselves, a claim, interestingly enough, also made by rightwing Hindu ideologues at the same time. Instead, Khalidi appears, for the most part, to go along with Maududi, and even goes so far as to state, with no qualifications, that Maududi Ďremained committed to the welfare of Indian Muslimsí (p.79). Yet, to be fair, he does point out some inconsistencies in Maududiís politics. Thus, for instance, he contrasts Maududiís opposition to the Nizamís resistance to joining the Indian Union (claiming that this allegedly reflected his respect for the Ďdemocratic aspirationsí of Hyderabadís Hindu majority), with Maududiís later opposition to the East Bengali demand for independence from Pakistan. Khalidi describes this contradictory posture as Ďpuzzlingí, and berates the Pakistani JamaĎat (without, however, mentioning Maududi) for denying the democratic aspirations of the Bengali Muslims, and for joining hands with the West Pakistani military junta, which resulted, as he puts it, Ďin a bloodbath between Muslims, more ferocious than the massacres of Muslims at the hands of the Congress gangs in Hyderabadí (p.61).

While this book provides interesting material on some hitherto little-known aspects of Maududiís life and political thoughts, it is woefully short on analysis. Khalidi does not critically examine Maududiís complex political positions, remaining content simply with quoting page after page from Maududiís writings. Equally distressing is the large number of typographical and grammatical errors, particularly in the rather uninspiring foreword by Muhammad Abdur Raheem Quraishi. That said, the book is a somewhat useful contribution to the ongoing debate on the concept of the nation-state in Islamist discourse. 

Editor: Khalidiís book fails to even mention Maulana Maududiís post-Partition views that Indian Muslims now live in ďDar al-HarbĒ and, therefore, the Muslims of a supposedly ďDar al-IslamĒ Pakistan should terminate marital and inheritance relationships with them. This was not taken kindly by Deoband ulama and Sayyid Muhammad Miyan wrote two treatises in its refutation. It is clear that Maulana Maududi could not free himself from the shackles of the Abbasid fiqhi baggage and continued to look at the world in the light of the worn-out ideas of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb which are irrelevant in the contemporary world where the World of Islam looks more like Dar al-Harb than the world outside it (Zafarul-Islam Khan).

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