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Published in the 16-28 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

The Maudoodi prescription of 1947 (ii)

The Milli Gazette Online

Maudoodi’s farewell advice to Muslim Indians meant abdication of civil and political rights, says Syed Shahabuddin

In his speech at Madras on 26 April, 1947 on the eve of the Partition, Maudoodi proposed a 4-point strategy for the Muslim community in India. 1) To give up the quest of due representation in legislatures and public employment and of material interests, to have nothing to do with government and administration in order to remove the prejudice in the non-Muslim mind against the Muslim community and to assure them that there is no competing Muslim nationalism. 2) To attract non-Muslims to Islam through acquisition of knowledge about Islam and improvement in moral and societal conditions of the Muslim community. 3) To launch newspapers in English, Urdu and other languages which will concentrate on principled criticism of the system without preoccupation with Muslim rights. 4) To acquire proficiency both in speech and writing in other Indian languages to promote Da’wah; to produce Islamic literature in those languages and not to tie the future of Islam with Urdu.

There is a controversy about what Maudoodi actually said in his deposition before the Munir Commission which was inquiring into the Anti-Qadiani Disturbances in the Punjab in the early 50’s. What the Commission attributed to him is immaterial. What is important and relevant is Maudoodi’s view of the future. Maudoodi was convinced that India, behind the facade of democracy and secularism, was already or would soon become a Hindu State where Muslims could never be treated as equal citizens. He was looking at the Indian scene through the prism of ‘Zimmitude’ in an Islamic State which, short of granting equal citizenship, protects the life, honour and property of its non-Muslim subjects. 

The advice of withdrawal from the political process and, therefore, from governance is totally misconceived because legislatures, governments and administration are the source of political power and if the Muslim community disregards their importance and treats them with disdain, they shall all come under the influence, if not the exclusive control, of anti-Muslim forces which will, finally go against freedom of religion and cultural and linguistic rights of the minorities, particularly in relation to a high profile minority which is subject to constant vilification and is seen as a long time political adversary. Maudoodi expected that the Hindu majority in India shall eventually and logically establish a Hindu State in India which shall treat Muslims as Malechhas, no better than Shudras and Achhuts. He related such a development to the reaction of the Hindus to the cause of Muslim politics and to the helplessness of the Muslim minority against the overwhelming Hindu majority, so that ‘the Hindus will do whatever they want to, whether we agree with them or not’.

To Maudoodi, the raison d’etre, the supreme task, of the Muslim community in India was Da’wah or propagation of the faith. To the Muslim Indians, living through the troubled times, the supreme task has been to overcome the state of physical, religious and cultural siege and to enjoy freedom, equality and justice in full measure, to preserve their identity, to survive in dignity, and, at the same time, to participate equally in national endeavour in all fields and get a share in the fruits of development. The question is survival of Islam and the Islamic identity of those who believe in Islam, not the expansion of Islam or conversion of non-Muslims to Islam.

There is a controversy about what Maudoodi actually said in his deposition before the Munir Commission which was inquiring into the Anti-Qadiani Disturbances in the Punjab in the early 50’s. What the Commission attributed to him is immaterial. What is important and relevant is Maudoodi’s view of the future. Maudoodi was convinced that India, behind the facade of democracy and secularism, was already or would soon become a Hindu State where Muslims could never be treated as equal citizens. He was looking at the Indian scene through the prism of ‘Zimmitude’ in an Islamic State which, short of granting equal citizenship, protects the life, honour and property of its non-Muslim subjects. This is the best Maudoodi expected in Hindu India for its Muslim ‘subjects.

So, in his deposition before the Munir Commission, 1953, saw no objection to the Hindus doing what they liked in India, took no cognizance, far less show any appreciation of the democratic, secular and federal State, already established under the Constitution of 1950, the people of India had given unto themselves, which guarantees the rights of the Muslims as a religious minority and envisages peaceful coexistence in equality, security and dignity. During the last 50 year and specially during the last 2 decades with the upsurge of the ideology of Hindutva which opposes the underlying principles of secularism and rule of law, the Indian State and the secular order have been in a state of siege. Indeed the secular forces, supported by wholehearted Muslim participation in the political process, have kept it at bay. Yet Indian secular democracy is being steadily reduced to a majoritarian rule of a fanatical and exclusivist kind. Who knows Maudoodi may have the last laugh!

Much water has flown down the Ganges since 1947. New social and political forces have arisen. Muslim’s legitimate aspirations for security, dignity and equality can be achieved through participation in the political process and the economic life of the country, working shoulder to shoulder for territorial reorganization to create small States and small districts of manageable size, for decentralization of power and financial devolution right down to the Panchayats, for universal respect for human rights, for transformation of the Union of India into a Union of Autonomous States which are Union of Autonomous Districts, which are Union of Autonomous Blocks, which are Union of Autonomous Panchayats, for an electoral system based on proportional representation and for introduction of a universal system of reservation based on population and relative backwardness and, finally, for alliance among all deprived and exploited sections through representative parties to achieve common goals in a peaceful and democratic manner.

It is to be understood that the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind or what was left of it in India on Partition was a very small organization; in no way a representative body which commanded massive support or allegiance of the Muslim community, even in the religious field, far less in the political field. Nor did it represent the Muslim elite or the Muslim intelligentsia or the Muslim academicians and scholars. It had no doubt its pockets of influence and its adherents both in the religious class and among the educated Muslims who were influenced by Maudoodi’s writings in the Tarjumanul Quran.

Therefore, it would have been presumptuous of Maudoodi to lay down a political line for the Muslim Indians, particularly when he, although a born Indian, like many leaders of the All India Muslim League, was at the point of migration to Pakistan. In this sense, of all Muslim leaders, Abul Kalam Azad, Husain Ahmad Madani and Hasrat Mohani had better rights to assume the captaincy of a boat tossed about by the stormy waves and facing wreckage or sinkage. So it is not surprising that Maudoodi’s political prescription made no impact on the Muslim masses.

In a sense, the Muslim masses did accept the sagacious advice of Maulana Azad of full participation in national politics: the migration to Pakistan was reduced to a trickle, limited largely to divided families or the unemployed but enterprising youth. Politically the Muslim Indians largely shunned communal politics and tactically or otherwise, took shelter under the wings of the Indian National Congress and supported progressive forces including the Left. The promulgation of the Constitution, which offered them equality of status and non-discrimination in the face of the pressures of Hindu chauvinism, a natural reaction to the Partition and the communal environment vitiated by the massive inflow of non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan and the battle over Kashmir, opened the doors of participation in democratic politics for them.

This implied, on one hand, exercise of voting rights for municipal, Assembly and parliamentary election on the ticket of one party or the other or independently and, on the other, seeking public employment and admission to public education and strengthening the forces of democracy, rule of law and social justice which were arrayed against the forces of Hindu Right.

Thus, the Muslim Indians totally rejected the absurd idea that a Community, even then of nearly 40-45 million, should have nothing to do with governance or administration or politics. Maudoodi was wrong to presume that participation in secular parties amounted, objectively speaking, to an expression of Muslim Nationalism. Indeed the Constitution did not recognize but one nation, the Indian Nation, but it also recognized the multi-religious and multi-lingual character of the Indian society and the existence of religious and linguistic minorities and their rights as minorities. Except the fanatical Hindu, who formed the politically marginalized fringe, all political leaders and parties encouraged Muslim participation in public affairs, in governance and administration. And the Muslims responded as well as they could, given the fact that a large proportion of the educated and experienced Muslims, in government service or otherwise, had moved to greener pastures across the border, that they were economically backward and that they were socially distrusted. Of course, they could not, in this period, be as assertive of their rights as they became later in the late 70’s and thereafter. But had they followed Maudoodi’s advice, they would have only paved the way for the defeat of the secular order and the transformation of secular democratic India into a communal and fascist state. Perhaps Maudoodi’s vision was clouded by his inherent distrust of the ideology of secularism as irreligious or anti-religious and his acceptance of reverse Zimmitude as fair and equitable. Maudoodi may also have shared the rejection of the sovereignty of a non-Muslim State, by the orthodox and deemed it a moral and religious compromise to participate in working the system.

Maudoodi’s second prescription which in fact logically leads to his third and fourth prescriptions is that the Muslim community should engage in Da’wah: propagation of Islam through precept and practice, through communication and example. Little does Maudoodi realize the contradiction between the first and the second prescription. If the Muslims were to remove misunderstanding, distrust and suspicion in the Hindu mind by abjuring politics and maintaining silence on their legitimate rights, how will the Hindu mind in Hindu India react to any covert engagement of Muslim Indians in Da’wah. Yes, the Muslims should try to live an exemplary life, to serve as models of Islamic living. But if any Muslim group engaged in covert missionary activity or even in religious debates to assert the superiority of Islam as religion, the Hindu mind would not tolerate it. Even today there is a growing apathy, nay hospitality, towards Christian missionaries, even though every one admits that they have done so much for the education of the elite and the relief and advancement of the deprived in backward regions, specially for the tribals in the field of education, health and welfare. Maudoodi did not see the inherent contradiction between maintaining a low profile and still exercising the right to propagate one’s religion to run your religious institutions, even the right to criticize the ‘system’ (presumably as un-Islamic or unGodly). Fundamental rights, directly flow from the Constitution but can be availed of fully through participation.

The third and the fourth prescriptions to enter the mass media in various languages and to produce Islamic literature and proficient communicators do make sense. But why didn’t Maudoodi advise the Muslim community, as Sir Syed did, at yet another critical juncture, to abjure politics and dedicate itself to education?

Had the Muslim community taken to education as its prime concern in the 50’s, raised its literacy and educational level above the national average, it would have been in a better position to reap the full harvest of planning and development. Education would have also produced a core of Islamic scholars and communicators who would have found ways of effectively meeting the pernicious propaganda against Islam and the Muslims, of conveying the truth through the media, of bridging the gulf of ignorance, about and their faith and society. Muslims have realized that Urdu is the mother tongue of not more than half their population and even the Urdu half has taken pains to become bilingual and learn Hindi or other regional languages. But the real problem in communication persists: how many non-Muslims read Muslim papers?

Yet, looking at the role of the Jamaat-e-Islami, there is no doubt that of all Muslim organizations, it has done the most in transmitting the message of Islam to the educated Hindus and Muslims through its periodical and non-periodical publications in various languages. But all this is no more than a drop in the ocean, and the enormous task of bridging the intellectual and even information gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims remains unfulfilled. They have been neighbours and acquaintance, if not friends, for centuries and yet they know so little about each other. Indeed they have been living in their own worlds.

What is more important is the remarkable transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind as a conscious guardian of the secular order, an active proponent of communal harmony, a relentless fighter for human rights, a supporter of social justice. Today the Jamaat has won plaudits from friends and foes for its relief activity for the victims of natural or man-made disasters, irrespective of caste or creed, and for its moderate stand on national and even inter-communal questions. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is not a political party and does not participate in politics but it has permitted its members to exercise their right to vote and to canvass for acceptable candidates. It has become an invaluable source of moral support for the Muslims who dare to enter public life, to serve their country and their community. (Concluded)

Read also:

» The Maudoodi formula of 1938 - i; Has It Contemporary Significance?


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