Thoughts of Jamaluddin Afghani


Book: Selected Papers of Jamaluddin Afghani
Compiler & Translator: Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi

Publisher: Jay Kay Bookshop, Srinagar, J&K
Price: Rs 225    
Pages: 112

Jamal Uddin Afghani, is described as the founder of Pan-Islamism doctrine and a revolutionary who infused the spirit of rebellion among Muslim masses when they were reeling under the seemingly never ending dark night of European Colonialism, which resulted in development of self-confidence among them and they came out of the Inferiority Complex Syndrome.

The present book under review is based on the collection of series of articles by legendary activist, scholar, revolutionary and prolific writer Jamaluddin Afghani collected under eight different chapters and translated by the well known scholar, author and activist Dr Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi.

The initial chapter describes the life and times in which Afghani grew up and struggled. These chapters which describe various facets of Afghani’s life, his ideology, his struggle and the idea of the Muslim World which he wanted to conceive. Afghani holds the Ulama to a large extent responsible for being impediments to the radical changes which need to be introduced in the Muslim World in order to make it progress so that it can be at par with other nations of the world, but these Ulama have closed all the roads to new ideas and hold the people under sway by the self styled interpretation of Islamic doctrines and are averse to any new idea or innovation, thus closing the door of Ijtihad forever which is the strongest feature of Islam as a religion.

Afghani is of the belief that Islam is based on rationality and Muslims unlike Christians have not to rebel against religion in order to be rational but have to come back to religion in order to be rational and progressive but Ulama are becoming obstacles in the path towards realization of this dream, and invites Ulama to widen their closed vision and discover new horizons by understanding Logic and Philosophy in its true spirit. Afghani is of the firm belief that Ulama have an important role in the awakening of Muslim Masses to new and progressive ideas.

Afghani also cites the false belief in the wrong notion of Taqdeer (Destiny) as the reason for Muslim backwardness because this false belief though justified unjustly makes masses too lazy for any radical change and one accepts status quo as one’s true destiny resulting in stagnation in every sphere of life which culminates in cowardliness which is the root of every disease of the Muslim World.

Afghani was a product of his times and was conscious of the fact that the Ummah was in despondency and scattered. In times of downfall and distress people become self centered and selfish hence the Ummah gets dissipated. He was aware of the fact that Ummah was in crises but he provided a ray of hope in the form of Pan-Islamism which intended to forge a unity among Muslims by implementing the positive doctrine of ‘Asbiya, though he didn’t challenge the concept of Nation-States among Muslims. But alas Afghani died a dejected man as he wasn’t successful in his efforts to forge a unity among the Muslim nations which could jointly address and resist the aggression of colonialism which was swaying the whole Muslim World!

Despite this failure, Afghani proved a luminary and inspiration for various generations to come after him and his doctrine was then incorporated by various others in the Muslim World. Though modified or further added to, but the dream which Afghani saw is still a goal for various Islamists who wish to revive the Ummah.

The book provides a small peek in the life and ideas of Afghani and the translation is quite lucid and Afghani appears to speak for himself to the reader.

The reviewer is a writer-activist based in Srinagar.
He may be contacted at

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2010 on page no. 27

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