Maulana Sayyad Abul-Ala Maudoodi: Man, Legend, and Philosophy

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Rameez Bhat

On the one hand, communal violence was growing unabated in undivided India during the throes of partition. The growth of extremism within nationalist circles had leaned the leaders towards usage of religious symbolism in the freedom struggle against the British. The growth of Hindu Mahasabha and later RSS had politically frustrated the Muslims of subcontinent. Muslims were being led by a class of big landholders, who were there only to reap dividends for themselves. The communal clashes had aroused the feelings of fear in the minority psyche. On the other hand, the western world which had progressed leaps and bounds was overpowering the eastern lands politically, economically and intellectually. Their knowledge, ideas, concepts, along with all their isms were being backed by political power.
Islam was presented as an idea that had lived and spread on the back of power. Frustrated by the prevailing conditions Moulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar stood on the pulpit of Jamia Masjid in Delhi, became emotional and asked the Muslim youth to stand for the cause of Islam. Moulana Jauhar made a plea that someone should rise and answer the queries of West and East about Islam. A boy, in his teens, was present there listening to the Moulana; he made up his mind to come up with answers about Islam and respond to the challenges of western world. Three years, later he came up with a voluminous book entitled “Al Jihad Fil Islam” (1925) and clinically deconstructed the myth and propaganda that Islam was spread with sword. The boy grew to be called as Moulana Syed Abu Aala Maudoodi.
The founder of Jamaat e Islami in 1941, the Maulana’s greatest contribution lies in the fact that when whole world had got engulfed in the war of isms and ideologies, he presented Islam not as a religion, but a way of life. He not only challenged the idea of western civilization and their ideologies but presented Islam as an alternative to the world crisis. The most inventive aspect of his thought relates to his unique perspective on Islamic history. From the days of the Prophet Muhammad, he argued, Islamic history has consisted of nothing more than a perpetual struggle between Islam and different kinds of ignorance. Sometimes Islam triumphed; sometimes the forces of ignorance prevailed.
At each stage, Islam provided a catalytic process transforming the life of individuals who then developed a community of faith. The community grows into an ideological movement that works to bring about social change in the desired direction. The success of the ideological movement produces a new society and state. The interesting thing to understand is that the way Moulana Maudoodi defined Islam and interpreted it has always failed his ideological opponents to oppose that on intellectual grounds. All those who have questioned Maudoodi’s thought, even after a century, are only those who were his onetime associates. Be it Moulana Waheedud Din Khan or Moulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, Manzoor Nomani, Dr Asrar or for that matter Javid Ghamdi, all are those who have themselves worked with Moulana Maudoodi. The thought that Moulana preached is yet to be intellectually criticized by his ideological opponents (the way the present cadre of the Jamaat intellectually fails to criticize thoughts of Mr. Ghamdi)
Born in 1903, in Aurangabad, in the princely state of Hyderabad, in British India, Maudoodi spent his adolescence working as a freelance journalist and grew to be a Muslim philosopher, jurist, journalist and Imam. His numerous works, covered a range of disciplines such as Qur’anic exegesis, Ahadith, law, philosophy and history. To Nadeem Paracha, Moulana Maudoodi’s literature has been “an enormous thing for the Islamic world, what Karl Marx’s literature has been for the communism”. The biggest achievement of Moulana Maudoodi was that he gave new shape to the Islam in modern times when Islam was unpacked from the minds of the Muslim Ummah. He enrolled an Islamic teaching to the minds of the young generation through its own way. It was for his revolutionary though and intellectual contribution that he became the first one to receive “King Faesal Award” in 1979, the year he left for the heavenly abode.
The great Moulana passed away and left his ideas behind. It was the responsibility of Jamaat e Islami to take forward the agenda of their founder. But it is unfortunate that after Maudoodi, the Jamaat has not entirely lived up to the ideals of its founder. The Jamaat, in the whole subcontinent failed to come up with a single scholar who could have taken the thought further and worked out the lacunas.
Post script: We must keep in mind that positive criticism comes only from the people who care and thus must be acknowledged in an unbiased way.

—The author hails from Kanispora, Baramulla. He can be reached at: ramizspeaks77@gmail.com