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ISLAMIC ORGANISATIONS IN INDIA: The Jammat-e-Islami

Paper No. 552                                              25/11/2002

by R. Upadhyay 

It is sad but true that movements launched by various organisations in the name of championing the cause of Indian Muslims have in fact not only kept them in a closed society but also have caused tremendous harm to them.

Ever since the eclipse of Mughal Empire in India, the Muslim elite in general and radical Islamists in particular grew apprehensive of the decline of Islamic hegemony in administration.  They viewed the British rule in India as alien to Islamic culture and tradition and also fought against it jointly with Hindus but establishment of a secular democratic polity for India was not their dream.   They even fought the first war of Independence of 1857 jointly with Hindus by projecting the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zaffar as their ruler.  Their historical role behind the origin and development of Muslim separatism is so deeply imprinted in the mind of their co-religionists that it is now more or less impossible to create a unity of mind between the two major religious communities for an integrated Indian society.  

Historically, Muslim invaders in India belonged to " the turbulent community of slaves and adventurers from a near primitive social milieu in which family ties or even human values in general had no relevance" (India 1000 to 2000 - Express Publication, Madurai).  In fact these marauders used the name of Islam only for their greed of power and to legitimize their mass massacre, plunder and rape.  Against this historical background, when Britishers captured the power, the Muslim elite tried to naturalize themselves in Indian society, but did not make any effort to integrate with it.  They rather launched a parallel movement for Muslim separatism, though they fought against the Britishers jointly with Hindus. They joined hands with Congress to overthrow the British Government because the latter was a non-Islamic government (Darul Harab). 

Shah Waliullah of Delhi sowed the seeds of Muslim separatism in eighteenth century, which gradually grew to a large tree with the help of a number of Islamic organisations/institutions.  Prominent among them like Indo Oriental Muslim school (1870), which was upgraded to Anglo Muhammadan Oriental College in 1881 and to Aligarh Muslim University in 1920, Indian Union Muslim League(1906), Tabliq-e-Jamaat (1911), Jamaat-e-Ulma-e-Hind (1919), Jamaat-e-Islami (1941) and All India Muslim Majlish-e-Mushawarat(1964) have all along been in fore front in keeping the movement of Muslim separatism alive at the cost of the social and emotional integration of the two major religious communities in this country.

 Most of the Islamic organizations though, accepted the reality of post-colonial Indian polity as a tactical compromise, their movement continues to remain in the domain of Muslim polity. Carrying forward the legacy of communal politics initiated by the Muslim elite since the second half of nineteenth century, Islamic organisations in India are still not ready to reform their movement in this scientific era of democracy and secularism.  Their reaction against modernity and aversion to non-Islamic polity are the root causes behind many of the problems we see in the country. 

Had the Muslim organisations taken positive steps to consolidate Muslim brotherhood for the overall social, cultural, and economic development of Indian society, there would not have been any scope for communal confrontation.  Mahatma Gandhi tried his best to absorb the Muslims in the national mainstream of Indian politics.  He accepted separate electorates for Muslims and was instrumental for congress' participation in Khilafat movement.  But the radical Islamists never accepted him as a leader of united Indian society.  They rather treated him as a leader of Hindus and kept the Muslim masses separated from the latter.  Mopla disturbances in 1924, support for two nation theory, direct action in 1946 and finally the partition of the country in 1947 are the permanent records of history that justify this view.

 Just after Independence, the Islamic organisations in India were lying low for some time but taking advantage of Indian constitution, which provides equal rights to all its citizens with some special privilege to minorities, they started raising their head by exploiting the vote bank politics of political parties in the country. Except Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) none of the above mentioned organisations ever participated in any election in India. In 1952 some of the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEIH) were arrested due to their anti -constitutional stand against nationalism, democracy and secularism. Thus, with a view to guard against any legal action by the government, JEIH made a tactical shift from its political objective of Huqumat-e-Ilahia (Kingdom of God) to Iqamat-e-Deen (Establishment of Islamic form of society).  To achieve this objective it also changed its strategy from Jehad (Holy war) to Saleh Inqilab (virtuous revolution).

 Despite the known designs of Islamic organisations in post colonial India, the political leadership ignored the movement for their own vested political interests.  Their repeated errors of judgement on Pakistan front, which is deeply linked with Hindu-Muslim relation, and also on Muslim front aggravated the situation from bad to worse.  Shahbano case of mid eighties is a glaring example of such error.  Noted writer Khuswant Singh has rightly reminded the political leaders of this country that had Prithviraj beheaded Mohammad Ghori in the first battle of Tarain, the course of events in Indian History would have been different (Hindustan Times Dated November 9, 2002).  Committing mistakes after mistakes for their vote bank politics and helped by some political parties  they allowed the gap of mistrust between Hindus and Muslims widening.  Even today, their silence on Muslim fundamentalism and aggressive voice against Hindu fundamentalism has become the main thrust of discussion in parliament.  In the absence of a balanced stand against religious fundamentalism, they encouraged the radical Islamists to accelerate the process of their movement for isolating the Muslin society from the mainstream of Indian society. Hamid Dalwai in his book entitled 'Muslim Politics in India' exposed the communal politics of Islamic fundamentalists and said, "unless Muslim communalism is eliminated, Hindu communalism will not disappear (page 30).

 An objective study of Islamic organisations/institutions in India may help us to understand as to how religious sentiment of the Muslim masses was exploited by them to accelerate their movement for Muslim separatism.  Unless we discuss the respective roles of various radical Islamist groups in India one by one, we may not do justice to our understanding of the Muslim psyche..  We may therefore like to confine our discussion in this paper on the protracted movement for Muslim separatism launched by JEIH, which has been on an overdrive for its cherished goal to establish the 'Kingdom of God'.

 Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of JEI was one of the prominent Muslim thinkers of twentieth century, who was also responsible for the growing misunderstanding among the non-Muslims about the Muslims in India. Starting his career as editor of Al - Jamaat, Maududi also remained associated with Mohammad Iqbal for some time. He however, had strong reservations against his contemporary Muslim thinkers on issues like democracy, nationalism, patriotism, Aligarh movement and Muslims' participation in freedom struggle. The collapse of Ottoman Empire, failure of Khilafat movement and growing assertiveness of Hindus in freedom movement were viewed by Maududi as a threat to Islam and to the Muslim community. By late thirties he established himself as one of the most fundamentalist leaders believing in the concept of Pan-Islam.

 Critical exposition of Maududi's views by some of the Muslim writers like Safia Amir (Muslim Nationhood), Hamid Dalwai (Muslim Politics in India), H.E.Hasnain (Indian Muslims-JEI Xrayed), Inayatullah (The real face of JEI), and Munir Commission Report-Lahore 1964) proved that his movement was basically for return of Muslims to the spell of medieval faith.

With the political objective of establishing Hukumat-e-Ilahia , Maududi negated the concept of secular and democratic polity.  He was strongly opposed to Western concept of democracy, which according to him would de-Islamise the Muslims.  For him democracy and Islam cannot co-exist in India, as it would not have the dominance of Muslims. He held that Muslims in India could not expect justice from Indian nationalists, who would follow the British pattern of governance and democracy would create slavish mentality among them.  The cultural ideals of British imply de-Islamisation of Muslims - Maududi felt.  "Musims will be subjugated by the Hindus due to their population ratio" (Muslim Nationhood, page 224).  "Muslims of a future free India would be as helplessly in power as of the British at present" (Ibid. page 225).  He even suggested the establishment of autonomous Muslim states within India in order to preserve the distinct identity and "national life" of the Muslims. 

Maududi rejected the concept of nationalism on the plea that it was against the concept of humanity and separates a man of one country from other.  For him Indian nationalism was synonymous to Hinduism. He "felt that the ways of the two communities (Hindus and Muslims) were parallel, and although they could cross occasionally, could never unite completely"(Ibid). He urged the Muslims to maintain their distinct dress, language and script and also to abstain from any imitation for preservation of  their separate identity.  He held that "Muslims were not a nation but an international revolutionary party" (Ibid. page 235).    

On Aligarh Muslim University "Maududi felt in 1936 that whereas the Aligarh movement had to a certain extent improved the worldly life of Muslims, it had injured their religion more turning them into 'Anglo Muhammadans'.  It had sold them to Europe's materialistic culture for a price of a few posts and titles for those calling themselves Muslims" (Muslim nationhood in India by Safia Amir, page 219).

 Maududi's attitude towards freedom movement was ambiguous, but indirectly he was opposed to Muslims' participation in it.  He was of the view that Muslims could fight against the British provided it empowers Islam in India and make it 'Darul Islam'.  He was not in favour of Indian nationalists to oust the alien government and establish any form of polity, which is not based on Islamic principles.  He rather appealed to the Muslims to fight for the freedom but "remain prepared for a war unto death in order to turn the direction of the freedom movement from the government of 'Kufre' to that of truth" (ibid. page222).

 In August 1941Maududi founded JEI in an assembly of 75 of his supporters at Lahore. He launched it as a movement for return to Islam and its revitalization both as a religion and political force.  His political objective was to create a truly Islamic society, which would ultimately overthrow all the Godless system and establish Hukumat-e-Ilahia (Kingdom of God) and Muslim dominance in Indian sub-continent.  He did not believe in any form of government except the government prescribed by Islam.  Establishment of Islamic theocracy all over the world in general and dominance of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent in particular were the core objectives of the JEI. A scholar of Persian, Arabic and Urdu, he had strong reservation against the modern and scientific education. He was greatly influenced by his grand father, who had recalled his son (father of Maududi) from Aligarh school, when he came to know through a friend that his son was seen playing with sticks like English people.

 The hotly debated issue of Muslim identity during the freedom struggle culminated into partition of the country but the issue remained unresolved even in Independent India.  After partition, the JEI was split into Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (India) and Jamaa-e-Islami Pakistan.  Subseqently, JEI Kashmir was also formed separately, as JEIH has reservation in accepting Kashmir as a territory of Indian Union. Maududi settled in Pakistan and continued his movement till his death in 1979.  The command of JEIH was left with Maulana Abu Lias Islahi, who subsequently became its president in 1948.  Headquarter of JEIH was set up at Maliabad (Lucknow), which was subsequently shifted to Rampur in 1951, Hyderabad in 1954 and finally to Delhi in 1960.  Sirajur Hasan of Karnataka and Mohammad Zaffar from Bihar are the present Amir and Secretary General of the JEIH respectively. 

The JEI with its three-tier organisational set-up of Marqazi Nizam, the supreme central body, Halqa-e-Nizam as Zonal unit and Moqami Nizam as local unit has been championing for the cause of Muslim separatism for the last sixty years.  In this process it has created total mistrust and misunderstanding among the Hindus about the Muslim community.  Though, it has not been able to command its influence over more than 2 % of Indian Muslims, it has succeeded in working as a line of defense for those Muslims, who want to live in a closed society.  For JEIH any deviation from the era of Prophet Muhammad is a danger to Islam. 

 JEI is very choosy in recruitment of its members.  It started with 75 in 1941 and reached to 647 at the time of partition.  Before recruitment, a member (ruqun) has to pass through various stages to prove his loyalty to the organisation.

 For propagation of its ideology, JEI had a three pronged approach that is - approach towards children up to 12 years, approach towards adults and propaganda through press.  With hundreds of Deeni Talimi Madrasas in different parts of the country, the children are indoctrinated to the ideological philosophy of Maududi.  It has floated a number of front organisations like Anjuman-e-Khudame Millat, Mujahideen Millat, Stdent Islamic Organisation, Student Islamic Movement in India, Halqa Talba Islami and Halq1-e-Khawatrren to inculcate its ideology in the minds of adults.  Its number of publications in different languages like Radiance (English weekly), Noor (Urdu weekly), Kanti(Hindi), Aldawa (Arabic), Shahin (Marathi), Nizam (Bengali), and Prabodhani (Malayalam) and hundreds of reading rooms and libraries spread all over the country shows its financial muscle.

 Sale of literature, donation from its sympathizers and collection of animal skins during Idul Zoha festival are claimed to be the known sources of JEIH's fund.  However, its foreign links with Islamic organisations all over the world like Motmaz-e-Alam-e-Islami (World Conference of Muslims) formed in Mecca in 1926, Rabita-e-Alam-e-Islami (World League of Muslims) formed in Saudi Arabia in 1962, International Islamic Federation of Students Organisation (IIFSO), World Assembly of Muslim Youths both formed in Saudi Arabia, Muslim Brotherhood formed in Geneva in 1927 and JEI Pakistan shows that such wide range of net work may not be possible within the claimed sources of its funding.

 Taking advantage of the democratic rights given to all the Indian citizens, the JEIH along with its front organisations and huge financial resources is working relentlessly for its Islamic mission.  Though it does not participate in election, its role in narrow, separatists and aggressive projection of religion in politics has caused much damage to Hindu-Muslim relations in the country.  

JEIH was never found showing its fraternity with the government at the time of any national crisis.  Its stand on Chinese aggression as appeared in an article in Novemver 1963 issue of its organ 'Irshad' exposed the medieval mindset of its leaders.  Khalilullah, the writer of the article felt, " this defeat has proved that our present rulers have no capacity to rule!  The only alternative this nation has (is) to hand over all powers to those, who ruled this country for one thousand years (Quote from Muslim Politics in India by Hamid Dalwai, page 67).  Similarly on Shahbano case JEIH had aggressively mobilised the Muslim masses against the verdict of Supreme Court and compelled the then Congress Government to amend the constitution to nullify the verdict.  JEIH never condemned ultra Islamists like Taliban, Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda, which is a net work of net works of Islamic terrorism.  Its strong reservation against government stand in tackling the problem of Kashmir, opposition to family planning and issues relating to Hindu-Muslim relation provide an opportunity to the liberal Hindu society to think in terms of Hindu fundamentalism.

 India has faced and continue to face communal problems that have gone on for centuries. Unless our political class, social scientists and intellectuals irrespective of their religious affinity discuss the issue in totality and initiate effective steps to stop the movement for separatism, possibility of social integration in Indian society may remain a dream.  Banning of certain organisations and lifting it subsequently is no answer to the problem.

 (Discussion is based on printed materials and personal perception of the writer.  e-mail <ramashray60 @yahoo.com>)

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