Maududi’s Children

The intellectual debate on Islam in Pakistan has gone through a cycle. While traditional Islam saw pitchforked battles between Barelvis and Deobandis,  so did those who rejected traditional Islam. From 1947-1970,  Islamic Modernists  (or what Fazalurrahman called Aligarh Westernists who had been the intellectual force behind the creation of Pakistan) and as well as rationalists/Quranists such as Allama Pervez were ascendent. From 1970 onwards, with closer ties between Jamaat-e-Islami and the Army in Bangladesh, Maududian revivalists became strong as arbiters of Islamic questions in Pakistan.   Now some of that has been reversed.   This article below does an extraordinary job in tracing the history of Islam’s intellectual debate in Pakistan.    However NFP fails to mention that the very progressive Muslim scholar Ghamidi has also emerged from the Maududian tradition and that just like Hassan Al Banna’s family today is in the frontline of the intellectual movement against Taliban-style Islamism,  Maududi’s  own family (not the Jamaat-e-Islami which is essentially an Islam0-fascist organization) have also evolved to a more liberal point of view,  showing that unlike Traditional Islam where positions are fixed as dogma dictates,   the reform movement in Islam, even when it goes sour in the case of Maududi or Syed Qutb, is much less rigid.  This has major implications when considered in light of the elections in Iran. I have always felt that even a rigid and fanatical non-reformist non-cleric like Ahmadinejad is better than most palatable cleric from Qom in the long run because the latter is confined by Dogma by training -YLH

By Nadeem Farooq Paracha from Dawn Blogs

In Pakistan even the traditional Muslim practice of reasoning in matters of religion – originally introduced by the 9th century Mutazilites – is at times treated like some kind of an abomination to be feared, discouraged and repressed. It is easy to accuse the proverbial mullah for this. And it is equally easy to blame him for being anti-intellectual and regressive.

However, over the years the conventional mullah has already lost a lot of face and respect. But this seemingly anti-mullah trend didn’t always mean the opening up of society to a more enlightening and pluralistic alternative. On the contrary, the gap created by the conventional mullah’s gradual downfall was filled by religious scholars who only seemed to have intellectualized, modernized and politicized obscurantism. [1]

In Pakistan, Islamic scholars like Abul Ala Maududi and the far more moderate, Professor Fazalur Rahman Malik, were some of the first to occupy this gap. Their tirades against the conventional mullah were welcomed by the more ‘educated Muslims.’ [2] Working as the head of the Central Institute of Islamic Research formed by the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1961, Prof. Fazalur Rahman laboured hard to find that elusive middle-ground between Pakistan’s colonial secular heritage and its somewhat ambiguous ‘Islamic Republic-ism.’

Maududi’s elaborate treatises however, concentrated more on undermining the constructive role being played by the less puritanical Islamic sects in Pakistan. [3] And even though both Maududi and Fazalur Rahman were staunchly anti-left in equal degrees, Maududi soon turned his intellectual weaponry against Rahman as well after the later published his short but highly acclaimed book ‘Islam’ in 1968. Maududi and his Jamat Islami accused Rahman for undermining the importance of the hadith and for claiming that not all text of the Qu’ran was eternal and (thus), it should be understood allegorically. [4]

Maududi’s staunch stance against the non-puritanical strains of Islam was a counterproductive move. Because in an ethnical, sectarian and religiously pluralistic society like Pakistan, the factions that Maududi challenged were/are comparatively moderate in essence: Barelvi-ism, Sufism and the Hanaifi school of jurisprudence – which is the most liberal of the four schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam – are still at the forefront of faith in Pakistan, boasting a large following. [5]; [6]; [7]; [8] Many believe they are the very reasons that help keep tensions between religions, and religious sects in the country at a bare minimum. At the root of this is the pluralism-friendly factor emerging from these strains’ historical make-up generated from a healthy cultural fusion between distinct peoples in the subcontinent. [9]

That’s why a ‘progressive Muslim’ in a country like Pakistan must be more pragmatic than either idealistic or political. He may be aesthetically and theologically opposed and repulsed by the more ‘superstitious’ strains of the faith, but he must understand that ironically, the large number of adherents that such strains have in Pakistan, they remain to be the social engine behind the consensual need in the society at large to keep matters like sectarianism and inter-Islamic polarisation in the country largely de-politicised. [10] But Maududi not only shunned these ‘superstitious’ strains, his alternative of a more ‘unembellished’ and concrete version of Islam was also highly political and compartmentalized. [11] This meant that not only were the more ‘blemished’ strains of Islam challenged by him, modern western philosophical and political ensembles like democracy, liberalism, socialism and especially Marxism too were rejected. Maududi’s alternative was an ‘all-encompassing Islam.’ He purposed a single, exclusive version of the religion; a version that discouraged any previous interpretation of the Qu’ran and the Islamic Law (Sharia) that his own analysis did not approve of. And though he was skeptical of all modern secular concepts of ideology, paradoxically, he wasn’t all that allergic to the notions of modern state politics. [12]; [13]; [14].

Calling for the imposition of this politicized and puritanical version of Islam in a socially pluralistic and religiously sectarian society like Pakistan was not only Utopian, it was also dangerous. Not surprisingly, ever since the late 1960s, Maududi’s philosophy has off and on found itself being used to encourage self-righteous coercion, political intrigues and violence – as seen in Jamat Islami’s role in the 1953 and 1974 anti-Ahmadiyya violence (for which Maududi was imprisoned); the role of the party in supporting (and taking part) in the Pakistani Army’s controversial actions in the former East Pakistan; and the role of the party’s student wing, the Islami Jamiat-e-Taleba (IJT), which was accused (in the 1980s) of introducing the violent ‘Kalashnikov Culture’ on the country’s campuses. [15]; [16]. Worst of all, Maududi-ism (as it is sometimes called), was also exploited by dictators (General Zia-ul-Haq), ulema and, of course, the Jamat Islami, as a way to deflect, deflate and denounce any other form of Islamic reformism. It actually eschewed tolerance. [17]

A number of politico-religious forces in Pakistan, as well as many television anchormen, print journalists and publications, are both directly and indirectly influenced by Maududi. That’s why one is not surprised to watch most of them dutifully derailing any idea that looks inwards at the present state of Islam as a cause for the violence perpetuated in its name. These gentlemen and publications continue to offer hyperbolic Maududist tracts pointing at ‘western powers’ and faith-based ‘distortions’ for all the ills befalling religion and society in Pakistan. Outdated Maududist thoughts are being aired in a reality where Communism, Cold War tussles, ‘secret societies,’ and ‘distorted sects’ are not the ‘problem’ anymore. On the contrary, most of the present crises are clearly stemming from a violent, psychopathic and totalitarian version of the faith. Thus, the socio-political disconnect in these gentlemen’s otherwise widely published and televised arguments is now starker than ever.

The fact is, Maududism in the post-9/11 Pakistan stands to be little more than an outdated relic of the Cold War, offering what now sound like rhetorical and hyperbolic clichés. What’s more, Maududi’s ideas are also being used to make a veneered defense of the actions of anarchic militants in the North (as heard from politicians like JI’s Munawar Hussain and Qazi Hussain Ahmed; PTI’s Imran Khan, and even from some PML-N leaders who were once part of JI’s student-wing, the IJT. [18] It is interesting to imagine how Maududi himself would have reacted in the current scenario. However, there is no doubt that the way his thoughts and ideas have evolved, they have been at least one reason why the current trends of reformism in Islam have failed to find any valid expression in Pakistan.

The backlash The present-day reformist inclinations in Islam include two variations. One is being led by staunch secularists and the other by ‘progressive Muslims.’ Both may disagree with one another but their aim and goal seem to be common: To expunge Islam as we know it from laws and exegeses that, though man-made, have been handed down through the centuries as being ‘divine’ and thus unalterable. [19] One of the many examples in this context is the law of stoning adulterous men and women that is practiced in some Islamic societies as ‘God’s law,’ but it is actually not found in the Qu’ran – (the law was formed in the 8th century from a hadith whose credibility many scholars have questioned). [20] Another is the literalist way the hudd or Hudood laws have been interpreted. Even though most Islamic countries (through the process of ijtihad/collective consensus), have avoided enacting ‘Hudood Laws’ due to these laws’ incompatibility with changing times and circumstances, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (until 2007) were the only two countries having these laws as part of their respective legal cannons. Nevertheless, the Hudood Ordinances (enacted by the Zia dictatorship in 1979 in Pakistan), were finally scrapped by the Musharraf regime in 2007. This was one of the foremost acts by the state of Pakistan directly challenging the ‘Islamisation’ milieu left behind by Zia who had been a staunch ‘Maududist.’ [21]

Yet another example suggesting a gradual backlash against the Maududist politico-theological model was the recent unprecedented verdict by the Federal Shariat Court that declared drinking alcohol as a comparatively minor crime in Islam, and changed the punishment (of drunkenness) from 80 lashes (from a whip) to light strokes from a stick (made from a date tree leave). [22]

Alcohol had always remained a largely tolerated indulgence in Muslim societies across the centuries. Many scholars maintain that though the Qu’ran has ‘advised’ Muslims to stay away from wine (as opposed to forbidding it like it does pork, carrion meat, blood and idolatry), it does not prescribe any punishment for its usage. [23]. In Pakistan too, alcohol was freely sold and consumed until 1977, when first (under pressure from the Jamat Islami), the secular government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto banned its sale, and then the reactionary dictatorship of Gen. Zia turned its consumption and sale (by Muslims) as a crime punishable under his controversial Hudood Ordinances. Ironically, Zia’s ban on alcohol gave birth to a thriving bootlegging mafia- even though cities like Karachi have licensed liquor stores that have successfully checked the bootleggers’ influence in this city. Zia’s ban on alcohol also triggered the widespread usage of addictive drugs like heroin. For example, until 1979, Pakistan literally had just a single reported case of heroin addiction. But by 1985, it had the second largest population of heroin addicts! [24]

 Though no Pakistani has been flogged for the offence of consuming and selling alcohol ever since 1981, the Shariat Court’s verdict must have come as a blow to the architects of Zia’s Islamisation process that was largely based on Maududi’s politico-religious thesis of an ‘Islamic state.’ A state whose blueprint, many Islamic scholars opposed to Maududi-ism maintain, does not exist in the Qu’ran and is only a generation of Maududi’s imagination. Waiting for reason

There are a number of progressive Muslim scholars, especially in Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, Algeria and Indonesia, who seem to be making deeper inroads in the 21st century Islamic reformist psyche. In Pakistan Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, the London-based Ziauddin Sardar and respected intellectual, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy can be named. In their work on Islam they have taken a scientific and a strictly academic approach, and are not immune to openly question the historicity of the Laws of Islam that have been handed down to us from the 8th century onwards; or a history and versions of the Shariah that started to appear almost two centuries after the demise of the Prophet. To them the Muslims need to have an interpretative relationship with the Holy text. According to Sardar, for example, we have been relying on an age-old interpretation of the Qu’ran, one that is ice-capped in history. The context of this interpretation is of the 8th and 9th century Muslim societies.

It needs to be radically updated through ijtihad. Most current Islamic reformists are also concerned about the retrogressive tendency in some recent so-called modern Islamists to determine ‘scientific miracles in the Qu’ran.’ According to Dr. Hoodbhoy, by doing this they undermine all the hard work undertaken by early Islamic scientists and philosophers and that this practice in a way also suggests that present-day Muslims should stop getting their hands dirty in labs and universities, thinking they know everything. [25]; [26]. Respected Muslim scholars like Prof. Sardar, and monumental Algerian scholar, Muhamad Arkun, have been particularly harsh on French writer, Maurice Bucaille’s controversial book, The Bible, Qu’ran & Science and how this book (financed by the Saudi government), has given birth to a navel-gazing cottage industry of half-baked ‘experts’ distracting Muslims from learning real science. They say the Qu’ran encourages the acquiring of science, instead of creating a pseudoscience by reading wrongly into the meanings of certain surahs of the Holy Book. [27] Turkish pseudo-scientist Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar) – who has recently gained fresh new following among Pakistani TV news anchors like Shahid Masood and so-called ‘security analysts’ and TV personalities like Zaid Hamid – too has come under the hammer of neo-Islamic rationalists and secularists alike. The rationalists have accused Yahya of encouraging Muslims to shun secular sciences as if this act of shunning was ordained by God. [28] Interestingly, unknown to most of his Pakistani followers, Yahya has been a constant receptor of police arrests for various drug and sex related scandals. [29]. Many critics of this trend have described such men as ‘Islamic quacks’ who are discouraging a rational and scientific mindset in present-day Muslims. Today’s reformists also insist that there never was just one correct way to be a Muslim.

As Sardar suggests, the propagation by any group of the single correct way is a totalitarian act. It will eschew plurality, democracy and tolerance, leading the ummah towards a totalitarian situation. That’s why to modern Islamic scholars like Muhammad Arkun, it is of vital importance that Islamic history and law be critiqued and thoroughly explored in the light of reason and current times. [30]; [31]. According to Arkun, it is only then that reason in Islam can be liberated from man-made dogmatic constructs – constructs that have played the foremost role in derailing Islam from its early philosophical and rational path, landing its fate in the clutches of biased power politics and, eventually, in the gun barrels of the fascistic and irrational mutations of the faith (such as the Taleban and Al-Qaeda).

References [1] The Forgotten Swamp – Navigating Political Islam: Guilain Denoeux ( [2] Islam & Modernity: Fazalur Rahman Malik ( [3] Encyclopedia of the Middle-East: (Entry) ( [4] Revisiting Fazalur Rahman’s Ordeal: (Non-Skeptical Essays) ( [5] Islamic Extremism in Pakistan: Khaled Ahmed ( [6] Hanafi Madhub: Shaikh Siddiqui ( [7] Berelvi Islam: (Entry) ( ( [8] Maududi & Islamic Revivalism (Pages : 122-125) : Syd Vali Reza Nasr ( [9] The Sufi Movement & Pakistan : (Entry) ( [10] Pakistan’s Pluralist Traditions: Lisa Curtis ( [11] Syed Abul Ala Maududi : Prof. Ziauddin Sardar ( [12] Tajeed O Aya-e-Deen: Abul Ala Maududi ( [13] How Islam sees itself: Warren Larson ( [14] Radical Islam’s Missing Link: John Shaffer ( [15] Munir Report on 1953 Riots: Javaid Aslam. ( [16] The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution (Pages: : Syed Vali Reza (;query=IJT#1) [17] Towards a Fundamentalist State: Bjarne Skov ( [18] Split on the Taliban: Dr. Hassan Askari (Daily Times) ( [19] Rethinking Islam: Prof. Ziauddin Sardar ( [20] FAQ about stoning: (Entry) ( [21] Musharraf Signs Bill: (Dawn). ( [22] A Good Decision: (Daily Times Editorial) ( [23] Islam, Its Laws & Society (Page:38): Jamila Hussain ( [24] Heroin, Taliban & Pakistan: B. Raman ( [25] Science and Islamic Philosophy: Ziauddin Sardar ( [26] A Review of Pervez Hoodbhoy’s Islam & Science: Dr. Ahmed Shafaar ( [27] Weird Science: Ziauddin Sardar ( [28] Harun Yahya & Islamic Creationism: Francois Tremblay ( [29] Police cracks down on obscure sect: (Turkish Hurriyat) ( [30] Islam-To Subvert or Reform: Muhammad Arkun ( [31] Philosophers of Arab: (Entry) (



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9 responses to “Maududi’s Children

  1. kashifiat

    Farooq Paracha is a “master piece” of ill mentality. He is still living in Utopia of sixties when leftist were strong in Pakistani educational institutes.
    His writeup is so worthless to do any comment & will nothing more than to waste time.


  2. nasir alim

    To Kashifiat:
    LOL!! Here comes a puka jammati who is still out to label brilliant writers who are exposing their farcical intellectual saints.
    Kashifiat, in which era are u taliban loving jamaties living in? Still stuck in the 8th century AD!! This is exactly what paracha’s monumental theisis suggests and more so, proves!
    Get a life, and a reality check, punk!

  3. Was it the jamatis who stopped Dr. Abdus Salaam from giving a lecture at Quaid-e-Azam University? Just asking so that the record can be set straight

  4. Bloody Civilian


    just read your intro and the point about ghamidi. the evolution in his own lifetime (and indeed personal life), and those of many of his ‘students’, has been more than palpable. i don’t think he will disagree that it has been a direct result of revulsion at zia-ism, sectarian vilence of the 90’s and then the post 9/11 terrorism and talibanisation.

    it’s interesting to note that ghamidi’s teacher, islahi (a one-time ally of maudoodi), attacked jinnah’s aug 11 speech as a blueprint for a country fit for “iblees ki makhlooq”, while ghamidi is arguing for pakistan to become a country based, more or less, on the same speech of jinnah’s. the difference between those with the ability to react and the reactionary, might not be as great as that between a true seeker and an obscurantist. those enslaved to an agenda cannot evolve. this evolution, or at least the ability to evolve, that you’ve pointed out, must be explored more and written about. perhaps an interview with ghamidi about his own evolution?

  5. Another interesting discourse could be on the fact that two leading Islamic scholars were born as a result of an ideological dispute with Maududi: Maulana Islahi (whom Bloody Civilian mentions) and Dr. Israr Ahmed. Both of these men have left long-lasting impressions on Islamic Socio-Political thought in Pakistan.

    Just my 2 cents!

  6. Viel

    “Maulana Islahi (whom Bloody Civilian mentions) and Dr. Israr Ahmed. Both of these men have left long-lasting impressions on Islamic Socio-Political thought in Pakistan”

    Err, is that a good thing? 🙂
    Btw, it is rather naive of you, sir, to ask the Jamat’s stand on Abdus Salam. As mentioned by NFP, Maududi and Jamat were directly involved in the 1953 and 1974 anti-Ahamadia riots. And who the hell is the Jamat to “allow” (or not) Salam to give a lecture?
    Jamat has always been and still is an Islamo-fascist organization. And so was Maududi Mian.

  7. Bloody Civilian


    the contrast i was thinking of was, say, usmani vs maudoodi.. or even islahi. usmani was, first and foremost, about ptotecting and advancing the intersts of an institution – very generally – maulviyat. noorani may be seen as the barelvi equivalent. tahir-ulqadri, israr ahmed, islahi, and, of course, maudoodi are more independent. no two amongst these more independent thinkers are alike. but all of them are unusually prolific writers. of them maudoodi created a cult-like organisation, of necessity, dictatorial. qadri attempted the barelvi version of the same, with much less success. i think this difference between the individual thinkers and institutional thinking would make an interesting study. e.g. maudoodi even had fatwas against him issued by the ‘institutions’.

    viel, you are absolutely right about maudoodi and his jamaat. just because someone thinks independently does not mean that their thinking is necessarily right or even pleasant. also, maudoodi’s strength was more the weight of the sheer number of pages he produced rather than (necessarily) weight of argument or depth and breadth of scholarship.

  8. Viel,
    My mentioning of Islahi and Dr. Israr was not necessarily because I think that it was good or bad that Maududi caused them to go in their different direction.
    As for the Dr. Abdus Salaam incident at QAU, I have only heard that the great scientist was stopped from delivering a lecture at the University due to the opposition of ‘Islamic Organizations’ (as per Wikipedia). I am just interested in knowing whether it was the Jama’at, who are inevitably the most active on student campuses, or someone else who caused this to happen.

    Bloody Civilian,
    Nice contrast on individual and institutional thinking


  9. Well, for God’s sake. When did Ziauddin Sardar become a professor? And professor of what? And where? For as long as I have known of him, he was a sub-editor at the Guardian and moved on to the New Statesman and has been free-lancing for the British media. If he has been a professor of the British genre it must have been a secret avocation. Of course I like the man and what he stands for but it isn’t professorship of anything.