Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mawdudi and Jihad :Praveen Swami’s Distortion in 'The Hindu' - By Iqbal A. Ansari

Mawdudi and Jihad :Praveen Swami's Distortion in the Hindu


Iqbal  A.Ansari


1. In the opening paragraph of the article "Where the state pays for teachers of hate", in the Hindu of July 23, 2009, Praveen Swami attributed to Abul Ala Mawdudi, the founder of Jamaat-e- Islami, the exhortation to his followers to change the old tyrannical system and establish a just new order by the power of the sword.

1.1 The tenor of Swami's write- up and its intended impact on readers and Indian policy makers is obviously to warn them against entrusting the responsibility of school teaching work in Kashmir upon a group whose ideologue Mawdudi preached hatred against India/ Hindus and who advocated the use of sword against the tyrannical Indian system.

2. Having familiarity with the writings of Mawdudi, I felt that the present indiscriminate use of force by Kashmiri militants, whose victims, as of state forces, are usually innocent people, is wrongly being attributed to Mawdudi's ideology of Islam. Having read his extensive book on Jihad in Islam, I wrote to the editor asking him to give the reference of  Swami's quotation and also pointed out the distorted translation of the 'Anjuman Nusratul-Islam' as Society for the Victory of Islam, given by Swami as 'Nusrat' always means 'help/ support' and not 'victory'. 

3. Editor N.Ram has kindly sent the following reference supplied by Swami: 

        It is to serve this end that Islam seeks to press into service all the forces which can

         bring about such a revolution. The term which covers the use of all these forces is

         Jihad'. To alter people's outlook and spark a mental and intellectual revolution

         through the medium of speech (*) and the written word is a form of Jihad. To

         change the old tyrannical system and establish a just new order by the power of the

         sword is also Jihad, as is spending wealth and undergoing physical exertion for

          this cause.               

He has also provided the following para of the English translation based on Mawdudi'sspeech of 1939(not 1945 as suggested by Swami), when World War II had broken out in Europe.

   If Islam is a "Religion", and Muslims are a "Nation", according to the commonly   

   accepted understandings of these terms, then Jihad - despite the fact that it has been

   dignified with the title "The Best of all Prayers" in Islam - becomes a meaningless and

    useless term. But Islam is not the name of a mere "Religion", nor is Muslim the title of 

    a "Nation". The truth is that Islam is a revolutionary ideology which seeks to alter the

    ial order of the entire world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and

    ideals. "Muslims" is the title of that "International Revolutionary Party" organized by

    Islam to carry out its revolutionary programme. "Jihad" refers to that revolutionary

  struggle and utmost exertion which the Islamic Nation/Party brings into play in order to

   achieve this objective.

3.1 Further N.Ram has solely relied on Yogendra Sikand as a sufficient authority on translation of Arabic-Urdu term 'Nusrat' as Victory, which, therefore, in his view did not need any correction.

4. I acquired the full text of the translation of Mawdudi's 1939 speech, wherein the entire thrust is against the western imperialism, nationalism and capitalism, which in his view constituted a tyrannical system which had drenched the entire world in the bloodbath of an unholy war (1938-9).

4.1  The particular quotation occurs in the context of Mawdudi's "purely academic point of view" offering his explanation of Islamic religion, nation and jihad.

4.2  Given the intellectual climate of 1920s to 40s, Mawdudi was a bitter critic of nationalism, including Jinnah's Muslim nationalism. Hence, his opposition to the demand for a Muslim Pakistan and founding of the Jamaat-e-Islami with a non-territorial mission in 1941, when Muslim nationalism was at its peak. He considered Islam an international revolutionary ideology devoted to justice, equality and fraternity for entire mankind.

4.2  It is in this context of Western imperialism and World War II that he gives an inclusive explanation of jihad. In the quotation provided by N.Ram, Mawdudi explains that jihad is struggle and exertion against evil order which may be undertaken by speech and writing and by sacrificing wealth and one's energy though it also included armed struggle ( for example   for liberation of subjugated people.)

5.  In Swami's opening 'oracle', the phrasing as well as the context gets distorted by selectively using only 'the power of the sword' (implied to be used against India/ Hindus) ignoring other forms of jihad as peaceful struggle. Though the reference quoted by N.Ram is correct, he does not perhaps know the desired end for which according to Mawdudi, 'Islam seeks to press into service all the forces which can bring about such a revolution'. In the passage preceding the quotation Mawdudi observes:" Islam has no vested interest in promoting the cause of one nation or another…The sole interest of Islam is the welfare … (and) reforms for the benefit of mankind".

Later in the same speech he defined Islamic mission as "a call to join a movement of social revolution…(whose) main impact fell on those who reduced common humanity to status of slaves, namely the religious priests or clerics, the political hierarchy of kings, nobles and ruling classes and the  economic hierarchy of userers, landlords and monopolists".

6.  It may be kept in view that even against the tyrannical Western imperialism; Mawdudi did not advocate 'use of sword'. In his book Jihad in Islam (serialized in Urdu journal 1927/ first publication 1930), he ruled out any use of force for territorial expansion or subjugation of others or for religious conversions. Moreover during armed hostilities non- combatants must enjoy protection as provided for under Geneva Conventions, prohibiting selection of sites, weapons and techniques used by terrorists which are sure to kill and harm innocents.  

7.  How selective non- contextual quotation from Mawdudi has caused serious distortion can be understood by having a look at the five- year programme that he laid down for his followers in independent India in a speech delivered in Madras in April 1947.

His programme gave top priority to putting an end to the communal conflicts caused by antagonistic nationalism of Muslims and Hindus for share in power and resources. Secondly, he wanted Muslims to practise Islamic egalitarianism and become champions of socio- cultural reform for all oppressed people. Third point of emphasis related to Muslim intellectuals, writers and journalists not to harp on deprivations suffered by Muslims rather to present a positive message for all weak and vulnerable groups.

The fourth point emphasized adoption of all Indian regional languages, instead of just over-owning Urdu. [Reference- Khutbai Madras (Urdu) - (Madras lecture delivered on 26th April 1947) booklet published by Markazi Maktaba-i-Islami, New Delhi, pp 31-39]

7.1  This in his view constituted the cause of Islamic revolution in India in which not only sword was ruled out, but members of the Jamaat were asked to even renounce their legitimate rights, so that they could gain in moral stature. He prescribed patience/ forbearance, perseverance and practical wisdom as qualities to be achieved by Islamic revolutionaries. The Jamaat never thought of even drills for physical fitness.

8.  It is a sad story that Mawdudi and his Jamaat in India and Pakistan lamentably failed to live up to their profession. In Pakistan circumstances seem to have forced the Jamaat into acquiring a Pakistani Muslim nationalist character without any thrust for revolutionary egalitarianism.

In India the Jamaat has always been a misfit owing basically to non- contextual/ahistorical understanding of Islamic mission in the subcontinent..Moreover in spite of using the terminology of revolution and liberation, Mawdudi's Islam is past oriented and based on theological reasoning of jurists of medieval times.

9.  However, whatever its other failings, the mainstream Jamaat of India as well as Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir have not swerved from their constitutionally binding ethico- legal framework of peaceful means. In the event of use of force, as in J&K, the Kashmiri Jamaat has insisted on strictly observing the humanitarian law of armed hostilities.

9.1  I recall Syed Ali Shah Jeelani making a statement for protection of civilians during hostilities in October 1992 soon after his release from jail, for which I and my senior Gandhian friend Jai Ram Sahni, who visited the valley to inquire into human rights violations, complimented  him when we met him  at his residence on 27 October 1992.

 9.2  Similarly when I individually met most leaders of 'Azadi' in Kashmir in September, 2006, we found among others, Jeelani and President of Jamaat –e- Islami J&K most emphatic in their support of our minimum agenda for peace under the Citizens Declaration for Protection of Civilians in All Situations of Use of Force, campaign for which was inaugurated with your signature.

9.3  During May 2008, when I visited Pakistan, it was again the  Jamaat- e-islami,Pakistan including Dr.Khurshid Ahmed, who extended whole- hearted support to the Declaration against killing of innocents. Jamaat- e- Islami of India has all along been extending full support to our peace mission.

10. I would however not like any such ideological group to enjoy monopoly over curriculum and course design and teaching of school children. In case any policy decision has been taken in J&K let it be made more broad – based

11.  It is for N.Ram, who I consider a distinguished editor of a world-class institution of journalism, having denied to me the privilege of further communication, to rectify the situation created by Swami's repetitive writings on terrorism exclusively dealing with 'Muslim jihadis', about whom he always authoritatively reports how a terror attack was carried out just within a few hours after the incident with the certainty that even CBI would not claim after months of investigation.

12  The Hindu needs to give a special assignment to Praveen Swami or to someone else to at least once publish a write up on the brutal unprovoked killings of innocents including children and women by security forces in Kashmir during the last two decades, some of which we investigated under the Coordination Committee on Kashmir constituted jointly by me and Justice Tarkunde in 1990-91.

12.1  Why should the massacre of 3000 innocent Bangla speaking Muslims in Nellie, Assam in February 1983 in just six hours not figure as one of the greatest acts of terrorism in India in Praveen Swami's write- ups on terrorism.( Why should it be left to Harsh Mander to  narrate the story of denial of justice to victims of Nellie? [ The Hindu, December 14, 2008])

12.3  Why does Praveen Swami never reproduce writings of Hindu terrorists like Bal Thakeray about which A.M Rosenthal reported to The New York Times after Bombay riots that "Hindu hate literature against Indian Muslims is almost exactly the same in manufactured paranoia as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler's favourite…."

12.4  Let equitable space be given to the war, violence and terrorism not only under Islam but also under Indian religious and political traditions- past as well as present , about which any researcher will find copious material. It is only rarely that one finds the text of the CD "Bharat Ki Pukaar' being reproduced in the Hindu.

13.  I have never doubted secular / human rights credentials of the Hindu.  But let a team be assigned the work of quantifying space devoted to Muslim / Islamic terrorism and compare it with all other forms and manifestations of terrorism, under an inclusive definition of terrorism which should include demolition of Babri Masjid, Hashimpura (Meerut) - Maliana and all other major massacres. The great editor will discover after compiling and analysis of his paper's contents on riot- terror, the glaring contrast between coverage of Hindutva terror and that of Muslim involvement in terrorism including Pakistanis.

14.  I hope Mr. N.Ram and his distinguished team of very competent and fair minded journalists who are promoting  good causes with a sense of commitment, will undertake this exercise. 


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