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Maududi, Abu L-A?la? (1903–1979)

MAUDUDI, ABU L-A˓LA˒ (1903–1979)

It was in the 1930s that Abu l-A˓la˒ Maududi from Aurangabad, India formulated his political ideas about state and government, which had a great impact on the Muslim world. Maududi was, like many Islamists of his time, an autodidact and an intellectual. He started his career as a journalist working for the Deobandi-based political party Jam˓iyat-e ˓Ulama-e Hind (JUH), but soon distanced from the party and in 1932 founded his own Urdu-language journal Tarjuman al-Qur˒an in Hyderabad, India. In contrast to the JUH, which postulated composite nationalism (muttahida qaumiyyat), and also in contrast to Muhammad Iqbal's idea of a Muslim state (territorial nationalism), Maududi postulated a third alternative when he began to Islamize the political discourse of the nationalists and freedom fighters: An Islamic state must correspond to the Islamic ideology through which the divine order can be realized on earth. A Muslim should believe in the sovereignty of God rather than in the idea of a government of the people, through the people, and for the people. Hence, Muslims did not represent a nation, but the party of God, which acts as God's agent on earth (khalifa). For this aim, he considered self-purification a prerequisite. Toward the end of the 1930s he was convinced that the creation of a Muslim state would not be the right method of reform, because the un-Islamic politicians were not able to create an Islamic state.

To put his ideas into practice, in 1941 the Islamic classicist Maududi founded the Jama˓at-e Islami (Islamic Community)—which he led until 1972 as its president—and postulated the sovereignty of God on Earth (hakimiyat-e ilahi) in a universal, ideologically Islamic nation. After 1947, he tried to materialize this idea of an imagined community in the constitution of Pakistan, where he, along with the majority of his community, eventually emigrated. Hence he accepted the idea of a nation-state, which he had rejected formerly. His Jama˓at won much influence, especially among young intellectuals and the middle class in the years to come.

Maududi was the first to work toward an Islamic constitution, and his endeavors were partly incorporated in the Objectives Resolution of 1949, which was incorporated in turn into the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, according to which Pakistan was to be an Islamic state. His rather state-apologetic interpretation of Islam, on which he had elaborated in his Islamic Law and Constitution (1955), made him and his party collaborate with the government at several instances—for example, during the reign of Zia ul-Haq—though Maududi himself was imprisoned several times on the charge of being disloyal to Pakistan.

His argument was that the wrong interpretation of the Qur˒an's basic principles had led the people astray, which had resulted in the loss of religious and cultural identity, due to misguided mystics (Sufis) among others. It was important to leave the jahiliyya (the pre-Islamic state of ignorance) behind and return to the righteous society here and now. The reconstruction of an idealized pure Islamic society would guarantee the iteration of the original Muslim community (umma). This required Muslims to live according to the sunna of the Prophet, based on a transnational view of the golden age of the Prophet and the first generations. It implied a reinvention of tradition. With this argument Maududi created a new normative and formative past, and an absence of historical records allowed him to regard himself an exponent of the projected imagined Islamic society, or jama˓at, as the avant-gardist, who considered himself authorized to establish renewal (tajdid). Ijtihad, for example, the maximum effort to ascertain, in a given problem or issue, the injunction of Islam and its real intent, was the proper channel for that process. The concept of history informed by the notion of constant decay, already developed in his Muslims and the Present Political Crisis (1937–1939), was the basic motivation for his activism, which he wanted to implement through education.

Maududi gained great fame throughout the Islamic world and became a member of several societies and a founding member of the Rabitat al-˓Alam al-Islami in 1961.

See alsoJama˓at-e Islami ; Political Islam .


Ahmad, Khurshid, and Ansari, Zafar Ishaq, eds. Islamic Perspectives; studies in honour of Mawlana Sayyid Abul A˓la Mawdadi. London: The Islamic Foundation, 1979.

Nasr, Seyyed. Vali Reza: Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Jamal Malik

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