• Category Category: J
  • View View: 1673
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

JAMAAT-I ISLAMI. An Islamic revivalist party in Pakistan, Jama’at-i Islami (the Islamic Organization/ Party) is one of the oldest Islamic movements and has been influential in the development of Islamic revivalism across the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular. It was founded in Lahore on 26 August 1941, mainly through the efforts of Mawland Sayyid Abu al-A’la Mawdudi (d. 1979), an Islamic thinker and activist who had dedicated his life to the revival of Islam in India. Mawdfidi had been involved since 1938 with the struggle to reverse the decline of the Muslim community. He had opposed accommodating the Congress Party, believing that Hindu rule behind the veneer of secular nationalism would spell the end of Islam in India. He had been equally if not more vehemently opposed to the Muslim League, which he believed to be a secularist entity, completely ill-equipped to respond to the imperatives before the Muslim community. The Jama’at was in large measure created to rival the Muslim


League for the leadership of the Pakistan movement, especially after the Lahore Resolution of 194o that committed the League to creating a separate Muslim state.

Mawdfidi’s call for the creation of a new Muslim organization that would better address the predicament facing Muslims was supported by a number of young ‘ulama’ who joined him in Lahore to form the new organization. The most notable of these were Mawldnds Sayyid Abulhasan ‘Ali Nadvi of Nadvatul-`Ulama’ and Muhammad Manzfir Nu’mani, a Deobandi. Mawdudi was elected by the founding body of seventy-five members as the Jama’at’s first amir (president), a title he held until 1972. The party’s constitution was also ratified in that opening session. Soon after its creation, the party established its headquarters in Pathankut, a hamlet in East.Punjab. The seclusion of Pathankut permitted the Jama’at to consolidate and to create a community (ummah), which had been a principal objective behind its creation. Between 1941 and 1947, the Jama’at spread its message across India through its widely distributed literature, rallies, conventions, and public sessions.

Structure and Ideology. The Jama’at has closely followed the teachings of Mawdfidl, which emphasize the exoteric dimensions of faith, disparage traditional Islam, rationalize faith, and predicate eschatology and salvation on social action. The Jama’at views Islam as a holistic ideology analogous to Western ideologies such as Marxism. It promises a utopian order to be constructed in the temporal realm; and it encourages Muslims to embark upon an Islamic revolution, shaping society and politics in accordance with the precepts of the faith as interpreted by Mawdfidi.

According to the Jama`at’s founding constitution, revised and amended since 1941, the party consists of members (arkan, sg. rukn) and a periphery of sympathizers (muttafiqs and hamdards), all of whom provide it with a cadre of workers (karkun). Members alone, however, may hold office in the party. In 1947 the Jama`at had 385 members; in 1989 this figure stood at 5,723, and the party also boasted 305,792 official affiliates. The Jama`at is guided by the amir in consultation with the Shfird (consultative assembly). The internal affairs of the party are supervised by the office of the qayyim (secretary-general). In later years, this structure was reproduced at all levels of the party from the nation to village, creating an all-encompassing pyramidal structure of authority. Since the 1960s the party has also developed a women’s wing, as well as semi-autonomous organizations such as publication houses and unions–especially a student union, Islami Jam’iyat-i Tulaba (Islamic Society of Students)-to extend the purview of its activities [see Youth Movements].

The Jama’at’s structure from inception has been that of an ummah, a virtuous Muslim community. Its creation both signaled the “rebirth” of Islam and provided Indian Muslims with an organizational model in their drive to assert their political rights and cultural demands. Party discipline has always been rigorous, and members are expected to reform all aspects of their lives to conform to standards set by the party. Emphasis therefore rests on quality rather than numbers. The Jama’at has not been a mass party, but a community which aims at absorbing society as a whole. It has sought to do this by compelling society to change in accordance with its teachings. In political terms, the Jama’at’s organizational model has performed the function of a vanguard party in the struggle for Islamic revolution.

History and Politics. Following the partition of India, the Jama’at divided into three separate units for India, Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan. Mawdudl, along with the bulk of the original party leaders and members, left India for Pakistan and established the headquarters of the Jama’at-i Islam! of Pakistan in Lahore. Soon afterward the party abandoned the relative isolationism of its Pathankut days and became fully immersed in Pakistani politics. Its political vision continued to be guided by Mawdudi’s religious exegesis.

Pakistani politics meanwhile proved receptive to the Jama`at, and the party soon found a niche in the political arena that expanded over time. Pakistan’s particularly arduous experiences with nation-building and consolidation of the state in the subsequent years, the deep-seated cleavages in its polity, the uneasy coexistence between democracy and military rule, and civil war and secession by the majority of its population made the emotional power of Islam increasingly more appealing and its promise of unity ever more poignant.

The Jama’at’s political agenda was premised on a program of training a vanguard “Islamic elite,” who would oversee the revival of Islam on a national level and would mobilize the masses using religious symbols and ideals. The party organized a tightly knit network of activists and sympathizers who not only propagated Mawdudi’s views but also enabled the party to project power in the political arena. Mawdfid! and the Jama`at quickly closed ranks with the `ulama’ and other self styled religious movements in pressing the newly formed state for an Islamic constitution. The party’s ideas and policy positions featured prominently in the ongoing debates between the government and the religious alliance from 1947 to 1956, most notably in the Objectives Resolution of 1949. Jama`at’s activism in these years culminated in an open confrontation with the government over the role of religion in politics.

No sooner had the state declared its independence than the Jama`at forbade the citizenry to take an oath of allegiance to the state unless it became Islamic. The government was troubled by the Jama`at’s challenge to its legitimacy, especially when such challenges involved foreign relations. In 1948, while observing a cease-fire with India, Pakistan had resumed support for insurgency in Kashmir, which was largely spearheaded by armed paramilitary units dispatched from Pakistan. The fighters had harped on the theme of jihad to justify their uprising and to gather new recruits and material support for their cause. Mawdudl, challenging the legitimacy of the declaration of a jihad in Kashmir, argued that vigilante groups could not declare jihad, nor could the government surreptitiously support a jihad when observing a cease-fire. Jihad had to be properly declared by a central government to justify a legitimate and ongoing war. Mawdud! thus asserted that the government should either formally go to war with India over Kashmir, or abide by the terms of the cease-fire to which it had agreed. India understandably found Mawdudi’s opinion of considerable political value, which led Pakistani authorities to accuse the Jama`at of pro-Indian sympathies and anti-Pakistan activities. Several Jama`at leaders, including Mawdudl, were incarcerated, and the party was declared a seditious entity on par with communist organizations.

Mawdudi’s arguments not only placed the government on the defensive by questioning the wisdom of its policy of cessation of conflict with India over Kashmir, but also revealed its susceptibility to criticism from the religious quarter. The entire episode moreover confirmed the JamYat’s place in the ongoing sociopolitical and constitutional debates in Pakistan, and increased the government’s sensitivity to religious activism. The government, however, was unable to dismantle the Jama’at or to extirpate Islam from the political arena. Even while in prison, Mawdud! continued his activities and successfully mobilized the `ulama’ and various other religious groups to press the Constituent Assembly to move Pakistan toward islamization.

Following Mawdudi’s release from prison in 1950, the Jama’at’s activities were further intensified, producing a formidable religious alliance that effectively anchored national constitutional debates in Islam. In 1951 the Jama`at became directly active in politics by taking part in the Punjab elections. It was, however, the antiAhmadiyah agitations in Punjab in 1953-1954 that catapulted the Jama`at to the forefront of Pakistani politics.

In 1953, agitators organized and led by the `ulama’ and religious activists demanded the dismissal of Zafaru’llah Khan, Pakistan’s Ahmadi foreign minister, and the relegation of the Ahmadiyah to the status of a nonMuslim minority. These measures, the agitators argued, would serve as litmus tests for the government’s commitment to Islam. Although the agitations were led by the `ulama’ and religious groups such as the Anjumani Ahrar, the Jama’at’s role proved critical in providing convincing justification for them, especially in the form of a book, Qadiyani mas’alah (The Ahmadiyah Question). In fact, the government viewed the Jama`at’s support for the agitations as more alarming and invidious than the provocative activities of the Ahrar. As a result, once the government clamped down on the agitations, Mawdudi and a number of prominent Jama’at leaders were apprehended and put on trial. Mawdudi was convicted of sedition and sentenced to death. That sentence was later commuted and was eventually reversed by the country’s supreme court. [See also Ahmadiyah.]

By pitting the Jama’at against the state over a popular cause, the anti-Ahmadiyah issue enhanced the party’s political standing. Moreover, the agitations placed Islam more squarely at the center of the constitutional debates regarding the nature of the Pakistani state, all to the Jama`at’s advantage. As a result, it used its growing power to exert renewed pressure on the government, this time regarding the issue of the constitution of 1956.

Since 1947 the Jama’at and its allies had successfully anchored constitutional debates in a concern for the Islamicity of the state. In the aftermath of the anti-Ahmadiyah disturbances, and with the religiously inclined Chaudhri Muhammad `Ali as prime minister, the Constitutional Assembly began to accommodate the religious activists to an increasing extent. Consequently, with the promulgation of the constitution of 1956, the Jama’at and its allies among the `ulama’ claimed victory and accepted the new constitution as an Islamic one.

This paved the way for the Jama’at to become more directly involved in politics. In 1957, despite opposition within the party, Mawdudi directed the Jama’at to recognize the legitimacy of the state by declaring that it would participate in the national elections of 1958 as a full-fledged party. The constitutional victory was, however, short lived, for the armed forces of Pakistan under the command of General Muhammad Ayub Khan (d. 1969), with a modernizing agenda that disparaged the encroachment of religion into politics, took over power in 1958.

Over the following decade the political establishment became dominated by an authoritarian and bureaucratic elite who actively promoted religious modernism as a way of retarding the drive for the islamization of the country. Advocates of religious revival and an Islamic state were increasingly pressed into retreat. The Jama’at’s offices were closed down, its leaders were excoriated in government-sponsored publications, and its activities, networks, and operations were restricted. Mawdudi himself was imprisoned twice during Ayub Khan’s rule.

Unable to advocate freely the cause of Islam in the political arena, the Jama’at became more concerned with the removal of Ayub Khan and the restoration of a political climate that would be conducive to religio-political activism. The party’s experiences with Ayub Khan’s government forced it to look for new allies outside the circle of religious revivalists. Consequently, the Jama’at joined the alliance of political parties that advocated restoration of democracy and an end to Ayub Khan’s hegemony in Pakistan, going so far as to support the candidacy of Fatimah Jinnah in the presidential elections of 1965. The Ayub era politicized the Jama’at further, transforming it into a consummate political party.

The result of this transformation was clear in the Jama’at’s policies in the post-Ayub period. In 1970 it participated in national elections with the aim of capturing power. Those hopes were dashed when the party won only four seats in the National Assembly and four seats in various provincial assemblies. In 1971 the Jama’at responded to the advent of civil war in East Pakistan by mobilizing its resources in support of the central government and by joining the attempt to prevent East Pakistan from seceding as Bangladesh.

The secession of East Pakistan and the rise of Zulfiqar ‘Ali Bhutto (d. 1979) to power in 1971 intensified the Jama’at’s political activism. The socialist content of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party’s political program was particularly instrumental in prompting the Jama`at into action. Viewing Bhutto’s populism as a direct challenge to the Islamic basis of Pakistan and to its own place in the country’s political order, the party directly confronted the government on numerous political issues, notably during the movement against recognition of Bangladesh in 1972-1974 and the anti-Ahmadiyah disturbances of 1974

Throughout the Bhutto years the Jama’at spearheaded a political movement that consciously appealed to religious sentiments in order to weaken the Bhutto regime. While the opposition to Ayub had brought religious groups into an alliance for democracy, opposition to Bhutto took shape under the banner of religion. The Jama’at’s religio-political program proved instrumental in giving shape to this alliance-the Nizam-i Mustafa (Order of the Prophet) movement-and in managing its nationwide agitations. The struggle against Bhutto greatly bolstered the Jama`at’s popular standing. In the elections of 1977, widely believed to have been rigged to favor Bhutto, the Jama’at won nine of the thirty-six seats won by the opposition. During the subsequent antigovernment protests the party’s popularity soared further. It was the Jama’at and the movement it led that eventually undermined the Bhutto government and in 1977 provoked a military coup d’etat.

The cause of the Islamic opposition, now enjoying wide popularity, could not be ignored by the martiallaw administration of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq (d. 1988), who in his search for legitimacy was quick to appease the Nizam-i Mustafa movement. Zia’s elevenyear rule from 1977 to 1988 was therefore a period of unprecedented success and political influence for the Jama’at. During the Zia period the Jama’at, once a dissident party outside the pale of mainstream politics, became a political and ideological force at the helm of power. Jama’at leaders occupied important government offices, including cabinet posts, and the party’s views were reflected in government programs. The party played a direct role in the islamization of the country, as well as in articulating state policy, especially concerning the Afghan jihad and the position of the federal state on provincialist and ethnic demands.

The rise in the fortunes of the Jama’at during the Zia period, however, turned out to be a pyrrhic victory; for despite its influence at the top, the party failed to expand its social base, nor was it able to exercise political influence outside the channels provided by the government. As a result, in the national elections of 1985 it won only ten seats in the National Assembly and thirteen in the provincial assemblies. Unable to utilize its newly found prominence to advance its own political position or to distinguish its programs from those of the government, the Jama’at became an instrument of government policy-making and was, therefore, effectively coopted by the regime.

The Jama`at’s experience with the Zia regime not only dealt a blow to the party’s morale and prestige, but also rendered it politically vulnerable. As Zia gradually fell out of favor with the masses, so did the Jama’at witness a turn in its political fortunes. The party’s predicament manifested itself in its modest showings in Pakistan’s national elections of 1988, 1990 and 1993. In the first two it participated as part of the Islami Jumhuri Ittihad (IJI or Islamic Democratic Alliance), a coalition of Islamic and right-of-center parties that emerged following Zia’s death to challenge the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. In the elections of 1988 the Jama’at won eight seats in the national assembly and thirteen in the provincial assemblies; in the elections of 1990 the Jama’at’s tally of seats stood at eight and twenty, respectively. In the 1993 elections the Jama’at contested alone, winning only three seats to the national assembly and six to provincial assemblies.

Yet, despite its limited electoral showings, by the end of the Zia period it was apparent that the Jama`at had become a powerful political force with significant social and cultural influence, derived mainly from its organizational structure and ability to manipulate the religious factor in Pakistan’s political balance. While unable to increase its political prowess in the Pakistani parliament, the Jama’at remains an important political party capable of influencing the course of politics through the use of its organizational muscle. The Jama’at’s political stature is reflected in the power which it has wielded in the IJI between 1988 and 1993.

Continuity and Change in Party Structure. During its five decades of existence the Jama’at has gone through a number of purges and reorganizations as well as periods of uncertainty and redirection-none more significant than the transition from one leader to another. The Jama’at has been led by three amirs and has passed through two succession periods: from Sayyid Abu al-A’la Mawdudi (1941-1972) to Miyan Tufail Muhammad (1972-1987), and then to Qazi Husain Ahmad (since 1987); each such period has engendered a reorientation of the party.

Of equal importance are changes in the social base of the Jama’at. The party has at one point or another been associated with various constituencies or ethnic groups, notably the urban middle classes, the petit-bourgeoisie, the Muhajirs (those who performed hijrah or migrated from India to Pakistan in 1947), the Punjabis, and more recently the Pathans. In its concern for the islamization of the state, the party has eschewed populist politics and sought to establish a base among the intelligentsia. Although it has failed to inculcate support among any one social class or to gain a large following, it relies on the power of discipline and organization rather than the power of numbers.

The party has, however, compensated for its restricted social base by developing ties with students, Pakistan’s future politicians, bureaucrats, and intellectual leaders. It is its success with students that best explains the Jama’at’s incremental rise in importance in the bureaucracy and the civil service. This strategy also manifests Mawdudi’s doctrine of islamizing the state from within and above: revolution through education and conversion rather than by coercion.

[See also Pakistan and the biography of Mawdudi.]


Abbott, Freeland. “The Jamaaat-i-Islami of Pakistan.” Middle East Journal 11.1 (Winter 1957): 37-51. Good account of the Jama`at’s activities up to 1957.

Adams, Charles J. “The Ideology of Mawlana Maududi.” In South Asian Politics and Religion, edited by Donald E. Smith, pp. 371397. Princeton, 1966. A standard work on Mawdudi’s ideology. Adams, Charles J. “Maududi and the Islamic State.” In Voices of Resurgent Islam, edited by John L. Esposito, pp. 99-133. New York, 1983. Overview of the Jama’at’s ideology.

Ahmad, `Abdul-Ghafur. Phir Marshal Ld A-Giya (Then Came the Martial Law). Lahore, 1988. Good account of the Jama’at’s politics during the Zia years.

Ahmad, Israr. Tahrik-i Jama’at-i Islami: Ek Tahqiqi Mutala’ah (The Movement of Jama’at-i Islami: A Critical Study). Lahore, 1966. Critical history of the Jamaat by a former member.

Ahmad, Mumtaz. “Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, pp. 457530. Chicago, 1991. Good history of the Jamaat.

Bahadur, Kalim. The Jama`at-i Islami of Pakistan. New Delhi, 1977. Useful account of Jama`at’s politics through the 1970s.

Binder, Leonard. Religion and Politics in Pakistan. Berkeley, 1961. Excellent account of the Jama`at’s politics in the 1947-1956 period. Dastur-i Jama’at-i Islami, Pakistan (Constitution of Jama’at-i Islami of Pakistan). Lahore, 1989. The Jama`at’s constitution, which governs the party’s operation.

Hasan, Masudul. Sayyid Abul A’ala Maududi and His Thought. 2 vols. Lahore, 1984. Detailed history of the Jama’at.

Ijtima` Se Ijtima` Tak, 1963-1974: Rudad-i Jama’at-i Islami, Pakistan (From Convention to Convention, 1963-1974: Proceedings of the Jama’at-i Islami of Pakistan). Lahore, 1989. Official report on the JamYat’s activities in the 1963-1974 period.

Ijtima` Se Ijtima` Tak, 1974-1983: Ruddd-i Jama`at-i Islami, Pakistan (From Convention to Convention, 1974-1983: Proceedings of the Jama’at-i Islami of Pakistan). Lahore, 1989. Official report on the Jama`at’s activities in the 1974-1983 period.

Ilahi, Chaudhr-1 Rahmat. Pakistan Men Jama’at-i Islami Ka Kirdar (The Jama’at-i Islarni’s Activities in Pakistan). Lahore, 1990 Official account of the Jama’at’s history.

Kennedy, Charles H. “Islamization and Legal Reform in Pakistan, 1979-89.” Pacific Affairs 63.1 (Spring 1990): 62-77. Provides insights into the Jama`at’s politics during the Zia period.

Munir, Muhammad. From Jinnah to Zia. Lahore, 1979. Critical examination of the role of Islamic parties in Pakistan’s history. Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. “Islamic Opposition to the Islamic State: The Jama’at-i Islami 1977-1988.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 24.4 (November 1992): 261-283. Account of the Jama`at’s politics during the Zia period.

Nast, Seyyed Vali Reza. “Students, Islam, and Politics: Islami Jami’at-i Talaba in Pakistan.” Middle East Journal 46.1 (Winter 1992) 59-76. Examination of the history and politics of the Jama’at’s student wing.

Rudad-i Jama’at-i Islami (Proceedings of the Jama’at-i Islami). 7 vols. Lahore, 1938-1991. Official historical chronicle of the Jama’at. Shahpuri, Abad. Tankh-i Jama’at-i Islami (History of the Jama’at-i Islam). Lahore, 1989. Official history of the Jama’at’s early years.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/jamaat-e-islami/

  • writerPosted On: July 11, 2014
  • livePublished articles: 768

Translate »