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JAM`IYATUL `ULAMA’-I HIND. An organization of Muslim religious scholars of India, the Jam’Iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind (Association of the `Ulama’ of India) was established in November 1919, when numerous `ulama’ from all parts of India came to participate in the Khilafat Movement conference in New Delhi [see Khilafat Movement]. The organization came into being when Indians of all religious affiliations were united in the anti-British struggle. Mohandas Gandhi embraced the cause of the Ottoman caliphate, and most Muslim leaders participated in the noncooperation movement with the Indian National Congress. The Jam’Iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind maintained its pro-Congress attitude throughout the struggle for independence and stood at the head of those Indian Muslims who supported the idea of a united India and opposed the Pakistan movement. (Some of its members, however, seceded in 1946 and established the Jam’Iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam, which supported Pakistan [see Jam`iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam].) Many of the members were associated with the Dar al`Ulum of Deoband. Since its establishment in 1919, the association has held annual conferences in which the `ulama’ have expressed their views on the central issues of the day.

The main contribution of the Jam’Iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind to Indo-Muslim thought is the theory of “composite nationalism” (muttahida qawmiyat). This theory, which was elaborated in speeches and writings of the Jam’Iya leadership and particularly in the works of its longtime president Husain Ahmad Madan! (18791957) served as an alternative to the “two nations theory” (do qawmi nazariyat) of the Muslim League, which formed the ideological basis of the Pakistan movement. According to the theory of “composite nationalism,” nations can be created by various factors, such as religion, race, homeland, language, or color. In this analysis, a “nation” (qawm) is not an exclusive category: a person can belong simultaneously to several “nations” created by different characteristics. In modern times, the most important nation-building factor has been the homeland; the Muslims of India therefore belong to the same nation as other Indians, and India constitutes a nation despite its religious diversity. Nevertheless, according to the religious criterion, Muslims continue to belong to the Muslim (qawm)

The Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind thus accepted the idea of territorial nationalism. This is a novel idea in Islamic thought, and the `ulama’ devoted considerable intellectual effort to provide it with Islamic legitimacy. The classical Islamic precedent repeatedly used for this purpose is the Covenant of Medina (`ahd al-ummah), the document that the Prophet is said to have issued in order to regulate the relationship between the Emigrants (muhajirun), the Helpers (ansdr), and the Jews in Medina after the Hijrah. One of its sections states that “the Jews of `Awf are one community with the believers; the Jews have their religion and the Muslims theirs.” The `ulama’ concluded from this passage that the Prophet himself agreed to the inclusion of non-Muslims in the same nation with Muslims. The history of Mughal India is also seen as vindicating the composite nationalism theory. The Mughal period knew no communalism (firqah vdriyat, firqah parasti); all Indians were treated equally by the rulers. Although the Muslims who established the Mughal empire came from outside India, once they settled there they became an inextricable part of Indian nationhood (hindustani gawmiyat). Communalism emerged in India only as a result of British policies.

The practical political conclusion from this interpretation of Muslim and Indo-Muslim history was the demand that Muslims cooperate with the Indian National Congress in order to expel the British from India and to achieve independence for the country. The `ulama’ envisaged that in an independent and united India, achieved with Muslim cooperation, the Muslims would have significant influence, their family law and religious institutions would be maintained, and governments with a Muslim majority would be established in several provinces. On the basis of these expectations, they appealed to Muslims not to join the Muslim League, even declaring membership in it a sin. The `ulama’ were convinced that the Western-educated element so prominent in the League’s leadership would never be able or willing to establish an Islamic state compatible with the traditional religious ideal of the `ulama’ They also maintained that the establishment of Pakistan would not solve the communal problem because many millions of Muslims would remain in the Indian part of the subcontinent and would live in an atmosphere of hate generated by the partition. On the other hand, the establishment of a strong and unified India, in which the Muslims would be an influential and significant minority, would benefit not only the Muslims of the subcontinent but also the Muslims of the rest of the world.

The views of the Jam’iya did not prevail during the struggle for independence, and in 1947 the subcontinent was partitioned between India and Pakistan. In independent India the Jam`iya acquired increased importance in the new political structure. In contradistinction to the Muslim League and other organizations that supported the creation of Pakistan, the Jam’iya possessed impeccable credentials of opposition to partition and was a natural candidate to represent Indian Muslims. Shortly after independence, the `ulama’ called upon Indian Muslims to declare their unswerving loyalty to India. Several of the ideas adopted by the `ulama’ after partition were rather bold from the vantage point of traditional Islam. They accepted the idea of a secular state, which they conceived as neutral in matters of religion. They gave qualified support to the idea of a composite Indian culture. They severed all ties with Jam’iya branches in the territories now incorporated in Pakistan, even though this was a country established in the name of Islam and inhabited mostly by Muslims. They supported Indian policies even on issues that were sensitive from the Muslim point of view, such as Kashmir and Hyderabad.

The Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind is a rare, and possibly unique, case of an association of traditional Muslim religious scholars who have willingly bestowed legitimacy upon the policies of a non-Muslim and professedly secular government, born out of conflict with the generally acknowledged leadership of their own community.

[See also All-India Muslim League; India; Pakistan.]


Ahmad, Aziz. Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan, 1857-1964. London and New York, 1967, pp. 186-194.

Faruqi, Zia-ul-Hasan. The Deoband School and the Demand for Pakistan. Bombay, 1963.

Friedmann, Yohanan. “The Attitude of the Jam`iyyat al-`ulama’-I Hind to the Indian National Movement and to the Establishment of Pakistan.” Asian and African Studies 7 (1971): 157-180. Friedmann, Yohanan, “The jam’iyyat al-`ulama’-i Hind in the Wake of Partition.” Asian and African Studies I I (1976): 181-211. Hardy, Peter. Partners in Freedom-and True Muslims: The Political Thought of Some Muslim Scholars in British India, 1912-1947. Lund, 1971.

Mushir-ul-Haq. Islam in Secular India. Simla, 1972. Important for the postindependence period.

Qureshi, Ishtiaq Husain. Ulema in Politics: A Study Relating to the Activities of the Ulema in the South-Asian Subcontinent from 1556 to 1947. New Delhi, 1985. Criticism of the activities of the Jam`iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind from a Pakistani vantage point.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/jamiyatul-ulama-hind/

  • writerPosted On: July 11, 2014
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