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JAMIYATUL `ULAMA’-I PAKISTAN. The party of Pakistan’s Barelwi `ulama’ the Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Pakistan was formed in Karachi in 1948 at the behest of Mawlanas `Abdulhamid Bada’uni, Sayyid Muhammad Ahmad Qadiri, and `Allamah Ahmad Sa’id Kazimi. After the Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam, it has been the largest `ulama’ party of Pakistan. The Jam`iyat follows the Barelwi school of Islamic thought, also known as the ahl-i sunnat wa jamacat (“people of the custom and community”), a term that reflects their claim to represent the true faith.


jupThe Barelwls trace their origin to the teachings of Ahmad Riga Khan Barelwi (1856-1921), a scion of a notable `ulama’ family of Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, who had strong ties to the Qadiriyah Sufi order. The Barelwls, unlike other `ulama’ groups of the period or the Islamic movements that surfaced later, were not interested in promoting a puritanical interpretation of orthodoxy. Instead, they emerged to counter the impact of the Deobandl and Ahl-i Hadith traditions, both of which had sought to cleanse Islamic practices of cultural accretions and Sufism. The Barelwls adhered to the Hanafi school of law but aimed to preserve the place of Sufism and the popular customs associated with it in the life and thought of Indian Muslims. The Barelwls also accord the `ulama’ and $ufi pirs a central role as community leaders, vested with authority to intercede with God on behalf of the faithful.

By the turn of the century the Barelwi school had developed a strong following in northern India, relating popular Sufi practices to an orthodox reading of Islam. In Punjab too, where the Qadiriyah order has traditionally wielded much power, the Barelwls found a base, especially after the founding of the Darul Hizb-i Ahnaf (Congregation of the Hanafi Parties) in Lahore in the 1920s. They had little influence in the other four provinces that after 1947 became Pakistan-East Bengal, Sind, and the predominantly Deobandl North-West Frontier and Baluchistan. Throughout the struggle for partition, the Barelwls supported the Muslim League and were especially effective in bolstering the League’s position in Punjab. In 1946 this support was formalized when Barelwi `ulama’ from across India congregated in Benares to endorse Pakistan openly and to provide it with religious legitimacy.

Given this background, many Barelwls migrated to Pakistan in 1947, establishing a base in Sind among the refugee (muhajir) community. With a following in rural Punjab and urban Sind, Barelwls emerged as an important national force on the religious scene, second only to the Deobandis. The rivalry between the two for power and prominence, and the Barelwis’ desire to defend their flock from challenges by the Deobandis, soon led to the creation of a Barelwi `ulama’ party.

The Pakistani Deobandis had broken away from the pro-Congress Deobandi Party, Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind, to support the Muslim League and the demand for partition. In 1945 they had formed the Jam`iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam, whose contribution to the creation of the country was quickly rewarded with government patronage. The Barelwis viewed the privileged status of Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam with envy and concern, especially as Islam came to dominate national political discourse. Against this background in 1948, the Barelwi `ulama’ formed the Jam`iyatul `Ulama’-i Pakistan. The Jam’iyat was initially an `ulama’ forum designed to voice the interests of Barelwis; it had no plans for direct political activity. Between 1947 and 1958, the Jam’iyat actively participated in the debates among various Islamic parties and the government over the nature of the state of Pakistan and the necessity of an Islamic constitution for the country. Beyond this, it did not envisage a role for itself in national politics.

By the late 1960s, however, the Jam’iyat had become fully embroiled in politics under the force of three factors. The first was the increasing prominence of the Jamllyatul `Ulama’-i Islam and other Islamic parties such as the Jama`at-i Islami in the religious and political arenas from 1958 onward. Recall that the Barelwis had emerged in the first place to check the growth of puritanical interpretations of orthodoxy; thus it was not unexpected that the Jam`iyat would mobilize its resources to offset the influence of Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam and the Jama’at-i Islami. The Jam’iyat challenged the Jama’at-i Islami in forty-two constituencies in the national elections of 1970, defeating their opponents in several contests and dividing the religious vote in others to the advantage of secular parties. The rivalry between the two also stemmed from the fact that both had courted the Muhajir community of Sind since 1947

Second, the Jam’iyat was made aware of the power and potential of Islam in the political arena by revivalist groups in general, and the Jama’at-i Islami in particular. The Jam’iyat was not immune to the attraction of political power; moreover, it did not wish to leave the growing religious vote to be dominated by revivalist parties or the Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam. The decision to participate in the national elections of 1970, the first for the Jam`iyat, was taken after the Jama`at-i Islami flaunted the electoral potential of Islamic symbolisms by introducing its campaign with the Yaum-i Shaukat-i Islam (Day of Islam’s Glory), which was held throughout Pakistan in May 1970.

Third, the Jam`iyat became interested in politics in response to the challenge of the secularist regime (19581969) of Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan to the place of Islam in Pakistani society. The Ayub regime sought to roll back the gains made by religious parties during the preceding decade, proposed a modernist view of Islam with the aim of depoliticizing the Islamic parties, and finally sought to extend the power of the state into the domain of the `ulama’ The Jam`iyat was opposed to Ayub’s modernist agenda but was especially perturbed by the government’s appropriation of religious endowments and takeover of the management of religious shrines; both actions affected Barelwis and their allies in the Sufi establishment directly. The Jam’iyat was also opposed to the government’s attempts to seize control of its mosques. In response to Ayub Khan’s policies, the Jam`iyat became more directly involved in politics in the 1960s to protect the Barelwis’ interests. By the mid-1960s, under the leadership of Mawlana Shah Ahmad Nurani, the Jam’iyat became a vociferous actor in the political arena; it now included lay members and leaders and addressed issues of national concern. In 1970, for instance, it launched a strong campaign to counter Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Following the secession of Bangladesh and the rise of the populist Zulfiqar ‘Ali Bhutto to power, the Jam’iyat, along with other Islamic parties, became even more actively involved in politics. The secularist and left-of-center politics of the Bhutto government allowed the Islamic parties to assume the leadership of the opposition. The Jam`iyat coordinated its activities closely with those of other Islamic parties in the antigovernment Nizam-i Mustafa (Order of the Prophet) movement, which undermined the Bhutto regime. In fact, Nurani was chosen by the movement to succeed Bhutto as prime minister. Later the Jam’iyat also lent support to the military regime of General Muhammad Zia ulHaq, who took over the reins of power in 1977.

True to its founding ideals, the Jam’iyat was also the first Islamic party to distance itself from the Zia regime and its puritanical view of Islam. The party was not, however, able to escape the impact of the increasingly strict adherence to orthodoxy that swept across Pakistan in the I98os. By the end of that decade, elements within the Jam`iyat had moved close to the doctrinal positions of Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam and the Jama’at-i Islam!. More significantly, the party suffered as a consequence of its direct involvement in politics. Clashes over policy decisions since 1969 divided the Jam’iyat into factions. One faction led by Nurani decided to stay away from the Islam! Jumhuri Ittihad (IJI or Islamic Democratic Alliance), which was formed by the pro-Zia parties to challenge Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party, and instead allied itself with an offshoot of Jam`iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam to form the Islamic Democratic Front. The other faction under the leadership of Mawlana `Abdussattar Niyazi decided to remain with IJI.

Since 1986, the Jam’iyat, like other Islamic parties, has lost much of its support because of the proliferation of self-styled Sunni parties throughout Pakistan, and because of the meteoric rise of the ethnic party Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz (MQM or Muhajir National Movement) in the urban centers of Sind. In the 1970 elections the party received 8.2 percent of the popular vote and won seven seats in the National Assembly, but in the 1990 elections its share of the vote had fallen to 1.47 percent, winning only four seats. Despite this setback, the party continues to operate as an important force on the religious scene and wields significant power in the political arena from its stronghold in rural Punjab. The party’s student wing, Anjuman-i Tulaba-i Islam (Association of Islamic Students), established in the I98os, now controls numerous campuses in Punjab.

[See also Barelwis; Deobandis; Jama’at-i Islam!; Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Islam; Pakistan; Qadiriyah]


Abbott, Freeland. Islam and Pakistan. Ithaca, N.Y., 1968. Good summary of interactions between various Islamic groups in Pakistan. Afzal, Rafique. Political Parties in Pakistan, 1947-1958. Islamabad, 1976. Concise account of party politics in Pakistan in the 19471958 period.

Ahmad, `Abdul-Ghafur. Phir Marshal La A-Giyd (Then Came the Martial Law). Lahore, 1988. Good account of the politics of the Islamic parties in the 1970s.

Ahmad, Mumtaz. “Islam and the State: The Case of Pakistan.” In The Religious Challenge to the State, edited by Matthew Moen and Lowell Gustafson, pp. 239-267. Philadelphia, 1992. Good account of the issues before Islamic parties during the Ayub, Bhutto, and Zia regimes.

Binder, Leonard. Religion and Politics in Pakistan. Berkeley, 1961.

The standard work on religion and politics in Pakistan in the 19471956 period.

Ewing, Katherine. “The Politics of Sufism: Redefining the Saints of Pakistan.” Journal of Asian Studies 42.2 (February 1983): 251-268. Authoritative outline of the changing political issues surrounding Sufism in Pakistan.

Gilmartin, David. Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan. Berkeley, 1988. Contains a good account of the activities of the Barelwis in the Punjab between the two world wars.

Metcalf, Barbara D. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900. Princeton, 1982. Contains an excellent sketch of the Barelwi tradition.


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

  • writerPosted On: July 12, 2014
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