Amir Mateen

MANSURA: Jamaat-e-Islami appears to have isolated itself by refusing to condemn the Taliban who have claimed responsibility for exploding bombs all over Pakistan.

As a result it has placed itself in conflict not just with the government, a sizeable section of the public and the army but also with its own beliefs as well as its founder, Maulana Maududi.

Maududi believed that the right to declare jihad rested with the state. He refused to endorse the Kashmir Jihad in 1948 because it had not been declared by the state. His bestseller “Jihad fil Islam” happens to be one of the most authentic documents on the Islamic theory of Jihad which was endorsed by, among others, Allama Iqbal.

It puts forth specific requisites for jihad: a distinction be made between ‘combatants’ and ‘non-combatants’; killings of civilians be avoided as well as unnecessary violence, arson, anarchy and disorder; and special care taken of the old, children, women, handicapped, prisoners and diplomats.

When Munawwar Hassan was asked about the above mentioned requisites, he almost went ballistic and insisted that Maulana Maududi had endorsed the jihad in Afghanistan. “The state never declared jihad in Kashmir or Afghanistan and yet we participated in both,” he argued. “The contours of the state have changed as non-state actors are a reality now.”

However, Maulana Maududi is unlikely to have endorsed the Afghan jihad as he left for the US for medical treatment in April 1979 and died much before the jihadi action started. Also, one may argue that the state may not have declared war or jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan but it still endorsed and supported it as did the JI. But the situation now is very different; the party’s support for the Pakistani Taliban’s ‘jihad’ against the Pakistan Army clashes directly with the state.

At the same time, it is evident that not everyone in the Jamaat agrees with Munawwar Hassan. A veteran Jamaat scholar, Professor Tayyab Gulzar believes Hakeemullah Mehsud and his predecessor, the late Baitullah Mehsud, are terrorists; in his opinion their subversive actions against the army, the state and the people of Pakistan cannot be termed a jihad.

Maududi wrote his masterpiece on jihad to explain to the world, particularly Great Britain, that the Muslims were not brutal as they were perceived to be. He felt compelled to write it after an Arya Samaj leader, Sawami Shardanand, was killed by a Muslim in 1926, which led to rioting in the sub-continent and the labelling of Muslims as repressive and brutal.

Against this backdrop, explained Maududi in his memoirs, Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar addressed a gathering of devotees in Delhi’s Jamia Mosque and wished that “we had somebody among our ranks who could respond to such matters through arguments rather than violence.” This prompted Maududi to write the book after three years of research.

The entire focus of the book is to identify the specific conditions for a ‘just war’ in Islam, comparing the concept with its counterparts in other religions and societies. Ironically, many feel, Maududi’s followers are seen to be doing quite the opposite by endorsing violent means.

This may be just one of the many contradictions and dilemmas that the Jamaat is facing. The party has such a tight code of secrecy that nobody wants to say anything on the record. Yet they talk about this schism between the old guard – the largely madrassah educated lot, which is more inclined towards Islamic thoughts and teachings (fiqh) – and the ‘modernists’ who favour power politics.

The old guard frets about the deteriorating standards of Islamic teaching and training among the new generation. They feel that the Jamaat’s salaried bureaucracy has taken over the party and that vested interests prevent genuine debate and drastic reforms. Others criticise the current trend in which the leadership is promoting relatives on elected seats. Still others cast aspersions about Qurtaba City, a real estate project designed strategically close to Islamabad on the motorway.

The biggest dilemma before the party’s politically motivated class is how to increase their popularity among the people. Its options are limited. The Jamaat can decide to fight it out solo, in a bid to reclaim the right of the centre ground it has lost to Nawaz Sharif. However, in order to do so, the Jamaat will need lots of popular imagination and the results in the recent bye-elections so far have not been encouraging for a solo flight.

The other is to recreate the former Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) with a slight change. The idea is to fill the gap left by the presumptive ouster of the PML-Q from the electoral arena. The new religious alliance, the Jamaat hopes, may emerge as the third force in its place. It has identified a few pockets of votes in Punjab — Dr Wasim in Bahawalpur, Asghar Gujjar in Layyah and Mian Aslam in Islamabad.

But it has major expectation of votes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, garnering the resentment against the US drone attacks. The Pakhtunkhwa chapter, since Qazi Hussain Ahmad’s stewardship, impacts the Jamaat policy more than it used to. One reason is that the province offers the best hopes for the party in terms of votes. This chapter of the Jamaat is little more inclined towards Taliban and their actions than others. How much of this is because of their electoral appeal or the zeal for jihad or even the fear of Taliban is difficult to say.

Scholar Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi has alleged in a recent column that the MMA was hatched by former ISI Chief Lt Gen Mahmood. The report has not been contradicted by any member of the MMA and the maverick Hafiz claims that he also has a picture to prove it. If this is true then “the agencies aren’t coming for help” this time around, considering the Jamaat’s fight against the establishment. The dream of coming to power thus seems as elusive as ever.

This is the paradox of the Jamaat. At one level, it seems so big that it has universal reach with offshoots in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and ties with various versions of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanul Muslimeen) in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Maghrib. Yet it remains a marginalised party in its home base. It is represented in the Parliament by just three senators as it boycotted the last election.

In short, it is out of the power loop and stands isolated. It has a problem with most mainstream parties: it opposes the PPP tooth and nail; it is not partner with the Nawaz League; it is fighting the MQM and the ANP over its lost turf in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It has always been uncomfortable with Maulana Mufti Mahmood or his son Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI.

But in a corner it is trying to mend fences with the likeminded in the MMA. This makes them a desperate, but also a dangerous, lot.


The News

June 4, 2010