ISLAM AND INDIA
Islam came to India in the very first decade after Hijra (the Prophet’s migration to Madina that starts the Hijra era). In the north, its advent was marked by Muhammad bin Qasim’s conquest of Sindh, while in the south it came with the Yemeni traders led by Malik bin Dinar. Subsequently, Islam spread all over India, the land of diversity, through Muslim Scholars, Sufis and missionary traders. As a rule, this rapid spread was occasioned mainly by Islam’s mass appeal. Its uncompromising monotheism and its unparalleled concept of human brotherhood made a deep imprint on the psyche of the marginalized people. But although Islam had a very extensive reach, the Indian Muslims did not, with the exception of a few scholars and religious institutions, have a comprehensive view of Islam free from superstitions and evil practices. Many Muslim kings had been war-mongering and profligate; and the self-seeking rulers gave a worse image of Islam. Muslims themselves drifted away from the Qur’an and the Prophet’s example, maintaining scholastic biases and espousing the evils of polytheistic practices. With the British colonisation of the country the western version of secularism, which denies religion any role in public affairs and politics, held sway among Muslims as well. It drove them to communalism on the one side and nationalism on the other.
FORMATION OF JAMAAT
It was against this background that the Jamaat-e-Islami was formed. It was the first organised Islamic reformist movement in the Indian subcontinent formed on 26th August 1941 in Lahore under the leadership of Syed Abul Ala Maududi, the Jamaat Addressed all Indians regardless of caste and creed. It appeals to all sections of humanity to eschew the path of violence and mutual hatred, terrorism and oppression, and to settle down to the task of building a Righteous Society on stable and abiding foundations. From its very inception it advocated the cause of the Righteous Way, the way of peace and abiding well-being.
It recalls to the Indian mind the message and teachings of all apostles, prophets and divine messengers. The Jama’at points out that the time has come for the nation and the world to learn from the traumatic past. We must learn from the experience of the west; and from the bitter turmoil that raged in our own country. The Jamaat believes that Islam and Muslims have a special commitment to building a peaceful and prosperous world, a world where there is no material exploitation, no division of human life into separate material and spiritual domains, and where divine values hold good in all walks of life. A world where religion is no tool for hegemonisation, but is a way of life that is holistic and profoundly positive.
The Jamaat-e-Islami was not one more school among several religious schools, nor even a religious organisation in the narrow sense. Nor did it claim to be the Al-Jama’at founded by the Prophet (peace be upon him). The doors of the organisation are thrown open to any citizen who accepts the sacred motto La ilaha illallah, Muhammadur Rasulullah in its entirety and all its implications, and is ready to work for the establishment of the divine order in the land. It rejects the un-Islamic principle ‘the end justifies the means’; instead, the Islamic movement professes the way adopted by the prophets, the way of peaceful and non-violent transmission of ideas. Till the attainment of freedom and the partition of the country, the Jamaat’s activities were confined to propagation of ideas mainly literature and publications in Urdu. Not surprisingly, the circumstances did not allow the organisation to win the Muslim society over to its way of thinking, since it had been divided between the national movement and the Muslim communal politics. Even so, the unique approach of this new organisation made a deep impression on a substantial section of the educated intellectuals, particularly of the middle class. They were enthused to recognise in Islam a complete, divinely ordained way of living that can replace the many man-made materialistic systems. At the same time, the Jamaat faced stiff opposition from both the superstitious sections given to irrational and exploitative practices, and the nationalistic and communalistic sections.
When the country was partitioned into India and Pakistan, the Islamic movement responded to the new realities by splitting into two independent organisations. In April 1948, at a meeting in Allahabad the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind was formed with Maulana Abullais Nadwi as its Ameer (President). The workers of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Jammu & Kashmir chose to remain as an independent organisation called Jammu & Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami. The organisation was faced with the unenviable task of restoring the morale of a despondent Muslim society that had lost its leadership in the wake of the partition. It also took up the challenge of liberating the community from its past mistakes and turning it into a model society that has confidence and sense of direction. This reawakening was made all the more difficult by the leftover of the communal divide that had led to the partition. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind had to face opposition from many quarters from the irreligious and anti-religious parties and their governments and from communalists of various hues. Obviously, it had to devote a major portion of its activities to defending itself against these onslaughts. Moreover, it experienced severe shortage of resources. These factors were major hurdles in the growth and expansion of the movement. Nevertheless, it now has units in 20 states, carrying out activities systematically, openly and transparently. It has undertaken the twin tasks of presenting Islam to the people, and of refining the Muslims as a community. It holds clear and firm opinions on national and international issues. It has never surrendered to pressures or threats.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is an organisation that functions quite legitimately and peacefully. It has also been formulating its election policies from time to time, which have consistently been against fascism and supportive of the democratic norms and value-based politics.
The activities of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind are themselves its greatest credential. It has also been publishing books and periodicals in English, Hindi and all regional languages. These too have served to present a true picture of the Islamic movement and its activities, and clear many misconceptions. And of late, it has been able to break free of its early policy of self-defence against misinformation. The recent emphasis on Islamic missionary activities has brought rich dividends, particularly by the turn of the century. The latest suggest that through the 36 postal libraries spread across the country, and the 187 audio–video libraries, as well as through personal interaction, million of non-Muslim brethren are studying Islam with great ardour.
The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has creatively intervened to stem the tide of communalisation and communal riots by actively participating in common platforms. It also sought to protect the constitutional rights of religious minorities and worked to words resolution of problems by participating in bodies like the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, and All India Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee. Such creative solidarity with other Muslim organisations has helped to reduce the opposition to the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind the Muslim scholars and organisations throughout India.
In the last 50 years the membership of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has risen from 240 to around 6000, an increase that can not be termed substantial. However, it is not unnatural, considering that the Jamaat has very stringent criteria for granting membership. The number of its Karkuns (Workers/associates) and Muttafiqs (sympathisers) come to 29,000 and 308,000 respectively. The various wings of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind are Women’s Units, the Students’ Islamic Organisation, the Girls’ Islamic Organization and the Idara-e-Adab-e-Islami for promoting literary activities. The various Trusts and Societies which agree to Jamaat’s policies and activities, run masajid, madrasas, schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages, vocational training centres, interest-free loans, relief activities and housing projects. In the past it has been able to organise rehabilitation for victims of communal riots and natural calamities, to the tune of crores of rupees.
The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind projects Islam as the practical doctrine and programme that can take the place of the failed man-made creeds of the twentieth century.