Nadwi on Maududi: a traditionalist maulvi’s critique of Islamism




By Yoginder Sikand, TwoCircles.net

The late Sayyed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (or Ali Miyan as he was also known) was one of the leading Indian ulema of modern times. A noted writer, he headed the famous Nadwat ul-Ulema madrasa in Lucknow from 1961 till his death in 1999. He was associated with several other Indian as well as international Islamic organisations, a mark of the high respect that he was accorded among Muslims all over the world.

Maulana Nadwi’s wrote extensively on a vast range of subjects, including on Islam and politics. On this issue, his views underwent a gradual process of change and maturation, beginning with his early association with a leading Indian Islamist formation and later making a forceful critique of some crucial aspects of its understanding of Islam. His views in this regard point to the little-known yet rich internal debate among Indian Muslim scholars about the relationship between Islam and politics, particularly on the question of what Islamists describe as an ‘Islamic state’.

In 1940, Maulana Nadwi came under the influence of Sayyid Maududi, the founder of the principal Indian Islamist outfit, the Jamaat-i Islami. Maududi, along with the Egyptian Syed Qutb, may be said to be among the pioneers of contemporary Islamism. Soon after joining the Jamaat, Maulana Nadwi was put in-charge of its activities in Lucknow. This relationship proved short-lived, however, and he left the Jamaat in 1943. He later wrote that he was disillusioned by the perception that many members of the Jamaat were going to what he called ‘extremes’ in adoring and glorifying Maududi as almost infallible, this bordering on ‘personality worship’. At the same time, he felt that many Jamaat activists believed that they had nothing at all to learn from any other scholars of Islam. He was also concerned with what he saw as a lack of personal piety in Maududi and some leading Jamaat activists and with their criticism of other Muslim groups.

Maulana Nadwi’s opposition to the Jamaat’s understanding about Islam and politics, which it shared with most other Islamist formations, comes out clearly in his Urdu book Asr-i Hazir Mai Din Ki Tahfim-o-Tashrih (‘Understanding and Explaining Religion in the Contemporary Age’) which he penned in 1978, and which won him, so he says in his introduction to its second edition published in 1980, fierce condemnation from leading members of the Jamaat. Here, Maulana Nadwi takes Maududi to task for having allegedly misinterpreted central Islamic beliefs in order to suit his own political agenda, presenting Islam, he says, as little more than a political programme. Thus, he accuses Maududi of wrongly equating the Islamic duty of ‘establishing religion’ with the setting up of an Islamic state with God as Sovereign and Law Maker. At Maududi’s hands, he says, ‘God’, ‘The Sustainer’, ‘Religion’ and ‘Worship’ have all been reduced to political concepts. In this way, Maududi, Maulana Nadwi says, sought to incorrectly suggest that Islam is simply about political power and that the relationship between God and human beings is only that between an All-Powerful King and His subjects. However, Maulana Nadwi says, this relationship is also one of ‘love’ and ‘realisation of the Truth’, which is far more comprehensive than what Maududi envisages.

Linked to Maulana Nadwi’s critique of Maududi for having allegedly reduced Islam to a mere political project was his concern that not only was such an approach a distortion of the actual import of the Quran but also that it was impractical, if not dangerous, in the Indian context. Thus, he argued, Maududi’s insistence that to accept the commands of anyone other than God, including of an elected government, was tantamount to shirk, the crime of associating others with God, as this was allegedly akin to ‘worship’, was not in keeping with the teachings of Islam. God, Maulana Nadwi wrote, had, in His wisdom, left several areas of life free for people to decide how they could govern them, within the broad limits set by the Islamic law or shariah, and guided by a concern for social welfare.

Further, Maulana Nadwi asserted that Maududi’s argument that God had sent prophets to the world charged with the mission of establishing an ‘Islamic state’ was a misreading of the Islamic concept of prophethood. The principal work of the prophets, Maulana Nadwi argued, was to preach the worship of the one God and to exhort others to do good deeds. Not all prophets were rulers. In fact, only a few of them were granted that status. Maulana Nadwi faulted Maududi for what he said was ‘debasing’ the ‘lofty’ Islamic understanding of worship to mean simply ‘training’ people as willing subjects of the Islamic state. In Maududi’s understanding of Islam, he wrote, prayer and remembrance of God are seen as simply the means to an end, the establishment of an Islamic state, whereas, Maulana Nadwi argued, the converse is true. The goal of the Islamic state is to ensure worship of God, and not the other way round. If at all worship can be said to be a means, he added, it is a means for securing the ‘will of God’ and ‘closeness to Him’.

If the ‘Islamic state’ should then simply a means for the ‘establishment of religion’ and not the ‘total religion’ or the ‘primary objective’ of Islam, it opens up the possibility of pursuing the same goals through other means. Maulana Nadwi refers to this when he says that the objective of the ‘establishment of the faith’ needs to be pursued along with ‘wisdom of the faith’, using constructive, as opposed to destructive, means. Eschewing ‘total opposition’, Muslims striving for the ‘establishment of the faith’ should, he wrote, unhesitatingly adopt peaceful means such as ‘understanding and reform’, ‘consultation’ and ‘wisdom’. Critiquing the use of uncalled for violence by some groups calling themselves ‘Islamic’, Maulana Nadwi stressed the need for ‘obedience’, ‘love’ and ‘faith’ and struggle against the ‘base self’ (nafs). Muslims should, he wrote, make use of all available legitimate spaces to pursue the cause of the ‘establishment of religion’, such as propagating their message through literature, public discussions, training volunteers, winning others over with the force of one’s own personality and establishing contacts with governments.

Maulana Nadwi’s critique of radical Islamism points to the rich theological resources contained within traditional Islamic thought that can be used to fashion alternate understandings of the relationship between Islam and politics in a far more sensible way than most Islamists have articulated hitherto and which have caused untold havoc in the name of Islam.

Book Info: Sayyed Abul Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi, ‘Asr-i Hazir Mai Din Ki Tahfim-o-Tashrih, Dar-ul ‘Arafat, Lucknow. 1980 edition.

Links:

Ali Miyan: http://www.nadwi.net.in/
Nadwa college: http://www.nadwatululama.org/
Sayyid Maududi: http://www.maududi.org/

[Photo: Sayyid Abul Ala Maudidi]

Comments

Maulana Ali Mian's other comments on Maulana Maudoodi

I was fortunate enough to have had met Marhoom Maulana Ali Mian few times and also have had the honour of meeting Maulana Maudoodi during his visit to London for treatment in the late 1968.
Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi ( Ali Mian) has written lot of books mostly on islamic history and Muslim personalities.
One of his famous book"Purane Chiragh" ( Old Lamps) in 3 volumes was published in 1980. In these books Maulana has had written his posthumous comments about most famous religious , political and literary figures of the Muslim world whom he had personally met at least once in the life.

In the second volume of "Purane Chiragh", he starts his article about Maulana Maaudoodi with the following statement:

"It is a matter of fact that Maulana Maudoodi has made a deep and vast influence on the intellectually and mentally on the modern educated generations."
He continues " Maulana Maaudoodi has done a worthy and an admirable service in bringing the hundreds and hundreds of restless souls, minds and edcucated young generation not only nearer to Islam but make them fond of it and bring back the confidence and dignity of belief in Islam."

He concludes the first introdutcory paragraph by saying that " As far as influencing the minds and thoughts of eductaed and intelelctual Muslim class is concerned , no Muslim author or intellectual or thinker in the last half century could match or equal Maulana Mauddodi in this respect ".

After paying such glowing tribute he enlarges upon it his contribution to Islam and Dawah work and he also mentions his differences with him.

I hope these comments about him complimets the other comments published in the present article.

Imteyaz Ahmed Khan. UK

Muslims always had scholars

Muslims always had scholars with differing views. They expressed these differences differently. We should not allow those differences to sow disharmony among Muslims in these critical times.

This article is not needed and does not help the cause of Muslim unity. There are much more laudable writings of Ali Mian that could have been posted, that bring much better understanding of him. Despite Ali Mian's opinion, the vision of Maulana Maududi is alive and growing in every corner of the world.

Scholarly differences are not meant to propagate

I agree very much with Brother Syed Ahmad that there is no need to write such kind of articles which merely causes divergence in the mind of already confused ummah. As he outrightly said that there are many other articles of Maulana Nadvi enlighting the glory of religion that can be worth mentioning instead of showing his differences with another great Islamic thinker of his era. Regarding Maulana Nadvi's acknowledgement to the Maulana Moudoodi's thinking and his contribution, Brother Imteyaz Sb. has already furnished the details alongwith the reference form former's book.

Critiquing Islamism and Maududi

Yogi, Thanks for posting yet another piece that opens the windows to “exploring” the truth. Finding the truth is one’s own responsibility.

I am glad to see Muslims unhesitatingly critiquing the revered Muslims scholars of the past, we need to sort out the truth from the bunk and there is plenty of it, that is being unraveled now and Insha Allah, in the next decade we must be able to take out the additives by reverend Maududi, Qutub, Hilali and their likes who sought political gains through religion. Political Islam is a human endeavor to dominate, influence and control others, possibly out of fear of being run over or to cash in on the fear. It is the same story with Zionism, Hindutva and Neocons, agents of fear and war mongering.

Truthfully following the religion comes when we have the freedom to question what is given to us. When we lose that freedom, we fall into the trap of distancing ourselves from the truth. Prophet Muhammad did not assign any one to run the religion for Muslims; it was up to the individual to follow the guidelines enshrined in Qur’aan which is the only thing he left to the followers in his last speech. Respectfully the Shia version assigns an interpreter of religion and it was taken as a hereditary Imamat – it works for them and the other system works for the Sunni traditionalist. Prophet Muhammad completed the religion and no one needed to carry it forward, it was the finality of the message, there was no more delegation of religious authority.

Neither the Prophet assigned the governance of the state to any one that would have led to a monarchial form of governance. The consultative form was adopted for the political governance of the state and it was followed with the first four Leaders. Abdul Aziz Sachedina calls it the roots of democracy.

Religion is a private matter between an individual and God, as no one, not even the Prophet is responsible for one’s good and bad deeds, it is the individual responsibility, he or she alone faces the consequences on the day of Judgment, as such no state has the right to regulate one’s faith matters. As a civil society we honor the general guidelines and rules of the society, and can regulate those acts that affect others in terms of crime and punishment.

“Thus, he (Nadwi) accuses Maududi of wrongly equating the Islamic duty of 'establishing religion' with the setting up of an Islamic state with God as Sovereign and Law Maker. At Maududi's hands, he says, 'God', 'The Sustainer', 'Religion' and 'Worship' have all been reduced to political concepts.”

“Thus, he (Nadwi) argued, Maududi's insistence that to accept the commands of anyone other than God, including of an elected government, was tantamount to shirk, the crime of associating others with God, as this was allegedly akin to 'worship', was not in keeping with the teachings of Islam.”.

The above idea seem like etched in stone… it will take a lot of time and research to undo this set notions among a few Muslims, who are in-charge of running the affairs of Muslim communities, oddly the majority of Muslims will not subscribe to it in the privacy of their hearts and minds. Prophet lived in a pluralistic society, and he was sensitive to other humans that God wanted us to understand and live with, he took the initiative of Madinah pact and examples abound of his respect (not agree) for others. Where as some of the Islamic scholars did not live in such an environment and their views are certainly biased, although Maududi lived in such a society; India, perhaps he ignored Allah’s instructions given in Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13.

“Further, Maulana Nadwi asserted that Maududi's argument that God had sent prophets to the world charged with the mission of establishing an 'Islamic state' was a misreading of the Islamic concept of prophethood.”

“In Maududi's understanding of Islam, he wrote, prayer and remembrance of God are seen as simply the means to an end, the establishment of an Islamic state, whereas, Maulana Nadwi argued, the converse is true.”.

If Maududi meant Islamic state to mean just governance, then it is fine, but if he meant suppression of those who differ and make them second class citizens, then it is dangerous and militaristic, and goes against the very grain of Islam – that is to create peaceful and just societies. We have to undo this thought.

“Maulana Nadwi's critique of radical Islamism points to the rich theological resources contained within traditional Islamic thought that can be used to fashion alternate understandings of the relationship between Islam and politics in a far more sensible way than most Islamists have articulated hitherto and which have caused untold havoc in the name of Islam.”

Yogi has concluded this very well with the above thought. Indeed that is the basis for Ijtihad. We should not settle for the opinions of scholars from yesteryears, and revisit them and re-affirm or re-evaluate in present context. Islam is for all times.

Unfortunately Yoginder

Unfortunately Yoginder Sikand does not know Arabic while the main writings of Molana Nadwi had been in Arabic, he is considered among the intellectuals of Ikhwan, as well as he was very close to Syyed Qutub, he was fully agree with ikhwan activities, so no body can say that he was against the concept and importance of Islamic state no true Muslim can be so, he had merely littile difference with Molana Modoodi on how much to focus on the importance of Islamic state, he thought that this focus on Islamic state may decrease the importance of other aspects, but it was merely a fair, Yoginder Sikand could not understand Molana Nadwi's view.
Yoginder said in his article: He was also concerned with what he saw as a lack of personal piety in Maududi and some leading Jamaat activists and with their criticism of other Muslim groups.
It is not true; Molana Nadwi did not write this any where, I challenge Yoginder to pay any proof for this claim, any way yoginder is known of like same irresponsible statements

Not Knowing Arabic is not a handicap here..............

The book yoginder is referring to was published in Urdu when Ali Miyan was alive.... So not knowing Arabic is not a handicap for Yoginder.. Moreover, Its a well known fact that Ali Miyan criticised Mowdudi's interpretation of religious practices, as just a means to establish Islamic State... Do you mean to say that in his Arabic writings Ali Miyan thought that Islamic practices are a means to establish Islamic state.......like what Moududi thought?. Actually prioritising the matters of state to other religious practices of Islam was a reversal of religius emphasis according to Ali Miyan........ And reversal of emphasis makes-Zameen Asmaan ka Farq-in any case!

Nadwa and Jamaat understand each other

The replies to sikand's article will boost the relations between supporter of Maududi and Nadwi. both personalities worked hard for establishing the groud for muslim ummah, which surely does not please sikand like persons. He can find supporters like Mike only, who are speaking from out of circle. both, Maududi and Nadwi, were great muslim scholars and served the same cause. Do we need scholars and honest advisors like sikand, definitely not.

One more can be added to show respect of Nadwi to Maududi. Maududi received the King Faisal Award for his works in Islamic field, and Nadwi was awarded the same in sharing,
When Alimian Nadwi received the shared award, he said that : Now I realised that my knowledge and work is only a half comparing to MAULANA MAUDUDI. This reflects how much he respected Maududi and not as the article shows.

Islam and state

The fundemetal difference is whether Islam should be a STATE RELIGION and whether Muslims should strive for it or just follow the religion as a PERSONAL BELIEF and a persons OWN COMMUNICATION WITH THE ALMIGHTY?
When in a country like India you strive for the former, you get into conflict with notonly state but also Majority community.