Maulana Maududi
Radical Islam's Missing Link

NameMaulana Abu'l a'la Maududi (1903-1979)
Also Known AsAbdul Ala Maududi
BiographyPakistani Abu'l a'la Maududi was an extremely important figure in the development of radical Salafi Islam in the 20th Century. Although his influence has often been overlooked, Maududi provides the missing link between the relatively vague programme of Hassan al-Banna's Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood, MB) and the sophisticated ideology evidenced by the later works of Sayyid Qutb.
Although both Maududi and al-Banna recognised the importance of science and technology, they concurred that technology could only profitably be harnessed by Islamic, not Western methods, as they believed the Qur'an and Sunnah provide a guide to all aspects of life, inlcuding government.11 Esposito, Unholy War, pp52-53.
Maududi's assumptions and methodology were quintessentially Salafist, presupposing that the contemporary, mainstream understandings of Islam were unreliable because of the drift in understandings of Arabic over the centuries. Building on that presupposition, Maududi critically reviewed the Qur'an, the ahadith, and the writings of ancient and medieval scholars in minute detail, building his own reconstruction, or reinterpretation, of their original meanings.
An example of Maududi's reinterpretation of older ideas in Islam was his concept, "new jahiliyya",2 which has been so influential for radical Islamists. Jahiliyya had originally meant ignorance, and referred to the pre-Islamic state of pagan ignorance said to prevail in Arabia before the coming of Islam. Medieval radical scholar Ibn Taymiyya had modified the understanding of the meaning of jahiliyya by declaring that the King of the Mongols, despite converting to Islam, was jahili because he continued to implement the Yasa code of law, rather than implement Sharia. Maududi's "new jahiliyya" theory went much further, proposing that the bulk of Islam had become estranged from the original intentions of Islam, and were therefore apostate. Through hubris, such Muslims had usurped divine authority, designing their own laws.3 He also characterised governments in Muslim countries that did not implement strict Sharia as actually apostate (ridda), obliging the true believer to wage jihad against them.42 Sivan, Radical Islam, p22.
3 Euben, Enemy in the Mirror, p57.
4 Sagiv, Fundamentalism and Intellectuals in Egypt, 1973-1993, pp40-41.
In the manner of the Muslim Brotherhood, Maududi saw the period between Muhammad's first revelation and the establishment of the Muslim state at Mecca in 630AD as a sort of instruction manual for the formation of revolutionary theory. He believed that the nascent Islamic jama'at (society, group) would begin with a 'period of weakness' and gather strength before waging jihad, just as Muhammad's jama'at was weak in Mecca and gathered strength in Yathrib (Medina) before returning triumphantly to Mecca.5 That the revolutionary jama'at must be a vanguard, remaining outside the jahili government until society has been islamised, follows from these ideas.6 The ultimate goal of the jama'at would be the establishment of an Islamic State, which Maududi called a "theo-democracy".75 Sagiv, p41.
6 Davidson, Islamic Fundamentalism, pp108-109.
7 Choueiri, Islamic Fundamentalism, p111.
Maududi founded the Jama'at-i-Islami (Society of Islam) in 1941 as a centralised, strictly hierarchical organisation,8 similar to the MB. JI has served as a model for other Salafist organisations. As a parliametary party, it deliberately remained out of goverment until 1948, when it accepted the idea of gradual reform within government.9 Having originally opposed Indian nationalism in favour of pan-Islamism, Jama'at-i-Islami also later discarded this idea.10 This and similar ambiguities are indicative of the flexible heritage later Salafist movements drew upon.8Ahmad, Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan 1857-1964, p215.
9 Ahmad, pp216-218.
10 Ahmad, p219.
Maududi's Jama'at-i-Islami gave rise to the two most important mujahideen factions in the Afghan civil war, that of Ahmad Shah Masud (who leavened his Salafism with traditionalism), and Gulbuddin Hikmatyar. The hierarchical structure of Jama'at-i-Islami, considered unconventional from an Islamic point of view, was apparently inspired by modernist organisational methods. Masud's and Hikmatyar's organisations were also organised on a modern, hierarchical basis that mirrored that of the Soviet invaders.
However, the most important aspect of Maududi's legacy for those attempting to understand the origins of contemporary problems of international relations is in the depth of his political/theological contribution to Egyptian Salafi thought, particularly that of Sayyid Qutb.
  • Al-Mustalahat al-Arab'a fi'l-Qur'an, The Four Arabic Technical Terms of the Qu'ran, 1941.
  • Bibliography
  • Aziz Ahmad, Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan 1857-1964, Oxford University Press, London, 1967.
  • Youssef M Choueiri, Islamic Fundamentalism, revised edition, Pinter (Cassell), London, 1997.
  • Lawrence Davidson, Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction, revised and updated edition, Greenwood Press, Westport Connecticut, 2003.
  • John L Esposito, Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002.
  • Roxanne L. Euben, Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism, a work of Comparative Political Theory, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1999.
  • David Sagiv, Fundamentalism and Intellectuals in Egypt, 1973-1993, Frank Cass, London, 1995.
  • Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, enlarged edition, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1990.
  • Trevor Stanley, The Quest for Caliphate: Islamist Innovation from Qutb to al-Qaeda, Honours Thesis, La Trobe University, Bundoora (Melbourne), 2003.
  • See AlsoIbn Taymiyya, Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Mullah Krekar, Al-Qaeda's Revolutionary Model, The Evolution of al-Qaeda

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