Prominent Islamic Figures: Abul A’la Maududi

History Contributor
Photo 133953420 © Rania Hegazi |

Abul A’la Maududi (1903-1979) is one of the most significant contemporary Muslim theologians and ideologues. Abul A’la Maududi was born in Hyderabad, which, after the partition of British India, went to Pakistan. Many modern theologians believe that Abul A’la Maududi was a Mujaddid (renovator of faith) of the 14th century after the Hijra (the last century, the current century is the 15th century AH).

His contribution to the understanding of the goals and objectives of Islam at the present-day times was truly significant, and his understanding of Muslim unity and the place of Muslims in the world can well be deemed the very ‘renovations’ of Islam in question which are referred to in the Sunnah (renovations meaning the restoration of the purity characteristic of the times of the Prophet).

Islam beyond Arab world

Many people mistakenly place the centre of Islam and the Muslim world in the Arab East. Today Islam has long become a world religion that has stepped far beyond the Arab world. Especially in terms of philosophical and theological thought, development and understanding of the precepts of Allah and the teachings of the Prophet.

In the first centuries after the Hijra, the centre of Islamic philosophical and cultural thought moved from Arabia to Persia and the Middle East. In the late Middle Ages, after Babur’s conquest of India and the creation of the Mughal empire, the spiritual life of Islam began to develop rapidly in this region. At the end of the 19th century CE, British India was home to the many ideological, social and political doctrines of the Muslim world.

Nowadays, the Muslim countries of South Asia (Pakistan in particular) play a prominent role in Islamic philosophy and ideology, and the Urdu language, including the contribution to it made by the efforts of Abul A’la Mudidi who wrote in this language, has become the language of Islam same as Arabic.

Jihad as understood by Abul A’la Maududi

Abul A’la Maududi reinterpreted the concept of jihad. Jihad is a struggle against sin and deviation from Muslim righteousness. This, according to Maududi, was understood by the companions of the Prophet. They waged a jihad against sin, against the idolaters who surrounded the Muslim ummah, because they had before them the example of a living Prophet.

Today, according to Maududi, jihad against sin is also the destination of the Prophet’s companions; in the modern sense, this force should be vested in a Muslim party, an association of like-minded people united in the fight in question. Following this conviction, Abul A’la Maududi founded in 1941 the Jamaat-i-Islami party, a certain circle of the Prophet’s companions, which was supposed to bring the light of Islam to the surrounding world.

Role of Jamaat-i-Islami

The Jamaat-i-Islami party recognized only the parliamentary struggle, renouncing any form of violence. When discussing the state structure of independent India, Jamaat-i-Islami opposed the division of the state into Pakistan and India, believing that this would violate the integrity of the Ummah and deprive the Indians of the north of the opportunity to spread Islam in the south of the country. After the partition of India, Abul A’la Maududi devoted himself to the struggle to consolidate and spread Islam widely in Pakistan. In particular, he considered one of his main successes that many of the demands of Jamaat-i-Islami were included in the 1956 Constitution.

In the early 1970s, the popularity of Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan began to decline. After losing the elections to the National Assembly in 1970 (4 out of 342 seats), Maududi retired from political activity and took up theology. He wrote a large number of theoretical works. In the late 1970s, the new President Zia ul-Haq returned him to active politics, made him an adviser on Islamic issues. With the help and support of Maududi, Zia ul-Haq carried out large-scale Islamization and Shariaization in the country.

His demise

Abul A’la Maududi once asked a question of why Islam spread so quickly during the time of the Prophet and the first caliphs? And he himself answered it: because people saw that Muslims are distinguished by modesty and righteousness, they think not about themselves, but about others, because their rulers are distinguished by simplicity and concern for their subjects. It was these ideals preached by Maududi that attracted so many followers to him.

In 1979, Abul A’la Maududi went to the United States for treatment (he suffered from kidney and liver diseases). On September 22, 1979, he died of a heart attack at a hospital in Buffalo, New York. He was the first Muslim since the times of the Ethiopian king Najashi (the king who sheltered Muslims fleeing from Meccan persecutors and converted to Islam; when he died, the Prophet personally honoured him with a janaz prayer done in absentia) who received an absentee Janaz funeral prayer Salat al-Ghaiba in the Kaaba.

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