Maudoodi answers questions

The leading Muslim thinker and statesman, Maulana Sayid Abul A’ala Maudoodi (b. 1903) was recently in London for four months (25 August-26 December 1968). Although he was on a medical visit, his presence in London had been a boon to all Islam-loving elements in general and the students in particular. He was available to the many who came to visit him and spent hours with them discussing almost everything. The members of the Editorial Board of THE MUSLIM also had some sittings with Maulana Maudoodi. A set of questions was put to the respected leader. The translation of Maulana’s answers has been done by Khurshid Ahmad, who has also added explanatory notes wherever necessary. The answers to the remaining questions would be published in the next issue, in sha Allah.


First, a question to which many are anxious for an answer: How is your health now after two major operations?

It is too early to say anything precise and definite, about the condition of my health. I am, by the grace of Allah, feeling better as far as general health is concerned. The removal of the stones has relieved me of the unceasing agony and strain under which I had to work. But I am feeling quite weak and it may take three to four months or even more to recover fully. Arthritic pain is still there in the knee and the hip; there has been no tangible improvement in respect of that. However, I hope that in sha Allah, things will improve. If Allah wants me to work any more in His Path, he shall give me the opportunity, health and capacity to do that. It is to His Will that we submit and it is His Help that we solicit


It is really remarkable that you could have kept up such a pace of work despite the strain of four imprisonments including a death sentence, in such a poor state of health. Personally speaking, what practices, do you think, have helped you acquire and sustain such a level of ‘IMAN’, and what is your advice to the eager youth?

I have never felt that I possess any extraordinary IMAN or one of a very high stature. Similarly I do not harbour the illusion that I have really done something great or big in the sixty five years Allah has given to me. Frankly speaking, the fact is that whenever I do sincere heart-searching I feel rather ashamed that I have wasted quite a bit of my time. There is only one thing which I do find in myself-and this again is not a result of any effort of mine, but is simply a blessing from Allah-that when I accept something as my duty, then I dedicate myself to it entirely. My whole being gets engrossed in that; all my faculties are devoted to its realisation. Nothing else could distract me from that goal. As long as I had not discovered a sense of purpose in life, I used to read and write and participate in multifarious activities. But once I made my choice and set a definite task before me, I have never read or written anything not related to my objective. Even when as a diversion or in moments of relaxation, I read things of a light nature, my mind is always busy in picking up things that are related to my objective in life.

Which has been the most active period of your life so far?

I think that the most strenuous and arduous period of my life was the one between 1932 and 1946. That was the period when I saw the Muslims of India (undivided India of course) faced with the most dismal but decisive hour of their history. There was confusion and disintegration everywhere. Forces of evil were surging like floods. Muslims saw no hope-there was hapless submissiveness, a loss of goal and ambition and a bleak despondency that could see no way out of the impasse. I found myself alone in a wilderness. Till there was none to share my agony and give mw company in my desperate efforts to bring the Muslims to the Path of Islam-of accepting Islam as their way of life and the arbiter of destiny. In 1941, the solitary struggle fructified, by the Grace of Allah, into a small movement.

The Jamaat [1] was formed, but during the early years of its existence it was hardly clear whether or not it would be able to grow into an effective movement and a force to be reckoned with. In such a situation I was making an all-out effort to do whatever I could to serve the cause. I was met at all concerned with the results. I was working with the belief that whatever be the consequences I have to spend every iota of my energy in preparing the soil and in laying the foundation, if nothing more, in the hope that perhaps future generations may be able to build something worthwhile on those foundations. When the organisation of the Jamaat began to lake a definite shape and the movement began to inspire confidence that it was becoming capable of carrying on the mission, some of my worries began to be lessened. Now in 1968 I feel confident in the depth of my heart that the Jamaat, has, by the Grace of Allah, attained a stature from where it will successfully continue the mission, which has engaged me throughout these years and whose fulfillment is my only ambition in life.


For the non-Arabic speaking, essential books on vital aspects of the faith have not been translated or have been translated dishonestly by the enemies of Islam-the Orientalists. What is your opinion about preparing an Islamic Encyclopaedia by genuine Muslim Scholars, and, how should it be approached? What can be done now? I feel that we lack adequate resources to compile, from our own viewpoint, a truly representative and comprehensive encyclopaedia of Islam. The project demands resources in men and money which we simply do not possess at the moment. There can, however, be a lesser project which may, on the one hand fulfill pressing need of today, and on the other hand act as a stepping stone to the bigger project of compiling a real encyclopaedia of Islam. What the Muslims may launch at the moment, provided resources can be mustered for that, is to compile and edit something similar to an encyclopaedia from the material that is available in different languages of the world. It would be something more than an exhaustive anthology and less than an encyclopaedia with original contributions. The idea is to have a team of about ten or twelve persons, well-versed in Arabic, Urdu, Persian,

Turkish, English, German, French and Italian languages. These persons should be well versed also in Islamic literature and should have correct attitude and approach to Islam. They should be engaged on a whole-time basis, given handsome remunerations and be provided with, as far as possible, all the literature available in these languages. They should also be provided with the work of the orientalists and other writers, however antagonistic that may be.

This team should work at one Centre and start its work with preparing an exhaustive list of topics to be covered in the proposed encyclopaedia-something to act as a working basis, which would continue to be improved with the progress of work. It would be the task of these persons to scan the Islamic literature thoroughly and select there from those writings which could be presented as the best possible exposition of a given topic. If there are many such writings on a particular topic, the best amongst them can be included in the proposed encyclopaedia and complete reference for others can be given at the end of such entries. The source or sources from which a contribution has been taken should be given and supplementary readings suggested. That is how a digest-type encyclopaedia can be prepared to begin with. This work should initially be prepared in English but arrangements should be made to translate it in all other languages. If such an encyclopaedia is compiled it will serve a useful purpose and will pave the way for a new original work to be prepared by Muslim scholars of tomorrow. This intermediary project too can be implemented only if proper persons and sufficient monetary resources can be procured. I am not very sure about the financial cost of such a project but I am afraid it may be something about a quarter of a million pounds.

There are many who worship the idea of a Muslim State and you have coined the phrase of `Muslim Nationalists’ for them. How can they be changed or failing that how can the Muslim Society be saved from them and a real Islamic State be established?

Those who have mentally reconciled themselves to such contradictory positions and are not prepared to realise the opposite and conflicting demands of Islam and Nationalism, have often turned out to be a difficult case. `Those amongst them, who are sincere about Islam, can be definitely won over and once the dust of political romanticism settles down, they begin to see the reality in its true colour. But there are many who in fact do not want to live as real Muslims and they take to Nationalism as an alternate ideology and if they add the appellation “Muslim” to it, that is not for soothing their consciences but to mislead the people; their case is very different. Our experience shows that we have not been successful in winning over more than five per cent of such persons. Their double-standard comes in the way of their mental and moral transformation.

As to the problem of protecting the Muslim Nation from the leadership of such people, it is my firm opinion that this can be done only through organising in every Muslim country a movement consisting of sincere, intelligent and dedicated persons, working openly for the cause of Islam. They should contact the Muslim people openly and directly and invite them to the message of Islam as an ideology, a way of life and a movement for social reconstruction. They should be prepared to court every risk and brace every opposition and persecution. Undeterred by these, they should carry on their activities, so much so, that a general awakening in the people is realised. They have to bring about an intellectual and moral revolution and for this they will have to work in every group of the society, create in them an understanding of the message and mission of Islam and an urge to establish the Islamic Order. They should have the patience and perseverance to carry on this struggle even if it takes years and decades even a century-and should not be misled into any short-cuts that may, in fact, spoil the entire effort. They should be intelligent and prudent enough to formulate a realistic strategy for their work and to plan proper steps for every situation, seizing every opportunity in the best possible way and preparing the total climate of the society for the realisation of their objective. They should have the determination and the idealism to continue their struggle, come what may-to face prisons and gallows with un-flinching faith in their Lord, never to abandon their mission. If properly organised Islamic parties carry on the movement for Islamic re-vival and take every step with proper planning and foresight, I have every faith that one after the other the Muslim countries will, insha Allah, be converted to the Islamic Way. The establishment of the Islamic Order in one country will pave the way for Islamic revival in others, and thus inaugurate a process culminating an over-all Islamic revival. The conditions that I have stated above are, however, indispensable during the early phases and once a group resolves to work on these lines, the roads will gradually open up for the final victory of the forces of Islam. This is only a basic outline of the programme. Keeping this in view the workers of Islam should, through mutual consultation and careful analysis of their situation, work out details for every country. In the present phase what is needed is an Islamic movement in every country. I do not think it is possible to have an international organisation at this stage. We should try to work intelligently, dedicatedly and realistically. This is my advice to my younger brothers.


Do you think that the Islamic State can be established by an armed revolt?

I think that this is not the right road to pursue and such a policy may, instead of producing anything good, prove to be highly harmful.

A lasting and perennial Islamic revolution cannot be brought about in any society unless the people amongst whom such a revolution is being achieved are generally prepared, intellectually and morally, to imbibe it and live up to it. In a nation where this preparation has not been done, efforts towards armed revolution can serve no purpose. The idea is not just to have a change, but a change for which the society has been prepared. There is no short-cut to it. It is to be achieved on the lines I have suggested in reply to your earlier question. Mere Coup d’etat cannot serve that purpose. But that is only one aspect of the matter; there are many others from which such an effort may be positively harmful. I refer to a few points in this respect:

(a) The forces that are opposed to the Islamic movement possess control over armed forces, police and administration and keeping in view gigantic resources of a Modern state, it is not possible for you to muster up sufficient strength and have armaments in such a quantity and of such a quality as to meet them on this plane. A clash in such a position can only lead to the destruction of the movement, and not to destruction of our foes.

(b) Even if control over the organs of this is achieved through an armed revolution, it would not be possible to run the State and carry on its affairs in accord with the Islamic way, for the simple reason that the society and its different sections have not been properly prepared for moral transformation that Islam. And if the un-Islamic ways persist and continue to pollute the society in its multifarious aspects, while the Islamic Movement holds the reins of power, this may disillusion people from the Movement and even from Islam as such.

(c) Armed revolution as a means to power would be open to others as well-rather the chances of their using it are greater. This would mean that despite resort to it, you would never he in a stable position. Instead, the danger is that the Muslim countries will remain ensnared in a vicious circle of revolutions and counter-revolutions and of conspiracies and counter conspiracies, as they are caught up to-day. Resort to this method cannot bring an end to this unwholesome process. The difference, in that case, would be that now this process is being peddled by the un-Islamic elements and the people, within and without, are fed up with them. In that case the Islamic Movement would also become a party to this unwholesome game amid would have to shoulder her share of people’s wrath and hatred.

(d) If you want to bring about an armed revolution, it is indispensable that you will have to organise your movement on the pattern of secret societies. Secret movements have a temperament of their own. They admit of no dissent or disagreement. The voice of criticism its silenced in them. Weaknesses and loopholes have a way of their own to appear and grow in such societies. Free, fair and frank discussions are conspicuous for their absence and there is no built-in mechanism to set the things right. Those who lead and run such movements become, through the internal logic of this method of work, cruel, intolerant and despotic. They have to elicit unstinted obedience from their followers. On slight suspicions they do not hesitate to drive bullets in the chests of their associates. And this is what the nature of this type of work demands. The result is that by the time such persons succeed in bringing about revolutions, they themselves have turned into tyrants, sometimes even greater tyrants than the ones they have been trying to remove.

(e) Similarly another demand of the inner logic of this technique of work is to permit its workers to resort to deceit, lies, forgeries, frauds, bloodshed and many other things which are forbidden in Islam-they are not only allowed to do so, but, if success is really contemplated, they are trained to do all that. This, in fact, makes them a believer in the dictum that ‘ends justify means’-that to achieve some good purpose, any methods, however dirty or foul they may be, are permissible, even necessary: Once the workers are trained in these methods, they become a part and parcel of their character and personality. Is it really reasonable to expect that such persons, when they come to power, will honestly and scrupulously follow the principles of Islam and run the entire society according to the Islamic code of moral behaviour?

(f) It is also in the nature of revolutions brought about by the bullet, that they can be maintained only through the bullet. This produces a climate where in peaceful switch-over towards an Islamic Order becomes virtually impossible. One despotism is replaced by another despotism. Hands change, but the system persists. While the objective of the Islamic movement is to change the system as such, and not merely to change the hands.

I WOULD INVITE ALL THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN ESTABLISHING AN ISLAMIC ORDER TO SERIOUSLY REFLECT AND PONDER OVER THESE ASPECTS OF THE PROBLEM. I THINK THEY CANNOT AVOID THE CONCLUSION THAT THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION CAN BE BROUGHT ABOUT IN ITS OWN WAY, AND NOT BY FALLING PREY TO THE ‘SHORT-CUTS’ WHICH CAN, IN FACT, ONLY CUT SHORT THE POISE AND TRANQUILLITY OF SOCIETY. ___________________________________________________________________[1] The Jamaat-e-Islami was formed in August 1941, at Lahore. On that memorable occasion 75 persons participated from the whole of (United) India, and they became its founder-Members. Thus with 75 persons and with a fund of Rs.74 (¬£7) the movement was launched. (K.A.)