The Islamic world, after the glorious rule of Khulafa-e-Rashideen (The Rightly Guided Successors of the Holy Prophet), from time to time, has gone through religious and moral degeneration. The lapse into religious disorder resulted from, both, external pressure and internal decay. The negative fallout from foreign intervention and influence cannot be discounted. However, the tangible factors that chiefly contributed to the Muslim decline were homegrown. Along with intellectual depression and political anarchy, compromise with ideas alien to Islam, reducing Islam to a religion of monasticism and mysticism, and rituals and rites pushed the Islamic world to the brim of political and spiritual annihilation. It was not only the ignorant masses who were afflicted with the unwholesome and disordered condition. Sadly, a great many Ulema and Mashaikh from the traditional religious establishment also fell in the yawning abyss of misguidance. They became prisoners of their own obscure rhetoric and often-pretentious philosophical jargons. Superficial side issues, of little or no import, debated and wrangled in the cloister of madaris and khanqahs, eclipsed the real body and spirit of Islam.
It was feared, at more than one instance, that the malady, with the depth and extent it was crept into the Muslim society, would result in a complete pulverization of Islamic faith. But, it is a Mercy of Allah that He doesn't let the Muslim community as a whole to fall in dark and be bereft of guidance for too long. His Last Messenger and Prophet, Salla Allahu Alihi wasallam, gave assurance, "Some people of my community will always be supreme and exalted and their success and dominance will continue till the doomsday." True to Holy Prophet's saying, righteous men and groups emerged in every period of moral and religious calamity in the Islamic world. These great reformers (Mujaddid) struggled against miscreated movements and chaos of the times, fought on the intellectual fronts against internal and external assault on Islam, provided literary ammunition to warriors of Islam, purified the prevalent perverse values and ethics, and revived Islam to its pristine purity.
One such period of turmoil came in the Muslim world with the destructive conquest of Muslim political center in Baghdad in the 13th century by the Central Asian Mongols. Though, the new Tartar rulers were accepting Islam, however, their ignorance had given way to un-Islamic beliefs and practices. Ideas infidel and indifference to the teachings of Islam were prevalent. Polemical wrangling over sectarian doctrine was rampant. At this critical juncture of Islam, emerged the dynamic personality of Imam Ibn Taimiya (d.1327 CE) to vindicate religious values and bring the Muslim community back to the ways of the Quran and the Sunnah. Ibn Taimiya was, undoubtedly, a great Mujaddid and Mujtahid of his time.
During the reign of Akbar in India, Islam came under total siege of desecration and blasphemy of every conceivable kind. And over a century later, after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, Islam once again faced dreadful threats to its survival on the subcontinent. Two illustrious sons of Islam, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhandi (d.1624 CE), popularly known as Mujaddid-e-Alif-e-Thani (the reformer of the second millennium), and Shah Waliullah (d.1763 CE), came to the forefront and revived the empty and lifeless shell of Islam rendered by the paralysis of Muslim mind.
Closer in time, at the twilight of the British imperialistic rule on the sub-continent, the clouds of gloom were, yet again, cast upon the Muslims of India. The horizon looked grim and grave. This time Islam was not as much under the siege of desecration and blasphemy as much as its pride and identity were undermined by colonialism. The demise of Ottoman Empire in the wake of the First World War compounded the woes of Muslim Ummah. The vanquished Muslims, in the face of West's intellectual, political, economic, and technological superiority, developed a collective sense of cultural, national, and religious inferiority. Hence, western culture and ideas began to penetrate more deeply into the body of Islamic society.
The traditional religious establishment of the time, being itself victim of degeneration, was incapable of mounting any resistance against the onslaught of western ideology. The absence of insight into affairs of the world rendered scholars of the time ineffective in breaking the hold which western culture and ideas had come to play on the mind of Muslim elite. The Ulema of the day lacked the required stimulating power to jolt the slumberous Muslim community out of the deep trance. The centers of religious learning had their vision clouded with their sectarian affiliations. The age-old tradition of taqleed was so ingrained in the minds of the leaders and followers of religious seminaries that doctrine of their sect became a 'deen' in itself for them. Any deviation from the corpus of their juristic school was a grievous sin, if not, an outright apostasy from Islam.
At this critical stage of Islam's existential career in the early twentieth century India, Sayyid Abul A'ala Maududi (d.1979 CE), in the spirit and tradition of early Muslim reformers, gave the adhan for the Islamic revival and reassertion. His indefatigable efforts and intellectual contributions, spread over a period of half century, to reinvigorate and revive Islam into its pristine and uncompromised shape set the agenda for Islamic movements from Morocco to Malaysia. From his revivalist efforts came the inspiration to re-achieve the glory that is Islam.
Maulana Maududi's (as he is known popularly) role in reforming religious practices, initiating intellectual revolution, establishing the preeminence of the shariah, setting the agenda against godless politics that gave rise to political Islam in Central Asia, North Africa, and Southeast Asia rightly accorded him the title of The Muslim Reformer (Mujaddid) of the 20th century. One might ask here that there have been a number of scholars and spiritual reformers in Maududi's time who have expended their lives discussing the Islamic issues, why Sayyid Maududi be remembered as mujaddid of the 20th Century?
A mujaddid is characterized by his "power to think independently of the contemporary and century-old social and other prejudices, courage to fight against the evils of time, inherent ability to lead and guide, an unusual competency to undertake the work of ijtehad, and the work of reconstruction." And some of mujaddid's task is described as: "to diagnose the current ailments, to launch scheme for reformation, to shape the ideas of the people into the Islamic mould, to judge contemporary culture and its trends from the Islamic viewpoint, encounter political forces seeking to suppress Islam, to wrest authority from the hands of un-Islamic forces, and establish government on the pattern of the rightly guided Caliphate, and to initiate a movement to make Islam a world force."
Judging by the given characteristics and mission of a Mujaddid and considering the nature and period of crisis and ideological conflict in which the work for resurgence of Islam was to be carried out and the ennobling qualities of mind and heart and intellect was needed to accomplish the task, the man who could be invested with the mantle of Islamic revivalism in the 20th center is Sayyid Maududi. Sayyid Maududi stands distinct and distinguished from his contemporaries in more than one way.
His thorough and comprehensive understanding of Islamic sciences; his ability to present Islam in a logical, precise, and cogent way, and more importantly, in the language of today; his courage and character; his piety and unprecedented patience in the face of difficulty and opposition; and his life-long selfless struggle to establish Islamic way of life in its entirety (Iqamat-e-deen) remain unmatched. His scholarly exposition on the Quran, Hadith, Islamic law, and his views on current affairs and issues of the Muslim world won him the appreciation of Muslim thinkers and scholars such as Amin Al-Huseni, Grand Mufti of Palestine; Shaikh Mustafa Zarqa, the great Syrian scholar of Islamic laws, who considers Maududi a scholar of the rank of Imam Ghazali and Imam Ibn Taimiya; Hassan Al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb of Ikhwan-al-Muslimoon, to mention a few. Maulana Syed Sulaiman Nadvi once called Maududi "Islam's spokesman."
Another aspect that distinguishes Maulana Maududi from his peers is that he was no armchair scholar who offered opinion and advice from the seclusion and comfort of a seminary estate. He was never outside of the arena but right in the arena fighting the battle of Islam with defiance and courage of a great Muslim soldier; a battle that could not have been waged by traditional clerics. Maududi, to keep the momentum of his reformation efforts alive and going, singularly launched a versatile Islamic movement in 1941, Jamaat-e-Islami, that has no parallel in the Islamic history. From his institutionalized movement Islam is continuously reasserting its historic role to construct a society based on guidance enshrined in the Quran and Sunnah.
Maulana Maududi's revivalist efforts are spread across the broad spectrum of Islam. However, in the opinion of this scribe the greatest and most important contribution he made was to bring Islam out of the precinct of the private life and affairs of the individual alone and, once again, put it on a firm ground as an embodiment of code of life that essentially established a real and living contact between religious and profane world. No scholar before Maududi, in the recent time, has as forcefully expounded the motif, as Maududi did, that Islam is a complete way of life that provides guidance in, both, individual and collective affairs and it's required of faithful to strive to build society, state and entire human civilization on Islamic precepts and principles.
"I am confident that my call shall be heard", said Maududi when he launched his revivalist efforts, "should there be a tone of sincerity in my voice." The Maulana may rest in peace in his grave; his voice is heard and heeded for there was a tone of sincerity in his call.
Abdul-Majid Jaffry is a retired aerospace engineer and a freelance columnist. He resides in Washington, USA.
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