Maududi and Iqbal: A Brief History

A few days ago, on the occasion of Allama Iqbal’s proposed birthday (November 9th was chosen by a committee created in the 1970s), Mr. Rafi, a Pakistani commentator on twiter tweeted that

“Iqbal chose Maududi to head Dar-ul-Islam in Pathankot to reconstruct Islam in a new light and eventually Maududi founded Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) so Iqbal is indirectly a founder of JI as well” (my translation, the original tweet was in Urdu).

Having written extensively on Jamaat-e-Islami and Maududi in the past and with a moderate knowledge of Iqbal’s poetry and prose, I was not thrilled by this simplistic association. In my opinion, it was a tenuous argument and required a bit more nuance and detail. To set the record straight, I went back to some of my source materials and re-read about the relation between Iqbal and Maududi. I wrote a brief blogpost about this issue in April 2012 for Pak Tea House blogzine (May it rest in Peace), which you can access here.  Following is a detailed look at interactions between the two gents. (For more, see Vali Nasr’s Mawdudi and the making of Islamic revivalism)

The first time Maududi and Iqbal crossed paths was in the 1927 when Maududi wrote a series of articles on the issue of the concept of Jihad in Islam titled”Islam ka qanun-i Jang” (Islam’s law of war), in twenty-two issues of his magazine Al-Jam’iat beginning in February and ending in May 1927. The articles were well received in Muslim intellectual and political
circles. Mawdudi was lauded for his service to Islam by Muhammad Iqbal;Muhammad Ali; Mawlana Ahmad Sa’id of the Jamiat-i Ulama-i Hind, who wrote a complimentary note about the first installment; and the eminent alim, Sayyid
Sulaiman Nadwi, who saw to the publication in 1930 of the articles in book form under the title Al-Jihad fil-lslam (published by Darul-Musannifin in Azamgarh). The first time Iqbal met Maududi was in 1929 in Hyderabad where he had gone to deliver a lecture.

In 1937, Iqbal wanted to establish a model ‘darul-ulum’ (house of knowledge) in Punjab to lay the foundation for a new Islamic worldview, which would in turn facilitate the creation of a Muslim national homeland. His friend Niyaz Ali, a retired civil servant, wanted to establish a waqf (endowment) using a piece of land he owned in Pathankot, a small town in Punjab.

Iqbal’s aim was evident in his letter to the rector of al-Azhar in Cairo, Shaikh Mustafa al-Maraghi, requesting a director for the intended darul-ulum; Iqbal asked the Egyptian alim for a man who was not only well versed in the religious sciences, but also in English, the natural sciences, economics, and politics. Al-Maraghi answered that he had no suitable candidate. Iqbal was disappointed and handed the task of selecting a suitable overseer to Niyaz Ali, but he remained firm about establishing the darul-ulum.

Niyaz Ali, meanwhile, searched for a suitable administrator for his waqf. He turned first to the famous Deobandi alim, Ashraf Ali Thanwi, but Thanwi rejected the offer. Niyaz Ali then tried to encourage Mawdudi to move to Punjab (Maududi at the time was in the state of Hyderabad working ), though he made him no firm offer and the two disagreed about the aim of the project. Niyaz Ali insisted Mawdudi consult with Thanwi, with whom Mawdudi was at loggerheads, along with the rest of the the Deobandi Jamiat-i-Ulama-i Hind. Disagreements, however, were soon overshadowed by mutual need.
The situation in Hyderabad was fragile, and Mawdudi had come to the conclusion that it was not the best possible place for launching an Islamic revival. This made him more interested in Niyaz Ali’s project, and he solicited
the job of administering the waqf. Unable to find any other suitable candidates, Niyaz Ali was inclined to agree, but the final decision had to await a response from al-Maraghi. Niyaz Ali asked Iqbal to write to Mawdudi and invite

Unable to find any other suitable candidates, Niyaz Ali was inclined to agree, but the final decision had to await a response from al-Maraghi. Niyaz Ali asked Iqbal to write to Mawdudi and invite him to settle in the Punjab. Iqbal arranged for him to come to Lahore and serve as the imam of the Badshahi mosque at a salary of 100 rupees per month and to partake in Iqbal’s plans for the revival of Islam, “umraniat-i Islami ki
tashkil-ijadid” (reconstruction of the social aspects of Islam). Mawdudi turned down Iqbal’s offer on the grounds that he did not want a payingjob that would restrict his freedom. Niyaz Ali then suggested Maududi as overseer of the waqf and secured Iqbal’s agreement to this appointment.

At the meeting , Mawdudi’s appointment was confirmed, but Iqbal did insist that he establish at Pathankot some form of educational institution with a clearly defined curriculum. Mawdudi accepted Iqbal’s scheme and agreed to use the
waqf to train a number of capable Muslim students and young leaders in Islamic law as well as modern subjects. Although the project was essentially educational, the imprint of Maududi’s politics was evident in its name, Darul-Islam (Land of Islam).

All this cooperation was uncharacteristic of the independently minded and self-righteous Maududi, especially since it was clear that by no means had he abandoned his political objectives. Accepting the position was, therefore, partly
out of respect for the celebrated poet and the appeal of being a close associate. Following their meeting with Iqbal, Mawdudi and Niyaz Ali agreed on the terms of Mawdudi’s position as waqf overseer, and Niyaz Ali included Maududi
in the waqf’s governing committee, the Darul-Islam Trust.
Niyaz Ali guaranteed Maududi the autonomy he had asked for, but not the permission to involve himself in political activity, because their agreement with Iqbal regarding the nature of the waqf’s projects precluded it. Mawdudi agreed
to these terms. In the November 1937 edition of the Tarjuman, it was announced that the journal would be moving from Hyderabad to Pathankot; Maududi arrived there on March 16, 1938.

After Iqbal’s death, JI cadres tried to cash in on Iqbal’s brand and called Dar-ul-Islam his brainchild but Maududi himself had a different view. Maududi argued that “the commonality
of views between ‘Allamah Iqbal and me are limited to our belief that Islamic law should underlie the revival of our religion; my thoughts and intellectual probing are my own.” Iqbal did not conceive of the Darul-Islam project as it eventually unfolded, and Maududi was not Iqbal’s choice to lead it. Even after the two met again in 1937, Iqbal’s opinion of Mawdudi was guarded. Mian Muhammad Shafi, Iqbal’s secretary, recollected that he referred to Maududi as
“just a mullah [low-ranking cleric] ,” someone more suited to lead the prayers at the Badshahi mosque than to oversee a pioneering educational project.

Now, in hindsight, did Iqbal’s poetry influenced Maududi and JI’s conception of Islam and the world? It depends on if you want to focus on Iqbal’s more Ummah-focussed poetry and his ideas about mixing of religion and Islam. You would find some overlap in ideas but it is hard to separate the threads in some instances. Whether Iqbal wanted it or not, JI cadres used his poetry for their propagands. But then, such is life.



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AbdulMajeed Abid

I am a medical doctor by profession, specializing in Pathology. I have been writing about Pakistan's political history and Islamism since 2011. I was the Assistant Editor for Pakistani blogzine, Pak Tea House for a couple of years. I have written for various Pakistani publications (both Urdu and English) since. My writings can be accessed at 1. 2. 3. 4.

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To Indians like me who know v little of the details of internal politics of Pakistan, it would be good to understand why Iqbal being posited as a founder of a Muslim religious organisation (Jamat-e Islami) is important or noteworthy?

Note that I am not asking about the actual facts of the case – which you have illustrated in your post – but the morality/logic behind the (modern day?) need to see Iqbal in that light. Why do Pakistanis care either way?

5 years ago

An ideology does not need logic to connect different dots. Iqbal was a fairly conservative Islamist. That’s enough to plug him into anything Pakistani.

5 years ago

Iqbal has a special role in the Pakistani mind courtesy the official textbook version of history which gives Iqbal the title of the person who dreamt of Pakistan. Every year, around his birthday (November 9th), Iqbal is attacked and/or claimed by both the Islamist right wing and the minority left-wing. Iqbal’s poetry has elements that can please and displease both. There is enough Islamism that Jamaat-e-Islami (an electoral dud but which used to have massive cultural power) tends to claim him as their indirect founder and there is enough left-themed poetry that the minority can lay its claim on him. This tug of war creates fission and there is frequent dispute as to which side Iqbal belongs to. I have written articles, in Urdu, to state some Islamist, imperialist, misogynistic trends in Iqbal’s poetry. It is almost a battle for the hearts of ordinary Pakistanis with some high school education who happen to know at least a few verses of his poetry.

Xerxes the Magian
5 years ago
Reply to  Abdul

Yes he’s the Spiritual Father of the Nation. Our unholy trinity – Iqbal – QeA – Chaudhary Rahmat (?)

5 years ago

Can you describe Iqbal’s Islamic theology? For example did he have thoughts on the four schools of jurisprudence? Was he sympathetic to some Islamic theological schools? His views on Shariah (more how did he interpret Shariah? Views of twelverism, sixerism, Sufism? Views on liberal muslims? Views on atheist muslims? Views on freedom of art and speech?

Why wasn’t he willing to let muslims be part of India? Was it because of his views of Gandhi or Nehru?

Since 1951 the percent of India’s muslim population has grown from 9.8% to 16% (some claim 17%). The large majority of Indian muslims prefer India to Pakistan. How do Indian muslims view Iqbal?

5 years ago

Thanks. Very helpful and informative.

5 years ago

Your 2016 article is excellent and I would recommend everyone read it.

So many lost oppportunities. Sigh.

To quote from the link below:
“In 1950, Bertrand Russell recommended a book written by an Indian author and published by a nondescript Indian publisher. None other than Sri Aurobindo personally blessed the book. It was a book written by Ram Swarup (1920-1998), Russian Imperialism: How to stop it. The publisher of the book was then living in Calcutta. In the morning of the summer of 1950, an official from the Home Ministry visited him to convey a message from then home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The message was crisp: “The Home Minister wants me to convey to you that if the work started by you is not encouraged and assisted right now, it will have to be done by Indian Army one day.” Alas! The same year the home minister became immortal. Four years later the publication would be asked to close their stall by the West Bengal government on instructions from the prime minister himself.”

If only Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Iqbal and been the first leaders of a united India. [As regular readers know, I more favorably view Jinnah than many.]

5 years ago

Abdul, please read:

I think this deserves a post by themselves. Iqbal and the Hindus (Buddhist, Jains, Sikhs) [and the Parsis, Christians, atheists] could have allied to resist marxism and post modernism. Too bad this did not happen. The world and SAARC would have been vastly better off if it did.

Brown Pundits