17 April, 2006
Over the last few days, I have ended up researching Maulana Maududi for a term paper. I was rather intrigued by findings of my research, so I think it's worth sharing some of them here.
A brief introduction on Maududi: he has been one of the most prolific Islamic thinkers of the modern times and widely read across the Muslim world. He is also the founder of the Jamaat-i-Islami and its ideological force.
Maududi's thought was greatly intriguing because in recent times, the Jamaat has become synonymous with violence, irrational fundamentalism and dirty politics. Moreover, through his political thought Maududi espouses the model of a "theo-democratic" Islamic state. In traditional Islamic political philosophy a democratic state is considered as the most ignorant of states in the hierarchy of states. This idea was pioneered by Al-Farabi who had essentially built upon the philosophy of Plato and was widely accepted by traditional and even medieval Islamic political philosophers. So Maududi's case is extremely interesting because he sticks to the same fundamentals as the traditional philosophers but further a theo-democratic model of the state.
Enough of the rambling, on to the real stuff then.
Theological Underpinnings of Maududi's Thought
Maulana Maududi is known for advocating Islam as the complete code of life. He has famously argued that there is no aspect of human life that does not come under the purview of Islamic code. This theory has formed the basis of all thought that has been produced by him. Maududi starts from the premise that Islam, the religion, is not “a jumble of unrelated ideas and incoherent mode of conduct. It is a rather well ordered system, a consistent whole, resting on a definite set of clear-cut postulates”. It is then incumbent upon a Muslim to spend his whole life in obedience of God, who is the provider of this complete code of life.
This means that he must order both his personal and social domains according to the code provided by God Almighty and definitely not according to man-made guidelines. This fact is laid down as the unalterable ground reality in a Muslim’s life (Maududi, 49). If God is the sole law-giver of the universe, then a Muslim has no other option than to believe in the unity of the sovereignty of God.
This belief in the unity of the sovereignty of God implies the following (Maududi, 49 – 57):
1. The “right to rule” belongs to God and God alone. He is the master of all the worlds and he alone should have the right to dictate the workings of the universe. Maududi states that there is only one way to carry out God’s “right to rule” on earth and that is through a “Khalifa”, which will be a vicegerent of God on earth. It should be emphasized that the “Khalifa” is merely an agency through which God executes his will and does not vest any political power in itself.
2. On the basis of the above argument, the right to legislate has been taken away from man and accorded to God alone. Moreover, man has been allowed to interpret the ideas presented in the Quran through mutual consultation and the practice of Ijtehad. The condition is that it must be done within the purview of the Islamic law. The essential point here is that if man believes in the sovereignty of God, then he is not allowed to hold any other set of laws paramount to the laws laid down by God.
3. True justice and equality can only be established, if it is established according to the laws God, revealed through his chosen men.
4. Maududi states that the law of God is not a de-jure piece of law. It is a de-facto entity and it must be followed in its entirety. Any government that does not follow the above stated norms and develops its own ideologies is to be declared as deviant and a rebel to the Islamic principles.
Maududi states that the purpose of the Quran is not just to have humanity obey its injunctions, but the objective is to reform it into a just and egalitarian society.
Concept of Sovereignty Extended to the Political Realm
In the light of the above discussion, it is obvious that in order to establish the sovereignty of God in the truest sense one would need to assume control of the political power. For Maududi this political power can only be acquired if the Muslims have the control of the state. The state, which is to create a social order resembling the Quranic injunctions, can only be created through the possession of “coercive power” (Maududi, 67).
He argues that history is witness to the fact that a certain way of life can only be created by the overarching power of a coercive body. The state is then responsible for regulating society according to divine laws and to formulate it into an orderly and disciplined entity. Through the pursuit of this goal, the state will be able to eradicate all forms of evil and discord from society.
The point to note here is that the state envisioned under this ideology will be visibly distinct from the accepted notion of a state. This state will not merely be a collection of individuals who legislate and enforce laws upon on the masses. In contrast, the state will be a group of individuals who will be “working together as servants of God to carry out His will and purposes”.
Note: All quotations and references attributed directly to Maududi are the author’s translation of his views elucidated in the book “Islami Riyasaat”.