Loading...
You are here:  Home  >  Analysis  >  Current Article

The Transformation of Political Islam in Pakistan from a predominantly unifying element to a divisive one

By   /  February 3, 2018  /  No Comments

    Print       Email

Bhutto, Gaddafi and Shah Faisal. Credit: Dawn.com

Pakistan has gone through many different make-overs and structural changes over its short history and one of its biggest components, political Islam, has also had varying effects on the country. However, as a result of decades of political and social unrest, political Islam has transformed from being a predominately unifying force to one that has left a more divisive legacy in Pakistani society. From the successes of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Iqbal of the All India Muslim League, political Islam took the centre stage in Pakistan where it was seen as the backbone of the Pakistani struggle for independence. However, the next few forms that political Islam took in Pakistan were far more schismatic. The rise of the Jamaat-e-Islami as the frontrunner of Islamism in Pakistan started to reveal cracks within the society. Furthermore the ideologies of Abul Al’a Maududi were far too dogmatic to be used for Pakistan’s betterment. Also the two successive periods of rule administered by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia Ul Haq respectively both resulted in a political and religious climate that had a far larger number of visible schisms than when the country was first formed.

The first piece of literature which forms the backbone of my argument is “The Failure of Political Islam” written by the French professor, Olivier Roy. Roy is a leading figure on the scholarly works on political Islam and his book reveals the inadequecies of Islam as a viable alternative to the modern and secular version of politics. His main idea that Islamism has failed outside of Iran and that fundamental Islam does not hold a severe threat to the Western world is supported by the fact that many of the Islamist parties have failed to gain a mandate in their respective countries. This can also be seen in the realm of Pakistani politics where the current Jamaat-e-Islami political party does not hold much clout and power over the governance of the country. Roy also espouses the idea of “the return to Islam”[1] which is prevalent in many of the radical Islamist movements of today which aim to follow an earlier and more orthodox version of Islam. The second piece of literature which acts as a foundation to my argument that political Islam in Pakistan, through its different forms and faces, has acted as a more divisive than unifying force is Peter Mandaville’s “Global Political Islam”. Mandaville’s idea that Islam and its political forms cannot be viewed as a single monolithic structure since different cultures will implement Islam in varying ways can be seen in the differences in Islamist movements around the world. This piece of literature is supported by the fact that political Islam in Pakistan has shown itself through a variety of ways and not merely through the standardized notion of an Islamist political party such as the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Political Islam first made its mark in the subcontinent prior to the 1947 partition of British India through the All India Muslim League. The All India Muslim League was the main proponent of the two-nation theory which stated that there should be a separate homeland for the Muslims of India, which they envisioned to be the land of Pakistan. However, the party was not originally founded with the intent of creating a separate nation for the Muslims of India, rather its main aim was to ensure the voice and grievances of the Muslims of certain areas of the Indian subcontinent were heard. It was only in the 1930’s that the rational of the two-nation theory was being actively espoused by the founding fathers of Pakistan. The fact that the All India Muslim League was one of the main drivers behind the creation of Pakistan is a testament to the early form of political Islam in Pakistan being a unifying force. Two of the most influential figures in the inception of Pakistan were Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Allama Iqbal who used Islam as a tool to unify the Muslims of India in demanding their own state.

The ideologies exhibited by both these men in Pakistan’s formative years are important in showing just how different political Islam in Pakistan has become since then. Firstly, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Pakistan movement, utilised political Islam in a far different way from what is seen in the Islamist parties of the modern world. Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was one that was not chained to the restrictions of a dogmatic interpretation of Islam, rather he intended the nation to tread down a secular path, with Islam being a private matter within each citizen. This is evident from Jinnah’s now-famous speech to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on the 11th of August 1947 where he said: “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the State.” [2] These iconic words reflected Jinnah’s inherent desire of Pakistan functioning as a secular state with religion a private affair. Instantly, this strengthens the notion that political Islam at the beginning of Pakistan’s history reflected a far more unifying force as Jinnah regarded all citizens of Pakistan to be equal, regardless of religion. Peter Mandaville also mentions that Pakistan’s initial draft constitution spoke more of the state’s responsibility to foster conditions to aid its Muslim citizens rather than thrusting Islam down their throats.[3]Muhammad Iqbal, also known as Allama Iqbal or the father of the nation, was the other main driving force behind the Pakistani movement and ideology. He also expressed similar views to that of Jinnah which called for a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims. Iqbal’s thoughts, especially those displayed in his book “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”[4] reflected his opinion that Muslims around the world were stuck in a stagnant form of Islam that was fast becoming incompatible with the modern world. This idea is important in supporting the notion that at the start of Pakistan’s history, its leader’s undertook a flexible form of political Islam that aimed to overlook divisions based on religious lines and focus on a more cohesive national identity.

Political Islam in Pakistan was thrust into the mainstream political dialogue through the Jamaat-e-Islami, a social conservative Islamist political party founded in 1941 by Abul A’la Maududi. Maududi who was one of the most influential socio-political philosophers of South Asian society at the time who belonged to the conservative Deoband school of thought centred in South Asia. Maududi supported the idea of a bottom-up approach to Islamisation, while pressuring the leaders to promote Islamisation from the top through political alliances[5]. These political alliances could be seen during the rules of two future Pakistani leaders Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia ul Haq. Maududi believed that Islam should be the core tenant of the new Pakistani state and that “the creation of an Islamic social and political order was incumbent upon the new country’s rulers”[6] Furthermore, Maududi and the Jamaat-e-Islami were initially against the idea of Pakistan being partitioned out of India based on nationalistic lines since the idea of nationalism and man-made borders were against the core teachings of Islam.[7] Since the idea of Pakistan was a concept that went against some of the core teachings of the Jamaat, their role in the country after it reached independence was not focused on creating a unified populace, rather it was the propagation of their fundamental interpretation of Islam. Another way by which the Jamaat created more cleavages within the post-independence Pakistani society was their role in the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence. The Jamaat was a key player in exacerbating rifts between the Urdu speakers of West Pakistan and the Bengalis of East Pakistan during this conflict since members of the Jamaat-e-Islami organised and supported the Al Badr militias in East Pakistan. These militias were infamous for carrying out ruthless acts of violence against the East Pakistani intelligentsia at the time which were proved to be one of the defining factors that resulted in the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.[8] Thus, the role of the Jamaat through their initial opposition to the Pakistani movement as well as their support of the Al Badr militias reflected their form of political Islam as a more divisive force in Pakistani society.

The Jamaat-e-Islami were also vehemently opposed to the socialist form of political Islam that was implemented by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s as they believed it was a threat to their own dogmatic version of Islam. Bhutto developed his left-wing ideas in the mid1960s when he came into contact with several Marxist figures in the Pakistani political community. This goes in conjunction with the fact that Islamist movements are a product of the modern world and many of the time its followers would rub shoulders with Marxists since their views were held by many segments of the mainstream political dialogue of the time. Olivier Roy’s prevailing point on the failure of Islamism is that “according to the Islamic political imagination, politics can only be found on an individual virtue.”[9] Bhutto’s version of Islamism did not rely on an individual virtue rather his socialist ideas were inclusive of the populace thus explaining how he managed to gain so much support. Hanif Ramay was a Marxist figure who had a strong and lasting impact on Bhutto since Ramay’s idea of Islamic Socialism was one of the core tenants of Bhutto’s populist Pakistan People’s Party. [10] The main aspects of Islamic Socialism were the ending of feudalism, the elimination of uncontrolled capitalism, the nationalisation of major banks, industries and schools, which failed horribly, encouraging workers to run factories and promoting democracy.[11] These policies were said to be a modern reflection of the principles and values that were espoused in the Qur’an and during the first Muslim regime in the socially and economically egalitarian society of Medina. This runs parallel to Peter Mandaville’s idea that the analysis of contemporary political Islam must be rooted in the Muslim historical context since Islamic history is a major component of Muslim politics.[12] Another glaring aspect of Bhutto’s Islamic socialism was its harsh view towards the religious parties in the country such as the Jamaat-e-Islami. While the Jamaat were already weary of Bhutto’s policies, Bhutto considered the religious and clerical forces of the country to be agents of monopolistic, feudal and dynastic power since all their processes operated outside the realm of democracy. Therefore, Bhutto’s Islamic Socialism also reflected the changing trajectory of political Islam in Pakistan as an encourager of rifts within its society.

However, although the Jamaat and Bhutto seemed to be diametrically opposed to one other, their views on Ahmedis seemed to converge .The Ahmedis, founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed in 1889 in India, are a unique offshoot of Islam in the sense that while they themselves consider themselves Muslim, the rest of the Islamic world does not. This is primarily due to the fact that they do not believe in the finality of Prophethood ending with Muhammad (PBUH) as they believe that the founder of the movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, was the expected Messiah.[13] Due to this radical belief in terms of orthodox Islam, renowned scholars such as Maududi publicly denounced the group as heretics and non-Muslims. Naturally, the Jamaat-e-Islami also made it their party’s policy to publicly condemn and harass the Ahmedi community in Pakistan which finally led to them constitutionally being labelled as non-Muslims by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Olivier Roy mentions the problem young Islamists have with making their voice heard therefore they have to rely “on patronage networks in which nepotism and corruption are the norm”[14] Bhutto, under pressure from the Jamaat and other religious figures in the country, did not want to affect his patronage relationships with some of those figures thus showing that the labelling of Ahmedis as non-Muslims may have been a by-product of this corrupt patronage system.

Arguably the biggest figure in the divide of Pakistani society through the use of political Islam is the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq who deposed and subsequently executed Bhutto through a military coup in 1977. Haq was a monumental figure in the domain of Pakistani politics as he was the main driving force behind the islamisation of the country through implementing wide-ranging reforms which put Islam at the forefront of Pakistani identity. Roy states that for Islamists, Islam is more than the simple application of sharia, rather it is an all-encompassing ideology which aims to transform the entire society[15] and this can clearly be seen through the policies undertaken during his rule. The primary method by which he aimed to Islamise the country was through his replacement of parts of the Pakistani Penal Code with his “Hudood Ordinance”. The word ‘Hudood” itself means restrictions thereby instantly reflecting the conservative mindset of Haq while the ordinance introduced archaic punishments such as whipping, stoning or amputation for minor transgressions such as theft or fornication. Furthermore, the ordinance was heavily tilted against women’s rights as their word in court was reduced to half the validity of a male’s thus creating a new gender divide as well within the country where women were made to feel as second class citizens.[16] Asides from this type of divisiveness, the proliferation of madrassas during Haq’s rule was the single most detrimental aspect to the unity and stability of Pakistan since the madrassas were one of the main breeding grounds for radical Islam to flourish in the country. The Saudi imported Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam that was being preached in the madrassas[17] severely aggravated sectarian tensions between the Shias, who make up around 20% of the country, and the majority Sunnis. Olivier Roy mentions that “Islamism has been transformed into a type of neo-fundamentalism concerned with re-establishing sharia” [18]and this could clearly be seen from the policies of Zia Ul Haq. As a result, the unity of Pakistan that was seen in the early days of its inception has never been found again since the flames of sectarianism are still burning. Thus it clear to see how Zia ul Haq, through his top-down approach of islamisation, uncovered cracks within the fabric of Pakistani society that have yet to be filled.

All in all the efforts of Jinnah and Iqbal in fighting for a unified and strong state may have been in vain as can be seen by the current state of affairs in the country. The policies of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its founder Maududi were quite detrimental in terms of the solidarity of the nation. The tragic events of the 1971 and the subsequent independence of Bangladesh also points to the fallacies of political Islam in trying to act as a unifying force. Furthermore the failure of Bhutto’s Islamic socialism exposed the fragile cohesiveness of the Pakistani society as could be seen by the treatment meted out to the Ahmedis. Finally, Zia Ul Haq’s policy of islamisation from the top-down was the final nail in the coffin for political Islam to become a completely divisive force because currently there is no form of Islamism within Pakistan which can replicate the feelings of pride and solidarity which were felt throughout Indian Muslim lands in 1947.

Works Cited

Ahmad, Jamil-ud-Din. Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah. Lahore: Sh. M. Ashraf, 1964-1968 [v. 1, 1968.]

Ali, Bizaa Zeynab. “The Religious and Political Dynamics of Jamiat Ahle-Hadith in Pakistan.” (2010).

Cheema, Moeen H., and Abdul-Rahman Mustafa. “From The Hudood Ordinances to the Protection of Women Act: Islamic Critiques of the Hudood Laws of Pakistan.” (2008).

Haqqani, Hussain. “Pakistan’s Terrorism Dilemma.” Religious Radicalism and Security in South Asia (2004): 351-65.

Iqbal, Mohammad. The reconstruction of religious thought in Islam. Stanford University Press, 2013.

Jawed, Nasim A. “Islamic Socialism: An Ideological Trend in Pakistan in the 1960s.” The Muslim World 65.3 (1975): 196-215.

Mandaville, Peter G. Global Political Islam. London: Routledge, 2007. . Print. Multimedia. Nationalism in Islam. Islamweb, 2 June 2003. Web. 11 Dec. 2014

Paracha, Nadeem F. “Islamic Socialism: A History from Left to Right.”- Blogs. Dawn, 21 Feb. 2013.Web.11 Dec. 2014

Roy, Olivier. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994. Print

[1] Roy, Olivier. Preface. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994.8. Print.

[2] Ahmad, Jamil-ud-Din. Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah. Lahore: Sh. M. Ashraf, 1964-1968 [v. 1, 1968.

[3] Mandaville, Peter G. Global Political Islam. London: Routledge, 2007. 149. Print.

[4] Iqbal, Mohammad. The reconstruction of religious thought in Islam. Stanford University Press, 2013.

[5] Roy, Olivier. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994.41. Print

[6] Mandaville, Peter G. Global Political Islam. London: Routledge, 2007. 169. Print.

[7] “Multimedia.” Nationalism in Islam. Islamweb, 2 June 2003. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

[8] Haqqani, Hussain. “Pakistan’s Terrorism Dilemma.” Religious Radicalism and Security in South Asia (2004): 351-65.

[9] Roy, Olivier. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994.21. Print

[10] Jawed, Nasim A. “Islamic Socialism: An Ideological Trend in Pakistan in the 1960s.” The Muslim World 65.3 (1975): 196-215.

[11]Paracha, Nadeem F. “Islamic Socialism: A History from Left to Right.”- Blogs. Dawn, 21 Feb. 2013.Web.11 Dec. 2014

[12] Mandaville, Peter G. Global Political Islam. London: Routledge, 2007. 2. Print.

[13] Ali, Bizaa Zeynab. “The Religious and Political Dynamics of Jamiat Ahle-Hadith in Pakistan.” (2010).

[14] Roy, Olivier. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994.52. Print

[15] Roy, Olivier. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994.39. Print

[16] Cheema, Moeen H., and Abdul-Rahman Mustafa. “From The Hudood Ordinances to the Protection of Women Act: Islamic Critiques of the Hudood Laws of Pakistan.” (2008).

[17] Mandaville, Peter G. Global Political Islam. London: Routledge, 2007. 43. Print.

[18] Roy, Olivier. Preface. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1994.5. Print.

    Print       Email
  • Published: 8 months ago on February 3, 2018
  • By:
  • Last Modified: April 4, 2018 @ 7:03 pm
  • Filed Under: Analysis

You might also like...

Pakistan’s role in assisting the Bosnians during the Yugoslavian War of 1991

Read More →
%d bloggers like this: