Mawdudi on the Islamic State, Muslim Power and non-Muslim Rights

A Few Quick Blurbs

Who Was Mawlana Abu'l-A`la Mawdudi ?

"It is not exaggeration to say that by the time of his death he had become the most widely read Muslim author of our time, contributing immensely to the contemporary resurgence of Islamic ideas, feelings and activity all over the world." (preface of Towards Understanding Islam, by Mawdudi, p.13)

"Mawlana Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi [1903-79], one of the chief architects of contemporary Islamic resurgence, was the most outstanding Islamic thinker and writer of his time. He devoted his entire life to expounding the meaning and message of Islam ..." (from preface of Mawdudi's Towards Understanding Islam, possibly by Zafar Ishaq Ansari (?) back cover)

Some Bio Info

Born in the "present Hyderabad state of India," "Mawdudi came from a family steeped in the religious tradition of Islam. On his father's side he was descended from the Chishti line of saints; in fact his very name, Abul Ala, derives from the first member of the Chishti silsiah (a Sufi `Order`) ... [He] received religious nurture at the hands of his father and from a variety of teachers employed by him. . . His instruction included very little of the subject matter of a modern school; and European languages, specifically English, were not among the courses he followed ... "

"Significant turning point came for Mawdudi in connection with the murder of a certain Swami Shradhanand by a Muslim fanatic in 1925 ... There were accusations that Islam relies upon the sword for its propagation ... repetitions of the old slander that Islam promises Paradise to those who kill an unbeliever. Mawdudi undertook to answer these charges in the columns of al-Jamiah." (Adams, p.100-101)
(Note: Abul A'la Mawdudi was his given name. "He usually referred to as Mawlana Mawdudi because of his religious learning." (

Mawdudi's Islamic State (from Adams)

Mawdudi was the founder of Jama`at-i Islami party/movement in India and Pakistan. (Although it traditionally has not gone above the single digits in vote gathering, it had much success in influencing Pakistani elites and has "managed to exert a political and ideological influence in excess" of its numbers. ..." (Talbot, p.108)

Mawdudi on the Islamic state:

Its sphere of activity is co-extensive with human life ... In such a state no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private.` [Ahmad, p.154]

It should be

the very antithesis of secular Western democracy ... In such a state no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states [Adams, pp. 119-21]

Muslims in Charge.

It is a dictate of this very nature of the Islamic state that such a state should be run only by those who believe in the ideology on which it is based and in the Divine Law which it is assigned to administer. [Ahmad p.155, quoted in Adams p.121]

Choosing the State's Leader.

Islam does not limit the scope of its possibilities by attempting to lay down exactly how the choice of leader will be made. [Ahmad, quoted in Adams, p.252]

Different methods may be appropriate to different times and circumstances, as is evidenced by the lack of uniformity in the ways of deciding the succession of the first four caliphs ... [Adams, p.123]

Legislature Should not Be a Law-Making Body

In addition to providing a means for the ruler to fulfill the duty of consulting, the function of the legislature is really that of law-finding, not of law-making. . .

... leaves no room of human legislation in an Islamic state, because herein all legislative functions vest in God and the only function left for Muslims lies in their observance of the God-made law . . The fact of the matter, however, is that Islam does not totally exclude human legislation. It only limits its scope and guide it on right lines.` [Adams p.125, quoting Ahmad, p.77]
  • The State must "be controlled and run exclusively by Muslims."
  • Head of state, "the locus of all power and authority," must be a Muslim, adult male who has NOT actively sought the post.
  • The Ruler should be the "best" (in terms of piety as well as competency) for the task.
  • non-Muslims may hold non-sensitive posts, but must be "rigorously excluded from influencing policy decisions."
  • Government must be managed though mutual consultation, the ruler is to be selected, appointed, or elected through a consultative process.
  • How the leader is chosen may vary. "Islam does not limit the scope of its possibilities by attempting to lay down exactly how the choice of leader will be made."
  • Legislature is a consultative body whose "opinions and judgments are not binding either upon the ruler or the people of the Islamic state." ("Complete power remains with the ruler.")
  • deals with four kinds of legislation
    1. interpreting Sharia
    2. where the Shariah has not laid down specific injunctions analogous situations are found. (qiyas)
    3. inference from general principles to derive guidance.
    4. passing "independent legislation" in the `vast range of human affairs about which Shariah is totally silent` (Ahmad, quoted in Adams, p.78)
    but where legislation must accord with the spirit of Islam. (Adams p.126)
  • because in a pious Islamic society matters would be resolved by consensus, there is "no provision of effective machinery for resolving conflict" in Mawdudi's state.
  • To restore the unity and righteousness that existed at the time of the Rightly Guided Khalifs, Four principles are needed:

    1. Those who bear responsibility should face the representatives so the public and be accountable for what they do
    2. The party system should be reformed to abolish loyalty to parties
    3. The government should not operate with complex rules
    4. The people elected to office should have the proper qualifications.
      (Ahmad, p.259)

    Mawdudi on Pakistan

    Mawdudi originally preached that Islam should be organized as a party ruled by a system of ideas rather than as a religion and aim towards taking over "the whole of India" rather than seperating from it. (Adams, p.104) But in a reverse of his pro-pan-Islamic position that "was to say the least, surprising," Mawdudi embraced the state of Pakistan (which was enormously popular among Muslims of the subcontinent) despite the fact that he had opposed nationalism of any sort and that the new state did not use the Shariah.

    Now that this had become a regularized Islamic state, it is no longer the country of the enemy against which it is our duty to strive. Rather, it is now the country of friends, our own country, the strengthening, construction and progress of which are our duty.
    [Adams, p.107]

    Mawdudi on Shariah

    Directives of the Shariah deal with

    family relationships, social and economic affairs, administration, rights and duties of citizens, judicial system, laws of war and peace and international relations. In short it embraces all the various departments of life ... The Shariah is a complete scheme of life and an all-embracing social order where nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking. [Adams p.113, quoting Ahmad p.57]

    Mawdudi on non-Muslim Culture

    The "cultural aping" by Muslims "of others" (i.e. non-Muslims) has

    very disastrous consequences upon a nation; it destroys its inner vitality, blurs its vision, befogs its critical faculties, breeds inferiority complexes, and gradually but assuredly saps all the springs of culture and sound its death-knell. That is why the Holy Prophet has positively and forcefully forbidden the Muslims to assume the culture and mode of life of the non-Muslims. [Maududi, Towards Understanding Islam, p.131]

    Mawdudi on non-Muslims Rights (from Short)

    .... Abul 'Ala Mawdudi, Qur'anic exegete and founder of the Islamist Pakistani group Jama'at-i-Islami was quite unapologetic about Jizyah:

    ...the Muslims should feel proud of such a humane law as that of Jizya. For it is obvious that a maximum freedom that can be allowed to those who do not adopt the way of Allah but choose to tread the ways of error is that they should be tolerated to lead the life they like. [Mawdudi, The Meaning of the Qur'an, p.183.]

    He interprets the Qur'anic imperative to Jihad as having the aim of subjugating non-Muslims, to force them to pay the Jizyah as the defining symbol of their subjection:

    ... Jews and the Christians ...should be forced to pay Jizya in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy so that they should not remain rulers and sovereigns in the land. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith, who should assume the sovereignty and lead others towards the Right Way. [Mawdudi, The Meaning of the Qur'an, v.2, page 183.]

    The consequence of this is that in an Islamic State -- specifically the Khilafah -- non-Muslims should be denied Government posts, since the state exists for the Muslims, who alone are true citizens, whilst the non-Muslims are merely conquered residents, and the Jizyah signifies this:

    That is why the Islamic state offers them protection, if they agree to live as Zimmis by paying Jizya, but it can not allow that they should remain supreme rulers in any place and establish wrong ways and establish them on others. As this state of things inevitably produce chaos and disorder, it is the duty of the true Muslims to exert their utmost to bring an end to their wicked rule and bring them under a righteous order. [Mawdudi, The Meaning of the Qur'an, v.2, p. 186.]

    Differences of taxation demonstrate distinctions in citizenship. As a symbol of subjection, it signifies that the state is not really the common property of all its permanent residents, but only the Muslims ...

    Mawdudi on non-Muslims Rights (from Roy)

    "The two kinds of citizenship that Islam envisions are the following: (1) the Muslims, (2) the Zimmis." (Ahmad p.245, quoted in Roy p.223)

    Maududi's Islamic State and "Theodemocracy" (from Ruthven)

    In the true Islamic state, for which Maududi coined the term "theodemocracy," the representatives of the people may be co-opted into the national assembly rather than elected, on the grounds that truly virtuous people will not always put themselves forward. As Yousef Choueiri has observed, Maududi's theodemocracy is an

    ideological state in which legislators do not legislate, citizens only vote to reaffirm the permanent applicability of God's laws, women rarely venture outside their homes lest social discipline be disrupted, and non-Muslims are tolerated a foreign elements required to express their loyalty by means of paying a financial levy` (i.e. the jizya)
    [Choueiri p.111, quoted in Ruthven p.70]

    Mawdudi's Islamic State - Ideological, One-Party Rule (from Kramer)

    Much of the ideological spadework was done by Mawlana Abu'l-A`la Mawdudi (1903-79), the founder of the fundamentalist Jama`at-i Islami in India and Pakistan. His many writings, translated into every major language spoken by Muslims, provide a panoramic view of the ideal fundamentalist state. In this state, sovereignty would belong to God alone, and would be exercised on his behalf by a just ruler, himself guided by a reading of God's law in its entirety. As an ideological state, it would be administered for God solely by Muslims who adhered to its ideology, and "whose whole life is devoted to the observance and enforcement" of Islamic law. Non-Muslims, who could not share its ideology, and women, who by nature could not devote their entire lives to it, would have no place in high politics. Everything would come under the purview of this Islamic state. "In such a state," announced Mawdudi,

    no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states,
    although Mawdudi rejected individual dictatorship, instead advocating a variety of one-party rule. Mawdudi was certain about what the Islamic state would not resemble: it would be "the very antithesis of secular Western democracy." (Adams, p.119-21.)
    Mawdudi himself never had a sufficient following to make a concerted bid for power in Pakistan, but his writings exerted a wide influence over fundamentalists better positioned to act upon his vision. (Kramer)

    Mawdudi - Islamic rule of Hindu India (from Kepel)

    Jihad in Islam, was published in Urdu in the late 1920s, roughly coinciding with Banna's creation of the Society of Muslim Brothers in Egypt. From the start Mawdudi was against the project for a circumscribed `Muslim state,` [aka Pakistan] which would give power to the nationalists. Instead, he agitated for an Islamic state covering the whole of India. For him, all nationalism was impiety, more especially as its conception of the state was European-inspired. Apart from this he had nothing but contempt for the ulamas, whom he accused of having collaborated with the British occupiers since the fall of Muslim-held Delhi in 1857. Mawdudi favored what he called `Islamization from above,` through a state in which sovereignty would be exercised in the name of Allah and the sharia would be implemented. He declared that politics was `an integral, inseparable part of the Islamic faith, and that the Islamic state that Muslim political action seeks to build is a panacea for all their [Muslims] problems.` (Nasr, p.7)

    For him, the five traditional Pillars of Islam (profession of the faith, prayer, the fast of Ramadan, pilgrimage, and almsgiving) were merely phases of training and preparation for jihad, the struggle against those of Allah's creatures who had usurped His sovereignty. To carry out his jihad, he founded in 1941, the Jamaat-e-Islami, which he saw as the vanguard of the Islamic Revolution, on a Leninist model. Mawdudi made explicit references to the `vanguard` of the earliest Muslims, who gathered around the Prophet in 622 during the Hegira, broke with the idolatrous people of Mecca, and departed to found the Islamic state of Medina. His own party was intended to follow a similar course." (Kepel, p.34)

    Mawdudi - Jahiliyya and Apostacy - from Sivan

    "... The diagnosis set by the Maudoodi school, and further developed by Qutb and his disciples, takes this decadence theory several steps further, crossing, in the process, a crucial borderline: it is no more just a question of decline; Islam - particularly under the new military state - has reverted to a stage of jahiliyya that reflects the situation of Arabia prior to A.D. 622. The elites - and other peddlers of modernity who brought it to that state of affairs, as well as the ruled who tolerate or embrace it, are guilty of apostacy (ridda)." (Sivan, p.65)


    Adams, Charles J., "Mawdudi and the Islamic State," in John L. Esposito, ed., Voices of Resurgent Islam, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983)

    Ahmad, Khurshid, Islamic Law and Constitution, (Mawdudi's writings collected and translated into English by Khurshid Ahmad), 1967,

    Choueiri, Yousef, Islamic Fundamentalism, Boston, MA, 1990

    Kepel, Gilles, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam by Gilles Kepel, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2002

    Kramer, Martin, "Fundamentalist Islam at Large: The Drive for Power," by Martin Kramer,
    The Middle East Quarterly June 1996

    Mawdudi, S. Abul A'la, Towards Understanding Islam, by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. trans. by Khursid Ahmad (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Unity Publishing, 1980)

    Mawdudi, S. Abul A'la, The Meaning of the Qur'an, (Islamic Publications Ltd., Lahore, 1993 edition), vol 2,

    Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza, Vanguard to the Islamic Revolution : the Jama`at-i Islami of Pakistan , Berkeley : University of California Press, 1994

    Roy, Olivier, The Failure of Political Islam by Olivier Roy, translated by Carol Volk. Harvard University Press, 1994

    Ruthven, Malise, A Fury For God : the Islamist Attack on America by Malise Ruthven. London ; New York : Granta, 2002.

    Short, Walter, "The Jizyah Tax: Equality And Dignity Under Islamic Law?" by Walter Short

    Sivan, Emmanuel Radical Islam : Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, by Emmanuel Sivan. New Haven : Yale University Press, c1985.