Reading Khilafat-wa-Malookiyat in our times
The current lockdown has not really been a boring experience for people who choose to befriend books. It has given a sense of companionship to those who missed their friend circles. Tawseef Ahmad Mir shares his observations of reading the book 'Khilafat wa Malukyat' and elaborates on the relevance of this discourse in modern times.
Tawseef Ahmad Mir
When Covid-19 pandemic forced us to be within the confines of our homes, we had the opportunity to reflect afresh on the purpose and meaning of life itself. Carpe diem and brazen materialistic attitude to life had almost made us forget the inescapable reality of death- a universal phenomenon as common as the life itself. We began to appreciate the little things we had been taking for granted. As we are still in the throes of this pandemic some people choose to be optimistic, and therefore rightly saw a silver lining in the clouds of despair hanging over us. Pandemic gave us much needed break from the mechanized and monotonous life. People had time to spend with their families and read the books that had been gathering dust on shelves. To the delight of women, some men took to cooking.
I, for one, chose to give Khilafat-wa-Malookiyat a read as it had been on my mind for quite a long time. Once I got my hands on it, its lucid, well-structured, and simple Urdu was enough to keep me absorbed till I completed it within a span of a few days. As it has been a highly controversial but notable book since its publication, I thought to go through it again towards the end of Ramadan but left midway due to some reasons. When the disturbing news of incineration of the book surfaced on social media recently somewhere in Pakistan, I was coincidentally again perusing its pages from where I had left it. The unfortunate incident did perturb me like many others who have read the book dispassionately. I sat in indignation, and thought to give vent to my emotions. Thus, take these lines as an expression of my emotions rather than a scholarly analysis. Learned scholars have already dealt with nuances and finer details of the book elsewhere.
Further, an organisation Jamaat Islami, founded in 1941 by a 75 member group, was originally his brainchild. For many contemporary scholars of Islam, he was without doubt the most influential of contemporary Islamic revivalist thinkers.
Despite being in the grip of an unrelenting pandemic scare, fomenting sectarian rift at such a critical time speaks volumes about our pathetic state of affairs.However, this should not come as a surprise to us as the fanatics doing these cheap theatrics are inspired by their brethren in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere where they have burned down seminaries, shrines and libraries which housed thousands of Islamic books including rare manuscripts. The incident needs to be condemned strongly whatever the differences one may have with the book as this concerns our right to freedom of expression.
Who was Abul A’la Maududi?
Abul A’la Maududi’s (May Allah’s mercy be upon him) stature as one of the 20th century’s most influential theologian, exegetist, revivalist, and scholar of Islam has been widely acknowledged including by his critics. Besides, he was also a prolific author of several books including his magnum opus- six volume exegesis of The Holy Quran, Tafheem-ul-Quran. Further, an organisation Jamaat Islami, founded in 1941 by a 75 member group, was originally his brainchild. For many contemporary scholars of Islam, he was without doubt the most influential of contemporary Islamic revivalist thinkers. Seyyed Hossein Nasr notes that he was one of the first Islamic thinkers to develop a systematic political reading of Islam and a plan for social action to realize his vision. In the present times, because of his easily readable books on different aspects of Islam he continues to have tremendous influence on educated Muslim youth both in the subcontinent and beyond. Revivalist movements across the Muslim world derive inspiration from him. While wading through the pulls and pressures of different and confusing ideologies in our times, one just needs to look to him to save oneself from their onslaught.
In Defence of Khilafat-wa-Malookiyat
Coming to Khilafat-wa-Malookiyat, since its publication the book has been praised, debated, refuted, critiqued, questioned, profaned, and incinerated being the latest addition to the list.One can agree or disagree; however, one cannot ignore it. Barring a few scholarly responses, most of the people have indulged in mudslinging and abuse. Their responses are vitriolic attacks on the author, and lack any objectivity of the kind this book rightfully boasts of. As the name itself suggests, it essentially deals with the subject matter of caliphate and the causes and events which eventually led to its replacement with hereditary succession or monarchy. It also provides a succinct overview of the nature of an Islamic state in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. Maulana Maududi has beautifully laid down the principles of the political system when he “interprets Islam as a complete way of life.”
On a careful reading of the book, it seems that the author’s intention has not been to criticise them as such, but to objectively pinpoint and trace the causes that ultimately paved the way for monarchy.
Maududi came up with this book at a time when some religious scholars had turned into the henchmen of the authoritarian regimes. As soon as the book was published, it did not go unchallenged but engendered an intellectual debate on the nature of the Islamic state itself. What has been a serious and a contentious issue is the author’s criticism of some of the policy measures of the third khalifah al rashid-Hadhrat Uthman and Hadhrat Muawiya (May Allah be pleased with them). On a careful reading of the book, it seems that the author’s intention has not been to criticise them as such, but to objectively pinpoint and trace the causes that ultimately paved the way for monarchy. When there is widespread consensus among scholars that monarchy is something which is alien to Islam, one fails to understand the unjust criticism directed at the author when he has so painstakingly and meticulously dug up the historical wealth of knowledge to lay bare the facts which others had ignored for reasons better known to them. One can easily cross check the sources, provided one also has access to them, the author has cited in his book in defence of his arguments.
Maududi and our times
Monarchical rule, with active support from the West, is still order of the day in most of the Muslim countries. It is going to stay at least for the foreseeable future. It is not that the governed under monarchies are happy with this kind of system. There have been movements to challenge it. The case in point is Arab Spring. Though it may not be the only reason, but it is a major factor in sapping the immense energy and potential of Muslims collectively. When people are political quietists, actively encouraged and incentivised to be so by government appointed Ullema, Maududi provokes critical thinking and activism. He infuses fresh vigour in the dried veins of Muslim body and mind. His ardent call for the establishment of khilafa does not go well with the despots and monarchs who seem to be threatened. This explains the loathing of Maududi, his works, and witch hunting of his followers and sympathisers from across the world. Ideas have wings which cannot be incapacitated by incarcerating those who carry them in their minds. Burning of books cannot stop their flight.
It can be noticed that the thin line which differentiated monarchy from authoritarianism if we see in the context of Muslim ruled countries today has now vanished. What used to be monarchy (malookiyat) has now literally become authoritarianism with no active political and deliberative participation of people. Policies are made in the name of people, but they have not any actual say in them. Shura (consultation), an essential characteristic of caliphate, has no relevance and significance. Despots have been on the helm for decades, and freedoms available to people are negligible. People did try to break free from the shackles like in Egypt, but what happened next is still fresh in our memory.
Whatever may be the reasons of the popular Turkish TV series-Diriliş Ertuğrul becoming such a rage and instant hit especially among youth in Muslim countries, somewhere yearning and revival for khilafa and moulding the political system on the pattern of khalifa-al-rashidah is discernible and palpable in the Muslims. Besides, it has also sparked an interest in the youth to read and understand Islamic and Muslim history.With unputdownable exposition of its thesis and arguments, Khilafat-wa-Malookiyat comes in useful. Burning a book, I believe makes the book only sell like hot cakes. A few friends have already told me that they would like to read it.
Covi-19 pandemic has already exposed the facade of capitalism, democracy (as understood in the West) and many other ‘isms’ of the 21st century, and the inherent injustices in the current world order. As they have come crashing, Muslim leaders need to put heads together, shun internal differences, and work actively for a new order based on equality and justice. When all these ideologies have failed us, world has yet to see the fruit of rightly established khilafa. In such a scenario, Maududi’s passionate and fervent call for the establishment of khilafa becomes all the more relevant today.
The author is a research scholar of Political Science at CCAS, University of Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions.