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Muslim Legends

Abul Ala Maududi (journalist, author, and cleric)

Abu Ala-Mawdudi was born in Aurangabad, Hyderabad, India, on September 25, 1903. He was a Pakistani journalist and Muslim cleric who was heavily involved in politics. He founded the Jamaat-e-Islami, Asia’s largest Islamic organization at the time.

Under the British Raj, Mawdudi was born to an affluent family in Aurangabad. His father temporarily attended Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College, which was founded in 1875 to encourage modernist thought among Muslims but was pulled by his family in favor of more traditional education in Allahabad (now Prayagraj).

In his early days, he got involved in a Sufi organization (tariqa) and oversaw Mawdudi’s conventional Islamic education at home. At the age of 11, Mawdudi began studying at Islamic institutions (madrasahs), but a family difficulty prevented him from completing his studies as a religious scholar (Alim).

Abul Ala was admitted to Madrasah Furqaniyah, a secondary school that aimed to combine modern Western and traditional Islamic teaching, after receiving early schooling at home. After successfully completing his secondary education, young Abul Ala was enrolled in Darul Uloom, Hyderabad, for undergraduate studies when his official education was disrupted by his father’s illness and eventual death. This did not deter Maududi from continuing his studies though these had to be outside of the regular educational institutions.

Abul Ala learned enough Arabic, Persian, and English, in addition to his mother tongue, Urdu, by the early 1920s to pursue his interests independently. As a result, most of what he learned was self-taught, but he did get formal instruction and advice from some knowledgeable scholars for brief periods of time. Maududi’s intellectual development was therefore largely the consequence of his own efforts and the stimulation he received from his professors. Furthermore, his uprightness, his deep care for propriety and morality, is largely a reflection of his parents’ religious piety and concern for his correct moral upbringing.

In his earlier years, he became convinced that Muslim thinkers needed to be liberated from the influence of Modern civilization in favor of an Islamic code of life, culture, and political and economic system.

In 1941, he founded the Jamaat-i Islami with the goal of bringing about such transformation. When Pakistan gained independence from India in 1947, he was influential in steering the new country away from Western nations’ secularism and toward the development of an Islamic political system. Mawdudi was consistently in opposition to the Pakistani government. He was imprisoned from 1948 to 1950 and again from 1953 to 1955, and in 1953 he was sentenced to death.

Mawdudi’s writings covered a wide range of subjects, including philosophy, Muslim law, history, economics, sociology, and theology. He is well known for his belief that only God, not human rulers, nations, or conventions, is sovereign. The purpose of political authority in this world is to implement the SharIah (Islamic legal and moral code), which has been divinely ordained.

Furthermore, because Islam is a universal code for human life, the state must be all-encompassing and left in the hands of Muslims, albeit nonbelievers should be allowed to live as non-Muslim citizens within the state. Because all Muslims have the same relationship with God, this state must be a “Theo-democracy,” according to Mawdudi, in which the entire community is tasked with interpreting divine law.

Due to his dedication to religious dawah and political activism, Maududi has been described as close to his wife but unable to spend much time with his six boys and three daughters. Only one of his children was ever a member of the JI. Asma, his second daughter, was the only one who showed “any intellectual promise.”

Maududi had a kidney problem for the whole of his life. In 1945 and 1946, he was frequently bedridden, and in 1969, he was forced to travel to England for treatment. He died on September 22, 1979, in Buffalo, New York, US.

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