Preferred Citation: Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama'at-i Islami of Pakistan. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1994.

Structure and Social Base

2. Structure and Social Base

3. Organization

To understand the manner in which Mawdudi’s ideology found organizational expression and the extent to which it found a social identity and put down roots among various social strata, to understand what makes for the Jama‘at’s strength as a political actor and, conversely, accounts for its political constriction, and to outline the structure, operation, and social base of the party, one has to identify the variables that have determined the Jama‘at’s organizational structure and base of support and controlled the extent of continuity and change in them, and to account for both the support for the Jama‘at’s program among particular social groups and the limits to the diversity of its social base. The links between the Jama‘at’s ideology and politics and the pattern of the party’s historical development have grown out of its organizational structure and social base, as have the nature of the Jama‘at’s politics and its reaction to changes in its sociopolitical context. By defining the Jama‘at as an organization with a distinct social identity and distinguishing those factors which have determined the extent of its power and reach, we can establish a basis for understanding the party’s history as well as the nature of its politics. We will examine the way the Jama‘at has contended with organizational change and the problems it encountered in trying to expand its social base. Organizational change led to debates over the choice of leaders and how to reform the party’s organizational design. Opening the ranks of the party also generated debates that influenced its ideological development and politics. Those factors interacted with influences that were brought to bear on the party by other political actors to decide the nature and trajectory of continuity and change in the Jama‘at’s politics and the party’s role and place in society.

The Jama‘at-i Islami’s organization initially consisted simply of the office of the amir, the central majlis-i shura’, and the members (arkan; sing., rukn), and this did not change much during the party’s early years. Members were busy producing and disseminating literature, especially the Tarjumanu’l-Qur’an, expanding its publications and education units at Pathankot, and giving form to the Arabic Translation Bureau (Daru’l-‘Urubiyah) which was established in Jullundar, East Punjab, in 1942.[1] Between 1941 and 1947 supporters were divided up according to the extent of their commitment to the party. The hierarchy that resulted began at the bottom with those merely introduced to the Jama‘at’s message (muta‘arif), moved up to those influenced by the Jama‘at’s message (muta‘athir), then the sympathizers (hamdard), and ended with the members (arkan). The first three categories played no official role in the Jama‘at aside from serving as a pool from which new members were drawn and helping to relay the Jama‘at’s message. All categories provided the Jama‘at with workers (karkuns) of various ranks employed by the party to perform political and administrative functions. They also served as workers in the party’s campaigns.

The hierarchy was revised in 1950–1951 to streamline the Jama‘at’s structure and tighten its control over its supporters in preparation for the Punjab elections of 1951. The categories of those merely introduced to and of those influenced by the Jama‘at’s message were eliminated and a new category, the affiliate (mutaffiq), was added. Affiliates were those who favored an Islamic order and supported the Jama‘at but were not members. They were, however, under Jama‘at’s supervision and were organized into circles and clusters.[2] Affiliates stood higher in the Jama‘at’s organizational hierarchy than sympathizers. The Jama‘at also devised a rational and centrally controlled structure which enveloped all of its affiliates and organized them into local units and chapters. In 1978 the party had 441 local chapters, 1,177 circles of associates, and 215 women’s units. In 1989 these figures stood at 619, 3,095, and 554, respectively.[3] The affiliates as a category were provided for in the Jama‘at’s constitution and therefore had to abide by the code of conduct laid down by the party. Early ties with people acquainted with the Jama‘at’s message, originally so important to a movement with a missionary objective, were now severed, and the party turned its attention to strengthening its reach and its ability to run effective political campaigns. The change suggests that the Jama‘at did not associate political vigor with the expansion of its popular base, which would have been possible through extending its informal ties with the electorate but rather with organizational control.

After 1941, the Jama‘at was besieged with problems of discipline, and to solve them the party tightened its membership criteria a number of times. Mawdudi regarded these problems as serious enough to justify measures that would safeguard against the breakdown of discipline.[4] The party’s concern with politics, however, required a rapid expansion of membership which enforcing the new criteria would discourage. The category of affiliate was the solution; it brought many people into the party without compromising quality, caliber, and party orthodoxy. The new category also served as a screening device. It provided an opportunity to observe, scrutinize, and indoctrinate potential members before accepting them, reducing the problems of discipline in the party.

The institution of the affiliate points to the importance placed on moral caliber by the party. Membership in the Jama‘at began with conversion to the party’s interpretation of Islam. The party also demanded total commitment to its objectives and decisions. The members gave shape to the vision of re-creating the Prophetic community. Wives of members were encouraged to become involved in the women’s wing of the party and the children to join the student wings or children’s programs. Over time many Jama‘at members came to be employed by the party, and those who worked outside it were required to participate in its numerous labor and white-collar unions. Members often went to training camps, which educated them in the Jama‘at’s views and trained them in political and organizational work (see table 1).

1. The Jama‘at-i Islami’s Organizational Activities, 1974–1992
  Punjab NWFP Baluchistan Sind Total
Source: Organization Bureau of Jama‘at-i islami.
Meetings 9,272 250 2 2,412 11,936
Training camps 10 103 113
Meetings with potential recruits 299,137 3,000 688 328,063 630,888
Missionary work training camps 334 14 348
Jama‘at-i Islami libraries and reading rooms 1,578 71 12 179 1,840
Conferences and conventions 10,941 1,183 53 4,179 1,6356
Meetings 13,635 2,203 166 14,021
Training camps 114 23 2 139
Meetings with potential recruits
Missionary work training camps 4,000 38 4,038
Jama‘at-i Islami libraries and reading rooms 4,375 556 12 222 5,165
Conferences and conventions 46,175 3,335 77 5,620 55,207
Meetings 12,028 6,820 103 9,611 28,562
Training camps 799 593 32 186 1,610
Meetings with potential recruits 19,878 3,274 98 23,250
Missionary work training camps 121 157 4 132 414
Jama‘at-i Islami libraries and reading rooms 1,186 271 32 65 1,554
Conferences and conventions 4,423 1,114 57 225 5,819
Meetings 10,758 2,610 358 556 14,282
Training camps 137 61 18 35 251
Meetings with potential recruits 37,652 1,037 910 39,084 78,683
Missionary work training camps 75 4 2 22 103
Jama‘at-i Islami libraries and reading rooms 844 99 29 176 1,148
Conferences and conventions 2,753 242 53 924 3,972
Meetings 2,329 654 52 2,469 5,504
Training camps 361 93 7 101 562
Meetings with potential recruits 226 29 10 42 307
Missionary work training camps 2,390 403 19 2,098 4,910
Jama‘at-i Islami libraries and reading rooms 2,322 467 69 1,553 4,411
Conferences and conventions

Organizational unity was also boosted through frequent meetings at both the local and national level. Every Jama‘at unit held weekly meetings during which personal, local, and national issues were discussed, and every member gave an account (muhasibah) of his week’s activity to his superiors. If a member missed more than two of these meetings without a valid excuse, he could be expelled from the Jama‘at.[5] Since every local Jama‘at unit was part of a larger one, each of which held meetings of its own, members could end up attending several meetings each week. The Jama‘at sessions encouraged discussion and airing of views, but once a decision was reached, all discussion ended and the members were bound by it. National-level open meetings (ijtima‘-i ‘amm) promoted solidarity in the party as a whole. The Jama‘at began holding provincial meetings across India in 1942 and held its first all-India meeting in April 1945 at Pathankot. These meetings were held regularly until partition. In Pakistan the tradition of national meetings continued, but they were open only to members and affiliates. The party held its first national meeting in Lahore in May 1949 and the second in Karachi in November 1951. The extraordinary meeting at Machchi Goth was the most significant of these early all-Pakistan gatherings, which were not held at all between 1958 and 1962 due to the martial-law ban on congregations of this kind. They were resumed in 1962. In November 1989, for the first time in forty-two years, the party opened its national meeting to the general public, once again making use of the propaganda value which these meetings had for the party in its early years.

Party Structure

The hierarchy of members constituted only one aspect of the Jama‘at’s reorganization. Of greater importance were the offices which managed the party. After its move to Pakistan the Jama‘at began to deepen its organizational structure by reproducing the offices of amir, deputy amir, secretary-general, and the shura’, with some variations, at provincial, division, district, city, town/zone, and village/circle levels. Its structure was thus based on a series of concentric circles, relating the Jama‘at’s smallest unit (maqam), consisting of two or more members, to the organization’s national command structure (see figure 1).

Figure 1. Organizational structure of the Jama‘at-i Islami

Beginning in 1947 the Jama‘at began to organize its members at different levels. Over the years a hierarchy was formalized through which the party’s officials controlled the members at various levels. It remains in force today. Each level and unit are defined by the number of members in it and also try to accommodate the administrative topography of Pakistan. In places where there are few members, a unit may not be warranted on a village or town level. In such cases two or more villages form one circle, and two or more towns one zone. In administrative terms, a circle stands at the same level in the party’s hierarchy as a village unit, and a zone at the same level as a town. Each level has an administrative unit based on the authority structure of amir, deputy amir, shura’, and secretary-general, which is maintained through elections. To gain a sense of the depth of the structure, in Punjab alone there are thirty district-level units, each with an amir, shura’, and secretary-general. These circles envelope one another, producing an all-encompassing administrative and command structure, decentralized and yet closely knit to form the organizational edifice of the Jama‘at.

The Office of the Amir

The office of the amir was the first administrative unit created in the Jama‘at, and it has remained the most important. Originally the amir was elected by the central shura’ through a simple majority vote, but since the 1956 reforms he has been elected by Jama‘at members, and his term of office is fixed at five years; there is no term limit. A committee of the central shura’ members chooses three candidates, whose names are then put before the members at large. They send in their secret ballots to the Jama‘at’s secretariat, whose controller of elections (nazim-i intikhabat) has been appointed by the shura’ to oversee the process. A list of candidates must be put forth by the shura’ sixty days before the elections, and members must register to vote ninety days before the date of the election.[6] This system tends to favor the incumbent, as the members are not likely to unseat someone who is both administrative head of the party and its spiritual guide. No amir to date has been voted out of office.

The amir is the supreme source of authority in the Jama‘at and can demand the unwavering obedience of all members (ita‘at-i nazm). He is, however, constitutionally bound by the set of checks and balances that were passed following the Machchi Goth affair. All doctrinal issues must be determined by the shura’. Should the amir disagree with the shura’ on any issue, he has a right of veto which throws the matter back to the shura’. Should the shura’ override the veto, the amir must either accept the decision of the shura’ or resign from his post. The amir can be impeached by a two-thirds majority of the shura’. In budgetary and administrative matters the amir is bound by the decisions of the majlis-i ‘amilah, whose members he appoints from among shura’ members. The amir oversees the operation of the Jama‘at’s secretariat.

Insofar as possible this organization is replicated at each level of the party. Each lower-level amir is elected by the members of his constituency to terms varying from one to three years depending on the level in question. These amirs are similarly bound by the decisions of their shura’s. The lower-level amirs also oversee the office of their secretaries-general. However, lower-level secretaries-general are also accountable to the Jama‘at’s national secretary-general, which curtails the autonomy of the lower-level amirs and reduces their control over administrative affairs.

The Machchi Goth affair proved to be an aberration in an otherwise uneventful history of the amir’s office. Since then the constitutional mechanisms governing it have steered the Jama‘at through two succession periods—from Mawdudi to Mian Tufayl Muhammad in 1972, and from Mian Tufayl to Qazi Husain Ahmad in 1987. Each transition followed upon the retirement of the amir.[7] This pattern is in sharp contrast to transitions in other Pakistani parties, and accounts for the fact that the Jama‘at, unlike most other Islamic movements of South Asia, continued strong after the passing of its founder from the scene.

At a meeting in Lahore on January 10, 1971,[8] following the Jama‘at’s defeat at the polls in December 1970, a group led by Sayyid Munawwar Hasan (now the secretary-general) launched a tirade against Mawdudi. They argued that the Jama‘at had been routed at the polls because of him. Old and reserved, Mawdudi had relinquished national politics to the more energetic and charismatic leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami League (People’s League), Zulfiqar ‘Ali Bhutto and Mujibu’l-Rahman, who won the elections. Similar views were related to the editors of Tarjumanu’l-Qur’an by other members and supporters during the following months.[9] Implicit in these ventings of frustration was a demand for a new leader. On February 19, 1972, Mawdudi suffered a mild heart attack and decided to step down as the amir. The shura’ nominated Mian Tufayl Muhammad (then secretary-general), Ghulam A‘zam (later the amir of Jama‘at-i Islami of Bangladesh), and Khurshid Ahmad (a longtime disciple of Mawdudi, and currently deputy amir of the Jama‘at). On November 2, 1972, Mian Tufayl Muhammad (b. 1914) was elected amir.[10]

None of those nominated by the shura’ qualified as charismatic leaders, least of all Mian Tufayl. The electorate appeared to have been governed by more pressing concerns than those posed by the party’s Young Turks. They had been disappointed by their performance in the elections and now faced a belligerent opponent in the Bhutto government. By choosing a loyal lieutenant of Mawdudi, an administrator rather than a political maverick, the party opted for continuity and stability. Its search for a more charismatic amir, although not abandoned, was postponed to a later time.

Mian Tufayl was not an effective politician, nor was he able convincingly to assert the powers vested in the office of the amir. Following his election, a good deal of the amir’s powers, accumulated and jealously guarded by Mawdudi over the years, were ceded to others in the party, and authority became more decentralized. That encouraged the formation of independent loci of power, which in turn further divested the amir of authority. Constitutional procedures became even more visibly entrenched, and the shura’, as the original source of authority in the Jama‘at, once again asserted its power and primacy. Mian Tufayl’s fifteen years at the helm of the Jama‘at, to the chagrin of those who had wished to reinvigorate the party’s ideological and chiliastic zeal, led the party farther down the road of legal-rational authority.

A different set of concerns led to the election of Qazi Husain Ahmad to the office of amir on October 15, 1987. After a brief surge in popularity in the 1970s, the Zia ul-Haq years had eclipsed the political fortunes of the party, which became increasing marginalized in national politics. The results were dissension within the party over its policies and performance and the retirement of Mian Tufayl. Aging, and increasingly under criticism, he stepped down as amir, paving the way for a new generation to lead the Jama‘at. The shura’ nominated Khurshid Ahmad, Jan Muhammad ‘Abbasi (the amir of Sind), and Qazi Husain Ahmad (the secretary-general) to succeed Mian Tufayl. The first two were conservative in the tradition of Mawdudi and Mian Tufayl, while Qazi Husain had a populist style and a good rapport with the younger and politically more active members. The party elected Qazi Husain (b. 1938). He came from a family with a strong Deobandi heritage. His two older brothers were Deobandi ulama, and his father was a devotee of Mawlana Husain Ahmad Madani of Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Hind, after whom Qazi Husain Ahmad was named. His Deobandi ties helped the Jama‘at in the predominantly Deobandi North-West Frontier Province. He became acquainted with the Jama‘at through its student organization and joined the Jama‘at itself in 1970. Many, among both the younger members and the conservative old guard, felt that it was time to go in a new direction. Qazi Husain had been responsible for creating an important constituency for the Jama‘at in North-West Frontier Province, which today elects a notable share of the Jama‘at’s national and provincial assembly members. Many hoped he would do the same for the Jama‘at at the national level.

Qazi Husain appealed to both conservatives and the more liberal elements. As the party’s liaison with the Zia regime during the Afghan war, he was favored by the pro-Zia conservative faction, while his populist style and call for the restoration of democracy endeared him to the younger generation who wanted the Jama‘at to distance itself from Zia. The Jama‘at had made a politically sagacious choice by electing an assertive and populist amir. His appeal has to date been more clearly directed toward the Pakistani electorate than toward the rank and file of the Jama‘at. He is the first amir to hold a national office: he has been a senator in the Pakistani parliament since 1985. In November 1992 he was elected to a second term as amir.

The Deputy Amir

Twice in its history the Jama‘at appointed a vice-amir (qa’im maqam amir), an interim measure to fill the vacancy left by an absent amir. More important has been the office of deputy amir (na’ib amir). Three deputy amirs were selected by the founding members of the Jama‘at in 1941, mainly to ensure that Mawdudi remained primus inter pares.[11] After two of them left the party in 1942, the office fell vacant, though the title was occasionally conferred on Islahi and Mian Tufayl to give them executive powers when Mawdudi was absent.

In 1976 the office was reintroduced with a new objective in mind. Three deputy amirs were appointed by the amir, and each was given a specific area of Jama‘at activities to oversee. The reintroduction of this office was part of the decentralization of power during Mian Tufayl’s tenure. It rationalized the Jama‘at’s organizational structure by dividing activities into separate units and delegating authority to the deputy amirs who oversaw those units. The office of deputy amir also gave the rising generation an important office to fill and brought the increasing number of peripheral activities and affiliated bodies under the party’s central command, both of which helped ease tensions within the party. The office exists only on a national level.

In 1987 the duties of the deputy amirs were formalized and their activities more clearly defined and given constitutional sanction by the shura’. Their number was increased to five. One is in charge of relations with other political parties; one is responsible for the Teachers Union and parliamentary affairs; one handles the operations of the Jama‘at’s central administration; one acts as a liaison with the Jama‘at’s student organization; and one is in charge of relations with ulama and other Islamic organizations. The office is by now an established part of the command structure.

The Shura’s

After the office of amir, the majlis-i shura’ is the most important pillar of the Jama‘at’s organizational structure. It has overseen the evolution and implementation of the party’s ideology and has controlled the working of its constitution. The lower-level shura’s replicate the functions of the central shura’, but they do not have the same importance as the central shura’. Members of shura’s at all levels are elected. Each represents a Jama‘at constituency geographically defined by the secretariat. These constituencies, drawn up by the Jama‘at’s election commissioner, coincide with national electoral districts whenever the numbers permit. A shura’ member must be a resident of his constituency.

In its early years the central shura’ had twelve members, but in anticipation of the Punjab elections of 1951 membership was increased to sixteen and as part of the constitutional reforms which followed Machchi Goth, to fifty.[12] That number was again increased to sixty in 1972, giving greater representation to members. In 1989 every central shura’ member represented approximately one hundred Jama‘at members. The increase in size has vested greater powers in the central shura’, while reducing the powers of each individual member, which was one reason why Mawdudi took the step in the first place following the Machchi Goth affair. With the same objective in mind, the Jama‘at’s constitution has kept the legislative power of the shura’ in check by giving the amir, deputy amirs, secretary-general, and provincial amirs, who attend shura’ sessions, voting rights. The number of these extra-shura’ votes is twelve, a fifth of the shura’ votes and a sixth of the total votes cast. In case of a tie the vote of the amir counts as two. Regular members of the Jama‘at may attend sessions of the shura’ with the permission of the amir, but have no speaking or voting rights.

The central shura’ meets once or twice a year and may in addition be called by the amir or a majority of its members whenever necessary. It reviews party activities and decides on future policies. It has ten subcommittees which specialize in various areas of the Jama‘at’s concern and provide the shura’ with policy positions. The central shura’ can probe the legal sources and determine the intent of Islamic law (ijtihad) when and if there exists no precedent for the ruling under consideration in religious sources. This enables it to decide on, as well as to clarify, doctrinal matters. While issues are openly debated in the shura’, verdicts are not handed down by majority vote alone. The shura’, especially when doctrinal matters are involved, works through a practice that reflects the Muslim ideal of consensus (ijma’). The majority must convince the minority of its wisdom, leaving no doubt regarding the course on which the Jama‘at will embark. In 1970 Mawdudi reported that in its twenty-nine years of activity, the central shura’ had given a majority opinion on only four occasions, the most notable of which was the prelude to Machchi Goth. Otherwise the central shura’ has, time after time, given unanimous verdicts.[13] Since Machchi Goth, many executive decisions have been put before the twenty-two-member majlis-i ‘amilah. This smaller council steers the Jama‘at through most of its activities when the central shura’ is not in session.

The Secretary-General and Secretariat

The day-to-day activities of the Jama‘at are overseen by the bureaucracy centered in the party’s secretariat. The office of the secretary-general (qayyim) was created in 1941. Since then, it has grown in power to become something akin to that of a party boss. The concept of a party worker was introduced to the Jama‘at in 1944 when the party set up special training camps in Pathankot for its personnel.[14] With the growth of the Jama‘at in size and the expansion of its activities, the workers have become an increasingly important element in the party. Between 1951, when the Jama‘at turned to politics, and 1989 the number of full-time workers rose from 125 to 7,583.[15] Since 1947 they have been controlled from Lahore by the secretary-general, who is appointed by the amir in consultation with the central shura’. Over the years, not only has the central secretariat increased in size but it has also reproduced itself at lower levels in the party, creating an administrative command structure which extends from the center to the smallest unit, paralleling the command structure controlled by the amirs.

The Jama‘at’s numerous publications are also controlled by the bureaucracy, the scope of the activities of which not only increases their hold on the Jama‘at but also gives them a say in the party’s political agenda. The importance of this bureaucracy was already evident early on, but it rose even farther as witnessed by the fact that both Mian Tufayl and Qazi Husain came to the office of amir directly from that of secretary-general. Members of the bureaucracy often are also members of shura’s of various units, augmenting the power of the central bureaucratic machine in the decision-making bodies of the party, precluding the kind of autonomy of the shura’ which led to the Machchi Goth affair.

In the 1970s, following its decisive defeat at the polls and with an amir at the helm who institutionalized the Jama‘at’s ideological zeal into distinct norms and procedures, the secretariat grew further in size, power, and number of workers. In 1979 a permanent training camp for workers was established at the Jama‘at’s headquarters in Lahore, and in 1980 alone 2,800 new workers went through that facility.[16] The Jama‘at’s considerable financial resources since the 1970s has permitted it to hire these workers and expand the activities of the bureaucratic force. All ordinary Jama‘at workers are paid for their services, but officers such as the amir, deputy amirs, or shura’ members are not paid, though they may serve in other salaried capacities in the party. Qazi Husain’s thriving family business in Peshawar has helped resolve the question of monetary compensation for his services. An increasing share of those joining the growing bureaucracy are alumni of Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah (Islamic Society of Students), who are educated in modern subjects and have known each other since their university days. This further strengthens the position of the bureaucracy.

The bureaucratic structure of the Jama‘at is duplicated in the party’s burgeoning women’s wing (halqah-i khawatin), established in the 1950s. Some 70 percent of these women come from families where the men belong to the Jama‘at. They have no amir of their own, but have a central shura’ and an office of secretary-general (qayyimah). Their headquarters are situated in the central compound, from where the working of nazimahs (organizers) of lower-level units are supervised. The Jama‘at-i Islami women also have their own seminary, the Jami‘atu’l-Muhsinat (Society of the Virtuous), which trains women as preachers and religious teachers.

The women’s wing is primarily involved with propagating the Jama‘at’s literature and ideas among Pakistani women through its periodicals, the most important of which is Batul, and to incorporate Jama‘at families into the holy community by recruiting from among the wives and daughters of the Jama‘at’s members and by encouraging women to bring up their children true to the teachings of the Jama‘at.

The Jama‘at’s secretariat also oversees the working of special departments, the number and duties of which change depending on the needs of the party. In 1989–1990 they were the departments of finance, worker training, social services and welfare, theological institutions, press relations, elections, public affairs, parliamentary affairs, and Jama‘at organizational affairs. Each department is headed by a nazim (head or organizer), appointed by the amir. The departments are responsible to the secretary-general and at times to a deputy amir.

The increasing bureaucratization of the Jama‘at is clearly manifested in the central role of the party’s secretariat and workers in its headquarters compound, called Mansurah, on the outskirts of Lahore. To collect all members and votaries of the Jama‘at into a model holy community had been a central aim of the party since its creation. However, after its relatively short stay (1942–1947) in Pathankot, Jama‘at members had never again been able to gather in one location, though establishing a community/headquarters complex remained a goal. With funding through private donations, the land for the Mansurah compound was purchased in 1968, and construction on it began in 1972; the Jama‘at began to move its offices there in 1974. The complex has since grown to include a small residential community, where many Jama‘at leaders reside, and the central offices of the Jama‘at’s secretariat and some of its numerous affiliated bodies: the Islamic Studies Academy (Idarah-i Ma‘arif-i Islami), the Sayyid Mawdudi International Education Institute, Office of Adult Education, Bureau of the Voice of Islam (Idarah-i Sada-i Islam), the Arabic Translation Bureau, the Peasants’ Board (Kisan Board), the Ulama Academy, the Jami‘atu’l-Muhsinat, the offices of Jama‘at-i Islami of Punjab, schools, libraries, a mosque, and a hospital. In 1990, according to the election commission of Pakistan in Islamabad, Mansurah had some four thousand eligible voters.[17]

The Jama‘at’s organizational model—the amir, shura’, secretary-general, administrative, and command networks stretching from the top of the party to its smallest units—has proved so efficacious that it has become an example for others to emulate. The Jama‘at’s rivals, from ulama parties to Israr Ahmad’s Tanzim-i Islami and Tahiru’l-Qadri’s Minhaju’l-Qur’an, with some changes in titles and functions, have reproduced it in their own organizations as has the secular and ethnically based Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz (Muhajir National Front).

The size of the bureaucracy and the scope of its activities lead naturally to the question of the party’s finances. The Jama‘at’s total capital at its foundation was Rs. 74.[18] Its income at the end of 1942, mainly from the sale of books and literature, was Rs. 17,005.[19] This figure rose to Rs. 78,700 in 1947, and Rs. 198,714 in 1951, a tenfold increase in ten years.[20] By 1956 the annual budget for the Jama‘at-i Islami of Karachi alone stood at Rs. 200,000.[21] The Jama‘at’s income, from sale of books and hides (from animal sacrifices on ‘Idu’l-azha’), and increasingly from voluntary contributions and religious tax (zakat) payments by supporters and members, continued to grow at a steady pace throughout the 1950s and the 1960s (leaving aside confiscation of its funds on several occasions).[22] The purview of the Jama‘at’s activities, however, has grown at an equal, if not faster, rate than its income during the same period, ensuring a subsistence-level existence for the party. It was not until the 1970s that the fortunes of the Jama‘at took a turn for the better.

The rise to power of the left-leaning Bhutto in 1971, and the Jama‘at’s open opposition to him, brought new sources of financial support to its assistance. The Pakistani propertied elite, threatened by the nationalization policy of the People’s Party, the lower-middle class, whom Bhutto alienated with his socialist rhetoric and open display of moral laxity, and the Muhajir community, which began to feel the threat of Sindhi nationalism, all began to invest money in anti–People’s Party forces, one of the most prominent of which was the Jama‘at. The foreign governments—especially the monarchies of the Persian Gulf Trucial States, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia—wary of Pakistan’s turn to the left, also began supplying funds to forces which could provide an ideological brake on the spread of socialism and bog Bhutto down in domestic crises; again the Jama‘at became a major recipient of these contributions. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a decade later merely increased the flow of funds from the Persian Gulf sources.

Jama‘at’s own connections with the Saudi ulama went a long way toward convincing the Persian Gulf donors of the wisdom of their policy and established the party as the main beneficiary of funds that Persian Gulf states earmarked for Islamic activities across the Muslim world. In fact, the Jama‘at’s ideological affinity with the Wahhabi Sunnis of the Persian Gulf states, Jama‘at’s earlier ties with Saudi authorities, and the party’s considerable reach across the Muslim world made it a convenient agent for the management of these funds and their distribution.[23] The Jama‘at’s international activities became increasingly intertwined with those of the Rabitah ‘Alam-i Islami (Muslim World Network), based in Riyadh, which oversees Saudi Arabia’s relations with various Islamic organizations from Mindanao to Morocco. The Jama‘at’s international influence grew in good measure through the aegis of the Rabitah. Saudi Arabia financed the establishment of a Jama‘at research institute in England, the Islamic Foundation, where the Jama‘at’s literature is published and disseminated in large quantities across the Muslim world. More recently, it has also projected the Jama‘at’s power internationally, most notably during the Rushdie affair.[24] Under the aegis of the Rabitah, ties with Jama‘at-i Islamis elsewhere in South Asia were strengthened, as were relations with other Islamic movements. The Rabitah also helped increase the Jama‘at’s leverage in its dealings with Pakistani governments, as numerous projects funded by Persian Gulf states in Pakistan, such as the International Islamic University in Islamabad, and the lucrative management of the flow of funds and arms to the Afghan Mujahidin, were opened to the Jama‘at. Financial patronage, however, has not been enough to control the Jama‘at: the party’s decision to support Iraq and its open derision of Saudi Arabia as a decadent lackey of American imperialism in the Persian Gulf war in 1990–1991 have greatly marred its relations with the Persian Gulf states and seriously affected their rapport.

The considerable rise in the number of Pakistani migrant workers in the Persian Gulf states since the 1970s also translated into larger voluntary contributions and zakat payments to the Jama‘at, as well as even closer ties between the party and the migrant workers’ hosts and employers in the Persian Gulf. Funds flowing into the Jama‘at’s coffers have also followed a recent increase in the number of Pakistani migrants to the West, many of whom are alumni of the student wing, the Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah. These financial links and especially the rewards for stemming the tide of “Bhuttoism” in turn influenced the Jama‘at’s outlook on a number of issues. They made the party more staunchly anti-Bhutto and opposed to socialism in the 1970s than otherwise might have been the case, blinding it to the importance of populist politics in Pakistan. Antisocialist activism provided the Jama‘at with greater international renown and financial rewards, diverting the party’s attention from the realities of its political choices in Pakistan, especially after the fall of Bhutto. The free flow of funds also dampened the Jama‘at’s resolve, damaged its hard-earned discipline and morale, and gave the members a false, and ultimately ephemeral, sense of achievement and confidence. In a similar vein, these financial ties determined the Jama‘at’s stand on a host of religiopolitical issues, compromising the party’s autonomy of thought and action. The Persian Gulf connection, for instance, determined the party’s ideological and political response to other Islamic revival movements. A case in point was the strained relations between the Jama‘at and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1980s, which can, at least in part, be attributed to the Iran-Iraq war and the hardening of the policy toward Iran by the Persian Gulf states.

Affiliate Organizations

A host of affiliated semiautonomous institutions stand outside the Jama‘at’s official organization, but greatly extend the party’s reach and power. Despite their outwardly autonomous character, there is little doubt that the Jama‘at, to varying degrees, controls them. Although at first this was done for the sake of efficiency, in the end political considerations also played their part in the decision to relegate authority.

No sooner had the country of Pakistan been established than the Jama‘at was declared a pariah by its government, which also forbade its civil service—a primary target of the Jama‘at’s propaganda—to have any contact with them. The Jama‘at was compelled to set up institutions sufficiently distant to do its bidding without the fear of government retribution. During Ayub Khan’s regime the Jama‘at’s problems with the government were compounded when the party and everything associated with it were banned. The Jama‘at found it prudent to divest itself of some subsidiary organizations to guarantee their survival. One result was the establishment of Islamic Publications in Lahore in 1963, which has subsequently become the Jama‘at’s chief publisher in Pakistan. The Jama‘at had become so dependent on its publications as a source of revenue and as a means of expanding its power that the suppression of its publications during the early years of the Ayub Khan proved devastating. The new arrangement legally protected it from future government clampdowns on the party, thereby protecting its source of income and propaganda. Additional affiliate bodies were created in the 1970s to both protect and expand the party’s base of support.

The affiliate organizations fall into two categories: the first deal with propaganda and publications, and the second with political activities. Aside from Islamic Publications, there are other important affiliate bodies engaged in propaganda. The first of these is the Islamic Research Academy of Karachi, established in 1963 to counter the efforts of the Institute of Islamic Research, created in 1961 by Ayub Khan to propagate the regime’s modernist view of Islam. Shortly thereafter, the academy was directed to disseminate the Jama‘at’s views among the civil service. In the 1980s this task was mainly delegated to the Institute of Policy Studies of Islamabad, created, thanks to the pliant attitude of the Zia regime to Islamic activism, to serve as a “think tank” for Jama‘at’s policy makers. The Institute of Regional Studies of Peshawar and Institute of Educational Research (Idarah-i Ta‘lim’u Tahqiq) of Lahore also function in the same capacity, and outside Pakistan, the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, England, and the Islamic Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya, operate along similar lines. These institutions have done much to propagate the Jama‘at’s views and have contributed to the increasing influence of Islam across the Muslim world in general and in the social and political life of Pakistanis in particular.

Also important in this category of affiliate bodies are magazines which are not officially associated with the Jama‘at but are close to its ideological and political position. The most important of these are Chatan,Haftrozah Zindagi,Takbir,Qaumi Digest, and Urdu Digest. The Urdu Digest, first published in 1962, has extended the Jama‘at’s influence into the Pakistan armed forces, where it enjoys a certain popularity. All these publications print both social and political commentary and news analysis from Jama‘at’s perspective. The contribution of these ostensibly independent institutions to the dissemination of the Jama‘at’s views among the civil service, the military, and the political establishment has been substantial.

Affiliate institutions dealing with political matters are of even greater importance to the Jama‘at. For the most part they are unions which act both to propagate the Jama‘at’s views among specific social groups and to consolidate the Jama‘at’s power through union activity, especially among the new social groups that have been born of industrial change in Pakistan. Some of these unions, such as the Jama‘at’s semiautonomous student union, Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah, were formed to proselytize but have since become effective politically as well. Others were launched in the late 1960s to combat the influence of leftist unions, and still others to expand the popular base of the Jama‘at following its defeat at the polls in December 1970. The most notable of these are the Pakistan Unions Forum, Pakistan Medical Association, Muslim Lawyers Federation, Pakistan Teachers Organization, Merchant’s Organization, National Labor Federation, Peasants’ Board, Pasban (Protector) Organization, Jami‘at-i Tulabah-i ‘Arabiyah (Society of Students of Arabic, which focuses on seminary students), and Islami Jami‘at Talibat (Islamic Society of Female Students).

Union membership runs the gamut of professions and classes in Pakistan from farmers and peasants to the educated middle class. The most important are the peasant, labor, and student unions. The Peasants’ Board was formed in 1976 to promote the Jama‘at’s views in the countryside and create a new voter pool for the Jama‘at to make up for the loss of voters in the elections of 1970. It was also part of the Jama‘at’s anti–People’s Party campaign, since it was meant to curtail the influence of the leftist peasants’ union, the Planters’ Association (Anjuman-i Kashtkaran) and to capitalize on opposition to Bhutto’s nationalization of agriculture in 1976. This dual objective informs the working of all Jama‘at unions. The Peasants’ Board has sought to lure the agricultural sector to the Jama‘at’s cause by remedying agricultural problems, but has thus far concerned itself only with the needs of small rural landowners and not the grievances of the more numerous landless laborers and peasants.

The National Labor Federation began its work in the 1950s but did not become prominent until the 1960s and the 1970s. It has the same objectives as the Peasants’ Board. The National Labor Federation and its subsidiary propaganda wing, the Toilers Movement (Tahrik-i Mihnat), were effective in countering some of the influence of the left among Pakistani laborers. In the late 1970s, with the weakening of the Bhutto government and rifts between the People’s Party and leftist forces, the National Labor Federation won important union elections at the Pakistan International Airlines, the shipyards, and Pakistan Railways and in the steel industry, causing consternation in Zia’s government. Soon after assuming power, Zia decided to ban all union activities, and the ban remained until 1988. Despite the National Labor Federation’s gains, the Jama‘at still has not learned to utilize its power base among the labor force effectively, because it is reluctant to engage in populist politics. Qazi Husain has promised his party to change that.

The National Labor Federation has served as a model and base for the expansion of the Jama‘at’s labor union activity. Since 1979 the party has formed white-collar unions among government clerical staff, which despite their small size have increased the Jama‘at’s control over the provincial and national civil service. For instance, in 1989 the clerical union at the University of Punjab was controlled by the Jama‘at, which allowed it to enforce a code of conduct, control curriculum and academic staff, and otherwise influence its running.

Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah

The most important of the Jama‘at’s unions is the Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah (IJT). Unlike the labor or the peasant unions, the IJT has no ideological justification. It does not galvanize support among any one social class. However, it has proved to be effective in battles against Jama‘at’s adversaries, it has diversified the party’s social base, and it has served as an effective means of infiltrating the Pakistani power structure. As the most important component of the Jama‘at’s organization, its workings and history both encapsulate and explain the place of organization in the Jama‘at and identify those factors which control continuity and change in its organization over time.

Central to contemporary Islamic revivalism is the role student organizations have in translating religious ideals into political power. The IJT, or the Jami‘at as it is popularly known, is one of the oldest movements of its kind and has in its own right been a significant and consequential force in Pakistani history and politics. In this capacity it has been central to the Islamization of Pakistan since 1947. It has served as a bulwark against the left and ethnic forces and has been active in national political movements such as those which brought down the Ayub Khan regime in 1969 and the Bhutto regime in 1977.

Origins and Early Development

The roots of IJT can be traced to Mawdudi’s address before the Muslim Anglo-Oriental College of Amritsar on February 22, 1940, in which, for the first time, he alluded to the need for a political strategy that would benefit from the activities of a “well-meaning” student organization.[25] Organizing Muslim students did not follow immediately, however. Not until 1945 did the Jama‘at begin to turn its attention to students. The nucleus organization was first established at the Islamiyah College of Lahore in 1945.[26] The movement gradually gained momentum and created a drive for a national organization on university campuses, especially in Punjab, that would support the party. The IJT was officially formed on December 23, 1947, in Lahore by twenty-five students, most of whom were sons of Jama‘at members,[27] and the newly formed organization held its very first meeting that same year. Other IJT cells were formed in other cities of Punjab, and notably in Karachi. It took IJT three to four years to consolidate these student cells into one organization centered in Karachi, and IJT’s constitution was not ratified until 1952.[28]

IJT was initially conceived as a missionary (da‘wah) movement, a voluntary expression of Islamic feelings among students, given shape by organizers dispatched by the Jama‘at. Its utility then lay in the influence it could have on the education of the future leaders of Pakistan, which would help implement Mawdudi’s “revolution from above.” IJT was at the time greatly concerned with attracting the best and the brightest, and it used the exemplary quality of its members—in education as well as in piety—as a way to gain acceptance and legitimacy and increase its following.[29] Although organized under the supervision of the Jama‘at, IJT was greatly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, which its members learned about from Sa‘id Ramazan, a brotherhood member living in Karachi at the time. Between 1952 and 1955, Ramazan helped IJT leaders formalize an administrative structure and devise an organizational strategy. The most visible marks of the brotherhood’s influence are IJT’s “study circle” and all-night study sessions, both of which were means of indoctrinating new members and fostering organizational bonds.[30]

Initially IJT saw its primary concern as spreading religious propaganda on university campuses. In 1950 it launched its first journal, ‘Azm, in Urdu; it was soon followed by an English-language magazine, Student’s Voice, in 1951. IJT members were, however, as keenly interested in politics as in religious work. Hence, it was not long before they turned their attention to campus politics. Their involvement was not at the time an end in itself, but a means to check the growth of the Democratic Student Federation and the National Student Federation, the two left-wing student organizations on Pakistani campuses.[31]

Throughout the 1950s, opposition to the left became the party’s propelling force. It was on a par with Islamic consciousness, to the extent that the student organization’s view, in large measure, took shape in terms of its opposition to Marxism. All issues put before the students were soon boiled down to choices between antithetical and mutually exclusive absolutes, Islam and Marxism. Although this was a missionary attitude inferred from the Jama‘at’s doctrinal teachings, in the context of campus politics it controlled thought and, hence, action. The conflict between Islam and Marxism soon culminated in actual clashes between IJT and leftist students, confrontations that further radicalized the IJT and increased its interest in campus politics. Egg tossing gradually gave way to more serious clashes, especially in Karachi and Multan.[32] Antileftist student activism had become the IJT’s calling and increasingly determined its course of action. Once part of the Jama‘at’s holy community, it now began to look increasingly like a part of its political organization, hardly a source of comfort for the Jama‘at’s leaders, especially as between October 1952 and January 1953 leftist student groups clashed violently with police in the streets of Karachi, greatly radicalizing student politics. The tactics and organizational power of left-wing students in those months taught the IJT a lesson; it became more keenly interested in politics and began to organize more vigorously.

As radical politics spread in Karachi, the Jama‘at persuaded the IJT to temporarily move its operations elsewhere to keep it away from student politics.[33] From that point on, Lahore was its base of operations, and the IJT found a voice in Punjab, Pakistan’s most important province. It recruited in the numerous colleges in that city and across the province, which proved to be fertile. In Lahore, IJT leaders could also be more closely supervised by Jama‘at leaders, and as a result the students became more involved in religious discussions and education.[34] With increasing numbers of the organization’s directors elected from Punjab, in 1978–1979 the organization’s headquarters were permanently moved to Lahore.

Despite its moderating influence, the party proved unable to restrain the IJT’s drift toward political activism, especially after the anti-Ahmadi agitations of 1953–1954 pitted Islamic groups against the government. The Jama‘at had had a prominent role in the agitations and as a result had felt the brunt of the government’s crackdown. The IJT reacted strongly, especially after Mawdudi was tried for his part in the agitations by the government in 1954. The student organization had ceased to view itself merely as a training organization for future leaders of Pakistan; now it was a “soldiers brigade,” which would fight for Islam against its enemies—secularists and leftists—within the government as well as without. The pace of transformation from a holy community to a political organization was now faster in the IJT than in the Jama‘at itself. By 1955 Mawdudi had begun to be concerned with this new direction and the corrupting influence of politicization.[35] However, the Jama‘at’s own turn to political activism following Machchi Goth obviated the possibility of restraining the IJT’s political proclivities, and by the mid-1960s it had abandoned all attempts at checking the IJT’s growing political activism and was instead harnessing its energies. With the tacit approval of Mawdudi, the students became fully embroiled in campus politics and to an increasing extent in national politics.

Between 1962 and 1967, locked in battle with Ayub Khan, the Jama‘at diverted the students from confrontation with the left and from religious work to opposition to Ayub Khan and his modernist religious policies. They stirred up unrest on Pakistani campuses, initially to oppose the government’s attempt to reform higher education then to protest against the concessions made to India at the end of the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. Their agitation led to clashes, arrests, and incarceration, which only served to institutionalize agitation—increasingly in lieu of religious work—as the predominant mode of organizational behavior; it also attested to the potency of student power.

Not surprisingly the IJT was pushed farther into the political limelight between 1969 and 1971 when the Ayub Khan regime collapsed and rivalry between the People’s Party and the secessionist Bengali party, the Awami League, resulted in civil war and the dismemberment of Pakistan. The IJT, with the encouragement of the government, became the main force behind the Jama‘at’s national campaign against the People’s Party in West Pakistan and the Awami League and Bengali secessionists in East Pakistan.[36] The campaign confirmed the IJT’s place in national politics, especially in May 1971, when the IJT joined the army’s counterinsurgency campaign in East Pakistan. With the help of the army the IJT organized two paramilitary units, called al-Badr and al-Shams, to fight the Bengali guerrillas. Most of al-Badr consisted of IJT members, who also galvanized support for the operation among the Muhajir community settled in East Pakistan.[37] Muti‘u’l-Rahman Nizami, the IJT’s nazim-i a‘la (supreme head or organizer) at the time, organized al-Badr and al-Shams from Dhaka University.[38] The IJT eventually paid dearly for its part in the civil war. During clashes with the Bengali guerrillas (the Mukti Bahini), numerous IJT members lost their lives. These numbers escalated further when scores were settled by Bengali nationalists after Dhaka fell.

The fights with the left in West Pakistan and the civil war in East Pakistan meant that the IJT’s penchant for radical action had clearly eclipsed its erstwhile commitment to religious work. The party’s attitude toward its student wing was, by and large, ambivalent. Although pleased with its political successes, the Jama‘at nevertheless mourned its loss of innocence. Yet, despite its trepidations, the party in the end proved reluctant to alter the IJT’s course, for the students were delivering tangible political gains to the party, which had little else to work with. While Mawdudi may have, on occasion, chastised student leaders for their excesses, other Jama‘at leaders such as Sayyid Munawwar Hasan (himself a one-time leader of the IJT) and Khurshid Ahmad (again a former IJT leader) were far more tolerant. They saw the political situation before the Jama‘at at the end of Ayub Khan’s rule and during the Bhutto period (1968–1977) in apocalyptic terms and felt that the end thoroughly justified the means. The IJT’s power and zeal, especially in terms of the manpower needed to wage demonstrations, agitate, and conduct electoral campaigns, were too valuable for the Jama‘at to forego. Political exigencies thenceforth would act only to perpetuate the Jama‘at’s ambivalence and expedite the IJT’s moral collapse.

The Jama‘at’s ideological perspective, central as it has been to the IJT, has failed to keep the student organization in check. The IJT and the Jama‘at have been tied together by Mawdudi’s works and their professed ideological perspective, and IJT members are rigorously indoctrinated in the Jama‘at’s ideology. Fidelity to the Jama‘at’s reading of Islam is the primary criterion for membership and for advancement in the IJT. Jama‘at’s ideology is indelibly imprinted on the IJT and shapes the student organization’s worldview. But as strong as discipline and ideological conformity are among the core of IJT’s official members, they are not steadfast guarantees of obedience to the writ of the Jama‘at. Most of the IJT’s power comes from its far more numerous supporters and workers, who are not as well trained in the Jama‘at’s ideology, nor as closely bound by the IJT’s discipline. In 1989, for instance, while the number of members and sympathizers stood at 2,400, the number of workers was 240,000.[39] The ability of the ideological link between the Jama‘at and the IJT to control the activities of the student organization is therefore tenuous. The political interests of the IJT often reflect the demands of its loosely affiliated periphery and can easily nudge the organization in independent directions; Nizami’s decision to throw the lot of the IJT in with martial rule in East Pakistan in 1971 is a case in point. In addition, organizational limitations have impeded the Jama‘at’s ability to cajole and subdue the IJT. The two are clearly separated by formal organizational boundaries, which create visible constraints in the chain of command between the them. Hence, while since 1976 a deputy amir of the Jama‘at has been assigned to supervise the IJT, his powers are limited to moral persuasion.[40]

The IJT grew more independent of the Jama‘at, and the party more dependent on the students, with the rise to power of Bhutto in 1971. The Jama‘at had been routed at the polls that year, while the IJT, fresh from a “patriotic struggle” in East Pakistan, had defeated the People’s Party’s student union, the People’s Student Federation, in a number of campus elections in Punjab, most notably in the University of Punjab elections, and had managed to sweep the various campuses of Karachi. The IJT’s victories breathed new life and hope into the dejected Jama‘at, whose anguish over the student organization’s conspicuous politicization gave way for now to admiration and awe. The IJT had “valiantly stood up” to the People’s Party and won, parrying Bhutto’s political power. The victory had, moreover, been interpreted to mean that Mawdudi’s ideas could win elections, even against the left. Following its victory, the IJT became a more suitable vehicle for launching anti–People’s Party campaigns than the Jama‘at, which as a defeated party was hard-pressed to assert itself. Unable to function as a mass-based party before the widely popular People’s Party, the Jama‘at increasingly pushed the IJT into the political limelight. The student organization soon became a de facto opposition party and began to define the parameters of its political control accordingly. When in August 1972 the people of Lahore became incensed over the kidnapping of local girls by Ghulam Mustafa Khar, the People’s Party governor of Punjab, for illicit purposes, they turned to the IJT. The organization obliged, raised the banner of protest, and secured the release of the girls by staging sizable demonstrations.[41] The IJT performed its role so effectively that it gained the recognition of the government. IJT leaders were among the first to be invited to negotiate with Bhutto later that year, once the People’s Party had decided to mollify the opposition.[42]

The IJT’s rambunctious style was a source of great concern to the People’s Party government. The student organization had not only served as the vehicle for implementing the Jama‘at’s political agenda but also was poised to take matters into its own hands and launch even more radical social action. While the Jama‘at advocated Islamic constitutionalism, the IJT had been advocating Islamic revolution. The tales of patriotic resistance and heroism in East Pakistan gave it an air of revolutionary romanticism. The myths and realities of the French student riots of 1968, which had found their way into the ambient culture of Pakistani students, provided a paradigm for student activism which helped the IJT articulate its role in national politics and to formulate a strategy for mobilizing popular dissent.[43]

The IJT thus became the mainstay of such anti-People’s Party agitational campaigns as the nonrecognition of Bangladesh (Bangladesh namanzur) movement of 1972–1974, the finality of prophecy (khatm-i nubuwwat) movement and the anti-Ahmadi controversy of 1974, and the Nizam-i Mustafa (Order of the Prophet) movement of 1977. As a result, the IJT found national recognition as a political party and a new measure of autonomy from the Jama‘at. The organization also developed a penchant for dissent, which given that it was an extraparliamentary force, could find expression only in street demonstrations and clashes with government forces. The IJT soon adapted well to militant dissent and proved to be a tenacious opponent of the People’s Party—a central actor in the anti-Bhutto national campaign that eventually led to the fall of the prime minister in 1977. Success in the political arena took the IJT to the zenith of its power, but it also restricted it to being a consummate political entity.

Following the coup of July 1977, the IJT continued on its course of political activism. It collaborated closely with the new regime in suppressing the People’s Party, used government patronage to cleanse Pakistani campuses of the left, and served as a check on the activities of a clandestine paramilitary organization associated with the People’s Party, al-Zulfiqar, in urban centers.[44] The IJT also played a critical role in mobilizing public opinion for the Afghan war, in which the organization itself participated wholeheartedly, producing seventy-two “martyrs” between 1980 and 1990.[45]

Political activism, therefore, contrary to expectations, escalated rather than abated during the Zia period. It had proved to be an irreversible process, an end in itself that became detached from the quest for an Islamic order. As a result, even though Pakistan was moving toward Islamization, the pace of political activism only increased. The students became embroiled in a new cycle of violence, fueled by rivalry with other student organizations.

Campus violence by and against the IJT and continuous assassinations, which claimed the lives of some eighty student leaders between 1982 and 1988, began to mar the heroic image which the IJT had when it was in opposition to Bhutto.[46] Violence became endemic to the organization and was soon directed against the IJT’s critics off campus.[47] The resulting “Kalashnikov culture,” efficacious as it had proved to be in waging political campaigns and intimidating opponents, was increasingly difficult for the Jama‘at either to control or to approve of. Nor was General Zia, determined to restore stability to Pakistan, willing to tolerate it.[48]

Despite pressures from Zia, the Jama‘at was unable to control its student group. Zia therefore proceeded to ban all student union activities in February 1984, which led to nationwide agitation by the IJT. Mian Tufayl (then amir), following pleas from the general, interceded with the IJT, counseling patience, but to no avail.[49] The IJT’s intransigence then began to interfere with the Jama‘at’s rapport with Zia and affect the party’s image. It was only when the IJT realized the extent of popular backlash against its activities, which translated into defeats in a number of campus elections between 1987 and 1991, that it desisted to some extent from violence on Pakistani campuses. The tempering of the IJT’s zeal was, however, merely a lull in the storm; the transformation of the student body into a militant political machine has progressed too far to be easily reversed.

Organizational Structure

The IJT’s central organization is modeled after the Jama‘at’s. At the base of its organizational structure are the supporters (hami), loosely affiliated pro-IJT students; next come the workers (karkun), the backbone of the IJT’s organization and its most numerous category; the friends (rafiq); the candidates for membership (umidvar-i rukniyat); and finally, the members (arkan). Only members can occupy official positions; the most important office is the nazim-i a‘la (supreme head/organizer). The organizational structure at the top is replicated at lower levels, producing a set of concentric circles which extend from the lowest unit to the office of nazim-i a‘la. Each IJT unit has its own nazim (head or organizer) elected by IJT members of that unit (see figure 2).

Figure 2. Organizational structure of the Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah

The first four layers of the IJT’s organizational structure have shura’s which are elected by IJT members of that unit. An IJT votary may participate in several elections for nazim or shura’ each year. For instance, he can vote in dormitory, campus, university, city, province, and national elections for nazim. The IJT’s activities and interorganization matters are supervised by the secretary-general (mu‘tamid-i a‘la), appointed by the nazim-i a‘la. Lower units of the IJT also have secretaries-general (mu‘tamids), who are selected by their respective nazims and the secretary-general of the higher unit. Each level of the IJT forms a self-contained unit and oversees the activities of the one below it. For instance, the command structure extends from the IJT’s national headquarters to the Punjab IJT, the Lahore IJT, the IJT of various universities in Lahore, the IJT of the campuses in each university, and finally the IJT of departments, classes, and dormitories in each university. On each campus, units monitor student affairs, campus politics, relations between the sexes, and the workings of university administration and faculty, at times acting as the de facto administrators of the university. The IJT regularly uses the university campus as its base of operations and utilizes university facilities such as auditoriums and buses for its purposes. Admission forms to the university are sold to applicants, generating revenue and control over the incoming students. The IJT uses strong-arm tactics to resolve the academic problems of its members or associates, provides university housing to them, and in some cases gains admission for them to the university.[50] The IJT also has subsidiary departments for international relations, the press, and publications which deal with specific areas of concern and operate out of IJT headquarters.

This organizational structure is duplicated in the IJT’s sister organization, the Islami Jami‘at Talibat (Islamic Society of Female Students), which was formed at Jama‘at’s instigation in Multan in September 1969. This organization works closely and in harmony with the IJT, extending the power of the latter over university campuses. Most Talibat members and sympathizers, much like the IJT’s founding members, come from families with Jama‘at or IJT affiliation. Their ties to the Talibat organization are therefore strong, and as a result the requirements of indoctrination and ideological education are less arduous.

The principal problem with the IJT’s organizational setup is an absence of continuity, a fault which is inherent in any organization with revolving membership. Because they must be students, members remain with the organization for comparatively short periods of time, and leaders have limited terms in office. The nazim-i a‘la and other nazims, for instance, hold office for one year and can be elected to that office only twice. Since 1947 only fifteen nazim a‘las have held that title for as long as two years. The organization has therefore been led by twenty-nine leaders in forty-four years. To alleviate the problems produced by lack of continuity, the IJT has vested greater powers in its secretariat, where bureaucratic momentum assures a modicum of organizational continuity. Also significant in creating organizational continuity has been the IJT’s regional and all-Pakistan conventions, which have been held regularly since 1948. These gatherings have given IJT members greater solidarity and an organizational identity.

All IJT associates from worker up attend training camps where they are indoctrinated in the Jama‘at’s ideological views and the IJT’s tactical methods. Acceptance into higher categories of organizational affiliation depends greatly on the degree of ideological conformity. To become a full-fledged member, candidates must read and be examined on a specific syllabus, consisting for the most part of Mawdudi’s works. All IJT associates are encouraged to collect funds for the organization through outside donations (i‘anat), which not only helps the IJT financially but also increases loyalty to the organization. Each nazim is charged with supervising the affairs of those in his unit as well as those in the subordinate units. IJT members and also candidates for membership meet regularly with their nazim, providing him with a diary known as “night and day” (ruz’u shab), in which every activity of the member or candidate for membership is recorded. The logbook details academic activities, religious study, time spent in prayers, and hours dedicated to IJT work. The book is monitored closely, and gives the IJT total control over the life of its associates from the rank of friend up to that of member.

The strict requirements for membership and advancement in the IJT have kept its membership limited. Yet organizational discipline has surmounted any limitations on the IJT’s ability effectively to project power. Its accomplishments are all the more astounding when the actual numbers of the core members responsible for the organization’s vital political role in the 1970s and the 1980s are taken into consideration (see table 2).

2. Distribution of IJT Members, 1974–1992
  Punjab Lahore Sind Karachi NWFP Baluchistan Total for Pakistan
Source: Jama‘at-i Islami.
Members 82 20 62 40 25 6 175
Friends 881 150 676 350 270 65 1,892
Members 134 38 102 80 41 10 287
Friends 762 106 584 425 233 56 1,635
Members 236 34 131 90 63 20 450
Friends 1,588 190 553 417 284 75 2,500
Members 274 42 200 110 100 10 584
Friends 844 129 616 339 308 30 1,800
Members 256 50 143 107 106 8 414
Friends 2,654 314 1,260 1,403 657 64 3,698

The IJT has also extended its activity beyond the university campus. The circle of friends (halqah-i ahbab) has for a number of years served as a loosely organized IJT alumni association. The IJT has also more effectively extended its organizational reach into high schools, a policy initiated in the mid-1960s but which gathered momentum in the late 1970s, when the IJT reached the limits of its growth on university campuses. Further organizational expansion led the IJT to look to high schools for recruits and to reach the young before other student unions could. This strategy was particularly successful in universities where a large block of students came from particular regions through special quota systems. At the Engineering University of Lahore, for instance, the IJT was increasingly hard-pressed to compete with the ethnic appeal of the Pakhtun Student Federation for the support of students from the North-West Frontier Province. To solve the problem, in 1978–1979 it began recruitment in North-West Frontier Province high schools, creating a base of support among future students of the Engineering University before they arrived in Lahore, where they would come into contact with the Pakhtun Student Federation for the first time. The strategy was so effective that the Pakhtun Student Federation was compelled to copy it.

The IJT’s recruitment of high school students, a program they referred to as Bazm-i Paygham (celebration of the message), began in earnest in 1978. In the 1960s a program had existed for attracting high school students to the IJT, named Halqah-i Madaris (the school wing),[51] but the Bazm-i Paygham was a more concerted effort. Magazines spread the message among its young audience and promoted themes of organization and unity through neighborhood and high school clubs. The project was named after its main magazine, Bazm-i Paygham (circulation 20,000). Additional magazines cater to regional needs. In Punjab the magazine was Paygham Digest (circulation 22,000); in North-West Frontier Province, Mujahid (circulation 8,000); and in Sind, Sathi (circulation 14,000).[52] These journals emphasize not politics but religious education, so students can gain familiarity with the Jama‘at’s message and affinity with the IJT. Bazm-i Paygham has been immensely successful. Since 1983 the IJT has been recruiting exponentially more associates in high schools than in universities. The project has also benefited the Jama‘at; for many of those whom Bazm-i Paygham reaches in high schools never go to university and would not otherwise come into contact with the Jama‘at and its literature. More than a tactical ploy to extend the organizational reach of the IJT, this effort may prove to be a decisive means for expanding the social base of the Jama‘at and deepening the influence of the party on Pakistani society.

Although the IJT was modeled after the Jama‘at, it has transformed itself into a political organization at a much faster pace than the parent party. That the IJT relies more heavily on a periphery of supporters than the Jama‘at has sublimated its view of itself as a holy community in favor of a political organization to a greater extent. For that reason the IJT serves as a model for the Jama‘at’s development, and not vice versa.

While the Jama‘at’s membership has been drawn primarily from the urban lower-middle classes, the IJT has also drawn members from among small-town and rural people. Students from the rural areas are not only more keen on religious issues and more likely to identify with religious groups but are also more likely to be affected by the IJT’s operations on campuses than urban students are. The IJT controls university hostels and provides administrative and academic services, all of which are also more frequently used by rural and small-town students than by city dwellers. In essence, the IJT exercises a form of social control on campuses which brings these students into its orbit and under the Jama‘at’s influence.

The vagaries of Pakistani politics provide rural and small-town students with an incentive to follow the IJT’s lead. Religious parties—the Jama‘at is the most notable case in point—have since 1947 provided the only gateway for the middle and lower-middle classes, urban as well as rural, into the rigid and forbidding structure of Pakistani politics. Dominated by the landed gentry and the propertied elite through an intricate patronage system, political offices have generally remained closed to the lower classes. As a result, once attracted to political activism, rural, small-town, and urban lower-middle class youth flock to the ranks of the IJT in search of a place in national politics. The IJT’s social control on campuses is therefore reinforced by the organization’s promise of political enfranchisement to aspiring students.

A third of the current leaders of the Jama‘at began as members or affiliates of the IJT (see table 3). The IJT recruits in the ranks of the Jama‘at have created a block of voters in the party who bring with them close organizational bonds and a camaraderie born of years of student activism, and whose worldview, shaped by education in modern subjects and keenly attuned to politics, is at odds with that of the generation of ulama and traditional Muslim literati they will succeed. By virtue of the sheer weight of their numbers, IJT recruits are significantly influencing the Jama‘at and are improving organizational continuity between the Jama‘at and the IJT.

In the final analysis, the IJT has been a successful organization and a valuable political tool for the Jama‘at, though its very success eventually checked its growth and led the organization down the path to violence. Throughout the 1970s, the IJT seriously impaired the operation of a far larger mass party, the People’s Party, a feat accomplished by a small core of dedicated activists (see table 2). The lesson of this success was not lost on other small aspiring Pakistani parties, who also turned to student activism to gain political prominence. Nor did larger political organizations such as the People’s Party or the Muslim League, who had an interest in restricting entry into the political arena, remain oblivious to student politics as a weapon. They concluded that the menace of student activism could be confronted only by students. The Muslim Student Federation was revived by the Muslim League in 1985 with the specific aim of protecting that party’s government from the IJT. The resulting rivalries for the control of campuses, needless to add, has not benefited the educational system in Pakistan.

3. Jama‘at-i Islami Leaders with a Background in the IJT in 1989–90
  Rank in the Jama‘at Level of Affiliation with IJT
Source: Office of the secretary-general of the Jama‘at-i Islami.
Qazi Husain Ahmad Amir Friend
Khurram Jah Murad Deputy amir Nazim-i a‘la
Khurshid Ahmad Deputy amir Nazim-i a‘la
Chaudhri Aslam Salimi Secretary-general Friend
Liaqat Baluch Deputy secretary-general Nazim-i a‘la
Hafiz Muhammad Idris Deputy secretary-general[a] Member/senior Member
Sayyid Munawwar Hasan Amir of Karachi[b] Nazim-i a‘la
‘Abdu’l-Muhsin Shahin Amir of Multan Member
Shabbir Ahmad Khan Amir of Peshawar Member
Rashid Turabi Amir of Azad Kashmir Member
Amiru’’l-‘Azim Director of information department Member
Maqsud Ahmad Secretary-general of Punjab Member
‘Abdu’l-Rahman Quraishi Director of international affairs Secretary-general of Sind
Now amir of Punjab.Now secretary-general of the Jama‘at.

The proliferation of student organizations was also a function of the sacralizing of campus politics. The IJT’s success in the 1970s had pointed to the importance of Islamic loyalties among students. Few other viable “Islamic” student organizations existed then, and the IJT reigned supreme among religiously conscious Pakistani students. The IJT had successfully manipulated this state of affairs, translating disapproval of the People’s Party’s avowed socialism and Bhutto’s indiscreet breaches of Muslim moral sensibilities among the religiously conscious students into victories in campus elections. As a result the IJT was able to produce a single political platform and to win votes far exceeding its numbers—exactly what the Jama‘at had always aimed at and failed to do. Other Islamic parties, however, quickly became aware of the basis of the IJT’s success and, wishing to tap into the same vote bank, strengthened student organizations of their own. Many of these organizations were formed by those who broke away from the IJT. The founders of the Jami‘at-i Tulabah-i Ahl-i Hadith Pakistan (Ahl-i Hadith Student Organization of Pakistan) and the Anjuman-i Tulabah-i Islam (Society of Muslim Students), a student group affiliated with the Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Pakistan (Society of Pakistani Ulama), in 1987–1988, for example, had been members and leaders of the IJT. By 1981, Punjab had become infested with student organizations, most of them associated with right-of-center and religious parties. No longer restrained by their opposition to a common enemy—Bhutto, socialism, and the People’s Party, which the IJT had purged from the campuses between 1977 and 1981—the neophyte student organizations began to nibble at the IJT’s base of support, splintered the religious vote, and significantly reduced the IJT’s power base.

The IJT’s predicament was also precipitated by the authoritarian nature and Islamic image of the Zia regime. Urban students in Pakistan are more politically conscious than rural ones, who are primarily motivated by religious concerns.[53] The People’s Party government in the 1970s, with its authoritarian style and secular posture, had provided the IJT with the means to coalesce the antiauthoritarian urban and the religiously conscious rural students into a single student protest movement. Zia, by appealing to the religious sensibilities of rural students and antagonizing the politically conscious urban students, divided the IJT’s constituency. As a result the IJT began to lose elections on one campus after another, and by 1984 it had become bogged down in a vicious battle with rival student organizations—religious, ethnic, and secular in orientation—to protect its turf. Most small-town campuses in Punjab were lost to the Anjuman. Competition with the Anjuman by 1989 escalated to pitched battles in Gujranwala which left at least one student dead. The Muslim Student Federation, meanwhile, managed to unseat the IJT in a number of Lahore campuses, again culminating in a cycle of assassinations. The violence brought the burgeoning anti–People’s Party alliance, Islami Jumhuri Ittihad (Islamic Democratic Alliance [IJI]), which included both the Jama‘at and the Muslim League, to the brink of collapse in 1989. The People’s Student Federation and the Pakhtun Student Federation in North-West Frontier Province, the People’s Student Federation in Islamabad, and the Baluch Student Federation in Baluchistan went into battle against the IJT. Finally, in rural Sind the People’s Student Federation and Sindhi nationalist student groups and in Karachi and Hyderabad the All-Pakistan Muhajir Student Organization (APMSO), a breakaway of the IJT floated by the Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz (Muhajir National Front), routed the IJT in student elections and restricted its maneuverability on campuses. The Muhajir organization was founded in 1986 by a group of Muhajir IJT members who objected to the Punjabi domination of the IJT. It has since controlled the politics of the urban centers of Sind and has emerged as a formidable force in Pakistani politics. The IJT’s confrontation with the APMSO in 1988 turned Karachi University into a war zone, forcing the military to occupy the university and to close it down. During 1990–1992, when the Jama‘at was a member of the ruling coalition, clashes between the IJT and the APMSO acted as a major source of tension within the IJI government. Fighting simultaneously against religious, ethnic, and secular student organizations has also created confusion in the ranks of the IJT with deleterious consequences.

Despite all these setbacks and after more than a decade of student battles (1980–1992), the IJT continues to remain the most prominent student force in Pakistan. Efforts such as Bazm-i Paygham have helped the IJT to overcome some of the ground lost in the universities, but more important, the IJT has remained the only student organization which exists in every province and on every university campus and therefore is the only student organization capable of acting on a national scale. As a sign of its continued vitality, the IJT has managed to retain control over the University of Punjab, the most important Pakistani university and the prize of student politics.

The greatest significance and long-run effect of the IJT, however, lies in its influence on Pakistani society. Year after year a multitude of students come into contact with the Jama‘at’s literature through the IJT; many even undergo various levels of indoctrination at a formative and impressionable juncture in their lives. Through the IJT, the Jama‘at leaves a permanent mark on the potential thinking and style of future Pakistani leaders, intellectuals, and bureaucrats. Regardless of where the alumni and sympathizers of the IJT go following their graduation, whether they stay close to the Jama‘at or veer off in other directions, they carry the mark of the Jama‘at—its reading of Islam and its social ethos—with them. They become the vehicles for a gradual and yet fundamental process of cultural engineering that is at the center of Mawdudi’s original program and that has far greater social and ultimately political ramifications than the immediate gains of the IJT.

Between Universalism and National Identity

An analysis of the Jama‘at’s organization has to determine its identity and aim—does the Jama‘at view itself as a Pakistani or a pan-Islamist party? How the party identifies itself lies at the heart of its politics, and ultimately determines its social role. The division in the Jama‘at’s organization which followed the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 committed the party to the concept of the “nation-state,” which, above and beyond Mawdudi’s universalist claims, has determined the pattern of the Jama‘at’s political activities. The Jama‘at’s history attests to the truth of Benedict Anderson’s observation that “nation-ness is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.”[54] Today, there exist eight Jama‘at-i Islamis; six in Pakistan, India,[55] Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir, and India’s Kashmir province,[56] plus the United Kingdom Islamic Mission and the Islamic Circle of North America. While all of these organizations are based on Mawdudi’s ideological perspective and replicate the organizational structure of the Jama‘at-i Islami of Pakistan with minor variations, they operate as separate entities, with activities defined by the territorial boundaries of the state in which they function. Relations between the various Jama‘at-i Islami parties, much like their relations with other revivalist movements, is also conditioned by nation-state boundaries. For these boundaries create barriers to greater unity among revivalist groups in general and the various Jama‘at-i Islamis in particular, bestowing a “national” independence upon each party that militates against universalism. As an indication of the extent of this independence, one can point to the difference in the reactions of the Jama‘at-i Islamis of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India to the Persian Gulf war in 1990–1991. While the Jama‘at-i Islami of Pakistan was anti-American and anti-Saudi, the Jama‘at-i Islamis of Bangladesh and India throughout the crisis condemned Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and maintained that Saddam Hussein was the archvillain.[57]

The evident doctrinal discrepancy between the Jama‘at’s professed universalist intentions and the party’s territorial and national reality is a bone of contention within the Jama‘at and a by-product of the party’s modernization that replaced the quest for a pan-Islamic order with a political dialectic premised on the concept of the nation-state. This discrepancy was already present when the Jama‘at was founded, in its communalist concerns and universalist agenda of renewal and reform of Islam which lay at the center of Muslim political discourse at the time. That is why the founders of the Jama‘at, while grappling with the immediate political predicaments of the Muslims in India, also devoted considerable energy to the propagation of Mawdudi’s works outside India.[58] This task was entrusted to Masu‘d ‘Alam Nadwi, who had overseen the activities of the Arabic Translation Bureau in Jullundar since 1942. In 1944, Nadwi expanded the activities of the translation bureau by establishing Al-Huda, a journal of Islamic studies in Arabic, which was published in Pathankot. The journal exported the Jama‘at’s program to the Arabs, and to the Muslim world at large, where Arabic continues to be the lingua franca of religious circles. The Jullundar operation translated an impressive number of Mawdudi’s works into Arabic; they began to appear in Palestine and Iraq in 1947 and in Egypt and Syria soon thereafter. The bureau was transferred first to Rawalpindi and later to Lahore following the partition, where it continues to function with unabated vigor today.[59] Mawdudi’s numerous travels through the Arab world in subsequent years helped establish a place for his works in that region and also further spread Jama‘at’s influence into more distant lands such as Tunisia and Morocco. Hitherto unaffected Muslims in Gabon, Mali, Malaysia, and Iran first came into contact with Mawdudi’s works through these Arabic translations, making them important in the development of contemporary revivalist thought.[60] Similar projects were devised to translate the Jama‘at’s literature into Turkish and English, and later into an array of other languages from Japanese to Swahili, to augment the already significant impact of Mawdudi’s thought. By 1974 Mawdudi’s Risalah-i Diniyat (1932) had been translated into twenty-six languages, from Sinhala and Malayalam to English, French, and Spanish.

The significance of Mawdudi’s works and the Jama‘at’s untiring efforts to propagate them far and wide in the rise and articulation of revivalism in the Islamic world underline the universalist pretensions of the movement. However, the Jama‘at’s transnational aims and impact end there. The party, while aware of its importance in the Muslim world and eager to make its mark outside of Pakistan, has no concrete agenda for a supranational Islamic order. Its universalism is effectively checked and limited by its commitment to Pakistani politics and the vicissitudes of sociopolitical change in that country. The reality of the struggle for the soul of Pakistan has collapsed the Jama‘at into the mold of “territorial” politics, relegating universalism to a secondary concern. Although the Jama‘at has supported Islamic causes across the Muslim world, most actively in Afghanistan, India, and Tajikistan, Pakistan remains the focus of its political program. Much like the tensions witnessed in communist history between the interests of the former Soviet Union and those of a universalist communist doctrine, the Jama‘at’s revivalism, unable to escape the fate of universalist ideologies which have preceded it, is Pakistani first and only then international. This development is itself a significant innovation in contemporary Islamic political thought, a modernization of doctrine and worldview produced by the interaction of a universalist doctrine with the reality of the nation-state.


1. RJI, vol. 1, 35–37 and 40. Also the Jama‘at set up a tax division on August 31, 1941, again with a view to supporting the propaganda efforts.

2. Maryam Jameelah, Islam in Theory and Practice (Lahore, 1973), 336.

3. Cited in Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat,” in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago, 1991), 492.

4. RJI, vol. 1, 45–56; vol. 2, 16–28; vol. 3, 53–96; and vol. 4, 37–40.

5. Jameelah, Islam in Theory, 337.

6. Ibid., 338–40.

7. During Mawdudi’s tenure of office, on a number of occasions, other Jama‘at leaders served as provisional amirs. While Mawdudi was in prison in 1948–1950, ‘Abdu’l-Jabbar Ghazi and ‘Abdu’l-Ghaffar Hasan were jointly provisional amirs. According to one account, Mas‘ud ‘Alam Nadwi also served briefly as amir during this period, between 1949 and 1950; see RJI, vol. 6, 144–45. In 1953–1955, when Mawdudi was again imprisoned, first Sultan Ahmad and, later, Amin Ahsan Islahi served as provisional amirs. In 1956, when Mawdudi was away on a tour of the Arab world, ‘Abdu’l-Ghaffar Hasan served as the overseer of the party. Finally, in 1969, when Mawdudi underwent medical treatment in England, Mian Tufayl Muhammad served as the acting amir.

8. The date of this meeting is cited in A’in (April 25, 1985): 6.

9. TQ (June–August 1971).

10. Mian Tufayl joined the Jama‘at in 1941; he served as the secretary-general of the party from 1942 to 1972 and for a period was deputy amir and vice-amir.

11. Mawlana Muhammad Manzur Nu‘mani, Mawlana Mawdudi Miri Sath Rifaqat ki Sarguzasht Awr Ab Mira Mauqaf (Lahore, 1980), 38.

12. RJI, vol. 6, 154.

13. JIKUS, 42.

14. RJI, vol. 6, 131–32.

15. RJI, vol. 7, 60.

16. ISIT(2), 44.

17. Figure provided by the election commission.

18. RJI, vol. 1, 84. The figures are as cited in the sources and do not reflect changes in the value of the rupee compared to the dollar.

19. Ibid., 77.

20. RJI, vol. 5, 92; and vol. 6, 168.

21. U. S. Embassy, Karachi, disp. #61, 7/27/1956, 790D.00/7–2756, NA.

22. Between 1941 and 1945 the income of the Jama‘at stood at Rs. 73,119, Rs. 42,573 of which came from the sale of books, Rs. 19,531 from outside help to the Jama‘at, and Rs. 5,118 from zakat donations; see RJI, vol. 3, 50–52. The income from the sale of animal skins and hides collected during religious holidays when animals are sacrifices, in 1955 was Rs. 70,000; U. S. Embassy, Karachi, disp. #61, 7/27/1956, 790D.00/7–2756, NA.

23. Jama‘at’s ties with Saudi Arabia go as far back as the 1950s, when Mawdudi’s Arabic translations gained him respect among Saudi Arabian ulama and with the country’s rulers King Saud and King Faisal. The former personally funded Mawdudi’s trip to Saudi Arabia in 1959–1960. In 1963 Mawdudi got permission from Saudi Arabian authorities to have the cloth covering the Ka‘bah (the kiswah) made in Lahore rather than in Cairo, and in 1965 he became a founder and member of the board of governors of Medina University; SAAM, vol. 2, 77–79. Mawdudi was also honored with the prestigious and generous Faisal Award for his services to Islam, the proceeds of which funded the establishment of Jama‘at’s Islamic Studies Academy in Lahore.

24. The Islamic Foundation was in fact one of the initiators of the entire anti-Rushdie campaign in England, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Following the publication of The Satanic Verses, the foundation circulated numerous photocopies of passages from Rushdie’s book in England and distributed them far and wide across the Muslim world, and Jama‘at’s emissaries traveled to Saudi Arabia to secure funding for the anti-Rushdie campaign. Jama‘at activists in England then utilized Saudi Arabia’s support to galvanize the Muslim community of England and to alert Muslims across the world of their cause. It was following weeks-long agitations in England that Pakistan and later Iran joined the fray and converted the issue into a diplomatic imbroglio; interviews in London and Islamabad.

25. Sayyid Abu’l-A‘la Mawdudi, Tafhimat (Lahore, 1965), vol. 2, 286. At that time student activism was rampant in northern India, and critical to the success of the Pakistan movement; Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Education in Pakistan: An Inquiry into Objectives and Achievements (Karachi, 1975), 263–65.

26. Interview with Zafaru’llah Khan in JVNAT, vol. 1, 11.

27. Ahmad Anas, “Jami‘at ka Ta’sisi Pasmanzar,” in TT, vol. 1, 113–14.

28. Interview with Khurram Jah Murad in JVNAT, vol. 1, 48.

29. Interviews with Khurshid Ahmad and Absar Ahmad in JVNAT, vol. 1, 144–45 and 153.

30. Interview with Khurshid Ahmad in JVNAT, vol. 1, 127–28.

31. Gilani, in fact, cites combating the left as a reason why the IJT was initially formed; see Sayyid Asad Gilani, Maududi: Thought and Movement (Lahore, 1984), 78.

32. Interview with Khurshid Ahmad.

33. Interview with Zafar Ishaq Ansari, an early leader of the IJT.

34. Interview with Israr Ahmad in JVNAT, vol. 1, 92–99.

35. See Mawdudi’s speeches of May 30, June 19, and October 30, 1955; cited in MMKT, vol. 3, 31–36, 51–54, and 108–17.

36. On November 9, 1969, for instance, Mawdudi told a gathering of IJT members that the important task before them was to rid Pakistani universities of the left; cited in SAAM, vol. 2, 348–49.

37. Salim Mansur Khalid, Al-Badr (Lahore, 1985); and K. M. Aminu’l-Haq, “Al-Badr Commander Bulta Hi,” in TT, vol. 2, 326–54.

38. Interview with Muti‘u’l-Rahman Nizami in JVNAT, vol. 2, 234–35.

39. The Annual Report of Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah (Lahore, 1988), 4–10.

40. The extent of the IJT’s activities have led to charges, often credible, that IJT workers receive stipends from the Jama‘at, suggesting that furtive financial linkages do exist between the two organizations. One source cites that stipends of Rs. 150 to Rs. 1,000 per month are dispersed among IJT workers, depending on the level and function of the worker or member; Friday Times (September 14, 1989): 11.

41. ‘Abdu’l-Shakur, “Jahan-i Tazah ki Takbirin,” in TT, vol. 2, 71–72.

42. Javid Hashmi, “Ik Jur’at-i Rindanah,” in TT, vol. 2, 51–52.

43. Hafiz Khan, “Zawq-i ‘Amal,” in TT, vol. 2, 23.

44. U. S. Embassy, Islamabad, disp. #5303, 5/7/1979, DFTUSED, no. 45, 61.

45. Information was provided by offices of the Jama‘at-i Islami of Sind, Karachi.

46. Cited in Zahid Hussain, “The Campus Mafias,” Herald (October 1988), 52. Some thirty of those killed belonged to the IJT.

47. On the attack on the offices of the Muslim newspaper in Islamabad, see U. S. Embassy, Islamabad, disp. #7850, 7/12/1979, DFTUSED, no. 46, 1–2.

48. Muhammad Afzal, Zia’s minister of education, negotiated with Khurshid Ahmad, Jama‘at’s overseer of the IJT, on the issue of student violence a number of times. The Jama‘at resisted taking serious measures, in part due to its fear of being unable to control the IJT. The regime then decided to ban all student union activities as a way of clamping down on the IJT; interview with Muhammad Afzal.

49. Interview with Mian Tufayl.

50. Friday Times (September 14, 1989): 11.

51. Hamqadam (July and August 1965).

52. Information provided by the Office of Secretary-General of the IJT.

53. Kiren Aziz Chaudhry and Peter McDonough, “State, Society, and Sin: The Political Beliefs of University Students in Pakistan,” Economic Development and Cultural Change 32, 1 (October 1983): 28.

54. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (New York, 1991), 3.

55. The Jama‘at-i Islami was officially divided into Indian and Pakistani organizations in February 1948. Of the organization’s 625 members at the time 385 ended up in Pakistan and 240 remained in India; see JIKUS, 52.

56. The Jama‘at-i Islami of Kashmir was formed in 1947 at the time of Partition. RJI, vol. 5, 61, which gives a list of Jama‘at members in 1947, cites no members in Kashmir. It has, however, been argued that a number of Kashmiris had visited Daru’l-Islam as early as 1937–1938. They set up the first Jama‘at cell in Jamun in 1944 and in Kashmir in 1946; see ‘Ashiq Kashmiri, Tarikhi Tahrik-i Islami, Jamun’u Kashmir (Lahore, 1989), 212–99. The party in that province, however, continued to grow independently of its sister organization centered in Delhi and is today a major actor in the separatist movement in that province. According to Jama‘at sources the Jama‘at-i Islami of Kashmir runs over 1,000 schools in the vale of Kashmir; interview with Khurshid Ahmad.

57. Mumtaz Ahmad, “The Politics of War: Islamic Fundamentalisms in Pakistan,” in James Piscatori, ed., Islamic Fundamentalisms and the Gulf Crisis (Chicago, 1991), 180.

58. As a result the Jama‘at has influenced the development of revivalism across the Muslim world. On the Jama‘at’s influence in the West, the Arab World, Afghanistan, Iran, and Malaysia, see Larry Poston, Islamic Da‘wah in the West: Muslim Missionary Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam (New York, 1992), 64–93; Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics (New Haven, 1985); John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York, 1992), 154–55; Abdelwahab El-Affendi, “The Long March from Lahore to Khartoum: Beyond the "Muslim Reformation,’ ” British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Bulletin 17, 2 (1990): 138–39; Abdel Azim Ramadan, “Fundamentalist Influence in Egypt: The Strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Takfir Groups,” in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Polities, Economies, and Militance (Chicago, 1993), 156 and 161; Olivier Roy, Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan (New York, 1990), 68–70 and 80; Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran (New York, 1988); and Zainah Anwar, Islamic Fundamentalism in Malaysia (Kualalampur, 1989).

59. Mawdudi’s works were, for the main part, translated into Arabic by four of his followers: Mas‘ud ‘Alam Nadwi, Muhammad Kazim, ‘Asimu’l-Haddad, and Khalil Ahmadu’l-Hamidi. The four were all competent Arabists, of whom only Hamidi remains with the Jama‘at today, as the director of the Arabic Translation Bureau. For an outline of the bureau’s activities, see Khalil Ahmadu’l-Hamidi, “Jama‘at-i Islami ki Dasturi Jadd’u Jahd,” in CRTIN, 337–55.

60. Mawdudi’s works began to appear in Iran in the 1960s. They were translated into Persian from Arabic by Ayatollah Hadi Khusrawshahi and members of a translating team working with him. Articles on Mawdudi and excerpts from his works also appeared in various issues of Khusrawshahi’s journal Maktab-i Islam. Following the revolution of 1978–1979, a number of Mawdudi’s works were translated into Persian from Arabic by Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Khamana’i. Interestingly, the first Persian translation of a work of Mawdudi was done in Hyderabad, Deccan, by Mahmud Faruqi in 1946; RJI, vol. 4, 90. More recent translations of Mawdudi’s works into Persian have occurred in Pakistan by the Jama‘at, which target the Afghan community of Pakistan.

4. Social Base

Islamic revivalism, far from being an abstract expression of religious sentiment, is intensely political in its outlook, because it intends to alter the balance of power and the structure of social relations. The lower-middle classes—the petite bourgeoisie—have been identified as its social base and as having shaped its political outlook and pattern of social action.[1] In Pakistan, Islamic revivalism is said to draw its support primarily from this class, and within it from among the educated and the refugees of the partition of the Subcontinent (the Muhajirs), and the Jama‘at’s membership supports these conclusions. But the Jama‘at’s membership also presents a more complex picture by drawing attention to continuity and change in the ethnic composition and lower-middle-class base of Islamic revivalism.

The Jama‘at’s record of activity in Pakistan shows both its success as an “organizational weapon” and its failure as a political movement. Although it is not inconsequential as a pressure group, it has no real power, as repeated failures at the polls show. Its lackluster political performance no doubt is a consequence of its doctrinaire and elitist outlook on politics. Ever since it was formed, the Jama‘at has shown an aversion to populism and a disregard for the demands of the poor, preferring instead to trust its political fortunes to a policy that interprets all issues through the prism of religious exegesis and is directed at winning over the elite, suggesting that its objective has been to take over the state from secular leaders rather than give voice to the demands of the masses. As a result, it is indifferent to sociopolitical concerns, and its organizational culture, reinforced by its rigid command structure, discipline, and strict membership criteria, has encouraged that indifference. This reflects its image as a holy community and a vanguard of an Islamic revolutionary struggle, but it stymies any hope of becoming a political movement with the large following needed for success in electoral politics. As a result, it has become cut off from Pakistani society. Despite their revolutionary pretensions and indefatigable preparations for the realization of their political goals, Mawdudi and his followers never sought support in any social class or effectively anchored their program in any social movement.

In a society divided by deep socioeconomic cleavages, animated by ethnic rivalries, and plagued by poverty and extreme economic inequality, the Jama‘at’s promise of an Islamic order and its preoccupation with halting the progress of the secular state have been increasingly challenged. Not long after the Jama‘at moved to Pakistan, the first cracks in the party’s ideological edifice began to show. The Jama‘at soon became aware of the problems facing the Pakistani underclass and began social work among the refugees. That paid some dividends in later years. The party’s success in the Karachi municipal elections of 1958 was, in part, a product of this work, and the Jama‘at, acknowledging that, promised a form of welfare state for Pakistan. But it never moved beyond this rudimentary acknowledgment of the political relevance of the grievances of the poor to appreciating the potential of populism.[2] It cultivated votes among the poor through social work, but failed to advocate their cause. The party’s services were appreciated, but its politics were irrelevant to the demands of the underprivileged. In the end, this did not prove catastrophic, however. It marginalized the party and curtailed its social impact, but it did not altogether exclude it from politics. The Jama‘at simply settled for less; it continued to call Pakistanis to revolution, but in practice it accepted incremental change.

The disjunction between the party’s practice and the dictates of politics did not mean that the party’s plan of action was totally divorced from social influences. The Jama‘at would never have survived Pakistani politics had its ideology not found support from important segments of the population. But the initiative for attracting a social base did not come from the party but from that part of society that found the party’s views relevant to their lives and aspirations and handed it a base of support. In the words of one observer of the Jama‘at in 1950: “In Karachi, Lahore and smaller Sindhi cities he [Mawdudi] drew large crowds…. [H]e has an appeal to a broad mass of the people who have a feeling that the government is not all that it should be, but who cannot put their finger on the causes.”[3]

Changes in the Jama‘at’s outlook and structure have modified its social base over the years, but its social appeal has not deepened so much as it has spread. The Jama‘at’s place in Pakistan’s political equation is today more complex than it was when the party moved to Lahore in 1947. It has been recognized as important to the delicate balance of power which sustains the country’s political process.

Finding a Social Base

The lack of detailed membership records makes the task of determining the exact social composition and base of support of the Jama‘at difficult. Much, however, can be surmised from electoral and membership data.

All of the Jama‘at Islami’s original seventy-five members in 1941 came from the ranks of the young ulama and the religious literati of northern India.[4] By 1947 its 625 members represented a wider geographic distribution, but the social composition remained roughly the same. With no political agenda, the Jama‘at’s appeal in those years was to the religious and moral sensibility of its audience. It found fertile ground among the followers of those religious schools and communities sympathetic to Mawdudi’s exegesis on Islam, and who did not follow the Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Hind or the Congress party, and had no political organization of their own. The members of the Ahl-i Hadith were a case in point. With their austere theology, strict reliance on the fundamentals of the Islamic faith in religious exegesis, antagonism toward Deobandi and Brailwi ulama, vehement opposition to Sufism and to the popular practices associated with it, and emphasis upon individual interpretation, which closely paralleled Mawdudi’s reading of Islam and the Jama‘at’s doctrine, they flocked to the Jama‘at and formed the core of its early followers and supporters. Until recently, when the Ahl-i Hadith formed its own national religiopolitical and student organizations, the followers of this school of Islam found that the Jama‘at best represented their political views.[5] The Ahl-i Hadith tradition was, and continues to be, strongest among the educated middle-class, and especially lower-middle-class, Muslims of northern India and Pakistan. The Jama‘at’s religious doctrines, not its political agenda, encouraged support among those same people.

If the Jama‘at ever set out to win support among any social stratum, it was among educated Muslims, whom the party regarded as the primary agents for effecting a revolution from above. This made the caliber of its members intellectually high,[6] but did not extend its influence beyond the lower-middle classes,[7] and despite diligent proselytizing among the intelligentsia, the Jama‘at even failed to establish a solid base of support among them.[8] Mawdudi’s exegesis was sufficiently creative to capture their attention and even to bring some into the party’s ambit, since his modernizing proclivities appealed to them and gave the Jama‘at a niche in their culture. Despite his untiring efforts, however, Mawdudi never could bridge the gap which separated the Islamic from the modern worldview and to resolve the contradictions inherent in such concepts as “democratic caliphate,” “Islamic ideology,” and “Islamic democracy.” He presented Islam using the language and logic of the educated classes but failed to persuade them of the logical consistency of his hybrid formulations. His discursive casuistry was plagued by anomalies and often collapsed into moralizing sermons with threats of damnation and promises of salvation. As Mawdudi’s ideology remained ill at ease with modern thought, so did the Jama‘at with the intelligentsia. Its support came more and more from the lower-middle classes, who were both religious and educated enough to be receptive to his polemic. As the years passed the Jama‘at increasingly relied on the IJT and its white-collar unions rather than ideology to compel the educated to join its ranks. Jama‘at members blame government harassment and the charges of sedition and subversion leveled against them, especially between 1947 and 1956, for their failure to recruit more effectively from among the educated classes.[9]

Over the years the party has been run by those who have received a modern education and not by the ulama. By 1964 the ulama who dominated the first shura’s made up only 26 percent of the central shura’,[10] and in 1970, 45 percent of the East Pakistan and West Pakistan’s provincial shura’s.[11] In the same year only 20 percent of those assigned National Assembly seats in the general elections were ulama.[12] By 1989, of the Jama‘at’s top fifteen officeholders, only one was educated at a seminary (madrasah).[13]

Changes in the social composition of the Jama‘at do not only reflect the party’s campaign for support among those with a modern education but are also a consequence of the patrimonial structure of Pakistani politics. The firm control of the landowning and propertied class over the political parties and electoral process in Pakistan and the upper-class domination of politics owing to the high cost of entry into the electoral system have made ideological parties such as the Jama‘at the sole avenue for political advancement by the educated middle- and especially lower-middle-class youth. The Jama‘at, for instance, is almost unique in Pakistan (one exception is the Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz, the Muhajir National Front) in determining promotions in the party, distribution of local and national offices, and assignment of national, provincial, district, and city tickets in general elections solely based on merit and loyalty. The lower-middle-class background of the Jama‘at’s leaders and elected officials contrasts sharply with the upper-class leaders of other Pakistani national parties, from the avowedly populist People’s Party to the nationalist Muslim League. As long as patrimonial norms prevail, the Jama‘at will continue to benefit from recruiting the politically frustrated aspiring middle and lower-middle classes.

The surge in members with a “modern” education has also laicized the party, encouraging its bureaucratization and the replacing of its ideological zeal with a utilitarian approach to political activism. Those with a modern education maintain only informal ties with the traditional Islamic sodalities and are not bound by their norms and discipline. They view questions of principle and ideological fidelity differently and are free to use the emotive power of religion for sociopolitical purposes.

The Jama‘at’s social base has also been dictated by its literary tendencies. In 1951, only 13.8 percent of Pakistan’s population was literate, and in 1990 that number had risen only to 28 percent. The poor, and the underclass who do not read, remain cut off from the logic and language of the party. The folly of this approach has become increasingly apparent as the country has moved toward democratization. One may well question the wisdom of emphasizing education and literary propaganda when most of the voters of Pakistan cannot read.

The problem is not only the disjunction between the party’s literary bent and the rampant illiteracy in Pakistan. The dominance of traditional power relations based on the patronage systems supported by pirs or hereditary landed families in the rural areas has limited the Jama‘at’s access to the Pakistani peasantry as well as to recent urban immigrants who retain their loyalty to the rural power structures centered in the landlord and the pir. The party’s political influence is therefore effectively limited to the urban areas, an impediment further complicated by the disjunction between the Jama‘at’s ideological outlook and style and the religious and political culture of the rural areas, especially in Sind and Punjab.

One need not look too far to find fundamental differences between the Jama‘at’s puritanical and modernizing exegesis on Islam and the culturally eclectic and generally “maraboutist” religion of the poor. Still, converting the poor to the “true” Islam of the Jama‘at and making inroads need not have been the insurmountable problems they have proved to be had the party been able effectively to communicate with the Pakistani underclass. But the Jama‘at is rooted in the high culture of the Muslims of northern India and in the tradition of Islamic learning in the Subcontinent, which means that the party is firmly grounded in Urdu.[14] The party, moreover, much like the Muslim League had viewed Urdu as the linchpin of the two-nation theory and a cornerstone of Pakistani nationalism. Allegiance to Urdu was therefore an article of faith in the Jama‘at. The rural and urban poor are as deeply rooted in vernaculars such as Baluchi, Pakhtun, Punjabi, Siraiki, and Sindhi. Outside of the Muhajir communities of Sind, Urdu is not used below the lower-middle class.[15] This problem is an obvious hindrance to the Jama‘at’s ability to contend with the ethnic aspect of Pakistani politics. It stands in contrast to the widely popular Tablighi Jama‘at, whose following cuts across class as well as ethnic boundaries, and which uses the local vernaculars. For instance, the Jama‘at was firmly opposed to giving Bengali equal status with Urdu in Pakistan between 1947 and 1971, which seriously compromised the party’s ability to influence the politics of East Pakistan. Similar trends have been evident in recent years, as ethnic loyalties have stolen the political limelight from Islam, willy-nilly hampering the party’s ability to maneuver in the political arena. Since ethnic sentiments often echo socioeconomic grievances, as was the case with the rise of the Awami League in East Pakistan, and is most clearly reflected in the MQM’s political platform, the Jama‘at’s social base has become doubly constricted. Its elitist and pro-Pakistan program has limited appeal among the urban and rural poor, who support the various ethnic parties.

The problem is shared by all Islamic revivalist parties in Pakistan, a highly fractious and precarious polity, where ethnic and parochial sentiments command the allegiance of a significant share of the population, especially among the lower classes. The logic of separating and making a Muslim homeland has continued to inform its political development. So central has been the role of ethnic and linguistic loyalties in Pakistani politics that the country has fought two civil wars to defend the primacy of its federal union: first in 1971, which ended in the dismemberment of Pakistan; and again, during 1973–1977 when Baluchistan threatened to secede. Since then, however, Pakistan continues to be plagued by ethnic separatism, the more so in the 1980s with the call for “Sindhudesh” (rhymes with Bangladesh) in some quarters. Pakistan’s ordeal with ethnic and linguistic nationalism emphasizes the dangers posed to this homeland of Muslims, which have beckoned the Islamic revivalist parties to its defense, and underscores the power and potential of ethnic and linguistic loyalties as a fundamental pillar of popular politics. It is not surprising that national parties such as the People’s Party have been compelled to pay homage to ethnic and linguistic sentiments in order to bolster their political standing.

The dilemma is how to defend the territorial integrity of Pakistan while still serving the party’s political interests that entail accommodation of popular ethnic sentiment. Caught in the tangle of a federal arrangement defined in terms of the boundaries of Islam and the Urdu language, which has been kept at bay by the deeply entrenched ethnic and parochial political forces, Islamic revivalism has compromised its ability to “trickle down” and as was the case in East Pakistan in 1971, could, as a result, face virtual obliteration. Operating as national parties and defenders of Pakistan—a homeland created in the name of Islam—compels parties such as the Jama‘at to adopt the national language and to avoid appealing to provincial and parochial sentiments and remain attached to the ideal of Muslim solidarity and to Urdu.[16] The resolution of this dilemma is far from simple; it is predicated upon a significant reinterpretation of the role of Islam in Pakistani politics.

Over the years the Jama‘at has expanded its proselytizing and established a base of support in Sind, North-West Frontier Province, and Punjab, a policy that is tied to the state’s efforts to integrate its provinces into a federation. While a greater geographic spread in membership has given the Jama‘at a national image, it has not sufficiently expanded its social base. To expand that base any further, the Jama‘at will have to succumb to the pressures of ethnicity, to sacrifice its national goals and stakes, not to mention its dedication to the ideal of Pakistan and commitment to the Muslim homeland. If the Jama‘at’s strong defense of the unity of Pakistan during the civil war in East Pakistan is any indication, the party is not prepared to undertake such a momentous step. It cannot altogether remain unmoved, however, by the ethnic politics that are destroying the equilibrium that has conditioned its political choices; nor can it expect to retain control over the rapidly changing and highly fluid political environment in which it operates. For instance, the MQM was established in urban centers of Sind in the 1980s by a number of IJT students who objected to the domination of the student organization by Punjabis and the Jama‘at’s unwillingness to address problems which were particular to the Muhajir community. The Jama‘at, although it had never consciously solicited domination by Punjabis to the detriment of Muhajirs, was incapable of controlling the crisis brewing in its ranks. The MQM has subsequently eliminated the Jama‘at from the urban centers of Sind, forcing the party into a largely Punjabi existence, an outcome neither desired nor welcomed by the Jama‘at.

The rise to prominence of an ethnic party in the community with most at stake in the federal union of Pakistan has eroded the base of support of parties such as the Jama‘at, narrowed their angle of entry into national politics, and by implication, posed a challenge to their political relevance and efficacy. One might have thought that the diminishing importance of the federal center would have removed the impediments to popularizing the Jama‘at among the lower class. However, the rise of the MQM and its mix of ethnic and populist politics, rather than encouraging the Jama‘at to do likewise, has generated resistance to such a development. The prospect of the Pakistani federation’s collapse and the loss of constituency associated with the party’s national role has dampened any enthusiasm for realigning Jama‘at politics along provincial and parochial lines. The effort to provide an alternative to the MQM has also encouraged the Jama‘at to remain anchored in national politics so that it can present Muhajirs with a political platform not available in the MQM’s repertoire. The Jama‘at has been effectively split by its political role of legitimizing and defending the unity of the polity and territory by which the party is defined and its ultimate political aim of expanding its social base and winning elections. Resolving this dilemma will in good measure depend on the extent to which provincial and ethnic politics prove receptive to the Jama‘at’s ideology, and on its ability to decentralize and adapt itself to the needs of a variety of ethnic communities. The rate at which the party loses support in the vote banks affiliated with its national role and identity should it turn to ethnic and provincial politics, and whether that loss will be compensated by new bases of support, is another question. For the time being, while it assesses its future in provincial and ethnic politics, the Jama‘at continues to operate at the national level, tenaciously defending the turf of the federal structure against encroachments by parochial forces.

The Jama‘at’s commitment to national politics has, over the years, been sacrosanct as has the idea of the nation-state in the party’s political thinking. At the end of a decade of ethnic politics, the Jama‘at’s election platform of 1970 specifically rejected appealing to “sons of the soil,”[17] and declared the party’s determination to operate only as a national party.[18] Faced with the collapse of the federal order that defined the limits of the Jama‘at’s activities, first in 1947 and again in 1971, the party reluctantly, but hastily, adapted itself to the new circumstances. It did so, however, not by recognizing the importance of parochial forces in the politics of South Asia but by realigning its strategy and operations along nation-state lines, floating independent Jama‘at-i Islamis with new national and territorial identities. The Jama‘at resisted abandoning national politics. It made changes in its strategy and organizational structure, but only along national and territorial lines, when the polity itself had divided into new national entities. Its willingness to sublimate its universalist ambitions to the reality of the nation-state system, however, has conceded little to ethnic politics. Commitment to the nation-state system has thus far remained paramount.

The Muhajirs

The Jama‘at-i Islami began in Pakistan as essentially a Muhajir party, consisting for the most part of Urdu-speaking migrants from the Muslim minority provinces of India who had settled in the cities and towns of Sind and East Pakistan and migrants from East Punjab who settled in the Pakistani side of that province. They remained its most visible base of support until well into the 1980s.[19] Their loyalty can be attributed in part to the extensive relief work the party undertook among the refugees in Karachi and Lahore after partition. The Jama‘at workers cleaned up refuse in refugee camps, buried unclaimed corpses, and provided food and medicine;[20] it set up some forty-two aid centers for assisting the refugees, spending in excess of Rs. 260,000 on them between 1947 and 1954, which benefited some 1.5 million Muhajirs.[21] These efforts established a firm bond between the two, the more so because the government had proved incapable of helping the refugees. This campaign proved so successful that social work was incorporated into the structure of the Jama‘at. The party created its division for “service to the people” (shu‘bah-i khidmat-i khalq), which today runs hospitals, dispensaries, orphanages, and centers for assistance to widows and the old. It collects revenues and contributions for distribution among the poor. When in the 1980s large numbers of Afghan refugees began to pour into Pakistan, the Jama‘at initiated projects similar to those for the Muhajirs to gain support among the Afghans.

The Jama‘at’s virulent anti-Hindu rhetoric also found a receptive ear among the Muhajirs, whose harrowing experiences from the partition had made them particularly sensitive to the Indian threat. They were most keen about Mawdudi’s promises to restore Islam to its true place at the helm of power in the Subcontinent, which for many Muhajirs meant restoring their fortunes, status, and property. The Muhajirs had arrived in a country where, before partition, the Muslim League had had little influence and where ethnic loyalties and provincial interests superseded the kind of commitment to Islamic universalism that had led to Pakistan’s creation. Neither the geographical territory of Pakistan nor its ethnic and provincial political structure had any significance for the Muhajirs; their sole reason for migrating to the new homeland had been the primacy of religious and communal identity in their politics. In Mawdudi’s denunciation of nationalism and the Jama‘at’s emphasis on Urdu and Islam, the Muhajirs found a political program attuned to their interests, which sought to hide the fundamental realities of Pakistani society and politics—the simmering tensions between the refugees and their hosts, especially in Sind—behind Islamic solidarity. The Jama‘at’s political program in general, and its depiction of the plight of the Muhajirs as comparable to those of the original Muhajirs, the companions of the Prophet who migrated with him from Mecca to Medina, provided the Muhajirs with a justification both for their presence in Pakistan and for having a say in its politics.[22] The Jama‘at’s ideological pronouncements in a time of social disorder and political change attracted support for the party. This championing of the Muhajir cause came over time to become a part of the party’s role and place in Pakistan politics.

The campaign for the Islamic state, assigned to Islamic parties in general—and to its most vociferous advocate, the Jama‘at, in particular—the task of legitimating the idea of Pakistan and providing hope and solace in hard times. This legitimating function attracted the support of those who had a stake in the unity of Pakistan, which, in addition to the Muhajirs, meant the Punjabi and Pathan middle and lower-middle classes. With every crisis and the threat to the unity of the country, the Islamic movements such as the Jama‘at have increased their following and have had success in their propaganda, because the panacea for political unrest rooted in the founding principles of Pakistan is Islam. This also in good measure accounts for the Jama‘at’s reluctance to abandon its legitimating role and the religious tone of its political discourse and to turn to a more pragmatic approach to provincial and ethnic politics.

Although the Jama‘at had never courted the Muhajirs, it soon became aware of their political value and the pivotal role the cities that they dominated played in Pakistani politics, especially as rural politics remained closed to the party. By 1951, the year when the first census in Pakistan was taken, the Muhajirs accounted for 57 percent of Karachi’s population, 65 percent of Hyderabad’s, 55 percent of Sukkhur’s, and in all, 46 percent of the population of Pakistan’s twelve major cities.[23] Anxious to win elections, limited in appeal to urban voters, and increasingly conscious of its legitimating function in Pakistan, the Jama‘at made much of its ties with the Muhajirs. In return, the party was able to attract large crowds for demonstrations and public rallies in cities like Karachi, time and again intimidating the government and compelling it to adopt measures Islamic parties demanded. With no national elections in the offing until 1970, the Jama‘at found no opportunity to test its popularity or the wisdom of its policy of relying mainly on the Muhajirs. In 1970 the Muhajirs, in turn, for the first time took a hard look at their policy of supporting the unity of Pakistan in the name of Islam and lending support to the Jama‘at. While the politics of the Muhajir community did not radically change until the 1980s, when the MQM was founded, doubts were already evident in the elections of 1970. The Jama‘at’s staggering defeat at the polls in the elections of 1970 showed its weakness and told the Muhajirs that it could not deliver on their demands. The elections were soon followed by the secession of East Pakistan and harrowing tales of oppression of its Muhajir community by the Bengali majority. The independence of Bangladesh proved to be a devastating psychological shock for the Muhajirs, especially as it coincided with the rise to power of Bhutto, a prime minister who championed Sindhi nationalism to the detriment of the Muhajirs. The Jama‘at’s poor showing demonstrated that it would be of no help. The Muhajirs chose instead to play the ethnic political game, a strategy that promised to deliver more tangible gains than the Jama‘at could produce—provide them with a greater say in the country’s affairs and direct resources to their community. By succumbing to ethnic politics, however, they abandoned the vision of Pakistan united under the banner of Islam. Later, the MQM rallied Muhajirs to its cause with the slogan “We have not signed contracts to uphold Pakistan and Islam.”[24]

Changes in Constituency after the Elections of 1970

In a speech before the workers of the Jama‘at-i Islami on January 10, 1971, Mawdudi blamed the party’s lackluster performance in 1970 on its too limited base of support.[25] In a rare show of self-criticism, he declared that the Jama‘at boasted a literacy rate of 85 percent in a country where the same percentage were illiterate; it had spent too much energy and resources on attracting the educated, while it was the poor and uneducated who determined elections. The Jama‘at should reexamine its policies and its orientation and strategy. Mawdudi’s candor resulted in some proselytizing work among other groups, notably women,[26] the industrial labor force, and the peasants. Given the limited numbers of Jama‘at’s elected representatives, the women became important to the Jama‘at because for a time there were twenty special seats reserved for them in the National Assembly and twenty-three in each provincial assembly.

The party’s new strategy was not drastic enough, however. Its campaign for support among the uneducated underclass went hand in hand with redoubling of campaigns among educated groups such as the ulama, university professors, lawyers, doctors, engineers, journalists, government employees, students, and urban youth.[27] Separate programs and sometimes organizations were formed to gain support: the Jama‘at began to use “religious schools, mosques, social service centers, zakat committees, municipal offices,” and the like for implementing its campaign.[28] Its elected representatives were directed to solidify their base of support in their constituencies, using an amended version of the famed People’s Party battle cry, “clothing, bread, and shelter” (kapra, roti, awr makan), that added “health and basic education” (‘alaj awr zaruri ta‘lim).[29] The party set higher goals for raising the number of affiliates and increased the frequency of its training camps for workers and sympathizers.[30] These programs were continued through the 1970s and 1980s.[31]

All these efforts produced results. The party gained more solid support in Punjab and grew in North-West Frontier Province. The party’s greater prominence in North-West Frontier Province is significant in that since the elections of 1985 that province has provided the Jama‘at with a steady number of national and provincial assembly seats. This clearly demonstrates the success of the party’s new strategy. The Jama‘at’s greater role in North-West Frontier Province’s politics is the result of the vigorous organizational work of Qazi Husain Ahmad. The absence among Pathans of traditional authority based in feudalism and Sufism made Qazi Husain’s task easier. The Jama‘at’s following in that province is based in small towns such as Swat and the rural district of Dir, which has proved to be a Jama‘at stronghold. It is the only district to choose Jama‘at candidates in every general election since 1970.[32]

These developments have certainly altered the party’s national distribution and base of support. In 1977 the Jama‘at, as a member of the Pakistan National Alliance, won four seats to the National Assembly from Sind, two from Punjab, and three from North-West Frontier Province; in 1985 it won three seats from Punjab, four from North-West Frontier Province, and one from Baluchistan. In 1988 it won six seats to the National Assembly from Punjab and two from North-West Frontier Province. In 1990 the figures were seven and one, respectively. Similarly, in 1970 the Jama‘at had won one seat to each of the provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sind, North-West Frontier Province, and East Pakistan; in 1988 it won six seats to the Punjab provincial assembly and seven to the North-West Frontier Province assembly; in 1990 the figures were eleven and eight, respectively. The Jama‘at’s electoral showings in provincial elections improved in the 1990 elections; otherwise the constituencies which elected Jama‘at members in 1988 and 1990 remained roughly the same.[33] Since 1977, Karachi’s place as the secure base of Jama‘at support and guaranteed source of elected representatives has given way to Dir and Swat in North-West Frontier Province and Lahore and small towns in Punjab. The urban base of support, aside from sporadic electoral victories in Lahore and Rawalpindi, has evaporated.

In the elections of 1977, the results of which are still in doubt because of charges of massive rigging by the government, of the Jama‘at’s nine seats to the National Assembly, three in North-West Frontier Province and one in Punjab were in rural or small-town constituencies. The remaining five seats were from urban areas. In 1988 of the Jama‘at’s eight National Assembly seats, only two were from large urban areas; the remaining six seats were from rural areas or small towns. Similarly, in provincial elections that year, of the Jama‘at’s thirteen seats only four were from major cities. The results of the 1990 elections resembled those of 1988: of the Jama‘at’s eight seats to the National Assembly, three were from urban centers in Punjab, and five were from rural or small-town areas. Of the nineteen provincial seats won by the Jama‘at, nine were from major urban areas and ten from rural or small-town areas. While the Jama‘at’s organizational work and propaganda produced these changes, Bhutto’s economic policies also helped. They were unpopular with large and small landowners and the petite bourgeoisie, and opened those classes to the Jama‘at’s influence.

Today Punjab and North-West Frontier Province account for most of the increases in the Jama‘at members, sympathizers, and officeholders. In 1987, after forty-six years with a Muhajir at the helm, the Jama‘at chose its first Pathan amir, from North-West Frontier Province, Qazi Husain Ahmad.[34] The distribution of shura’ members also shows how the party’s base of support has shifted from cities to towns and the countryside. In 1957, the five major cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Lyallpur (Faisalabad), Multan, and Bhawalpur in Punjab accounted for twenty-three of the twenty-nine of the province’s share of central shura’ members, with the remaining six coming from two small towns. In 1989, the share of the five cities had shrunk to eleven, while twenty-four of Punjab’s central shura’ members came from nineteen small towns. Similarly, Peshawar accounted for all of the North-West Frontier Province’s five central shura’ members in 1957; in 1989 it accounted for only two of the eight North-West Frontier Province central shura’ members. The other six were from small towns and rural areas (see table 4).

Although the greater representation of small-town and rural constituents in the central shura’ indicates that the Jama‘at has extended its reach, it has not been altogether a boon for the party. For the religiously conservative and politically unsophisticated small-town and rural members have diminished the Jama‘at’s flexibility in contending with sociopolitical exigencies and have nudged the party in directions which are not in keeping with the political imperatives before it. To the chagrin of the Jama‘at’s leaders, diversification has given a conservative bent to the party at a time when a more liberal position is necessary if the party is to expand its base of support. For example, in November 1989, when it tried to expand its base among women by suggesting that its views on the women’s dress code (purdah) be relaxed—so that women had to cover only their hair and could show their faces in public, the majlis-i ‘amilah resisted.[35] The majority of its members are from small towns and rural areas of Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, where women customarily wear the face cover (burqa‘). Backed by a religious decree (fatwa) from the Jama‘at’s ulama, who ruled that purdah was addressed in religious sources and was therefore not open to debate, interpretation, or change, the conservative element soundly defeated the initiative.

4. Geographical Distribution of Shura’ Members, 1950–1992
  1950 1957 1989 1992
Source: Organization Bureau of the Jama‘at-i Islami.
Punjab 15 29 35 39
  Lahore 3 3 3 4
  Other major cities of Punjab[a] 8 20 8 7
  Small cities and towns of Punjab[b] 4 6 24 28
Sind 2 12 15 18
Karachi 2 6 9 11
Hyderabad 0 2 1 2
Rest of Sind 0 4 5 5
NWFP 2 5 8 11
Peshawar 2 5 2 2
Rest of NWFP 0 0 6 9
Baluchistan 0 1 2 2
East Pakistan 0 3 0 0
Consisting of Multan, Bhawalpur, Lyallpur/Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi/Islamabad.In 1950 this figure accounted for the four shura’ members who were from Gujranwala; in 1957 the figure accounted for two towxns; in 1989 the figure accounted for nineteen towns.

The Jama‘at continues to try to expand its base, however, by maintaining a delicate balance between sociopolitical imperatives and pressures for ideological fidelity by lowering the scope of its changes and steering clear of divisive doctrinal issues. It has also sought to consolidate the changes which have been undertaken to date,[36] which is exemplified in the choice of the populist Qazi Husain Ahmad to succeed the taciturn Mian Tufayl Muhammad in an effort to replace the subdued image of the Jama‘at’s leaders with a more appealing one, both to encourage activism and to appeal to a greater number of Pakistanis. In 1987, Qazi Husain Ahmad began his term of office as amir with a much publicized tour from Peshawar to Karachi. He called it the “caravan of invitation and benevolence” (karavan-i da‘wat’u muhabbat); its populist intent gained him the sobriquet surkhah (red, i.e. leftist) in the party. Since his election, Qazi Husain Ahmad has continued to harp on populist themes, albeit in tandem with commitment to democracy and the Pakistan state. He has also attacked feudalism (jagirdari) and capitalism (sarmayahdari)[37] and has deliberately bestowed upon the party’s rhetoric and plan of action a class consciousness it did not earlier possess:

In this country there is a small imperialist class whom the British established in power. Since the British left, this small class has been ruling the country. The culture of this class is foreign; in their houses they speak in another language. They are educated in special institutions. This is our ruling class, which is as foreign and alien as were the British. This the people understand.[38]

Qazi Husain, much like Mawdudi, approaches social analysis through culture rather than through economics. It is apparent from his rhetoric that Jama‘at’s political discourse, although more populist in tone, continues to be nationally oriented, seeking out contentious sociopolitical issues that would have national relevance. Although shifts in its base of support had much to do with the politics of the Muhajirs and its own organizational activities in Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, its reach into small towns and rural districts has also owed its success in good measure to the IJT.

Despite these gains, which were reflected in modestly improved electoral showings in 1985, 1988 and 1990, the party has not changed its political stance and organizational structure sufficiently to accommodate Qazi Husain’s populism. Without that, it cannot hope for victory at the polls in a country where some two-thirds of the population live in the rural areas. As efficacious as IJT has proved to be, it too has reached the limit of its expansion. With no political program to address the problems of the rural and small-town voters, IJT has failed to make its campus organizations a nation wide network. The Jama‘at has therefore been forced to face up to the questions Mawdudi posed in 1971, and to debate fundamental changes in the structure of the party, including the ultimate question over its existence as holy community or political party.

The Debate Over Opening The Party

Since its creation in 1941, the Jama‘at has adhered to a set of rules and criteria that have seemed to restrict its membership (see tables 5 and 6). As Mawdudi explained, “so I concluded that I wanted Jama‘at-i Islami’s discipline to be very strict and firm, whether some stay or leave…I would not permit compromise on the organization.”[39] Discipline, moral rectitude, and strong organizational bonds were the foundation stones of a holy community and essential to the pursuit of the goals of “Islamic revolution” and an “Islamic state.” But, as the Jama‘at began to put its fortunes in Pakistani politics beginning in 1951, the relevance of a vanguard—a holy community and an “organizational weapon”—in the revolutionary sense of the term, as floated by Lenin and adopted by Mawdudi, became suspect.

Taking its cue from Mawdudi, the Jama‘at’s leadership long remained unclear about the exact nature of its decision to turn to politics and the implications of this change in strategy. They were reluctant to undertake any substantial reforms in the party’s organizational structure. Although aware that the Jama‘at’s cadre of workers and party’s base of support needed to be expanded, in 1951 the leaders decided to introduce the new category of affiliate to act as a convenient buffer between the Jama‘at and Pakistani society, a stop-gap measure that permitted the Jama‘at to expand its organizational network without compromising the principles and criteria of its organizational structure. The affiliate category both reflected and confirmed the ambivalent nature of the Jama‘at’s purposes and the tensions produced by its efforts to balance ideological fidelity with utilitarian politics.

The affiliates were composed of those who favored the Jama‘at’s goals and ideas, but were not ready to abide by its organizational discipline, a group through which the party’s rigid organizational structure could interact with the society at large. In November 1951, during the party’s convention in Karachi, the Jama‘at decided to recruit and organize at least 12,000 affiliates.[40] Thenceforth, as their interest in electoral politics increased, the affiliates became the Jama‘at’s political lifeline and permitted the party to evade the question of more fundamental structural changes. A positive correlation was thus established between greater political activity—and the resulting electoral defeats—on the one hand, and emphasis upon the affiliates, on the other. The humiliating defeat in the Punjab elections of 1951 generated no discussion regarding Jama‘at’s membership criteria, but it did lead to a more aggressive policy of recruiting and organizing affiliates.[41] In 1955, with an eye on national elections, the Jama‘at’s leaders directed the organization to recruit 40,000 affiliates in a three-year period.[42]

Although there were no elections in Pakistan until 1970, the Jama‘at continued to expand its organizational networks through the affiliates. The Machchi Goth affair helped, since the declaration of the shura’ in November-December 1956 that Mawdudi’s writings were no longer binding on the party was used to attract followers from other schools of Islamic thought. These new recruits were often Deobandi or Ahl-i Hadith, or were followers of other self-styled religious movements, but they sympathized with the Jama‘at’s goals. Their entry into the Jama‘at transformed the terms under which the affiliates allied themselves with the party. They were no longer restricted to those attracted by Jama‘at’s message but who hesitated to submit to its rigorous discipline; they were increasingly those who sympathized with the Jama‘at’s political program but remained attached to other schools of Islamic thought.

5. Members and Affiliates of the Jama‘at-i Islami, 1941–1992
  Members % Change Affiliates % Change
Source: RJI 5:60, 6:25–26, 98, 150; SAAM 2:8, 392; Organization Bureau of the Jama‘at-i Islami.
1941 75 0 0 0
1946 486 548 0 0
1947 385[a] -21 0 0
1949 533 38 0 0
1951 659 24 2,913 0
1955 1,078 64 0 0
1957 1,272 18 25,000 758
1970 2,500 97 0 0
1974 3,308 32 186,085 0
1977 3,497 6 282,089 52
1983 4,776[b] 37 256,403 - 9
1985 4,798 0 238,331 - 7
1989 5,723[c] 19 305,792 28
1992 7,861 37 357,229 17
At the time of partition the Jama‘at had 626 members, 240 of whom remained in India.160 of whom were women.321 of whom were women.

While useful in expanding the organizational horizons of the Jama‘at, the affiliate category proved inadequate for satisfying the party’s rapidly rising political expectations (see table 5). The party’s defeat in the elections of 1970 left little room for its leaders to remain sanguine about the affiliates as a source of political power. Mawdudi came under increasing pressure to relax the criteria for membership, and expand its organizational reach. Aware that the move would have implications he did not like, Mawdudi balked at the idea, and by blaming the defeat on the machinations of foreign powers he diverted attention from the need for fundamental organizational reforms.[43] His vision for the Jama‘at still encompassed not a party, but a holy community—an embryonic ummah—and a vanguard. If success in electoral politics required changing structure and ethos, then Mawdudi preferred to opt out of the electoral process altogether. Although no longer at the helm, between 1972 and his death in 1979, Mawdudi used his considerable powers of persuasion to convince the new leaders of the wisdom of his course, but he was not entirely successful. At the shura’ in 1975, he declared that the Jama‘at should reevaluate its agenda and its future course of action, and possibly abandon electoral politics altogether in the interests of ideological purity.[44] The new leaders were not convinced; they wanted to break the political impasse, but not totally to replace politics with purely religious concerns. The Jama‘at had evolved into a consummate political party, and its commitment to electoral politics had gone too far to allow them simply to walk away from it. No clear decisions were taken regarding Mawdudi’s counsel, and with the future of the party in doubt, tensions continued to mount in the ranks. In 1978 for example a suggestion by ‘Abdu’l-Ghafur Ahmad that the Jama‘at as a political party should ally itself more closely, even blend in, with other Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) parties provoked public censure from Mawdudi.[45]

6. Jama‘at-i Islami Members, Affiliates, and Workers by Province, 1974–1992
  Punjab NWFP Baluchistan Sind Total
Source: Organization Bureau of the Jama‘at-i Islami.
Members 2,077 405 65 762 3,308
Affiliates 90,957 53,272 1,276 40,580 186,085
Workers 5,102 1,676 89 2,092 18,959
Members 2,135 430 51 881 3,497
Affiliates 125,546 89,722 2,738 54,083 282,089
Workers 5,436 1,254 210 1,782 8,682
Members 2,320 496 94 399 3,309
Affiliates 135,684 95,000 868 13,609 245,161
Workers 3,299 270 3,569
Members 2,921 607 110 2,692 4,776
Affiliates 58,797 13,7514 7,273 52,819 256,403
Workers 6,528 2,586 210 2,692 12,016
Members 2,905 678 122 1,093 4,798
Affiliates 61,985 103,533 1,442 71,371 238,331
Workers 6,345 2,151 148 2,637 11,281
Members 2,954 860 131 1,365 5,598
Affiliates 81,509 126,403 2,485 116,658 355,895
Workers 6,430 2,674 83 3,574 13,724
Members 4,435 1,252 200 1,974 7,861
Affiliates 111,322 118,572 1,900 125,435 357,229
Workers 17,326 4,829 337 11,664 34,156

For as long as Mawdudi lived, his inflexibility staved off any attempt to open up the Jama‘at’s membership. The party, instead, resorted to other ways of expanding its base, such as organizing students, women, the labor force, and the peasants. The popularity the party enjoyed in the 1970s as a result of its firm opposition to the Bhutto government and success in mobilizing the masses around single causes, such as the non-recognition of Bangladesh, to the leaders’ relief somewhat obfuscated the issues that had given rise to the debate over membership, but did not solve the problem of expanding the Jama‘at’s base of support nor the anomaly inherent in utilizing a rigid organizational structure in electoral politics. Since 1985, lackluster electoral results have once again raised questions about the fate and objectives of the Jama‘at, and the loss of support among the Muhajirs has underlined its deficiencies. With Mawdudi out of the picture, these developments have led to impassioned debates over its membership criteria both in and outside the party. A group of Mawdudi loyalists—those who continue to see the Jama‘at as essentially a holy community, as well as those who advocate an “Islamic revolution” of some form—resist change. They argue that the Jama‘at’s raison d’être is its ideological vision, which could be diluted or, worse yet, manipulated if it is revamped by members who do not have firm loyalties to the party’s ethos and world view. The newcomers could use their vote to destroy the Jama‘at from within, and to do what successive governments have failed to do. The Jama‘at, they argue, owes its continuity to its strong ideological foundations and to the moral fiber and loyalty that are protected and perpetuated by its strict membership criteria. Their position has been bolstered by the fact that no one in the Jama‘at wishes to compromise the discipline which underlies the existing political power of the party. In a country where political parties are hopelessly divided into factions and autonomous wings, the Jama‘at leaders pride themselves in the unity of thought and action of their members, which they attribute to their membership standards.

The more politically motivated Jama‘at leaders and workers, however, favor some opening up. In the Jama‘at opinions vary from opening the party’s membership to the few, to creating new intermediary criteria between member and affiliate, to providing mechanisms for greater participation by affiliates in decision-making, to separating the party’s religious and political functions—vesting the first in a closed organization and second in an open one.[46] To engineer and manipulate “political participation” the Jama‘at must become a full-fledged party. “Revolution has no meaning without popular support,”[47] as one leader put it. It must open its ranks to the many Pakistanis who are allied with the party ideologically and politically, and yet are kept from joining it ranks by the forbidding membership criteria. The holy community, as an ideal as well as a reality, has over the years become an anachronism and a constraint on the party’s political progress.

While the Jama‘at has done much to create the “Islamic vote bank” in Pakistan, denying membership to its own group of voters has kept it from consolidating this same base of support, and therefore it cannot benefit from the fruits of its own toil. It cannot count on affiliates and sympathetic voters, because to ensure their loyalty, it must have some organizational control over them. The great ease and rapidity with which the Muhajirs abandoned the Jama‘at attests to the weakness of its ties. Those hardest hit by the loss of the Muhajir vote—the members of Jama‘at-i Islami in Sind—argue that, had the Muhajirs been able to express their views in the party and seen more of their interests reflected in its policies, they might not have been compelled to look elsewhere for solutions.

The strict criteria for membership have so reduced the interactions between the Jama‘at and the society in which it operates that the party has developed an elitist and patronizing outlook which one erstwhile Jama‘at votary calls “a kinship” (‘asabiyyah).[48] The abstract, pedantic, and mostly apolitical discourse of the Jama‘at—telling Pakistanis what they should think and demand rather than representing their aspirations—and the distinct physical and sartorial appearance of its members—long sherwani coats, caracul caps, and long beards—has distinguished them from the general population, who refer to them as “Jama‘ati” (of the Jama‘at). Opening up the Jama‘at would not only be a concession to outsiders, but also the means by which the party can become sensitive and responsive to the sociopolitical imperatives and dynamics that determine the course of politics in Pakistan. As the party’s fear of annihilation subsided over the years so did the pressures for segregating the Jama‘at from the society at large.

Demand for change has been voiced from different quarters. The party’s Muhajir members,[49] and those to whom the Jama‘at has made overtures in order to avoid opening its ranks, including the members of its various unions, have also favored opening the party. Jama‘at’s efforts in the 1970s and the 1980s to find a base of support among the labor force, peasants, and white-collar professionals have only created new demands for greater say in the affairs of the party. The more these new groups support the Jama‘at, the more the party has felt the pressure for change, lest it fail to sustain its rapport with its new found allies and supporters. The proliferation of semi-autonomous institutions such as those enrolling the labor, peasants, teachers, and lawyers threatens the Jama‘at’s organizational structure directly by creating centrifugal tendencies within the party. If these expanding groups are not successfully incorporated into the Jama‘at, the party will lose control over them.

In 1990 Qazi Husain Ahmad finally took the first step, not by reforming the membership criteria, but by adding yet another semi-autonomous organization to Jama‘at’s family. This was the Pasban (Protector), which draws support mainly from among the urban youth, former IJT members, and the right-of-center activists in the lower middle classes. The new organization, which is not officially affiliated with the Jama‘at, has no membership criteria and, to the chagrin of the Jama‘at old guard, does not demand adherence to a code of social conduct, not even wearing a beard. The aim is to organize those who sympathize with the Jama‘at, even if their support is limited to politics, in order to provide the party with a broader base. The Pasban was also charged with the task of popularizing the Jama‘at’s message through plays and festivals, thus somewhat alleviating the problem of the Jama‘at’s distance from the masses. No sooner was it created, however, than it became a bone of contention in the Jama‘at. While Qazi Husain and his supporters viewed the new organization with hope, the purists decried its lax discipline and even denied that it was useful.

Organizational reform and membership criteria continue to preoccupy the Jama‘at’s leadership, reflecting its continuing struggle with tensions born of applying its ideological perspective to the pursuit of its political goals. The outcome of this process and the ultimate shape which the Jama‘at’s greater political activism is likely to take have in good part, however, been controlled and conditioned by the party’s interactions with other political actors and the various Pakistani regimes.


1. Leonard Binder, Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development Ideologies (Chicago, 1988), 328–41; Abdallah Laroui, L’ideologie arabe contemporaine (Paris, 1967); Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown The Islamic Revolution in Iran (New York, 1988); Henry Munson, Jr., Islam and Revolution in the Middle East (New Haven, 1988), 98–104; Nazih Ayubi, Political Islam Religion and Politics in the Arab World (New York, 1991), 158–77; and Saad Eddin Ibrahim, “Anatomy of Egypt’s Militant Islamic Groups: Methodological Note and Preliminary Findings,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 12, 4 (December 1980): 423–53.

2. The importance of this omission is underlined by the fact that the Muhajir community, the Jama‘at’s main base of support at the time, was also the strongest advocate of land reform and populist politics. It had pressed the Muslim League to advocate land reform as early as 1949; U. K. High Commission, Karachi, disp. #31, 8/3/1949, DO35/8948, PRO.

3. U. S. Embassy, Karachi, disp. #102, 7/13/1950, 790D.00/8–1150, 5, NA.

4. Nu‘mani states that the Tarjumanu’l-Qur’an was read widely among the religious literati in the 1940s and did enjoy a certain following among them; see Muhammad Manzur Nu‘mani, Mawlana Mawdudi Miri Sath Rifaqat ki Sarguzasht Awr Ab Mira Mauqaf (Lahore, 1980), 31–33.

5. This was also true of members of other religious movements, some of which were opposed to Pakistan, and hence waned in power after 1947; see Freeland Abbott, “The Jama‘at-i-Islami of Pakistan,” Middle East Journal 11, 1 (Winter 1957): 41. The followers of these movements, again mainly from the lower-middle classes, saw the Jama‘at as the only effective movement representing their sentiments and objectives, and hence they flocked to the Jama‘at. Two notable lieutenants of Mawdudi, Aqa Shurish Kashmiri—a close companion of Mawdudi—and Chaudhri Ghulam Muhammad, a senior Jama‘at leader, came from such a background. The former had belonged to the Majlis-i Ahrar, and the latter to the Tahrik-i Khaksar.

6. Ahmad reports that in 1990 of Jama‘at’s top fifteen leaders, nine held master of arts degrees, three had master of science degrees, one had earned a law degree (LL. B.), one had a bachelor of arts degree, and one had been educated in the traditional system. Of the fourteen, twelve had specialized in the humanities or the social sciences, and two in technical fields; Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat,” in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago, 1991), 495.

7. This observation is confirmed by the Jama‘at’s leaders themselves. In an interview with this author, Chaudhri Aslam Salimi, the former secretary-general, stated that “the Jama‘at is by and large lower-middle class.” Binder, Ahmed, and Ahmad, too, confirm this finding in their studies on the party. Binder identified the Jama‘at’s supporters in the 1950s as those “drawn from the traditional middle classes, the students, and those who have failed to enter into the modern middle class despite achieving a bachelor’s degree;” Leonard Binder, Religion and Politics in Pakistan (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1961), 8. Ahmed writes, “Jamaat-i-Islami’s social base is located amongst small businessmen, small land-holders, and urban lower middle class strata of shopkeepers, teachers, clerks and petty government officials”; Ishtiaq Ahmed, The Concept of an Islamic State: An Analysis of the Ideological Controversy in Pakistan (New York, 1987), 112–13. Ahmad argues that the lower sections of the new middle classes and traditional petite bourgeoisie are the backbone of the Jama‘at; Ahmad, “Islamic Fundamentalism,” 496–500.

8. As a result of emphasis placed upon education in 1989, the Jama‘at had a literacy rate of 85 percent while the literacy rate in Pakistan stood at 28 percent; figures provided by the office of secretary-general. The Jama‘at did make some headway in attracting members of the Pakistan civil service, but these figures are not reflected in organizational records. Wary of government reaction, Mawdudi told his followers among the country’s bureaucrats that in the interests of the party’s long-run goal they should avoid official affiliation with the Jama‘at and to clandestinely support it from whatever position they serve. In later years the same policy was adopted vis-à-vis the personnel of the armed forces.

9. Sayyid As‘ad Gilani, Maududi: Thought and Movement (Lahore, 1984), 132.

10. Cited in Sayyid As‘ad Gilani, Qafilah-i Sakht Jan (Sargodha, 1965), and Khurshid Ahmad, Tazkirah-i Zindan (Karachi, 1965), which contain information on members of the shura’ arrested in 1963–1964.

11. JIKUS, 43.

12. Ibid., 43–44.

13. Cited in Ahmad, “Islamic Fundamentalism,” 495.

14. Following its creation, the Jama‘at made a concerted effort to translate Mawdudi’s works into local Indian languages, from Malayalam to Sindhi; see RJI, vols. 1–5. However, the scope of these efforts never matched the weight of the party’s efforts in Urdu, nor did it change the predominantly Urdu orientation of the movement.

15. According to the 1951 census, only 3.4 percent of Pakistanis identified themselves as Urdu speakers; cited in Rounaq Jahan, Pakistan: Failure in National Integration (New York, 1972), 12.

16. In 1955, for instance, with a view to expanding its base of support, the Jama‘at launched a three-year plan to teach Urdu to twenty-five thousand people; cited in RJI, vol. 7, 244.

17. Manifesto of Jama‘at-i Islami of Pakistan (Lahore, 1970), 4–5.

18. In a gathering of Jama‘at members in 1974, Mawdudi declared that the Jama‘at’s aim was not only gaining political success for itself but also, more important, preserving the unity of Pakistan. As such, he enjoined Jama‘at’s members not to be distracted from the legitimating function which their party performs at the national level nor swayed by the lure of ethnic politics, and hence to maintain the organizational unity and all-Pakistan poise of the Jama‘at; cited in ISIT(1), 47–49.

19. For instance, of the first thirteen nazim-i ‘alas of the IJT, only three were born in Indian provinces inherited by Pakistan (one in Punjab and two in North-West Frontier Province). The other ten were born in areas which today rest within India, and all belonged to the Muhajir community. See the biographical sketches of JVNAT, vols. 1–2.

20. ‘Ali Ahmad Khan, Jama‘at-e-Islami of Pakistan, Introduction Series, no. 2 (Lahore, 1954), 4–6.

21. Cited in Syed Riaz Ahmad, Mawlana Mawdudi and the Islamic State (Lahore, 1976), 176.

22. Syed Abul ‘Ala Maudoodi, Islamic Law and Constitution (Karachi, 1955), 144–45.

23. Cited in Shahid Javed Burki, Pakistan: A Nation in the Making (Boulder, 1986), 44.

24. Cited in Herald (August 1992): 151.

25. Mawdudi’s speech was reprinted in A’in (April 25, 1985): 6.

26. Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi, “Muslim Women Must Participate in Islamic Movement,” Criterion 5, 5 (Rajab-Sha‘ban 1390/1970): 45 and 74.

27. ISIT(2), 49.

28. Ibid.

29. The motto defined Jama‘at’s new khidmat-i khalq (service to the masses) approach launched in 1972. See Rudad-i Jama‘at-i Islami, Pakistan, 1972 (Lahore, n.d.), 22–23.

30. Ibid., 48–50.

31. In January 1979 the Jama‘at’s shura’ declared attracting new affiliates (mutaffiq-sazi) a major goal of the party, setting a goal of a 25 percent increase in their numbers, and directing the party to form committees and circles across Pakistan to accomplish this feat. Between March and May 1979 the drive brought 109,000 new affiliates to the Jama‘at, 50,000 from North-West Frontier Province, 32,000 from Sind, 22,000 from Punjab, and 5,000 from Baluchistan; ibid, 32.

32. In 1988 elections the Jama‘at won four and in 1990 five of Dir’s six provincial assembly seats. For more on these elections see chapters 8–10.

33. In 1990, however, the Jama‘at did better in Punjab than in North-West Frontier Province, at least in the contests for seats in the National Assembly. Moreover, it did better in the larger cities of Punjab than it had in the elections of 1988. For details see chapter 10.

34. It should, however, be noted that Muhajirs still predominate in many of Jama‘at’s top offices. For instance, in 1992 of the five deputy amirs, three were Muhajirs.

35. Interview with Chaudhri Aslam Salimi.

36. See the text of Qazi Husain’s speech to the “Jama‘at’s youth,” printed in Takbir (October 12, 1989): 42–43, wherein he argues fervently for expanding Jama‘at’s reach into the masses of illiterate Pakistanis. Qazi Husain himself is of the opinion that while the Jama‘at realized the importance of appealing to lower social strata after the 1970–1971 elections few structural changes were undertaken to reorient the politics of the Jama‘at. He therefore sees such an undertaking as the central focus of his leadership of the party; interview with Qazi Husain Ahmad.

37. Khurram Badr, Qazi Husain Ahmad (Karachi, 1988), 95–108.

38. Interview with Qazi Husain Ahmad in Takbir (June 30, 1988): 14.

39. JIKUS, 32.

40. RJI, vol. 6, 26–27.

41. SAAM, vol. 1, 384.

42. RJI, vol. 7, 244.

43. SAAM, vol. 2, 392–93.

44. Personal correspondence with Mawlana Wasi Mazhar Nadwi, 1989–1990.

45. The censure was published in Wifaq and Nawa’i-i Waqt in Lahore; also see Rana Sabir Nizami, Jama‘at-i Islami Pakistan: Nakamiyun ke Asbab ka ‘Ilmi Tajziyah (Lahore, 1988), 102.

46. This issue has been extensively debated between Javid Ahmadu’l-Ghamidi, Khurshid Ahmad, Ahmad Nadim, and Na‘im Siddiqi in Ishraq throughout 1993.

47. Interview with Khurram Jah Murad in JVNAT, vol. 1, 78–79.

48. Nizami, Jama‘at-i Islami, 77–79.

49. The most notable advocates of opening up the Jama‘at in this category are ‘Abdu’l-Ghafur Ahmad and Khurram Jah Murad, both Muhajir deputy amirs of the party; interviews with ‘Abdu’l-Ghafur Ahmad and Khurram Jah Murad; also see interview with Khurram Jah Murad in Awaz-i Jahan (January 22, 1990): 10–14. In addition, journalists Altaf Hasan Quraishi, Muhammad Salahu’ddin, and Mujibu’l-Rahman Shami have become quite vocal on this issue. They are staunch supporters of the party but are not bound by the code of conduct which bars Jama‘at members from public discussion of party issues. Moreover, as editors of magazines and journals with large followings in the party, these men have been able to disseminate ideas about change directly into the Jama‘at, forcing the party to debate its future course of action.

Structure and Social Base

Preferred Citation: Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama'at-i Islami of Pakistan. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1994.