Today, 25 September, marks the 119th birthday of one of the leading Islamist scholars and ideologues of the 20th century, Maulana Maududi. He has been a lot in the news lately, both in India and Pakistan. In India, his books were recently removed from the curriculum of the Aligarh Muslim University in response to claims that they promoted jihadism.
In Pakistan, a defamation notice was filed against one of Pakistan's premier progressive public intellectuals and musicians, Lahore University of Management Sciences academic, Dr Taimur Rahman by the Jamaat-e-Islami claiming his widely popular and factual vlogs on Maududi and Jinnah defamed and misinterpreted both the leaders. Both developments received scant traction in the print or national media in Pakistan, barring a few social media flashes.
A cult has now developed around Maududi where any attempt to factually criticise him or question his role in the Pakistan Movement is met with almost-fascistic tactics, including distorting Maududi's questionable role in the formation of Pakistan, among other things.
I have been translating noted progressive scholar and polymath Safdar Mir's incendiary essays on Maududi and ‘Maududiyat’ – first published in the weekly Nusrat in the 1960s and 1970s – since the last few months, as a small tribute to the former, since 2022 marks Safdar Mir's birth centenary and 2023 will mark 25 years of his death. I present below an original translation from Urdu of Safdar Mir's essay on Maududism and Capitalism, which convincingly unmasks the lies which the followers of Maududi have been wrongly propagating for decades about his role in the movement for Islamic equality.
This essay sets the historical record about Maududi straight and punctures the Maududi cult in a highly factual albeit polemical manner with sources and cross-references from Maududi's own works and words, as only Safdar Mir could!
The 'New' Economic Constitution of the Maududi Party
With the intention of deceiving some people, the fresh tactic of Maududism is to keep declaring one’s exemption about socialism, along with capitalism and feudalism as well, so that the charge cannot be leveled that these people are in search of support of the capitalist and feudal economy behind the curtain of the ‘Islamic system’. The Maududi party has very much said in its recent statements about the economy that limits should be put on land ownership of the feudal system. But along with that, they've laid down a condition that this limitation is temporary; since in Islam any permanent restriction cannot be put on ownership. The ‘new’ economic constitution of the Maududi party does not, in any way, refute their old stance as Maududi himself has said. His old stance regarding landownership is that:
"Islam, like all other ownerships, accepts the personal ownership of man over land. No limit is fixed for it. From one square yard of land to thousands of acres how much the land may be, has come within the possession of a person through some legal means, then anyhow it is his lawful possession."Islam and Economic Principles, pp. 127
In connection with the legal, and illegal, and unlawful, the decree of the new constitution is:
"All those new and old estates be totally finished which might have been created in any period of government from the unlawful use of powers."
There is a great intensity in the word ‘all’. But reaching till the end of the line, it seems that firstly, you will have to prove that the personal or hereditary property has been obtained by so-and-so landlord or his forefathers by 'the wrong use of powers'. This style of giving with one hand and taking back with the other is a special strategy of the Maududi party.
In his old economic constitution, Maududi writes in this manner about hereditary assets. This will clarify how any landlord can preserve his hereditary wealth with 'legal means'.
"Like artificial methods, Islam does not prefer revolutionary methods too. In the period of ignorance, the Arab people abundantly used such means for earning livelihood which Islam deemed unlawful and strictly loathsome afterwards. But the possessions which had been continuing from before, about them Islam did not create a fuss that whichever people had earned wealth by dishonesty, now their assets should be confiscated. Until even the deeds of usurers and those making a living by prostitution and dacoits were not objected to. Whoever had anything in his possession, the Islamic civil law accepted his right of ownership over it."(Economic Theories, pp. 124)
Economic Principles 'According to Nature'
What are basic laws of the capitalist system? These are the same laws which Maududi later on is about to present as the laws of the economic system of Islam. Therefore read a bit carefully:
"The basic laws of this system are as below: (1) the right of private property. Not only the right of property of the things which a person uses himself. But also the right of property of those things too from which a person creates different type of things so that he can sell them to others. For example machine, tools, land, raw material, etc. The individual rights of property over the first type of things are very much indisputably accepted in every system. But debate has risen in the matter of the second kind of things meaning the means of production in that if the right of individual ownership over them is lawful or not. The first quality of the capitalist system is that it accepts this right. Also in reality this very right is its foundation stone."(pp. 21)
Maududi has declared it accurately. This very ‘right of individual ownership over the means of production’ is the foundation stone of capitalism. In the same manner as the foundation stone of the Maududi party is the opposition and enmity of the leaders of the Pakistan Movement, the Pakistani state and the leaders of Pakistan Movement, for example, Quaid-e-Azam and his companions (along with Allama Iqbal). See Muslims and the Current Political Struggle Part III, and if you go to buy, ask for Part III since this is the very same ‘foundation stone’.
"(2) The right of freedom of enterprise. (3) Personal profit being the moving action. The thing upon which the capitalist system relies for the development of the production of needs is the greed of gain and the hope of profit which is naturally present within every person, and persuades him towards work and effort. (pp. 22) competition and taking the lead….those who work and those who make use of work too in their respective place, due to competition on their own keep establishing balanced standards of wages and salaries provided that the competition is open and free, it is not narrowed by any type of monopolies."(pp. 21)
All these economic principles are very important and as Maududi will clarify later, all these are exactly according to Islam because they are ‘according to nature’. But the greatest importance is possessed by the seventh law.
"(7) The non-intervention of the state (this is actually the result of law number 1 meaning about the right to private property which is the fundamental principle of capitalism. Safdar Mir) In all this business, it is not the task of the state to intervene without rhyme or reason in the natural process of wealth creation to spoil its balance; rather its task is to create such conditions in which individual freedom of action is as secure as possible. It should establish peace and order, complete agreements with the force of law, and should save the country and its business from external attacks, and resistances, and dangers. The office of the state is that it should discharge the service of judge and custodian and guardian; and not to foist itself as a trader and manufacturer and landlord; or does not let traders and manufacturers and landlords work with its repeated intrusion."(pp. 26, 27)
On the other hand, in the very next line Maududi himself presents these values as the eternal values of human economy:
"These were the laws which were presented with full force in the period of the birth of modern capitalism and since these contained truth despite exaggeration to some extent (to what extent?); that is why they were compelled to be acknowledged by the entire world. In reality there was no new thing too in them. All matters were the same upon which the business of human economy has continued to be done since an unknown time. If innovation was there, it was in the exaggerated intensity which bourgeois gentlemen assumed in sticking some laws upon the economy of the period of the industrial revolution."(pp. 27)
How Can Capitalism be Presented as Islamic?
The question arises that if a person who is acquainted with the Koran and Hadith, and is a claimant of the equality of Islam, how can he present an un-Islamic system like capitalism as an Islamic system before us? The gentlemen who are the defenders of Maududism, who keep protesting the foreign, non-national, and un-Islamic way of life all the time, how do they bear that an attempt be made to impose a foreign, non-national, and un-Islamic economic system like capitalism over the people very much in the name of Islam?
The answer to this question is also present very much within this question. After all for us, in our political history of the last 200 years, this is not such a new thing that religion be used for conservative ends. The manner in which Maududi has defined the feudal system in his book and how he has told the association of the Church with the feudal system of Europe; after a little alteration in it, we can duly reach the conclusion that like the Church in Europe, Maududism too is using Islam to support a dying economic system. Maududism is actually a school of thought whose very goal is to support feudalism, capitalism and the neocolonial system in Pakistan.
This is the very reason that contrary to the writings of our ancient religious scholars, the basic problem of Maududi’s writings is that somehow unlimited right of ownership should be proven according to the Koran and Hadith; and in order to uphold this unlimited right of ownership opposite the rising unlimited storms of popular forces, the map of a state be provided, which is very much an Islamic state in name and insists on the sovereignty of God. But in reality it should be a neocolonial state, in which the denial of the sovereignty of the people be done in the sacred name of God. Power be in the hand of landlords, capitalists, and the bureaucratic parts of the neocolonial system.
After the trivial appropriation in Maududi’s text, it is not something difficult to discover the similarity of the map of his ‘Islamic system’ and the map of the feudal system of Europe. In the same connection, the conformity of his new school of thought and the school of thought of the Church of Europe too comes to be understood.
The map of the economy in Maududi’s ‘Islamic system’, in his very own words is like this:
"The basis of power was decided to be the ownership of land. Honour, power, hegemony, and permanent rights were reserved for only those people who are owners of land and capital in some area."Islam and Modern Economic Ideas, pp. 8
In this system, the shape of Maududism as a school of thought becomes this:
"The Maududi school of thought which talks to people in the name of God – and in our time has been newly-established in the continent – has reconciled with the ending feudal, capitalist, and neocolonial system; and it kept on awarding religious decree to all those traditional institutions, and rights, and distinctions, and controls, which were taking root in society along with that system. Every idea which became old, became the belief of the Maududi school of thought and to think against it was decided to be a sin. Every ritual which once came into practice became the Sharia and deviation from it meant deviating from God and His faith. Whether it be literature and philosophy, or society and politics, and economy, the shape of whichever thing was established in the feudal, capitalist, neocolonial system, the Maududi school of thought determined it to be a God-given shape, and on this basis any attempt to change it was not just a crime, but forbidden too."Islam and Modern Economic Ideas, pp. 9
(Raza Naeem is an award-winning Pakistani researcher, translator, and dramatic reader based in Lahore, where he is also the President of the Progressive Writers Association. He is currently working on a book, ‘Sahir Ludhianvi’s Lahore, Lahore’s Sahir Ludhianvi’, forthcoming in 2022. He can be reached through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)