Pakistan: The Vanguar of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama'at-I Islami of Pakistan

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The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama`at-i Islami of Pakistan, by Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994. xxii + 223 pages. Notes to p. 263. Gloss. to p. 268. Interviewees to p. 271. Bibl. to p. 290. Index to p. 301. $55 cloth; $22.50 paper.

Reviewed by Richard Kurin

This is an informative, thoughtful book in what is arguably the most interesting and important scholarly series in existence today-Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies. The series seeks to understand Islam in the contemporary world. This volume elucidates the development of the Jama`at-i Islami, the Islamic political organization in India and Pakistan founded and led by Maulana Abu al-A'la Mawdudi.

Nasr describes the founding philosophy of the Jama`at-i Islami as well as its organization and social context. He follows the organization from pre-partition days to the present, and concludes with a theoretical chapter on the relationship between Islamic revivalism and democracy. Nasr offers a compelling organizational history that weaves together disparate, seemingly contrary strands-the Jama`at-i Islami has been a powerful ideological force in Pakistan but has never wielded conventional political power; it has revived religious practice and identity and contributed to both authoritarian and democratic rule; it is an intellectual and moral organization led by elder traditionalists that has been adept at logistical, practical matters of social mobilization, particularly of students.

Some of Nasr's treatment is quite conventional. Mawdudi initially opposed the formation of Pakistan because he believed a strong Muslim leadership could rule a united India, as did the Mughals. Mawdudi viewed Muhammad `Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League as secularized Muslims who, while using religious identification to define their constituency and draw their power vis-a-vis the Congress Party and Hindus, were uncommitted to an Islamic society. Yet Nasr provides insightful treatment of Mawdudi's use of Sufism in modeling a political party in the form of a holy community, and his use of Leninism in conceiving of its vanguard role in revolutionizing society.

Nasr's treatment is repetitive. Also, he sometimes, intentionally or not, takes the role of political science professor too seriously, lecturing Mawdudi, and chiding him for not recognizing the categories nor the conclusions of the analyst. …