Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism

Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism

Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism

Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism

Synopsis

Nasr examines the life and thought of Mawlana Mawdudi, one of the first and most important Islamic ideological thinkers. Mawdudi was the first to develop a modern political Islamic ideology, and a plan for social action to realize his vision. The prolific writings and indefatigable efforts of Mawdudi's party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, first in India and later in Pakistan, have disseminated his ideas far and wide. His views have informed revivalism from Morocco to Malaysia. Nasr discerns the events that led Mawdudi to a revivalist perspective, and probes the structure of his thought, in order to gain fresh insights into the origins of Islamic revivalism. He argues that Islamic revivalism did not simply develop as a cultural rejection of the West, rather it was closely tied to questions of communal politics and its impact on identity formation, discourse of power in plural societies, and nationalism. Mawdudi's discourse, though aimed at the West, was motivated by Muslim-Hindu competition for power in British India. His aim, according to Nasr, was to put forth a view of Islam whose invigorated, pristine, and uncompromising outlook would galvanize Muslims into an ideologically uniform and hence politically indivisible community. In time, this view developed a life of its own and evolved into an all-encompassing perspective on society and politics, and has been a notable force in South Asia and Muslim life and thought across the Muslim world.

Excerpt

The development of Islamic revivalism as a social movement is closely tied to the life histories and intellectual contributions of particular individuals. It is they who advanced the formative ideas, spoke to the concerns of various social groups, shaped public debates by selecting which ideas would be included and which would not, and related individual and social experiences to lasting questions and concerns about freedom, justice, good, evil, and salvation. In short, they articulated an ideology, one that uses social impulses to make a new discourse possible. The biographies and ideas of men like Mawlana Mawdudi (1903-1979), Ayatollah Khomeini (1900-1989), and Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) therefore are not only essential to historical investigation into contemporary Islamic thought and action but critical to understanding it. They allow us to locate the roots of Islamic revivalism in specific processes and events, sharpening the focus of the more general explanations that have revolved around the larger forces of industrialization, urbanization, imperialism, or uneven development.

Mawlana Sayyid Abu'l-A'la Mawdudi's life and thought is worthy of particular attention in this regard for a number of reasons. He was one of the first Islamic thinkers to develop a systematic political reading of Islam and a plan for social action to realize his vision. His creation of a coherent Islamic ideology, articulated in terms of the elaborate organization of an Islamic state, constitutes the essential breakthrough that led to the rise of contemporary revivalism. His writings were prolific, and the indefatigable efforts of his party, the Jama'at-i Islami (Islamic party), first in India and later in Pakistan, disseminated them far and wide. Mawdudi is without doubt the most influential of contemporary Islamic revivalist thinkers. His views have influenced revivalism from Morocco to Malaysia, leaving their mark on thinkers such as Sayyid Qutb and on events such as the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979, and have influenced . . .

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