The Jama'at-i Islami was founded by Mawlana Sayyid Abu'l-A'la Mawdudi (1903-1979), whose deep Sufism-education rapidly led to Islamic movements, as for instance the Khilafat movement that failed to unite the Muslims of India. The context in which Mawdudi rose and later created the party has to be understood. The British had withdrawn the political power to the Muslim society, while Hindu supremacy and rule were growing. Trying to solve the problem of Islam in India, Mawdudi opposed the Congress Party as well as the partition-seeking Muslim League.
He considered the obedience to Islamic law as the only remedy to the Muslim's decline and the only way to confront the Hindu challenge. And therefore, a "holy" community (based on the Prophet's example) and a missionary movement would have to mingle in the shape of the Jama'at-i Islami. Though strictly opposed to communism, Mawdudi was widely influenced by Lenin's view of the party as an "organizational weapon", as a vanguard of revolution, even if the Jama'at-i Islami would focus on manoeuvring the leaders rather than organizing the masses. The main problem of this "holy community" was that there were no borders fixed between religion and politics, since socio-political change would come through Islam; a confusion the party never was able to resolve and therefore a source of tension.
When the party was founded in 1941, the founding members decided an amir with limited powers, a position to which Mawdudi was elected, would lead it. The partition of India in 1947 led to a partition of the Jama'at-i Islami itself and Mawdudi decided to continue his leadership in the newborn Pakistan. Following partition, the party tried to involve more in politics than in its role as a holy community, a change that would lead to conflicts.
[...] Therefore, the party has often been considered as in opposition to Pakistan. But the situation seems more complex, since the context was not only the fight against Hindu supremacy, but also a subtle political struggle with the Muslim League: every time the rival's power increased, his plans on an independent Islamic State were criticised. Actually, the Jama'at did not object to Pakistan, but to its creation under the aegis of the League. Mawdudi finally chose to support the project as it seemed inevitable. [...]
[...] It succeeded as an “organizational weapon”, but failed as a political party. [...]
[...] For the first time in its thirty years of history, the party became a part of the ruling establishment when Zia integrated the PNA in its regime. But the problem of democracy, for which the Jama'at-i Islami stands created tensions and Mawdudi, as well as Mian Tufayl after the former's death in September 1979, argued for the end of martial law and for new elections in this favourable situation for the Jama'at-i Islami. But Zia managed to manipulate the party so as to give him support - especially for the jihad in Afghanistan - and as the late elections of 1985 showed that its political luck was fading, he turned to other Islamic parties like the oulama's one or the Muslim League. [...]
[...] The office of the amir Since 1957, Jama'at members elect the amir for five years. He is the supreme source of authority in the Jama'at-i Islami and can demand the unwavering obedience of all members. But he is also bound to a set of checks and balances and bound to the decisions of the shura' and the majilis-i amilah (members of the shura' the amir chooses), though he has a right of veto. After a heart attack in 1972, Mawdudi stepped down as the amir. [...]
[...] Up to now, the Jama'at has been a party of contradictions, may it be on its social base, its commitment to both Islam and politics or its relation with the ruling power. Since Islamic revolution in the party's rhetoric is not the battle cry for the masses but an elitist crusade, it has failed to mobilize the masses for collective action. This certainly represents one of the reasons why the Jama'at-i Islami never came to power in Pakistan, though it deeply influenced the country's politics and the role of Islam. [...]
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