Interview with Qazi Hussain Ahmad

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(The Amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, gave a three-hour interview to Criterion’s Navid Zafar on 31 August 2006. After outlining   the historical events that prompted the formation of the Jamaat, he made a number of important comments which include the following:(i) the Jamaat did not oppose the Quaid-e-Azam on the creation of Pakistan. On the contrary, it played a significant role in the outcome of the NWFP referendum. Differences with the Muslim League arose over the enforcement of Shariat after independence as the League appeared to be more at ease with British laws; (ii) the Jamaat’s 1953-54 anti-Qadiani agitation was a reaction to the latter’s declaration that those who did not consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a prophet were non-Muslims; (iii) the attitude of the West towards Islam was “neo-imperialist” as was evident in Iraq and Afghanistan. The presence of foreign troops in these two countries is unacceptable; (iv) the freedom movements in Kashmir and Palestine should not be equated with terrorist acts in Europe and the US; (v)the original quest for a  Jewish homeland  would have been acceptable to the Muslims of the Middle East, but the establishment of a sovereign state had changed the perimeters; (vi) the Jamaat  feels that an attack on Iran would be a prelude to an attack on Pakistan; and (vii) if women’s rights organizations only understood the special status accorded to women in Islam, they would be less apprehensive.)

[Words 4,014 with footnote 4,032].

NZ: What were the compulsions under which the Jamaât-e-Islami was created?

QHA: The Jamaât-e-Islami was formally launched at Lahore on 26 August 1941, but its founder Maulana Abul A’lâ Maududi had already established himself as an Islamic scholar of repute long before its inception. The most powerful influence behind its launching was the appeal of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, while addressing a religious session at Jamia Masjid Delhi, urging the Muslims of India to respond to the challenges of the narrow-minded Hindus and their baseless allegations against Islam. Maulana Maududi reacted by authoring a 500-page research document, titled Al-Jihad fil-Islam (The Concept of Jihad in Islam). Jihad is an extreme Muslim response for the establishment of justice. This book of Maulana Maududi attracted the attention of the poet-philosopher Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, who not only communicated his admiration for the research document, but also offered a 300 acre tract of land, which was donated to him by a philanthropist of Pathankot, Chaudhry Niaz Ali, to establish an institution for the promotion of Islamic character.

The Jamaât-e-Islami was thus launched to spread the true Islamic message, based on the authentic teachings of the Holy Prophet, with justice for all as its focal theme. The main emphasis on the concept of Islamic nationhood was acquired from Dr. Iqbal’s philosophy of Asrar-e- Khudi and Ramooz-e Baykhudi. Muslims as a nation cannot be confined within geographical borders. Dr. Iqbal’s Milli Tarana or National Anthem for the Muslims declares that Muslims are a nation beyond their borders, from China to Arabia and all over the world.

NZ: How does the Jamaât view the creation of Pakistan and the role of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah?

QHA. The Jamaât was never against the creation of Pakistan and considers the statement of the Quaid in defining the Muslim character to Mr. M. K. Gandhi in a letter on 17 September 1944 as the cornerstone of its philosophy.[1]

Another statement from Mufti-e-Azam Palestine, Alhaj Aminul Hussaini, on the eve of Hajj in December 1972 added further strength to the role of the Jamaât. The Mufti stated that the creation of Pakistan signified the first re-emergence of Muslim character, after the demise of the Ottoman Empire.

The Jamaât thus claims to preserve and further the philosophy and foresight of great Muslim visionaries. It is a matter of record that the Jamaât played a positive role in the referendum of 1947 for NWFP becoming a part of Pakistan. It also did not forsake the Muslims of India and Maulana Maududi left a charter of advice for them at the time of migrating to Pakistan.

NZ: What role did the Jamaât adopt after the creation of Pakistan?

QHA: The Jamaât-e-Islami continued to strictly adhere to and pursue the  philosophy of the Quran and Sunnah. It demanded an Islamic Constitution immediately after independence and provided three slogans to the new Muslim state:

1. Mulk Khuda ka, Kanoon Shariaât ka, Hakoomat Naik bandon ki. (God’s Country, Islamic Laws and Pious people for Governance).

2. Angraiz rukhsat ho chukka, Angraiz ka Kanoon kab rukhsat ho ga? (the British have gone, when will their system depart?)

3. Jab hum Mussalman hain, hamara kanoon bhi Islami ho ga (We are Muslims, our law will also be Islamic).

NZ: What kind of relationship did the Jamaât enjoy with the ruling Muslim League?

QHA: The staunchly Islamic viewpoint of the Jamaât generated differences with the ruling Muslim League and Maulana Maududi was charged in a fake case of opposing the ongoing popular war in Kashmir and was imprisoned. Nonetheless the Qaradad-e-Maqasid or the Objectives Resolution,[2] which had Maulana Maududi’s blessings, was presented with a consensus of religious scholars in the Constituent Assembly. The efforts of Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar were pivotal in securing its approval by the Assembly.

NZ: Was it at this stage that some members of the Jamaât developed differences of opinion?

QHA: Yes. Some of the veteran members of the Jamaât did not agree with the practical political strategy of Maulana Maududi and decided to leave the party at this stage. Prominent amongst them were Amin Ahsan Islahi, Dr. Asrar Ahmad and Irshad Haqqani. The Jamaât mainstream, however, continued combining Islamic philosophy with polity.

NZ: The Jamaât launched a Movement on the Finality of the Prophethood in 1953-54. What was the rationale behind this Movement?

QHA: The Finality of the Prophethood Movement in 1953-54 was launched as a reaction to the Qadiani declaration that the Muslims who did not believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a prophet or reformer were outside the pale Islam. The Movement was not initiated by Jamaât-e-Islami. In fact Maulana Maududi wrote a detailed research pamphlet on the concise problem of Qadianiat. As a result, he was put into jail, where the Martial Law Court sentenced him to hanging. The decision to hang a person on the mere charge of writing a small pamphlet was in no way in conformity with the offence.

NZ: In 1964, Jamaât participated in the first presidential elections in the country?

QHA: The first presidential elections under the 1962 Constitution were held in 1964 and the Jamaât Islami supported the candidature of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah against the incumbent President, Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan. This demonstrates that the Jamaât has always supported democratic forces and opposed dictatorships.

NZ: General Zia-ul-Haq claims to have initiated the process of Islamization in the country, what was the reaction of the Jamaat towards Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial Law?

QHA: Riding on a massive movement for Nizam-e-Mustafa, (Prophet Muhammad’s Constitutional Setup) in 1977, General Muhammad Zia-ul- Haq imposed another Martial law in the country and introduced certain laws, which he declared Islamic. The Jamaât was divided in its viewpoint, particularly at the time of Zia-ul-Haq’s referendum. Many thought that this constitutional act may lead to a re-entry of democratic forces. A vast majority including me, nonetheless, did not cast their votes in the referendum.

As a follow-up to the referendum, a handpicked Majlis-e-Shoora was nominated. The Jamaât-e-Islami was asked to provide a list of sixty nominees for the Shoora. This request was never acceded to.

NZ: How did the Jamaât react to the democratic process after 1988?

QHA: During the Government of Benazir Bhutto, I wrote a letter to her identifying certain allegations of corruption in the affairs of Pakistan Steel Mills. The letter was replied only after two reminders were sent. In view of the unsatisfactory response, the Jamaât decided to organise a dharna (sit-in) in the capital for highlighting the situation. The capital was closed for the incoming procession and Jamaât workers and organisers were severely manhandled.

NZ: The Jamaât started as an ally of the Muslim League, but later developed a difference with it. What was the reason?

QHA: The Jamaât-e-Islami had been an ally of the Muslim League under the IJI,[3] but differed on normalising relations with India until the Kashmir issue was resolved in accordance with the resolutions of United Nations.

NZ: What is the Media Policy of the Jamaât?

QHA: The Jamaât-e-Islami recognises the importance of the media in the present situation and believes in its optimum utilization. It nonetheless supports an Islamic character for women with reference to their appearance in films and television. The Islamic media in Iran and Hezbollah have already achieved success in this regard. The same model can be applied to the presentation of music in the media.

NZ: Do you think that the population of Pakistan should continue multiplying unchecked?

QHA: The Western policy of reducing population to increase per capita income is against nature. The present family structure in Japan and certain European countries has denied the pleasure to the present population of having children in their families. As a result human resources are imported to run the industrial and economic units. China and India carry their significance in the comity of nations, only because of their large populations. The Malthusian theory of population growth through geometric progression and economic resources in arithmetic progression has been proved wrong. Now one acre of land can cater to the food needs of an entire community. So the Jamaât supports the historical process of reproduction and feels that the danger point in the rise of population has still not been reached in Pakistan. Instead, it is necessary to educate and train the population, so that this important resource is properly channelised.

NZ: Do you believe that the country needs more energy resources?

QHA: The Jamaât believes in proper harnessing of natural resources. It believes that dams need to be established without politicising the matter. In the absence of proper planning, valuable clean water received through natural rains this year has been allowed to drain into sea. If proper water reservoirs were created, this abundant water would have made the country green for a long time.

NZ: A question is  often asked; what is Islami Nizam (Islamic Order)?

QHA: The answer can be provided in three words, Justice for All. It is a system, in which a woman, wearing expensive gold may travel alone without fear for her life, honour or wealth from another human being. The standard of living should be evenly matched and salary structures should not create discrimination amongst serving individuals.

The Islamic Ideology Council has done pioneering work under Justice Tanzilur Rehman. No less than 28 volumes of recommendations have been processed for implementation.

The Jamaât is committed to ensuring equal human rights to all citizens, including minorities and women in accordance with the Objectives Resolution.

NZ: Are you satisfied with the present banking system?

QHA: The banking experts, all over the Muslim world have resolved the issue of interest in bank transactions. Interest in the present economic dealings is only one of the many references. The Jamaât-e-Islami supports   open economic and industrial activity and would encourage a progressive structure for the uplift of the country.

NZ: Do you support the present structure of police?

QHA: The restructuring of police in accordance with Islamic principles needs to be initiated without any further delay. Police is one department that needs a most focussed and immediate attention.

NZ: Are you satisfied with the Islamic clauses of the 1973 Constitution?

QHA: The Constitution of a Muslim country can be both presidential and parliamentary, but it has to be based on the principles of justice for all. The 1973 Constitution can also be revised and updated in accordance with our current needs and Islamic aspirations.

NZ: Do you find any difference in the Islamic concept of democracy with Western perception of democracy?

QHA: Democracy in an Islamic country differs from a Western country. Here a majority cannot vote a law against the clear dictates of Quran and Sunnah. Even in Western countries, certain clauses cannot be debated. The American Supreme Court has likewise identified certain points that cannot be brought into discussion. So our Assemblies cannot debate the clauses provided in the Objectives Resolution.

NZ: What principles of foreign policy does the Jamaât plan to pursue?

QHA: Western civilization needs to realise that the time for imperialism is over. Muslim countries are not open to occupation any more. The time has come when instead of promoting clashes between the civilizations, bridges based on appreciating each other’s point of view need to be established. We cannot condone the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. We are against weapons of mass destruction and, more important, against biological weapons. Those who impose such demands on other countries must exhibit their weapon arsenals to the world. How can a country that possesses and uses weapons of mass destruction against other countries deny such  technology to others.

NZ: What kind of relations do you plan to establish with the world’s only superpower, the United States?

QHA: The Jamaât seeks diplomatic relationship with all countries of the world including the United States on equal levels of sovereignty and respect. It does not seek any defence or economic pact with the United States.

NZ: The western world has launched a war against terrorism. How do you view this war?

QHA: The West has coined various slogans to tarnish the ever popular image of Islam. It initiates provocations against Muslim countries and when the local population resists its advances, it immediately dubs them as terrorists. There is a need to study the causes of terrorism. If various movements in Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are resisting the foreign onslaught in their homeland, how can the local population be declared terrorists?

The Islamic parties in established set-ups have always pursued peaceful strategies. Akhwanul Muslimeen, Sadat Party, PAS Party in Malaysia and Jamaât-e-Islami have been pursuing their objectives through peaceful,   democratic and constitutional means and are certain that these aims can only be achieved through peaceful means. Their adversaries, nonetheless, get frightened by their popularity and very often resort to violence and non-constitutional practices.

NZ: How do you view the existence of Israel?

QHA: Western civilization has committed the greatest blunder by creating the artificial state of Israel within the Muslim heartland. The original Jewish demand for a homeland in Palestine has been changed to the establishment of a sovereign state. Muslims societies have allowed the Jews to coexist within their territories and they can exhibit such magnanimity for the present as well. There is, nonetheless, no justification for avenging the so-called holocaust at the hands of Christians by victimizing  the Muslims.

NZ: What should be Pakistan’s policy towards China?

QHA: China is a major power to the north of Pakistan and it has withstood the test of time in trustworthiness. The Jamaât has a special concern for the well-being of Chinese Muslims, but shall always approach the constitutional and Government channels to use its influence. Jamaât does not work towards promoting sectarian hatred or revolts in any country. In this policy the Jamaât follows the practices of the Holy Prophet, who respected the government structure of other countries and approached the relevant authorities in settling the issues related to the well-being of their local Muslim populations.

NZ: What will be your policy towards India?

QHA: India has still not demonstrated its acceptance of Pakistan. Unless it ceases to claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India and accepts the United Nations Resolutions, a relationship based on trust cannot prevail between the two countries. It is amazing that while the present Government in Pakistan has offered several options for initiating a dialogue on Kashmir, the Indian Government is not prepared to budge an inch from its unprincipled stand. The Jamaât is also concerned about the attitude of the Indian Government towards its Muslim population and feels that they should be allowed to practice their religious duties as free citizens. The oft-quoted phrase of converting the Indian Muslims into Muhammadi Hindus is against the universal principles as enunciated in United Nations Charter.

NZ: What kind of relations do you view with Pakistan’s neighbour on the western border, Afghanistan?

QHA: The Jamaât is against the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. It believes that allied forces cannot stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. The sooner they realise this, the better it will be for their face saving and self-respect.

NZ: What kind of relations do you envisage with  Iran?

QHA: The Jamaât attaches the highest priority to promoting friendly relationship with Iran. It  considers that the closest of relations with Iran are in the best interest of both the countries. I am personally in contact with the Iranian leadership, both at the political and religious levels. The peoples of the two countries desire close and fraternal relations.  The Jamaât strongly believes that an attack on Iran should not be tolerated, because in that case Pakistan will be encircled and could be the next in line.

NZ: What is the  Jamaât’s policy towards the West?

QHA: The relationship with all countries including  Western nations and America can only be established on the basis of equality and self- respect and we will go to any extent to preserve our sovereignty and self- respect.

NZ: How can Baluchistan be brought at par with other parts of the country?

QHA: Baluchistan is rich in natural resources. The Jamaât feels that a proper geological survey of the province has not been conducted so far. This needs to be done. The enormous resources of the province can bring affluence to its people but this needs to be carefully handled. The Baluch population is not properly educated and trained to handle the incoming wealth. There is the fear that the development of Baluchistan will be exploited by other provinces. Another fear is that the local population will thin out. So at the first stage, the people of Baluchistan need to be educated and trained. The trained Baluch population in Punjab and Sindh may be recalled and given the responsibility of managing the affairs of their own province. Only then can the fruits of development in Baluchistan benefit the people of the province. This is a delicate issue and demands very skilful handling.

NZ: The Jamaât has formed the government in NWFP. How does it view the political situation in that  province?

QHA: The Jamaât prides itself on its success in converting the nationalist ethnic impulse of the Pakhtoons in the NWFP in favour of Pakistan. The Pakhtoons had strongly believed that they shared a common religion, language and heritage with the people of Afghanistan and, as such, their geographical roots were there. The credit for diluting this inclination goes entirely to the Jamaât-e-Islami which has consistently promoted fraternal Islamic relations between the Pakhtoons and non-Pakhtoons.

NZ: What do you view as the greatest threat facing the country at present?

QHA: In my view the secular minority in Pakistan is the greatest threat to the nation-building process of the country. Religion has been recognised as the most powerful force in both the Muslim and the non-Muslim world. Hezbollah has acquired its recent victory on the basis of its religious strength. The West is trying to dilute this by introducing secular concepts in Islamic countries. The secular minority in our country needs to develop rational thinking and should not play to the Western gallery.

It is unfortunate that while people in the West are getting converted to Islam and are spreading its positive values, we in our own Muslim countries are trying to create disillusionment about our great religion and heritage.

NZ: How do you view the process of cooperation with the neighbouring countries in the region?

QHA: Pakistan needs to develop regional cooperation with contiguous Muslim countries in the West and North West. A natural and historical alliance can easily be developed with Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Central Asian Muslim states. Erbakan’s D-8 proposal and the ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) need to be further strengthened for closer economic, cultural and educational interaction. In the first phase, the visa restrictions amongst member countries need to be reduced and ultimately eliminated.

In comparison to ECO, SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) is an unnatural alliance. It is supported by the West to promote India’s hegemonic ambitions and, as such, it will never make any headway.

NZ: What education policy does the Jamaât plan to pursue?

QHA: Jamaât-e-Islami believes in a uniform education structure across the country. It believes that education up to High School should be provided to all citizens of the country through identical syllabus. There should be no discrimination of A/O Level, English/Urdu medium or Madrassah-level amongst any student. It promotes Urdu as the medium of instruction and professes that all countries have achieved economic development only by adopting their national language. Urdu should be promoted as the national language and as a symbol of unity. English and other languages may be taught as optional second languages. Essential religious education must be given from the very beginning. Specialised religious pursuits or professional knowledge of medicine, engineering and other disciplines may be imparted beyond High School.

NZ: Certain women’s organizations in Pakistan are critical of the Jamaât policy on the rights of women. What is the truth in this regard?

QHA: It is unfortunate that some women in Pakistan believe that Islam has been an obstacle to their progress and advancement. On the contrary, Islam recognises the special status of women and provides rights to them in all sectors, including inheritance and job opportunities. Islam is against all kinds of out-of-court killings. The West has reduced the dignity of women and made them vulnerable to male chauvinism. As a consequence  they have lost their moral values. The negative projection of women in Pakistani society can only be ascribed to the fact that the true spirit of Islam has not been promulgated in the country. The women of Pakistan and of the world can only receive proper respect under an Islamic code of life. It is indeed a matter of great satisfaction, that Muslim and even non-Muslim women are voluntarily getting attracted to hijab and the Islamic code of life.

NZ: Do you think Urdu as a national language has any future in the country?

QHA: Every country in Europe has achieved success by imparting education in its own language. Even small European and Far Eastern countries with less than five million populations have adopted their national languages. It is criminal that we have still not provided proper status to our national language in spite of its special mention in our Constitution.

NZ: Thank you very much Qazi Saheb for your time.

QHA: You are most welcome. In conclusion, I am optimistic that Pakistan is closer today towards achieving an Islamic political structure than ever before.

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[1] The Quaid in his letter stated: “We maintain and hold that Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a hundred million and what is more, we are a nation with our distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendars, history and traditions, aptitude and ambitions; in short we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation.” (Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah’s Correspondence, pp. 112-113, Edited by Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, East and West Publishing Company, Third Edition, 1977.

[2] The Objectives Resolution enunciated  Islamic principles to be incorporated in the Constitution.

[3] Islami Jamhoori Itihad was a coalition of right-wing political parties in  the 1990s.