Dr. Israr Ahmed Dies

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

israr-ahmed

Dr. Israr Ahmed, (April 26, 1932 – April 14, 2010) died in Pakistan on April 14. He was a Pakistan-based Muslim religious scholar followed particularly in South Asia and also in the South Asian diaspora in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America. Born in Hissar, (today’s Haryana) in India, the second son of a government servant, he is the founder of the Tanzeem-e-islami, an off-shoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He hosted a daily show on Peace TV, a 24 hours Islamic channel broadcast internationally, and until recently on ARY Qtv.

His supporters describe him as having spent the “last forty years” actively engaged in “reviving the Qur’an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view” with “the ultimate objective of establishing a true Islamic State, or the System of Khilafah.” Ahmed is skeptical of the efficacy of “parliamentary politics of give-and-take” in establishing an “Islamic politico-socio-economic system” as implementing this system is a “revolutionary process”.

Dr. Israr Ahmad was born on April 26, 1932 in Hisar (a district of East Punjab, now a part of Haryana) in India, the second son of a government servant. He graduated from King Edward Medical College (Lahore) in 1954 and later received his Master’s degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi in 1965. He came under the influence of Abul Ala Maududi as a young student, worked briefly for Muslim Student’s Federation in the Independence Movement and, following the creation of Pakistan in 1947, for the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and then for the Jamaat-e-Islami. Dr. Israr Ahmad resigned from the Jama`at in April 1957 because of its involvement in the electoral politics, which he believed was irreconcilable with the revolutionary methodology adopted by the Jama’at in the pre-1947 period.

While still a student and an activist of the Islami Jami`yat-e-Talaba, Dr. Israr Ahmad became a Mudarris (or teacher) of the Qur’an. Even after resigning from the Jama`at, he continued to give Qur’anic lectures in different cities of Pakistan, and especially after 1965 spent a great deal of time studying the Quran.
In 1967 Dr. Israr Ahmadin wrote “Islamic Renaissance: The Real Task Ahead”, a tract explaining his basic belief. This was that a rebirth of Islam would be possible only by revitalizing iman (faith) among the Muslims – particularly educated Muslims – and the propagation of the Qur’anic teachings in contemporary idiom and at the highest level of scholarship is necessary to revitalize iman. This undertaking would remove the existing dichotomy between modern physical and social sciences on the one hand, and Islamic revealed knowledge on the other.

In 1971 Ahmad gave up his medical practice to devote himself full time to the Islamic revival. In 1972 he established or helped establish the Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an Lahore, Tanzeem-e-Islami was founded in 1975, and Tahreek-e-Khilafat Pakistan was launched in 1991.

Dr. Israr Ahmad first appeared on Pakistan Television in 1978 in a program called Al-Kitab; this was followed by other programs, known as Alif Lam Meem, Rasool-e-Kamil, Umm-ul-Kitab and the most popular of all religious programs in the history of Pakistan Television, the Al-Huda, which made him a household name throughout the country.[citation needed] His television lectures generally focused on the revitalization of the Islamic faith through studies of the Quran. Dr. Israr Ahmad also criticized modern democracy and the electoral system and argued that the head of an Islamic state can reject the majority decisions of an elected assembly.[7] Although he did not like to receive it personally, Dr. Israr Ahmad was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1981. He has to his credit over 60 Urdu books on topics related to Islam and Pakistan, 9 of which have been translated into English and other languages.

Dr. Israr Ahmed relinquished the leadership of Tanzeem-e-Islami in October, 2002 on grounds of bad health and Hafiz Aakif Saeed is the present Ameer of the Tanzeem to whom all rufaqaa of Tanzeem renewed their pledge of Baiyah.

Supporters describe his vision of Islam as having been synthesized from the diverse sources. He has also acknowledged the “deep influence” of Shah Waliullah Dehlavi, the 18th century Indian Islamic leader, anti-colonial activist, jurist, and scholar.[3] Ahmad follows the thinking of Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi and Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, concerning what his followers believe is the “internal coherence of and the principles of deep reflection in the Qur’an”. He follows Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in regards to what he believes is the “dynamic and revolutionary conception of Islam.”

“In the context of Qur’anic exegesis and understanding, Dr. Israr Ahmad is a firm traditionalist of the genre of Maulana Mehmood Hassan Deobandi and Allama Shabeer Ahmad Usmani; yet he presents Qur’anic teachings in a scientific and enlightened way …”[2] Ahmed believes in what he calls “Islamic revolutionary thought,” which consists of the idea that Islam – the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah – must be implemented in the social, cultural, juristic, political, and the economic spheres of life. In this he is said to follow Mohammad Rafiuddin and Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. The first attempt towards the actualization of this concept was reportedly made by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad through his short-lived party, the Hizbullah. Another attempt was made by Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi through his Jamaat-e-Islami party. Although the Jamaat-e-Islami has reached some influence, Ahmad resigned from the party in 1956 when it entered the electoral process and believes this involvement has led to “degeneration from a pure Islamic revolutionary party to a mere political one”.

The nucleus of Tanzeem-e-Islami, which Israr Ahmad founded, was created in 1956, following the resignation of Ahmad and some other individuals from Jamaat-e-Islami over its electoral activity and “significant policy matters. They came together and tried unsuccessfully to form an organized group … A resolution was passed which subsequently became the Mission Statement of Tanzeem-e-Islami.”

Later, disappointed with what he saw as the “lack of effort to create an Islamic renaissance through the revolutionary process” he again attempted to create a “disciplined organization,” namely Tanzeem-e-Islami.

Along with his work to revive “the Qur’an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view” Ahmed aims with his party to “reform the society in a practical way with the ultimate objective of establishing a true Islamic State, or the System of Khilafah”.

According to the Tanzeem-e-Islami website Ahmed and the party believe “the spiritual and intellectual center of the Muslim world has shifted from the Arab world to the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent” and “conditions are much more congenial for the establishment of Khilafah in Pakistan” than in other Muslim countries.[citation needed]

According to Tanzeem-e-Islami’s FAQ, while both Hizb ut-Tahrir and Tanzeem-e-Islami share belief in reviving the Caliphate as a means of implementing Islam in all spheres of life, Tanzeem-e-Islami does not believe in involvement in electoral politics, armed struggle, coup d’état to establish a caliphate, and has no set plan of detailed workings for the future Caliphate. Tanzeem-e-Islami emphasizes that iman (faith) among Muslims must be revived in “a significant portion of the Muslim society” before there can be an Islamic revival.

While Ahmad “considers himself a product” of the teachings of “comprehensive and holistic concept of the Islamic obligations” of Abul Ala Maududi, he opposes Jamaat-e-Islami’s “plunge” into “the arena of power politics,” which he considers to have been “disastrous.”

Nov 19, 2007 Ahmed warned that “the NATO forces are waiting on the western front to move into Pakistan and may deprive the country of its nuclear assets while on the eastern border India is ready to stage an action replay of 1971 events and has alerted its armed forces to intervene in to check threats to peace in the region.

Ahmed has also been criticized as making anti-Semitic and Islamic supremacist statements.

Canada’s National Post newspaper reported in 2006 that, according to Ahmad:

“Islam’s renaissance will begin in Pakistan… because the Arab world is living under subjugation. Only the Pakistan region has the potential for standing up against the nefarious designs of the global power-brokers and to resist the rising tides of the Jewish/Zionist hegemony.

Asia Times reports that in September 1995 Israr Ahmed told the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America that:

The process of the revival of Islam in different parts of the world is real. A final showdown between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, which has been captured by the Jews, would soon take place. The Gulf War was just a rehearsal for the coming conflict.

He appealed to the Muslims of the world, including those in the US, to prepare themselves for the coming conflict.”

On July 27, 2007, VisionTV, a Canadian multi-faith religious television channel, aired an apology for broadcasting lectures by Mr. Ahmad. The channel had taken Ahmad off the air earlier that week for his derogatory comments about Jews. In reply, Ahmed “strongly refuted the impression that he hated the Jews or he held anti-Semitic views,” according to the National Post, but a “written statement, issued by his personal secretary in Lahore, went on to explain Mr. Ahmad’s belief that the Holocaust was `Divine punishment` and that Jews would one day be `exterminated.”

The Post gave several quotes about Jews by Ahmed including

“It is apparent to any careful observer that the Jews have continued to suffer the floggings of Divine punishment in the present century – the Holocaust during the Second World War being a case in point.

[T]he conflict between the Jews and Muslims is going to result, ultimately, in the total extermination of the former, according to the Divine law of ‘annihilation of the worse.’”

Miss Shagufta Ahmad has submitted her master thesis entitled, “Dr. Israr Ahmad’s Political Thoughts and Activities” to the McGill University, Canada in 1994. The thesis discussed in detail the intellectual development of Israr Ahmad and the influence of Allama Iqbal, Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Maududi’s political thought, especially his theory of revolution and the activities of his three organizations, Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an, Tanzeem-e-Islami and Tehreek-e-Khilafat. Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an published the thesis in 1996.

The veteran scholar died of a cardiac arrest at his home in Lahore on the morning of 14 of April 2010 between 3:00 and 3:30 AM. According to his son, his health detriorated at arround 1:30 in the morning with severe pain in the back, he was a long time heart patient.

His funeral (Namaz-e-Janazah) is planned after Asr (afternoon) prayers at Model Town Park, Lah

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Maulana Barakatullah: An Indian Muslim Revolutionary in America

July 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ayub Khan, MMNS

It was a hot summer night in 1927. An elderly and weak looking man entered a community hall in Marysville, California. The gathered crowd of over 800 Indians became ecstatic and greeted him with a  thundering applause. Strings of sparkling tears rolled down the face of  the elderly man. He went up to the stage and began speaking with his usual forceful delivery but suddenly stopped. He couldn’t utter a word. There were wails and sighs from the audience. The elderly man composed himself and smiled; it’s glow sent a cheer through the audience. But he did not speak. A voice that has shaken the corridors of British colonial authorities was soon going to be silent forever. This voice belonged to the great, but almost forgotten, hero of Indian independence movement Maulana Barakatullah Bhopali. Maulana Bhopali’s life is one full of dedication and service-a fiery journalist, a brilliant orator, an erudite Islamic scholar, a nationalist to the core, an author of several books, a polyglot who knew more than seven languages, a prime minister of India’s government -in-exile. He was all this and more.

Maulana Barakatullah passed away on his way to San Francisco on September 20, 1927 and was buried in the Old City Cemetery of Sacramento. His funeral was attended by Indian Americans of all religious persuasions and they hoped that the Maulana’s remains would eventually be transferred to India once it attains independence. But, alas, the wish remained unfulfilled and the Maulana rests in peace in a particularly beautiful section of this historic cemetery.

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Headstone of Maulana Barakatullah’s grave in Sacramento Historic Cemetery (Courtesy: Sharon Patrician)

Maulana Barakatullah Bhopali was born somewhere between 1859 and 1861 in the princely state of Bhopal in India. His father Maulvi Muhammad Shujaat Ullah was a Madrassa teacher originally with meager resources and income. A bright student Barakatullah successfully completed his religious education at Madrasa-e-Sulaimaniya and qualified as an Alim in 1878. He served as a teacher at the same school from 1879-1880. He was able to utilize the intellectual milieu of princely Bhopal and was likely to have come in contact with the scholar-prince Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan Qanauji. He is also reported to have met the pan-Islamist and reformer Jamaluddin Afghani in 1882 and was much impressed of his ideas.

In 1883 he disappeared mysteriously from Bhopal and ended up in Bombay where he enrolled himself in Wilson High School in Khetwadi. Despite being a mature student he did not mind attending the elementary grades. At the insistence of a certain Mr. Scot he began taking private lessons in English from him  in return for teaching Urdu.  Within three years he was proficient enough to qualify for the university entrance examination.

He went to London in 1887 and served as a private tutor teaching Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. He himself learned German, French, and Japanese. He was invited by the British convert Abdullah Quilliam to work at the Muslim Institute in Liverpool  in 1895. He subsequently taught at the Oriental College of University of Liverpool. He later distanced himself from the Muslim Institute over its style of functioning.

While in England he came into contact with Indian revolutionaries at India House. In response to the then British Prime Minister Gladstone’s racist comments about India he launched a flurry of articles and speeches criticizing the policies. As a result his activities were severely restricted. 

He left for New York in 1899 at the insistence of Muslim scholar and activist Muhammad Alexander Russell Webb. In his six year stint in New York he churned out a prolific number of articles related to Islam and India which were published in Webb’s The Muslim World and also in mainstream newspapers such as the Forum. To earn an income he taught Arabic. He developed contacts with the Indian community in other cities of US and Canada and sought to instill the revolutionary spirit in them. While in America he kept in touch with fellow revolutionaries in India and had a scholarly exchange with the poet and nationalist leader Maulana Hasrat Mohani.  In these letters he stressed on the need for Hindu-Muslim unity in the freedom struggle. He became a founder member of the Ghadr Party started by the Indians in San Francisco.

Maulana Barakatullah reached Japan in 1909 and was appointed a professor of oriental languages at the University of Tokyo. He brought out a journal The Islamic Fraternity which was known for its anti-colonial content. After its suppression he brought out another newspaper by the name of El Islam which was banned in British India. As a result of his activities his appointment at the university was terminated in 1914. This, however, did not unnerve Maulana Barakatullah. He treated the world as his playground and moved his activities elsewhere.

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Maulana Barakatullah (extreme right) with the Turko-German Mission

He accompanied the Turko-German Mission to Kabul in 1915 and joined Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi and Raja Mahendra Pratap to form the Provincial government of India. He served as the Prime Minister of the government-in-exile. In 1919 he met Lenin and sought his help in India’s struggle for freedom. Throughout the the early 1920s he travelled widely in Germany, France, and Russia organizing the expatriate Indian communities on the revolutionary path.

His 1927 visit was his second one to the New World and would prove to be his last. He was suffering from diabetes and had a host of other ailments but his love for the nation was such that he undertook the long journey from Germany along with long time friend and fellow revolutionary Mahendra  Pratap. He arrived in New York in July 1927 and stayed at a hotel in Times Square. On 15th July 1927, he was given a reception by the Indian community at Ceylon Indian Inn on 49th Street. He also met the Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. The two also spoke at a joint gathering of African-Americans and Indians.   He also travelled to Chicago, Gary, and several other cities of the Midwest renewing his links with the Indian and Irish communities among whom he had many friends.

He arrived at the Yugantar Ashram, the Ghadr Party’s headquarters in San Francisco and was pleased with its work. He then proceeded to Marysville where he was destine to give his last public speech. Throughout this trip his constant companion was Raja Mahendra Pratap who was himself not keeping well and aging. According to Mahendra Pratap’s autobiography the Maulana last words were:  “I have been sincerely struggling all my life for the independence of my country. Today, when I am leaving this world, I have regret that my attempts did not succeed. But at the same time I am also satisfied that hundreds and thousands of others have followed me who are brave and truthful…With satisfaction I place the destiny of my beloved nation in their hands.”

Maulana Barakatullah Bhopali was an epitome of sincerity and dedication towards one’s nation. A die hard to the core he never married as he considered it be distracting from his duty to the freedom struggle. It is an irony that this legendary son of the Indian freedom movement is reduced to the margins of Indian history. His name doesn’t find a mention in the country’s text books nor does his portrait grace the famed halls of the Indian parliament. There is, however, a university named after him in his native Bhopal.

Maulana Barakatullah’s sojourns in America also testify to the long standing links which Indian Muslims have maintained with the new world. Contrary to popular perceptions Indian Muslims did not begin arriving in America in the 1960s but at least sixty years earlier. The registers of cemeteries across California will verify this fact.

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