Makateeb-i-Zindan by Hakeem Amritsari

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Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

MAULANA Abul Ala Maudoodi’s controversial edict about jihad in the late 1940s during the Kashmir war is still relevant, given the plethora of self-proclaimed jihadi organisations active in Pakistan. The book under review, Makateeb-i-Zindan, is the third edition, published earlier in 1952 and 1983. The book consists of letters written in jail by Maulana Maudoodi and other Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) leaders arrested in October 1948 under the Punjab Public Safety Act. The compiler of the book, Hakeem Muhammad Sharif, explains the background against which the arrests were made.

The issue was whether the war in Kashmir was a jihad. According to the compiler, Maudoodi had said that there could be no private jihad; that a private individual or militia could not declare war in violation of a government’s international commitments, and that for a jihad to be a jihad it must be declared by the government — a position which runs counter to the JI’s policies over the last many years.

The JI chief was also asked whether recruitment to the Pakistan army was allowed under the Shariah. Maudoodi’s verdict was that soldiers in the British army took an unconditional (ghair mashroot) oath of loyalty to the British army, and since the Pakistan government had not made any changes in the oath, a Muslim could not take the British-era oath, because a Muslim’s unconditional loyalty is only to God.

Sharif claims that the public meetings which the JI organised throughout West Pakistan had unnerved the government, and the demand for an Islamic system had spread like wildfire. This left the rulers with no choice but to launch a crackdown on JI periodicals and arrest its leaders, including Amin Ahsan Islahi (who later broke away from the party) and Mian Tufail Mohammad. Sharif also claims that the purported promises which the leaders of the Pakistan movement had made for a Shariah-based system turned out to be a hoax; and he lambasts Pakistan’s “governor general and president of the Constituent Assembly” for his Aug 11, 1947 speech. There is a factual mistake here: Pakistan had not come into being till then, and, therefore, Jinnah had yet to become governor general. Why he mentions the Quaid’s official status and doesn’t identify him by name can only be explained in terms of an outlook that is reticent, overawed by Jinnah’s position in history.

The book contains 17 letters by the JI chief, nine by Islahi and 14 by Tufail Mohammad — written to party colleagues, family members, friends and government authorities. While the JI chief’s letters dwelt on a number of political and religious issues, his reply dated April 6, 1950, is significant for it constitutes a harsh criticism of the violent methods now being used by militant organisations in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Injustices in society and state, he says, must be removed by means gradual and mild, and he denounces without reservation the tendency prevalent then to adopt the methods chosen by “the current revolutionary movements” — a reference to communist insurgencies.

He condemns copying other revolutionary movements’ violent tactics and applying them to Islamic movements seeking reform and change. And Tufail Mohammad’s letter dated Nov 13, 1949, is a journey through a political and ideological maze, for he bewails the futility of Partition if Pakistan wasn’t cast in his image. In addition, this book also records some facets of our history, so it can be read from that perspective, too.

Compiled by Hakeem Muhammad Sharif Amritsari
Alhamd Publications, Lahore
Phone Number: 042-37231490

Muhammad Ali Siddiqi, “Makateeb-i-Zindan by Hakeem Amritsari ,” in Dawn, August 23, 2015. Accessed on August 23, 2015, at:

The item above written by Muhammad Ali Siddiqi and published in Dawn on August 23, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on August 23, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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