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Bokhari, Kamran . "Jamāʿat-i Islāmī." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 20, 2022. <>.


Bokhari, Kamran . "Jamāʿat-i Islāmī." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 20, 2022).

Jamāʿat-i Islāmī

A moderate Islamist party in Pakistan, Jamāʿat-i Islāmī (the Islamic Group/Party) is one of the oldest Islamist movements and has been influential in the development of Muslim political revivalism across the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular. It was founded in Lahore on August 26, 1941, mainly through the efforts of Mawlānā Sayyid Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī (d. 1979), an Islamist thinker and activist who had dedicated his life to the revival of Islam in India. Mawdūdī had been involved since 1938 with the struggle to reverse the decline of the Muslim community in pre-partition India. He had opposed accommodating the Congress Party, believing that Hindu rule behind the veneer of secular nationalism would spell the end of Islam in India. He had been equally if not more vehemently opposed to the Muslim League, which he believed to be a secularist entity, completely ill-equipped to respond to the imperatives before the Muslim community. The Jamāʿat was in large measure created to rival the Muslim League for the leadership of the Pakistan movement, especially after the Lahore Resolution of 1940 that committed the League to creating a separate Muslim state.

Mawdūdī 's call for the creation of a new Muslim organization that would better address the predicament facing Muslims was supported by a number of young ʿulamāʿ who joined him in Lahore to form the new organization. The most notable of these were Mawlānās Sayyid Abulḥasan ʿAlī Nadvī of Nadvatul-ʿUlamāʿ and Muḥammad Manẓūr Nuʿmānī, a Deobandī. Mawdūdī was elected by the founding body of seventy-five members as the Jamāʿat 's first amir (president), a title he held until 1972. The party 's constitution was also ratified in that opening session. Soon after its creation, the party established its headquarters in Pathankut, a hamlet in East Punjab. The seclusion of Pathankut permitted the Jamāʿat to consolidate and to create a community (ummah), which had been a principal objective behind its creation. Between 1941 and 1947, the Jamāʿat spread its message across India through its widely distributed literature, rallies, conventions, and public sessions.

Structure and Ideology.

The Jamāʿat has closely followed the teachings of Mawdūdī, which emphasize the exoteric dimensions of faith, disparage traditional Islam, rationalize faith, and predicate eschatology and salvation on social action. The Jamāʿat views Islam as a holistic ideology analogous to Western ideologies such as Marxism. It promises a utopian order to be constructed in the temporal realm; and it encourages Muslims to embark upon an Islamic revolution, shaping society and politics in accordance with the precepts of the faith as interpreted by Mawdūdī.

According to the Jamāʿat 's founding constitution, revised and amended since 1941, the party consists of members (arkan, sg. rukn) and a periphery of sympathizers (muttafiqs and hamdards), all of whom provide it with a cadre of workers (kārkun). Members alone, however, may hold office in the party. In 1947 the Jamāʿat had 385 members; in 1989 this figure stood at 5,723, and the party also boasted 305,792 official affiliates. Party discipline has always been rigorous, and members are expected to reform all aspects of their lives to conform to standards set by the party. Emphasis therefore rests on quality rather than numbers. The Jamāʿat has not been a mass party, but a community that aims at absorbing society as a whole.

The Jamāʿat is guided by the amir in consultation with the Shūrā (consultative assembly). The internal affairs of the party are supervised by the office of the qayyim (secretary-general). In later years, this structure was reproduced at all levels of the party from the nation to village, creating an all-encompassing pyramidal structure of authority. Since the 1960s the party has also developed a women's wing, semi-autonomous organizations such as publication houses and unions, and a student wing, Islāmī Jamʿīyat-i ṭulabā (Islamic Students Association) founded in 1947. [See Youth Movements.]

History and Politics.

Following the partition of India, the Jamāʿat divided into three separate units for India, Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan. Mawdūdī, along with the bulk of the original party leaders and members, left India for Pakistan and established the headquarters of the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī of Pakistan in Lahore. Soon afterward the party abandoned the relative isolationism of its Pathankut days and became fully immersed in politics.

Pakistani politics meanwhile proved receptive to the Jamāʿat, and the party soon found a niche in the political arena that expanded over time. Pakistan 's particularly arduous experiences with nation-building and consolidation of the state in the subsequent years, the deep-seated cleavages in its polity, the uneasy coexistence between democracy and military rule, and civil war and secession by the majority of its population made the emotional power of Islam increasingly more appealing and its promise of unity ever more poignant.

The Jamāʿat 's political agenda was premised on a program of training a vanguard “Islamic elite,” who would oversee the revival of Islam on a national level and would mobilize the masses using religious symbols and ideals. The party organized a tightly knit network of activists and sympathizers who not only propagated Mawdūdī 's views but also enabled the party to project power in the political arena. Mawdūdī and the Jamāʿat quickly closed ranks with the ʿulamāʿ and other self-styled religious movements in pressing the newly formed state for an Islamic constitution. The party 's ideas and policy positions featured prominently in the ongoing debates between the government and the religious alliance from 1947 to 1956, most notably in the Objectives Resolution of 1949.

No sooner had the state declared its independence than the Jamāʿat forbade the citizenry to take an oath of allegiance to the state unless it became Islamic. The government was troubled by the Jamāʿat 's challenge to its legitimacy, especially when such challenges involved foreign relations. In 1948, while observing a cease-fire with India, Pakistan had resumed support for insurgency in Kashmir, which was largely spearheaded by armed paramilitary units dispatched from Pakistan. The fighters had harped on the theme of jihād to justify their uprising and to gather new recruits and material support for their cause. Mawdūdī, challenging the legitimacy of the declaration of a jihād in Kashmir, argued that vigilante groups could not declare jihād, nor could the government surreptitiously support a jihād when observing a cease-fire. Jihād had to be properly declared by a central government to justify a legitimate and ongoing war. Mawdūdī thus asserted that the government should either formally go to war with India over Kashmir, or abide by the terms of the cease-fire to which it had agreed. India understandably found Mawdūdī 's opinion of considerable political value, which led Pakistani authorities to accuse the Jamāʿat of pro-Indian sympathies and anti-Pakistan activities. Several Jamāʿat leaders, including Mawdūdī, were incarcerated, and the party was declared a seditious entity on par with communist organizations.

Mawdūdī 's arguments not only placed the government on the defensive by questioning the wisdom of its policy of cessation of conflict with India over Kashmir, but also revealed its susceptibility to criticism from religious circles. The entire episode moreover confirmed the Jamāʿat 's place in the ongoing sociopolitical and constitutional debates in Pakistan, and increased the government 's sensitivity to religious activism. The government, however, was unable to dismantle the Jamāʿat or to extirpate Islam from the political arena. Even while in prison, Mawdūdī continued his activities and successfully mobilized the ʿulamāʿ and various other religious groups to press the Constituent Assembly to move Pakistan toward Islamization.

Following Mawdūdī 's release from prison in 1950, the Jamāʿat 's activities were further intensified, producing a formidable religious alliance that effectively anchored national constitutional debates in Islam. In 1951 the Jamāʿat became directly active in politics by taking part in the Punjab elections. It was, however, the anti-Aḥmadīyah agitations in Punjab in 1953–1954 that catapulted the Jamāʿat to the forefront of Pakistani politics.

In 1953, agitators organized and led by the ʿulamāʿ and religious activists demanded the dismissal of Zafaruʿllah Khan, Pakistan 's Aḥmadī foreign minister, and the relegation of the Aḥmadīyah to the status of a non-Muslim minority. These measures, the agitators argued, would serve as litmus tests for the government 's commitment to Islam. Although the agitations were led by the ʿulamāʿ and religious groups such as the Anjumani Aḥrār, the Jamāʿat 's role proved critical in providing convincing justification for them, especially in the form of a book, Qadiyani masʿalah (The Aḥmadīyah Issue). In fact, the government viewed the Jamāʿat 's support for the agitations as more alarming and invidious than the provocative activities of the Aḥrār. As a result, once the government clamped down on the agitations, Mawdūdī and a number of prominent Jamāʿat leaders were apprehended and put on trial. Mawdūdī was convicted of sedition and sentenced to death. That sentence was later commuted and was eventually reversed by the country 's supreme court. See AḥMADīYAH.

By pitting the Jamāʿat against the state over a popular cause, the anti-Aḥmadīyah issue enhanced the party 's political standing. Moreover, the agitations placed Islam more squarely at the center of the constitutional debates regarding the nature of the Pakistani state, all to the Jamāʿat 's advantage. As a result, it used its growing power to exert renewed pressure on the government, this time regarding the issue of the constitution of 1956. In the aftermath of the anti-Aḥmadīyah disturbances, and with the religiously inclined Chaudhri Muhammad ʿAli as prime minister, the Constitutional Assembly began to accommodate the religious activists to an increasing extent. Consequently, with the promulgation of the constitution of 1956, the Jamāʿat and its allies among the ʿulamāʿ claimed victory and accepted the new constitution as an Islamic one.

This paved the way for the Jamāʿat to become more directly involved in politics. In 1957, despite opposition within the party, Mawdūdī directed the Jamāʿat to recognize the legitimacy of the state by declaring that it would participate in the national elections of 1958 as a full-fledged party. The constitutional victory was, however, short lived, for the armed forces of Pakistan under the command of General Muhammad Ayub Khan (d. 1969), with a modernizing agenda that disparaged the encroachment of religion into politics, took over power in 1958.

Over the following decade the political establishment became dominated by an authoritarian and bureaucratic elite who actively promoted religious modernism as a way of retarding the drive for the Islamization of the country. Advocates of religious revival and an Islamic state were increasingly pressed into retreat. The Jamāʿat 's offices were closed down, its leaders were excoriated in government-sponsored publications, and its activities, networks, and operations were restricted. Mawdūdī himself was imprisoned twice during Ayub Khan 's rule.

Unable to advocate freely the cause of Islam in the political arena, the Jamāʿat became more concerned with the removal of Ayub Khan and the restoration of a political climate that would be conducive to religio-political activism. The party 's experiences with Ayub Khan 's government forced it to look for new allies outside the circle of religious revivalists. Consequently, the Jamāʿat joined the alliance of political parties that advocated restoration of democracy and an end to Ayub Khan 's hegemony in Pakistan, going so far as to support the candidacy of Fatimah Jinnah in the presidential elections of 1965. The Ayub era politicized the Jamāʿat further, transforming it into a consummate political party.

The result of this transformation was clear in the Jamāʿat 's policies in the post-Ayub period. In 1970 it participated in national elections with the aim of capturing power. Those hopes were dashed when the party won only four seats in the National Assembly and four seats in various provincial assemblies. In 1971 the Jamāʿat responded to the advent of civil war in East Pakistan by mobilizing its resources in support of the central government and by joining the attempt to prevent East Pakistan from seceding as Bangladesh. In this regard its paramilitary organizations, al-Shams and al-Badr, played a key role in fighting alongside the Pakistani army to crush Bengali separatism.

The secession of East Pakistan and the rise of Zulfiqar ʿAli Bhutto (d. 1979) to power in 1971 intensified the Jamāʿat 's political activism. The socialist content of the Pakistan Peoples ’ Party 's political program was particularly instrumental in prompting the Jamāʿat into action. Viewing Bhutto 's populism as a direct challenge to the Islamic basis of Pakistan and to its own place in the country 's political order, the party directly confronted the government on numerous political issues, notably during the movement against recognition of Bangladesh in 1972–1974 and the anti-Aḥmadīyah disturbances of 1974.

The Jamāʿat 's religio-political program—the Niẓām-i Muṣtafā (Order of the Prophet)—proved instrumental in giving shape to an anti-Bhutto alliance and in managing its nationwide agitations. This struggle greatly bolstered the Jamāʿat 's popular standing. In the elections of 1977, widely believed to have been rigged to favor Bhutto, the Jamāʿat won nine of the thirty-six seats won by the opposition. During the subsequent antigovernment protests the party 's popularity soared further. It was the Jamāʿat and the movement it led that eventually undermined the Bhutto government and in 1977 provoked a military coup d ’état.

The cause of the Islamist opposition, now enjoying wide popularity, could not be ignored by the martial law administration of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq (d. 1988), who in his search for legitimacy was quick to appease the Niẓāmi-i Muṣṭafa movement. Zia 's eleven-year rule from 1977 to 1988 was therefore a period of unprecedented success and political influence for the Jamāʿat. Once a dissident party outside the pale of mainstream politics, Jamāʿat became a political and ideological force at the helm of power. Jamāʿat leaders occupied important government offices, including cabinet posts, and the party 's views were reflected in government programs. It should be noted that Jamāʿat members of Zia 's cabinet resigned their positions after about a year in office following differences with the government. Moreover, when Zia moved to ban student organizations and unions in 1984, the Islāmī Jamʿīyat-i Ṭulabā (Islamic Students Association) launched a major nationwide campaign against the Zia regime. Yet, Zia 's generally close ties with the Jamʿīyat was facilitated by the fact that both he and the then Jamāʿat amirMiān Ṭufail Muḥammad (who had succeeded Maudūdī in 1972 as the party 's second leader after the founder stepped down due to health reasons) hailed from the same Arain biradari (caste). The party played a direct role in the Islamization of the country, as well as in articulating state policy, especially concerning the Afghan jihād and the position of the federal state on provincial and ethnic demands.

The rise in the fortunes of the Jamāʿat during the Zia period, however, turned out to be a pyrrhic victory; for despite its influence at the top, the party failed to expand its social base, nor was it able to exercise political influence outside the channels provided by the government. As a result, in the national elections of 1985 it won only ten seats in the National Assembly and thirteen in the provincial assemblies. Unable to utilize its newly found prominence to advance its own political position or to distinguish its programs from those of the government, the Jamāʿat became an instrument of government policy-making and was, therefore, effectively coopted by the regime.

The Jamāʿat 's experience with the Zia regime not only dealt a blow to the party 's morale and prestige, but also rendered it politically vulnerable. As Zia gradually fell out of favor with the masses, so did the Jamāʿat witness a turn in its political fortunes. The party 's predicament manifested itself in its modest showings in Pakistan 's national elections of 1988, 1990, and 1993. In the first two it participated as part of the Islāmī Jumhūrī Ittiḥād (IJI or Islamic Democratic Alliance), a coalition of Islamic and right-of-center parties that emerged following Zia 's death to challenge the Pakistan Peoples ’ Party. In the elections of 1988 the Jamāʿat won eight seats in the national assembly and thirteen in the provincial assemblies; in the elections of 1990, the Jamāʿat 's tally of seats stood at eight and twenty, respectively. In the 1993 elections the Jamāʿat contested as part of the Pakistan Islamic Front, winning only three seats to the national assembly and six to provincial assemblies. The Jamāʿat boycotted the 1997 polls.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Jamāʿat-i Islāmī joined forces with five other religio-political parties—Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F), Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Pākistān, Jamʿīyatul, ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām-S (JUI-S), Jamāʿat Ahl-i-Hadīth, and Pakistan Islami Tehrik—to form the Mutahidah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religio-political parties, representing the various Pakistani schools of thought—Barelwī, Deobandī, Shīʿī, and Ahl-i-Ḥadīth. The Jamāʿat retains its identity as a distinct political party, but since the creation of the MMA, it has conducted most of its political activities under the banner of the MMA.

The MMA was able to take advantage of the anti-American sentiment within Pakistan (especially its Pashtun majority areas) in the aftermath of the ouster of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan and make unprecedented electoral gains by winning some sixty seats in the national parliament. Additionally, the MMA swept the provincial legislative vote in the North-West Frontier Province to form a government there and won enough seats in the legislature in Baluchistan province as well to form a coalition government with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. Another reason for its unprecedented performance in the 2002 elections was the move by the government of General Pervez Musharraf to engage in electoral and constitutional engineering in order to contain the country 's two main political parties from gaining too many seats while facilitating the electoral rise of the MMA.

The Jamāʿat and the JUI-F are the main driving forces behind the MMA, with the Jamāʿat being the smaller of the two groups. While the JUI-F accounts for the lion 's share of the seats controlled by the MMA, the Jamāʿat provides the alliance with its organizational structure. Moreover, Jamāʿat chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed is also the president of the MMA. The MMA in 2003 supported Musharraf in his bid to gain a much needed vote of confidence from parliament and on the issue of the 17th amendment, which allowed the military ruler to gain indemnity for the 1999 coup and all the changes he had effected in the Pakistani political system since.

But since then the alliance has increasingly assumed an anti-Musharraf position especially with regards to Islamabad 's support for Washington in the war on terror. This issue has also created tensions between Jamāʿat and JUI where Jamāʿat has emerged as the more hardline group while the more rural-based JUI has opted for a more pragmatic approach. Part of the radical agenda of the Jamāʿat can be attributed to the hawkish attitude of its leader, Ahmed. The tensions between the two groups cast uncertainty over the future of the MMA.

Moreover, there is increasing contention between the political Islamist forces and the jihadists. With the recent weakening of the Musharraf government and the growing religious extremism and Islamist militancy in the country, the Jamāʿat will likely reemerge as an independent entity trying to assume the role of the vanguard of the more ideological political Islamist trend.

Continuity and Change in Party Structure.

During its five decades of existence the Jamāʿat has gone through a number of purges and reorganizations as well as periods of uncertainty and redirection—none more significant than the transition from one leader to another. The Jamāʿat has been led by three amirs and has passed through two succession periods: from Sayyid Abu al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī (1941–1972) to Miān Tufail Muḥammad (1972–1987), and then to Qāzī Ḥussain Aḥmed (since 1987); each such period has engendered a reorientation of the party.

Of equal importance are changes in the social base of the Jamāʿat. The party has at one point or another been associated with various constituencies or ethnic groups, notably the urban middle classes, the petit-bourgeoisie, the Muhajirs (those who performed hijrah or migrated from India to Pakistan in 1947), the Punjabis, and more recently the Pathans. In its concern for the Islamization of the state, the party has eschewed populist politics and sought to establish a base among the intelligentsia. Although it has failed to inculcate support among any one social class or to gain a large following, it relies on the power of discipline and organization rather than the power of numbers.

The party has, however, compensated for its restricted social base by developing ties with students, Pakistan 's future politicians, bureaucrats, and intellectual leaders. It is its success with students that best explains the Jamāʿat 's incremental rise in importance in the bureaucracy and the civil service. This strategy also manifests Mawdūdī 's doctrine of Islamizing the state from within and above: revolution through education and conversion rather than by coercion.



  • Abbas, Hassan. Pakistan 's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America 's War on Terror. Armonk, N.Y., 2005.
  • Abbott, Freeland. “The Jamaʿat-i-Islami of Pakistan.”Middle East Journal11.1 (Winter 1957): 37–51. Good account of the Jamāʿat 's activities up to 1957.
  • Adams, Charles J.“Mawdudi and the Islamic State.” In Voices of Resurgent Islam, edited by John L. Esposito, pp. 99–133. New York, 1983. Overview of the Jamāʿat 's ideology.
  • Aḥmad, ʿAbdul-Ghafūr. Phir Mārshal LāᾹ-Giyā (Then Came the Martial Law). Lahore, 1988. Good account of the Jamāʿat 's politics during the Zia years.
  • Aḥmad, Isrār. Taḥrīk-i Jamāʿat-i Islāmī: Ek Taḥqīqī Muṭālaʿah (The Movement of Jamāʿat-i Islāmī: A Critical Study). Lahore, 1966. Critical history of the Jamāʿat by a former member.
  • Ahmad, Mumtaz. “Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, pp. 457–530. Chicago, 1991. Good history of the Jamāʿat.
  • Ahmad, Sayed Riaz. Islam and Modern Political Institutions in Pakistan: A Study of Mawlana Maududi. Lahore, 2004.
  • Bahadur, Kalim. The Jamaʿat-i Islami of Pakistan. New Delhi, 1977. Useful account of Jamāʿat 's politics through the 1970s.
  • Binder, Leonard. Religion and Politics in Pakistan. Berkeley, Calif., 1961. Excellent account of the Jamāʿat 's politics in the 1947–1956 period.
  • Dastūr-i Jamāʿat-i Islāmī, Pākistān (Constitution of Jamāʿat-i Islāmī of Pakistan). Lahore, 1989. The Jamāʿat 's constitution, which governs the party 's operation.
  • Hasan, Masudul. Sayyid Abul Aʿla Maududi and His Thought. 2 vols. Lahore, 1984. Detailed history of the Jamāʿat.
  • Haqqani, Husain. Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. Washington, D.C., 2005.
  • Ijtimāʿ Se Ijtimāʿ Tak, 1963–1974: Rūdād-i Jamāʿat-i Islāmī, Pākistān (From Convention to Convention, 1963–1974: Proceedings of the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī of Pakistan). Lahore, 1989. Official report on the Jamāʿat 's activities in the 1963–1974 period.
  • Ijtimāʿ Se Ijtimāʿ Tak, 1974–1983: Rūdād-i Jamāʿat-i Islāmī, Pākistān (From Convention to Convention, 1974–1983: Proceedings of the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī of Pakistan). Lahore, 1989. Official report on the Jamāʿat 's activities in the 1974–1983 period.
  • Ilāhī, Chaudhrī Raḥmat. Pākistān Meṇ Jamāʿat-i Islāmī Kā Kirdār (The Jamāʿat-i Islāmī 's Activities in Pakistan). Lahore, 1990. Official account of the Jamāʿat 's history.
  • Kennedy, Charles H.“Islamization and Legal Reform in Pakistan, 1979–89.”Pacific Affairs63.1 (Spring 1990): 62–77. Provides insights into the Jamāʿat 's politics during the Zia period.
  • Munīr, Muḥammad. From Jinnah to Zia. Lahore, 1979. Critical examination of the role of Islamic parties in Pakistan 's history.
  • Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power. New York, 2001.
  • Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. “Islamic Opposition to the Islamic State: The Jamāʿat-i, Islāmī, 1977–1988.”International Journal of Middle East Studies24.4 (November 1992): 261–283. Account of the Jamāʿat 's politics during the Zia period.
  • Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism. New York, 1996.
  • Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. “Students, Islam, and Politics: Islāmī Jamiʿat-i Ṭalaba in Pakistan.”Middle East Journal46.1 (Winter 1992): 59–76. Examination of the history and politics of the Jamāʿat 's student wing.
  • Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution : the Jamaʿat-i Islami of Pakistan. Berkeley, Calif., 1994.
  • Rūdād-i Jamāʿat-i Islāmī (Proceedings of the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī). 7 vols. Lahore, 1938–1991. Official historical chronicle of the Jamāʿat.
  • Shahpuri, Abad. Tārīkh-i Jamāʿat-i Islāmī (History of the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī). Lahore, 1989. Official history of the Jamāʿat 's early years.

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