Book Review: The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution; The Jamaat i Islami of Pakistan – Seyyed Wali Reza Nasr

Continuing with my study with the Jamat e Islami, (after finishing Irfan Ahmed’s book, Islamism and democracy in India) it was the time to read Vali Nasr’s brilliant book on the origins, organisation, ideology and politics of one of the most important Islamic revivalist movement in the subcontinent i.e the Jamat e Islami of Pakistan.

The book is organised in three parts (a) History (b) Structure and Social Base and (c) Politics of the Jaamat. It details as to how Islamism as a political ideology was articulated and practiced by Maududi as well as the response of the Pakistani state, government and other political formations to this ideology of Islamism.

While the activities of the Jamat and the intellectual heft that it provided to Islamism led to latter becoming firmly ensconced in the body politic of Pakistani political life, surprisingly, it was not the Jamat which has reaped any tangible political benefits out of this Islamization of polity. Instead, the Islamic right wing votes have been cornered by other mainstream political parties like the Muslim League which combined Islam with populism. The organisation of Jamat with its restrictive membership and primacy that the leadership accorded to religion at the cost of other socio economic and other populist issues (like ethnicity) have severely dented its electoral prospects. The JeI it seems still has to reconcile between trying to be a holy vanguard party of committed ideologues seeking an Islamic revolution in society from above or becoming a regular political party with mass membership (thereby diluting it’s ideological commitment to Islamism) and articulating more populist and emotive issues.

A great history of the Jamat till 1993. I hope the book gets updated for Musharraf not only used the religious parties for consolidating his rule but also allowed the then NWFP to be ruled by the Muttahida Majlis e Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious parties.

A wonderful read!


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