Hajj Politics And Jamaat-e-Islami: Abdullah Malik’s Unposted Letter To Maulana Maududi
Raza Naeem's translation of a letter and journal entry by the late journalist, writer and veteran political activist Abdullah Malik, in which he complains to Maulana Maududi about underhanded tactics used by associates of the Jamaat
At moments when those who claim to lead the people have become determined to sell the people to such anti-people parties as those which opposed the Pakistan Movement, the jihad in Kashmir and the movements for social equality, there is a dire need for a voice of truth to rise from somewhere which can unveil this impure conspiracy by warning the people.
One such voice of truth is provided from the pages of our history by the distinguished communist journalist, writer and activist Abdullah Malik, the centenary year of whose birth is being celebrated in 2020-2021 and who wrote an unposted letter to the founder and leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Maulana Maududi, during the former’s pilgrimage to Makkah in the winter of 1973. This unposted letter forms a small part of Malik’s Hajj travelogue titled Hadees-e-Dil (Hadith of the Heart), which I am translating into English at the moment. It is recorded by Malik under the heading ‘A Letter Which Was Not Posted’ and gives a revealing expose of the Jamaat’s politics of surveillance and spying against its opponents – even during as holy an occasion as the Hajj, at the height of the Cold War and worldwide anti-communist hysteria.
The letter itself is preceded by Malik’s journal entry on January 29, as well as another preamble to the letter, giving the context of why he chose to write it. This material is being presented here in print for the very first time in the original English translation on Maulana Maududi’s 42nd death anniversary today, in the hope that readers of this valuable letter will be grateful to Malik for setting the record straight on the politics of such an influential right-wing voice in the country, and that too at a critical turn in our national history:
I went down to find our Muallim (government-appointed guide for pilgrims) Abdullah Attas sitting on a raised platform at the shop of the owner of our rented house. We exchanged salutations and I too sat near him. He said, ‘Do tell me about yourself in that why are Jamaat-e-Islami folks so much after you?’ and then Abdullah told me the doings of the people of Jamaat-e-Islami about me in detail which include everyone including Khalil Hamidi, etc. These things really upset me and I began to think that these ‘religious’ people and lovers of Islam are involved in politics even after arriving here. I was extremely anguished […]
“So when I got to know about these things from Abdullah Attas, I wrote a letter to Maulana Maududi, but when I read this letter to Ayesha (wife), she forbade me from posting it, the reason she gave was that if this letter came in the custody of the Saudi government, some further calamity might be raised and besides, what would be its use?”
[…] we went into the Haram and I wrote a letter to Maulana Maududi sitting there, narrating the full incidents. I am thinking to send this detailed letter to Maulana Maududi and have its copy sent for publication and run a whole campaign on this, otherwise they will try to use the ceremonies of the whole Hajj gradually through the government of Saudi Arabia for their own ends. Now I feel that the rumours about Pakistan which begin to go round here daily, one sees the hand of these agents of this very Jamaat-e-Islami behind them. Their enmity of Bhutto can take them to any limit. I don’t know if I have written somewhere before or not, that despite serious disagreements with Jamaat-e-Islami I always had a continuous conjecture about the people of this party; but the events of 1970 and 1971, for example, the burning of the Koran, the attempt to have individual journalists fired from jobs and then at the very end, when a case was brought against me for making a speech in favour of Bangladesh and against the army action during Martial Law, the workers of Jamaat-e-Islami and their student supporters firmly gave evidence from the side of the police. At that time I felt ‘No, this is a very inferior sort of party and Maulana Maududi has created fascist wolves in the name of Islam.’ A party which does not hesitate from fabricating an incident about burning of the Koran for its political ends, how would it shun making false cases against its political opponents or trapping them? And now indeed it is absurd to mention the workers of this party, since a party which has created assassins in the name of God, the party which has the blood of thousands of East Pakistanis on the hands of its workers, it is useless to hope for any type of decency or principles from them. […]
“Will one have to come with permission from your people for Hajj in future, and be screened by them? And now are these people of yours insistent upon fulfilling the duties of the Gestapo for the government of Saudi Arabia?”
A Letter Which Was Not Posted
Just now I have written a letter to Maulana Maududi sitting in the Haram Sharif! My relations with and obedience to the Maulana are from before the creation of Pakistan, when the Maulana was in Pathankot; so whenever he came to Lahore, Khwaja Abdul Waheed organized some occasion or the other for him and there would be parties at friends’; so I would also be part of them. Pakistan was created and the Jamaat-e-Islami began to fully participate in politics so despite all disagreements the Communist Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami ran a campaign for civic freedoms and made arrangements for holding meetings; so I kept participating in these meetings as a representative of the Communist Party and Maulana Maududi himself kept addressing the meetings as the Emir of Jamaat-e-Islami. Then one kept meeting him in the field of journalism but in all conditions the respect of the Maulana remained and whenever I got the privilege of meeting him, I always met him very much with obedience – since decency and respect in politics should nevertheless be a compulsory and permanent quality and one should never leave its grasp. So my feelings have always been the same and I always expressed obedience to the Maulana under the same feelings. Therefore when he arrived ill in London, I too was in London in those days and unfortunately was ill myself and was in a hospital in London; I wrote a letter to the Maulana and sought an apology for being unable to visit him and he answered me with kindness. So when I got to know about these things from Abdullah Attas, I wrote a letter to Maulana Maududi but when I read this letter to Ayesha (wife), she forbade me from posting it, the reason she gave was that if this letter came in the custody of the Saudi government, some further calamity might be raised and besides, what would be its use? But the reality is that this matter really disturbed me so I also wrote an article in English for ‘Outlook’ with the title “Hajj and Politics” but I did not send that as well.
Dated 28 January 1973
Makkah Respected Syed Maududi sahib
Salam! I am sending these lines in your service with respect. I hope that you will reflect on these objections. Whatever be my political beliefs and however much you may disagree with them, you or any of your supporters do not have the right principally and morally that they doubt my Islam or my Hajj obligation, or attempt to make me a target of the rage and fury of the Saudi government by spreading jealousy among the ummal (agents) of the Saudi government against me using your influence and approach.
I have said these introductory lines, now coming to the real story. I request forgiveness for the length of the talk, but anyways I want to definitely deliver my full story to you.
“Every sport has some rules. Whoever deviates from these rules, whether done by a socialist or a person of Jamaat-e-Islami, will be deemed a criminal”
I alongwith with my wife reached here via plane on December 28, while coming I had brought a letter of introduction composed of 3 – 4 lines from Mr Ehsan Elahi Zaheer addressed to the Muallim Aqeel Attas. So I reached here and gave this letter to Abdullah, the son of Aqeel Attas who now runs the business of this firm. Then my wife and I resided here after renting a room. Afterwards our contact with the Muallim was rare, us husband and wife spent more time in the Haram and remained busy in fulfilling the obligation for which we had come. Meanwhile when the ceremonies of Hajj began, I met Mian Shafi in Mina, I had no information about his arrival; he began to say that he came to know of my arrival through Iqbal Suhail. Well the matter was forgotten, he said ‘I was searching for you, Iqbal Suhail wants to meet you,’ – I too was desirous of meeting him. So at that very time after Isha we went to Iqbal Suhail’s place where we talked for 3 to 4 hours. While going there I asked details about Iqbal Suhail from Mian Shafi, so he mentioned the former’s whole family and beliefs. I asked ‘What is his arrangement for livelihood?’ so Mian Shafi said that he works for the Saudi government but does not want to express it so I was not to mention it.
We sat for a long time at Iqbal Suhail’s. On our return, Mian Shafi asks me if I had brought the letter of Ehsan Elahi Zaheer. I said, ‘How do you know, you have arrived from Pakistan before me!’ He said, ‘Iqbal Suhail told me, he must have been told by your Muallim because he belongs to Jamaat-e-Islami.’ I said ‘OK.’ Until that time, I had no knowledge about my Muallim, nor had I tried to find out his political affiliation: the truth is that these things were not even in my remote thoughts; since I had arrived here with a totally different objective and different condition. However I was saddened by this matter. A few days too passed after this thing. One day after Isha I went to look for mail, so Abdullah spontaneously began to say ‘The letter of Ehsan Elahi Zaheer which you had brought was lying here; it used to be seen by the Jamaat-e-Islami folks daily, now they have lifted it off because it’s not in my drawer.’ I said, ‘What difference does it make?’
In the morning today I came out of my room so Abdullah was sitting outside near the shopkeeper. He began to say: ‘Do tell me details about yourself in that, after all, who are you; why are the people of Jamaat-e-Islami so worried about you and daily ask me ‘Why have you arranged for him to stay, he is not a Muslim with proper beliefs, he is a communist.’ First they kept looking at the letter of Ehsan Elahi Zaheer, then one day they began to say ‘Do you need this letter?’ Now doubts would be expressed upon this letter, then afterwards the officials of the Saudi government began calling, their ummal came and demanded your passport; after this the secret police of the Saudi government watched you for two days.’
All these things have been told to me by Abdullah Attas, he is a great adherent of yours, though he does not have a good opinion about Khalil Hamidi, etc and was saying that these are the pensioners of our government and are professionals but Maududi is a mujahid and a scholar.
Now you tell me: is this fascism or not? Will one have to come with permission from your people for Hajj in future, and be screened by them? And now are these people of yours insistent upon fulfilling the duties of the Gestapo for the government of Saudi Arabia? Maulana, the ‘enmities’ in the field of politics indeed do not fall principally within the category of enmity, in fact they come under the category of disagreements; but the people of your party have transformed these disagreements into enmities. This very enmity took them to the witness-box of police witnesses against me in the Martial Law case. Is this same the political training of these people? Every sport has some rules. Whoever deviates from these rules, whether done by a socialist or a person of Jamaat-e-Islami, will be deemed a criminal.
Maulana, again, I seek forgiveness for the length of the conversation but I thought to make you aware of the situation, since despite all disagreements I still have faith upon your knowledge and principles. I have dared write these lines based on this very faith.
All translations are by the writer.Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist and award-winning translator and dramatic reader based in Lahore, where he is also the president of the Progressive Writers Association. He is currently working on a book Sahir Ludhianvi’s Lahore, Lahore’s Sahir Ludhianvi, forthcoming in 2021. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader based in Lahore, where he is also the president of the Progressive Writers Association. He is currently working on a book, Sahir Ludhianvi’s Lahore, Lahore’s Sahir Ludhianvi, forthcoming in 2022. He can be reached via email at email@example.com