Dr. Israr Ahmad Worries About Pakistan's Future


By Siraj Wahab

Published in Arab News on Saturday, September 9, 2006

Dr. Israr Ahmad is known for his excellent analysis of the Qur’an in Urdu. He appears regularly on PTV, QTV and Peace TV providing critical explanations of the holy verses. He was originally associated with Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the founding father of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He was even more closer to the legendary Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islahi, the author of the monumental analysis of the Qur’an entitled “Tadabbur Al-Qur’an.” Dr. Israr drew inspiration from his mentor, Maulana Islahi.

Maulana Islahi was also associated with Maulana Maududi. When there were differences between Maulana Maududi and Maulana Islahi and many other leading scholars of the time on the issue of whether the Jamaat should dabble in politics, Maulana Islahi parted ways with Maulana Maududi. Dr. Israr followed his mentor and dissociated himself from the Jamaat and Maulana Maududi in the late 1950s. Maulana Islahi and Dr. Israr were of the opinion that reforming society should take precedence over politics.

Maulana Islahi also edited the respected Islamic journal “Misaq,” which is still published from Lahore. In a special issue of the journal, Dr. Israr’s biography was published.

Dr. Israr completed his graduate degree in medicine (MBBS) from Lahore’s King Edward Medical College in 1954. He gave up his medical practice in 1970 and since then has devoted his life for the study and teaching of the Holy Qur’an.

Dr. Israr was in Jeddah last week and Arab News sat down with him for a discussion on the current state of affairs in Pakistan. Now in his 70s, Dr. Israr seemed very disillusioned and pessimistic. In his younger days he was very active in politics having been the president of the Jamiat-ul-Tulba, but it is politics that now disturbs him.

“I am upset with this vicious cycle, or what I call this three-sided prism of military democracy, civil bureaucracy and feudal lords,” Dr. Israr said. “They take turns at power. Sometimes the military takes charge, and the other two follow it; at other times the bureaucracy takes over, and the remaining two follow suit. Their interests are intertwined.”

Dr. Israr described the situation. “When Ayub Khan took over everybody joined hands against him,” he said. “At that time, it was believed that Ayub was the source of all evil and that immediately after his removal, things would be hunky-dory. When Ayub left, Yahya Khan took over. When Yahya left Zulfikar Ali Bhutto assumed power. Then all the religious parties came together to oust him. Then Zia-ul Haq took over. So democracy could never take root.”

The scholar said Pakistan has been thus plagued since its beginnings. “The party that was responsible for the country’s creation — the Muslim League — was in fact not a party. It was a ‘tehreek’ (movement). And as with all movements when it achieves its goal, it folds up. The Muslim League that created Pakistan died immediately after achieving its sole purpose.”

When asked about military interventions interrupting the flow of the political process, Dr. Israr said they were due in large part to the weakness of Pakistan’s political system. “If the political traditions were strong, the military would never have dared to intervene. Why didn’t the military intervene in India? Is it a small army? Morarji Desai (the former prime minister of India) was once visiting Pakistan. He was traveling by train from Lahore to Karachi. As was mandatory, the DIG in Rahim Yar Khan area was accompanying him in the train’s coupe. So he asked him why the Indian military never intervened in his country’s political affairs. Desai replied that the Indian military knew full well that if martial law were to be imposed, there would be thousands of bodies littering the streets of India, and one of them would be that of Morarji Desai.”

Dr. Israr said the ongoing political upheaval in Pakistan damaged the nation’s respect among its neighbors and the world community. “We became a laughing stock with the frequent changes in governments. So much so that (Jawaharlal) Nehru (India’s first prime minister) once said sarcastically: ‘People keep pestering me to hold dialogue with the Pakistani leadership. My question to them is: Who should I talk to? I don’t change my clothes as frequently as they change governments in Pakistan.’ It is very easy to blame the military establishment, but one should also be asking who gave it the reason to intervene? It was the ineptitude of the political leadership. There were elements in the political class that were ready to welcome the military rulers with garlands. If the military had felt that the people would not like its intervention in the country’s political affairs, then it would have hesitated; it would have thought twice.”

Now Dr. Israr finds a disturbing portent for the future of Pakistan. “I am worried. The reasons why Pakistan was created (‘wajh-e-jawaaz’), its raison d’etre, are being questioned now. This worries me. ‘Why Pakistan?’ the younger generation keeps asking. It is becoming a chorus now. ‘Why did you go for partition?’ they ask. ‘What was the reason?’ Is that not a worrying factor?”

Dr. Israr elaborated. “There were two reasons (for the creation of Pakistan) — one positive and one negative. The negative factor was the fear of the Hindu: the Hindu will finish us off; the Hindu will suppress us (‘Hindu hum ko dabayega,’ ‘Hindu hum ko kha jayega’... etc., etc.) The Hindu will take revenge. It will finish our culture. It will strangle our language. This was the negative issue that became a rallying cry for the Muslim League. Remember, at this stage the Muslim League was not a party. It was just a club of nawabs and jagirdars. In his address of 1930 in Allahabad (‘Khutba-e-Allahabad’), the legendary poet Iqbal gave an ideological injection to this movement. During the address, Iqbal said: ‘It is my conviction that in the north of India an independent Muslim state will be established.’ It was a prophesy — not a proposal. Iqbal went on to say: ‘If this happens, we will be able to project the true picture of Islam to the world.’ This was the positive reason. One year before 1930 Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah ... I am not calling him Quaid-e-Azam because he had not yet become the ‘quaid’. He was not among the founders of the Muslim League. And for six years after the founding of the Muslim League he didn’t join it. He was the private secretary of (the Indian independence hero) Dadabhai Nawroji. Even when he eventually became a member of the Muslim League, he retained dual membership — both in the Congress and the Muslim League. He did his best (‘sartod koshish ki’) to find some solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem. That is why Mr. Jinnah was referred to in those days as the ambassador of unity. Then he became disillusioned. So in 1929 one year before Iqbal’s ‘Khutba-e-Allahabad,’ Mr. Jinnah closed his political shop, bought a palace (‘kothi’) in London and started practicing law. S.M. Ikram, who wrote some interesting books in Urdu, was in England in those days studying at Oxford. He went to see Jinnah and asked him why he had left India. ‘The Muslims of India need your leadership,’ he told Jinnah. Jinnah’s reply will give you some idea of his disillusionment. ‘Hindus are incorrigible,’ he told Ikram. ‘And the thing with Muslims is that their biggest and tallest leader who talks with me in the morning goes to the commissioner or deputy commissioner or governor in the evening and spills all the beans. How can I lead such a community?’”

The turnaround in Jinnah, according to Dr. Israr, came later. “It happened in 1932 when Iqbal went to London for the Second Roundtable Conference. At that time, he gave the same ideological injection to Mr. Jinnah. ‘This is the cause of the Muslims,’ he told Mr. Jinnah. It was this injection that Mr. Jinnah came back with to India in 1934. He was rejuvenated, and then he became the Quaid-e-Azam.”

When Dr. Israr thinks back to the creation of Pakistan, he marvels over the consensus that formed it. “It was a miracle. Can there be any bigger stupidity from the political standpoint as to why a UP Muslim should support the Muslim League? It was an emotional atmosphere. Bombay Muslim, Madrasi Muslim, CP (Central Provinces) Muslim — what did they have to do with Pakistan? But they were the real creators of Pakistan. In Punjab, there was never a Muslim League ministry even for one day. It was either in East Pakistan or Sindh. Until the end, it was the Congress ministry in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The real creators of Pakistan then were the Muslims of the minority provinces. They generated a wave in 1946. It was because of this wave that when the elections took place, they established beyond a shadow of doubt that the Muslim League was the sole representative party of the Muslim community.”

Dr. Israr said that what started right, soon went wrong. “The creation of Pakistan was a good thing. It was created with good intentions; there was a long historical background to the movement, but we failed badly. There is one quote from Quaid-e-Azam worth remembering: ‘God has given us a golden opportunity to prove our worth as architects of a new state, and let it not be said that we didn’t prove equal to the task.’ Unfortunately, we proved that we were not equal to the task. Where is Pakistan? We divided it into two countries (in 1971). What do we have now? There is no such thing as ‘qaum’ in Pakistan. ‘Qaumiyaten basti hain.’”

The Islamic scholar was asked if his view was similar to the American view which considers Pakistan a failed state. “I don’t know what the Americans are saying. When they say Pakistan is a failed state, maybe they are referring to the country’s failed economic policies. I am talking about the ideological failure. Pakistan was not an ordinary country. It came into existence on the basis of an ideology. If you couldn’t take care of that ideology, then it is a failed state. It is an ideologically failed state.”

When asked if Pakistan’s nuclear leadership of the Muslim world qualified it as having some measure of success, Dr. Israr dismissed the idea out of hand. “What is the use? Just one phone call — ‘with us or against us’ — and you are finished,” he said, noting that it wasn’t just a failure of leadership but rather the failure of personal conviction of the populace. “A country is known by its leader,” he said, “and then what about the people? What did they do? Don’t just blame the leader; the people are equally responsible for the sad state of affairs. Paisa imaan hai, paisa deen hai. Except for materialism, people are not interested in anything. This is not the case of one or two people; I am talking about everybody in Pakistan. They have become too materialistic.”

So now the aging scholar holds a dim view of Pakistan’s future — divine intervention notwithstanding. “Only a miracle can save Pakistan,” Dr. Israr said. “To me, the creation of Pakistan was in itself a miracle, and I see optimism only in the form of a miracle. In 1946, Quaid-e-Azam had given up on the demand for Pakistan. When you had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan, what did it mean? It meant that the country would remain united for 10 years. There were to be three zones. Yes, after 10 years any zone would have had the option of secession. All this meant that for 10 long years, there was no question of an independent country. It was only after Nehru issued a statement saying ‘Who lets anybody separate after 10 years?’ that is when Quaid-e-Azam got adamant. He took a step back. ‘Agar yahi niyat hai to ye Cabinet mission plan hamen manzoor nahi hai’ (If these are what your intentions are, then we don’t accept this Cabinet Mission Plan). It was Nehru who created Pakistan. To be honest, what Nehru said was absolutely true. Would anybody have allowed one zone to separate after 10 years? Nehru was right. ‘Nikal jaati hai jis ke muh se sacchi baat masti me/Faqeeh-e-maslehat been se wo rind-e-baada khaar accha.’ A miracle is possible even now but only if there is a will in the nation and among the people for the cause of Islam. Not for Islamabad but for Islam. The young generation should re-read the chapters of history. Sabaq padh phir shujaa’at ka, adalat ka, sadaqat ka.”

9 comments:

Faiz-Al Najdi, Riyadh said...

You have done a fine job in getting hold of the maulana to pour out and speak out his mind. As a reader, I too have a right to speak out mine.

First things first. When Dr. Israr Ahmad left Maulana Maudoodi in the early 1950s, he had, in fact, deserted him. There is this widely held opinion that he did not leave him out of some scholarly differences, but purely out of ambition. He thought he was as capable as Maudoodi was and kept trying to elevate himself to Maudoodi's stature ever since.

Although I do not buy his theory and contention on the vicious cycle and three-sided-prism regarding the power struggle in Pakistan between military, bureaucracy and feudal lords, I would leave that aside. However, his views on the repeated military interventions in Pakistani politics do not absolve him. What all of us have witnessed all these years is that the Pakistani military has always found a welcome constituency in the form of the mullahs like him. So when he turns around and criticizes what he and his ilk have been doing all these while, it only makes one wonder.

I must say he is being biased when he excludes the historic contribution of the Muslims of Bihar when he dwells upon the subject of the contribution of the Muslims of minority provinces in the creation of Pakistan. May I remind him that it was in Patna (Bihar) where Mr. Jinnah was actually conferred with the title of Quaid-e-Azam, one that became a synonym for his actual name. Moreover, the riots of October 1946 in Bihar have been described, and rightly so, by historians as the turning point in the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. His attempt to discredit the Muslims of Punjab is nothing short of an insult. Punjab's role in Pakistan's creation was glorious. He should apologize to the people of Punjab.

My blood boils when he says that there is no "qaum" (nation) that exists in Pakistan today. This reminds me of a lecture in Riyadh sometime back. In that lecture, a noted diplomat (I would not disclose his name here) had opined that the reason India has progressed so well, in comparison to Pakistan, was that soon after Partition their leaders worked hard to instill a feeling of Indian nationalism in their people. As a result, in India today everybody takes pride in being an Indian first and everything else later. While on the other hand, in Pakistan religious zealots, such as Dr. Israr Ahmad, kept propagating the theory of Muslim Ummah and pan-Islamism. They all made sure that Pakistani nationalism did not take roots. They told us to worry about the Muslims of Chechnya, Palestine, Bosnia and everywhere except our very own Pakistanis in our own country. I have never heard Dr. Israr Ahmad, or any other like him, asking the Pakistani people to go and reach out to the poor in the remote villages of the country. These religious zealots do not waste a second in calling people (especially their clients in madrasahs) to come and unleash havoc in the streets against the government by destroying and burning private and public properties.

As a result, Dr. Israr Ahmad and bigots like him have been largely responsible for the sorry state that Pakistan finds itself in today. It is therefore surprising to hear from him that we have failed in not becoming a “qaumiyat” (nation state).
Finally, I must add here that all these years he and fellow mullahs have been misguiding the youth of our dear country by teaching them bigotry, intolerance and hatred toward people of other faiths instead of the real teachings of Islam which our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had left us with. They hardly ever tried to bring home to youth the real essence of Islamic society and never tried to instill in them their duties toward "Huqooq-ul-Ibaad" as such. It is, therefore, ironical and interesting to read that he is now lecturing the youth of Pakistan to re-read the lessons of shujaa'at (bravery), adalat (justice) and sadaqat (truth).

I can only say, may Allah bless him!

Israrul Haque, Jeddah said...

Faiz Al-Najdi’s comments make me wonder how little he has understood the scholar’s viewpoint. He himself is guilty of unreasonable insult to the Islamic scholar by equating him with the national leaders who are working hard in instilling the feeling of nationalism. Dr. Israr Ahmad has spent his mental energies and literary genius in trying to demolish the false idols of the minds; idols that manifests themselves as ideologies competing with Islam, such as territorial nationalism, materialism and secularism. Dr. Israr Ahmad has based his philosophy on the teaching of the Qur’an and upon the love and obedience of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). As any serious student of Dr. Israr Ahmad can testify, the Qur’an and the Prophet are two of the most central themes of his thought, frequent references to which are found throughout his lectures.

Despite the clarity of Dr. Israr Ahmad’s vision, however, Faiz makes this muddled observation: “Every time the military staged a coup generals found welcome banners in the hands of mullah like Dr. Israr Ahmad.” Let me remind him: What “Mullah Israr” has really done after his induction in the consultative council of Gen. Ziaul Haq was to resign immediately after realizing that the general has no serious plans to implement Islam. Equally offensive is Faiz Al-Najdi’s comment that in today’s Pakistan there was no sense of being a qaum (nation). What Dr. Israr Ahmad is really saying is that instead of single Muslim Pakistani “qaum” we have “qaumen” like Punjabi, Balochi, Sindhi, and Pakhtooni. Muslims cannot be united on the basis of race or language, but they can be united on the basis of their common religion and those aspects of their culture that arise from religion. Far from uniting the Pakistani Muslims the cultivation of a nationalism based on territory will only ferment more and more separatist and schismatic tendencies along provincial, linguistic and racial lines. And this is precisely what has happened. The only bond that can unite us is that of true Islam, everything else will only divide and re-divide us into smaller and smaller factions.

The idea of Dr. Israr Ahmad can be actualized in Pakistan only by creating a politico-socio-economic order that is based on the injunctions of Qur’an and Sunnah and not by attempts to circumvent these injunctions by means of clever but fallacious arguments being propagated by Faiz Al-Najdi.

Muhammad Tariq Ghazi, Ottawa, Canada said...

Faiz Al-Najdi seems to be ill informed about his country — a nation that is still in search of its identity. Except for Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, the ulema did not support any military dictator. The ulema’s candidate for president against Ayub Khan was Fatima Jinnah.

Zia’s case was different because he was the only Pakistani ruler, democratic or military, who was sincerely interested in rooting Pakistan’s national identity in Islamic ways. His effort was brought to naught by his successor and nemesis Benazir Bhutto, supposedly a democrat and decidedly the most secular of all Pakistani rulers.

I was pained by Al-Najdi’s language and uncivilized manner while referring to Israr Ahmad. The problem with Muslims in general is that when expressing a different point of view, they take pleasure in insulting the person they hold as their “opponent”. Why can’t we discuss issues without getting personal?

Razzak Rathore, Manchester, UK said...

In his response to Faiz Al-Najdi’s very logical comments, Mohammad Tariq Ghazi went out of his way to eulogize Zia-ul-Haq, the man responsible for most of the evils that is haunting Pakistan today, as the only ruler sincerely interested in rooting Pakistan’s national identity in Islamic ways. I am a Kashmiri, now forced to live away from my native home in Kupwara, because of the jihadi troublemakers Zia bred and pushed into Kashmir after he used them in Afghanistan.

Zia used Islam and mullahs to extend his illegal rule in Pakistan. He made cosmetic Islamization, which pushed the country into a big mess. The mullahs lined up to do his biddings, and Hudood Ordinance was one of the results. It is an instrument to inflict great harm on the poor women of Pakistan, bringing great shame to the country.

Earlier on, the same mullahs had lined up in Washington DC before Ronald Reagan, taking his orders in one hand and dollars in the other. Look at the results: The United States, the biggest terrorist nation of our time, became the sole superpower, and is now attacking Muslims all over the world. The mullahs are the ones who must be blamed for all that America is now doing to Muslims.

Mullahs are a big problem for Pakistan and for the entire Muslim world. If nothing is done about them they, and not America, will soon take Pakistan to Stone Age.

Siraj Wahab said...

Dr. Israr Ahmed passed away on Wednesday, April 14, 2010. He was 78. He was suffering from backache and cardiac disorder. His namaz-e-janaza would be held after Asr prayer today at Khalid Market Ground, Model Town Extension, Lahore. Dr. Israr Ahmad was born on April 26, 1932, in Hissar (a district of East Punjab, now a part of Haryana) in India. He graduated from King Edward Medical College, Lahore, in 1954 and later got a masters 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.

In 1971 Dr. Israr Ahmad gave up his medical practice to devote himself full time to the Islamic services. In 1972 he helped TO establish the Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an Lahore. He was also a founder member of Tanzeem-e-Islami which was constituted in 1975.

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.

Dr. Israr Ahmad was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1981. He wrote several books in Urdu on various aspects of Islam and Pakistan.

Ozma Siddiqui, Jeddah said...

I am very sorry to hear about the demise of this great man. Inna lilalahe wa inn alahe rajeoun.

Dr. Israr Ahmad was a very influential Islamic scholar with a deep scientific knowledge of Islam and its relevance to the youth of today. He held audiences spellbound with his interpretations of the Holy Quran and cassettes and tapes of his preachings are available throughout the Subcontinent and beyond borders. He stood firm like a rock in what he felt was the truth supporting his theories, arguments and dictats from his sound knowledge of the Hadiths and other scriptures. Dr. Israr Ahmad was a role model for many. Such brilliant specimens are a rarity in themselves. May Allah grant him a place in the Highest, Ameen.

Anonymous said...

Inna lillahi wa inna ilehi rajeoon!
May the departed soul rest in peace (Ameen)It is indeed a great lost of Muslim Ummah.

successyouth said...

Nice article...

Anonymous said...

Mr,Najdi seems to be illogical and illiterate person. He has not able to understand the status of late Dr.Israr Ahmed as a scholar of Quran. He was great and person like najdi cannot cut his size. His services to islam will be remember for ever in pakistan and to all peoples who understands urdu.
Allah blessed his soul. He was a great man. May Allah accept his work.