The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is an Islamist political party founded in Lahore in 1941 by Abul A’la Maududi, a prominent Islamist thinker who viewed Islam as providing a political ideology beyond strictly a religious path. The JI was influenced by models such as Maududi’s vision of the early Islamic Prophetic community, 1930s socialist political parties, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Maududi himself would go on to influence the Brotherhood and other Islamist leaders.
The JI initially rejected the notion of partition, instead advocating for an Islamic state throughout India, because Maududi saw independence as empowering Muslim secular nationalists and modernists such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Iqbal. However, the JI swiftly became a major proponent of Islamization in the new nation. Since Pakistan’s independence, the JI had matured into a politicized Muslim lobby, placing pressure on government leaders to establish an Islamic state. The JI presented the strongest alternative vision of an Islamic national character to that of the All-India Muslim League, and is a reminder that Islamic nationalism was not a unified vision among Indian/Pakistani Muslims.
The JI’s support base is in the Pakistani Urdu-speaking middle class, although it has never received the kind of widespread support enjoyed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Though it has rarely been successful in elections, the JI has had a profound influence on the Islamic character of the Pakistani state and has been an effective mobilizer of grassroots activism. For example, the JI was instrumental in the designation of Ahmadis as non-Muslims under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as well as in fomenting anti-Bhutto protests that ushered in the Gen. Zia ul-Haq regime and its Islamizing reforms.
In recent years, the JI has been a staunch opponent of the American-led war in neighboring Afghanistan, anti-terrorism efforts in Pakistan, and drone strikes in Pakistan. It has also opposed efforts to reform Islamic law in Pakistan such as the 2006 Protection of Women Bill under Pervez Musharraf.
Abdul Rashid Moten, "Mawdudi and the Transformation of Jama'at-E-Islami in Pakistan," Muslim World, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Jul, 2003), 391.
Eamon Murphy and Dr. Ahmad Rashid Malik, “Pakistan Jihad: The Making of Religious Terrorism,” IPRI Journal, Vol. IX, No. 2 (2009), pp. 17-31.
Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).