Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dr. Israr Ahmad; a Renowned Islamic Scholar and Urdu Writer

Dr. Israr Ahmed (Urdu: اسرار احمد; April 26, 1932 – April 14, 2010) was a Pakistani Islamic theologian followed particularly in South Asia and also among the South Asian diaspora in the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America. Born in Hissar, (today's Haryana) in India, the second son of a government servant, he is the founder of the Tanzeem-e-islami, an off-shoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He hosted a daily show on Peace TV, a 24 hours Islamic channel broadcast internationally, and until recently on ARY Qtv.

His supporters describe him as having spent the "last forty years" actively engaged in "reviving the Qur'an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view" with "the ultimate objective of establishing a true Islamic State, or the System of Khilafah." Ahmed had been skeptical of the efficacy of "parliamentary politics of give-and-take" in establishing an "Islamic politico-socio-economic system" as implementing this system is a "revolutionary process".
Dr. Israr Ahmad was born on April 26, 1932 in Hisar (a district of East Punjab, now a part of Haryana) in India, the second son of a government servant. He graduated from King Edward Medical College (Lahore) in 1954 and later received his Master's 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. Dr. Israr Ahmad resigned from the Jama`at in April 1957 because of its involvement in the electoral politics, which he believed was irreconcilable with the revolutionary methodology adopted by the Jama'at in the pre-1947 period.
While still a student and an activist of the Islami Jami`yat-e-Talaba, Dr. Israr Ahmad became a Mudarris (or teacher) of the Qur'an. Even after resigning from the Jama`at, he continued to give Quranic lectures in different cities of Pakistan, and especially after 1965 spent a great deal of time studying the Quran.

In 1967 Dr. Israr Ahmad wrote “Islamic Renaissance: The Real Task Ahead”, a tract explaining his basic belief. This was that a rebirth of Islam would be possible only by revitalizing iman (faith) among the Muslims – particularly educated Muslims – and the propagation of the Qur'anic teachings in contemporary idiom and at the highest level of scholarship is necessary to revitalize iman. This undertaking would remove the existing dichotomy between modern physical and social sciences on the one hand, and Islamic revealed knowledge on the other.
In 1971 Ahmad gave up his medical practice to devote himself full time to the Islamic revival. In 1972 he established or helped establish the Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur'an Lahore, Tanzeem-e-Islami was founded in 1975, and Tahreek-e-Khilafat Pakistan was launched in 1991.

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. His television lectures generally focused on the revitalization of the Islamic faith through studies of the Quran. Dr. Israr Ahmad also criticized modern democracy and the electoral system and argued that the head of an Islamic state can reject the majority decisions of an elected assembly. Although he did not like to receive it personally, Dr. Israr Ahmad was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1981. He has to his credit over 60 Urdu books on topics related to Islam and Pakistan, 9 of which have been translated into English and other languages.
Dr. Israr Ahmed relinquished the leadership of Tanzeem-e-Islami in October, 2002 on grounds of bad health and Hafiz Aakif Saeed is the present Ameer of the Tanzeem to whom all rufaqaa of Tanzeem renewed their pledge of Baiyah.

Supporters describe his vision of Islam as having been synthesized from the diverse sources. He has also acknowledged the "deep influence" of Shah Waliullah Dehlavi, the 18th century Indian Islamic leader, anti-colonial activist, jurist, and scholar. Ahmed followed the thinking of Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi and Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, concerning what his followers believe is the "internal coherence of and the principles of deep reflection in the Qur'an". Furthermore, Ahmed followed Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in regards to what he believes is the "dynamic and revolutionary conception of Islam."
"In the context of Qur'anic exegesis and understanding, Dr. Israr Ahmed was a firm traditionalist of the genre of Maulana Mehmood Hassan Deobandi and Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani; yet he presented Qur'anic teachings in a scientific and enlightened way ..." Ahmed believed in what he called “Islamic revolutionary thought,” which consists of the idea that Islam – the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah – must be implemented in the social, cultural, juristic, political, and economic spheres of life. In this he is said to follow Mohammad Rafiuddin and Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. The first attempt towards the actualization of this concept was reportedly made by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad through his short-lived party, the Hizbullah. Another attempt was made by Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi through his Jamaat-e-Islami party. Although the Jamaat-e-Islami has reached some influence, Ahmed resigned from the party in 1956 when it entered the electoral process and believed that such an involvement led to "degeneration from a pure Islamic revolutionary party to a mere political one".
The nucleus of Tanzeem-e-Islami, which Israr Ahmed founded, was created in 1956, following the resignation of Ahmed and some other individuals from Jamaat-e-Islami over its electoral activity and "significant policy matters. They came together and tried unsuccessfully to form an organized group ... A resolution was passed which subsequently became the Mission Statement of Tanzeem-e-Islami." 

Later, disappointed with what he saw as the "lack of effort to create an Islamic renaissance through the revolutionary process" he again attempted to create a "disciplined organization," namely Tanzeem-e-Islami.

Along with his work to revive "the Qur'an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view" Ahmed aimed with his party to "reform the society in a practical way with the ultimate objective of establishing a true Islamic State, or the System of Khilafah".
According to the Tanzeem-e-Islami website Ahmed and the party believe "the spiritual and intellectual center of the Muslim world has shifted from the Arab world to the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent" and "conditions are much more congenial for the establishment of Khilafah in Pakistan" than in other Muslim countries. 

According to Tanzeem-e-Islami's FAQ, while both Hizb ut-Tahrir and Tanzeem-e-Islami share belief in reviving the Caliphate as a means of implementing Islam in all spheres of life, Tanzeem-e-Islami does not believe in involvement in electoral politics, armed struggle, coup d'état to establish a caliphate, and has no set plan of detailed workings for the future Caliphate. Tanzeem-e-Islami emphasizes that iman (faith) among Muslims must be revived in "a significant portion of the Muslim society" before there can be an Islamic revival.
While Ahmed "considers himself a product" of the teachings of "comprehensive and holistic concept of the Islamic obligations" of Abul Ala Maududi, he opposes Jamaat-e-Islami's "plunge" into "the arena of power politics," which he considered to have been "disastrous." 

Some viewpoints of Dr. Israr Ahmad were criticized by liberal and/ or secular minded people although these views are in conformity with Islamic teachings. Canada's National Post newspaper reported in 2006 that, according to Ahmad:

"Islam's renaissance will begin in Pakistan... because the Arab world is living under subjugation. Only the Pakistan region has the potential for standing up against the nefarious designs of the global power-brokers and to resist the rising tides of the Jewish/Zionist hegemony. [I do not understand what is controversial in this opinion??] 

Asia Times reports that in September 1995 Israr Ahmed told the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America that:

The process of the revival of Islam in different parts of the world is real. A final showdown between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, which has been captured by the Jews, would soon take place. The Gulf War was just a rehearsal for the coming conflict.
He appealed to the Muslims of the world, including those in the US, to prepare themselves for the coming conflict." 

On July 27, 2007, VisionTV, a Canadian multi-faith religious television channel, aired an apology for broadcasting lectures by Mr. Ahmed. The channel had taken Ahmed off the air earlier that week for his derogatory comments about Jews. In reply, Ahmed "strongly refuted the impression that he hated the Jews or he held anti-Semitic views," according to the National Post, but a "written statement, issued by his personal secretary in Lahore, went on to explain Mr. Ahmad's belief that the Holocaust was `Divine punishment` and that Jews would one day be `exterminated.`" 

The Post gave several quotes about Jews by Ahmed including

"It is apparent to any careful observer that the Jews have continued to suffer the floggings of Divine punishment in the present century – the Holocaust during the Second World War being a case in point.
The conflict between the Jews and Muslims is going to result, ultimately, in the total extermination of the former, according to the Divine law of 'annihilation of the worse.' And this opinion of his is based on many Saying of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Miss Shagufta Ahmad has submitted her master thesis entitled, "Dr. Israr Ahmad's Political Thoughts and Activities" to the McGill University, Canada in 1994. The thesis discussed in detail the intellectual development of Israr Ahmad and the influence of Allama Iqbal, Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Maududi's political thought, especially his theory of revolution and the activities of his three organizations, Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur'an, Tanzeem-e-Islami and Tehreek-e-Khilafat. Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur'an published the thesis in 1996.

Mr. Fawad Ali Lauhany, an M. Phil Scholar of the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, Pakistan, has written a thesis entitled, "A Critical Analysis of Dr. Israr Ahmad's Views on Islamic Revolution" and submitted it to the said university in 2009.
The veteran scholar died of a cardiac arrest at his home in Lahore on the morning of 14 April 2010 between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. According to his son, his health deteriorated at around 1:30 a.m. with pain in the back, he was a long time heart patient. 

His funeral (Namaz-e-Janazah) was held after the Asr (afternoon) prayers at Central Model-town Park (near Barkat Market) in the city of Lahore. It is reported that around twenty thousand people attended his funeral.

Alas! The wedding saga of Shuaib Malik and Sania Mirza dominated over the big news of the demise of such a great Islamic scholar. This indicates irresponsibility of Pakistani Media which did not give due coverage to this news as it was busy in damaging even the privacy of Shuaib's family by shooting bedrooms of their home.

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