Israr Ahmed (26 April 1932 – 14 April 2010) was an Indian Islamic theologian, philosopher, and Islamic scholar whose father relocated his family to Pakistan prior to independence thus him becoming popular as a Pakistani later on. … He was the founder of Tanzeem-e-Islami, an offshoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Born: 26 April 1932, Hisar
Education: King Edward Medical University, Lahore.
Early life and education
Israr Ahmed was born in Hisar, a province of East Punjab of British Indian Empire, on 26 April 1932. His father was a civil servant in the British Government who relocated his family from Hisar to Montgomery, now Sahiwal, Punjab Province of Pakistan.
After graduating from a local high school, Ahmed moved to Lahore to attend the King Edward Medical University in 1950. He received his MBBS degree from King Edward Medical University in 1954 and began practising medicine. In addition, he obtained his master’s degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi in 1965.
Ahmed worked briefly for Muslim Student’s Federation in the Independence Movement and, following the creation of Pakistan in 1947, for the Islami Jami`yat-e-Talaba and then in 1950 joined Jamaat-e-Islami led by Abul Ala Maududi, but left the party when the latter opted for participating in electoral politics in 1957. Ahmed resigned from the Jamaat-e-Islami in April 1957 because of its involvement in national politics, which he believed was irreconcilable with the revolutionary methodology adopted by the Jama’at in the pre-1947 period. His interest in Islam and philosophy grew further and he subsequently moved to Karachi, Sindh Province in the 1960s. where he enrolled in Karachi University.
Literature and philosophy
He criticised modern democracy and the prevalent electoral system and argued that the head of an Islamic state could reject the majority decisions of an elected assembly. Ahmed was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1981. He has authored over 60 books in Urdu on topics related to Islam and Pakistan, nine of which have been translated into English and other languages.
Ahmed relinquished the leadership of Tanzeem-e-Islami in October 2002 because of bad health. He had appointed Hafiz Akif Saeed (his son) the Emir of the Tanzeem (from 2002 to 2020) to whom all rufaqaa of Tanzeem renewed their pledge of Baiyah.
Like Wahiduddin Khan, Naeem Siddiqui and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Ahmed also worked closely with Syed Abul A’la Maududi (alternative spelling Syed Maudoodi; often referred to as Maulana Maududi) (1903–1979) and Amin Ahsan Islahi. Supporters describe his vision of Islam as having been synthesised from the diverse sources. He has also acknowledged the “deep influence” of Shah Waliullah Dehlawi, the 18th century Indian Islamic leader, anti-colonial activist, jurist, and scholar.
“In the context of Qur’anic exegesis and understanding, Ahmed was a firm traditionalist of the genre of Mahmud Hasan Deobandi and 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 Muhammad Iqbal. The first attempt towards the actualisation of this concept was reportedly made by Abul Kalam Azad through his short-lived party, the Hizbullah. Another attempt was made by 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”.
Originally a member of Jamaat-e-Islami, Ahmed became disappointed with its electoral activity, “significant policy matters”, and what he saw as the “lack of effort to create an Islamic renaissance through the revolutionary process.” He and some other individuals resigned from JI and in 1956 founded the nucleus of Tanzeem-e-Islami, an attempt to create a “disciplined organization.” “A resolution was passed which subsequently became the Mission Statement of Tanzeem-e-Islami.”
Along with his work to revive “the Qur’an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view” Israr 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”.
A major Pakistani English-language newspaper commented about his views of modern democracy and the electoral system, “A critic of modern democracy and the electoral system, Dr Israr believed that the head of an Islamic state can reject majority decisions of an elected assembly.”
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. However, the Tanzeem-e-Islami believes that once the Islamic revolution has taken place, the election of the Khalifah would be done on the basis of electoral votes. Tanzeem-e-Islami emphasises that iman (faith) among Muslims must be revived in “a significant portion of the Muslim society” before there can be an Islamic revival.
Abul Ala Maududi
While Israr 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.”
Danger of foreign powers
Main articles: 2011 NATO attack in Pakistan, 2011 India-Pakistan border shooting, and 2008 Mumbai attacks
In response to the state of emergency in 2007, Ahmed called for lifting the emergency, reinstatement of Supreme Court justices, and withdrawal of all actions taken in pursuance of the proclamation of emergency and the PCO law besides resignation of President Pervez Musharraf.
In a televised press conference, Israr Ahmed called for resignation of Pervez Musharraf from both president and chief of army staff. Ahmed appealed to President General Musharraf to lift the state emergency and step down for the nation’s greater interests. At the television news channels, Ahmed also predicted and warned the nation that, “If the situation worsens, the NATO forces are waiting on the western front to move into Pakistan and may deprive the country of its nuclear assets while on the eastern front, India is ready to stage an action replay of Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 and has alerted its armed forces to intervene in to check threats to peace in the region.”
Asia Times reports that in September 1995 Ahmed told the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America: “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.
Death and legacy
Israr Ahmed died of cardiac arrest at his home in Lahore on the morning of 14 April 2010 at the age of 78. He had given up the leadership of Tanzeem-i-Islami in 2002 due to poor health. According to his son, his health deteriorated at around 1:30 am with pain in the back. He was a long time heart patient. His survivors included a wife, four sons and five daughters.
One major Pakistani English-language newspaper commented after his death, “Founder of several organisations like Anjuman-i-Khuddamul Quran, Tanzeem-i-Islami and Tehrik-i-Khilafat, he had followers in Pakistan, India and Gulf countries, especially in Saudi Arabia. He spent almost four decades in trying to reawaken interest in Quran-based Islamic philosophy.”
Awards and recognition
- Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) Award by the President of Pakistan in 1981 for his services in the field of religious instruction.