Modern Intellectual History


An Intellectual History for India
Articles

STRIKING A JUST BALANCE: MAULANA AZAD AS A THEORIST OF TRANS-NATIONAL JIHAD


AYESHA JALAL a1
a1 Tufts University

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Abstract

This article probes the link between anti-colonial nationalist thought and a theory of jihad in early twentieth-century India. An emotive affinity to the ummah was never a barrier to Muslims identifying with patriotic sentiments in their own homelands. It was in the context of the aggressive expansion of European power and the ensuing erosion of Muslim sovereignty that the classical doctrine of jihad was refashioned to legitimize modern anti-colonial struggles. The focus of this essay is on the thought and politics of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. A major theoretician of Islamic law and ethics, Azad was the most prominent Muslim leader of the Indian National Congress in pre-independence India. He is best remembered in retrospectively constructed statist narratives as a “secular nationalist”, who served as education minister in Jawaharlal Nehru's post-independence cabinet. Yet during the decade of the First World War he was perhaps the most celebrated theorist of a trans-national jihad.

(Published Online March 8 2007)