The objective of this study is to examine the putative contention -popular as well as scholarly -that Islam is hostile to criticism and debate. This study offers two interconnected propositions. First, criticism constitutes an important feature in the development of modern Islam in postcolonial India. Second, practices of critique are so fundamental that the invoking of ‘true' Islam by different Islamic organizations/sects to critique Jamaat-e-Islami's ideology of Islamism leads to the near dissolution of a unified, stable category of Islam. Just as Critical Theory employed Enlightenment's power of reason and critique against Enlightenment itself, different Islamic organizations, I hypothesize, invoke ‘true' Islam to critique the Jamaat's version of Islam and thereby critique Islam itself.
To examine the practices of critique, I will focus on the Jamaat-e-Islami (hereafter Jamaat), an important Islamist movement begun in colonial India in 1941 by Syed Abul Ala Maududi (1903-79), a key theoretician of Islamism. The present work draws on and extends my Ph. D. Thesis on the Jamaat titled From Islamism to Post-Islamism: The Transformation of the Jamaat-e-Islami in North India (Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, 2005).
In this study, I plan to examine the arguments with which other Islamic organizations critique Jamaat's ideology of Islamism and the sources of legitimacy (the Koran and sayings of the Prophet, hadis) that they appeal to for their own unique claims to the true Islam. Further, how the invoking of ‘true' Islam leads to the fashioning of different Islams and consequently to the near dissolution of a unified category of Islam itself. As a result of this immanent debate amongst various Islamic organizations/sects, Islam qua Islam tends to dissipate. What, then, remains is a set of shifting, and often irreconcilable, positions constantly made and unmade in the name of Islam. To this end, the study will focus on the critiques of the Jamaat by Islamic organizations/sects such as the Deoband, the Ahl-e-sunnat-wo Jamaat (pejoratively but popularly called Brelvis) and the Ahl-e-hadis. I will also include the critiques by the former Jamaat members such as Wahiduddin Khan and Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Mian).