The Case of Darul Uloom Deoband, Pashtuns and Jihad — I


At the beginning of 20th century Muslims of India started to struggle to consolidate the Indian Muslim identity. Darul Uloom Deoband played a conspicuous role as mentioned in Barbara Metcalf’s study “Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900”. Jamaluddin al-Afghani’s (1839 – 1897) work, a Persian religious and political philosopher, started to gain popularity in India. The idea of pan-Islamism as a universal identity of Muslim was promoted through the works of al-Afghani in the sub-continent  and it gained momentum especially in the year 1910, writes Ira Lapidus in his book “A History of Islamic Societies”. Because the colonial repression was faced by many Muslim countries at that time the idea of pan-Islamism as a rescue ideology from the colonialism easily penetrated more in the Muslim society of sub-continent. The Chancellor at Darul Uloom Deobad, Maulana Mahmudul Hasan, mobilised a movement in year 1914 to liberate the sub-continent from the British. It wasn’t just a movement but it was more to it which invoked upon Pashtuns a new spirit of religionism, not that they weren’t already under the influence of it.

Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madni, who was a senior scholar at the Darul Uloom Deoband, describes this Jihadi movement as “Reshmi Rumal Movement” in his book Tehreek Reshmi Rumal. Ubaid Ullah Sindhi (1872 – 1944), a Sikh who converted to Islam, and became a part of Darul Uloom Deoband, who worked under the Chancellor Maulana Manudul Hasan, writes in one of his essays “Shah Waliullah Aur unki Siyasi Tareekh” that the movement was founded on the ideals of Shah Waliullah and its aim was to achieve the political and religious agenda on the lines of Shah’s ideologies; this belief was in some way different than the predominant motives of Darul Uloom Deoband.

The band of Pashtuns mobilised to fight against the British were called “Jamaat e Mujahideen” or the religious warriors. Darul Uloom Deoband procured the funds and disbursed it to the Pashtuns. Printing presses were setup during this time in the sub-continent. Darul Uloom Deoband struggled to recruit more and more youth to wage a Jihad against the British. As for Pashtuns and Balochs a plan was devised. The Kohistan (upper Swat) was tasked to join the Turkish army against the British in order to weaken the British position there on the frontline and make them focus rather on the First World War where British were engaged against the Turkish than the sub-continent. On the other hand, the Mohmands and Mehsuds (Waziristan) were given the task to wage Jihad on the British forces in Peshawar; Kalat and Makran tribes of Balochistan were to wage Jihad on British forces in Karachi; the Ghaznis (Afghanistan) were to wage Jihad in Quetta. This was the plan of Darul Uloom Deoband to use and mobilise the Pashtuns and Balochs against the British on the name of Jihad.

Such a Jihad by Pashtuns against the British was not any thing new. Between 1893 and 1897, Hadda Mulla’s Jihad against the British also focused on the preservation of Pashtun’s culture, religion and their independence. This Jihad was different than the Jihad against British as the one earlier in time had no supervision of Darul Uloom Deoband, whereas this time the Darul Uloom Deoband fully sponsored the Jihad against the British and provided the Pashtuns with funds, munition and all the support required in insurgency that they needed.

It is noted that the links between the Pashtun tribes and Darul Uloom Deoband wasn’t newly established. The first interaction between the Pashtun tribes and Darul Uloom Deoband happeneed when a Pashtun freedom fighter Fazal Wahid, more commonly known as Haji Sahab of Turangzai of Charsadda, joined the Darul Uloom Deoband and got his madarsah education from there, and later with the Ulemas from Darul Uloom Deoband he went on to perform  the Hajj. It is said that he got his extreme inspiration of Darul Uloom Deoband’s ideologies during the journey.

Hussain Ahmed Madni , the Shaikh ul Islam, from Darul Uloom Deoband strongly believed that violence was necesasry to remove the British from the sub-continent. And for violence there was apparently a need to raise an army of Mujahideen. Naqsh-q-Hayat, the autobiography of Hussain Ahmed Madni “Naqsh-e-Hayat” describes the use of force against the British and termed it Jihad. Madni also argued that Gandhi, Nehru, Ali brothers (Maulana Muhammad Ali & Maulana Shaukat Ali), Dr Ansari and Maulana Bari — all were against colonialist. However, while Gandhi was strictly against the violence it cannot be put aside by the Pashtuns for militancy in a larger historical picture had always been the prerogative of the frontier tribes.

Considering the Pashtuns as the experienced militants, the Maulana Mahmud believed they were the best recruits for the anti-colonialism cause.

More on the case of Darul Uloom Deoband, Pashtuns and Jihad in the next write up.

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