Israr Ahmed, SI, (Urdu: اسرار احمد, born April 26, 1932) is a Pakistan-based Muslim religious figure who has been described as well-known among Muslims in Pakistan, India, the Middle East, and North America. Born in East Punjab, (now part of 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 currently has a daily show on Peace TV, a 24/7Islamic channel broadcast internationally, and until a recent controversy had a program on Quran TV (QTV (ARY)).
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 is 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”.Controversy has accompanied statements he has made about Ali ibn Abu Talib,Jews and conflict with non-Muslims.
Early life and education
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 Jamiyat-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 Qur’anic lectures in different cities of Pakistan, and especially after 1965 spent a great deal of time studying the Quran. In 1967 Dr. Israr Ahmadin 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. 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 Urdubooks 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 Ahmad follows 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”. He follows 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 Ahmad is a firm traditionalist of the genre of Maulana Mehmood Hassan Deobandi and Allama Shabeer Ahmad Usmani; yet he presents Qur’anic teachings in a scientific and enlightened way …” Ahmed believes in what he calls “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 the economic spheres of life. In this he is said to follow Mohammad Rafi uddin 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, Ahmad resigned from the party in 1956 when it entered the electoral process and believes this involvement has led to “degeneration from a pure Islamic revolutionary party to a mere political one”.
The nucleus of Tanzeem-e-Islami, which Israr Ahmad founded, was created in 1956, following the resignation of Ahmad 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 aims 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.
Ahmed sees the roots of the Shia-Sunni conflict in “counter-revolutionary movement” that sought to overthrow the revolution of Islam in the form of “the Jews of Arabia and the Persians.” While “some scholars have even declared the Shias to be kafir … there has been no collective verdict of apostasy against the Shias (as was given in the case of the Qadiyani community).” “The present sectarian version of Shiism” can be traced to “the Safavid dynasty in Iran,” although the Iranian Islamic Revolution may have reversed this unfortunate trend.
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 a coup d’etat 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.
Abul Ala Maududi
While Ahmad “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 considers to have been “disastrous.”
Danger of Foreign powers
Nov 19, 2007 Ahmed warned that “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 border India is ready to stage an action replay of 1971 events and has alerted its armed forces to intervene in to check threats to peace in the region.”
Criticism and Controversy
Shia and Shiism
Israr Ahmed is said by some to oppose Shiaism as unIslamic. He has been noted for “attacking Shias, caustically denouncing them with a force and stridency that were new to Pakistani life” in the 1980s.In more recent statements he has issued a “clarification” on Tanzeem e islami website stating he would never criticize hazrat Ali Razi Allahu Anhu (the Shia Imam Ali) Another statement records him only as saying that after his “revolution”, “Shia would be treated the same way as Sunnis were treated in Iran.”
Israr Ahmed has been criticized by some Ulema and Shia religious organizations, “including ISO Rawalpindi-Islamabad division, Anjuman Janisaran Ahlebait, Anjuman Zulfikar Haideri, Anjuman Fatimia,” for a statement on Pakistan Quran TV (QTV (ARY)) against Ali ibn Abu Talib, (a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad) who Shia consider the First Imam. Critics declared the remarks “sacrilegious and called upon the government” to prosecute him. On 21st June 2008, Hundreds of Shiite Muslims gathered at Lahore Press Club, Lahore, Pakistan to protest against the blasphemous remarks made by Dr. Israr Ahmed on a local TV channel QTVQTV (ARY) has apologized for the incident.
In an email by his PA Sardar Awan, his organisation accepts “Dr. Israr Ahmad has not studied in a traditional ‘madrassa’, nor he claims to be an ‘a’lim’ or a ‘scholar’. He always says; he is a servant of Qur’an and Islam, ready to learn and accept it’s true knowledge.”Israr Ahmed has apologized for his remarks. Many Ulema and organisations have been discussing this issue and providing counter-arguments to Israr Ahmed’s remarks. On 21 and 22 of June 2008 the leading Sunni scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri defending Imam Ali and rejected the comments made by Israr Ahmed in a 11 hour intellectual lecture on this topic quoting various Hadith rejecting the claims.
Ahmed has also been criticized as making anti-Semitic and Islamic supremacist statements. 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.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.”
A master’s thesis, entitled Dr. Israr Ahmad’s Political Thought and Activities, was written by Ms. Shagufta Ahmad in the Islamic Studies department of Canada’s Mac Gill University. This thesis is available from Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an Lahore.