The Problem With Maulana Maududi’s Understanding Of The Quran – II
This is the second part of the article. Read the first part here.
Maulana Maududi chose a freestyle over verbatim method to translate the Quran in Tafheem-ul-Quran. The main reason Maulana offered for adopting this approach was that verbatim translations were lifeless while the aim should be to stir the emotions and move the spirit of the reader in a most splendid manner. No one can disagree with that objective, but the success or failure Maulana achieved through his effort can be evaluated, for example, by reading his translation of Surah Al-Fatiha.
If your heart races, eyes become tearful or your soul gets rejuvenated while reading this translation (as Maulana had intended), I would happily give up my PhD degree.
Maulana translated the Quranic verses (2:182-187) regarding Fasting by blindly copying ancient translations. Then he got confused by his own translation, and started criticising the order, repetition, and contradictions in these verses. Rather than reviewing where he could have gone wrong, he justified his own blunder by advocating how Ahadees can provide clarity in such scenarios. He also used this flawed example to endorse his own belief in the evil concept of abrogation of some verses of the Quran.
What appeared to Maulana as contradictions is a unique style of the Quran. For example, there are five articles of faith (Imaan) – a belief in Allah, Angles, heavenly Books, Prophets, and the Day of Judgement. However, the Quran mentions belief in Allah and Prophet in one place (4:152), belief in Allah and the Day of Judgement in an anther place (5:69), and only mentions belief in Allah in a different place (41:30). Similar is the case of the verses which relate to the important issue of Halal and Haram in the Quran.
By Maulana’s logic, some of these verses should be abrogated because they appear inconsistent to him; and that we should rely on Ahadees to fill the gap (God forbid) in His verses. Maulana actually described this style of Quranic narration as (God forbid) “novice- like”.
Maulana actually got twisted about fasting because of his own flawed translation. He translated the Quranic verse 2:184 in Tafheem-ul-Quran as “…The people who have the strength to fast…” instead of its factual meaning “…The people who fast with effort…”. He actually translated Yuteqoona as Taaqat (power, strength), and understood its meaning as we do in Urdu. However, according to Arabic dictionary, e.g. Lisaan-ul-Arab, Taaqat is something entirely different – it is about doing something with difficulty or effort. Three leading books of exegesis (Al-Mannaar, Kashaaf, Ruhul Mauaani) have also taken the same view. Unfortunately, Maulana got it wrong, and then made a series of errors of judgement in his own defence.
Maulana Maududi was a terrific journalist with great command over Urdu language. He could write or speak on most topics for hours with effortless ease. Unfortunately, that was not the case with his scholarly acumen. Therefore, his own writings are full of contradictions, and his most prominent work, Tafheem-ul-Quran, did not escape this serious weakness.
He wrote, “Halal is what Allah ordained and Haram is what Allah determined”. And then reprimanded people, whoever they might be, who used their own minds in this regard. Only a page or two later, he wrote about the valid (Halal) reasons for a death penalty, “…three situations are given in the Quran, but two are described by.…”. Maulana had at first described a Quranic principle where Halal & Haram are the remit of Allah only, and letting anyone else have that right is akin to Shirk. Then he went ahead and conveniently broke that rule on behest of whatever he had read somewhere.
Similarly, Maulana at first wrote that everything was Halal for consuming except those four items forbidden in the Quran. However, he later wrote how a Hadees, which mentioned that some wild animals and birds with claws were also haram, should be followed. Also, Maulana wrote that there was no limit to what could be written by someone in his will according to the Quran. However, only a little bit later, he supported that according to the traditions, “One can only write one third of one’s assets in the will..”.
Maulana emphatically wrote that death was a suitable punishment for a Murtud (one who gives up Islam for another religion). But it did not take him long to transcribe in his Tafheem, “It is not befitting a religion (Islam) with lofty intellectual, moral, and ethical values to be forced upon someone…”. Similarly, he wrote that all forms of gambling and lottery were forbidden (haram) in Islam according to the Quran. However, he soon made an exception for a lucky-draw because, historically, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sometimes did that (God forbid) in cases where all other things were equal.
Maulana claimed, “I try to stay clear of debates which distract the reader away from the Quran…”. His actions, however, repeatedly told a different story.
Regarding Divorce, for example, he first expounded that when someone, who had sought divorce twice already, summoned it for the third time, this would lead to the couple’s permanent separation (unless she married someone else, divorced/widowed him, and reverted for re-marriage). The ink must not have dried before Maulana wrote on the same page, “..Triple-divorce also means that one divorce has to be given each month during the woman’s menstrual cycle…”. These are, as one can logically presume, two very different scenarios: the first is according to the Quran, and the second had been imported from inconsistent historical traditions.
It is hard to believe the positon Maulana Maududi took regarding the Land Reforms Act (1959). He opposed the Quranic stance (57:7; 16:71; 4:5) discouraging individual wealth and land-ownership in supporting the Landlord lobby. He used weak Ahadees not only to justify his wrong position, but also wrote extensively with a view to bargaining election favours for his party (Jamat-e-Islami). Even his protégé, Syed Qutab, completely disagreed with him. Maulana found himself in a pickle when it was discovered that some Ahadees also opposed land being given on let or lease. His only defence now was, “….the narrators (who were companions of the Prophet) had misunderstood what the Prophet (pbuh) had said”.
One wonders how Maulana came to know about it? Since he was not an eye-witness, the only weird possibility is that, being a Syed (descendant of the Prophet), someone in the family might have told him about it.
Prophet’s enemies used to spread malicious rumours about him so that people are not attracted to his message. He was accused by them of being bewitched or cast under a spell. The Quran remonstrates (17:47), “…These wicked people say to your followers that you follow none other than a man bewitched”. But our Ahadees and unreliable history seems to have endorsed that the Prophet (pbuh) was cast under a spell.
Maulana not only agreed with such aspersions but also gave contradictory explanations to support his position. He made fun of those ‘rationalists’ who refuted such grave allegations. He completely ignored the Quran, “…the wicked say, you follow none other than a man bewitched….and as his companions, you have gone astray…” (25:8-9). It also pronounces, “…A magician can never prevail…” (20:69). Maulana chose to follow unreliable traditions but failed to comprehend the implications of his belief, which included questions about the authenticity of what was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) when he was (God forbid) under a spell.
It actually requires a book to describe how often Maulana Maududi, for whatever reason, got the translation and interpretation of the Quran wrong. For example, he considered that an orphaned grandson could not claim inheritance from his grandfather. He bizarrely believed that by sucking the breasts of a female, an adult male becomes prohibited for her. Maulana endorsed that a verse in the Quran to that effect had been lost (God forbid). Around 1951, he also proclaimed that Muslim marriages between Pakistanis and Indians cannot be sanctified because Pakistan was a Darul Islam now. This was rich coming from a man who was against the creation of Pakistan.
(to be continued)
M. Aamer Sarfraz is a philosophical psychiatrist based in London.