Jamat e Islami (JI) and Islami Jamiat e Talba (IJT)

In the last ten years, what is the role of student mobilization through IJT (Islami Jamiat Talba) in the political activities of JI ((Jamat-e-Islami)? Do the ideological and organizational structure of the first support the second, or challenge it?  

Collective behavior or collective action is underpinning of a movement. According to earlier theories of social movement, a movement is started when there are grievances among people. Grievances arise when existing social order/structure doesn’t fulfil the wants of a specific social group. In these circumstances, people want change and they stand up for a cause because they don’t find any institutional actor that could fulfil their interests (Buechler, 2004). After having people ready to raise their voices, resources seem to be an important concern for a movement to grow. Time and money are what matter the most. Political parties, at times, seem interested in narratives used by a social movement that help both (social movement and political parties). This is what theorists call ‘political opportunity structure’. Political parties need people’s support while social movement need resources and fame. (Zald, 1977)

Social movements come into being when collective behavior is displayed for or against a cause. The goals of social movements are linked with actions. United and cohesive with certain goals, participants of a social movement dedicate their resources (time and money) because the results of the movement directly affect them as in directly affect their lives economically, socially and culturally. Social change is considered necessary for a social movement. Political activities, on the other hand, aim at power and its attainment as goals are directly linked with power. People who belong to certain social groups spend their time and money and demand political change (as change in ruler affects people politically). For instance, in the context of Pakistan, JI’s demand for power to implement Islam and Imran Khan’s movement against corruption can be considered as political (Zald, 1977).

Scholars have argued that political entities have helped social movement organizations to achieve their goals, if not entirely then partially i.e. President John. F. Kennedy of US established Arms Control and Disarmament agency as a response to mobilization for arms control. Political institutions have also been established as a result of collective behavior for labor movements, environment protection movements and movements for equal employment opportunities. They include Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, the Environment Protection Agency and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They were made to support the cause of different social movement organizations (Meyer).

In this paper, I will examine both IJT (for its student mobilization) and JI (as a political party) together. I will be using data collection methods like firsthand experiences, interviews, online surveys, literature written on JI, newspaper articles and various websites. For studying both in tandem, I would first look at history and organizational structure of JI and IJT.  Second, I’ll be adding the data that I have collected through my interviews of IJT members. Third, I’ll be looking at the online survey focusing on 2013 elections, manifesto of JI and election statistics.

My own participant observation during my stay at Medressah (religious education school) organized by JI would also back these data sources. For politics, I use statistics to look at the areas where JI won seats (national and provincial) as well as I will amalgamate these statistics with the online survey conducted for the recent political performance of JI. For internal structure, I will be using data from interviews and written literature. Throughout this paper, I’ll try to explore the links between both social movement organizations.

A “practical idealist” and a “revivalist”, known as Mawlana Maududi, laid the foundation of JI in 1941. From 1941-47, he emphasized on the religious education of Muslims in India. The goal was “Dawat o tableegh aur tarbiyat o tamer e seerat” (of religious propagation, moral and spiritual training and character building). Religious education was necessary as to Mawdudi, only 5% were enlightened Muslims, 90% were blind followers and 5% were corrupted by Western ideas. Mawlana was critical of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s ideas and disliked the way he opened the door for westerners. Therefore, he felt the need to re-establish pure Islam in the world. He was not in favor of “Muslim Nationalism” calling it a product of colonialism and therefore, critics make an argument for his unwillingness towards the establishment of Pakistan. After 1947, he wanted to bring un-Islamic system of government to an end as he centered his attention on Tawhid (God is one), Risalat (Holy Prophet PBUH ends the streak of prophets), and Khilafat (caliphate) in an Islamic state. Jihad (fight in the name of God), for him, was an attempt to establish Divine Order. For having such plans in mind, he was imprisoned many times under different rulers (Moten, 2002).

The organizational structure that JI followed was led by Ameer at the top with Majlis-e-Shoorah and Arkan (members) backing him regarding all concerns. The supporters were divided in three categories: Muta-arrefain (familiar with the movement), Muta-aththirin (influenced by the movement) and Hamdard (sympathizers). The main objective of JI led by Mawdudi was ‘Islamic Revolution’ (Moten, 2002).

IJT, on the other hand, was formed on 23rd December 1947 at Lahore by twenty-five students, majority of whom were sons of Jamat members. The nucleus organization of students by JI was only limited to Islamia College Lahore till 1945. After the formation of IJT, it extended itself to other university campuses of Lahore and Karachi. It was highly influenced by Abul Awla Mawdud. IJT was also supported by then son-in-law of the founder of Muslim Brotherhood (Hassan Al Banna) in Egypt, Ramadan. Ramadan worked closely with Mawalana Mawdudi to organize and administer IJT. Robert Dreyfuss in his book Devil’s Game writes, “…a muscular phalanx of fanatical Islamic students that battled Pakistan’s left, especially university campuses. The so-called Islamic Student Society known by its Urdu initials as IJT, modeled on Mussolini’s fascist Squadristi, was a Ramadan project….” (Younus, 2008). Later on, under different regimes, IJT kept raising its voice against the so-called secular regimes of Ayub, Yahya and Bhutto. It took part in clashes with other Left-wing student unions and Bengali nationalists. IJT members actively participated in 1971 war and supported the brutal activities of Pakistan Army in Bangladesh.  It was under Zia’s regime that its power reached to zenith and IJT took part in curbing anti-Zia voices (Paracha, 2017). This was the time when JI became unable to control its student group as violence and “Kalashnikov culture” became a routine. IJT was transformed from a student body to a militant political machine and it became the reason for their defeat in the student body elections between 1987 and 1991. Mian Tufail (then Ameer of JI) tried his best to make the situation better, but all in vain (Nassr, 1994). So, we can say that links between JI and IJT became week under Zia’s regime (at least explicitly). Therefore, my interviewees enlightened me that IJT and JI, today, are on the same page only apropos of ideology (Younus, 2008) (Paracha, 2017) (Nassr, 1994) .

The hierarchical structure of IJT, according to my interviewees, in simple terms, can be distributed in three stages: Karkun, Rafiq, Rukn. Karkun (Hami, supporter) can be anybody who is a student and wants to work for IJT. Rafeeq is a higher category where students read 2,3 literature books (Shahadat-e-Haq, Khalid k naam Khatoot) and some letters written by Zafar Jamal Baloch in jail. These letters and books gave students the basic idea about Jamiyat. Rukn/Umeedwar is the highest category where students read at least 40 books written by remarkable JI scholars like Mawlana Maududi (Taleemat and Khilafat-o-Malookiyat compulsory for Islamic Studies in Central Superior Services exams), Prof. Khurshid Ahmed and Khurram Murad. Rukns are also made aware of rules and regulations of IJT as well as success stories of earlier Nazims. If we look at the structure of IJT territorially, the smallest unit is ‘unit’/Halqa. 7-8 Halqas make 1 Elaqa. 7-8 Elaqas make 1 zone. Few zones (Karachi has 7) make a city; many cities, a province. Every province has its own Nazim. These Nazims are governed by Nazim-e-Ala who makes his Shoorah (advisory council) which is consisted of experienced members. Elections are held within IJT every year leaving no room for nepotism. Also, money has less value inside IJT as compared to experience, repute and commitment.

During my stay at Medressah, I was taken to rallies organized by JI against different issues and Americanization. Slogan that I can recall is “Amreeka ka jo yaar hai, Ghaddar hai, Ghaddar hai” (friend of US is traitor). My mother also visited JI’s ijtima and when asked about why did she go to Lahore, she replied by saying she went to ijtima because her cousin is a part of JI. My aunt (whose husband is Nazim of Tehsil Chiniot and whose brother works as PPP member) also went to Lahore as she considered it as a duty to conform to husband’s opinion. I have also visited ijtima once and was there during ikhtitami dua (final prayer). All those things that attendants were taught were concluded in a way through which politics could be smelled easily. Mr. Siraj-ul-Haq (leader of JI) demanded votes for upcoming elections as he said, “if you want Pakistan to be ruled under Quran and Sunnah, do vote for us”. Considering all such cases in mind, ‘moral pressures’ of family members seem quite active to play their role (Diani, 2008). Politics within an Islamic ijtima is where political activity intermingles with a goal of a social movement, this is what theorists call ‘political opportunity structure’ (Munson).

I interviewed 2 students who helped me understand IJT’s organizational structure. First person I interviewed was Nazim of IJT at Law College Punjab University Lahore. He is a student of final year. His father works as Tehsildar in a village that is in the proximities of Lahore representing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The factors that played role in his becoming an IJT member include religious environment at home, being Hafiz-e-Quran and perception that IJT will help him learning about Islam that would eventually become a reason for abstinence from evil. During interview, the person said he has never participated in any of JI’s protests. He works for IJT and is only interested in their goals. To him, politics corrupt the goal of developing an Islamic peaceful society.

When I asked him about the violence and coercion that IJT publicly practices, he answered me by explaining two separate phenomena. One is Infradi burai (individual sin), other is Ijtimahi burai (societal sin). According to this rationale, if a student is listening to a song on his mobile phone using headphones, we are perfectly okay with the person. Doesn’t matter also for us if he’s talking to his girlfriend on phone. But if the same person listens to songs using loud speakers and wanders with girls in the university area like a playboy, he is corrupting others and becomes a reason for evil in society. The former is individual sin; the latter is societal sin. For societal sins, violence is necessary.

The five basic goals of IJT that I was being told are: 1) Dawat (preaching) 2) Tanzeem (discipline) 3) Tarbiyat (training) 4)) Talba masail ka hal (solving students’ issues) 5) Islami muashry ka qayam (rise of Islamic society).

The key words that are being used in the slogans of IJT are truthfulness (Haq baat), sword (talwar), blood (khoon) and character (kirdar). Use of such words justify the story of violence that is usually practiced by IJT. Story of violence is further explained in this interview. The slogans are:

Wahdat ka parchar Jamiat,

Mustafvi Afkar Jamiat,

Syedi Kirdar Jamiat,

Tipu ki talwar Jamiat,

Haider ki lalkar Jamiat,

 Shajr-e-sayadar Jamiat.


Jamiat is the pursuit of Oneness,

Jamiat is Holy Prophet’s ideas,

Jamiat is Syedi (Hazrat Ali’s) character,

Jamiat is Tipu’s sword,

Jamiat is Haider’s gage,

Jamiat is a tree that provides shade.

Haq baat kahe aur dat jaye,

Phir chahe girdan cut jaye,

Phir khoon bahe dushman bhe kahe,

Kirdar e Jamiat zinda hai,

Mayar e Jamiat zinda hai,

Zinda hai Jamiat zinda hai. 

Say truth and be determined,

No matter even it requires extermination,

Blood flows then and the enemy says,

The character of Jamiat is alive,

The standard of Jamiat is alive,

Jamiat is alive; Jamiat is alive.

The mention of words like lalkar, talwar, kirdar, afkar, Haider, Tipu (gage, sword, character, ideology) revolves around “the rise of Islamic society” and explains the ideology of IJT in more detail that is based on bravery, motivation, emotion and commitment. For the pursuit of achieving its goal, IJT is not feared of the enemy i.e. those who partake in “societal evil” and the claimers of secular ideas imported from western ideologies. It’s an honor for IJT members to offer their lives for Islam.

The second person I interviewed was a BBA-6 student at IBA. He has been the part of IJT for 5 years and motivation for his joining IJT was Mutalia (reading of Hadith and stories of messengers of Islam) in mosque, Hadith after prayers, his friends’ membership and his desire to abstain from evils. He still pays some money in Bait-ul-Mall (the treasury system of IJT where certain members collect money and give receipt to the payer; such money is used for different purposes i.e. printing of books, pamphlets) of IJT every month. He also told me that only the ‘students’ can become members of IJT. It is entirely run by students studying in different fields in various educational institutions of Pakistan.

Now for having an insight about political performance of JI in 2013 elections, I have considered election statistics and conducted an online survey (on Facebook) where the respondents were mixed i.e. few of them were IJT/JI members. The survey questions consisted of why did JI not become able to win 2013 elections? Multiple choices were given to the respondents to collect 113 responses.

In 2013 general elections, JI won 4 seats (3 general, 1 women) in National Assembly and 9 in provincial assemblies (7 in KPK, 1 in Sindh and 1 in Punjab) (Pakistan N. A., 2013).

The survey findings help me explain reasons JI didn’t become able to achieve its political goals in 2013. Out of 113 responses, only 23 (20.4%) people voted for JI.  28 (24.8%) respondents opted for JI’s mixing of religion with politics as main cause for their defeat. 26 people (23%) didn’t vote for JI as they thought their vote would get wasted as they assumed JI would never going to win. Third remarkable respondents (20 people, 17.7%) were those who were in favor of mixing religion with politics but didn’t like the Islamic version of JI. People dislike JI because they use power (activities of IJT) to implement Islam, (15 people, 13.3% chose this option). Same percentage of people went in favor of trusting JI leaders at top while distrusting JI representatives at lower hierarchies. When asked about what matters the most for the voters during elections, 46.8% of respondents went in favor of leaders; 28.6% opted for candidates; 23.4% chose for manifestos; only 3.9% considered family relations and acquaintances important.

After looking at the manifesto of JI, it is not difficult to assess that they want Pakistan to become a state that would conform to Quran and Sunnah through constitutional and democratic means:Islamic state of Madina would be an ideal to strive for”. Equal distribution of wealth would be the top priority along with better health, education, access to electricity and other claims that every party talks about before elections. A state led by JI would not depend economically on any foreign power and ‘American slavery’ would be eliminated. Furthermore, what I find interesting includes the role of women in state led by JI and matters where JI would enforce things. I read there would be separate educational institutions for women as well as separate playgrounds; culture of modesty would be promoted to avoid exploitation of women; ‘Sanctity of the Month of Ramazan Ordinance’, Salat (prayer), Zakat (religious alms), and Ushr (alms on agricultural production) would be strictly enforced. According to the manifesto (2013 elections) of JI, all able-bodied men and women aged 18-35 would be given compulsory military training for the spirit of Jihad. Fahash (vulgar) advertisements would be banned (Pakistan J.-e.-I. , 2013).

IJT seems to affect JI’s political movement as respondents massively criticized violence and manifesto of JI. If we analyze the option of “violence” for why did people not vote for JI, we can say the statements that JI leaders have given in favor of Taliban play some role in shaping such mentality. Like the former JI leader (Ameer) Syed Munawar Hassan called the chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsood, a Shaheed (martyr) when he was killed by a US drone (Guardian, 2013). The manifesto of JI also seems to impose certain things which could keep voters from voting JI. Like the points regarding different institutions for women, Zakat, Ushr and Jihad in the manifesto keep educated voters away from voting JI as majority of my survey respondents were University students. Even though each voter or non-voter doesn’t necessarily read JI’s manifesto but we can extrapolate it as in voters had some know-how about what would Pakistan be like if JI wins the elections.

The previous performance of JI is taken under consideration when people give votes; voters presume that JI is not going to win, why should they waste the vote then?

Sectarianism also seems to play its role in JI’s defeat as a respectable number of respondents didn’t like JI’s version of Islam. It has damaged Pakistan immensely after the ‘Islamization’ era of Zia. Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia and the unhappiness of Shi’ites because of Zia’s policies are only few of the examples. Later, the formulation of ISIS (Islamic state of Iraq and Syria) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) brought in new violent ways of implementing Islam that made sectarian identity more important than any other (Rashid, 1999). It seems unreal to claim such concerns by being a part of an educated environment. But if one goes to the areas of less/uneducated people, even the so-called house of God (Mosques) are not safe for those who belong to different sects of Islam. Such an incident happened in Chiniot about which I have some knowledge. The Muharram procession of Shi’ites was passing through the center when Sunnis standing in a mosque raised slogans like Shia Kafir (Shi’ites are infidels). In return, they had to face with bullet fires that eventually harmed the sanctity of  mosque. Such is the extent to which sectarianism has advanced. So-much embeddedness of sectarianism seems to distort the political ambition of JI if we think of Shi’ites, other Sunni sects and Wahabbis.

Another important concern based on survey data is JI use religion to achieve its political goals, otherwise they are no different than any other party. People argue that religion and politics can’t be entwined, if any party does that, they do it only for getting power.

According to survey data, leaders matter the most for a voter. As electoral process is a contest between Siraj-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, so JI’s leader was unable to win the favor of majority.

Organizational structure of IJT is quite strong and its members know ground level politics very well, therefore, they are quite strong in Punjab University Lahore and Karachi University. Both are remarkable educational institutions of Pakistan where about 43000 (PU) and 95000 (KU) students are enrolled (Punjab, 2017) (Karachi, 2011). Role of IJT in administrative affairs of these universities also becomes an important reason for its recruitment. They work for Talba Masail (students’ issues) like residential for outstation students, departmental issues, absence of teachers and irregular classes and make students interact with professionals belonging to different fields. Such philanthropist works of IJT became the reason for Law department Nazim to join IJT. For others, lesser evil seems to be an important concern as decisions for recruitment are taken on merit rather than on the basis of money. One interviewee explained this through the example of Jahangir Tareen (Secretary General of PTI) that he got this promotion as he provides PTI with extensive money resources. He also told me that the way IJT helps new students regarding different issues make them join IJT. To him, majority of students in PU belong to lower and upper middle classes and they come from rural or under-privileged areas of Pakistan. So, IJT seems fascinating to them as it provides them with a new identity (being a member of a student union) that seems otherwise difficult for students of such classes.

Other factors that play role in appealing IJT members for recruitment include Islamic environment at home, regular visit to Masjid and practicing Mutalia (reading of Hadith books), know-how about Islam, commitment of IJT for administrative issues and lesser evil found in JI as compared to other political parties.

Politicians like Ahsan Iqbal, Chaudary Nisar, Jawed Hashmi, Saad Rafiq, Saleem Safi and Hussain Haqqani had been the part of IJT witnessing the level of training that IJT provides its members with.

Another vital information, according to my data sources, is JI and IJT are on the same page only because of their ideology i.e. following of Quran and Sunnah. They have no links regarding funding. JI has its own Bait-ul-Mall system as well as IJT has.

Keeping all above factors in mind, it can be said that JI and IJT are structurally strong and therefore, they had been able to survive for so many years. Strong organizational structure is among one of the significant characteristics of a social movement but to achieve more significance, a social movement needs something more i.e. use of framing, narratives, political affiliations and role of social media. Both social movement organizations leave much room for enough media coverage. One interviewee condemned the role of media in not giving proper coverage to the accomplishments of IJT: he mentioned to the role of IJT in 1971 war. And JI’s advertisement for election campaign specially on T.V channels is rarely seen.

The links between JI and IJT seems only limited to ideology. And the student mobilization of IJT rarely influences the political activities of JI. One interviewee has never participated in any of JI protests as well as he didn’t vote for them in 2013 elections. These conflicts beyond ideology were exposed during Zia’s regime. IJT emphasizes (sometimes through repression) on achieving its goal of “rise of Islamic society” by keeping youth away from Westernization. While JI awaits to become a strong enough political power to bring “Islamic revolution” in Pakistan. The goals are same, but the ways for achieving them are different: JI believes in political power to bring change, while IJT believes in youth. The ultimate goals of both have not been achieved yet because of their limited approach: IJT is a powerful student union organization only in a handful of educational institutions because of its coercive approach, while JI’s mixing of Islam with politics seems skeptical to people.



Buechler, S. M. (2004). The Strange Career of Strain and breakdown theories of collective action. Blackwell Publishing Limited.

Diani, M. (2008). Networks and Participation. In S. A. David A. Snow, The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements (p. 339). John Wiley & Sons.

Guardian, T. (2013, November 12). The Guardian. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/12/pakistan-army-taliban-hakimullah-mehsud-martyr

Karachi, U. o. (2011). University of Karachi. Retrieved from University of Karachi: http://www.uok.edu.pk/

Meyer, D. S. (n.d.). How social movements matter? In J. F. Jeff Goodwin.

Moten, A. R. (2002). Revolution to Revolution: Jamāʻat-e-Islāmī in the Politics of Pakistan. Islamic Book Trust.

Munson, Z. (n.d.). ISLAMIC MOBILIZATION: Social Movement Theory and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Nassr, V. (1994). Islami Jamiat e Talba. In V. Nassr, The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama’at-i Islami of Pakistan (pp. 112-116). California: Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pakistan, J.-e.-I. (2013, March). Manifesto: Jamat-e-Islami Pakistan. Pakistan/Punjab, Mansoorah Lahore: Deptt. of public relations, Jamat e Islami Pakistan.

Pakistan, N. A. (2013). Retrieved from National Assembly of Pakistan: http://www.na.gov.pk/en/members_listing.php?party=107

Paracha, N. F. (2017, March 22). Dawn News. Retrieved from DAWN: https://www.dawn.com/news/742642

Punjab, U. o. (2017). University of the Punjab. Retrieved from University of the Punjab: http://pu.edu.pk/page/show/AboutUs.html

Rashid, A. (1999). The Taliban: Exporting Extremism. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.indianembassy.org/policy/Terrorism/think_tank/taliban_extremism_fa_nov_99.htm

Younus, K. K. (2008, 4 16). Dawn News. Retrieved from DAWN: https://www.dawn.com/news/875868/history-of-jamiat

Zald, J. D. (1977). Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory. 1212-1241.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s