Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is a well known Muslim theologian, Quran scholar and exegete, and educationist. A former member of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who extended the work of his tutor, Amin Ahsan Islahi, Ghamidi is the founder of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences and its sister organization Danish Sara. He became a member of Council of Islamic Ideology on January 28, 2006 for a couple of years, a constitutional body responsible for giving legal advice on Islamic issues to Pakistan Government and the Parliament. He has also taught at the Civil Services Academy from 1980 until 1991. He is running an intellectual movement similar to Wastiyya in Egypt on the popular electronic media of Pakistan.
Ghamidi's discourse is primarily with the traditionalists on the one end and Jamaat-e-Islami and its seceding groups on the other. In Ghamidi’s arguments, there is no reference to the Western sources, human rights or current philosophies of crime and punishment. He comes to conclusions which are similar to those of Islamic modernists on the subject, but he never goes out of the traditional framework.
Ghamidi was born on April 18, 1951 in a peasant family of Kakazai tribe from Jiwan Shah near Pakpattan. His father belongs to a town called Daud some 80 kilometers from Lahore, near Ravi river. His father follows qadri junaidi sufi order. He has two elder sisters. His early education included Matriculation from Islamia High School, Pakpattan in 1967, as well as Arabic and Persian languages, and the Qur'an with Mawlawi Nur Ahmad of Nang Pal. He later graduated from Government College, Lahore, with a BA Honours in English in 1972. Initially, he was more interested in literature and philosophy. Later on, he worked with renowned Islamic scholars like Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi and Amin Ahsan Islahi on various Islamic disciplines particularly exegesis and Islamic law.
In his book, Maqamat, Ghamidi starts with an essay "My Name" to describe the story behind his surname, which sounds somewhat alien in the context of the Indian Subcontinent. He describes a desire during his childhood years to establish a name linkage to his late grandfather Noor Elahi, after learning of his status as the one people of the area turned to, to resolve disputes. This reputation also led to his (grandfather's) reputation as a peacemaker. Subsequently, one of the visiting sufi friends of his father narrated a story of the patriarch of the Arab tribe Banu Ghamid who earned the reputation of being a great peacemaker. He writes, that the temporal closeness of these two events clicked in his mind and he decided to add the name Ghamidi to his given name, Javed Ahmed.
Ghamidi worked closely with Abul Ala Maudoodi often referred to as Maulana Maududi for about nine years before voicing his first differences of opinion, which led to his subsequent expulsion from Mawdoodi's political party, Jamaat-e-Islami in 1977. Later, he developed his own view of religion based on hermeneutics and ijtihad under the influence of his mentor, Amin Ahsan Islahi, a well-known exegete of the Indian sub-continent who is author of Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, a Tafsir. Ghamidi's critique of Mawdoodi's thought is an extension of Wahid al-Din Khan’s criticism of Mawdoodi. Khan was amongst the first scholars from within the ranks of Jamaat-e-Islami to present a full-fledged critique of Mawdoodi’s understanding of religion. Khan’s contention is that Mawdoodi has completely inverted the Qur’anic worldview. Ghamidi, for his part, agreed with Khan that the basic obligation in Islam is not the establishment of an Islamic world order but servitude to God, and that it is to help and guide humans in their effort to fulfill that obligation for which religion is revealed. Therefore, Islam never imposed the obligation on its individual adherents or on the Islamic state to be constantly in a state of war against the non-Islamic world. In fact, according to Ghamidi, even the formation of an Islamic state is not a basic religious obligation for Muslims.
Ghamidi’s understanding of Islamic law has been presented concisely in his book Mizan. Ghamidi's inspiration from his mentor, Amin Ahsan Islahi and non-traditionalist approach to the religion has parted him from traditionalist understanding on a number of issues, but he never goes out of the traditional framework.
Ghamidi believes that there are certain directives of the Qur’an pertaining to war which were specific only to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and certain specified peoples of his times (particularly the progeny of Abraham (AS): the Ishmaelites, the Israelites, and the Nazarites). Thus, the Prophet (PBUH) and his designated followers waged a war against Divinely specified peoples of their time (the polytheists and the Israelites and Nazarites of Arabia and some other Jews, Christians, et al.) as a form of Divine punishment and asked the polytheists of Arabia for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for exemption from death punishment and for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims.
Therefore, after the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam. The only valid basis for jihad through arms is to end oppression when all other measures have failed. According to him Jihad can only be waged by an organized Islamic state. No person, party or group can take arms into their hands (for the purpose of waging Jihad) under any circumstances. Another corollary, in his opinion, is that death punishment for apostasy was also specifically for the recipients of the same Divine punishment during the Prophet's times—for they had persistently denied the truth of the Prophet's mission even after it had been made conclusively evident to them by God through the Prophet.
The formation of an Islamic state is not a religious obligation per se upon the Muslims. However, he believes that if and when Muslims form a state of their own, Islam does impose certain religious obligations on its rulers as establishment of the institution of salah (obligatory prayer), zakah (mandatory charity), and 'amr bi'l-ma'ruf wa nahi 'ani'l-munkar(preservation and promotion of society's good conventions and customs and eradication of social vices; this, in Ghamidi's opinion, should be done in modern times through courts, police, etc. in accordance with the law of the land which, as the government itself, must be based on the opinion of the majority).
Head covering for women is a cherished part of Muslim social custom and tradition, but it is not a directive of the shariah (Divine law). The Qur'an states norms for male-female interaction in surah An-Nur. While in surah Al-Ahzab, there are special directives for wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and directives given to Muslim women to distinguish themselves when they were being harassed in Medina. The Qur'an has created a distinction between men and women only to maintain family relations and relationships.
Ghamidi has earned criticism from traditionalist Muslim scholars in Pakistan for his interpretation of certain Islamic values. Ghamidi is known for his stress on morals and ethics in Islam. He has raised concerns on moral and ethical issues in Muslims.
A translated snippet from his book "Ikhlaqiyat":
After faith, the second important requirement of religion is purification of morals. This means that a person should cleanse his attitude both towards his Creator and towards his fellow human beings. This is what is termed as a righteous deed. All the Shari‘ah is its corollary. With the change and evolution in societies and civilizations, the Shari‘ah has indeed changed; however faith and righteous deeds, which are the foundations of religion, have not undergone any change. The Qur’an is absolutely clear that any person who brings forth these two things before the Almighty on the Day of Judgement will be blessed with Paradise which shall be his eternal abode.
Javed Ahmed Ghamidi resigned in September 2006 from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body responsible for providing legal advice on Islamic issues to the Pakistani government. His resignation was rejected by the President of Pakistan. Ghamidi's resignation was prompted by the Pakistani government's formation of a separate committee of ulema to review a Bill involving women's rights; the committee was formed after extensive political pressure was applied by the MMA. Ghamidi argued that this was a breach of the CII's jurisdiction, since the very purpose of the council is to ensure that Pakistan's laws do not conflict with the teachings of Islam. He also said that the amendments in the bill proposed by the Ulema committee were against the injunctions of Islam. This event occurred when the MMA threatened to resign from the provincial and national assemblies if the government amended the Hudood Ordinance, which came into being under Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization. The Hudood Ordinances have been criticised for, among other things, insisting upon an exceptionally difficult and dangerous procedure to prove allegations of rape.
Ghamidi had appeared on several TV Channels and appears regularly on dedicated programs. His television audience consists of educated, urban-based middle-class men between the ages of 20-35, as well as lay Islamic intellectuals and professionals. Ghamidi's religiously oriented audience tends to be dissatisfied with the positions of traditional ulema and Western-eudcated secular-liberal elite, and find his interventions and ideas more sensible, moderate, and relevant.
Ghamidi is one of the Pakistani religious scholars who, from the beginning, has been opposing this kind of Islamism. One of his recent essays on this subject Islam and the Taliban;
The Taliban says that democracy is a concept alien to Islam. The ideal way of setting up an Islamic government in our times is the one that it adopted for Mullah Omar’s government in Afghanistan. The constitution, the parliament, and elections are nothing but modern day shams...I can say with full confidence on the basis of my study of Islam that this viewpoint and this strategy (of Taliban) are not acceptable to the Qur’ān. It prescribes democracy as the way to run the affairs of the state. The Qur’ān (42:38) says: amruhum shūrā baynahum (the affairs of the Muslims are run on the basis of their consultation). ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Whosoever pledges allegiance to anyone without the collective consent of the Muslims presents himself for the death sentence.” It is true that, in Muslim history, monarchy and dictatorship have often been accepted forms of government. Some people also believe that the head of government should be a nominee of God Himself. However, the principle the Qur’ān spells out is very clear.