The Concept Of Women In Communal Ideologies: A Study Into The ideologies Of RSS And Jamat-e-Islami


A communal organization derives its ideology, base and support from religion and tradition, that is, from the past or the existing social order, and functions as a bridge between religion and politics. Tradition is the continuation of the ‘glorious past’ as perceived, and projected, by the ideologies of such organizations, which may or may not bear any resemblance to historical reality. They interpret, and limit, history, according to their ideological purpose, which aims to mobilize people in defense of a communal or religious identity, and the social order which protects and upholds that identity. Such organizations, and ideologies tend to become more active in transitional phase, i.e. , in times of rapid social change, partly in response and partly in resistance to the forces of change, which are viewed as threats to the communal and religious identity[1].

The Indian Freedom Struggle generated many ideologies-some that sought to break the social and religious diversities to unite Indians as a nation, and some that sought to perpetuate such diversities and divisions by theorizing religion based nationalism parallel to the pan-India inclusive concept evolving from the anti-colonial struggle. The women’s question-or the issue of women’s rights and roles in the new nation that was being forged, was a crucial issue that had to be taken note of by all these ideologies, as women’s position and status formed a basic feature of the social order in each community. Cultural values, religious norms and prescribed role models determined and confined women’s lives within certain boundaries, considered to be sacrosanct for these self-appointed upholders of religious traditions as defined by them.

While the dominant ideology of the nationalist movement arrived-howsoever haltingly-at the concept of women’s equality in social, economic and political life as essential for winning Swaraj and building an Indian nation[2], the communal ideologies proved more resistant to this concept. Unfortunately, this aspect of the communal ideologies has received little attention from their supporters or critics. I intend to present, briefly, the treatment of the women’s question by two leading communal organizations, RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami, by examining the texts written by the ideologues of these organizations. And the women’s questing here means the equality of women-economic, social and political-with men.

The practiced ideology of communal organizations, which is, manifested in its standpoints and policy statements/acts on various issues, may or may not be in total conformity with its stated ideology, which is derived from scriptures and particular value systems, this paper deals with the stated ideology. This paper attempts to analytically document ideological literature of these organizations.


THE RASHTRIYA SWAYAM SEVAK SANGH (RSS) was founded by K.B. Hedgewar in 1922 under the inspiration, and with the blessings of D.V Savarkar. Savarkar was a believer in India’s salvation through a return to its ancient roots[3]since the publication of his book Hindutva in 1917[4]. In this book he adopted a position diametrically opposite of his earlier one, presented in his Indian War of Independence published in 1907 which praised Hindu – Muslim unity in resistance to the colonial power[5].

RSS. According to the preamble of its constitution, was founded to organize the male Hindus in order to bring about ‘an all-round regeneration of Hindu Samaj[6], so that the ‘might of the regenerated Hindu Nation (Hindu Rashtra) strikes down the enemy’s hosts’[7]. After about 50 year of its inception it agreed to organize its women’s wing, Rashtriys Sevika Samiti, which works towards defending and perpetuating the “glorious cultural values” of the ancestors, has remained paper organization and has non-existent for all practical purposes[8]. The enemies of the Hindu Rashtra were identified as communists, Muslims and Christians[9]. The order of priority with emphasis on Communists and Muslims as the primary enemies of Hindus, bears a strange resemblance to Adolf Hitler’s identification of the enemies of the German race-Jews, communists and the victors of the First World War i.e. the Franco-British alliance[10].

The RSS participation in the freedom struggle did not go far beyond scattered utterances as confessed by Nanaji Deshmukh, one of its prominent leaders. “RSS as an organization did not take part in the National Liberation Movement, but its members were free to take part in their individual capacity. The ultimate goal of RSS, however, was to take the country to the heights of glory”.[11]

M. S. Golwalkar, the successor of Hedgewar as the Sarasanghchalak from 1940 till his death in 1973, makes a plea for revival of Prakramvad, the militant Hindutva, as opposed to revolutionary militancy[12] and thought the revolutionary as well as peaceful anti-British movements were bound to drift into reactionary channels[13]. Golwalkar is full of praises for “unparalleled, undisputed German Empire” of Hitler for keeping up “the purity of Race and its Culture… by purging the county of the Semetic Races – the Jews”[14]. For him and for the RSS Swayam Sevaks, the Nazi type of “Race spirit at its highest” is a “good lesson in Hindustan to learn and profit by”.[15]

M. A. Venkatrao in his introduction to Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts dumps the concepts of class war and irreconcilable class – antagonism as destructive and maintains that “Indian Social Philosophy is superior to current violent and muddy theories of Marxism and Freudianism”. He further argues that state is not an agent of upper classes according to Indian Shastra’s, nor an exploiting agency, but agent of morality or Dharma”.[16]

RSS holds Savarkar as its ideological guide, who in his proposed Hindu Rashtra, defines citizenship in terms of “fatherland” and “holy land”[17], and hence rejects the theory that Aryans came in the subcontinent from outside. It also eulogizes and idolizes Tilak for his nationalism combined with militant Hindu revivalism and his defense of ‘traditions’ like child marriage etc. Golwalkar found it difficult to refute Tilak’s proposition the that Aryans had come from the Arctic region, and in order to defend his own view that Aryans aboriginals of this land and that this land had always belonged to them, he claimed that in ancient days the Arctic region was in India. In his ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’ he says, “Lok Manya Tilak propounded the Arctic origin of Aryans. We may agree with him that originally the Aryans, that is, Hindus lived in the regions of the North Pole. But he was not aware that in ancient times the North Pole and with it the Arctic zone was not where it is today… North Pole is not stationary and ling ago it was in that part of world, which we find is called Bihar and Orissa at present…..”[18].

The ideology of RSS is thus based on this kind of glorification the Aryan Race Theory and its traditions. The aims and objectives of RSS as defined in its constitution are “to weld together the diverse groups within Hindu Samaj and to revitalize and rejuvenate the same on the basis of its Dharma and Sankriti”.[19] It defines a Swayamsevak as “any male Hindu of 18 years or more, who subscribes to the rules and regulations of the Sangh and takes its pledge”. Boys below 18 year come into the category of Kishor (Adolescent); Bal(young boy) and Shishu (child) Swaymsevaks are classified according to age groups[20]. It seems it has heeded the advice of ancient Greek Philosopher Plato to begin indoctrinating children from the birth itself, as at that tender age they are like wax and can be molded in a desired shape. It is to be noted that Plato’s Ideal State perfectly resembles the Varnashram system, the four-fold Brahmanical division of society with the intellectuals, the custodians of the “highest knowledge” It prescribes uniform to its members-white shirt, khaki knicker and black cap, black boots and a Dand (Batton). Every early morning and evening many public parks in most of the cities and towns and many villages witness disciplined military like drill under the command of a Mukhya Shikshak (Chief Educator), lowest official in the pyramidal hierarchy. At the top is Sarsangh Chalak who nominates his successor in his life time. Officials (Adhikari) of lower units are chosen by and/or in consultation with him.[21] There are many other visible similarities between the RSS and Nazi or Fascist parties, in terms of ideology, organizational structure and the chauvinistic methods of mobilization, which ought to be the subject matter of a separate study. Gandhiji had characterized the RSS as a communal body with a totalitarian model. [22]

On Women’s Question

This study, however, focusses mainly on the RSS attitude to the women’s question. To study the women’s question in RSS ideology, one has to look into the position of women in the sources of its ideology, the socio-political systems it supports, and its ideals. Here again, we find strong similarities with that of Nazism. Balasaheb Deorsa, chief of the RSS after Golwalkar’s, justifies the exclusion of women from the RSS structure on the grounds of domestic responsibilities: “How can women participate in Shakhas, (the daily meeting and the drill) when they have domestic responsibilities?”[23] This view of Deoras about the role of women corresponds to that of Hitler that “a woman’s role must be restricted to bearing children, to be in kitchen or to pray in the church”.[24]

The RSS identifies Vedas and Upanishads, the Vedic and post Vedic Brahmanical scriptures as its ideological source and finds in the Gita, Mahabharata and Ramcharitmanas, as the highest examples of pragmatism. Deen Dayal Upadhya, another ideologue of the RSS aspires for a Dharmarajya based on Dharma which sustains the society.[25] Following the line of Golwalkar, Deen Dayal Upadhyah argues the Post-Vedic republics in ancient India had been failures and rejects the modern socialist systems on the grounds of being foreign.[26] It is noticeable that in the republics of ancient India women enjoyed relatively much better place in society and more freedom of participation in socio-political activities.[27] The ideology of socialist systems stands for absolute equality between men and women. This further proves our point that organizations opposed to democratic values and socialism are, ipso facto opposed to even a better position for women, let alone accept the concept of equality. Buddhism allowed women to its Sangha against the Brahmanical norms of their exclusion from public places. Golwalkar considers Buddhist influence responsible for the “degeneration” of Hindu society though he accepts Buddha as one in the sequence of Hindu incarnations. According to him, the Buddhist sect had turned traitor to the mother society and mother religion which was fought out by Shankaracharya.[28]

It seems that due to its conception of celibacy and belief that, women can distract a man from his chosen path, that the Pracharks (the whole timers of RSS) by set norms remain bachelors and present an example of ‘morality’[29] and sexual restraint which is one of the dominant parameters of character. Pracharaks and other office-bearers of RSS are nominated by higher bodies.RSS considers Manu as the first, the greatest and the wisest law-giver of mankind’[30], who held that “in childhood a woman should be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, and when her lord is dead, to her sons. A woman must never be independent”.[31] Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts, which provides ideological guidelines to RSS, does not elaborate the position and role of women in exalting the ‘glorious heritage’ from Manu to Savarkar. The inability of RSS leaders to define the women’s role very explicitly, stems from their prejudiced obsessions and taboos attached to sexuality in general and female sexuality in particular with the structured patriarchal values, and with over-emphasis on celibacy and chastity. Datto Pant Thengri, another RSS think-tank, while discussing the sex-education, co-education and intermixing of sexes, writes that “the Sangh is totally against – the concept of sexual relations amongst willing partners.”[32] When a group of women activists asked for suggestions on a literacy campaign amongst women, Golwalkar advised them to “first and foremost inculcate noble Sanskras (Set moral values) in them (women). Then only think of literacy”. He goes on to suggest to ‘inspiring them with the spirit of pure devotion to our motherland faith on our Dharma and pride in our history. Show them the map or our sacred motherland, mountains, Tirthsa( pilgrimage) and temples-introduce them to social tradition-sprit of our national being”. He asks women to perform ‘recitations of prayers early in the mornings’ and warns them to keep away from the “glare of western civilization which would spell ruin to the matchless traditions of purity and chastity, set up by the daughters of this soil….only then any literacy campaign may succeed”.[33]

RSS does not find any place for women in its organizational set-up for ‘national regeneration’. The preamble to its constitution specifies the need for an organization like RSS ‘to make them (the Hindus) realize the greatness of their past, to inculcate in them the spirit of service, sacrifice and selfless devotion to the Hindu Samaj and to build up an organized and well-disciplined corporate life”.[34] Greatness of the past for RSS is the greatness of Mahabharata where Draupadi, a women, is considered to be a ‘jewel’ to be distributed among the five Pandavas, and of Ramayana where Sita, again a woman, is won by Lord Ram in a weightlifting competition and is thrown out of the house by Lord Ram, the perceived ideal of virtue, despite her passing the Agni Pariksha (trial by fire) for her chastity and fidelity.[35]

As the RSS ideology is not very explicit in its definition of women’s role and position, a study on women’s question in its ideology has to look into implicit and latent definitions through the types of socio-political structures that the RSS advocates, and the ideals it preaches. RSS supports the institutionalized inequality of Hindu society, which includes gender inequality as an important component. Golwalkar claims quite loudly that RSS does not stand for equality but for harmony and assigns the responsibility for ‘inherent disparities’ to nature. “Man is different from animal by his Dharma” which, according to Golwalkar is ‘the state of highest harmony in spite of inherent disparities in nature’[36] According to him agitations against these ‘inherent disparities’ are not ‘born out of real awakening but out of darkness and ignorance’.[37] Golwalkar feels that ‘total good of all beings’ is in contrast to ‘greatest good to greatest being’.[38] RSS claims that it is “neither against nor for the Varna Vyavastha (caste system) though it (Varna Vyavastha) has served great purpose at critical times”. For Golwalkar the monarchy is the best form of political system which “was found to be a highly beneficial institution continuing for thousands of years”. Politics, according to RSS ideology, is just a part of religion. Indeed, politics itself becomes in the case of such Religion (Hindu), a small factor, to be considered and followed solely as one of the commands of religion, and in accord with such commands.[39]

In his Bunch of thoughts, Golwalkar describes Hedgewar as the incarnation of Yudhishthira of Mahabharata, projected by RSS as the ideal man. Yudhishthira, according to the Mahabharata, thought that women were the vilest creatures on the earth and at the root of all evil.[40] Bhishma, another ideal of the RSS, held similar opinion about women. The highest ideal character for the RSS is that of Rama of the Ramayana.

Advocating the Dharmic ideology, RSS pleads for the revival of the glorious tradition of Vishwamitra, Kautilya, Vidyaranya, Ram and Chandragupta, Krishna Dev Arya and Shivaji, the tradition of the Gurus and the Kings, of Dronacharya and Arjun, and not of Eklavya. The few studies on the position of women in these hierarchically stratified monarchical political systems indicate that women in these societies had been reduced to ornamental or commodity status. Golwalkar assigns to the RSS the function to ‘mould the man’ (and not woman) and ‘instill in him the strength to overcome human frailties and stand up as a shining symbol of Hindu Manhood’ He further shows his sexist bias while describing the family as the first stage of self-expansion. Making and appeal to uphold the ideal of the family he talks about sons, brothers, husbands or fathers and never about daughters, sister, or mothers. Rama is found to be ideal in all aspects.[41]

For the Hindu wife, Golwalkar prescribes restraint of emotions, and the practice of the Dharma. RSS visualizes only two roles for women-that of a wife and a mother, Sita Savitri , Draupadi and Ahalya, constitute the ideal images and role models for women. While talking about women, Golwalkar maintains the ‘except his wife, a Hindu considers all the rest (women) as mothers’. While emphasising the domestic role for women, fidelity-and chastity as her virtues and opposing any question of their equality with men, Golwalkar finds justification for institutionalized prostitution, because it has been prevalent in Indian society since ancient days. In answer to a question on prostitution, Golwalkar says, “This practice (prostitution) stems from a human weakness, which has made this profession a social need for thousands of years. As such, it is well-nigh impossible to root out this profession completely. Then the only approach to this profession, give them education, make them devoted to Dharma and God.[42] Golwalkar talks of prostitution as stemming from human weakness and does not make it clear that it is man’s weakness; on the contrary, suggests devotion to God and Dharma by women as its remedy but has no suggestion about what men should do to get over this weakness.

The status and role of women, as emerges from the perusal of the RSS ideology, is mainly that of a devoted wife and mother, that is strict adherence to chastity, celibacy and absolute fidelity, the traits and virtues Manu prescribed centuries ago[43]. Their role and function are confined within the domestic sphere. RSS ideology assigns women strict observation of Sanskaras (moral conduct), whereby she is forbidden from undertaking any independent role in the sphere of social, political and economic processes in the social structure envisaged by RSS.


Jamat-e-Islami(Jamat) was founded on August 26, 1941 through a conference attended by 70 delegates at Pathankot with Maulana Abul Ala Maududi as its president. Maulana Maududi, after partition, migrated to Pakistan an led the Jamaat-e-Islami there’; Maulana Abdul Lais Islahi became the president of its counterpart in India (Amir-e-Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.[44]

Jamaat-e-Islami was formed with the aim of organizing those Muslims “who understand the real significance of Islam and its implications”.[45] The objective of Jamat, as written in its constitution, is to establish the Hukumat – e – Illahia, the Kingdom of God. In 1962, the Jamaat in India as well as in Pakistan changed objective to Eqaamat – e – Din – the establishment of Din (creed). It aims at the reconstruction of state and society so as to conform to the Din of Islam. Amir – e – Jamat is on top in the RSS type of pyramidal structure of its organizational hierarchy. As Jamat has professed opposition to the concept of democracy and election, Amir – e – Jamaat is chosen on the basis of the ‘virtues’, the ‘understanding’ of the creed, and teachings and life of the Holy Prophet. Amirs of lower units are appointed by him. Like RSS Jamat also prescribes that ‘dress of Muslims should bear some distinguishing mark, so that they do not get mixed up with non – Muslims”.[46]

Jamaat is quite vocal and categorically explicit in its definition of position and role of women, their tights and duties. As the question of gender inequality is not an exclusive and isolated one, it is determined by the basic ideological understanding of a particular organization in terms of its creeds, aims and objectives, the value systems it advocates and understanding of society. Jamat, as will be clear from the discussion, is a totalitarian organization with strict hierarchy which does not have any place for women in its organisational structure, though, officially it has its women’s wing which undertakes to educate the Muslim women and children about their Islamic duties. According to Maulana Maududi, the founder president and chief ideologue of Jamat, in organisational matters, final authority lies with the Amir – e – Jamat, who will be completely relied upon and will be fully obeyed so long as he follows the laws of God and His prophet.[47] The women’s question in its ideology can better be understood by placing it in the context of its creed, aims and objectives and the value systems it supports.

The basic creed of the Jamat, as enunciated in its constitution, is “the divine being is solely Allah, there being no God except him, and Muhammad is Allah’s sole messenger”. It is imperative on its member “to accept without demur every teaching and guidance that is proved to emanate from Muhammad”.[48] “The beliefs, goals, organisational structure and methods of working of Jamat are “the same as have been traditionally those of Islam”.[49]

Maududi holds “the opinion of a single person may be sounder than the unanimous opinion of the entire council of Jamat. Hence the leader (Amir –e – Jamat) has the right to concur either with the majority or with minority and is further entitled to disagree with the whole council and decide the matter according to his own judgement”.[50] The Jamat identifies the Quran and Hadith as its ideological sources. It (the Jamat) is of the view that “a Muslim is born in the world to become a living symbol of Godliness, nobility and humanity”.[51] And it is only “Islam which can provide wholesome atmosphere for the development of high morals and noble traits of character”.[52] The ideology of the Jamat is opposed to any change in way of life or social norms and asserts that Islamic laws provide “detailed code of conduct, standards of morals and life and the laws that allow and prescribe that judges between right and wrong” and that “Muhammad brought with him the final code”.[53] It believes that “God is the creator and sole ruler who alone possesses the power to control the affairs of this vast universe”, and goes on to assert that “man does not have the right to choose a way of life for himself or assume whatever duties he liked”. According to Maulana Maududi, “results of our action in this world do not, in any way, determine the rightness or wrongness of an action or a way of life and cannot therefore become the criterion of our rejection or acceptance of it”.[54]

The Jamat’s criticism of institutions like nationalism, secularism, democracy, socialism or communism is based on its thesis that man is, by nature incapable of making changes in laws and systems made by God and sent to earth with finalities through his last prophet, Muhammed.[55] Jamat is opposed to the very notion of equality, let alone the quality of sexes. Maulana Maududi maintains that “social disparities are inherent in nature equality is against nature itself”[56] He further argues that “equality n distribution of wealth and means of production is meaningless”, and finds that “the right to private property is necessary to safeguard human freedom: political and economic. If the right to private property is snatched away and collective ownership is imposed on economic resources, individual liberty will inevitably come to an end. Maududi asserts quite emphatically that “Islam does not try to remove the distinction of rich and poor through some artificial brutal enforcement”.[57]

In his speech in May 1947 at Pathankot, Maulana Maududi, in no uncertain terms identifies enemies of the Jamat as secularism, nationalism and democracy, which, according to him must be destroyed. He further argues, “…In our view all these three principles are wrong. It is our firm belief that not only they are wrong but they are the real troubles which afflict human race today. Our opposition is to these principles and we would wage a struggle against them with all our might.”[58] About secularism he opines that “whoever follows this path (of secularism), whether an individual, a group, a country, a nation or a group of nations would lead an unrestrained and irresponsible life and will become a slave of sexual desires.” In the same speech he goes on the say, “First secularism freed the people from the fear of God and the eternal moral laws. Then nationalism moved in to make them selfish in their blind patriotism…and now democracy has given these selfish irresponsible people the power to make laws. As opposed to a selfishly national, secular and democratic system of government prevalent in contemporary culture, we want to have a national and humanist vice-royalty as our goal”[59] Maulana Maududi and Jamatis would prefer a Hindu state as envisaged by RSS in preference to a secular state, if the Islamic state is not possible. To quote Maulana Maududi, “If a Hindu government based on Hindu laws came to India and the Law of Manu become the law of the land as a result of which Muslims were treated as untouchable and were not given any share in the government, they did not even get the citizenship rights, I have no objections.” [60]

In May 1947 when the independence and the partition both were quite certain, the Maulana in his speech at Pathankot called for theocratic states in both the parts, “It is practically certain now, the country will be partitioned, a part of it will be handed over to the Muslims and another will be under the control of a non- Muslim majority. In the first one we shell try to arouse the popular sentiments to lay the foundation of constitution and government on what we call the laws laid down by Allah. And in the other part you will be in majority. Then we will beseech you…for God’s sake analyze the teachings and lives of Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Nanak…. Minutely study Vedas, Puranas and The Granthas and found the constitution of India on the instructions contained therein”.[61] Leaders of Jamat are of the opinion that ‘nationalism is a curse against Islam”.[62] In the first conference after partition held at Rampur in April 1951, Maulana Abdul Lais Islahi expressed similar views that Islamic laws have “nothing to do with nationalism or patriotism.[63] The Jamat launched a systematic campaign against Muslims participating in the struggle for national independence. Amir – e – Jamat Maulana Maududi exhorted the Muslims through a series of articles not to join the Congress or the anti-imperialist struggle.[64] Like Golwalker of RSS, Maududi of the Jamat, also has all the praise for the “virtuous”. He is of the opinion that the “virtuous people have the right to rule”. In the process he justifies the existence of British rule in India. According to the Jamat ideology, “only God has the right to appoint or dismiss a ruler….. The list of their (Britain’s) constructive achievements is longer than their misdeeds”.[65] Maududi in his book, Islam Today, makes his choice for the type of leadership clear: “A leader who is devoted to his nation, who is adept in varying his plans and strategy and who is so gifted by nature that he can get his commands obeyed, is always fit to lead a nation on the path of ambition, whether he is Moonje or Savarkar, Hitler or Mussolini.”[66]

The Jamat feels that the people should be obedient and loyal to God and thereby to His human vice-regents i.e., the mullahs and the rulers “who are appointed by God”. Thus obedience and loyalty should follow the pattern of slave-master relationships. It pleads for total submission. Like in the case of secularism, the Jamaat is opposed to the institution of democracy also. Maududi’s Political Theory of Islam, categorically denies the charge of being democratic. The Islamic state envisaged by the Jamaat could be “in accordance with the book of God and the example of His prophet.”[67] Even by unanimous agreement they cannot prohibit anything which Allah has permitted or permit anything which Allah has prohibited”.[68]

Maududi defends his undemocratic political theory on the plea that “the great mass of common people themselves is incapable of perceiving their true interests”, and “legislatures based on people’s will are un-Islamic.” Instead, he pleads for the establishment of “Godhood of man over man”. Its strong opposition to the concepts of socialism and communism, which according the Jamaat are un-Islamic, its opposition to the institutions of secularism, nationalism and democracy, further add to the totalitarian and fundamentalist character of the Jamaat. In its view, the principles of communism, socialism and atheism are responsible for corrupting the youth.[69]

On The Women’s Question

The Women’s question in the stated ideology of Jamaat-e- Islami should be treated in the context of its organisational structure, socio-political vision, and other ideological standpoints. In the most categorical manner Jamaat supports and justifies the patriarchal social structures.[70] Hence, pursuing a study on the question of gender- equality as such, will be meaningless. What this paper aims at is, to look into the nature of gender- inequality. Gender- inequality as professed and propagated by the Jamaat can be studied in terms of moral, social, economic and political inequalities. The Jamaat in its treatment of women’s position and role in the society puts disproportionate emphasis on the sexual aspects of a woman’s personality, and it is this aspect only which is used as the basis, by Jamat ideologues, for strict segregation of sexes, and non- participation of women in non – domestic affairs.[71]

In its interpretation of history, it observes that the downfall of great civilizations had been due to relatively less restrictions on the movement of, and relatively more freedom of participation to women, than standards decided by Jamaat ideologues. Maulana Maududi regretfully observes about the post-French Revolution debate on the question of gender equality. “Equality between sexes was taken to mean that the man and woman were equal not only in moral status and human rights, but that the woman was also free to undertake the same sort of jobs as were done by the man and that moral restrictions on her needed to be slackened as they were for him. This wrong concept of equality led women astray and made them unmindful of their natural functions. She became wholly absorbed in her social, economic and political pursuits. The bringing up of children and care of home ceased to be her special care, destroying the family system which is the basis of civilization. Maududi compares the Shariah – the Islamic code of conduct with the law of Manu.[72]

The Jamaat holds that the idea of equality in general, and of sexes in particular, is an “unnatural, artificial and abnormal product of contemporary social disintegration, which in turn is the inevitable result of rejection of all transcendental, absolute moral and spiritual values”. It categorically maintains that “from Islamic point of view the question of equality of men and women is meaningless”.[73] It is of the firm belief that ‘by nature’ man stands a step above woman. It argues that it is “in the very nature of a women that she wants a powerful, just wise, and considerate husband who is capable of taking all the decisions”. And it holds that “the movement for female emancipation’ is a conspiracy to destroy the home and family and eventually wreak the entire society”.[74]

Family, according to the Jamat is the primary unit of socialization and ‘the whole-sole cradle of human society’, in which, the husband, “according to patriarchal nature of Islam is the Imam”, who must “uphold the tenets of faith and his authority symbolizes that of God in the world.” [75]The Jamaat ideology considers the husband as head of the family and confines women to household activities and orders them “to remain in their houses and perform the duties assigned to them”. In the family set-up man is assigned the “responsibility for earning and providing the necessities of life for his wife and children and for protecting them from all the vicissitudes of life. To the woman, it assigns the duty of “managing the household, training and bringing up children in the best possible way and providing her husband and children with the greatest possible with the greatest possible comfort and contentment”.[76] According to the Jamat ideology, the best role a woman can play in keeping marital tie intact and strong is to recognize her husband as the person responsible for running the affairs of the family and thus to obey him “even if his judgement is not acceptable to her in a particular matter.”[77] It believes in “man’s natural superiority in every field” and maintains that “nowhere in life has, the woman been able to equal the man”.[78] Maulana Maududi’s understanding of history “dose not present the record of any nation which made the woman the ruler of its affairs and won honor and glory or, performed a work of distinction”. A girl cannot marry out of her free will and choice whereas man- can marry out of his choices.[79] A Muslim girl does not have “opportunity of selecting her own spouse but must accept the husband her parents or guardians choose for her”. A young girl who chose a husband, of whom her parents disapproved, “would be courting disaster leading to the ruin of the family”.[80]

Maududi forbids women from loving a man of her choice which according to him it would lead to “sexual perversion” and “social anarchy”.[81] The Jamaat’s interpretation of Islam finds women to be inherently and naturally inferior to men. It mentions, “Islam has placed man at a higher grade than woman in social order but this is in accordance with the natural and distinct characteristic of man against woman… it is because of this that the power of severance of marriage has been conferred on men and the woman has been given the limited right of Khula. Similarly, a daughter is awarded half of the share of her brother in inheritance.[82] Maududi argues emphatically that in the sphere of family life “God has defined and prescribed the purdah, recognized man’s guardianship over woman”, and the this cannot be changed owing to its eternity and finality.[83]

The Jamat criticizes the ‘modern democratic systems’ which , according to Maududi, has “opened new avenues for women, of participating in social and political activities on the one hand and on other, it has established institutions that have created countless opportunities for free intermingling of the sexes”[84], which is against the basic ideological tenets of the Jamat. It disapproves of women’s participation in socio-political activities as it is not her role. It criticizes co-educational schools to receive the “worst possible preparation for marriage and motherhood”, which according to Jamat ideology, is her only justifiable role.[85] It maintains that Islamic teaching cannot tolerate “the perverted cultural values” of women’s participation in socio-political activities. “In Islam the role of a woman is not ballot box but maintenance of home and family. Her success as a person is judged according to her fidelity to her husband and rearing of worthy children.”[86] Thus the division of labor prescribed by the Jamaat is in accordance with its patriarchal and totalitarian ideology which puts the role of a woman within the confines of the home. The demand of a woman to be financially independent and that no profession or occupation should be barred to her on account of her sex, is “objectionable” according to Jamat ideology. It urges women, “to perform even devotions in the privacy of their own homes”, which it finds “most pleasing in the sight of Allah, how then can a Muslim women work as a secretary or bank clerk”[87] In his criticism of women’s participation in non-domestic affairs, Maududi regrets that the limited and conditional freedom that woman had been allowed by Islam in matters other than home- sciences is being used as argument to encourage the Muslim women to abandon home-life and its responsibilities and make their lives miserable by running after political, economic, social and other activities shoulder to shoulder with men.[88]

According to the Jamaat ideology, “the economic independence of woman has made her independent of man”, which has “shaken the foundation of social life” because it has flung to winds the great time honored principle “man for field and woman for hearth”, held so dear by Jamaat ideology. It criticizes the ideas which “try to, raise the status of woman and bestow on her the freedom of thought to an extent the family system is completely ruined”[89] The Jamat’s objection to woman’s participation in socio- political and economic affairs of society, her economic independence, that is objection to her movement as such, leading to its support of the strict segregation of sexes and confinement of woman within the domestic boundaries-stems from its basic notion of ‘natural’ historical superiority of man over woman, its obsession regarding sexual relationships and its over emphasis on sexual aspects of a woman’s personality. “Intermingling of sexes”, according to Jamat, leads to “sexual perversion”. The Jamat holds that the sexual urge of man as natural and justifiable which must be satisfied by “enjoying women through marriages”.[90] It does not attach the same importance to the existence of similar urge in women, which they are required to restrain. The Jamaat criticizes Muslim reformists for questioning, the institutions of ‘harem, purdah and veil’. Maududi assails French Revolution and post- Revolution literature for “perpetuating the plea of individual liberty and freedom of sexes”, which according to him, “destroys the social system”. Defending the existence of the institutions of veil and purdah, the Jamaat holds that “a woman can easily be seductive. Her gaze can be seductive, so is her voice, her gait, her bosom; that is why it holds that women’s chastity should, be protected under all circumstances. That is why a young girl studying with boys or a woman’s participation in all walks of life, shoulder to shoulder with man is held ‘objectionable’. Maududi regrets that as a result of modern education, “a young girl in the school possesses such knowledge about sex as could never be imagined by married woman before.” Maulana Maududi apprehends that in the process of acquiring success in non-domestic affaris, a girl “must have lost her chastity”[91] The Jamaat ideology forbids a man from having sexual relationship outside marriage ‘whether the woman is a willing or an unwilling partner’. The Jamaat stands for disciplined channelization of sexual energy through marriage and not waste it in wilderness. According to Maulana Maududi, “sexual urge is an anti-social urge which lends to produce selfishness and anarchy ….. Law of marriage and family system alone can tame this monster.”[92]

This brings out in the open the contradictions and confusions of the Jamat. At one place it says that sexual urge (of men and not women) is human and natural, and at another place it holds it to be anti-social. Maududi argues that “since in sexual life man has been made active and woman passive, she has been endowed with those very qualities alone which help her for passive role in life”. In order to prove its proposition of inherent inferiority of woman, he argues that “the nature of sex-relationship implies that one partner in the pair should be active and the other receptive and passive, one prompt to influence and other ready to be influenced, one prepared to act another willing to be acted upon” He further argues that Excellence of an active partner is that he should possess the ability to act and other masculine qualities, so that he may effectively perform the active part of his duty in sex-relation. In contrast to this, the excellence of passive partner is that she possesses the feminine qualities to an extent that she may carry out the passive part of sex-relation well. And then he argues that “activity” in itself is naturally superior to ‘passivity’ and femininity. Thus the active partner in human pair should naturally have the qualities of distance, vehemence and authority, called manliness. In contrast to this, the passive partner should naturally be soft, tender, elegant and impressionable, in short, womanly. The circular logic of defining differences in terms of inequalities and prove the inequalities with the same definition. Maududi compares the woman with a farm and man with a cultivator and this farm should be protected from ‘animals sowing seed into her’. It seems that with this view in the mind ‘freedom of and adult female is restricted as compared to that of an adult male’. This ‘natural superiority’ of man entitles him to “marry any woman… and keep a slave girl, but the woman is not free in this regard.” In defense of the institution of polygamy the Jamat maintains that it is easier to share a husband when it is an established and publicly recognized practice.[93] It is of the opinion that the institution of polygamy in a patriarchal set-up can operate effectively but “the setup will disintegrate under polyandry.” Marriage for the Jamat is mainly for sexual reasons and procreation. In support of its acceptance of polygamy and rejection of polyandry it forwards a male chauvinist argument. It is possible for a man to have sexual relations with all his wives… and impregnate them. But if a wife has more than one husband, she can, even in that case, be impregnated only by one. More over once a woman is pregnant she is not available for sexual relations for some time. From the above discussion one can see that the Jamaal is not only opposed to gender equality in political, social, economic realms but it is for strict segregation of sexes and confinement of woman to home in purdah and veil; and that family is the only cradle of society in which division of work, according to Islamic laws, provides the husband with a superior position over the wife and the wife should maintain strict fidelity, loyalty and obedience to him. Her chastity is most valuable and should be protected in all circumstances.[94]

We may conclude our discussion on the women’s question in the Jamaat ideology by quoting the concluding sentences from Maududi’s book Purdah and Status of women in Islam. “Let us not weaken purdah, which is a bulwark against the sex anarchy, especially of the present age. Before we ever think of relaxing purdah, we should have mustered enough strength to pluck out those eyes that stare at a Muslim woman who has to come out of her house for a genuine piece of business.”


The process of forging a common identity by the Indian people against the colonial rule brought together multiple identities, ideologies, and levels of consciousness within the ambit of anti-colonial nationalism. This unity was antithetical to the interest of colonial rulers and hence made protracted efforts to propel countervailing forces to the ideology of anti-colonial nationalism and found allies in the reactionary sections of the society, who began the mobilization on the false notions of religious nationalism. On the one hand, this process gave birth to nationalist, revolutionary and secular forces which sought to emphasize unity in the diversity of Indian people, and on the other hand, in reaction rose communal, divisive forces that tried to mobilize people round the limited concepts of their identities as followers of a religions, a community,, a caste, a language etc. The impact of this second trend diluted, even weakened the efforts of the first one. The former based itself on the modern values of secularism and democracy, the later based itself on religion and theology to counter them. The RSS and the Jamat, the organizations under discussion bear tremendous similarities in terms of their ideological standpoints on socio-political and economic issues as also in their treatment of women’s question.

From the above study of the ideological texts of the RSS and the Jamat reveals many similarities and congruence.

· Both the organization came up during the freedom movement and both of them were opposed to certain trends in the nationalist movement. They distracted a sizeable section of the Indian population from the secular, democratic and socialist movements.
Both the organizations were critical of the national movement and their chauvinistic mobilization in the name of an imagined religious insecurity and false concept of religion based nationalism, distracted a sizable section of youth from the anti-colonial struggle. The rage of discontent against the oppressive colonial rule was diverted by them, though to a negligible extent then owing to dominant anti-colonial sentiments, but sowed the seed of long term communal diffidence leading to painful partition, wounds of which continue to bleed. Thus both acted as the auxiliaries of colonial strategy of divide and rule and as their fifth column simultaneously.

· Both the organizations emphasise the awakening of the race sprit in one or the other form.

· Both prefer a centralized, absolutist and theocratic political system.

On the question of equality of sexes also, their views are identical. They regard gender-equality as against the law of nature. They, both, condemn the women’s movement for equal rights and the notion of women’s participation in affairs outside the family as evil and borrowed from the West. Both the organizations uphold the domestic sphere as the best and most natural for women. The concept of the gender-equality, in their view, will destabilize the family system, “the basic cradle of society” and will lead to sexual anarchy. Both the organizations over-emphasize the sexual aspect of women’s personality, and see gender-equality as a threat to the established social order which is based on hierarchy and inequality.

Their basic ideology is reflected in the pyramidal organizational structure common to both the organizations, with no place for women in their hierarchy or ranks, though both have their women’s wings. Jamat’s women’s wing has no social, political or economic relevance, as its members have to observe purdah and segregation and are expected to indoctrinate other Muslim women and their children with similar values and preach them about their Islamic duties. As far as RSS is concerned, it started with the aim to organize only male Hindus but at a later stage, it formed its women’s wing Rashtriya Sevika Samiti which is practically non-functional. The inclusion of women’s wing in the RSS can be compared with the inclusion of Muslims in BJP, the parliamentary wing of RSS, as show pieces.

These organizations are vehemently opposed to any ideology which aims at breaking the ‘inherent’ gender-inegalitarianism at one level or the other. Through their plea for unquestioned faith in traditional, religious values and glorification of the past of their own choice, such communal organizations commonly seek to perpetuate the values of inegalitarianism and segregation of all types, including gender. They follow different paths to the same destination. Their common opposition to the ideologies of socialism, secularism and democracy spring from their acceptance of inequalities as natural and inherent, justified by their prejudiced and ahistorical interpretation of the past.

Ish N Mishra, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Hindu College, University of Delhi
Email: [email protected]


[1] . For the ideology of communal organizations, See Bipan Chandra: Communalism in Modern India; Bipan Chandra: “Communalism – The way out” in Bipan Chandra and Khuswant Singh ed.: Many Faces of communalism. For communalism and women, see Gabriel Dietrich : “Can the Women’s Movement become an Anti-Commuanl Force” in Lokayan Bulletin 4:6, 1986, pp . 44-59, Sushila Mehta: Revolution and Status of Women; Gyanendra Pandey Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India, Oxford University Press, 1992
[2] Resolution on ‘Fundamental Rights’ in the 1931 Congress of Indian National congress held at Karachi, N.N. Mitra Indian Annual Register, 1932, Also see M. K. Gandhi: To Women. Zaidi, A.M Tryst With destiny (Indian Institute of Applied Political Research, New Delhi 1985), INC Resolution on ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic program, pp. 61-63.
[3] D.R. Goyal, Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, (Radhakrishna, Delhi 1979), p. 23
[4] D.V. Savarkar, Hinditva, (Nandi Book Series, Dhawle Popular, Bombay) p. 96
[5] D.V. Savarkar, Indian war of Indepencdence, (Nandi Book Series, Dhawle Popular, Bombay) n.d
[6] The Constitution of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, Vikash Publishing House, New Delhi 1980. Appendix A pp 207-19
[7] . Golwalkar, M.S. We or our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publication, Nagpur, 1939, p. 12.
[8] For details see Goyal op.cit, and Mishra op.cit
[9] Golwalkar, N. op.cit. p 14
[10] Adolf Hitler, My Struggle, Pater Noster Library, London, 1936
[11] Nana Deshmuch, Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh: A Victim of Slander, Vision Books, New Delhi 1979, P.29

[12] . Golwalkar , MS, Bunch of Thoughts, Vikram Prakashan, Bangalore, 1969 p. 133.
[13] . Ibid, p. 335.
[14] Hitler, op.cit
[15] Golwalkar , We Or Our Nationhood Defined, p 35
[16] Op.cit.
[17] Savarkar, Hindutva , preface.
[18] Golwalkar , MS, Bunch of Thoughts, pp .XXXII-XXXIII
[19] Golwalkar, We Or Our Nationhood Defined, p. 8
[20] Personal observation as a Kiskor Swyamsevak in early teens.
[21] Walter K Anderson & Shridhar D Damle, The Brotherhood in Saffron, Sage Publications, 1982. Pp 33-47
[22] Pyare Lal, Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 2,Sevak Praksahan, Bombay, 1989, p. 44.
[23] Quoted in Mishra, op.cit. p.136.
[24] Hitler, op.cit.
[25] Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Integral Humanism, Bhartiya Jan Sangh, New Delhi, 1965),
[26] Ibid, p. 96
[27] Ibid, p.58. The legendary thinker, Rahul Sanskrityayan has dealt in detail with the condition of women and their freedom of participation in different socio-political and economic affairs including warfare in ancient Indian republics. Singh Senapati (सिंह सेनापति) Kitabmahal, New Delhi, 2012
[28] Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined p.10 & Bunch of Thoughts, p. 66
[29] Mishra, op.cit. p 185
[30] Ibid p. 69
[31]Towards Equality, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, 1972, N0. 21 p. 40 & Prabhati, Mukherji, Hindu Women, Orient Longman, New Delhi 1978.
[32] 29. Dattopant Thengri, RSS Lights up the Path to Eternal Glory, Jagaran Prakashan, Banglore 1979 p. 64
[33] Mishra, op. cit. p. 131.

[34] Golwalkar MS, Spot Lights, Sahitya Sandhu, New Delhi, 1974 pp. 123-129.
[35] The story from the popular epic Ramayan. Mukherji op.cit
[36] . Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, p. 15.
[37] Ibid p. 15
[38] Ibid p. 30
[39] Golwalkar, Spot Lights, p. 110
[40] Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, p. 21.

[41]ibid. p. 38
[42] Ibid. pp. 17-18
[43] Manusmriti 3rd -4th century law book that considers women’s freedom to be devastating for social fabric.
[44] Z. A. Nizami, Jamat-e-Islami: Spearhead of Separatism, Ministry of Information and Broadcadcasting, Govt. of India, 1975, p. I and p. 15.
[45] Constitution of Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Markazi Maktaba Islami, Delhi 1980, p. 4
[46]Abul Ala Maududi, Question of Dress, Markazi Maktaba, Delhi, 1976, p.21
[47] AA Maududi, Political theory of Islam, (Address in Lahore Oct. 1939), Markazi Maktab Islami, 1964, p. 44.
[48] Constitution of Jamaat – e – Islami, p. 1 and p. 3
[49] Roodad –e- Jamaat – e – Islami, Vol. 1 p. 8, quoted in Nizami, op.cit p. 4
[50] Maududi, Political Theory of Islam, op.cit. p. 52
[51] AA Maududi, Towards Understanding Islam., Islamic Foundation, Leicester, 1980, p. 33
[52] Ibid p. 34
[53] Maududi, Purdah And Status of Women in Islam, Markazi Maktaba, Delhi 1974, p, 83
[54] ibid p. 95
[55] Maududi, A Short History of Revivalist Movements in Islam., Markazi Maktab, Delhi, 1972, p . 21-23
[56] . Maududi: Islamic Economic System: Principles and Objectives, Markazi Maktaba, Delhi, p. 6
[57] Ibid p. 24

[58] Quoted in Nizami, op.cit. p. 7
[59] Ibid p. 89
[60] Munir Committee Roport, Lahore 1954, quoted in Nizami, ibid p. 11
[61] Maududi, A.A., Call of Jammat, Makazi Maktaba, 1948, pp. 8-9. ; Qasim Ishaq Hussain, Jamaat-e-Islami and secularism, (Sampradayikta Virodhi Committee, Delhi, 1967), p. 6.
[62] AA Maududi, Nationalism in India, Markazi Maktaba n.d p.29
[63] Nizami, op. cit pp. 12-13
[64] Maududi, Abul Ala : Nation’s Rise and Fall Why?, Markazi Maktaba, 1980, p. 14

[65] Ibid
[66] Maududi, Abul Ala: Islam Today, Markazi Maktaba Delhi, p. 16
[67] Maududi, Political Theory of Islam, op.cit. p. 28
[68] Ibid p.23
[69] Maududi. Challenge of the Modern Age and the Youth, Crescent Press. Aligarh, 1979, p.2
[70] Lemu. B. Aisha and Fatima, Hiren : Women in Islam, Markazi Maktaba, Delhi 1971, p . 38
[71] Maududi, Purdah And Status of Women in Islam, op.cit. pp. 41, 62, 63.
[72] Maududi, A Call of Jamat, op.cit. p. 96.
[73] Jameela, Maryam, Islam and The Muslim Women today, Crescent, Delhi, 1976, p. 37- 4
[74] Lemu and Hiren, op.cit, pp. 39 & 43
[75] Ibid p. 32 &36; Maududi, Towards understanding Islam, op. cit. p.105.
[76] ibid, pp. 108- 09
[77] Lemu and Hiren, op.cit, p. 18

[78] Maududi, Purdah and Status of Women in Islam, op. cit. pp. 112-1 3
[79] Lemu and Hiren, op.cit., p. 19
[80] Jameela , op.cit., p. 5
[81] Maududi, Purdah and Status of Women in Islam, op.cit., p. 33
[82] Peerzada, Shama, Muslim Personal Law and Unifrom Civil Code, Markazi Maktaba, Delhi, 1972
[83] Maududi, Purdah and Status of Women in Islam, op.cit., p. 79
[84] Jameela, op.cit., p. 27
[85] Lemu & Fatima op.cit. p. 19, Maududi, Purdah and Status of Women in Islam, op.cit., p. 14
[86] Jameela, op.cit. , pp. 23 – 24 &34.

[87] Maududi, Purdah and Status of Women in Islam, op.cit., p. 25
[88] Ibid. pp. 14-15
[89] Mohd.,Abdul Rauf, Islamic View of Women and Family, Robert Speller & Sons, New York, 1977, p. 43
[90] Ibid, p. 36
[91] Maududi, Purdah and Status of Women in Islam, op.cit. p 52 &83

[92] Ibid., p. 24.
[93]. Maududi, Purdah And Status of Women in Islam, p. 224
[94] Ibid.

This article was first published in Ish Mishra’s blog RADICAL

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