"My professor, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Katsh, the head of the department of Hebrew Studies there, spared no efforts to convince his students-- all Jews, many of whom aspired to become rabbis - that Islam was derived from Judaism. Our textbook, written by him, took each verse from the Quran, painstakingly tracing it to its allegedly Jewish source. Although his real aim was to prove to his students the superiority of Judaism over Islam, he convinced me diametrically of the opposite." Maryam Jameelah
Maryam Jameelah is considered as one of the resplendent personalities of Muslim world. Maryam Jameelah was born Margaret Marcus to a Jewish family in New Rochelle, New York, on May 23, 1934. She grew up in a secular environment, but at the age of nineteen, while a student at New York University, she developed keen interest in religion. Unable to find spiritual guidance in her immediate environment, she looked to other faiths. Her search brought her into contact with an array of spiritual orders, religious cults, and world religions; she became acquainted with Islam around 1954.
She says that “my discovery of Quran was tortuous and led me through strange byways but since the end of the road was supremely worthwhile, I have never regretted my experiences”. Jameelah cites Asad’s The Road to Mecca and Islam at the Crossroads as critical influences on her decision to become a Muslim. Her journey into Islam is filled with an epitome of courage as well as an intellectual and spiritual understanding of that Sacred omniscient reality i.e. Allah. She came up like a ray of hope in the tide of western cultural onslaught especially on women folk and tried to provide a self emulated model by herself believing and practicing Islam.
Her journey into Islam created an excruciating strength among Muslims all over the world and impeded them from plunging into the ocean of disappointment because Islam and Muslims were standing on the receiving end. One of her attestation regarding Islam was based in these below lines:-
"MY PROFESSOR, RABBI ABRAHAM ISAAC KATSH, THE HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEBREW STUDIES THERE, SPARED NO EFFORTS TO CONVINCE HIS STUDENTS-- ALL JEWS, MANY OF WHOM ASPIRED TO BECOME RABBIS - THAT ISLAM WAS DERIVED FROM JUDAISM. OUR TEXTBOOK, WRITTEN BY HIM, TOOK EACH VERSE FROM THE QURAN, PAINSTAKINGLY TRACING IT TO ITS ALLEGEDLY JEWISH SOURCE. ALTHOUGH HIS REAL AIM WAS TO PROVE TO HIS STUDENTS THE SUPERIORITY OF JUDAISM OVER ISLAM, HE CONVINCED ME DIAMETRICALLY OF THE OPPOSITE."
Through her readings in Islam she developed a bond with the religion and became a vocal spokesperson for the faith, defending Muslim beliefs against Western criticism and championing such Muslim causes as that of the Palestinians. Her views created much tension in her personal life, but she continued to pursue her cause. She embraced Islam in New York on May 24, 1961, and soon after began to write for the Muslim Digest of Durban, South Africa.
Her articles outlined a pristine view of Islam and sought to establish the truth of the religion through debates with critics. Through the journal, Jameelah became acquainted with the works of Mawlana Sayyid Abu Ala Mawdudi, the founder of the Jamaati Islami (Islamic Party) of Pakistan, who was also a contributor to the journal.
Maryam Jameelah was an author of over thirty books on Islamic culture and history and a prominent female voice for Islam. Jameelah was a prolific author, offering a conservative defense of traditional Islamic values and culture.
She was deeply critical of secularism, materialism and modernization, both in Western societies, as well as in Islam. She regarded traditions such as veiling, polygamy, and gender segregation to be ordained by the Quran and by the words of Prophet Muhammad, and considered movements to change these customs to be a betrayal of Islamic teachings. Jameelah's books and articles have been translated into several languages including Urdu, Persian, Turkish, Bengaliand Indonesia. Some of her books are Islam and the West, Islam and Orientalism, Islam in theory and Practice, Islam versus the West, Islam and Modernism, Correspondence Between Mawlana Mawdudi and Maryam Jameelah and a lot more unparalelled contribution is worth praising and helpful for understanding his long-lasting contribution to our civilization.
Jameelah was impressed by Mawdudi’s views and began to correspond with him. Their letters between 1960 and 1962, later published in a volume entitled Correspondences between Maulana Mawdoodi and Maryam Jameelah, discussed a variety of issues from the discourse between Islam and the West, to Jameelah’s personal spiritual concerns.
Jameelah traveled to Pakistan in 1962 on Mawdudi’s advice and joined his household in Lahore. She soon married Muhammad Yusuf Khan, as his second wife. Since settling in Pakistan, she has written an impressive number of books, which adumbrated the Jamaati Islami’s ideology in a systematic fashion. Although she never formally joined the party, she became one of its chief ideologists.
Maryam Jameelah had been particularly concerned with the debate between Islam and the West, an important, albeit not central, aspect of Mawdudi’s thought. Her significance, however, does not lie in the force of her observations, but in the manner in which she articulates an internally consistent paradigm for revivalism’s rejection of the West. In this regard, her influence far exceeds the boundaries of the Jamaati Islami and has been important in the development of the Muslim world. Her writings in recent years embody this change in orientation and reveal the influence of traditional Islam.
She dedicated her life to Islam even before her acceptance of Islam. Her utmost strength in the institution of Islam gave her much courage to go on and on in adopting and contributing to the Muslim civilization. Jameelah blustered a new spirit among Muslim women’s all over the world and gave them a sheer confidence in believing, practicing and contributing as members of this vast Islamic tradition.
Losing her is painful and to think it for a moment is always horrific, some things that leaves a void never to fill again, something that creates a gap never to bridge again, something that droops shoulders never to lift them again, something that sheds the flowers never to bloom again, something that quiets the eloquence never to speak again, and something that stops the pulsating mortal never to beat again. She will always be remembered and her faithfulness will create positive vibes in our soul and mind.
“He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory abides with us, more Potent, nay more present than the living Man”. (Autome-de-saint)
The writer is Contractual Lecturer at Govt. Boys Degeee College, Anantnag