Maulana Abul Kalam Azad



Politician, scholar, and author who dedicated all his life in the pursuit of Muslim-Hindu partnership in India - a leader in the realm of ideas. After his sojourn of the Middle East, he was convinced that Indian Muslims must cooperate in the work of political liberation of the country. He started his own weekly newspaper al-Hilal, a brilliant paper, written in moving style and amazing force. The first issue appeared in Calcutta on 13 July 1912 and it swept the readers off their feet. al-Hilal preached Islam and Indian independence. al-Hilal was banned under the Defence of India ordinance in 1916. The British government moved against al-Hilal but Azad kept changing titles, however, it was time for him to experience prison terms, expulsions and house arrests, and he was interned at Ranchi. The famed al-Hilal had a prodigious influence on the Indian freedom movement, and it shocked the conservative and created a furore by criticising the 'loyal' attitude of Muslims towards the British masters, and the policies of the British government vis-à-vis the Muslim world. al-Hilal actually marked the birth of Maulana Azad even though he had begun showing his oratorical talents much earlier. On his release Azad joined the Khilafat Committee and the Congress party. He joined the band of revolutionaries who aimed at throwing the British colonial masters out. After the death of Dr. Ansari, he was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1938 and continued to occupy this office for eight years. He was a nationalist, and was very close to Nehru. Azad believed that Indian nationalism and Pan-Islam were inseparable - for the Hindus patriotism might be a secular obligation, but for the Muslims it was a religious duty. He never asked Muslims to follow the Hindus rather he insisted on cooperation. He claimed that the Qur'an commanded a fight against slavery and sanctioned Muslim-Hindu cooperation to end it. Azad emerged a well-known name throughout India. He was against the partition of India and as a Muslim he thought, as he said in April 1946, that millions of Muslims remaining in the Hindu-majority provinces 'will awaken overnight and discover that they have become aliens and foreigners…left to the mercies of what then would become an unadulterated Hindu Raj.' Three months after the partition of India, Azad addressed a large crowd of Muslims from the pulpit of Delhi's Jama Masjid: 'Behold the minarets of this mosque bend down to ask you where you have mislaid the pages of your history! It was but yesterday that your caravan alighted on the banks of the Jumuna…How is it that you feel afraid of living here today in this Delhi, which has been nurtured by your blood?' His address was meant to those Muslims who left and were going away from Delhi to the newly established country, Pakistan, in 1947. Furthermore, in his book India Wins Freedom, a point he made posthumously: 'It is one of the greatest frauds on the people to suggest that religious affinity can unite areas which are geographically, linguistically and culturally different….History has proved that after the first few decades Islam was not able to unite all the Muslim countries into one state on the basis of Islam alone.' In his teens Azad wrote poetry and articles and brought out periodicals. He was a prodigy who was contributing articles to Makhzan at the age of 14. His works include Tazkira, Tarjumanul Qur'an, and Ghubare-Khatir. He was the ideologue, familiar with scripture, clear in thought and expression and spoke with the ring of authority. Khutbaat-e-Azad is handy tool to assess the oratory which Azad was able to convert into an art form, grabbing the attention of his audience despite the fact his Urdu was laced with Arabic concoctions. A tall man, Maulana Azad looked distinguished in his fur cap, long coat and narrow white trousers - both eyes flashed intelligence. He was refined, cordial, deferential, a finished conversationalist and an avid reader. Azad the orator could move an audience almost as effectively as Azad the writer. Born as Feroz Bakht, he later adopted the name Abul Kalam Mohiyeddin Ahmed as he grew up, but it was not until he became Abul Kalam Azad that the world around him recognised him as an individual of exceptional qualities. All this happened at an amazingly quick pace. He was born in an extremely religious Indian family settled in Makkah, and his father brought him back to India ten years later.

Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan / Ghulam Mohiuddin

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