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November 11: Azad Day Special


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Maulana Azad as distinguished writer

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 07:23:49 PM, Team

Audio: Maulana Azad's historic address to the Indian Muslims from Jama Masjid after the partition

Maulana Azad as Freedom Fighter: It is significant that all these moves and various political activities of Azad were initiated before the emergence of Gandhiji on the political horizon. Advent of Gandhiji into the National Movement and Azad's meeting with him had crucial bearing on the future course of the...Click for Full

Maulana Azad's efforts in shaping the Education policy in Independent India: Maulana Azad was a great educationist too. His standing as an outstanding scholar of Oriental learning was demonstrated in moulding the educational system of the country in the immediate post...Click for Full

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Preacher of Peace and Harmony: Azad was opposed to the partition of the country on the basis of the religion and believed the partition would create more problems than solving. His devotion to Indian National Movements was the result of the new...Click for Full

In the galaxy of the patriots of India's freedom struggle, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad occupies a distinctive position. He was a savant statesman and the tallest among the nationalist Muslim who fought for a united India. Along with Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad comprised the famous trio that carried out the negotiation to usher in freedom and laid the foundation of a secular society in India.


Born on 11 November, 1888 in an orthodox family of Maulana Khairuddin and to his Arab wife, Aliyah, as one of their five children, Ghulam Muhiyuddin Ahmad, who came to be known later as Abul Kalam Azad, had combined in him scholarly pursuits, sturdy independence of character and a distinct mental bent towards unworldliness.


Maulana Azad took pride in tracing his birth from an ancestor who earned a name for himself during the reign of Emperor Akbar. One of his ancestors, Maulana Jamaluddin was a contemporary of Akbar, the Great. “I am the ninth of tenth in paternal descent from Sheikh Jamaluddin", Azad said to Mahadeo Desai, one of his earlier biographers......I can say that there wasn't one of my ancestors, but was noted for his learning and Sufism.”


Maulana Munawaruddin, father of Azad's grandmother, got frustrated at the conditions, prevailing in the country during 1855. He decided to migrate to Hedjaz. On his way to Bombay, he passed through Bhopal. Sikander Begum, the ruler of Bhopal, was so impressed by his sermons that she prevailed upon him to stay on there. During the revolt of 1857 he made his way into Bombay and died there during 1858_59. Azad's father, Maulana Khairuddin, who had accompanied Maulana

Munawaruddin to Bombay, however, continued his education in India and hence was able to derive the maximum benefit from the teachings of the scholars at Makkah and Madinah.


Azad’s parents exercised considerable influence in the formation of his character and personality. Maulana Khairuddin was a learned scholar and a Master of theology. He was the only Indian Muslim scholar of the time to have been selected to teach the tenets of Islam in the holiest Muslim seminary of the world. His mother too belonged to a family of scholars of Makkah.


Azad was only thirteen when his father got him married to Zulaikha Begum, the daughter of Aftabuddin Ahmad, an admirer of Maulana Khaiructdin. According to his sister Fatima Begum, Azad kept crying at the time of his marriage, why am I being to the women's apartment. Zuleikha Begum also had a good schooling in Urdu and Persian and knew elementary Arabic. She was an accomplished lady, well versed in household affairs and was of a very hospitable nature. She took good care of Maulana Azad and evinced keen interest in his books and writing.


Maulana Khairuddin remained in Hedjaz for about 20 years before he paid his first returned visit to India in 1887. After that he continued travelling between India and Hedjaz till1897 when he was persuaded by his disciples and followers to come back to India and accept to be the Imam of Calcutta, the then capital of British India Empire. In Makkah, Azad and his brother, Abu Nasr, studied together and before they left in 1897, they had completed their study of the Qur’an and had learnt the fundamentals of Arabic, Urdu and Persian from the prominent scholars of the day.


Literary work...

  • Elam-e-Haque

  • Musalman Aurat

  • Taza Mazamine-Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

  • Masal-ai-Khilafat Aur Jazirtul Arab

  • Qaule-Faisal

  • Khutbate Azad

  • Taqreer

  • Navadire-e-Abul Kalam

  • Tarjumanul Quran

  • Tazkira

  • Azad ki Kahani

  • India Wins Freedom

  • Ghubare-Khatir

  • Kanvane - Khayal

  • Naqshe Azad

  • Makatibe-e-Abul Kalam

  • Faisla-e- Muqaddama-e-Jama Masjid, Calcutta

  • Malir Kotia Ka Niza

  • Sarmad Shaheed

  • National Tahrik (MS)

  • Al Berum Aur Jughrafiae Aalam (MS)

  • Mutafarriq Khutut (MS)

On his return to Calcutta, Azad's education was continued with the help of local teachers. He was given rigorous training in all fields of Islamic knowledge by tutors chosen and closely supervised by his father thus enabling him to complete Dars-e-Nazamiah when he was only fifteen years old, taking only one-third of the normal time for completing this course. By 1905, when he was only seventeen years old, he had proficiency in Islamic learning that he was recognized as a trained theologian among the Muslim scholastic circles.


Immensed in the closed world of learning, Azad longed for an escape from the unusually rigorous scholastic atmosphere and to become a free man. He could not get peace by just reading Islamic history and theology and preaching it to faithfuls. During this period he also got an exposure to the writings of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who patronized the Aligarh school which was known for its pro colonial modernism which Azad later sought to contest from a nationalist angle.


Maulana Khairuddin, scholar as he was and known for his learning and piety had great aspiration for his son. Young Azad was provided classical education in theology, jurisprudence and philosophy within the confines of the orthodox Muslim faith. Azad also had opportunity to visit the famous Al-Azhar University in Cairo during this period. However, Azad was determined to charter out his own course in learning. He realized that his traditional education needed to be backed up by modern learning which, in turn necessitated the knowledge of English. He acquired it by way of extensive reading. Maulana Azad adopted the Maslak of Ahle-Hadeeth and was a staunch preacher of the same.


Azad started writing poems and literary and political articles for Urdu Newspapers and journals at a very early age. At the age of twelve, he became a publisher and issued in 1900, a poetic journal called Nairange-Alam which continued for eight months. At sixteen he started editing his own paper, Lisan-us-Sidq which aimed at promoting social reform, development of Urdu and cultivation of literary taste. His association with Maulana Shibli, a renowned scholar, in 1904 widened his social and literary inters. He cultivated his natural talent for writing at home itself. The influence of Shibli and Sayed Ahmad Khan's writings acted as a further stimulant which found its concrete expression in the unending flow of literary output that India was to see in the years to come.


He was not a conformist writer. Azad refused to be tied to inherited beliefs and declined to succeed his father as a religious preceptor. He became a questioner of things taken as established by others. All these things made him so popular at a very early age that people meeting him for the first time were shocked at his tender age and had to be reassured that they were meeting the real Maulana Azad. This was mainly due to the fact that Azad had acquired fame through his journalistic writings and had impressed people as much by his lofty and inspiring message as by his interpretation of Islam.


Azad launched his Urdu weekly Al-Hilal on June, 1912 when he was only 24. He believed that only by educating the 'Ulama, the learned in Law and in theology, there would emerge a nucleus of dedicated and idealistic elite which can act as a lever for the moral and intellectual regeneration of the Muslim community. With the launching of Al-Hilal, Azad shot into the National Movement. He gave fearless and powerful expression to his nationalist ideas through the journal. The basic intent of Al-Hilal was to launch a vigorous attack not only on the colonial distortions of our history but more on the pro-colonial modernism of the Aligarh School, which had poisoned the minds of the Modernist Muslim intelligentsia. Al-HilaI held out the message of nationalism to the Muslim elites as well as the popular classes and urged them to join other communities in the struggle for the liberation of the country.


Al-Hilal became immensely popular among the Muslim intelligentsia within a short period. Its circulation had reached 2, 90,000 by 1914, when the Government confiscated the Al-Hilal Press after two years of continuous publication. Azad took the view that by their crafty policy of divide and rule, the British had made Hindus and Muslims antagonistic to each other. Azad suggested to his people that the right course for both the communities was to fight the British to prevent them from bringing ruination to their country. Al-Hial was also critical of the Muslim League, its aristocratic leadership and its style of functioning. The journal inspired the educated Muslim to awaken to a new political sense.


Azad took to poetry writing at the age of ten and when he was only sixteen, he started editing his own paper. Azad's mind was in tensely imaginative and highly romantic. He was endowed with tremendous intellectual and mental capacities. Josh Malihabadi, the noted Urdu poet and writer, once told Azad, “You actually belong to our tribe. Your uniform is still lying with us. Why did you put on the livery of politics?” Despite the underlying truth of Josh's remarks, the contribution of Azad to literature and learning is of no mean significance. It was through his writings that he reached out to the masses.


Among his writings, Tarjuman-ul-Quran published in 1931, occupies the pride of pace. It was essentially a commentary on the sacred text of Islam, which he used to demonstrate the moral legitimacy of India as a homeland for the Muslim community in sub-continent. He desired to co ordinate the teachings of Islam with the principles of human welfare and for this it was necessary to cleanse the Islamic principles of the myths and superstitions which had crept into them. Tarjuman ul-Quran turned out to be a highly successful commentary as it reflected Azad's amazingly vast store of knowledge, his clarity of mind, his phenomenal memory and his extra-ordinary power of expression and communication. Commenting on the fundamental unity of all religions, Azad wrote in Tcffjuman-ul-Quran, “The fundamental concept of all religions is belief in the existence of God. All the religions teach the same truth and the worship of God is ingrained in human nature. Thus differences in religion are created (only) by three factors, dispute over the attributes of God, differences in modes of worship, and differences in religious laws. These differences are created by time circumstances, by environment. None doubts the existence of God.”


Discussing the unity of religions and oneness of God, he said, “The tragedy is that the world worships words and not meanings and even though all are seeking and worshipping but they quarrel with one another and differ on mere names. Once the veil of names is lifted and the real meaning being the same is brought out all quarrels would cease."


Next to Tanuman-ul-Quran, Tazkirah is the most important book written by Azad. It represents the first chapter of his autobiography though he stopped proceeding further in autobiography lines after writing about his great ancestors. However, it contains revelations about Azad's life, more about his turbulent youth, presented in romantic style. Tazkira was the first book of Azad to be published. It also discusses religion, philosophy, logic, history, Sheikh Wasti, Imam Ibn Taimiyya- two great Islamic scholars, the life of the prophets and various other topics. Ghubar-e-Khatir is Azad's last book before he wrote his autobiography India Wins Freedom. After writing it, the pre-occupation with politics gave him no time for writing. It is a collection of letters, written as pastime, when he was detained in the Ahmed Nagar Fort, to Nawab Salar Jung Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani- a renowned theologian with the Nizam's Government at Hyderabad, which were never posted. These letters convey, in balanced and dignified manner, the essence of Azad's mature experience. Besides revealing various things about himself, implicity or explicity, it also describes how prisoners spent their days in Ahmednagar jail. He also attacked religious superstitions and rituals and the conflicts between the creeds. There is no better or more reliable source for any biographer of Azad than Ghubare-Khatir. It carries details about Azads' personal bio-data, his family history, his education, his psychological make-ups and the motivations that shaped his character.




Taken from the excellent article on Maulana Azad

written by Subhash Kashyab






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