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Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar: Founder and First Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia

Mohammad Ali Jauhar was born in December 1878 into a respectable family of Rampur

Tuesday October 27, 2020 11:26 AM, Manzar Imam, ummid.com

Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar

[A bust of Muhammad Ali Jauhar inside Jamia Millia Islamia (Photo: Manzar Imam)]

Having secured its position among the best universities in India, Jamia Millia Islamia has every reason to feel proud of its feats as it is going to complete hundred years of its establishment on 29 October, 2020. From a modest beginning in Aligarh as the first educational institution born in response to a call to boycott British-supported academic institutions, Jamia’s history is written by contributions of sweat and blood during the eventful years of a heightened struggle for freedom from the colonial rule.

Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, the co-founder of Jamia Millia Islamia and its first Vice Chancellor, is among those stalwarts who fought on different fronts. He fought vehemently against the British for freedom, at the same time, he envisioned to see his motherland stand on a sound ground of a new educational policy or what they called ‘Nai Talim’, an objective which could be achieved by new educational institutions for the future generation. Although some other institutions were also founded against this backdrop, Jamia Millia Islamia has the distinction to be the first such institution. As a French thinker has written that freedom begins first in mind, then it spreads through action to the outer world.

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In India, writes, Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, the announcement of freedom was made by Maulana Mohammad Ali (a reference Nizami probably made about the early 20th century days which coincided with the Khilafat Movement). It should be noted that it was Mohammad Ali who had persuaded one of the country’s tallest leaders, C. R. Das, to join the movement. Therefore, there is no better occasion than this to understand the life and contribution of Mohammad Ali Jauhar, not only as one of the founders of the prestigious historic institution but also as an eminent freedom fighter, a fine and ‘charismatic’ journalist and, a man of many merits, gifted with great qualities.

Although the country got freedom “at the stroke of the midnight hour” on 15 August 1947, huge struggles, sufferings and losses had gone into witnessing that day and relishing those moments “Where”, to borrow from Rabindranath Tagore, “the mind is without fear and the head is held high” in an ambience of liberty.

Muhammad Ali Jauhar was born in December 1878 into a respectable family of Rampur whose birth, according to Khalida Hussaini, was celebrated with elan, as was the tradition then. The happiest among the siblings, was his little elder brother Shaukat Ali (1873-1938), who was then only around six, while the eldest of them was 13. The father, Mohammad Abdul Ali Khan showed greatest love for Mohammad Ali but call it an irony that Ali lost his father when he was only two and half years old. The young mother, then only 27 or 28, Abadi Bano Begum (1852-1924), known famously as Bi Amma, did not let her children feel deprived in any sense of the word. She was a sensible woman who raised her children with great passion and sacrifice and gave them best education. She, especially after arrest of nationalist leaders including Ali Brothers (Shaukat Ali and Mohammad Ali) took active part in the freedom movement. Together with her daughter-in-law Amjadi Begum and other women, she collected funds, organized meetings and appealed Indian women to boycott foreign goods. According to Meher Hussain, she travelled widely in Bihar and encouraged the women to play participatory role in the freedom movement.

Jamia Millia

[MMAJ Academy of Int'l Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia (Photo: Manzar Imam)]

Both Shaukat Ali and Mohammad Ali studied at Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College established by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. MAO, which later became the famous Aligarh Muslim University, nurtured young Indians for better social roles by improving their own financial conditions. It was at the MAO College, from where he did B.A. in 1896, securing first position in the state that Mohammad Ali showed signs of distaste with the British rule, and later responded to a call to boycott British supported education. Shaukat Ali, who used to be very strict with Mohammad Ali, showed great love for his brother and arranged to send him to England for further studies. He took admission in Lincoln College of Oxford University and graduated in history. Ali would not study those subjects which he did not like. In England he studied the life of a free nation. He was pained at the thought of a slavish life. Thus he wished for independence of his country.

On return from England he worked in Rampur as Chief Education Officer and later joined “the service of the Gaekwad of Baroda”, doing at the same time deep study of literature and philosophy. By the end of 1910 he quit his Baroda job and took up journalism as a career. He wrote on contemporary issues in The Times of India, Bombay. He went to Calcutta, then the country’s capital, from where he brought out the Comrade. The first issue of the Comrade weekly was published in 1911. Within a year, the Comrade became popular because of its language and style.

His stay in Calcutta accelerated his pace of work. As his rented accommodation in Ripon Street, was close to Waliullah Lane where Sakhawat Memorial Girls’ School was and, still is, Maulana, according to Mohammad Ishaq, sent her daughter to the school to study. As he himself was a big advocate of women’s education, he helped Begum Ruquaiya (Rokeya), the widow of Khan Bahadur Syed Sakhawat Hussain, who ran the school under tremendous financial hardships after it was shifted from Bhagalpur to Calcutta on 16 March, 1911. In Kolkata (then Calcutta), Ali delivered speeches in Baker Hostel, Curzon Park, Zakaria Street Masjid and elsewhere for political awakening. Fearless as he was, his invitation to Baker Hospital, which was under the Government, had made some people feel uneasy. However, the situation was controlled by Shaukat Ali and Mohammad Ali was asked to speak on the “Contribution of Muslims in World Civilization.”

Delhi became India’s capital in 1912, most important offices shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. Jauhar too shifted to Delhi in December 1912. In 1913 he published Urdu daily, Hamdard. After 40 hours of continuous work he wrote an article in support of the Turks in response to an article published London Times. The famous article, “Choice of the Turks”, was published in Comrade and its Urdu translation was simultaneously carried out in Hamdard which was not liked by the British government. Copies of the papers were seized, and on 15 May 1915, Mohammad Ali was interned. For his protests and anti-British expositions, he was imprisoned on charge of sedition. Having lived under arrest in different places he was finally released in 1919 at the end of World War I. From jail Mohammad Ali went straight to Amritsar where Congress and Muslim League were holding their annual meetings. In 1920 he went to London as a leader of the Khilafat where he tried to convince the British Government to uphold the Sultan of Turkey as the Caliph of Muslims. In the Nagpur session of Congress in December 1920, he passed a resolution for Non-Cooperation. In 1923, he was elected President of the Kakinada session of the Indian National Congress. Through Non-Cooperation he gave India Jamia Millia Islamia.

Jamia Millia

[A view of the Jamia Millia Islamia Campus (Photo by Manzar Imam)]

It will not be wrong to call Maulana “the seed-sower of Jamia”, writes Ghulam Haider because fuelling the spark which had generated the restlessness at MAO College in Aligarh was not an easy task. And that task was done by Maulana Mohammad Ali.

Jamia was formally established on 29 October, 1920 and a Foundation Committee set up on that occasion. Hakim Ajmal Khan was made its first Chancellor and on refusal of Allama Iqbal, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar became its first Vice Chancellor.

When, despite his illness, he attended the Roundtable Conference in England in 1930, he was absolutely clear what he wanted and very categorically stated that he did not want to return to a slave nation. “If you can’t give us independence, you must give me space for my grave”. His words came true prophetically as he breathed his last on 4 January, 1931 in England demanding freedom for his country. According to Dr Hamida Riaz, he continued to work during the last night of his life. News of his demise spread like a wildfire. People from different parts of India sent telegram messages to take his body to India. Some from the city of Al-Quds expressed their desire for his body to be buried there. It was Mohammad Ali’s wish and luck that his body was taken there, finally, he was laid to rest in the sacred Land of the Prophets.

Although Maulana Mohammad Ali could not give much time to Jamia because of his engagement in a lot of missionary work and political activities, whatever time he gave, it reflected his sincerity and passionate approach to it. He served as its Vice-Chancellor from 1920 to 1923. But his love for Jamia continued till his last breath. Not only he, even his wife, Amjadi Begum, stood for the cause of Jamia and, as per his will, she gave all his academic assets to Jamia after his demise. Thus both in life and after life, Mohammad Ali’s immense contribution nurtured Jamia Millia Islamia in making it one of the enviable and envious institutions of the country that it is today, awaiting more to come.

[Sources: Maulana Mohammad Ali: Shakhsiyat aur Khidmat, compiled by Syed Nazar Barni (July 1976, Adabi Sangam, New Delhi) Jauhar Nama, a collection of articles in Urdu compiled by Hakim Mohammad Irfan Al-Husaini (1989, published by Mohammad Khalil, secretary, Mohammad Ali Library Kolkata), Mohammad Ali Jauhar, authored and published by Hamida Riaz (1988, Nagpur), Nuqoosh-e-Jamia (Jamia ki Kahani Jamia Walon ki Zabani i.e. the Story of Jamia from Jamiites) by Ghulam Haider (2012, Maktaba Jamia Limited in collaboration with National Council for Promotion of Urdu Langue, New Delhi. The writer, Manzar Imam, is a Ph.D. Research Scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia’s MMAJ Academy of International Studies. He can be reached at manzarimam@rediffmail.com. The above article is ummid.com special series titled Founders of Jamia Millia Islamia. Read the first part here. To read the second article of the series click here.]


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