Skip to main content

Why Dr Zakir Hussain considered Maulana Azad as one of the greatest innovators in the history of Islam

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, whose 129th birth anniversary falls on November 11, remains relevant as masses look in askance all around in their search of stability in the prevailing times of confusion, vandalism and communalism.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is, by any reckoning, a major figure in twentieth-century Indian History. He was a scholar thoroughly trained in the traditional Islamic sciences, with great intellectual abilities and eloquence of pen and speech.
He had, in addition, a remarkable openness to modern western knowledge even as he opposed western rule over India. He made a lasting contribution to Urdu prose literature with his translation and interpretation of the Qur'an.

The intellectual history of Islam in India has long been described in terms of two contrasting currents: the one tending towards confrontation, the other towards assimilation, with the Hindu milieu.
Today, we hear about so many ministers’ corruption stories ranging from on scam to another or Panama or Paradise Leaks but Azad belonged to an illustrious company of leaders who sacrifed everything for the nation. Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajender Babu, Lal Bahadur Shastri — they were men of principles, whose idealism helped bring freedom to the country. But in the process, did their idealism also affect their families? Most of these leaders, in fact, genuinely believed they would be doing the country a great disservice if they promoted their kith and kin.
Probably the leaders of freedom struggle, having experienced the hardships and turbulent days, knew that their responsibility then lay in nation building. At all costs, they made sure their family members did not take undue advantage of their position, always emphasizing on giving to the country rather than taking.
Maulana coalasced with endogenic creativity, the Vedantic vision of many parts of truth with the Islamic doctrines of Wahdat-e-Deen (unity of religion) and Sulah-e-Kul (universal peace). Maulana is revered without really being understood because to a large bulk of people, he has been reduced to a noble “totem” of the political breed called the “nationalist Muslims.” Azad remains a shining example of the fusion of the rationalist heritage of Islam and the compassionate heritage of India. Maulana’s watchword was assimilation and communal concord at all levels. Dr. Zakir Hussain considered Azad as one of the greatest innovators in the history of Islam.
This dichotomy is, of course, an oversimplification, for separatist and syncretist represent extreme points on a spectrum of possible intellectual responses by Muslims to the Indian scene.
His speech to the Muslims of Delhi delivered on October 23, 1947 from the steps of Jama Masjid is reflective of the man and the ideas he stood for and fought for. Tormented with the course of events in the aftermath of partition, Azad was able to offer advice to his Muslim brethren quoting the holy Quran: “Do not fear and do not grieve. If you possess truth, you will gain the upper hand.”
Reiterating that the partition of India was a fundamental mistake, Azad expressed his anguish: “It was not long ago that I told you that the two-nation theory was death-knell for a life of faith. I entreated with you to reject it, because the foundations upon which it rested were built of sand. But you paid no attention. You believed that the mad race of time would slow down to suit you convenience. Time, however, sped on. Those on whose support you were counting, have today, abandoned you; left you like waifs, exposed to the vagaries of you own kismet.”
Another of his speech betrays note of bitterness that he felt when India stood partitioned. “For thousand of years five rivers of water have flowed in the Punjab. Today, a sixth river is flowing, the river of human blood. On the water we built bridges of brick, stone and steel. The bridge over the sixth river is being built of human corpses.”
The years during which Azad wrote and published the two volumes of his Tarjuman were a period that was politically unrewarding for him. For Indian Muslims generally, the period following the collapse of the Khilafat movement was a time of uncertainty. From 1930 onwards, growing communal disorder jeopardized Hindu-Muslim unity in the eyes of many former nationalist Muslim leaders.
The major concern of Azad's life was the revival and reform of the Indian Muslims in all aspects of life, and his political hopes for them were within this context. For any such reform, he realized the key position of the ulema and of the traditional educational system which produces them.
---
*Community worker and commentator on social and religious issues, grandnephew of Maulana Azad

Comments

TRENDING

RSS wanted Constitution 'replaced' by Manusmriti which abused Dalits, women

By Shamsul Islam* The Constituent Assembly of India finalized the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949 which is celebrated as the Constitution Day This Constitution promised new born Indian Republic a polity based on democracy, justice, egalitarianism and rule of law. However, RSS was greatly annoyed. Four days after the historic event of approval of it, the RSS English “Organiser” in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:

Nuclear energy 'can't solve' global warming, will 'strain' financial, natural resource

Counterview Desk  Taking strong exception to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who has favoured nuclear energy as a solution to global warning, well-known power and policy analyst Shankar Sharma has said that the IAEA chief's “unsubstantiated advocacy” of nuclear power is associated with “diversion of considerable amounts of scarce resources, both financial as well as natural, of many developing countries, such as India.”

Covid taught us: Exams are cruel process of 'eliminating' those seeking education

By Sandeep Pandey, Seema Muniz, Gopal Krishna Verma* Some people are disheartened with the disruption in children’s education due to the menace of Covid and the successive lockdowns. While a number of children are getting used to attending online classes, their counterparts from the weaker socio-economic backgrounds continue to struggle either because of unfamiliarity with technology or because of having to share a single device with their siblings and/or parents. More unfortunate ones have been completely pushed out of the system which has resulted in the virtual drop in the rate of enrolment.

Book on Bhil rebels offers other side of history, neglected by 'nationalist' historians

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  One of the major accusations against Indian historians is that of neglecting and ignoring the role of the marginalised in the freedom struggle. Most of the time, we are ‘informed’ that there were some ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ of the freedom movement, all of them belonging to the same stock of caste as well as ‘power’ positions as their opponents.

Mysterious death of Kishenji 'triggered' series of splits in Maoist camp in India

By Harsh Thakor* On November 24 fell the 10th death anniversary of Kishenji, a prominent Maoist leader, he was also a poet, a scientist, and a soldier. Since his school days he dreamt of planting the seed to create new man. Born in 1954 in Peddapally town (in Karimnagar district, north Telangana), Kishenji was raised by his father Venkataiah (a “freedom fighter”, he called him) and a progressive mother, Madhuramma.

Govt of India responsible for 71% delays in NREGA wage payments, say economists

Counterview Desk  In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than 70 economists have urged the Government of India to release “adequate funds” for implementing the rural jobs guarantee scheme under the MGNREGA immediately, pointing out that the pandemic continues to adversely affect the living condition of working families.

Learning to bridge 'huge chasm' between highly educated, illiterate, badly literate

By Shrey Ostwal, Sandeep Pandey*  The pivotal point of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s journey to become Mahatma Gandhi began when his “political guru” – Gopal Krishna Gokhale – advised young Mohandas to travel around India. This rigorous journey was essential for Mohandas to understand his country and countrypersons better if he were to fight the inhumane and unempathetic British regime which had been looting India of its glory for about two centuries then.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Arrest of top J&K civil society leader shows contempt for international law: PUCL

Counterview Desk  Commenting on the arrest of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, India’s top human rights advocacy group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has said that the Government of India action is “one more attempt ... to silence peaceful, non-violent dissenters”, adding, it suggests how “a brutalizing state machinery" has been acting.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".