Among the several leaders whose image has been carefully nurtured to project a tolerant and unifying face is that of Maulana Azad, post-independence Bharat’s first Education Minister. Looks, as they say, can often be deceptive and we are making an attempt to honestly and dispassionately decode the real Maulana Azad – an Islamist wearing the moderate mask.
Maulana Azad’s childhood
Azad came from a family of Islamic scholars, known for their zeal to serve the ‘cause’ of the Hadith (sayings/teachings of Mohammad) and the Sunnah (actions of and practices prevailing during Mohammad’s times), who traveled to Bharat from Herat in Afghanistan during Babur’s times.
His father, Maulana Khairuddin who had traveled to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 1857 and returned to Kolkata, Bharat in 1898 after spending several years in the company of Islamic scholars of Mecca and Medina. He did not just learn the tenets of Islam there but was also chosen to preach Islam and deliver sermons in what is considered the holiest Muslim seminary in the world.
Azad was born on 11 November 1888 in Mecca and spent his formative years in Mecca and Medina. He learned Arabic from his mother and Urdu from his father.
By his own admission, he was home-schooled and though he was taught several subjects the focus was on Islamic studies which he learned from his father thrice a day. Bharat’s first education minister never received formal education!
Maulana Azad’s ‘education’
Maulana Khairuddin did not think highly of English education and wanted his sons to succeed him as a Pir (Muslim saint). The education of Azad and his brother was largely dictated by their father who was certain that his sons must continue the family tradition of devotion to and learning and propagation of Islam. In 1905, his father sent him to the world-famous Islamic university of Al-Azhar in Cairo for two years.
His hatred for the modern and preference for the medieval led to Khairuddin home-schooling his children where he himself taught them the Koran, Hadith, and Sharia. The boys had finished studying the Koran during their stay in Mecca and after moving to Kolkata (then Calcutta) they were sent to haram sharif for Qerat (reading and chanting Koran) lessons.
The children were taught Persian and Arabic but mastering the Koran, Hadith, and other Islamic religious literature remained the central point of their study. Eminent Islamic teachers were employed to share his workload due to Khairuddin’s failing health.
Maulana Azad – a nationalist or an Islamist
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is often portrayed as a secular icon symbolizing the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (a term used to depict Hindu-Muslim unity) and a nationalist to the core. His speeches where he argues against the partition and formation of Pakistan are quoted in favor of this view. But does this argument hold water? Or is this simply white-washing his true Islamist nature?
Both his upbringing and education are clear indicators that Islam moulded his views and ideology. An analysis of his speeches and interviews will show us that he had perfected the art of Al-taqiyya (concealing one’s belief) by speaking in different voices when he was among a heterogeneous group and giving precedence to the Islamist in him when he was among Muslims.
He opposed the two-nation theory and partition of Pakistan not because he believed in Hindu-Muslim unity or equality, but because he felt that an undivided Bharat would mean safety in numbers for the Muslims and would allow for the unchecked propagation of Islam in the whole subcontinent.
In a speech delivered in Urdu (translated by Syed Saiyidin Hameed) to his co-religionists at Delhi’s Jama Masjid on the 23rd of October 1947 he rebukes the gathered Muslims for not heeding to his advice:
“I hailed you, you cut off my tongue. I picked up my pen, you severed my hand. I wanted to move forward, you cut my legs. I tried to turn over, and you injured me in the back. When the bitter political games of the last seven years were at their peak, I tried to wake you up at every danger signal… I warned you that the two-nation theory was the death-knell to a meaningful and dignified life, forsake it. To all this, you turned a deaf ear. And now you have discovered that the anchors of your faith have set you adrift. The debacle of Indian Muslims is the result of the colossal blunders committed by the Muslim League’s misguided leadership.”
In fact, when the constitution of independent Bharat was being written, Azad led the demand for a separate Muslim electorate besides weighted reservations for them (50% more than the Muslim population).
His belief in the Muslim Ummah (Muslim brotherhood) pre-dates the partition and is visible in his support to the Khilafat movement. When the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate was in plain sight, Maulana Azad supported the Khilafat movement and mobilized the Muslims of Bharat to wage Jihad in Turkey by delivering a rousing speech to a gathering of Muslims on 27th October 1914 in Kolkata when he spoke thus:
“This biradri (community of Muslims) has been established by God…All relationships in the world can break down but this relationship can never be severed. It is possible a father turns against his son, not impossible that a mother separates her child from her lap, it is possible that one brother becomes the enemy of the other brother…But the relationship that a Chinese Muslim has with an African Muslim, an Arab Bedouin has with the Tatar shepherd, and which binds in one soul a neo-Muslim of India with the right-descendant Qureshi of Mecca, there is no power on earth to break it, to cut off this chain…”
He was a proponent of global Islamism and endorsing the Muslim Ummah, he said:
“If even a grain of the soul of Islam is alive among its followers, then I should say that if a thorn gets stuck in a Turk’s sole in the battlefield of war, then I swear by the God of Islam, no Muslim of India can be a Muslim until he feels that prick in his heart instead of the sole because the Millat-e-Islam (the global Muslim community) is a single body.”
Not every Muslim qualifies to be a Maulana (Islamic scholar) but by virtue of being well-versed in and having mastered the Koran, Hadith, and other Islamic religious literature Abul Kalam Azad earned the title of “Maulana”.
He quoted both Mohammad and the Koran in favor of his views when he quoted Verse 29 of the Quran’s Chapter Al-Fatah which urges Muslims to be friendly between themselves and hard against kafirs (infidels). He translated the verse as “be extremely hard against kafirs but extremely sympathetic and kind among ourselves.”
He not just outrightly rejected territorial nationalism among Bharatiya Muslims but for him establishing the Aligarh Muslim University was akin to installing the Kaaba (Islam’s holiest shrine) in Aligarh.
His Kolkata speech is replete with exaltations of the superiority of the Islamic sword and for someone who is considered to be a symbol of peace and Hindu-Muslim, Azad sure had an unquenched thirst to see the rivers of blood if it could guarantee a win for Islam.
No wonder he egged on his Muslim brothers by saying:
“Oh! Dear brothers, remember that however rosy the idea of peace, compromise, and rejection of murder and plunder in the world may be, but due to the bad luck of the world thus far the real power is the power of the sword; and the source of life, the water of life is in the fountains and rivers of blood. Today, if it is asked, where to search for the life of nations and evidence of life, then its answer will not come from universities of education and arts, and ancient libraries…rather, it will be found in the metalled (war) ships which line up the coast”
Wonder how many educationists would endorse the sword over books and pen, especially as an offensive strategy just to spread one’s religion because one believes it to be superior to so-called “pagan” polytheism.
He ended his Kolkata speech by impressing upon his Muslim brothers the importance of waging Jihad by declaring:
“I say that, on every momin who believes in Allah, his messenger (Prophet Muhammad) and his book (Quran), it is obligatory that he rise up today for jihad fi sabeelillah (jihad in the path of Allah). The meaning of Islam is to surrender our heads before the only God, and then it is upon him whether he puts it in the lap of friends or under the sword of enemies”.
If his Kolkata speech is already not a give-away regarding his Islamist ideology, we present some of his views as expressed by Azad himself in an interview given to Urdu magazine Chattan’s Shorish Kashmiri in April 1946.
Question: The Hindu Muslim dispute has become so acute that it has foreclosed any possibility of reconciliation. Don’t you think that, in this situation, the birth of Pakistan has become inevitable?
Azad: If Pakistan were the solution of Hindu-Muslim problems, then I would have extended my support to it. A section of Hindu opinion is now turning in its favor. The communal hatred it has generated has completely extinguished all possibilities of spreading and preaching Islam. This communal politics has hurt the religion beyond measure. Muslims have turned away from the Koran.
By the time of the decline of the Mughal rule, Muslims in India were a little over 22.5 million. Since then the numbers kept increasing. If the Muslim politicians had not used the offensive language that embittered communal relations and the other section acting as agents of British interests had not worked to widen the Hindu-Muslim breach, the number of Muslims in India would have gone up… Under British influence, we turned Islam into a hereditary community.
How shall we explain the ever-growing Muslim presence in non-Muslim lands, including India? Do they realize that if Islam had approved this principle, then it would not have permitted its followers to go to non-Muslim lands, and many ancestors of the supporters of Pakistan would not even have entered the fold of Islam?
Question: But the question is: how can Muslims keep their community identity intact and how can they inculcate the attributes of the citizens of a Muslim state?
Azad: The real issue is the freedom of faith and worship, and who can put a cap on that freedom? Will independence reduce the 90 million Muslims into such a helpless state that they feel constrained in enjoying their religious freedom? If the British who, as a world power, could not snatch this liberty, what magic or power do the Hindus have to deny this freedom of religion?
After Independence, Maulana Azad was appointed Education Minister in 1947 and occupied that crucial position till his death in 1958. He started the process of negatonism of history to cover up Islamic misdeeds.
His views make it crystal clear that his loyalties were always with Islam and the real impact of his ideology and Islam-influenced policies, agreed to and seconded by Nehru, can be seen in our History text-books where the crimes of Islamic invaders have been white-washed to the extent of presenting Mughals as “messiahs of the oppressed Hindu masses” and in the worst case as ‘benevolent dictators’.
(Featured Image Source: Telangana Today)
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