by Ajit Singh Nagra
Abul Kalam Ghulam Mohiyuddin Ahmed, whose pen name was Azad was born on 11 Nov. 1888 in the Darus-Islama quarter of the holy city [Medina]His father was Maulana Muhammad Khairuddin and his mother was the daughter of Sheikh Muhammad Zaherwatri of Bengal.He emerged as the prominent Urdu writer, an outstanding statesman and secular leader, who carved his name in the house of reputation by dint of his diligence and intelligence.He steered the ship of the nation wisely through the stress and storm of the Indian politics during India’s struggle for freedom and sowed the seeds of secularism and patriotism in the minds of his fellow Muslims.He pledged to remain rooted to his motherland as a son of the soil and declined to fall into footsteps of his co-religionist, M.A. Jinnah who demanded separate land for the Muslims by fanning the fire of communal frenzy and religious fanaticism to gain his end and satisfy his narcissistic mentality.
Azad was a precocious child who gained proficiency in knowledge,oratory and mastered Arabic, Persian and urdu language. Being a brilliant student, he finished his final education at sixteen.
Maulana Azad was a profound theologian, keen intellectual, powerful writer, prolific publicist, a persuasive and eloquent orator and a sober politician.He is ranked as the finest writer of urdu who exhibited felicityof expression with profoundity of thought.
Azad was a devout and proud Muslim and was well-versed with Islamic theology.In1908, Azad visited the Muslim countries such as Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Iraq.Jamaluddin Afghani inspired him in the beginning but he became reformist.While he was interned at Ranchi, he wrote a book on Quran and laid stress upon spiritual and moral aspects of religion.In his opinion, unity of brotherhood, unity of God andunity of religions constitute the message of Quran.He confined himself to writing articles for his paper’Al Hilal’ [crescent] which he started in 1912. Then he came under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and experienced a sea change in his ideology.
Soon after his release from Ranchi jail,he met Mahatma Gandhi on 18 Jan.1920 and this moment became a watershed in his life.In his political life, Azad travelled on three different paths,the path of exclusive patriotism, and pan -Islamism[1906-20] the path of Muslim patriotism and Indian Nationalism[1920-23] and the path of secularist democratic nationalism[1923-58]He had the distinction of becoming the youngest President of the congress in 1923at 34and also held the record of the longest term as the president of the congress from 1940 to 1946.On behalf of the congress, he negotiated with the cripps Mission in 1942, at the Simla conference in1945 and with the cabinet Mission in 1946.Being a nationalist, Azad remained in jail for eleven years.
Azad was a consistent champion of Hindu-Muslim unity and did not want partition of the country and advocated unity in diversity.As a student of history, he pointed out that the Hindus and the Muslims had common ancestors and shared common traditions and history.He was opposed to sectarian nationalism preached by the Muslim League.He also preached the policy of non-violence. Azad was a staunch opponent of partition and wistfully thought that partition exists on the map of the country and not in the hearts of the people and it will be a short-lived division.
Azad penned down his reminiscences and reaction in his controversial book” India Wins Freedom” fully published in 1988 in which Sardar Patel was dubbed as a communalist.He interpreted the historical events in the form of his personal idiosyncracies and predilections and blamed Pt. Nehru, Jinnah and Patel for accepting partition of the country.He pointed out at partial culpability of congress leaders in averting the creation of Pakistan.He was a humanist and educator but his gentle voice fell upon the deaf ears of rabble rousers who favoured partition of the country.Azad was ambitious and spurned the crown. He was an apostle of national unity , composite culture and communal harmony.
Azad was an intellectual of high order and his mental vision was encyclopaedic. His ”Ghubar-e- Khatir”is the tour de force of a literary craftsman. He helped in forming the foreign policy of India. Azad did commendable work as the Minister of Education and Research.He was responsible for the publication of an authoritative history of thefreedom struggle compiled for the national archives under the direction of Dr. Tara Chand. He was instrumental in appointing the University Education Commission in 1948 and the Secondary Education commission in 1952 and various institutions and commissions e.g.Kharakpur institute of higher Technology, The university Grant commission and three national academics-The depaetment of Archives, Archaeology and Anthropology were developed and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations to foster goodwill between India and Pakistan and for communal harmony. He founded the India Council of scientific and Industrial Research. Maulana had the ability to inspire millions with his power of pen and voice .He was a devout Muslim by faith but his mind was free from narrow cosidersatios of religion. He was a farsighted statesman quite progressive in his outlook and modern in his thinking. He was called Chinese man and Superman.This illustrious son of mother India left this mortal world in Delhi on22Feb.1958.
The author is a former Principal and can be reached at: email@example.com. This piece first appeared on Daily Excelsior.