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Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's Political Strategy from Hezbollah to Khilafat Movement


By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

11 November 2019

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was one of the Muslim nationalist leaders of India who staunchly opposed the partition of India on religious basis. He had delivered his famous speech from the stairs of Jama Masjid of Delhi dissuading Muslims from migrating to Pakistan. He knew that the partition was done on the basis of petty political aspirations of Jinnah and Nehru and the migration of Muslims to the newly carved out Pakistan did not find justification in the Quran.

 It was an artificial crisis caused by the Muslim League and some narrow minded Muslim leaders who presented Hindus as enemies of Muslims forgetting the fact that Hindus and Muslims had been living in the country for centuries and had jointly fought the British to free the country from the foreign powers. Hindus had not forced the Muslims to leave the country but some Muslim intellectuals and ideologies like Mohammad Iqbal instilled fear of Hindus in the mind of Muslims on the basis that after Independence, Hindus will suppress their religious

Identity and take away their rights. The Muslim League and some religious leaders intensified the demand for Pakistan and the common Muslims fell for the dream. The frenzy over the dreamland Pakistan overtook illiterate Muslim masses to the extent that in Kolkata, the illiterate Muslims would shout the slogan, "Haath Me Beedi Munh Me Paan, Ladkey Lenge Pakistan" (With Beedi in hand and betel leaf in the mouth, we shall fight for Pakistan).

Maulana Azad was above this kind of petty politics. He opposed the partition and wanted a united India.

Maulana Azad's political outlook was not communal. He did not see the Hindus as the enemies of Muslims. He wanted political awareness among Muslims and tried to bring Muslims into the mainstream of national politics. During the first decade of the 20th century, Muslims did not take much interest in national movement for Independence. The reason was that a coterie of Ulama had issued Fatwas against political meetings in which Hindu women participated. They thought that joining political movement along with Hindus was not permitted by Sharia. Maulana Azad launched his periodicals Al Hilal and Al Balagh to promote nationalist ideas among Muslims.

Earlier, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan discouraged Muslims to take part in politics because after the failure of 1857 revolt in which Muslims had taken a leading role, the British government had crushed Muslims both politically and economically. Therefore, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan wanted Muslims not to confront the British and concentrate on their educational and economic upliftment.

However, by the second decade of the 20th century, the political and social scenario had changed and Muslims had become a political force to reckon with but still the Ulama discouraged them from joining national politics on flimsy grounds. Maulana Azad wrote in Tarjumanul Quran on this outlook of Ulama:

"You must have read Fatwas by Muslim Ulama which said Muslims should not attend political meetings because the meetings are attended by veil-less non-Muslim women and their presence is not devoid of mischief (Fitna). Similarly, it is also said that due to their presence, collective prayers (Namaz-e-ba Jama'at) have to be skipped which is against piety. Remember, it is not piety and righteousness that which makes them oppose such activities but it is a kind of Nafaq (hypocrisy) which the Quran testifies to."

This was the reason Maulana Azad joined the Khilafat Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He knew that Muslims will only join the Independence movement when they are convinced that they are fighting for a religious cause. The reinstatement of the Ottoman Caliphate was an emotional and religious issue for Muslims and Maulana Azad succeeded in doling in the Muslims in national Independence movement under the garb of Khilafat Movement.

Earlier in 1912, he had launched a religious organisation of Muslims called Hezbollah. The purpose behind the launch of this organisation was to unite the Muslims of India to wage jihad against the British after seeking co-operation of Hindus. Thousands of Muslims joined Hezbollah. Another objective was to get the support of Ulama on the issue of jihad against the British. But before launching a united assault against the British, it was necessary to elect a religious leader of Indian Muslims or Imam ul Hind. A section of Muslim Ulama accepted Maulana Azad as Imamul Hind but leaders of Jamiat-e- Ulema Hind did not want to hand over the leadership of Indian Muslims to Maulana Azad and cleverly skipped the issue.

Therefore, Muslims could not be united under one banner and Maulana Azad's objective of launching a decisive jihad against the British government under the flag of Hezbollah could not be accomplished. If all the Ulama had accepted Maulana Azad as their lmam and united under the banner to launch a joint offensive against the British, together with the Hindus, the history of India would have been different.

S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/s-arshad,-new-age-islam/maulana-abul-kalam-azad-s-political-strategy-from-hezbollah-to-khilafat-movement/d/120233

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  1. Thank you for your article. It is an insightful essay that sheds light on on Maulana Azad's role in the struggle for Indian independence and his simultaneous engagement with Indian Muslims. 
    However, Maulana Azad's approach was shortsighted and in many ways, contrary to the events leading up to independence. Muslims were and always would be a minority in the subcontinent in a united India. No doubt, Azad was sincere and sought a middle way by forging Muslim entry into mainstream politics, but he did not consider what could happen to the Muslims in the case where Muslims would be suppressed by the Hindu majority, as demonstrated recently by the passage of the CAA and the acceptance of Hindutva by a majority of Hindus who voted for the BJP. The Muslim League was forseeing a greater difficulty if independence meant that India would united. A separate homeland for Muslims was inevitable. If alive today, I don't believe Azad would be satisfied that treatment meted out to the Muslims in India. They are, in the view of the larger Hindu population, a second-class community that faces ongoing discrimination and suppression ever since independence. 
    By Zubair Akram 01/07/2020 16:01:05
  2. He was a man ahead of his times.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin 11/11/2019 10:12:46