Born in Mecca where his forefathers had settled during the 1857 Revolt, Abul Kalam Azad came with his parents to India in 1898. Settled in Calcutta, he began participating in the freedom struggle by associating himself with the revolution¬aries during the swadeshi uprising. Through Al Hilal and Al Balagh, weeklies which he began in 1912 and 1915 respectively, he started spreading nationalistic thoughts. He came in contact with Gandhi and began lending support to the non-cooperation agitation. He was made the head of the Khilafat Committee as well. He presided over the Congress’ special session at Delhi in 1923 to become the youngest President. He was again elected Presi¬dent of the Congress at its Ramgarh session in 1940. He remained President as no session was held in the five follow¬ing years. Abdul Kalam Azad headed the Jamiat ul Ulema as President in 1924, and the Nationalist Muslim Conference five years later in the same capacity. Confined to the Ahmednagar fort after his arrest along with other leaders in 1942, Maulana Azad participated in the Simla Conference after his release. He also negotiated with the British Cabinet Mission in 1946 for India’s independence.
He was made a member of the Constituent Assembly and became Minister of Education and Arts in the interim government. After India’s independence, he was first appointed minister in charge of education and later given the portfolios of natural resources and scientific research. His many note- Worthy contributions in free India include setting up of the University and the Secondary Education Commission and the University Grants Commission, reorganization of the All India Council for Technical Education, developing the Indian Insti¬tute of Science, and setting up the Kharagpur Institute of Technology and many scientific research laboratories Biography:
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad ranks together with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru as one of the foremost leaders of the National Movement. An erudite scholar of Islamic theology, he had a strong intellectual bent of mind and an inborn flair for literary writing. Making his debut on the Indian political scene as a young journalist with strong Pan-Islamist views, Azad grew over the years ill to a front-rank Indian nationalist who steered the destiny of the all India National Congress as its President twice, first in 1923 and jrom1940 to 1946 subsequently. Born in 1888, Firoz Bakht (of exalted destiny), commonly called Muhiyuddin Ahmad, was only two years old, when his parents settled at Calcutta; his father, Maulana Khairuddin, became famous here as a spiritual guide. Till in his teens, Muhiyuddin used the pseudonym Abul Kalam Azad acquired a high reputation for his writings on religion and literature in the standard Urdu journals of that time. Azad attained most of his education from his father. He did not go to any Madrasah or school, nor did he attend any modem western educational institution . Learning at home he completed the traditional course of higher Islamic education at sixteen. At the same time he was exposed to the writings of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Keeping it a secret from his father, he started learning English and by his own acquired enough knowledge of the English language to study advanced books on history and philosophy. He wanted to see his country free from the British rule. But he did not approve of the Congress movement on account of its ‘slowness’: also he could not join the Muslim League whose political goal he found unpredictable. ‘Thus he associated himself with the Hindu revolutionaries of Bengal in spite of their ‘exclusive’ and indifferent attitude towards the Muslims. He managed, however, to convince them that the exclusion of the Muslims from the group would make political struggle much more difficult.
To make his community politically aware Azad started from July 13, 1912 an Urdu weekly, the Al-Hilal (The Crescent), from Calcutta. Its influence was prodigious. Azad was politically and religiously radical. The paper… shocked the conservatives and created a furor; but there were many Muslims ready to follow him. In the pages of the Al-Hilal Azad began to criticize the ‘loyal’ attitude of the Muslims to the British, and the ‘hostile’ attitude of the British to the Muslim world in general. The Government of Bengal unhappy with editorial policy, put pressure on the paper. Meanwhile World War I broke out and publication was banned in 1914 by the Bengal Government. From November 12, 1915, Abul Kalam started a new weekly, the AI-Balagh from Calcutta which continued till Match 31, 1916. The publication of the AI-Balagh was also banned by the Government of Bengal and Maulana Azad was exiled from Calcutta under the Defence of India Regulations. The Government of Punjab, Delhi, U.P. and Bombay had already prohibited his entry into their provinces under the same Regulations. The only province he could conveniently stay in was Bihar and he went therefore to Ranchi where he was interned till January 1,1920. From 1920 till 1945 Abul Kalam Azad was frequently imprisoned for a number of times. After he was released from Ranchi he was elected President of the All- India Khila fat Committee (Calcutta session in 1920) and President of the Unity Conference (Delhi) in 1924. In 1928 he presided over the Nationalist Muslim Conference. He was appointed in 1937 a member of the Congress Parliamentary Sub-Committee to guide the Provincial Congress Ministries.
He was twice elected President of the Indian National Congress, the first time in 1923 when he was only thirty-five years old, and the second time in 1940. He continued as the President of the Congress till 1946 being no elections were held during this period as almost every Congress leader was in prison on account of the Quit India Movement (1942). After the leaders were released Maulana Azad, as the President of the Congress, led the negotiations with the British Cabinet Mission in 1946, and when India became independent he was appointed Education Minister and continued till death on February 22, 1958. Azad was not an influential religious leader. He expressed himself in Urdu and thus limited himself to a particular group. The majority of the Indians did not really know what Azad was saying. Another reason was political. He was in the Congress, and was considered a party-man. Thus whatever he said about the unity of religion was taken by many Muslims, who used to read, him as the reflection of his political ideas. and, therefore, had to be discarded. Also, on the question of Muslims traditional religious education, Azad was treated as an unorthodox. He was among those few who were not shaken in their faith in composite nationalism even by partition.
He was a great orator and a great writer. Maulana Azad made an outstanding contribution to induction of Muslim masses into the mainstream of national struggle for independence in opposition to the Aligarh School, led by Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan. He also stood firmly committed to the cause of united India in the face of strong opposition by the Muslim League,led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad: A Champion of Hindu-Muslim Unity
Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad is remembered as a prominent leader among the freedom fighters who championed the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity. Development of Thought:
Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, born in Mecca in 1888, was a rare combination of scholar, statesman of the old world refinement and culture and modem ardor of freedom and progress. Along with Gandhiji and Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Azad came forward as the great champion of Hindu-Muslim unity. He realized that the Muslims of India must come out of their isolation and join the national mainstream for India’s freedom; He stood all along against the politics of separatism of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and later on against the Muslim League under Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He remained steadfast in opposition to the creation of Pakistan and was bitterly pained when the Congress accepted partition of the country in 1947.
As a realist Maulana Azad knew that there was a genuine communal problem in India. He recommended that the future Constitution of India must be Federal with autonomy to provinces so that in the Muslim majority states the fear could be alimented from the minds of Muslims of domination by the Hindus. He was appointed the Education Minister in the interim Cabinet-an office he held till his death in 1958. Conclusion:
Azad will have a place in the history of modern Indian political thought us a nationalist Muslim who challenged the separatist assumptions of the Aligarh School. A great cementing force between Hindus and Muslims, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad sought to bring the Muslims into the national mainstream. Properly known as Mohiyuddin Ahmed during the early part of his life, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad is as the prominent leader among the freedom fighters of India, and as an important figure among the modern Indian thinkers. Born in Mecca in 1888, he belonged to a conservative family of a famous Muslim Pir who had lakhs of followers. His forefathers came from Herat during Mughal emperor Babar’s days. Due to Arabic as his mother-tongue and orthodox tradition of the family Azad had his early education by his father under strict control. But as a child he was of independent mind and critical temperament.
Due to his natural brilliance Azad started contributing articles to Indian journals at the age of 12. It was not possible to keep the brilliant child restricted to religious education. Azad broke barriers and his genius came out when he started reading books on different subjects. At the tender age of fourteen he issued a weekly paper Lasan.e- sidqua -which surprised even great scholars. By the age of sixteen Azad had completed his education and started teaching to some students subjects like Philosophy, Maths and Logic. Impressed by the writings of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Azad realized the need of western education for people steeped in theological tradition. He himself learned English and read the Bible. Azad realized at a very early period of life that religious intolerance and dogmatism was not comprehensible to him. He developed doubts and at one stage rejected his faith in God. Consequently, as a rebel against his father and the family tradition, he wandered for some years as a skeptic. But that situation shortly came to an end with the renewal of faith in Islam combined with a development of broad mindedness in the matters of religion. After the death of his father Azad went round the Muslim countries in 1908 and met some religious revolutionaries. It awakened him and he realized that the Muslims of India must come out of their isolation and join the national mainstream for India’s freedom.
Lord Curzon decided to partition Bengal with the belief that this would weaken the revolutionary fervor of Hindus and create permanent division between Hindus and Muslims of Bengal. Attracted towards revolutionaries of Bengal like Sri Aurobindo, Azad decided on return to India to join the movement of India’s freedom. Leadership of the Muslims at that time was in the hands of the Aligarh group who were loyal to the British government. Azad came out boldly against that attitude of the Muslims. Sir Syed had warned Muslims against joining the Congress and asked them to depend on the British for the safeguard of their interests. With all the potential to lead the Muslim community of India, Azad decided to oppose the view of Sir Syed. In order to educate Muslims Azad started a paper Al Hilal in June, 1912. Besides the paper, he also organised a society named Hezbollah Society (Family of God) to make Muslims politically conscious through the path of religion. By that time Azad had established himself as a recognized leader of the Muslims. Through his powerful writings Azad created a stir in the Muslim world and forced Indian Muslims to see the error in their thinking. Within six weeks Al Hilal became the favorite paper and its circulation reached eleven thousand with all Muslim subscribers. The paper made Muslims conscious of their duty towards the mother land and forced the leaders of the Muslim League to abandon their communal thinking and join the main national stream.
It was the year 1913. Alarmed by the popularity of the paper Al Hilal and the revolutionary views aimed at transforming the general Muslim way of thinking, the British government ordered a ban on the paper with confiscation of the press in 1915. Without getting disheartened Azad started another paper All just after five months. That paper was also banned. Azad was extended from Calcutta in 1916. As his entry was already banned in UP, Delhi, Punjab and Bombay, Azad went to Bihar. But the government detained him in Ranchi and kept him there till December 1919. January 1920 was the turning point in the life of Maulana Azad; he went to Mahatama Gandhi for the first time. The Rowlatt Act of 1919 and the Khilafat agitation brought Hindus and Muslims together under the leadership of Gandhiji. Drawn towards the Khilafat movement Azad became the brain behind the struggle against the Britishers along with other important leaders like Maulana Mohammad Ali, Hakeem Ajmal Khan, Gandhiji, Tilak and other Congress leaders. During the period of Congress working for the cause of Khilafat movement Azad came to realise that in India, Muslims and Hindus must learn to live and act as equal partners in the national interest. Along with Gandhiji and Abdul Ghafifar Khan, Azad came forward as the — great champion of Hindu-Muslim unity. He asked the Muslims to see the reality of the situation. He said, “Eleven hundred years of common history have enriched India with our common achievements. Our language, our poetry, our culture, our art, our dress, our manner and customs innumerable happenings of our daily life, every thing bear the stamp of our joint Endeavour”. He was of the view that the common nationality of Hindus and Muslims is the result of their joint life for over a thousand years. Throughout the period of the freedom movement nothing could shake his firm faith in the need of Hindu-Muslim unity. He said, “As a Muslim, I for one am not prepared for a moment to give up my right to treat the whole of India as my domain and to share in the shaping of its political and economic life. To me it seems a sure sign of cowardice to give up what is my patrimony and content myself with a mere fragment of it.” Azad opposed the two-nation theory advanced by the Muslim League and opposed the partition of India up to the last. Against the Muslim League’s contention of Muslims being a separate nation Maulana said in 1934. “When they say we are two nations they beg the question. The ancestors of most of us were common and for one do not accept the theory of a superior or inferior race or of different races. Mankind is one race, and we have to live in harmony with one another,” Azad said, “What detest is the communal approach on communal lines. In a future
Constitution of India’s representative, the Hindu or the Musalman will have to think of his position and interests not as a Hindu or a Musalman, but as a peasant, as a labour and so on.” In 1947 when the Muslim League had its way and partition was agreed upon Azad felt miserable. Maulana Azad was one of the loyal followers of Mahatma Gandhi, but not a blind follower. He participated in the Non-Co-operation Movement in 1920 and courted arrest. Later when this Movement was withdrawn, he took a leading part in bringing about a compromise between the two parties in the Congress, one in favour and the other against the Council-entry programme. He criticized the Mahatma for his giving too much importance to Mr. Jinnah, which, according to him, was in a way responsible for developing the Muslim communalism. He was repeatedly elected as the President of the All India Congress. He held this office during the Second World War and negotiated as such with the Cripps and the Cabinet Missions. He remained steadfast in his opposition to the creation of Pakistan, and was bitterly pained when Gandhi who had declared that Pakistan could be formed only on his dead body, also accepted the partition. As a realist Maulana Azad knew that there was a genuine communal problem in India since a sizable section of Muslims had fear in their minds about the protection of their rights with majority of the population consisting of Hindus. When the Khilafat agitation was over some influential Muslim leaders like Mohammed Ali deviated from their original stand of Hindu Muslim unity. A serious communal riot in 1929 confirmed Azad’s fear. As a moving spirit behind the unity conference held at Calcutta, Azad got a resolution passed against people reporting to violence and taking the law in their own hands. At the same time he wanted to evolve a permanent ground for solving the communal problem. After a lot of thinking he came to the conclusion that the future Constitution of India must be federal with autonomy to provinces and proper distribution of powers between Centre and states. Under this scheme, in the Muslim majority states all subjects except three or four could be administered by the states eliminating the fear from the minds of Muslims of domination by the Hindus. It was the best possible political solution for a country like India and also best from communal consideration. The Cabinet Mission plan for the solution of the political problem was largely on the thinking of Maulana Azad. Both the Congress and the League accepted it to avoid the partition of India. But on July 10, 1946
Jawaharlal Nehru made a statement at a press conference in Bombay in which he said that the Congress was free to change and modify the Cabinet Mission plan as it thought best after entering the Constituent Assembly. In his book India Wins Freedom Maulana Azad has branded the statement as most unfortunate as it caused difficulties and led the Muslim League to change its mind in favour of Pakistan. Mohammed Ali Jinnah had accepted the Cabinet Mission plan and Nehru’s statement became a pretext for his two-nation theory. Maulana Azad remained president of the All India Congress for six long years from 1939 and guided the nation during the most difficult period of India’s freedom struggle. Azad represented the best of Islamic culture. His deep learning and scholarship combined with intellectual resourcefulness made him a great leader of his time. In the words of Dr. Tara Chand, “Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad was a rare combination of scholar, statesman of the old world refinement and culture and modern ardor of freedom and progress. He spent a great part of his life in the struggle. He staked all in the service of the cause.” Like other nationalist Muslims he was abused and insulted by communal leaders of the Muslim League, but Azad stood unmoved and unaffected. Faith and courage which enabled him to do so entitle him to a high position among the greatest men of the world. He continued in his own life the glorious tradition of suffering for the sake of truth which is enshrined in his “Tazkirah”. Azad will have a place in the history of Muslim political ideas in India because he challenged the assumptions of the Aligarh School of political thought in the early twenties. Later on, when the intransigence of Jinnah and the Muslim League went on increasing he appeared as a great cementing force between the Hindus and Muslims. He, soon, became recipient of respect and regard from several important members of the Hindu community. His counsel and advice were sought on important political problems after India’s independence. He was not only one of the great scholars of the Koran in modem times but due to his command over Arabic and Persian he was held in high esteem as a Koranic interpreter in the countries of the Middle East and Africa. After independence, he helped in the formulation of India’s foreign policy with regard to use countries. As an education minister, an office he held till death in 1958. Azad snowed theoretical wisdom and he sponsored the writing of a two volume treatise on the history of eastern and western philosophy. Such an Endeavour is needed
to bring the East and West together. It may be hoped that a similar Endeavour to bring Eastern and Western political thought together will be pursued.