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November 11: Azad Day Special


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Maulana Azad: The Preacher of Peace and Harmony

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 07:22:53 PM, Team

Audio: Maulana Azad's historic address to the Indian Muslims from Jama Masjid after the partition

Maulana Azad's efforts in shaping the Education policy in Independent India: Maulana Azad was a great educationist too. His standing as an outstanding scholar of Oriental learning was demonstrated in moulding the educational system of the country in the immediate post...Click for Full

Maulana Azad as distinguished writer: Azad started writing poems and literary and political articles for Urdu Newspapers and journals at a very early age. He launched his Urdu weekly Al-Hilal on June, 1912 when he was only 24....Click for Full

Maulana Azad as Freedom Fighter: It is significant that all these moves and various political activities of Azad were initiated before the emergence of Gandhiji on the political horizon. Advent of Gandhiji into the National Movement and Azad's meeting with him had crucial bearing on the future course of the...Click for Full

MAULANA ABUL KALAM AZAD was born on November 11 in 1888 at Makkah. He was named as Firoz Bakht at birth but was known in his youth as Muhiyuddin Ahmad. He later adopted the pseudonym of ‘Abul Kalam Azad’. He was descended from a family which came from Herat to India in Babar’s time. They first settled in Agra and later moved to Delhi. It was a scholarly family and Maulana Munawaruddin, his father’s maternal grandfather, was one of the last Rukn-ul Mudarassin of the Mughul period. Since his grandfather died when his father, Maulana Khairuddin  was still very young, he was brought up by Maulana Munawaruddin. Maulana Azad's father had migrated to Makkah with Maulana Munawaruddin and settled there. He built a house for himself and married Sheikh Mohammad Zaher Watri’s daughter. Sheikh was a great scholar of Madinah whose fame had traveled outside Arabia also.


Two years after Maulana Azad's birth his father came to Calcutta with the whole family. He had intended to stay only for a short time but his disciples and admirers did not let him go.


Since Maulana Azad’s father had no faith in western education, he was educated at home by his father and by private tutors. Students who followed the traditional system of education normally finished their course at the age between twenty and twenty-five, but Azad managed to complete the course by the time he was just sixteen, and his father got together some fifteen students to whom he taught higher philosophy, mathematics and logic. Inspired by the writings of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, he decided to learn English.


It was a period of mental crisis for him as he himself described:

“This was a period of great mental crisis for me. I was born into a family which was deeply imbued with religious traditions. All the conventions of traditional life were accepted without question and the family did not like the least deviation from orthodox ways. I could not reconcile myself with the prevailing customs and beliefs and my heart was full of a new sense of revolt. The idea I ha acquired from my family and early training could no longer satisfy me. I felt I must find the truth for myself. Almost instinctively I began to move out of my family orbit and seek my own path.”

(India Wins Freedom; page 3)


His political awakening was stimulated by the partition (later annulled) of Bengal in 1905. He met the great revolutionary, Shri Arabindo Ghosh with Shyam Sunder Chaktaverty. The result was that he was attracted to revolutionary politics and joined one of the groups. After joining the revolutionaries, he found that their activities were confined to Bengal and Bihar. He pointed this to his fellow revolutionaries and within two years of the time that he joined, secret societies were established in several of the important towns of Northern India and Bombay. During this period, he had an occasion to travel to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and  France and had planned to visit London but his father’s illness obliged him to return home in 1908.


His devotion to Indian National Movements was the result of the new religious awakening. It was out of his deep understanding of the fundamentals of Islamic thought that he was able to question Pakistan's religious basis itself. Azad wrote in India Wins Freedom, “It is one of the greatest frauds on the people to suggest that religious affinity can unite areas which are geographically, economically, linguistically and culturally different.” The birth of Bangladesh in 1971 perhaps confirmed Azads' reasoning.


The Maulana started the Urdu weekly Al-Hilal at Calcutta in July 1912. He opposed the Aligarh line of remaining aloof from freedom movement. With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, the journal was banned under the press act. He then started another Urdu weekly Al Balagh, also from Calcutta, in November 1915, and this continued to be Published, until March 1916 when Azad  was externed under the Defense of India Regulations. The governments of Bombay, Punjab, Delhi and the United Provinces banned his entry, and he went to Bihar. He was interned in Ranchi until June 1920.

Discussing the unity of religions and oneness of God, he said, “The tragedy is that the world worships words and not meanings and even though all are seeking and worshipping but they quarrel with one another and differ on mere names. Once the veil of names is lifted and the real meaning being the same is brought out all quarrels would cease."


After his release Azad was elected as President of the All India Khilafat Committee ( at the Calcutta session, 1920), and of the Unity Conference at Delhi in 1924. He presided over the Nationalist Muslims Conference in 1928. He was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress in 1923, and again in 1940, and continued to hold this office until 1946.


He led the negotiations on behalf of the Congress Party  with the British cabinet Mission in 1946. He was opposed to the partition of the country on the basis of the religion and believed the partition would create more problems than solving them. Later he joined free India’s first government as Minister for Education, a post he held until his death on 22 February 1958. As Education Minister, Maulana Azad extensively worked for shaping Free India's Education policy and paved the way for the educational revolution of the country.


Along with his political career where he always led from the front, he left remarkable impact on Urdu Literature. Among his other published works are Al-Bayan (1915) and Tarjuman-ul– Qur’aan (1933-1936) which are commentaries, Tazkirah (1916) an autobiographical work and Ghubar-e-Khatir (1943), a collection of letters, all in Urdu.




With Inputs from India Wins Freedom

and Subhash Kashyab's artcile on Maulan Azad






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