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Taking Stock
Mission lost in wilderness - V
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahWhile we have accepted and adopted a political system devised and developed in the West, while we are emphasizing the importance of English and insist on its teaching in our Madrasas which was an anathema for ulama in the last century and in earlier decades, why should we hesitate to suggest that let ulama take care of matters related to the religion and moral ethics and let the political activities take care of mundane affairs? This will release the energies of both which are wasted in mutual conflicts and conflagrations. Examples abound in India and in several Muslim countries where ulama and political authorities have had confrontations and consequently some of them were banished , assassinated or otherwise killed or eliminated. The world today is running much faster pace and the matters that call for quick decision can not brook delays.

I have already mentioned three factors that go into the formulation and implementation of a policy- thinkers propose formulations, press promotes and publicizes and writers take it to the blood streams of the people through their writings. We had thinkers of superior intellect, writers par excellence but we lacked wide covering forceful press. I am repeating this point for it deserves to be repeated lest the significance of the proposition is lost.

Although Sir Syed wavered on several issues but Muslim education was central to his thought and action for which he worked tirelessly, wrote articles, published journals, made speeches, wrote letters, issued appeals, organized societies and finally established the college at Aligarh. While doing all this he skirted and disengaged his mind from the past history. As he was unmistakably impressed by the English rulers and their culture it is difficult to say with any amount of certainty that his ideology had resulted from a defeatist psychology after the rebellion or it was a firm strategy to march forward and cover the lost ground to come at par with other communities. But this much is certain that the college established by him inherited his ideology in word and deed and pulled Muslim intellectuals away from the Congress. Thus Sir Syed institutionalized his ideology without running a newspaper

Shibli Nomani, one of his close friends and an associate, went a long way on the course charted by him but he was not happy with the pursuit of English ways. The advent of twentieth century saw him deviating from that course which was leading towards the emergence of Muslim League and the following events. However, in Sir Syed’s thought and action there is not the slightest hint for carving a separate homeland for Indian Muslims for which the Aligarian intellectuals are squarely blamed. The partition of the country was a devastating cyclone which could never had been thought of by those who were extremely sincere and well wishers of Indian Muslims. That idea must have been planned and planted at some invisible point and a whirlwind of circumstances was roused which pulled Muslims from their roots and blew them away like chaff.

Maulana Azad comes close on the heels of Sir Syed and in spite of being educated according to the traditions of his family his ideas are lit up with the light kindled by Sir Syed. He says: "I first came across the writings of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. I was greatly impressed by his views on modern education. I realized that a man could not be truly educated in the modern world unless he studied modern science, philosophy and literature. I decided that I must learn English." ( India Wins Freedom P.3)

Then he mentions his voyage of discovery which took him to Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and France. He says that he came across revolutionaries in those Muslim countries. Revolutionaries against whom? Obviously, against European imperialists, mainly Britain. Again, in India he comes into contact with revolutionaries, finds ideological approximation with them and develops close relations. Now, there is an interesting observation. Maulana Azad develops a revolutionary attitude against the British and at the same time prefers teaching of English language for the development of his people, and at the same time holds fast to one European idea: Establishing the press. Al Hilal was a step in that direction following his earlier scholarly writings and publications. Azad wanted to institutionalize the press. But the British rulers, in spite of their connection and commitment for a free press, were so much scared of it that they made it almost impossible for Azad to march forward with his mission and he could not gather a following like that of Sir Syed. Thus his deviation and diversion was obvious.

It was the time of his disillusionment when Azad was virtually eloped by the Congress. Thus Muslims as a people were deprived of the blessings which would have accrued through that genius in case he would have adopted the course chosen by Shibli who had created the peaceful solitude of Darul Mussannifeen at Azamgarh and got indulged in his scholarly avocations there. The revolutionary spark inherent in his being would have perhaps burned a secluded solitude. Maulana Azad does not seem to be much concerned about the decline of caliphate in Turkey. But Maulana Mohammad Ali and his camp followers fell a victim to the fallout of imperialist designs in the Muslim world. And just as a sinking ship sucks boats around only to go down along with it Indian Muslims were dragged into it and lost the anchor. Looking back we find that Maulana Azad failed on several counts. He could not follow Sir Syed’s line, he could not push forward his own plan to establish a strong press, he could not go along with Indian revolutionaries, he was forsaken by those who had been lured by the Muslim League and thus tired and frustrated limped on to the Congress band-wagon . However, he put his seal one principle: The land with its culture, and not the religion, constitutes a people, called a nation.

Two more contemporaries of Azad dominate the political scene-Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Dr. Mohammad Iqbal. The former was a step ahead of Azad in his revolutionary zeal and straightforward in his approach and the latter happened to be an idealist building castles in the air. He says: Een Jahaan cheest? Sanamkhaana-i-afkar-i-manast. ‘What is this world? An array of my idolized thoughts. Where is the prescription for a solid state nation?’
(to be concluded)

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