Mohammed Najeeb Shahzore
December 30 marked the 93rd death anniversary of Hakim Ajmal Khan, a Unani physician known popularly as “Masih-ul-Mulk” or Healer of the Nation for his expertise in the field of Unani Tibb, or Greek Medicine.
Born in 1868 as Mohammed Ajmal Khan, he was the founder of the famous Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, and his eponymous Tibbiya or Medical College.
Ajmal Khan was the scion of a family of physicians who served the Mughal royalty. Like his father, he was an influential figure in Delhi, respected for his various public services and miraculous cures for difficult ailment. Due to his practice and belief in the healing quality of Unani Tibb, Ajmal Khan’s most original contribution was in this system of medicine and for its promotion he set up the Hakim Ajmal Khan Tibbiya College at Karol Bagh, Delhi.
Ajmal Khan was also active in the politics of the undivided Indian subcontinent, holding at various times the presidencies of the Indian National Congress, Muslim League and the Khilafat Committee. He was a member of the Khilafath Movement that was instrumental in convincing the Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan to set up the alliance between Prince Azam Jah & the Ottoman Princess Durrushehvar, the daughter of Turkey’s last Caliph, Sultan Abdul Mejid II. The marriage was solemnized by the Caliph himself in France in 1932. Later Ajmal Khan’s Tibbiya College Hospital in Aligarh was inaugurated in 1939 by the Princess Durrushehvar of Hyderabad & Turkey.
Although his achievements in education and politics are legendary, very few know that an anti-arrhythmic drug called Ajmaline, is named after him. This drug improves abnormal rhythms in the heart and is therefore used in the treatment of atrial fibrillation in patients with the Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome which is a type of arrhythmia. It is also used as a drug to challenge the conduction system of the heart in cases of syncope and to diagnose the potentially lethal Brugada Syndrome. The drug was discovered and named by his protégé, Dr Saleem-uz-zaman Siddiqi.
Hakim Ajmal Khan died of cardiac complications in 1927, but his vision and his life’s work live on through the institutions he established and the various students that continue to benefit from these institutions.
Dr Mohammed Najeeb Shahzore is a specialist physician based in Kuwait with an interest in Hyderabad history.