For quite some time Syed Ubaidur Rahman is banging his head against the wall of ignorance raised by gods of falsehood. He is trying to make the non-believers believe that there was an era of India’s history, not a plethora of myths, spanning over a millennium.
His book Muslim Freedom Fighters: Contribution of Indian Muslims in the Independence Movement made waves. It is a compilation of short biographical description of40 Muslim leaders but for whose sacrifices the dream of freedom from British Raj would not have materialized. It is not a complete list of Muslim freedom fighters. It is just a sample from many thousands who sacrificed everything, including their lives, but unfortunately, have remained in oblivion.
Now Rahman has come up with another book, Ulema’s Role in India’s Freedom Movements. In some ways these two books are complementary to each other. While the first book highlights the role of individuals in the decades long freedom struggle, the second one emphasizes the role of Ulama (Islamic religious scholars) in that struggle. It is in fact a vivid description of various movements launched by Ulama such as Reshmi Rumal Tahreek and Faraizi Tehreek.
The Reshmi Rumal Tahreek launched and run by Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan and his closest followers has been described in greater detail. The details of that movement, covering Indian subcontinent and several Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as narrated by Syed Ubaidur Rahman leaves one spell bound. The reader would feel as if he is reading a detective story, a story of adventures and of suspense.
The narration is such that once you start reading you are absorbed and go on up to the last page which unfortunately ends in a tragedy.
Shaikhul Hind and his disciples were arrested and deported to Malta as prisoners. They returned to India after about three years but the fire lit by Shaikhul Hind continued to burn and later consumed innumerable lives.
Rahman has narrated the Faraizi Movement of Bengal in a gripping manner. The details give an insight into the movement.
It lucidly speaks about how a movement meant for eradicating certain un-Islamic practices among the Muslims of Bengal spread and covered all people of all faiths. Its effects reached the the poorest peasants suffering hardships at the hands of landlords. A movement intended for religious and social reforms of the Muslim community in Bengal transformed into a great agrarian reform. Bengalis in general became devotees of their benefactors. Undivided Bengal was a big province covering present day West Bengal and Bangladesh and had influence over Assam, then a Muslim majority province. Bengal province was under the Muslim League rule.
Land reforms were brought about during the chief minister-ship of Moulvi Fazlul Haq. According to those reforms the tiller was made the owner of the land. Thus the landless labour that formed a majority in the province was immensely benefited.
The people of Bengal were greatly obliged and grateful for that act of benefaction. It is apparent from the fact that when Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, Chief Minister of Bengal at the time of partition, came to Calcutta to see Gandhiji, who was on his way to Noakhali in East Pakistan. A blood thirsty crowd of Bengalis had gathered there. Gandhiji wanted to go out to pacify the crowd which looked difficult in the prevailing communal tension. In that scenario Mr. Suharawardy went out and declared: “I am Suhrawardy, I am here.” The crowed melted away within no time.
Another instance: Long after that in 1956 when Moulvi Fazlul Haq visited Calcutta, Bengalis swarmed to see him in spite of the partition of the country.
Rahman provides a brief and yet a comprehensive description of the decline of the Mughal Empire and the rise of the British Raj. These contexts provide the reader opportunity to observe the period of about two centuries at a glance and see the contribution of Ulama to the freedom struggle during that period. Thus the book becomes more interesting and absorbing.
Though there are many books in various languages on these subjects, the author has referred to about four scores of books, about a score of them in Urdu and the rest in English. This reference itself is very helpful for those undertaking research on the related subjects.
The book reminds the important, rather leading role of Ulama-i-Deoband throughout the nationalist movement which was not limited to the struggle for freedom alone. From the day one to this day they never budged from their nationalist stand. They passed through several trying times, especially when there was a movement for the partition of the country. Ulama-i-Deoband were firmly against it. They suffered and faced all sorts of humiliations from their own coreligionists. They were one with the Indian National Congress on that issue. They did not accept it even after the Congress had surrendered. Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani and Maulana Azad and their colleagues were extremely unhappy. It should also be noted that the whole approach of those Ulama was peaceful and free from communal bias.
A good example of this fact is the establishment of the Indian government in exile in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1915. When Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan established that government in exile Raja Mahindra Pratap Singh was made the president of that government and Maulana Barkatullah Bhopali, the Prime Minister.
What a great act of inclusive nationalism!
While Rahman has done a good job of bringing out the little known facts about India’s national movement and the participation of Muslims in there, there is need to write more on the subject from different dimensions. The new writers should make use of emerging forms of media to take the message to the masses.
Rizwanullah is a former editor of Span magazine.
Ulema’s Role in India’s Freedom Movement: With Focus on the Silk Letter Movement (Reshmi Rumal Tehrik)
Syed Ubaidur Rahman
Global Media Publications
D-204, 4th Floor, Abul Fazl Enclave, Jamia Nagar, Okhla, New Delhi-110025
Price: Rs 595