Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin (November 11th 1888, Mecca- February 22 1958), better known as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a renowned scholar, poet, freedom fighter and leader of the Indian National Congress in India’s struggle for Independence. He was well versed in many languages viz. Arabic, English, Hindi, Persian and Urdu, and a prolific debater – as depicted by his name, Abul Kalãm, which literally means father or lord of dialogue.
He was independent India’s first Education Minister. The title Maulana is of a highly-qualified Islamic scholar and religious cleric. Azad was not a practicing cleric, however. He was posthumously awarded India’s highest civilian honor, Bharat Ratna, in 1992.
Azad was born on 11 November 1888 in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He mastered in several languages including Arabic, English, Urdu, Hindi, Persian and Bengali. When he was merely fifteen, he brought out a magazine and he was publishing a poetical journal (Nairang-e-Aalam) and was already an editor of a weekly (Al-Misbah), in 1900, at the age of twelve and, in 1903, brought out a monthly journal, Lissan-us-Sidq, which soon gained popularity.
Journalism and Khilafat
Azad was introduced to the freedom struggle by revolutionary Shri Shyam Sunder Chakravarthy. Most revolutionaries in Bengal were Hindus. Azad greatly surprised his fellow Bengali (Hindu) revolutionaries with his willingness to join the freedom struggle. At first his peers were skeptical of his intentions. Azad found the revolutionary activities restricted to Bengal and Bihar. Within two years, Azad helped setup secret revolutionary centers all over north India and in Bombay.
In 1912, he started a patriotic weekly in Urdu, Al-Hilal a patriotic weekly. The paper was amazingly forceful, which antagonized the British rulers. Azad proclaimed his political credo in Al-Hilal; the magazine was also a unique monument of Urdu language and literature. It was endowed with a rare combination of rhetoric and eloquence, of wit and poetry, of sarcasm and idealism. All these moved the intelligentsia, but what captured the imagination was the formulation of a new faith. From it’s very first issue, Al-Hilal became the focus for the resurgent spirit of India.
‘It is due to the indolence of individuals that the souls of Nations sleep’ – this sentence epitomises the tempo set by his journal.
The British Government used the Press Act and then the Defense of India Regulations Act in 1916 to shut the journal down. Azad started a new journal, Al-Balgh, and, before 1919, roused the Muslim community through the Khilafat Movement. The aim of the movement was to re-instate the Caliph of the Ottoman Dinasty as the head of British-conquered Turkey. Azad was one of its youngest leaders, along with Maulana Mohammad Ali, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari.
Partition of India
Maulana Azad was the staunchest high-profile Muslim opponent of Partition of India into India and Pakistan. He supported a confederation of autonomous provinces with their own constitutions, but with a common defense and economy – an arrangement suggested in the British Cabinet Mission Plan of May 1946. According to Azad, partition was against the grain of the Indian culture which did not believe in divorce before marriage.
Maulana Azad was a strong supporter of Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he felt could best communicate to young Muslims and develop a secular system of government. Azad also supported Nehru’s introduction of Socialist principles in India’s economic policy, as well as the advancement of education as a way to combat poverty, social evils, and spread opportunity. He served as the Minister of Education in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet from 1947 to 1958.
As a scholar, Maulana Azad produced monumental literary works. Azad penned the book India Wins Freedom in 1957. He had also authored the Ghubar-i-Khatir, written in jail between 1942-1945, and with the Tadhkirah, a masterpiece of the Urdu language.
His commentary on the Quran is unique in the realm of Muslim liberation.
Whatever role he was called upon to play whether in the field of literature or politics, he lent to it a dignity and poise which was entirely his own. He is also remembered as a poet and writer of great skill.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and a close friend of Azad, paying a tribute in the Indian Parliament on February 24 1958 said:
So we mourn today the passing of a great man, a man of luminous intelligence and a mighty intellect with an amazing capacity to pierce through a problem to it score.
Azad is featured on an Indian postage stamp; there are many schools, colleges, roads and hospitals all over India named after him, the most famous of which is the Maulana Azad Medical College (situated in Old Delhi, on the site of an erstwhile British jail, and flanked by the Khooni Darwaza, a commerative arch of the last of the Mughal heirs – murdered by a British officer in 1857). It is consistently rated among the top ten medical colleges in India.
Source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maulana_Abul_Kalam_Azad)