Ziya Us Salam
Ulema-i-Hind, in its centenary year, reiterates its demand for a pluralistic
India and composite nationalism and the determination to carry on the struggle
to stand for what is right.
Ulema-i-Hind, the largest and oldest Muslim organisation in the country, which
played an important role in India’s freedom struggle, is celebrating its
centenary this year. The pluralistic ethos it stood for at the time of its
formation in 1919 has not been diluted over the years. In fact, its leaders
have reiterated time and again that the organisation will fight divisive forces
the same way it fought Muslim communalism in the past and opposed the Muslim
League’s demand for Pakistan during the freedom struggle.
principle is well expounded in the words of the Jamiat president Maulana Arshad
Madani: “The idea of India is in danger. Fears are being expressed about the Constitution.
Innocent men are being lynched. The situation is worse than at the time of
Partition. But there is no alternative to love, to social harmony, to peaceful
resistance. Our community should step forward to build bonds with other
communities. There is a great strength in this. Let’s not underestimate the
power of people-to-people dialogue. We do not want Muslims to come out on the
streets to protest lynching of innocent Muslims because if we come out on the
streets, it will become a Hindu-Muslim issue. We have no fight with those who
lynch. Our fight is with this government. Nobody can dare to take the life of
another human being without political support. We believe in taking legal
measures in our fight. If we step out on the road to protest, the planning of
the Hindutva forces to make this a Hindu-Muslim issue will be successful. As
long as we fight through the courts, and we will always fight through the
courts, we will be successful in negating Hindutva forces. That is our goal.”
has always stood for a pluralist India, as opposed to the Muslim League’s view
of a separate state for Muslims or M.S. Golwalkar’s idea of a Hindu Rashtra
where Muslims and Christians can live only at the will of the majority
principle of taking everybody along, cutting across religious barriers, has
extracted a heavy price. At various times, Jamiat leaders have been either
accused of “leaning towards the Congress” or arrested during the freedom
struggle. One of the early leaders of the Jamiat, Maulana Syed Hussain Ahmad
Madani, advocated the idea of composite nationalism and a joint struggle
against the British. He justified his views on the basis of the Quran and the
Hadith. In the face of a religion-based nation theory, he advocated “the theory
of territorial nationhood”, arguing that is “not necessary that a nation to be
a nation should share the same religion and culture. Nowadays, nations are made
by homelands”. He said that in the context of a separate homeland for Muslims.
He could as well have said it for the rising din around the idea of a Hindu
played an important role in India’s freedom struggle. Its contribution has been
marginalised gradually in history textbooks. It is as if the Jamiat’s contribution
for 30 years towards the struggle for independence, coinciding with the rise of
Hindutva forces whose principal enemy were not the British but Muslims, took
place in a time vacuum.
Niaz Ahmed Farooqui, secretary, Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, said: “It is not only the
role of the Jamiat which has been ignored in textbooks, but also the role of
Muslims as a community, Dalits and the poor. Our history books are often
lopsided. The role of Muslims in the freedom struggle has been undermined. The
community is being discriminated against. That reality is reflected in every
walk of life. The books are not in our control. But this marginalisation of
Muslims or underplaying their role in the freedom struggle did not start in
2014. It started soon after Independence. We cannot be held responsible for
that. What we can do is to educate our children. It is a fact that the Muslim
community is among the most backward. Education will take care of any wrong
depiction. We are working for awareness of the community.”
In 1924, a
year before the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh was founded, the Jamiat’s
well-respected leader, Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, gave a call for
Independence. This call for complete independence was a culmination of the
first conference of the Jamiat held in Amritsar on December 28, 1919. The
conference was called to protest against the continued incarceration of Maulana
Abul Kalam Azad and Mahmood Hasan, one of the founding figures of Darul Uloom,
the Islamic seminary in Deoband. The conference’s demand was heard. Mahmood
Hasan was released and on July 19, 1920, he issued a fatwa in favour of the
Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. His decision was affirmed
by some 500 ulama. Through this fatwa, the leaders and workers of the Khilafat Committee
entered into a prolonged struggle against the British.
Simon Commission visited India in 1927, the Jamiat was the first body to
announce its boycott. Freedom fighters came up with the slogan, “Simon go
back”. For the Jamiat, there was no going back on its well-entrenched belief in
India and its pluralist tradition. Some four years after the Simon Commission,
the Jamiat leaders were arrested for participation in the Civil Disobedience
Movement. Yet, the biggest role of the Jamiat was neither in the boycott of the
Simon Commission nor in its whole-hearted participation in the Civil
its formation in 1919, the Jamiat demanded the restoration of the Caliphate
after the Ottoman empire’s defeat in the First World War. The British had got
rid of the Caliphate in Turkey, greatly angering Muslims across the world who
believed in the Caliph as the leader of the entire community, cutting across
Mahatma Gandhi sensing in the Khilafat Movement an opportunity to bring more
Muslims into the national mainstream for the freedom struggle, Jamiat
luminaries such as Mahmood Hasan and Maulana Kifayatullah led the way.
participation of the Jamiat in the Non-Cooperation Movement marked the
culmination of a long journey for its leaders, many of whom had taken part in
an armed struggle against the British in the 19th century.
1919, Maulana Mahmood Hasan, on the occasion of the Khilafat conference held in
Delhi, resolved to constitute a new organisation for carrying on the
non-violent freedom struggle in cooperation with fellow countrymen. The
organisation was designated as the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind. Maulana Kifayatullah
was elected its first president. The establishment of the organisation was a turning
point in their movement. They gave up armed struggle and chose non-violent
struggle and adopted non-cooperation, a strategy that eventually helped India
win independence from British rule.
1808 and 1915, many Islamic scholars had fought organised battles against the
British. The edict issued by Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi—“Our country has been
enslaved. To struggle for independence and to put an end to slavery is our
duty”—provided the impetus for an armed struggle against the imperialist forces.
Leaders such as Haji Imdadullah, Qasim Nanotavi, Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Zamin
Shaheed did not shy away from battling the British with arms.
famous battle of Thana Bhawan in Uttar Pradesh, many of the luminaries, who
later set up Dar-ul Uloom (from which the Jamiat emerged), took part.
Incidentally, after the War of Independence in 1857, the Ulema were the prime
target of the British. Of the 200,000 people martyred during the revolt, 51,200
were Ulema. In Delhi alone 500 Ulema were hanged. Between 1864 and 1871, there
were five major sedition cases against the Ulema. In all these cases, the
accused were either sentenced to death or to life. The ulama started their
struggle with armed resistance, but repeated failure in such attempts motivated
them to revise their approach and adopt a new strategy.
the failure of the Silk Letters conspiracy (a movement organised by Deobandi
leaders aimed at freeing India from British rule) in 1916 and the arrest of 222
ulama, among them Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hassan and his disciple Maulana
Hussain Ahmad Madani, along with Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, Maulana Abul Kalam
Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, forced them to restructure their strategy for
resistance and opt for non-violent struggle with the support and cooperation of
their fellow countrymen.
the 1919-20 period was only a landmark, not the benchmark, with which to judge
the Jamiat. That came some 20 years later when the Jamiat stood up against the
divisive politics of the Muslim League and gave a cry for a united India for
all Indians. At a time when Muhammad Ali Jinnah was gaining ground with his
fight for a separate state of Pakistan, the Jamiat stood for a united India,
consistently exposing the duplicity of the political leaders who used religion
to fuel their ambition.
leaders believed that Islam preached love for the motherland and that it was
the duty of every believer to love and respect his motherland. It was in stark
contrast to the views of those working for the creation of Pakistan. As far as
the Jamiat was concerned, Muslims were equal partners in nation building.
Jamiat Ulama Moradabad conference held at Bachhraon (April 23-25, 1940) in the
present-day Uttar Pradesh, Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani raised the question of
Indian independence. He was arrested and imprisoned in Naini Jail. On August 5,
1942, the Jamiat gave a call to the British to quit India. Thereafter, on
August 9 the Bombay session of Congress passed the famous Quit India
resolution, which led to the arrest and incarceration of Congress and Jamiat
the Jamiat opposed the idea of Pakistan, and its leaders, specially Maulana
Hussain Ahmad Madani, were victims of the Muslim League’s violence.
Union Ministers Giriraj Singh and P.C. Sarangi suggest that Muslims should go
to Pakistan if they cannot sing “Vande Mataram” or if they did not vote for
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jamiat leaders say that they are pained by such
calls. But the Jamiat is not ready to take recourse to sweeping
Niaz Ahmed Farooqui said: “If there is a group in the ruling dispensation that
does not have an official voice, we do not bother. Any group has such elements.
We present our viewpoint to the government. But on the basis of such loose
talk, we cannot allow anybody to spread fear within the community. To make the
community feel disheartened is wrong. We are living in a democratic society. We
have a role to play. Whatever the situation, we should not get disappointed or
harassed. Before 1947, when we were fighting for the freedom of the country,
these forces were there. Was the Hindu Mahasabha not there? Were there not
those people who assassinated the Mahatma? Was not the Muslim League there?
There were challenges then, there are challenges now. We would not say we are
not alarmed by these developments, or that we are ignorant of the goings-on. We
are very much concerned. But we are not ready to be defeated by the kind of
milieu sought to be created by vested interests for their own agenda. If we
react with violence we will only be helping them. Within the democratic
framework, we are working. We are demonstrating. We are approaching the courts.
We are approaching the media. The fight is not of the Muslim community, but the
said: “In 1940s, the Muslim League sold the dream of a Muslim, an Islamic
country to Muslims. Today, the BJP is selling exactly the same dream to Hindus.
There is no difference. But we fought the League then, we will fight the
Hindutva forces now. After all, India belongs to us all. We fought Muslim
communalism in the past, we will fight majoritarianism now.”
Madani, and indeed the Jamiat, remain steadfast about following the path of
social reform. After 1947, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad advised the organisation to
shun its political role. Since then the Jamiat has limited itself to social
reform and rehabilitation of the riot-affected. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha
election in April/May, Jamiat leaders called on Muslims, from the pulpit of the
mosque in its headquarters in Delhi, to vote despite the election dates
scheduled in the month of Ramzan. “It is our duty to choose the right
candidate,” said the imam.
struggle to stand by the right goes on. “We are not celebrating in the sense of
having achieved something. We are only trying to spread awareness among people
about our ideals and the work we have done. We are not jubilant about whatever
has happened in the last hundred years. It is time for stock-taking,” Farooqui
Headline: Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind: Building bonds
Source: The Frontline, The Hindu