Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Maulana Abul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed (11 November 1888 – 22 February 1958) was an Indian Muslim scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement. He was one of the most prominent Muslim leaders to support Hindu-Muslim unity, opposing the partition of India on communal lines. Following India’s independence, he became the first Minister of Education in the Indian government.
He is commonly remembered as Maulana Azad; he had adopted Azad (Free) as his pen name. His contribution to establishing the education foundation of India is recognized by celebrating his birthday as National Education Day across India. As a young man, Azad composed poetry in Urdu as well as treatises on religion and philosophy. He rose to prominence through his work as a journalist, publishing works critical of the British Raj and espousing the causes of Indian nationalism.
Azad became the leader of the Khilafat Movement during which he came into close contact with Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. Azad became an enthusiastic supporter of Gandhi’s ideas of non-violent civil disobedience, and worked actively to organize the Non-cooperation movement in protest of the 1919 Rowlatt Acts. Azad committed himself to Gandhi’s ideals, including promoting Swadeshi (Indigenous) products and the cause of Swaraj (Self-rule) for India.
He would become the youngest person to serve as the President of the Indian National Congress in 1923. Azad was one of the main organisers of the Dharasana Satyagraha in 1931, and emerged as one of the most important national leaders of the time, prominently leading the causes of Hindu-Muslim unity as well as espousing secularism and socialism. He served as Congress President from 1940 to 1945, during which the Quit India rebellion was launched and Azad was imprisoned with the entire Congress leadership for three years.
Azad became the most prominent Muslim opponent of the demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan and served in the interim national government. Amidst communal turmoil following the partition | | |Early life | |Azad’s family descended from a line of eminent Ulama or scholars of Islam, hailing from Herat (now in western Afghanistan) and had | |settled in India during the reign of the Mughal emperor Babur.
His mother was of Arab descent, the daughter of Shaikh Muhammad | |Zahir Watri, and his father, Maulana Khairuddin was, then living in Bengal, was from Herat. The family lived in the Bengal region | |until Maulana Khairuddin left India during the Indian rebellion of 1857 and settled in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, where he | |met his wife.  Azad mastered several languages, including Urdu, Arabic,Hindko, Persian, and Hindi.
An avid and determined | |student, the precocious Azad was running a library, a reading room, a debating society before he was twelve, wanted to write on the| |life of Ghazali at twelve, was contributing learned articles to Makhzan (the best known literary magazine of the day) at | |fourteen, was teaching a class of students, most of whom were twice his age, when he was merely fifteen and succeeded in | |completing the traditional course of study at the young age of sixteen, nine years ahead of his contemporaries, and brought out a | |magazine at the same age. 5] In fact, in the field of journalism, 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.  At the age of thirteen, he was married to a young Muslim girl, Zuleikha | |Begum.  Azad was, more closer, a follower of the Ahl-e-Hadith school and compiled many treatises reinterpreting the Qur’an, | |the Hadith, and the principles of Fiqh and Kalam | Revolutionary and journalist | | | |Azad developed political views considered radical for most Muslims of the time and became a full-fledged Indian nationalist.  He | |fiercely criticised the British for racial discrimination and ignoring the needs of common people across India. He also criticised Muslim | |politicians for focusing on communal issues before the national interest and rejected the All India Muslim League’s communal separatism. |Azad developed curiosity and interest in the pan-Islamic doctrines of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and | |visited Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. But his views changed considerably when he met revolutionary activists in Iraq and was| |influence by their fervent anti-imperialism and nationalism.  Against common Muslim opinion of the time, Azad opposed the partition of | |Bengal in 1905 and became increasingly active in revolutionary activities, to which he was introduced by the prominent Hindu | |revolutionaries Sri Aurobindo and Shyam Sundar Chakravarthy.
Azad initially evoked surprise from other revolutionaries, but Azad won their| |praise and confidence by working secretly to organise revolutionaries’ activities and meetings in Bengal, Bihar and Mumbai (then | |Bombay).  | | | | Non-cooperation | |Upon his release, Azad returned to a political atmosphere charged with sentiments of outrage and rebellion against British rule.
The| |Indian public had been angered by the passage of the Rowlatt Acts in 1919, which severely restricted civil liberties and individual | |rights. Consequently, thousands of political activists had been arrested and many publications banned. The killing of unarmed | |civilians at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on 13 April 1919 had provoked intense outrage all over India, alienating most Indians, | |including long-time British supporters from the authorities.
The Khilafat struggle had also peaked with the defeat of the Ottoman | |Empire in World War I and the raging Turkish War of Independence, which had made the caliphate’s position precarious. India’s main | |political party, the Indian National Congress came under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, who had aroused excitement all over India| |when he led the farmers of Champaran and Kheda in a successful revolt against British authorities in 1918. Gandhi organised the | |people of the region and pioneered the art of Satyagraha — combining mass civil disobedience with complete non-violence and | |self-reliance. | | |Quit India | |In 1938, Azad served as an intermediary between the supporters of Gandhi and the Congress faction led by Congress President Subhash | |Bose, who criticised Gandhi for not launching another rebellion against the British and sought to move the Congress away from | |Gandhi’s leadership. Azad stood by Gandhi with most other Congress leaders, but reluctantly endorsed the Congress’s exit from the | |assemblies in 1939 following the inclusion of India in World War II.
Nationalists were infuriated that the viceroy had entered India | |into the war without consulting national leaders. Although willing to support the British effort in return for independence, Azad | |sided with Gandhi when the British ignored the Congress overtures. Azad’s criticism of Jinnah and the League intensified as Jinnah | |called Congress rule in the provinces as “Hindu Raj,” calling the resignation of the Congress ministries as a “Day of Deliverance” | |for Muslims. Jinnah and the League’s separatist agenda was gaining popular support amongst Muslims.
Muslim religious and conservative| |leaders criticised Azad as being too close to the Congress and placing politics before faith.  As the Muslim League adopted a | |resolution calling for a separate Muslim state in its session in Lahore in 1940, Azad was elected Congress President in its session | |in Ramgarh. Speaking vehemently against Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory — the notion that Hindus and Muslims were distinct nations — Azad | |lambasted religious separatism and exhorted all Muslims to preserve a united India, as all Hindus and Muslims were Indians who shared| |deep bonds of brotherhood and nationhood. | | | | | | | | | | Post-Independence | |India’s partition and independence on 15 August 1947 brought with it a scourge of violence that swept the Punjab, Bengal, Bihar, Delhi | |and many other parts of India. Millions of Hindus and Sikhs fled the newly created Pakistan for India, and millions of Muslims fled | |for West Pakistan and East Pakistan, created out of East Bengal. Violence claimed the lives of an estimated one million people.
Azad | |took up responsibility for the safety of Muslims in India, touring affected areas in Bengal, Bihar, Assam and the Punjab, guiding the | |organization of refugee camps, supplies and security. | | | | | | | Legacy and Influence | |Azad is remembered as amongst the leading Indian nationalists of his time. His firm belief in Hindu-Muslim unity earned him the | |respect of the Hindu community and he still remains one of the most important symbols of communal harmony in modern India. His work| |for education and social upliftment in India made him an important influence in guiding India’s economic and social development. |The Ministry of Minority Affairs of the central Government of India setup the Maulana Azad Education Foundation in 1989 on the | |occasion of his birth centenary to promote education amongst educationally backward sections of the Society. ] The Ministry also | |provides the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad National Fellowship, an integrated five year fellowship in the form of financial assistance to| |students from minority communities to pursue higher studies such as M. Phil and Ph. D. |