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Default Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar



In the brilliant galaxy of men and women whom India has produced, few can compare with Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, who fought the greatest British colonial power then in the first half of the twentieth century so that India may gain its freedom Maulana Muhammad Ali was born in Rampur state in 1878, in a wealthy and enlightened family of Pathans. His father died when he was two years old. He and his family suffered financial problems after the death of his father. Due to the efforts, determination and sacrifice by his mother, he and his brothers were able to get good education. Shaukat Ali, the elder brother, and Muhammad Ali, the younger, were given English education by their farsighted mother, Abadi Bano Begum, who had foreseen the likely impact of western education on the development of a liberal outlook in India. Though their uncle had refused to give them any money for English education, their mother mortgaged almost all her landed property and sent them to the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, founded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in the second half of the Nineteenth Century with a view to impart English education to Muslims who were educationally backward. Both of them graduated from this College. Muhammad Ali showed exceptional brilliance throughout his College career and stood first in the B.A. examination of the Allahabad University.

Muhammad Ali later proceeded to Lincoln College, Oxford, for further studies where he got honors degree in Modern History and devoted himself more to the study of history of Islam. On his return he was appointed Director of Education in Rampur State, and later joined the Baroda Civil Service and served there for seven years. He was man of a versatile genius and played a great part in the Indian attempt to throw off the foreign yoke. He was a great orator and still greater Journalist. His disregard of world comfort, his sacrifices in the cause of India’s freedom, and his persistence in pursuing the goal most dear to him won him the tribute and affection of his countless countrymen.

He became firm opponents of British rule under the combined shock of the Balkan wars and Kanpur Mosque incident in 1913. Muhammad Ali started his famous weekly called, Comrade and a year later, an Urdu journal namely Hamdard. Muhammad Ali served as President of the Indian National Congress in 1923. Mohammad Ali worked hard to expand the AMU, then known as the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, and was one of the co-founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920, which was later moved to Delhi. Maulana Muhammad Ali was a brilliant and impressive writer, an orator of the first magnitude and a farsighted political leader. He wrote articles in various newspapers like "The Times", "The Observer" and "The Manchester Guardian"

He died in London during the first Round Table Conference and as he wished not to return to an India that was unfree, he was buried in Jerusalem.


A career in journalism was the only option, the only avenue through which Mohamed Ali could prove to be of any appreciable use to it (Muslim community), while still earning a livelihood. His journalistic ventures, beginning with the Comrade on 14 January 1911, were successful “the frank recognition of yawning differences that divide” Hindus and Muslims. Written and edited by one man and produced on expensive paper, The Comrade quickly gained circulation and influence. After twenty months the paper moved to Delhi, the Raj’s new capital. His own articles, laced with long and tedious quotations, tended to be verbose and repetitive. Yet he created for himself a broad-based readership because he wrote, just as he spoke, with passion and fervour. 'No paper has so much influence with the students as the Comrade, and no individual has the authority over them which is exercised by Mohamed Ali,' reported the UP government in 1914. When he wanted to stop publishing the Hamdard at the beginning of his internment, Wilayat Ali, the well-known columnist, begged him not to do so: 'I do not approve of your decision and I do not think many will.... You cannot imagine what the loss of Hamdard will mean to us--the Musalmans.' Wilayat Ali recognised, as did others, that the Comrade and Hamdard contributed to a general awakening of educated Muslims who read and financially supported these newspapers.
The Comrade, more than the Hamdard, served to voice some of Mohamed Ali's main concerns; for example, the promotion of the Aligarh College, his Alma Mater. He wanted the college to serve as a common centre where Muslims from all over the world would congregate and energise a common Islamic consciousness to uphold Muslim interests in India and overseas. Mohamed Ali supported-some said fomented-a students' strike in 1907. His involvement in college affairs, a story detailed by David Lelyveld, Gail Minault and Francis Robinson, made him the bete noire of the board of trustees. The college was transformed into a hot-bed of 'sedition'; officials wondered if anything could be done to prevent its students from 'being tampered with by Mohamed Ali who, for all his professions of loyalty, was 'a dangerous malcontent', 'an element of strife’.


Mohamed Ali's emotional disposition in religious matters had much to do with the nature and with the promptness of his response to events in Turkey. In this context his concerns cannot be doubted: the opinion that it was all feigned or that he was simply playing the pan-Islamic role cannot be defended. He passionately believed that the basis of Islamic sympathy was not a common domicile or common parentage but a shared outlook on life and culture, and that the Khilafat stood as 'the embodiment of that culture'. He endorsed Azad's description of a 'political centre' (siyasi markaz), and designated the Khalifa as the 'personal centre' of Islam and the Jazirat al-Arab as its 'local centre'. For these reasons Mohamed Ali warned the government that, there should be no attempt to remove, whether directly or indirectly, from the independent, indivisible and inalienable sovereignty of the Khalifa, who is the recognised servant of the Holy Places and warden of the Holy Shrines, any portion of the territories in which such Holy Places and shrines are situated. . . . Nor should there be any such attempt to dismember and parcel out even among Muslim Governments, or in any other manner weaken the Khalifa's Empire with the object of weakening the temporal power of Islam, and thereby make it liable to suffer, without adequate power to prevent, the curtailment of its spiritual influence through the temporal power of other creeds.

Mohamed Ali infused vigour into the Central Khilafat Committee and its provincial and local units to realize the ideal of a renascent Islam. The Ali brothers travelled widely, delivered lectures, organised mass meetings and galvanised the ulama at the Dar al-ulum, in Deoband, the Firangi Mahal and the Nadwat al-ulama in Lucknow. The orthodox and the anglicised 'were drawn together and as in a flash of lightning, saw that after all they were not so unlike each other as they had imagined'

The annulment of Bengal's partition, the Turko-Italian War, the Kanpur mosque affair and the rejection of the Muslim University scheme added thrust to the converging courses in politics of the modern and the traditionally-educated. Mohamed Ali played a pivotal role in strengthening these ties after his release on 28 December 1919. The Congress and the Muslim League held simultaneous meetings. He had been imprisoned, Mohamed Ali told the Congress, for denouncing the injustices perpetrated on India and on Islam by the British, and now he must denounce them still, even if it meant returning to prison. At the Muslim League meeting, he expressed his readiness to sacrifice everything he had, including his life, for the sake of Allah and Islam. He made clear that Muslims were subjects of Allah and not of Great Britain. He echoed similar views in London as a member of the Khilafat delegation.

The delegation, having arrived in England at the end of February 1920 for six months, maintained an exhausting pace, spurred on by Mohamed Ali. He was the debonair gentleman, perfectly dressed, dispensing political wisdom, epigrams, jokes and anecdotes to representative audiences, impressing everyone except the British newspapers and Lloyd George--the man who mattered. He set up meetings with British leaders, spoke at length to various bodies and organised the publication of the Moslem Outlook in England and the Echo de l'Islam in Paris. This delegation was a failure.

Mohamed Ali returned to Bombay on 4 October 1920, nearly a month after the Calcutta Congress adopted the non-cooperation resolution. His advice was that Muslims must plunge into the campaign with their non-Muslim brethren to achieve the Khilafat aims. Words were soon translated into deeds. He redoubled his efforts, along with Gandhi, Azad and Ansari, to induce the trustees of the Aligarh College to give up the government grant-in-aid. When the demand was rejected, quite a few students set up a break-away national university. This is how the Jamia Millia Islamia was founded.

To begin with, Mohamed Ali devoted some time to giving the Jamia a solid Islamic footing. He revived Shibli's discourses on the Quran and ensured that 'our day began with a full hour devoted to the rapid exegesis of the Quran'. But he was a man on the move and his project in life extended far beyond the confines of a campus. Jamia was too small and too quiet a place for someone accustomed to the humdrum of national politics and one who enjoyed being at the centre of every major event. Predictably enough, he abandoned an institution he had himself founded, and headed for Nagpur to address the Congress, Muslim League and the Khilafat meetings.

Mohamed Ali was among the busiest men in India, speaking before crowds and local committees and galvanising support for the non-cooperation programme. He travelled to eastern and western India from January to February 192 1. His presence at the Erode session of the Majlis- ul Ulama in March heightened the Khilafat euphoria, as did his presence in April at Madras where he attracted large crowds of Hindus and Muslims. His fiery speech at Erode nearly got him into trouble again; an apology and an assurance that violence in every form would be eschewed led the government to withdraw the prosecution. He was joined by his mother who threw off the veil, appeared before the public and began addressing vast audiences. Her journeys brought hundreds of thousands of rupees to the Khilafat fund. The whole of India was astir. A popular song of the era reflected the spirit: So spoke the mother of Mohamed Ali “Give your life, my son, for the Khilafat”

During this tumultuous period, Mohamed Ali's relationship with Gandhi, with whom he had so little in common, was ambivalent. He was undoubtedly moved by the Mahatma's interest in his release and the Khilafat cause, but he was uncomfortable with his world-view and could not grasp the significance of his political message. His own goals were limited to promoting pan-Islamism. As a result, it was not easy for him to make sense of the Mahatma's vision of a new social and moral order. Gandhi, however, hoped that 'on seeing the success of my experiment in non-violence, (they) will come to realize its excellence and beauty later on'. In May 1920, he referred to a distinct understanding with them that violence would not be allowed to go on side-by-side with non-violence. Mohamed Ali confirmed in December 1923 that he would not use force even if it was required for self-defense.

Mohamed Ali did not press his own viewpoint because he needed Gandhi's support. In fact, he and other Khilafat leaders chose the path of non-violent non-cooperation to 'secure the interests of their country and their faith'.

While Mohamed Ali was reaffirming his loyalty to Gandhi, the Khilafat Conference at Karachi declared that serving in the army or police was haram for the Muslims. The expected happened. Mohamed Ali, the Chairman, was arrested two months later. During his trial he made revolutionary speeches' The jury listened to his rousing speech, but was not impressed. He and five other Muslim leaders were sentenced to two years' rigorous imprisonment.


Mohamed Ali's elevation to the Congress presidentship helped to legitimise his position in nationalist circles. But within months of his exhortations at Kakinada, he began drifting away from the Congress, or perhaps, as he would have put it, the Congress drifted away from him. This had a great deal to do with worsening Hindu-Muslim relations and the feeling in some Muslim circles that the Congress was aiding the communal forces in order to establish 'Hindu Raj'. Mohamed Ali developed a point of view from which everything said or done by any Hindu was linked to the Hindu Mahasabha's influence. Indeed, his 'new mentality' recognized only two divisions in India, Hindu and Muslim, and not nationalist and reactionary or non-cooperating. Commenting on Mohamed Ali's new stance, Nehru could not understand,

How a Hindu or a Moslem can have any political or economic rights as Hindu or Moslem. And I cannot conceive why Moslems or Sikhs or Hindus should lay stress on any such rights. No minority should be unjustly treated. But Maulana Mohamed Ali is well aware that minorities get on well enough as a rule. It is the great majority which requires protection. A handful of foreigners rule India and exploit her millions. A handful of India's rich men exploit her vast peasantry and her workers. It is this great majority of the exploited that demands justice and is likely to have it sooner than many people imagine. I wish Maulana Mohamed Ali would become a champion of this majority and demand political and economic rights for them. But this majority does not consist of Hindus only or Moslems only or Sikhs only. It consists of Hindus and Moslems and Sikhs and others. And if he works for this majority, I am sure he will come to the conclusion that he need attach little importance to the imaginary fights of individuals or groups based on adherence to a religious creed.

Mohamed Ali's main grievance, however, was that Gandhi, whom he had only just described as 'the most Christ-like man of our times', gave a free hand to the 'Lala-Malaviya gang' to pursue the goal of a Hindu Rashtra. The Congress, according to him, was not a national but a Hindu party, unprepared to condemn Hindu fanatics, and unprepared to work towards the creation of a secular society. Gandhi, with whom he worked for ten years through thick and thin, was keen to retain his popularity with the 'Hindus' and, for this reason, reluctant to resolve the Hindu-Muslim deadlock. Mohamed Ali's anxieties were heightened by the growing fissures in the Hindu-Muslim alliance in Bengal and Punjab and the rapid progress of the Arya Samaj, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the shuddhi and sangathan

The publication of the Nehru report in August 1928 set in motion the avalanche of Mohamed Ali's eloquence against Gandhi and the Congress. Soon after returning to India from Europe in October, he stated that the provision of dominion status in the Nehru report was 'inconsistent with the independent spirit of Islam'.

Muslim representation in the central legislature was fixed at 25 and not 33 per cent, while separate electorates and weightages were done away with. In his view, separate electorates guaranteed that a small minority was not swamped by an overwhelming majority, while weightages ensured that this majority would not establish 'a legalised tyranny of numbers'

Maulana mohammad ali jauhar, in league with some others, disrupted a meeting which was tilted in favour of the Nehru report. When they employed similar tactics elsewhere, several delegates resigned and decided to boycott the forthcoming All India Khilafat Conference that was to be chaired by Mohamed Ali. A few days later Mohamed Ali tried his luck at the All-Parties Muslim Conference in Delhi. He did not need to stifle opposition, for this assembly of loyalists was already converted to the idea that the Nehru report jettisoned their interests. Mohamed Ali's presence at the Delhi's conference was described as 'a tragedy of Indian public life'.

A striking feature of the All-Parties Muslim Conference was that Mohamed Ali sat beside Mohamed Ali actually seconded the resolution proposed by Shafi at the Delhi conference. Likewise, leaders like Jinnah, Mohammad Shafi and the Ali brothers, who had not shared a platform before, signed the 'Delhi Manifesto' on 9 March 1929 in order to persuade Muslims to stay away from Congress meetings and processions.

Nehru reacted angrily to Mohamed Ali's signing the 'Delhi Manifesto', declaring it a 'treason' against the Congress by one who had served as its president.

Maulana mohammad ali jauhar accused Motilal Nehru for 'killing non-cooperation just as he is killing the Congress today and merging it into the Hindu Mahasabha in spite of his well-known lack of Hindu orthodoxy', and deplored Gandhi's endorsement of the Nehru report. He pointed out:

Gandhi has defeated all Muslim attempts for a compromise. He is giving free rein to the communalism of the majority. The Nehru constitution is the legalized tyranny of numbers and is the way to rift and not peace. It recognizes the rank communalism of the majority as nationalism. The safeguards proposed to limit the highhandedness of the majority are branded as communal.

Gandhi suddenly call of the non-cooperation campaign at Bardoli in 1922 with the same astonishing about-face can inaugurate a civil disobedience movement in 1930. But what surety is there that he would not again order suspension, just as he did eight years ago, only a few days after serving an ultimatum to the Viceroy.

Moreover, the country was not prepared for civil disobedience: it lacked unity, discipline and self-control. Maulana Mohammad Ali was however, disillusioned by the failure of the Khilafat movement and Gandhi's suspension of civil disobedience in 1922, owing to the Chauri Chaura incident. Mohammad Ali opposed the Nehru Report's rejection of separate electorates for Muslims, and supported the Fourteen Points of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the League.


He emerged as the greatest votary of complete independence in round table conference of 1930. Mohamed Ali's appeal to Muslims to send delegations to London symbolised the collapse of the old alliance on which Gandhi had built the non-cooperation movement. He himself joined a delegation, led by the Aga Khan, with the firm conviction that critical collaboration with the British at the Round Table Conference would bring greater political benefits than 'sedition' in Congress company. But his departure was marked by gloom, for he knew that his mission was condemned as traitorous by those very people with whom he had worked in the past. In fact, the Maulana felt in London that, 'his real place was in the fight in India, not in the futile conference chamber in London' His speech at the Round Table Conference, which turned out to be his last sermon, appeared to be the raving of a man isolated inconsolably bereaved, dying. 'I want to go back to my country, 'Mohamed Ali declared, 'with the substance of freedom in my hand. Otherwise I will not go back to a slave country. I would even prefer to die in a foreign country so long as it is a free country, and if you do not give me freedom in India you will have to give me a grave here.' His appeal to the British to give India her freedom or else he would not return alive was no more than a pathetic admission of his failure.

Mohamed Ali, a chronic patient of diabetes, died in London on 3 January 1931 and was buried in Jerusalem in the court-yard of Masjid-ul-Aqsa, the second holiest mosque of Islam. Iqbal paid him the highest tribute: “The holy land took him in its yearning embrace. He went to Heaven by the path the Prophet had taken” Muhammad Ali’s death left Shaukat Ali forlorn figure but he continued to fight for freedom of the country from different platform. He too passed away in 1938 and was buried in Lal Qila grounds near the Jama Masjid Delhi. It is unfortunate that his patriotic services to the country have not been duly recognized.

Gandhi, whom he derided with such vehemence during the years 1928-30, had this to say at his death:

'In him I have lost one whom I rejoiced to call brother and friend and the nation has lost a fearless patriot. We had differences of opinion between us, but love that cannot stand the strain of differences is like "a sounding brass and thinking cymbal".

Likewise, reflecting on his role in his Autobiography, Nehru observed:
'It was a misfortune for India that he (Mohamed Ali) left the country for Europe in the summer of 1928. A great effort was then made to solve the communal problem. If Mohamed Ali had been here then, it is just conceivable that matters would have shaped differently.'


MOHAMED ALI was a controversial figure for his contemporaries and for posterity:

  • Mohamed Ali had a supreme gift of expression, but he was not one to be identified with any great principle or order, or even a big idea. He relished the trappings of power, the drama of great debates, the high-sounding titles, his name echoing through history. He was too outspoken to be a good manager of people. He excelled at exposing the follies of others but had little to advocate himself; his own thinking was ruthless-he spared nothing and nobody. He had a nimble wit, but sometimes his devastating sarcasm hurt, and he lost many friends.

  • Mohamed Ali was a passionate man, strong in his resentments as in his affections. He left a strong although not wholly pleasant impression on people who knew him, of a man devoted to his convictions. At the same time he was obstinate, impatient in temper, and choleric in disposition; quick to anger when honour or religion was touched; wild and untamable. He was the man for the people, impetuous, dashing, irrepressible, demanding sympathy by laying his heart open, crying and raising laughter, and believing in God and God's mercy with an intensity that made him at times completely irresponsible

  • He was insensitive to the implications of the Turkish revolution, which was directed against the tyrannical rule of the Sultan as well as against Western imperialism. The invitation to the Amir of Afghanistan to liberate India from British imperialism was an act of indiscretion. On such matters Mohamed Ali seemed to want to forget, as often as he could, the need to be tactful, in order that he might assert with ever greater vehemence the fact that he was a sincere believer in Islam.
  • • The idea of Muslim migration (hijrat) to Afghanistan, which he endorsed, was both unrealistic and politically inexpedient. His credibility suffered, moreover, on account of the scandal over the 'misuse' of the Khilafat funds and his frequent outbursts that led to growing tensions between the Khilafatists and their Congress allies.

  • In recent years some historians have seen in Mohamed Ali a charmer and nothing more; a politician greedy for power, an irresponsible declaimer who drove himself and his followers from one disaster to another. He is charged with inspiring the 'young party' Muslims to manufacture issues and whip up agitations to keep their newspapers going, their organization’s active and their coffers full.

  • He left trouble wherever he went. He persuaded some students at the Lahore Medical College to raise the tribes against the government in Afghanistan, and caused 'discontent' at Aligarh's M.A.0. College. That is why he and his brother Shaukat Ali were prevented from entering Punjab and the United Provinces (UP).

  • Mohamed Ali failed to recognize that 'Muslim identity' in a plural society had to be defined not in relation to the Islamic world but in response to the specific historical and contemporary experiences of the Muslim communities in the subcontinent.
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