Meher Fatima talks about her book on 150 patriotic Indian Muslims

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

The book Celebrating India: Reflections on Eminent Indian Muslims (1857-2007) provides biographical profiles of 150 patriotic Indian Muslims, many of them unsung heroes – those who did not become party to the two-nation theory. Author Meher Fatima Hussain, Lecturer at Jamia Millia Islamia, talks to Mumtaz Alam Falahi of on her book.

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What inspired you to write this book?

India is celebrating centenaries of 150 years of its first War of Independence and 60 years of Independence. In this moment of celebrations I thought I should also contribute through a book that would highlight the contributions of patriotic Indian Muslims who have contributed in the period from 1857 to 2007 in the 1857 War of Independence, in freedom movement as well as in enhancing India’s glory and prestige in different spheres like art, culture, music, sports, academic and journalism. I thought that through this book I would be paying tribute to the patriotic Indian Muslims and this idea inspired me to write this book.

Mehar Fatima

There are a lot of books on patriotic Indian Muslims. How is this book different?

I would not totally agree that a lot of books have been written on patriotic Indian Muslims because one can hardly find such books in the market. There have been books about Indian Muslims and many on their problems and prospects in pre- and post-Independence era also. But there hasn’t been a book from national integration point of view and one that would be totally focusing on patriotic endeavours of Indian Muslims.

As far as this book is concerned this contains biographical profiles of patriotic Muslims with a message to the society specifically to the younger generation that how they should be inspired by these people who overcame their personal ambitions and rose above their personal motivations and contributed to the society and the nation through sacrifices and their services to the nation. In this respect my book is quite different from other books. My book does not portrait the profiles of those Muslims who have played party to the two-nation theory or who have led to the partition of India.

What were the criteria for selection of personalities in your book?

I have taken a time frame of 1857 to 2007 for selecting 150 patriotic Indian Muslims. For selection of people from around 1857, martyrdom was a criterion as it was the first war of independence. We have selected many patriots from that time including Bahadur Shah Zafar, Hazrat Mahal, Maulvi Ahmadullah and Maulvi Mohammad Baqar who have played part in the freedom movement and many of them were martyrs. Progressing from 1857 I have taken freedom fighters of India’s war of independence. For people from around 1947 being freedom fighter was the criterion. So, I have selected Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Syed Mahmood, Abdul Qaiyyum Ansari and M A Ansari and many others from that time.

It is not that I have selected only martyrs of 1857 or freedom fighters but also those who did not take part in freedom movement but through their contributions in different spheres like art, culture, sport and music, painting, ghazal singing or journalism they have given their best to the nation and furthered the cause of the nation. They won glory and prestige to the country and took India ahead of other countries as far as progress is concerned. In the third category are M F Hussian, Tayyab Mehta, Azharuddin, Syed Nayeemuddin, Ilyas Babar, and Sania Mirza.

Who among the third category inspired you most?

Ilyas Babar was the most inspiring personality as far as patriotism is concerned. He was given Dronacharya Award as government’s recognition of his contribution but it came at the end of his career. He was not made the national athletic coach but despite this fact he gave his best to the national athletic team. He even spent from his pocket on coaching of his athletes. And he never expected anything to come back from the government. He worked beyond his personal ambition.

Three unsung heroes in your book

First is Maulvi Mohammad Baqar, the martyr journalist of 1857 War of Independence. It was only recently during centenary celebrations of 150 years of First War of Independence that his personality has been discussed so much and has been talked about. He was mentioned in dictionary type book but his full fledged personality was missing.

Other is Gama. Hardly anybody knows that he was a Muslim and today in an age when we know the wrestling is such a lucrative business and we find wrestlers amassing huge amount, his personality stands out. Gama was an inspiring hero. He was not only Rustam-e-Hind but also Rustam-e-Zamana (world wrestling champion). He had brought victory to India. He won the title of Rustam-e-Zamana. His full name was Ghulam Mohammad Bakhsh.

Another unsung hero is Rainbow Hadi. He had represented India in seven international sporting events. He was the first cricketer to make a 100 in Ranji Trophy.

Of the 150 patriotic Indian Muslims, who inspired you most?

Of all I am more influenced by Syed Hasan of Kishanganj. He was Assistant Professor in the US. He abandoned the lucrative career there and came back to Bihar’s poverty stricken district of Kishanganj. He did lot on education. He empowered society through education overcoming all his personal ambitions. He worked much for humanitarian causes. His work in the field of education inspired me most.

Message of the book

My message to the young generation through this book is that they should know about the best personalities of India – those who have contributed so much to the nation. They should get inspired by their personal contributions. In this age when consumerism has captured the mind of people we have to bring out contributions of these personalities so that the new generation could get inspired. If I bring a little change in the society by influencing young mind I think that would be the biggest contribution from my side to the society.

Book is published by:

Manak Publications Pvt. Ltd.
B-7, Saraswati Complex, Subhash Chowk
Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-110 092
Phones: 91-11-22453894, 22042529
email: [email protected]