Maulana Madani Most Deserving of Bharat Ratna

By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi

Guwahati: The towering freedom fighter, reformist and educator Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani is the most deserving for Bharat Ratna, said Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF). In a press statement AUDF president Maulana Badruddin Ajmal who is also the president of Assam State Jamiat Ulama-e Hind and member of Deoband’s executive committee strongly demands to both Prime Minister and President of India to consider Maulana Madanis name positively because his name has been taken in Muslim forums as the most appropriate name for the prestigious national award.

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Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani known as Shaikhul Islam (1879-1957) was one of the pioneering freedom fighters the Indian sub-continent has known. He served for decades as head of the teaching faculties and the Shaikhul Hadith (professor of Hadith) at Darul Uloom Deoband, famous Islamic institution in the world. He filled this position for approximately 28 years. Prior to this, he had spent 18 years teaching various Islamic and social sciences including Hadith in Madinah al-Munawwarah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Maulana Madani was simultaneously active in mainstream politics. He was imprisoned for approximately three years by the British in the Malta Island with his mentor Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmudul Hasan. On their arrival from Malta thousands of people thronged the streets and leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi waited to welcome them. ‘Maulana Madani’s tireless effort in the liberation struggle of India of which he was at the forefront alone can single-out him on top of the present list of nominees for the prestigious national award’, pointed out the AUDF leader.

Maulana Ajmal went on, ‘His second significant move was to be a co-founder of the present prominent Muslim body Jamait Ulama-e Hind’. Jamiat is a socio-educational and religious organization profoundly active since pre-independence with issues that concerned the Indian nation and Muslims. Jamiat has been giving genuine voice to certain semi-political minority issues which no other Muslim body could afford to do in the post-independent India.

At a time when the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha raised demands for separate states, based on the so-called ‘two nation’ theory, the contribution of Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani is of special note. His was the first effort at articulating the thesis ‘that modern nationhood is determined by territory and not by religious faith’. His approach has been a major factor in building awareness among all classes of society about the need for a secular nationalism, which seeks to advance human welfare.

Maulana Ajmal made one more point saying that in December 1937, at a political meeting in Delhi, Maulana Madani made a clear stand that “in the current age, nations are based on homelands, not religion.” It means in a nation there is no distinction among Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis. All are Hindustani.

Maulana Madani’s nationalistic approach was directly opposed to views propounded by Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, the Muslim league, Maulana Abul Aala Maudoodi (Jamat-e Islami) and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (Aligarh) who were of the opinion that Muslims cannot be clubbed together with non-Muslims as one nation. On the contrary, a concept of territorial nationalism is alien to Islam, proclaimed Maulana Madani.

The two-nation theory simply meant that Muslims are a separate nation because of their distinct faith, culture and history. Maulana Madani opposed it and expounded with great intellectual vigour and moral force on the need for a ‘united nationalism’ in India before the partition. He wrote a book in reply to his ideological opponents, especially Dr. Iqbal, “Muttahida Qaumiyyat aur Islam” (Composite Nationalism and Islam, available in English as well). In the book he expatiated support for nationalism and argued that Islam is not opposed to a united nationalism based on a common motherland, language, ethnicity or colour, which brings together Muslims and non-Muslims sharing one or more of these attributes in common.

Maulana Madani came out with strong reasons for his view that the word ‘Qaum’ (Nation) sometimes used to refer to the people of a particular prophet in the Qur’an and the Ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) such as the ‘Qaum of Noah or the Qaum of Abraham, and in these contexts it applies to all the members of these communities, including both the followers as well as the rejecters of these prophets.

In common issues, therefore, Indian Muslims must join hands with non-Muslim Indians, on the basis of belonging to the same Qaum, and work together for the unity, freedom and prosperity of the country.

Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani’s articulation of the principal ethos of Indian nationalism is a pioneering theory and will serve as milestone for all future generations too. He envisaged a free India without the emotional baggage of caste, creed and religion, uniting under the rubric of nationalism. It was this ethos that provided vital support to Gandhiji’s movement for building “national unity on the principles of non-discrimination and social justice for all.” Maulana Madani is still a beacon for national unity and integrity for the world and his contribution should have been officially recognized by the Indian government much earlier, said the nascent political party AUDF.

Maulana Ajmal also said that in India Maulana Madani’s name has been erased from history books while in Pakistan he is still remembered as strong opponent to the birth of their country. It is never too late to remember, let us do it now and wipe the historical chauvinism from the post-colonial India. He said, “Let us recognize Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani’s contribution to the freedom struggle and the composite nationalism of our country, although belatedly after 60 years”.


The author M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is Director of Mumbai based institution ‘Markazul Ma’arif Education & Research Centre and Editor ‘Eastern Crescent’. He can be reached at [email protected]