Remembering Dr Zakir Hussain on his 46th Death Anniversary

By Kaleem Kawaja,

Dr Zakir Husain was born on February 8, 1897 in Hyderabad. After he was born, his family migrated from Hyderabad to Qaimganj (UP), where he grew up. He was then educated at the then Anglo-Muhammadan Oriental College, which is now Aligarh Muslim University. He received his doctorate in economics from the University of Berlin in 1926.

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Dr Zakir Husain was among the small group of students and teachers who founded the Jamia Millia Islamia college, that grew into a a national Muslim University. It was first founded in Aligarh on 29 October 1920 then was relocated to New Delhi. He subsequently went to Germany to obtain a PhD from the Frederick William University, Berlin, in Economics. While in Germany, Husain was instrumental in bringing out the anthology of the renowned Urdu poet Ghalib.

He returned to India in 1927 to head the Jamia Millia Islamia. He continued in that position for the next twenty-one years providing academic and managerial leadership to an institution that was intimately involved with India’s struggle for freedom from the British Rule and experimented with value-based education on the lines advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and Hakeem Ajmal Khan. During this period he continued to engage himself with movements for educational reforms in India and was particularly active in the affairs of his old alma mater the Aligarh Muslim University. During this period Husain emerged as one of the most prominent educational thinkers and practitioners of modern India. His personal sacrifice and untiring efforts to keep the Jamia afloat in very adverse circumstances won him appreciation of even his arch political rivals.

Soon after India attained independence, Husain became the Vice chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University which was facing trying times in post partition India because of active involvement of a section of its teachers and students in the movement for creation of Pakistan. Dr Husain, again, provided leadership during a critical phase of the history of the University at Aligarh from 1948–1956. Soon after completing his term as Vice Chancellor he became a member of the Upper House of Indian Parliament in 1956, a position he vacated in 1957 to become Governor of the State of Bihar.

After serving as the Governor of Bihar from 1957 to 1962, and as the second Vice President of India from 1962 to 1967, Husain was elected President of India on 13 May 1967. He died suddenly on May 3, 1969. Today on the 46th anniversary of his death we pay tribute to Dr Zakir Hussain one of the founders of the modern Indian nation.


(Kaleem Khwaja is the Executive Director of Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM).)