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 THE SILK LETTER MOVEMENT 

60th Session of Sheikh-ul-Hind's Silk Letter Movement

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India’s Revolutionary Freedom-Fighter

Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan Who Shook the British Empire.

Press Release  Read in Hindi

The role of Ulema (Islamic religious preceptors) in India’s national resurgence has been unique and in more ways than one unparalleled. This combined the spirit of Renaissance and Enlightenment with revolutionary zeal and intense sense of patriotism. The galaxy of Ulema played a memorable role at different stages of time, laying emphasis on religious tolerance, inter-communal harmony and an undying passion for freedom from foreign yoke in the quest. This marked the entire course of striving and struggle of Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan. He was indeed as such a shining star adorning the national firmament in the post-1857 politico-social scenario.

In fact, the foreign designs started back in time with the advent of English traders in Surat during the reign of the Mughal ruler, Jehangir. As time passed, what appeared to be an innocuous trade mission took an uglier shape as the later events of history were to prove.* The fall of Tipu Sultan became the precursor of the establishment of the hegemony of the East India Company in the north and south. By the days of Governor General Lord Dalhousie Indian Rajas and Maharajas fell by the wayside one by one with the country lying prostrate under the British heels. The annexation of Avadh and abdication of Wajid Ali Shah in 1856 was the last straw.

The reaction in India was sharp and violent. It was then the people and the rulers rose as one man against the British power grabbers under the united banner of King Bahadur Shah Zafar. This was India’s finest hour, and this was the moment that would give birth in the decades to come to a national hero of the ilk of Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan. The people of India were made to suffer untold brutalities and subjected to unprecedented miseries. The Ulema bore the major brunt; many of them were sent to the gallows and were hung by the trees.

* Ramkrishan Mukherjee, The Rise and Fall of the East India Company, Bombay, 1955

 

 

It is against this backdrop that the role of the generation of the Shaikhul Hind and his close associates has to be seen over the time. Shaikh-ul-Hind was a disciple of Maulana Qasim Nanautwi, himself a freedom-fighter of 1857, who alongwith his band of dedicated Ulema colleagues laid the foundation of the seminary of education at Deoband in Saharanpur district in U.P. in May 1866. Symbolically, the foundation-laying was done at a simple ceremony under a pomegranate tree at historic Masjid-e-Chatta. It was over the passage time that the simple Madarsa grew into a full-fledged University (Darul Uloom) of Arabic language having a huge complex reputedly ranking next only to Jamia al-Azhar in Cairo.

Shaikhul Hind was a meritorious student of Deoband and there are exotic memories of his days as the first pupil *at this institution. The Deoband movement was a watershed in the history of national struggle. The British had defeated the national forces on the battlefield but not in spirit, will and determination. The movement did not take long to reinvent itself, and within a decade it was back again-true to the spirit of its martyrs and heroes. Mahmood was a boy of six years in 1857, and few years later he was enrolled as a student. He had all the bearings of a promising youth at Darul Uloom, but who could tell that this small boy would one day grow up to become a revolutionary-patriot making and shaping history?

Mahmood had the good fortune of attracting the notice of Maulana Qasim Nanautwi and his companion Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, among other notables.** Mahmood earned the sobriquet of Shaikhul Hind in later years becoming a revolutionary showing the courage and iron determination to take on the British might.

Interestingly, his proficiency in theological disciplines and sciences did not come in the way of his interest in literature and poetry. This reminds one of instances of legendary poet-revolutionaries who became famous freedom-fighters in other parts of the world. Plato had written of philosopher-kings and there were scholar-statesmen. Shaikhul Hind belonged to this class of greats.

* Sayyid Mahboob Razvi, Idarah-i-Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, Idarah-i-Ahtimam, Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband, 1922,Vol.1

**Rafiya Nisar,Shaikh-ul-Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan and Freedom Movement , Manak Publications,2008

 

 

 

From Darul Uloom to lands abroad was a far-cry but not in the case of Shaikhul Hind. He wanted to use non-violence as a weapon against the British but since they refused to listen to reason, he chose a multi-pronged strategy which was both Pan-India and Pan-Islam. Shaikhul Hind opened channels of communications with Turkey through contacts in Hejaz (Arabia) as also indeed with Russia and Germany besides neighbouring Afghanistan—all of whome had suffered exploitation, interference and aggression at the hands of the British imperialists. Shaikhul Hind urged all of them to combine and form a joint front of freedom-fighters at a time when Britain was itself engaged fighting the war in Europe (1914-1918). The aim was to force British to give up their imperial dreams in Asia and the Middle East. But merely the overthrow of foreign rule in India would, according to Shaikhul Hind, be a meaningless exercise without Hindu-Muslim unity—a concept dearest to his heart.*

In more than one sense, Shaikhul Hind was a prime- mover who ante-dated many other revolutionaries and patriots who at later stages waged their battles. His own patriotic zeal took him to the countries beyond the national borders and his innovative mind led him to launch the famous Reshmi Rumal (Silken Scarf) movement veering round inscribing secret coded messages on a piece of cloth and exchanging and sending them to the allies abroad. This was an ingenious method much to the chagrin and consternation of the rulers that be. Reshmi Rumal has become a legend in the annals of our history.

A turning point in his career was his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in 1916 which reaffirmed his resolve and commitment to the cause of a joint front of Hindus and Muslims in the fight for the overthrow of the British regime.

As it was, Shaikhul Hind became a teacher at Deoband after completing a Education in 1890 and he remained there till 1915. The founding of Jamiat-ul-Ansar was the first forum of its kind. This was in fact the precursor of the organizational activity in the ranks of freedom-fighters.

*Iqbal Hasan khan, Shaikh-ul-Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan; Hayat aur Ilmi Karnama,Aligarh Muslim University press,1972

 

This further angered and added to the wrath of the British Government. Shaikhul Hind, Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani were by his side in this strategy. Their were many other young men took the pledge not to rest content till freedom was achieved and were prepared to carry out their fight both organizationally and in the field.*

On the international level, as we have seen, were the days of the first World War which Shaikhul Hind saw as India’s opportunity against the British. He was in touch with King Habib-Ullah of Afghanistan for collaboration. The King was fully supportive to Shaikhul Hind’s overtures and so were Ghalib Pasha of Turkey who facilitated his meeting with the War Minister, Anwar Pasha, and Jamal Pasha. Similarly, the channels of meeting were opened with the Russians through Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh and his associates who were running India’s Provisional Government based in Afghanistan.**

Shaikhul Hind equally won many friends inside the country and moved close to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Dr. M.A Ansari.

That his commitment to the people of India was total is best to a illustrated by his reaction to a good-intentioned message sent by Ghalib Pasha addressed to the Indian Muslim calling for overthrow of the British power adding “you must know that Maulana Mahmood Hasan came to us and we assured him of our help including money and manpower”. The message was otherwise impeccably correct but for the fact that it was addressed to Muslims alone. Both sides agreed that it should have been addressed to all Indians in keeping with India’s multi-cultural and multi-religious ethos and the spirit underlying its freedom struggle; suitable amends were made later. Messages of support and help came from the Ministry of Defence of Turkey written in Turkiesh, Arabic and Persian languages.

*Reshmi Rumal Shariyantra, Ila Mishra,Manak Publications, 2006

**Sayyid Aghar Hussain, Hayaat-i-Shaikh-ul-Hind, Dar-ul-Kutb Asghariyah,Deoband

 

 

As a result, Shaikhul Hind was incarcerated in Malta Jail for three years from 1917 to 1920 alongwith Maulana Madani and others. At home he became a national hero and collectively those imprisoned in Malta came to be celebrated as Asiraan-e-Malta (Prisoners of Malta). They were subjected to worst torture including routine of receiving lashes-marks of which Shaikhul Hind carried to the grave. On their return to India a rousing welcome was accorded to them in Bombay (June, 8, 1920). Maulana Shaukat Ali was present on the occasion.

The resolve to get rid of the British became stronger and firmer as. On July 15 a fatwa on non-cooperation was issued in line with the precepts of non-violence as preached by Gandhiji. The five-point programme included boycott British goods, British education and boycott of the British army and police. All awards given by the British were also to be discarded.

The Maulana was an oriental persona through and through. His attachment to Deoband was based on deep commitment borne out of conviction and credo, but he did not allow this to come in the way of his interest in modern education in tune with the spirit of the age and conforming to the changing times. After all who could be better aware of the Islamic contribution to the world of science than Shaikhul Hind? Thus he was among the main founders of Jamia Millia Islimia, a National Muslim University founded on oriental ideals in New Delhi. The proposal for a National Muslim University had the full blessings of Mahatma Gandhi and other prime movers which included Hakim Ajmal Khan and Maulana Mohmmed Ali Jauhar. It was in fact a counterpoise to the pro-British and pro-western paradigm of the higher echelons of Muslim upper and middle classes of Aligarh movement in 1920. Yet, Shaikhul Hind already had many friends and sympathisers in the portals of Aligarh. Shaikhul Hind was true to his ideal of composite culture and this set the tone and tenor at Jamia Millia.

At no time, Shaikhul Hind was unaware of the stupendous nature of his mission at home and abroad. Looking back at this point of time this may look like Mission Impossible. To overthrow the British even as it faced a world war against Germany was unlikely to succeed with the Czarist Russia aligning with the British and Turkey lacking the requisite power and ammunition.

 

These factors made the task harder and more complicated. Even if Turkey had the best of leaders and generals and manpower at its command, the dice were heavily loaded against the freedom loving forces. Yet, it lies in the psyche of those overwhelmed by the spirit of freedom, an ecstasy indeed, are rarely deterred by such calculations. History is full of such instances. Writing about Shaikhul Hind, the chief inheritor of his legacy Maulana Hasan Ahmad Madani, described his mentor as a spiritual entity as well as a scholar with the freshness of thought and ideas that did not allow to touch his life, rather kept it evergreen and fragrant*Yet, it would be erroneous to guage the import of Shaikhul Hind’s mission as emotionally-inspired alone: it was equally rationally-based too. He was all through fully confident that the future generation would complete his own unfinished tasks even if he did not live to see the dawn of freedom.

Although Shaikhul Hind did not live to see the day, he had indeed lay its foundations paving the way for the coming generation to succeed. On his part he was successful in building a dedicated band of followers who would keep aloft the torch of freedom once he was gone. His disciples included visionaries and savants like Shaikhul Islam, Maulana Hasain Ahmad Madani and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi. His other associates were Maulana Fazl Rabbi, Maulana Aziz Gul, Maulana Barkatullah Bhopali and others.

In Shaikhul Hind’s absence much had been happening at home. The Rowlatt Act had led to agitations and above all the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy had cast its sinister shadow. The air was full of intrigues by the British loyalists (his own arrest and leading to his incarceration in Malta was the result of Sharif of Mecca’s betrayal). But for the patriots it was time for action and which took the form of Khilafat and Non-Cooperation movements in 1920. This was the closing period of the life and times of Shaikhul Hind. Active and alert still, his Fatwa on Khilafat was among just the last of his acts pledging support to the cause of Ottoman Caliph in his struggle against the British. On his part, the Caliph pledged his support of the Indian cause.

* Wikipedia online

 

The significance of Fatwa needs to be emphasized in present context Fatwa has a special sanctity in Islam and only the privileged can issue it. This falls within the domain of Ulema who derive their authority from early period of Islam. Shaikhul Hind’s Fatwa on Khilafat epitomizes this sanctimonious tradition. that. Shaikhul Hind was the inheritor of a great legacy going back to Hazrat Mujaddad Al-Sani, Shah Waliullah and Shah Abdul Aziz alongwith the body of the great Ulema of the Sultanate period whose source of inspiration was the Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet.

The final end of Shaikhul Hind’s long saga and his revolutionary journey came on December 5, 1920, after two months he had presided over the second conference Jamiat Ulama Hind. It was a long-time burning in the cause of freedom from Darul Uloom days to Hejaz and beyond. Ceaseless striving and struggle laid a claim on his health. Defying the odds Shaikhul Hind continued the march forward according to his mission. He kept on trudging on the chosen path to the end, finally falling ill and departing in the true style of a national hero. He was laid to rest in a simple grave in his beloved Deoband. A golden chapter of history lies buried at the hallowed spot.

 

रेशमी रूमाल तहरीक पर डाक टिकट जारी किया राष्टरपति ने

 

 नई दिल्ली। देवबंद के इतिहास में शुक्रवार को एक और स्वर्णिम अध्याय जुड़ गया जब रेशमी रूमाल तहरीक के 60वें समारोह के अवसर पर राष्ट्रपति ने रेशमी रूमाल तहरीक के नेतृत्वकत्र्ता शेख उल हिन्द मौलाना महमूद मदनी की याद में डाकट टिकट जारी किया। केन्द्र सरकार के सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी एवं संचार मंत्रालय के द्वारा देश के क्रांतिकारियों के ऊपर अब तक 3000 हजार डाक टिकट जारी किए जा चुके हैं। इस अवसर पर केन्द्रीय संचार मंत्री कपिल सिब्बल, उत्तराखंड के राज्यपाल अजीज कुरैशी, केनद्रीय अल्पसंख्यक मामलों के मंत्री के. रहमान खान, यूपीए की चेयरपर्सन श्रमति सोनिया गांधी के द्वारा भेजे गए संदेश को मौलाना नियाज़ अहमद फारूकी ने पढ़कर सुनाया। इसके अलावा शेख उल हिन्द्र एजुकेशनल चेरिटेबल ट्रस्ट के चेयरमैन मौलाना महमूद अहमद मदनी जमीयत उलमा ए हिन्द के अध्यक्ष कारी मुहम्मद उसमान मंसूरपुरी, अलगढ़ मुस्लिम विवि. के उपकुलपति लेफ्टीनेंट जनरल जमीर उद्दीन शाह, जामिया मिलिया इस्लामिया विवि. के उपकुलपति नजीब जंग, यूनीवर्सल एसोसिएशन फॉर स्प्रिच्युल अवेयरनेस के संस्थापक पं. एनके शर्मा, प्रो. अख्तरूल वासे तथा पंडित आनंद मोहन आदि मौजूद थे।

राष्टï्रपति प्रणव मुखर्जी द्वारा डाक टिकट के उद्घाटन के बाद श्रोताओं को संबोधित करते हुए कहा कि दारूल उलूम देवबंद के पहले छात्र और देश को अंग्रेजों की गुलामी से आजाद कराने के लिए रेशमी रूमाल की तहरीक चलाने वाले शेख उल हिन्द मौलाना महूमद हसन देवबंदी की याद में डाक टिकट जारी करते हुए अत्यंत हर्ष हो रहा है। 

नई दिल्ली के विज्ञान भवन में आयोजित रेशमी रूमाल तहरीक के 60वें समारोह की अध्यक्षता वरिष्ठ उस्ताद एवं जमीयत उलमा ए हिन्द के अध्यक्ष कारी मुहम्मद उसमान मंसूरपुरी ने की तथा मुख्य अतिथि के रूप में संचार एवं सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी मंत्री कपिल सिब्बल बतौर मुख्य अतिथि उपस्थित थे। इसके अलावा देश के विभिन्न हिस्सों से शेख उल हिन्द के चाहने वाले हजारों लोग भी मौजूद थे 

काबिलेगौर है कि केन्द्र सरकार ने इससे पहले 1980 में दारूल उलूम के शताब्दी समारोह के मौके पर दारूल उलूम पर डाक टिकट जारी किया गया था। 2012 में स्वतंत्रता सेनानी और गांधी जी के बेहद करीबी रहे शेख उल इस्लाम मौलाना हुसैन अहमद मदनी पर डाक टिकट जारी किया गया था। इस अवसर पर शेख उल हिन्द्र एजुकेशनल चेरिटेबल ट्रस्ट के चेयरमैन मौलाना महमूद अहमद मदनी ने कहा कि आज के समारोह के दूल्हा कपिल सिब्बल हैं। जिन्होंने रामलीला मैदान में मुसलमानों के मसाइल को हल करने का वायदा किया था उनमें से अधिकांश को पूरा कर दिया। उन्होंने कहा कि कपिल सिब्बल साहब मंत्री तो है ही साथ में वह हमारे वकील भी है। हमारी बात को सरकार के पास तक पहुंचाने का काम करते हैं। मौलाना मदनी ने कहा कि शेख उल हिन्द और शेख उल इस्लाम के जीवन और स्वतंत्रता संग्राम की खिदमात को आने वाली पीढिय़ों को अवगत कराने के लिए छात्रों के पाठ्यक्रम में भी शामिल किया जाए।