By Dr. Muhammad Raziul Islam Nadvi
[This is the second and concluding part of the article. The first part appeared in Issue No. 20 dated 21-27 August 2022.]
After the World War I (1914-1919), when the colonial powers divided the Ottoman Caliphate among themselves, the Khilafat Movement in India decided to put up a decisive battle against the British colonialism. The Khilafat Movement proved to be a milestone in the national struggle for independence. At that time there was an unprecedented display of national unity and integrity as the followers of all religions came together to participate in the freedom struggle. In this regard, Muslim women too did not stay behind. Along with their husbands, brothers, sons and other relations, they fought shoulder to shoulder against the enemy.
Their services can be gauged with the fact that at the time when their husbands were passing days and nights behind the bar, they would not only manage domestic chores and bring up children but also encouraged their husbands and also looked after the families of other prisoners. Even during the days of severest trials, they did not utter a word of complain.
As for rendering active services to the second phase of freedom movement, the services of Abadi Bano Begum (1850-1924), mother of Ali Brothers (Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Shaukat Ali) are worth writing in golden letters. Brimming with love for freedom, she was a valiant patriot and great freedom fighter. The title of ‘Umm al-Ahrar’ was bestowed upon her for her distinguished services. Among the commoners she was affectionately known as ‘Bi Amma’. The historical personality of Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar (1878-1931) is the result of the training of Bi Amma.
The political life of Bi Amma began during the days of World War I. When The Defence of India Act was implemented during the war and a number of leaders of freedom movement, including Maulana Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali, were detained, Anjuman-i Nazarbandan-i-Islam was revived and a fund was created, to which Bi Amma announced to contribute.
Dr. Abida Samiuddin writes: “Ali Brothers were detained. Bi Amma had turned fragile, but the detention of her sons infused her with new spirits. She participated actively in the Khilafat Movement. She would travel far and wide, address large audiences, meet with and address willing gatherings at stations. Her tireless strivings lent the Khilafat Movement a new lease of life.”
During the Khilafat Movement, Shafiq Rampuri composed a poem entitled “Sada-i Khatoon” which became very popular as it enthused the freedom fighters in the length and breadth of the country against the British colonial rule.
An All-India Women Conference was held in the presidentship of Bi Amma in Ahmedabad on 30 December 1921. Thousands of women participated therein. Besides many renowned Non-Muslim ladies such as Kasturba Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, Anusia Bai, Chaudhrain and Sarla Devi, the names of Muslim ladies like Amjadi Begum (wife of Maulana Mohammad Ali), Shamsunnisa Begum, Begum Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, Nishatunnisa Begum (wife of Maulana Hasrat Mohani), Begum Khursheed (wife of Khwaja Abdul Majeed) and Begum Saadat Bano (wife of Saifuddin Kitchlew) are worth mentioning here. This shows that along with Non-Muslim ladies, a large number of Muslim ladies also participated in the freedom movement with utmost zeal and enthusiasm.
Talking about the active participation of Bi Amma in the Khilafat Movement, Gandhiji wrote in Young India:
“Although she was old, she had youth-like strength. She continuously travelled for the attainment of Khilafat and Swaraj. She was a staunch follower of Islam, and to her the freedom of India was impossible without khaddar and Hindu-Muslim unity. Therefore, she made concerted efforts for the unity, which to her was part of Iman.”
During the days of detention of Ali Brothers, then Director of Indian Intelligence Sir Charles Cleveland wanted them to make a pledge. His representative Mr. Abdul Majeed, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Intelligence, met with them. When Bi Amma came to know about it, she told Mr. Abdul Majeed:
“I want the government to know that if they (Ali Brothers) would accept such things as to contradict even a bit the religious commandments or the law of the land then I believe Allah would bestow so much strength upon my heart and robustness upon my wrinkled hands that I would slit their throats then and there.”
Like Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar’s mother, his wife Amjadi Begum also actively participated in the Khilafat Movement.
Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi writes:
“Amjadi Begum used to accompany the Maulana (Mohammad Ali Jauhar) in every Khilafat Conference tour, and always participated in meetings and other activities.”
The police arrested Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar at Voltaire Station in 1919. At that time Amjadi Begum was accompanying him. She entered the police station and said to the Maulana:
“Don’t worry. Don’t think of me and the children. Allah was the Sustainer and He is the Sustainer even now. You were only a source. Allah can give even indirectly or even with other source. As for your work; if you permit, I will do that.”
In 1930, the Maulana was suffering from multiple diseases. In that very condition, he went to London to participate in the Round Table Conference. Amjadi Begum was accompanying him. The Maulana breathed his last there and was buried in Bait al-Maqdis.
One more lady is Nishatunnisa Begum, wife of Maulana Hasrat Mohani, who played an active role in the freedom movement. She remained with her husband for life, standing steadfast with utmost indomitable patience and fortitude. Maulana Hasrat Mohani himself acknowledges her services in these words:
“Had there been no Begum Hasrat, Begum Azad and Kamla Nehru, Hasrat would have been editor of some newspaper, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad would have been bringing out Al-Hilal and Al-Balagh, and Jawaharlal Nehru would have been at best a successful barrister. These ladies were out-and-out faithful and sacrifice personified. They sacrificed their lives, but never asked us, ‘O lovers of politics! You are going to prison, what would happen to us?’”
When Maulana Hasrat Mohani was arrested in 1908, Begum Hasrat wrote a letter to him the very next day: “Bear heroically the misfortune that has befallen you. Never think of me or the home. Beware! See to it that no weakness is committed by you.”
Maulana Hasrat Mohani was arrested for the second time in 1916. He refused to obey the order of detention. Then, Begum Hasrat wrote a letter to him: “This is the extent of your steadfastness. I admire you.”
One distinguished name among the women freedom fighters is Zuleikha Begum, wife of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. She wholeheartedly supported the Maulana all through his tough times, used to console him during his prison days, remained a constant source of strength to him and thus fulfilled her loyalty to him. The Maulana himself has acknowledged it:
“Zuleikha Begum tried her level best to remain stuck together through thick and thin. She not only supported me but bore all sorts of difficult situations with utmost steadfastness. On the mental level she shared my thoughts and beliefs, and in practical life she was my friend and helper.”
Maulana Azad was sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment and imprisoned in a prison in Calcutta in December 1921 for his role in the Khilafat Movement. Then his wife, in a telegraphic message to Gandhiji, wrote:
“The verdict in the case of my husband Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was pronounced today. He was sentenced to only one-year rigorous imprisonment. It is surprisingly lesser than what we were ready to hear. If punishment and imprisonment is compensation for service to the nation then you will have to acknowledge that even in this matter stark injustice has been done to him. This is not even little of the little he deserved.”
Maulana Azad’s engagements went on increasing due to political activities. Due to tours, travels and repeated imprisonments the Maulana could hardly stay at home. The health of Zuleikha Begum started deteriorating fast. But the letters the Maulana received from her in the prison mentioned everything save and except her health problems. When the Maulana was in Ahmednagar jail, he came to know about his wife’s severe illness through newspapers. At the suggestion of the government of Bombay, the Jail Superintendent offered the Maulana to release him on payroll. His friends, especially Pandit Nehru tried their level best to convince him to accept release on payroll, but the Maulana did not budge. At last, Zuleikha Begum, with her wish to see the Maulana reposed in the heart, breathed her last on 9 April 1943.
Saifuddin Kitchlew is one among the freedom fighters. He got a law degree from a German university. But he gave up his practice of law and committed himself to Congress and the Khilafat Movement. His wife Saadat Bano (1893-1970), who was a litterateur and poetess, wholeheartedly supported him. On one occasion she told her husband:
“Don’t worry about anything. You will find me steadfast and a true patriot in bringing up the children and dealing with the affairs of life. I would not hesitate in sacrificing my life in this valley of thorns.”
Khwaja Abdul Majeed, a famous barrister in Aligarh, was vice chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia. He was a renowned freedom fighter. He cooperated with Gandhiji in the Non-cooperation Movement. His wife Begum Khursheed (1896-1981) fully supported him. When freedom fighters were arrested, Begum Khursheed wrote to Gandhiji, saying that she was sorry that her husband was still free while his friends were sent to prison. And, when he was arrested, she wrote to Gandhiji:
“You will be pleased to know that government authorities have arrested my husband.”
About some Muslim women it is discovered even today that they had participated in the resistance against the British forces and sacrificed their lives.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar is well-known. When the British forces opened indiscriminate firing on the people attending a peaceful public programme, a Muslim woman named Bibi Umar Baihi was also martyred.
Rana Bano (b. 1888) of Midnapur (West Bengal) participated in the Quit India Movement (1942). She got injured in police firing during an attack on Nandigram police station and was martyred. (concluded)
[The writer is Vice President Idara-i-Tahqeeq-o-Tasneef Aligarh and Assistant Editor Tahqeeqat-i-Islami Quarterly, Aligarh. Extracted and translated from his paper in Urdu presented recently in a seminar held in Hyderabad, Telangana]