When Our Ulama Rocked: Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar at the 1930 London Round Table

In the 30s there were a number of conferences held in London, the grimy heart of the British Empire, to debate the future of India. One of the characters who appears in this discussion is Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, who counted Deoband, Alighar and Oxford ( Lincoln College - History) as his alma mater.

For the alien, that's code for traditional Islamic seminary movement, modernism Muslim experiment and Imperial western academy. He had also been a leader of the Khilafat Movement that opposed the abolition of said institution and moved Indian Muslims and Hindus to restore it.

The text reproduced below is an excerpt of his contribution at the occasion, the full text may be found here. My favourite bit is the non-concentric circle theory for dual Indian and Muslim identity. Note that Maulana made this speech only 6 weeks before his death in London, after which he was buried in Jerusalem.

The iconic image of him with his Khilafat movement hat (tupi) features on the stamps of India and Pakistan shown above, though notice the difference in where they position the star!  Bangladesh, in its nationalist shame at its Islamic anti-imperialist heritage, has not as yet found the breadth of narrative to include this man, not to mention his equally interesting brothers.

Maulana came from a wealthy and well educated family, and was an experienced multilingual journalist and publisher who drew on the quick witted combat poetical tradition of char bait. He was made of steely stuff too.

His grand daughter recounts that when the British imprisoned him, they used the failing health of his two young daughters as blackmail to force him to apologise for his political views. Hearing this, his mother, a mighty Begum (mother of warriors), wrote to him with the advise that if he were to take the offer she would throttle him with her last remaining strength.  His daughters passed on, and he was unable to attend their funerals.

At a time when Muslims sell out very cheaply, to white supremacy if not its coproduced criminal gangsters, even when they have nothing substantial to sell, the example of Muhammad Ali Jauhar is an inspiring one.

Jumma Mubarak!


[[8]] The real problem which is upsetting us all the time has been the third problem--this Hindu-Muslim problem; but that is no problem at all. The fact is that the Hindu-Muslim difficulty, like the Army difficulty, is of your own creation. But not altogether. It is the old maxim of "divide and rule." But there is a division of labour here. We divide and you rule. The moment we decide not to divide you will not be able to rule as you are doing today. With this determination not to be divided, we have come here. Let me assure every British man and woman who thinks of shaping our destinies that the only quarrel between the Hindus and the Muslims today is [the] quarrel that the Muslim is afraid of Hindu domination and the Hindu, I suppose, is afraid of Muslim domination. (Dr. Moonje: No, the Hindu is never afraid.) Well I am very glad to hear that. In my country the she-buffalo attacks only when she is afraid; and whatever the reverence of the Hindu for the cow, I am glad he has never the fear of the she-buffalo. I want to get rid of that fear. The very fact that Hindus and Muslims are quarrelling today shows that they will not stand British domination either for one single minute. That is the point to grasp.

British domination is doomed over India. Is our friendship doomed also? My brother took service under the Government and served it for 17 years, but he did one thing for me. He sent me to Oxford. He was always taunting me in the non- co-operation days by saying: "You have a soft corner in your heart for that place called Oxford." I must admit that I had. I spent four years there, and I always carry with me the most pleasant recollections of that time, and I want to keep that feeling. I do have a very soft corner in my heart for my Alma Mater. But I can taunt my brother, too. When he was being tried at Karachi­-when the jury let us off, and there was a British juryman among them, they voted for our release because we were such a sporting lot--my big brother said: "Even if it becomes my duty to kill the first Englishman I come across, if he happens to have blue eyes, my knife will not work; because I shall think of the eyes of Theodore Beck, my late Principal at my old College, Aligarh." There are several Aligarh Old Boys here, and they can bear witness to the fact that we who were brought up at Aligarh by Beck could never be without a soft corner in our hearts for Engl:shmen. Therefore, even if British domination is doomed--and it must be killed here--do not let us kill British friendship. We have a soft corner in our hearts for Great Britain. Let us retain it, I beseech you.

[[9]] One word as to the Muslim position, with which I shall deal at length on some other occasion. Many people in England ask us why this question of Hindu and Muslim comes into politics and what it has to do with these things. I reply, "It is a wrong conception of religion that you have, if you exclude politics from it. It is not dogma; it is not ritual! Religion, to my mind means the interpretation of life." I have a culture, a polity, an outlook on life--a complete synthesis which is Islam. Where God commands I am a Muslim first, a Muslim second, and a Muslim last, and nothing but a Muslim. If you ask me to enter into your Empire or into your Nation by leaving that synhesis, that polity, that culture, that ethics, I will not do it. My first duty is to my Maker, not to H. M. the King, nor to my companion, Dr. Moonje; my first duty is to my maker, and that is the case with Dr. Moonje also. He must be a Hindu first, and I must be a Muslim first, so far as that duty is concerned. But where India is concerned, where India's freedom is concerned, I am an Indian first, an Indian second, an Indian last, and nothing but an Indian.

I belong to two circles of equal size, but which are not concentric. One is India, and the other is the Muslim world. When I came to England in 1920 at the head of the Khilafat Delegation, my friends said: "You must have some sort of a crest for your stationery." I decided to have it with two circles on it. In one circle was the word "India"; in the other circle was Islam, wiih the word "Khilafat." We as Indian Muslims came in both circles. We belong to these two circles, each of more than 300 millions, and we can leave neither. We are not nationalists but supernationalists, and I as a Muslim say that "God made man and the Devil made the nation." Nationalism divides; our religion binds. No religious wars,  no crusades, have seen such holocausts and have been so cruel as your last war, and that was a war of your nationalism, and not my Jehad.

But where our country is concerned, where the question of taxation is concerned, where our crops are concerned, where the weather is concerned, where all associations in those thousands of matters of ordinary life are concerned, which are for the welfare of India, how can I say "I am a Muslim and he is a Hindu"? Make no mistake about the quarrels between Hindu and Muslim; they are founded only on the fear of domination. If there is one other sin with which I charge Great Britain, in addition to the sin of emasculating India, it is the sin of making wrong histories about India and teaching them to us in our schools, with the result that our school boys have learnt wrong Indian history. The quarrels which are sometimes visible in our streets on certain holidays, or quarrels the motives of which have been instilled into the hearts of our so-called intelligentsia--I call it unintelligentsia--by the wrong history taught us in our schools for political purposes. If that feeling, which writes "Revenge" so large over the politics of certain people in India, existed as it does, and if it existed to the extent which it does today, and the Muslims were everywhere in a minority of 25 per cent and the Hindus were everywhere in a majority of 66 per cent, I could see no ray of hape today; but thanks to the gerrymandering of our saints and our soldiers, if there are Provinces like that of my friend Dr. Moonje, in which I am only 4 per cent, there are other provinces where I am 93 percent, as in the Province of my friend Nawab Sir Abdul Qaiyum, for which we demand equal freedom. There is the old Province of Sind, where the Muslims first landed, where they are 73 per cent; in the Punjab they are 56 per cent, and in Bengal 55 per cent. That gives us our safeguard, for we demand hostages as we have willingly given hostages to Hindus in the other Provinces where they form huge majorities.

[[10]] I want you to realise that for the first time you are introducing a big revolution into India;for the first time majority rule is to be introduced into India. In the days of Lord Rama there was no majority rule, or he would not have been exiled. The old Pandu and Kuru rulers, who gambled their kingdoms away, did not have majority rule; Mahmud of Ghazni and Akbar and Aurangzeb did not have majority rule, nor did Shivaji; when Ranjit Singh ruled in the Punjab, he too did not have majority rule; when Warren Hastings and Clive ruled india, they did not have majority rule; and even in the days of Lord Irwin there is no majority rule. For the first time in India, we are going to introduce majority rule, and I, belonging to a minority community, accept that majority rule, although I know very well that if 51 people say that 2 and 2 make 5, and 49 people say that 2 and 2 make 4, the fact that 51 say that 2 and 2 make 5 does not cause them to make 5. Still I am prepared to submit to majority rule. Luckily, hewever, there are Muslim majorities in certain Provinces, and with the federal form of government which is suited to India, not only for the solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem, but is essential for the sake of the Princes also, this is in our favour. The centrifugal and centripetal tendencies are so well balanced in India that we are bound to have a federal system of government there, not as a distant ideal, as the Government of India says, but today, now this minute. We shall leave this conference only with federation established in India, with new treaties made with the Princes, with the consent of the crown and the Princes.

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