Maulana Azad ancestral connection with 19th Century Shahjahanabad

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Maulana Azad ancestral connection with 19th Century Shahjahanabad

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Excerpts on the illustrious ancestors of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad from his autobiography

Background: The eighteenth and nineteenth century North India (Hindustan) witnessed the most turbulent phase of Indian history. With the weakening of central authorities, the Mughal capital, Delhi faced the attacks of Persian, Afghans, and Marathas along with ransacking from the neighboring Jats & Gujjars tribes. Mir Taqi Mir, an eighteenth-century poet who abandoned his beloved city after it was ransacked by Afghans. He expressed his grief in following words at the court of Awadh in reply to his fellow critics.

“Na bud o bash pucho Purab key sakinon

Hum ko gharib Jan ke Hans Hans pukar ke

Dehli jo aik shehr tha alam-e-intekhab

Rehte the muntakhib hi Jahan-e-Rozgar ke

Jisko falak ne loot kar barbaad kar diya

Hum rahnay walay hain us ujray diyar key”.

It was during this period, the Delhi has witnessed the epitome of culture where one can saw Sir Syed, Ghalib, Zauq, Hali, Mufti Fazle Haqq Khairabadi, Mufti Sadaruddin Azurda and many other legends connected with Shahjahanabad of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Introduction: Close to the shrine of 17th century Sufi Sarmad Shaheed, the resting place of the great Indian leader & first education minister, Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin Ahamd is located in the walled city of Delhi. Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin was born at 11 November 1888 at Makkah, then a part of Hijaz Province of Ottoman empire. An offspring of an Indian father, Sheikh Maulana Khairuddin Dehalvi and Arab Mother, a nephew of the notable scholar, Shiekh Muhammad Tahir Watri, Azad inherited a rich scholarly legacy from both of his parents. The last part of his life was connected to Delhi as an education minister and he took his last breath in the same city when he passed away in 1958.

Interestingly, the cultural environment of Shahjahanabad that nurtured the great poet Ghalib and reformer Sir Syed was also inherited by the first education minister of India. In his biographical memoirs, Maulana Azad described his rich ancestral legacy with larger details. His remarkable forefathers have the centuries-old connection with Delhi.

Maulana Azad on his way to the Viceregal Lodge for the Shimla Conference on July 16, 1945.

Ancestral legacy and its association with Delhi: The first name mentioned from his lineage was of Shiekh Jamaluddin alias Bahlol Dehalvi, who was the blessed student of great Scholar, Sayyad Rafiuddin Shirazi. Bahlol Dehalvi was an established scholar of Islamic sciences and highly respected among his disciples for tariqa (Sufi spiritual learning) during the days of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Maulana Azad quoted “Though the imperial capital was at Agra but Delhi was the center of scholars, & Sufis in those days”. Sheikh Muhammad Son of Sheikh Jamaluddin was the disciple and successor (Khalifa) of the Mujadid Shiekh Ahmad Sirhandi at Delhi. The Mughal emperor Shahjahan had an affiliation with Sheikh Muhammad and it was widely popular that young Khurram received a prophecy of becoming an emperor by him. Down the centuries, the descendants of the family retained their respected position among the scholars of Delhi. This was the description of the paternal ancestors of Maulana Khairuddin. Azad wrote, “Shiekh Qazi Sirajuddin, the father of the maternal grandfather (Nana), Maulana Munawar Uddin of my late father, belonged to the famous scholarly family of Herat. He came to India with Ahmad Shah Abdali. On his return to Afghanistan, Abdali appointed him as Qazi of Punjab and advisor to the Nuruddin, the deputy of the Abdali Sultanate at Punjab”. At the age of sixteen Maulana Munawwaruddin, the maternal grandfather of Azad father (Khairuddin Dehalvi) came to Delhi in a quest to receive the blessed tutelage & guidance of Shah Abdul Aziz Dehalvi. The young Munawaruddin was captured by Maratha Army somewhere near Karnal and then, he was imprisoned by the British troops marching towards Delhi. After facing many difficulties, he was able to enter the city of his dreams on 10 April 1803. Sheikh Sirajuddin died during the battle at Multan in a fight with an army of Ranjit Singh and buried outside the Lahori gate in Multan. This event happened six years after the migration of Maulana Munawwaruddin to Delhi. Maulana Munawwaruddin, the son of a wealthy administrator and Qazi left for Delhi against the will of his father. After his demise, he finally settled in Delhi. Maulana Muawaruudin was blessed to receive the guidance and teachings of Shah Abdul Aziz Dehalvi. Maulana Rashiduddin, Burhanuddin, Ismail Dehalvi, Mohammad Wajih were some of his famous batchmates who attended the teaching of Shah Abdul Aziz Dehalvi. He started teaching traditional & Islamic Sciences after completion of his studies. Students from different corners of India came to attend his lessons. Maulana Sadidaldin was one of his notable students who were the first Principals of Madrasae Alai, a school established by Warren Hasting at Calcutta. Maula Fazal Imam, Allama Fazle Haqq Khairabadi, Maulana Fazal Rasool Badyuni was also some of the prominent names among the students of Maulana Munawaruddin. In last days of Mughal Emperor Akbar II, he was appointed as the head for the Madarsas of Delhi ( Ruknul Madaris), a great honor in the field of education during the Mughal period. During this time, he was responsible for the management of approximately fifty traditional schools (madrasas) operating in the different parts of Delhi. After the death of Shah Abdul Aziz Dehalvi, he reorganized the traditional school, which was started in the days of Shah Waliullah with the name of Madrasa Azizyah. On all three gates of Jama Masjid, there were schools established by Shah Jahan. With fall of Mughal prosperity, they were almost closed. During his tenure, these schools were reopened and Mufti Sadaruddin was appointed as the manager and in charge for these schools. During 1240 Hijri (1824), Maulana Munawaruudin was one of the foremost scholars who stood with Fazle Haq Khairabadi & other thirteen prominent scholars to defend the traditionalist perspective on Tawwasul and other common teachings of Sufism that were rejected by neo puritan scholar Ismail Dehalvi.

The eldest daughter of Maulana Munawaruddin was married to the Sheikh Haadi whose was among the descendants of Sheikh Jamaluddin. It was from this matrimonial alliance of great literary & scholarly lineage, Khairuddin Dehalvi, the father of Azad was born on 1831. Shiekh Hadi, the grandfather of Azad completed his studies from Mufti Sadaruddin Azurda. He was one of the most brilliant scholars of his time but unfortunately passed away at the age of twenty-five. Due to the early death of Sheikh Hadi, Khairuddin Dehalvi was brought up by his Nana (maternal grandfather) Maulana Munawwaruddin. Khairuddin was blessed to receive teaching from his grandfather and all other prominent oriental scholars of Zafar’s Delhi, the epitome of culture. The literary context of Arabic, & Persian was taught by the Mufti Sadaruddin Azurda. Other than scholarly teachings, he got the tutelage of the great teachers who trained him for horse riding, swimming, wrestling, archery and the art of calligraphy. He also got a preliminary training of one year in Medicine from the modern medical practitioners stationed at Agra. Before Mutiny, the father of Maulana Azad migrated with his grandfather and some other notable scholars to Bhopal. From Bhopal, they left for Bombay. After the stay of two years at Bombay, they finally shifted to the holy city of Makkah. For the next two decades, Maulana Khairuddin Dehalvi dedicated his teachings at Makkah, which was then the center of renowned Islamic scholars under the governance of Ottoman Empire.  In 1890, family came to Calcutta for the treatment of the mal union happened in leg fracture of Mualana Khairuddin. Somehow circumstances forced to stay and Calcutta became the home for Azad. A traditional educated Maulana Azad emerged as one of the staunchest nationalist leaders of Indian freedom movement who stood against the separatist ideologue of Lincoln’s Inn trained westernized Jinnah.

Book where Azad talked of his first ancestor in India Sheikh Jamaluddin Dehalvi ( reign of Akbar). His father maternal roots frm Qazi Sirajuddin of Herat, Maulana MunawarUddin ( Nana of his father) student of Shah Abdul Aziz. @iamrana @JAJafri @EvolveLeadLove @mehermurshed pic.twitter.com/3tvmTX0lNI

— Mohammad Rehan Asad (@mrehanasad79) November 11, 2017

Note
Most of the details has been summarized and translated by author from the autobiographical account of Maula Abul Kalam Azad, titled as “Azad ki Kahani khud ki Zubani” first published by Hali Publishing house, Delhi, 1958.

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About Rehan Asad

I am a medical educator by profession and have an avid interest in history. I have authored a book on the socio-cultural history of an Arain (a tribe from Punjab and Sindh) diaspora in Western Uttar Pradesh. I am passionate about sharing and gaining knowledge of history and culture.

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