Abul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed Azad (Urdu: مولانا ابوالکلام محی الدین احمد آزاد, Bengali: আবুল কালাম মুহিয়ুদ্দিন আহমেদ আজাদ) (11 November 1888 – 22 February 1958) was an Indian scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement. One of the most prominent Muslim leaders, he opposed the partition of India because he thought Muslims would be more powerful and dominant in a united India. Following India’s independence, he became the first Minister of Education in the Indian government. In 1992 he was posthumouslyawarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. He is commonly remembered as Maulana Azad; the word Maulana is an honorific meaning `learned man’, and he had adopted Azad (Free) as his pen name. His contribution to establishing the education foundation in India is recognised by celebrating his birthday as “National Education Day” across India.
He was also President of the Indian National Congress before independence, and after the independence of India he held high posts in the federal cabinet of the Indian Republic. At the time of the death of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, he was acting as the editor of a well-known Muslim newspaper, the Wakeel of Amritsar. We give below extracts from the lengthy obituary of Hazrat Mirza that Maulana Abul Kalam Azad wrote in it:
That man, that very great man, whose pen was a magic wand and whose tongue spell-binding; that man whose brain was a complex of wonders whose eye could revive the dying and whose call aroused those in the graves, whose fingers held the wires of revolution and whose fists were electrical batteries; that man who for thirty years was an earth-quake and typhoon for the religious world, who, like the trumpet of Doomsday, awakened those lost in the slumber of life, he has left the world empty-handed. This bitter death, this cup of poison, which entrusted the deceased to dust, will remain on thousands, nay millions of tongues, as words of bitter disappointment and regret. The stroke of death which slaughtered, along with one who was very much alive, the hopes and longings of many, and the wails it raises of lament, will remain in memories for a long time to come.
“The demise of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib of Qadian is not such an event that a lesson should not be learnt from it, nor should it be consigned to the passage of time to efface. Such people who produce a religious or intellectual revolution are not born often. These sons of history, in whom it rightly takes pride, appear but rarely on the world scene, and when they do they bring about a revolution for all to see.
“In spite of our strong differences with Mirza sahib in respect of some of his claims and beliefs, his separation for ever has convinced the educated and enlightened Muslims that one of their very great personages has left them. And with him the mighty defence of Islam against its opponents, which was linked with his person, has come to an end. His special characteristic, that he acted against the enemies of Islam as a victorious general, compels us to express openly our feeling that the grand movement which for so long defeated and trod over our opponents should be continued in the future also.
“Mirza sahib appeared in the front line of devotees who, for the cause of Islam, accepted the dedication to sacrifice their time from the cradle, through the springs and autumns, to their graves in fulfilling the pledge of loyalty to their beautiful beloved Islam. …
“The literature produced by Mirza sahib in his confrontation with the Christians and the Aryas has received the seal of general approval, and for this distinction he needs no introduction. We have to acknowledge the value and greatness of this literature from the bottom of our hearts, now that it has done its work. This is because that time cannot be forgotten nor effaced from the mind when Islam was besieged by attacks on all sides, and the Muslims, who had been entrusted with the defence of Islam by the Real Defender, as the means of defence in this world of causes and means, were lying flat sobbing in the aftermath of their shortcomings, doing nothing for Islam or not being able to do anything for it. …
“Then began that counter-attack from the side of the Muslims in which Mirza sahib had a part. That defence not only shattered to bits the initial influence of Christianity, which it really had due to support from the government, and saved thousands, nay millions, of Muslims from this dangerous attack which would have succeeded, but the talisman of Christianity itself was blown away like smoke. …
“So, this service rendered by Mirza sahib will place the coming generations under a debt of gratitude, in that he fulfilled his duty of the defence of Islam by joining the front rank of those engaged in the jihad by the pen, and he left behind him as a memorial such literature as will last so long as Muslims have blood flowing in their veins and the urge to support Islam remains their prominent national characteristic. Besides this, Mirza sahib performed a very special service for Islam by crushing the poisonous fangs of the Arya Samaj. … His writings against the Arya Samaj shed clear light on the claim that, however much the scope of our defence may be widened in the future, it is impossible that these writings could ever be overlooked.
“Natural intelligence, application and dexterity, and continuous debates, had lent Mirza sahib a special splendour. He had vast knowledge, not only of his own religion, but also of other religions. And he was able to use his vast knowledge with great finesse. In the art of preaching and teaching, he had acquired the accomplishment that the person whom he addressed, of whatever understanding or religion, was thrown into deep thought by his spontaneous reply. India today is an exhibition house of religions, and the number of great and small faiths found here, along with their mutual struggles which announce their existence, cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. Mirza sahib’s claim was that he was the arbiter and judge for them all, but there is no doubt that he possessed a special talent to make Islam pre-eminent among all these religions. This was due to his natural ability, taste for study, and hard work. It is not likely that a man of this grandeur will be born again in the religious world of the Indian sub-continent, who would devote his highest desires in this way to the study of religions.”