Indian Ulema who fought for freedom: Part 1 By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

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By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

On this Independence Day, we need to also remember the freedom strugglers who have been forgotten almost completely. The first Indian freedom movement of 1857 should particularly be recalled in this context. While 70 percent of the soldiers came from the Hindu or Sikh community, the Ulema and Muslim leaders like Maulana Fazle Haq Khairabadi, Maulana Ahmed Shah, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Khan Bahadur Khan, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Firoz Shah and Azimullah Khan were the most prominent characters in the annals of the revolt. Remarkably, Nana Sahib, Rani Laxmi Bai and Tantya Tope declared Bahadur Shah Zafar, a Muslim King, India’s first independent ruler on May 11, 1857. Similarly, Ram Kunwar Singh, Raja Nahir Singh, Rao Tula Ram exerted herculean efforts and sacrifices to uphold the 1857 revolt.

During the 1857 revolt, India’s top Ulema declared the rebellion for freedom as “Wajib-e-Deeni” (religious obligation). They issued an anti-British fatwa while actively participating in the blood-spattered insurgents. Among the most forgotten Ulema and Maulvis who valiantly campaigned for an independent India were: Maulana Sadruddin Azurda Dehlvi, Maulana Ahmadullah Shah Madrasi, Maulana Fazle Haq Khairabadi, Maulana Kifayat Ali Moradabadi, Maulana Rahmatullah Kairanvi, Imam Bakhsh Sahbai Dehlvi and Maulana Wazir Khan Akbarabadi. These Ulema were imbued in an Indian strain of Islam with a pluralistic and nationalistic ideology originally underpinned by the Sufi mentors such as Mirza Mazhar Jaan-e-Jaanan (1195-1781), Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlvi (1239-1824), Qazi Sana’ullah of Panipat (1225-1810), Shah Rafiuddin Dehlvi (1233-1818) and Mufti Sharfuddin Rampuri (1268-1852). Their exhortation of nationalism called Hubb-ul-Watani (love for the country) was the driving force behind the Ulema’s fierce struggles and sacrifices in the Independence movements from 1857 to 1947. I suffice to reproduce three prominent examples from the Indian Ulema’s traditions and accounts.

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