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Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar (1878-1931)

Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar also known as Mohammad Ali was among the passionate fighters of independence who struggled against the British Colonial Powers. He was born in 1878 in Rampur, India. He belonged to the Yousaf Zai clan of the Rohillatribe to a wealthy and enlightened family of Pathans. He was one of the legendry Ali Brothers other then Shaukat Ali and Zulfiqar Ali. Despite the early death of his father, the efforts, determination and sacrifice by his farsighted mother, Abadi Bano Begum, enabled him and his brothers to get good education. Their mother mortgaged almost all her landed property and sent them to the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, Both of the Ali Brothers graduated from this College. Mohammad Ali showed exceptional brilliance throughout his College career and stood first in the B.A. examination of the Allahabad University, later in 1898, Mohammad Ali proceeded to Lincoln College, Oxford, for further studies where he got honors degree in Modern History and devoted himself more to the study of history of Islam.

After his return to India, he took charge as education director for the Rampur state, and later for almost a decade served in the Baroda civil service. He possessed remarkable brilliance as a writer and orator, He wrote articles in various newspapers like “The Times”, “The Observer” and “The Manchester Guardian” as well as other major English and Indian newspapers, in both English and Urdu. He was man of a versatile genius and played a great part in the endeavors against the British colonial rule. He was a great orator and still greater Journalist. He became firm opponents of British rule under the combined shock of the Balkan wars and Kanpur Mosque incident in 1913. His relentless determination and ardor in the cause of India’s freedom, and his persistence in pursuing the goal most dear to him won him the respect and affection of his numerous countrymen. He launched his famous weekly The Comrade, in English, from Calcutta, on January 14, 1911, written and edited by one man and produced on expensive paper, The Comrade quickly gained circulation and influence. After twenty months the paper moved to Delhi the then new capital of British Empire. Later in 1913 he started publishing an Urdu-language daily Hamdard as well. Mohammad Ali worked hard to expand the Aligarh Muslim University, then known as the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, and was one of the co-founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920, which was later moved to Delhi.

Jauhar was among the founders of All India Muslim League and attended first meeting in Dhaka in 1906. He served as its president in 1918 and remained active in the League till 1928. Being a zealous Muslim and passionate believer of caliphate he played active role in Khilafat movement. He represented the Muslim delegation that travelled to England in 1919 to persuade the British government to influence the Turkish Mustafa Kamal not to depose the Sultan of Turkey, who was the Caliph of Islam. British rejection of their demands resulted in the formation of the Khilafat committee which directed Muslims all over India to protest and boycott the government. In 1921, Ali formed a broad coalition with Muslim nationalists like Shaukat Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari and Indian nationalist leader Mahatama Gandhi, who enlisted the support of the Indian National Congress and many thousands of Hindus, who joined the Muslims in a demonstration of unity. He wholeheartedly supported Gandhi’s call for a national civil resistance movement, and inspired many hundreds of protests and strikes all over India. He was arrested by British authorities and imprisoned for two years for what was termed as a seditious speech at the meeting of the Khilafat Conference. He was the sixth Muslim to become the President of Indian National Congress in 1923. Mohammed Ali’s elevation to the Congress president ship helped to legitimize his position in nationalist circles but within months he began to drift away from congress. This had a great deal to do with deteriorating Hindu-Muslim relations and the Congress inclination towards the communal forces of Hindu Mahasabha. Mohammad Ali’s anxieties were heightened by the growing fissures in the Hindu-Muslim alliance in Bengal and Punjab and the rapid progress of the Arya Samaj, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the shuddhi and sangathan. The publication of the Nehru report in August 1928 proved the last nail in the coffin of Hindu Muslim unity. Mohammad Ali Jauhar, in league with some others, disrupted a meeting which was tilted in favor of the Nehru report. Mohammad Ali Jauhar accused Motilal Nehru for ‘killing non-cooperation and deplored Gandhi’s endorsement of the Nehru Report. Mohammad Ali opposed the Nehru Report’s rejection of separate electorates for Muslims, and supported the Fourteen Points of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the League.

Mohammed Ali pleaded Muslims to send a separate delegation in 1930s London Round Table Conference to represent Muslims. His appeal symbolized the collapse of the old alliance on which Gandhi had built the non-cooperation movement and clearly showed that only Muslim League spoke for the Indian Muslims. Although seriously ill he joined the delegation, led by the Aga Khan, with the firm conviction that critical collaboration with the British at the Round Table Conference would bring greater political benefits. His speech at the Round Table Conference, which turned out to be his last sermon, appeared to be the last wish of dying man, ‘I want to go back to my country, ‘Mohammed Ali declared, ‘with the substance of freedom in my hand. Otherwise I will not go back to a slave country. I would even prefer to die in a foreign country so long as it is a free country, and if you do not give me freedom in India you will have to give me a grave here.’ Mohammed Ali, a chronic patient of diabetes, died soon after the conference in London, on January 4, 1931 in London and was buried in Jerusalem in the court-yard of Masjid-ul-Aqsa, the second holiest mosque of Islam.

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