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Sayyid Muhammad ibn Safdar Husayni, known as Sayyid Jamal-al-din Afghani or Sayyid Jamal –al-din Asadabadi was born in 1838 in Iran. His family traced their lineage back to Imam Hussain. His famous title of al-Afghani suggested his Afghan-Persian heritage instead of his origin. His father Syed Safdar had a wide command on many subjects. His mother, Sakina Beghum, was a religious woman. Both had their share in molding Afghani’s views about religion. He was educated first at home, and before 18 he acquired a command over many religious learning.
His spent his whole life wondering from one place to another, influencing many young scholars and reshaping their political views. He started his worldwide journey from India at the age of 18, in 1856. He remained India for one year and felt the political agitation at mass level. When the flame of independence was spread in India he was in Makah, performing the pilgrimage. He felt distress on the unorganized revolt of the Indians yet, saw ray of hope in their courage.
He made his journey towards Afghanistan in 1858, and serve as a young scholar to educated princes at the court of Amir Dost Muhammad. He gave his fully consideration to Prince Azam khan. After death of Amir, in 1864, the civil war started between sons and grandsons and Afghani left country again of the purpose of Hajj, after which he went to Iraq. In 1866 he got the news about the defeat of Sher Ali, he rushed back to Afghanistan to accompany Azam khan. Afghani being closed to king, gave him advice to negotiate with Russian against British government. However after expulsion of Azam Khan in 1868, he had no way except to leave for Kabul to globalize his vision of pan Islamism and Modernism.
Afghani on his way to Istanbul also stayed in Egypt; here he established his contact with the students of Al-Azhar University, especially with Muhammad Abduh, who afterwards proved his right hand in spreading his political insight. He arrived in Istanbul during “Tanzimat Reforms” in late 1969, received warmly welcomed from Ali Pasha and Fuad Pasha, leading reforming ministers. He achieved the membership of Danish Usmania Organization and soon became a professor in one of the newly established university ,according to some writers it was Constantinople university, in inaugural ceremony he delivered his controversial speech on “crafts”, due to which “shikh-ul-Islam, Hassan Fehmi” twisted his words and entitled him as Anti Islam. In order to get rid of the sophisticated air created by Hassan Fehmi and his supporters he left Istanbul.
In 1871, Afghani paved his way to Egypt once again. He not only incites the patriotic feelings of the young Egyptians to unite against foreigners influence, but also molded their political mind setup. He is said to be the first Modern Muslim, who use the shield of Islam in his political appeal. He directly participated in Egyptian Politics after entering in “Eastern Star Lodge” in 1877 and soon made his own political support base. His political campaign worked rightly to dethrone Ismael as Khedev and supported Taufiq. Ironically, Taufiq after attaining power made alliance with the British and expulsed him in 1879. Once again He faced depression about his dream for a Islamic model state as it happened in case of Afghanistan and Turkey.
Afghani came to Hyderabad Deccan (India) where he wrote “Refutation of the Materialism”, which shakeup the western block. In India he influenced many young Indians like Sir Salar Jang Bahadur and Syed Hussain Bilgrami. He also noticed that under Syed Ahmed Khan the idea to cooperate with British is prevailing in Indian and Muslims ignoring Jehad against the colonial powers. He harshly condemned Syed methodology in his article “Tafsir Moufasir” and led stressed on Muslims unity. During this period, he also suspected as initiator of nationalist “Urabi Revolt” of Egypt in 1882. He was called to Calcutta by Government of India. when the revolt was crushed down he was set free.
He left India in Nov 1882 and went to London, from where he moved to Paris. In Paris he also made acquaintances with the great French journalists and became close to socialist personalities as “Oliver Pain”. Afghani wrote many articles for French newspaper; most remarkable work was the publication of “Al-Urwa al Wathqa” in 1884, in association with his follower, Muhammad Abduh. It was indeed first anti colonial pamphlet. it was the time, when Sudan’s revolt against their ruler and British though this pamphlet would worked against their authority in Sudan. The British felt anxiety due to his idea of pan Islamism and offered him the Sudan’s kingship through W.Churchill, dethroning Al-Mehdi, to end his anti British activity.
In 1887, he proceeded to Russia. He here enjoyed the royal services. It was merely due to his influenced that Czar allowed publication of Quran and other religious book in Russia. He for the first time met with king of Persia, Shah Nasiruddin Qachar, in Russia and later met in Munich. This meeting changed his mind to come Persia and offered the position of Minister Ship of Persia.
He reached Persia with Shah in 1889. Ironically, he candidly condemned his leadership instead of favoring his policies. At last he was arrested and departed from Persia in 1990. His exiled flamed the anti emotions of his disciples against Shah Nasiruddin, people challenged this authority. This mass agitation ends up with the assassination of the shah on May 1, 1895.
Afghani in 1892 moved towards Istanbul from London. He cordially welcomed by Ottomans, fixed monthly allowance of 775 pounds and free residence for him. Persian demanded him, but Sultan refused to surrendered Afghani. Fate also conspiracy against him, he had a sever attack of Cancer of the jaws in 1896. He spent his last days in a pitiable condition and lasted his final breath on March 9, 1897.
He was buried in the sheikh”s cemetery near Nishan Tash. His grave was rebuilt by an American Mr. Crine before, 1944, his remains was brought to his dearly loved native soil.
It was his mortal end only; his spirit of reforms incited many young people of their time to raise a revolt against tyranny. In Turkey, Namek Kamal, follow suit Afghani’s steps and his followers in 1905 to 1911 brought constitutional reforms in Iran. In India, he raised as stimulating celebrity for Alama Iqbal, Abu al-kalam, Gandi and Raja Mahandra Prtab.