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In the second half of the nineteenth century many educational institutions were founded to educate the Muslims of India and make them equal in all terms with their Hindu fellow countrymen. In this regard one of the major educational institutions was that of Nadva tul Ulama. Two of its predecessors the Aligarh School and College and Dar-ul-Uloom-i-Deoband were in contrast to each other. Aligarh emphasized on the modern western education, fruitful for the Muslims of India while Deoband, on the other hand, devised to make Muslims a progressed nation by enhancing their religious spirit and knowledge of religion. In those circumstances there was a great need of the emergence of an institution that could deliver the two types of education at the same time and at one place. Thus for that purpose Nadva-tul-Ulama was founded in 1894 at Lucknow by Moulvi Abdul Ghaffar, who was working as the deputy collector for the British government of India.
The objectives of the establishment of the new institution were as under:
1. Remove sectarianism among the ranks of the Muslims
2. Elimination of the prevailing extremist educational ideas and to make them coherent
3. Improvement of the educational syllabus
4. Elimination of social evils
5. Improvement of all aspects of Muslims’ lives
6. Muslim separation from politics
7. Establishment of a grand educational institution to impart all sorts of education both, religious and secular
Later this educational movement expanded itself and in 1898 Nadva-tul-Ulama was established and its regular classes started shortly afterwards. Lots of people put their contributions in Nadva’s establishment and its successful working by providing it with grants. For instance Sir Agha Khan, Amir of Bahawalpur and Nawab of Bhopal are just a few names to mention in this regard. However, there were some criticisms as well like the Governor of U.P Anthony MacDonnel, famous for his contributions in the Urdu-Hindi controversy on the Hindu side, criticized Nadva for being a part of political activity in the province. But after a few years the government too started patronizing Nadva and government grants were also issued to it. In 1908 Nadva’s grand building started constructing and the British government of U.P laid its foundations.
Nadva witnessed the peak of its popularity when Maulana Shibli Naumani joined it in 1904. Shibli along with Moulvi Abdul Haq set the rules and regulations for the Nadva that enhanced its prestige a lot. Before joining Nadva, Shibli was the faculty member of Aligarh College where he proved himself to be a great scholar and a successful teacher. But he had his issues with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and so he left Aligarh in 1904. Later, as mentioned earlier, he joined Nadva and here again he proved his caliber. He was made the in charge of Nadva and he made many changes in the syllabus of courses taught there. He also made English language as a compulsory subject at the school. He was the editor of the magazine of Nadva and he also established Dar-ul-Musanifin at Azamgarh. But soon Shibli became unpopular among his staff of Nadva because of his excessive pride and rigidity and he had to resign but after his resignation Nadva lost its popularity and never it could achieve the status it used to enjoy during the days of Shibli.
Nadva-tul-Ulama of Lucknow produced famous scholars like Syed Suleiman Nadvi and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. It also provided freedom movement of Pakistan with freedom fighters like Suleiman Nadvi, Abdul Salam Nadvi and Masood Alam Nadvi etc.