By Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi
The First united War of India's Independence or the
Indian Rebellion of 1857, as in the British records, also known as the Sepoy
Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, and the Sepoy Mutiny was a prolonged period of
armed uprisings in different parts of India against British occupation.
Small precursors of brewing discontent, as was the plan, involving
incidences of arson in cantonment areas began to manifest themselves in
January 1857. Later, a large-scale rebellion broke out in May that year and
turned into what must be called a full-fledged war of independence in the
country. This war brought about the end of the British East India Company's
In Thana Bhawan, a place under present Muzffar Nagar
district of UP, Ulama gathered under the leadership of Haji Imdadullah
Muhajire Makki. And in May 1857 the famous Battle of Shamli took place
between the forces of Haji Imdadullah and the British army which ultimately
drew an end with complete freedom from British tyrannical clutches after 90
years in August 1947. This May of year 2007 is making 150 years of those
untold stories of the heroes of the
Islam teaches not to subjugate the free will of the people and it exhorts its followers not to submit to oppressive and evil forces. And it was this teaching of Islam that inspired Ulama of India to wage relentless war against the Company rule just after defeat of Sirajud Dawla at Palasi in 1757.
However, there are so-called intellectuals who won’t
only ignore Ulama’s contributions to
”If to fight for one’s country, plan and mastermind wars against occupying mighty powers are patriotism, then undoubtedly maulvis (read Ulama hanged by the British rulers) were the loyal patriots to their country and their succeeding generations will remember them as heroes.”
But here these maulvis, unfortunately, happened to be otherwise-- let alone remembering them as heroes, their succeeding generations are even questioning their spirit of patriotism.
SHAH WALIULLAH AND HIS
Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703-1762) led a revolution to change the whole system by drawing attention of the people towards degradation of European imperialism and rampant corruption among oriental rulers. During his pilgrimage to Makkah in 1731, Shah Waliullah was inspired by a vision to replace the imperialist and corrupt administration by establishing a government based on principles of equality and justice.
Shah Waliullah had seen the decline of Mughal rule in
It is to be noted that he propagated these ideas long
before the French, American or Soviet revolutions took place. It is a pity
that even today these noble ideas lie buried under the trash of imperialist
history that was mainly written to tarnish the image of Muslims and Ulama in
MARTYRDOM OF TIPU SULTAN
During the period from 1757 to 1857, Muslims alone
fought organized battles against the mighty British for the freedom of this
Tipu Sultan’s martyrdom has been a source of
inspiration for the Ulama who fought tooth and nail against imperialist
the British captured
common talk in
SYED AHMAD SHAHEED
Ulama under the leadership of Syed Ahmad (1786-1831), the great martyr of Rai Bareli of UP took the task of executing the edict of Shah Abdul Aziz. The armed struggle against the British occupation started in 1808, when Maharaja Jaswant Rao and Nawab Amir Ali Khan jointly planned to fight against the British forces. Shah Abdul Aziz ordered his disciple Syed Ahamd Shaheed to merge his army with that of Amir Ali Khan. Syed Ahmad Shaheed fought jointly for six years before he came to know that Amir Ali Khan was contemplating to enter in to a pact with the British.
He left Amir Ali Khan and from the year 1818 to 1821
he toured the country to propagate and instill the spirit of independence in
the masses. In 1824, he set up his base in the Frontier and began the
struggle. Nucleus of freedom fighters met on
In a tyrannical system, as the condition existed in
those days, this was the first ever bold and courageous move by a
representative body to denounce openly the British rule in
The Sikh warrior Ranjit Singh, an ally of the British
imperialism, invaded North-West Frontier Province of present
Even after this setback, companions of the two great martyrs carried on the struggle for nearly half a century. Ulama of Sadiqpur continued their relentless struggle and went on fighting in the Frontier region for more than two decades between the year 1845 and 1871.
Indian freedom fighters kept on fostering anti imperialism revolt all over the country. In 1857 another edict for Jihad (call for war as religious obligation for Muslims) was issued. The edict carried the signature of 34 Ulama. Prominent among them were Maulana Qasim Nanautavi, the founder of Darul Uloom Deoband, Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi and Hafiz Zamin Shaheed who fought the British army under the leadership of Haji lmdadullah at Shamli battle and got martyrdom.
Threatened by such a radical turn of events, the British rulers poured in immense resources in arms and men to suppress the struggle. Although the rebels fought back heroically - the betrayal by a number of rulers such as the Sikh princes, the Rajasthani princes and Maratha rulers like Scindia allowed the British to prevail. Lord Canning (then Governor General) noted that "If Scindia joins the rebels, I will pack off tomorrow". Later he was to comment: " The Princes acted as the breakwaters to the storm which otherwise would have swept us in one great wave". Such was the crucial importance of the betrayal of the princes.
The British were also helped by the conservatism of the trading communities who were unwilling to put up with the uncertainties of a long drawn out rebellion.
But equally important was the superior weaponry and
brutality of the British in defending their empire. British barbarity in
suppressing the uprising was unprecedented. After the fall of
"The fact is, there is no army in Europe or
In Awadh alone 150,000 people were killed - of which
100,000 were civilians. The great Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib wrote from
Bahadur Shah's three sons were publicly executed at "Khooni
Thomas Lowe wrote: "To live in
Nevertheless, the revolt of 1857 or the first war of
There were five major sedition cases against the Ulama
during the period 1864 and 1871.
The sedition cases were generally known as
’the Wahabi Cases’
or the ’Ambala Conspiracy
Case’. In all these cases the accused were
either sentenced to death or to life imprisonment.
Tomson, as stated above,
the British army general who fought against Muslims in the 1857 revolt,
detailed in his memoir, Rebellion Cleric,
and honestly accepted that the real heroes of
the 1857 revolt of
BIRTH OF DARUL ULOOM DEOBAND
After the defeat of 1857, some of the prominent Muslim
leaders of the freedom movement found it very hard to save
"The English have perpetrated boundless acts of tyranny against the Muslims for their fault, if at all it was a fault, of the uprising in 1857 and their relentless endeavour for the independence of this country thereafter. They have left no stone unturned to plunder and obliterate the Islamic arts and science, Muslim culture and civilization. Endowments of Muslim educational institutions have been confiscated and as a result state funded schools have been virtually closed. It is therefore, necessary to adopt other method instead of relying upon the old system of endowments.”
The negative approach adopted by the British historians of the past, and even present day Western historians to paint Ulama and their struggle against oppressive forces into bad colours is understandable. What is not understandable is the purpose of poisonous writings of the votary of Hindutva movement like Arun Shourie and others. We simply cannot believe that these historical facts are hidden from them.
Mr. Shourie criticizes a government agency for what he thinks is a positive comment for Darul Uloom Deoband. Mr. Shourie, a known journalist turned politician, having (supposedly) an open mind cannot digest even a token of appreciation that the freedom fighters and alumni of Darul Uloom received from the government agency. One could think of the state of those minds that have been continuously feeded wrong information regarding Islam and Muslim scholars. Criticizing the government on account of Darul Uloom Deoband Mr. Shourie writes in his book "The World of Fatwas”:
"That praise for re-establishing orthodoxy in Islam, for purging it of bid’ at a condemnatory word heretical "innovation”, for purging it of "religious apostasy” which the study says had crept into it "under Western or local influences”, that approbation is from a publication of our secular Government!” (P. 46)
SIR SAYYID AHMAD KHAN
Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan
while penning down his loyality to Queen
"Obedience and submission become the servant;
In response to the revolt of Hindustan, the essay about the real causes of the rebellion of Hindustan that I had written-- although my heart now wanted to erase them from the page of the times, or rather erase them even from my heart, since the proclamation that Her Excellency the Exalted Ruler, Queen Victoria (long may she reign!) has issued, is a complete cure for every single real cause of that rebellion-- the truth is that having seen the matter of that proclamation, the pen would fall from the hand of the writers of the causes of the rebellion. There has remained no necessity for anyone now to analyze them, because now their cure has become complete.
But to reflect on the real causes of those agitations, and with one's best sincerity to describe the true causes, I consider to be an excellent piece of well-wishing toward my Government. Thus it is incumbent upon me that although their cure has been very well accomplished-- nevertheless, the causes that are in my heart, I should make them too manifest. It's true that many very wise men and experienced people have written on the causes of this rebellion. But I believe that perhaps no Hindustani man has written anything about it. It's better that the opinion of such a person too should remain.
In 1860-1861, he published another tract, (Risâlah
Khair Khawahân Musalmanân) An Account of the Loyal Mahomdans
(read Muslims) of
The 1857 revolt, which had forged an unshakable unity amongst Hindus and Muslims alike, was an important milestone in our freedom struggle - providing hope and inspiration for future generations of freedom lovers. However, the aftermath of the 1857 revolt also brought about dramatic changes in colonial rule. After the defeat of the 1857 national revolt - the British embarked on a furious policy of "Divide and Rule", fomenting religious hatred as never before. Resorting to rumors and falsehoods, they deliberately recast Indian history in highly communal colors and practised pernicious communal politics to divide the Indian masses. That legacy continues to plague the sub-continent till today. However, if more people become aware of the colonial roots of this divisive communal gulf - it is possible that some of the damage done to Hindu-Muslim unity could be reversed. If Hindus and Muslims could rejoin and collaborate in the spirit of 1857, the sub-continent may yet be able to unshackle itself from it's colonial past.Let's have a real recounting of our strength in
(A Darul Uloom Deoband graduate and Editor ‘Eastern Crescent’, English monthly, M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is also a poet and Director of Mumbai based institute ‘Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre’. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)
Article taken (with Thanks) from LampPost Productions
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