Born: November 11, 1888
Died: February 22, 1958
Abul Kalam Azad was a renowned journalist of his time. Disturbed by his
provocative articles, the British Government decided to deport him off
Calcutta. Despite of his house-arrest and imprisonment, Maulana Abul
Kalam Azad continued to write against the anti-people policies of the
British Government. He was elected as Congress President in 1923 and
1940. Despite being a Muslim, Azad often stood against the policies of
the prominent Muslims leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Azad was the
first education minister of independent India. On February 22, 1958
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad passed away. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was
posthumously awarded, Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor, in
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was born on November 11, 1888 in Mecca, Islam's
main center of pilgrimage. His forefather's came to India during the
reign of Mughal Emperor Babar, from Heart, Afghanistan. Azads were the
descendent of eminent Ulama or scholars of Islam religion. His mother
was the daughter of a rich Arabian Sheikh and his father, Maulana
Khairuddin, was a Bengali Muslim of Afghan origins. Khairuddin left
India during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny (Indian rebellion of 1857) and
settled in Mecca, where he met his wife. In 1890, He, along with family,
returned to Calcutta (now Kolkata).
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's real name was Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin.
Maulana Azad had his initial formal education in Arabic, Persian and
Urdu with theological orientation and then philosophy, geometry,
mathematics and algebra. He also learnt English language, world history,
and politics on his own. Maulana Azad had a natural inclination towards
writing and this resulted in the great start of the monthly magazine "Nairang-e-Alam"
in 1899. He was eleven years old when his mother passed away. Two years
later, at the age of thirteen, Azad was married to young Zuleikha Begum.
After his return to India from an extensive visit of Egypt, Turkey,
Syria and France Azad met prominent Hindu revolutionaries Sri Aurobindo
Ghosh and Shyam Sundar Chakraborty. They helped in developing radical
political views and he began to participate in the Indian nationalist
movement. Azad fiercely criticized the Muslim politicians who were more
inclined towards the communal issues without focusing on the national
interest. He also rejected the theories of communal separatism advocated
by the All India Muslim League.
In Egypt, Azad came into contact with the followers of Mustafa Kemal
Pasha who were publishing a weekly from Cairo. In Turkey, Maulana Azad
met the leaders of the Young Turks Movement. Azad, inspired by the works
and commitment foreign leaders, published a weekly, called "Al-Hilal"
in 1912. The weekly was taken as a platform to attack the policies of
British Government and highlight the problems faced by the common
Indians. The paper became so popular that its circulation figures went
up to 26,000 copies. The unique message of patriotism and nationalism
blended with religious commitment gained its acceptance among the
masses. But these developments disturbed the British Government and in
1914, the British Government put a ban on the weekly. Unfazed by the
move, Maulana Azad, few months later, launched a new weekly, called "Al-Balagh".
Failed to put a prohibition on the writings of Maulana Azad, the British
Government then, finally decided to deport him off Calcutta in 1916.
When Maulana Azad reached Bihar, he was arrested and put under house
arrest. This detention continued till December 31, 1919. After his
release on January 1, 1920, Azad returned to the political atmosphere
and actively participated in the movement. In fact, he continued to
write provocative articles against the British Government.
The implementation of the Rowlatt Act in 1919 added fuel to the fire
and raised the intensity of the participation of common people in the
nationalist movement. Consequently, thousands of political activists had
been arrested and many publications were banned.
In the Congress
While extending his support to Mahatma Gandhi and non-cooperation
movement, Maulana Azad joined the Indian National Congress in January
1920. He presided over the special session of Congress in September 1923
and was said to be the youngest man elected as the President of the
Maulana Azad emerged as an important national leader of the Indian
National Congress Party. He also served as the member of Congress
Working Committee (CWC) and in the offices of general secretary and
president for numerous occasions. In 1928, Maulana Azad endorsed the
Nehru Report, formulated by Motilal Nehru. Interestingly, the Motilal
Nehru Report was severely criticized by number of Muslim personalities
involved with the freedom movement. As opposed to Muhammad Ali Jinnah,
Azad also advocated for the ending of separate electorates based on
religion and called for a single nation committed to secularism. In
1930, Maulana Azad was arrested for violation of the salt laws as part
of Gandhiji's Salt Satyagraha. He was put in Meerut jail for a year and
During the violence that erupted following partition of India, Maulana
Azad assured to take up the responsibility for the security of Muslims
in India. Towards this, Azad toured the violence-affected regions of
borders of Bengal, Assam, Punjab. He helped in establishing the refugee
camps and ensured uninterrupted supply of food and other basic
materials. It was reported that in the crucial Cabinet meetings both
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Azad clashed over the security
measures in Delhi and Punjab.
The role and contribution of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad could not be
overlooked. He was appointed as India's first Minister for Education and
inducted in the Constituent Assembly to draft India's constitution.
Under Maulana Azad's tenure, a number of measures were undertaken to
promote primary and secondary education, scientific education,
establishment of universities and promotion of avenues of research and
On February 22, 1958 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, one of the foremost
leaders of Indian freedom struggle passed away. For his invaluable
contribution to the nation, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was posthumously
awarded India's highest civilian honor, Bharat Ratna in 1992.