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Family Background:
Some Random Personal Memories of  My Father  A.M. Khwaja

Part A: A Personal Statement:

My father, Abdul Majeed Khwaja (1885-1962) was born at Aligarh. Uttar Pradesh, educated at Cambridge University, and called to the Bar in 1910. Under Ghandhiji's inspiration he gave up his flourishing legal practice at Patna in 1919, joined the struggle for Indian freedom and suffered imprisonment for his role in the Civil Disobedience and Khilafat movements. He actively opposed the partition of the country in 1947 and dedicated his entire life to the promotion of Hindu-Muslim harmony and the attainment of a united free India.

He was one of the founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia that was established at Aligarh in 1920, under Gandhij’s and Maulana Muhammad Ali’s inspiration, to provide higher Western education on nationalist lines as an alternative to the British system of college education that prevailed in colonial times. He permanently shifted from Patna to Aligarh to give full time attention to the infant institution. This meant immense financial sacrifice on his part, but he undertook the task as a labor of love and as a part of his patriotic and Islamic duty. He incurred huge financial debts during 1920- 25.

In 1925, with Ghandhiji's and Hakim Ajmal Khan's concurrence and blessings, Khwaja Sahab shifted the institution to Karol Bagh, Delhi and handed over charge to Dr. Zakir Husain, who had just returned from Germany after completing his higher studies in Economics. In 1926 I was born and father, after a long gap of six years, resumed legal practice at the High Court at Allahabad. Domestic and health reasons kept him out of active politics until the end of 1943, though he continued liberally supporting the Jamia and the Congress party. The raising of the demand for Pakistan stirred him into actively opposing the partition of the motherland on religious lines. He and some close associates founded the umbrella All India Muslim Majlis to coordinate the activities of all Muslims opposed to partition on the basis of the 'two-nation' theory and Khwaja was unanimously elected as its President. In this capacity he met the British Cabinet Mission at Delhi and also extensively toured the country to influence Muslim public opinion in favor of preserving the unity of India. He and others like him patiently bore the ire of the separatist forces without losing faith in their mission, which, however, failed to materialize. But for him Bapu's assassination was a shock he could never overcome and thereafter Khwaja almost faded out of active election politics in independent India.

In 1949 he somehow managed, at great personal sacrifice, to send me up to his old Christ’s' College at Cambridge for my Moral Sciences Tripos. In 1953 I was appointed lecturer in Philosophy at my alma mater, Aligarh Muslim University. Father was not very happy at my choice of the teaching profession, but he had to accept the facts of life. I worked as a teacher for four years and was tinkering with the idea of getting a doctorate in philosophy from Germany or some other foreign university. Meanwhile I was almost picked up, as it were, by Jawaharlal Nehru, to contest for a seat in the Second Lok Sabha (1957-62) as a part of his declared desire to induct fresh blood in the Congress party. I was one of the four or five young or youngish persons so selected by the leader. Once again father was not enthused by the idea because of financial and other reasons, but after some initial reluctance he accepted the sudden change in my life situation. There is no doubt that Jawaharlal's choice fell on me because of his love and regard for my father - his old comrade from Cambridge days and also deeply committed to Gandhiji’s ethical approach to politics. There is also no doubt that it was the power of the Congress ticket in those early days that ensured my success at the polls.

I was, obviously, a political moron though I certainly cherished high ideals and also entertained some illusions about myself. I completed my full five year term in Parliament, but I realized that I was not gifted enough to combine the pursuit of knowledge or wisdom with the pursuit of power in spite of my extremely rare good luck at the early age of 32. With a heavy heart I had to disappoint my mentor and beloved leader who wanted me to continue in politics. I returned to my old teaching job in March 1962. Shortly afterwards father passed away in December of the same year.

All the family members deeply mourned father's passing away and numerous friends and members of the public and prominent leaders and public figures sent messages of condolence to us. It was quite natural for a large number of father's old associates and friends to suggest that some suitable person or persons should be asked to compose a biography of Khwaja Sahab to provide for posterity a written record of the life and achievements of an eminent person.

Being the eldest son of my parents and also in view of my academic background I should have embarked upon this work as a labor of love. But I must confess that I felt myself to be unqualified to undertake this task since I had no personal knowledge of the major achievements and contributions of my father that had taken place much before my birth in 1926, I was also aware that father had been very careless and unconcerned to keep proper records. I did seek the consent of some old colleagues and friends of father to contribute to a proposed collection of essays on my father but they also needed records and references that I could hardly manage. My younger brother, Raveend, had much greater personal knowledge of some events and incidents connected with father's political activities in the period 1944-48. He had also played a very active role as a student leader in the AMU in the middle forties of the last century trying to combat the politics of separatism and partition. He accompanied father on an extensive tour of the country to oppose the idea of partition. But he was in the same boat as myself in regard to the much earlier golden period of our father's rich contributions to the Indian freedom and Khilafat movements, his constructive work under the auspices of the Hindusatni Culture Society, Allahabad, and his efforts to reform the Muslim law of divorce. The youngest among us brothers and sisters, Ajmal, knew the least in the matters concerned. My sisters, all considerably older than the brothers had seen father function together with such stalwarts and luminaries, as Gandhiji, the Nehrus, Ali Brothers, Sarojini Naidu, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. Ansari and many others, but they too did not have any records to rely upon.

As time passed by and no work was done on the project (for which I felt personally responsible) father’s close friends and associates who had consented to contribute to the memorial project started to pass away, one by one. As of today there is only one person alive who had promised to write a chapter for the proposed book and actually handed over the Urdu composition to me. Meanwhile the Aligarh University launched an Urdu project, Eminent Aligarians, in several volumes, and included father's name in the said project. A high level editorial committee selected competent writers to write on the life and achievements of different personalities. It is most unfortunate that the person who had been commissioned to write on Khwaja Sahab failed to complete the job not once but thrice. Later on he assured me that he would compensate for this lapse by writing a full length well researched work on the subject. However, even after the lapse of some ten years or more he has failed to deliver.

Under the above circumstances I have been compelled to abort the project as it had been conceived several years ago. However, since I have already crossed 80 and can exit into the other world any moment without any notice I have solemnly ventured to pen an essay on my father, under the title, The Islamic Vision of Abdul Majeed Khwaja. This would have been my own contribution to the proposed volume had the project materialized. This essay would also serve to supplement an earlier long essay of mine - The Islamic Vision of Sir Syed. This piece forms a critical introduction to an Urdu anthology of the writings of the Father of the Aligarh Movement. The book was published by the New Aligarh Movement, in 1988.

This essay on Khwaja Sahab is an attempt to bring alive the living thoughts and attitudes of Khwaja Sahab to religion and politics. I have written from intimate and inside knowledge of father's life and character. I have not consulted any book, nor given any references, as this was quite unnecessary for my purpose, in any case, no references on this subject exist, apart from Khwaja Sahab's foreword to the printed Convocation Address Sir P C Ray delivered in 1923 at the Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh when Khwaja was its Vice-Chancellor.

My father was a man of great integrity, moral courage and intellectual clarity, though he had no pretensions to scholarship and was definitely averse to sitting down and undertaking the pains of putting his thoughts on paper. In all humility, sincere admiration and gratitude to my father I would like to say that my forthcoming book, Living the Quran in Our Times, is at bottom, a systematic and philosophical elaboration of the essence of Islam as Khwaja Sahab used to express his ideas and thoughts in the natural course of time in personal conversations with family members, personal talks or discussions with friends or associates and also at public gatherings. However, I must add that my presentation of the ideas and views of our father is my 'take’ of what I heard him say in personal conversations or public talks. Others including our own family might not have exactly the same 'take' as mine. In any case I have aimed to be a faithful reporter.

Furthermore, I hold that Khwaja's vision of Islam has a permanent value for all Muslims and others in the task of the proper and balanced understanding of the function of religion, as such, in the modem age. I should like to say the same about the already well acclaimed contributions of Abul Kalam Azad, Iqbal, Muhammad Abduh, Shibli, Aslam Jairajpuri et al and of course, to the father of modern Islam in the Indian subcontinent, Sir Syed. I would like to pay a special tribute to the unwritten but subtle and very positive contribution, Zakir Sahab, the first Muslim President of the Republic of India, and his brilliant team comprising Abid Husain, Muhammad Mujeeb, K. A. Hamied, made in this regard. Here I must also express my admiration for the solid intellectual contribution made by Ghulamus Sayidain and Rafiq Zakaria, and the unwritten contribution of Bashir Husain Zaidi, as Zakir Sahab's immediate successor at the helm of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). I honestly maintain that he sincerely tried to steer the boat of the AMU in the direction solemnly set by his predecessor. Zaidi Sahab achieved a lot despite the strong winds of opposition due to cultural lag of the Aligarh community in general - a quite natural and innocent sociological phenomenon in all developing societies.

Unfortunately, Muslims from the very beginning have practiced the ‘monolithic' approach to Monotheism and the revealed Scripture instead of the 'pluralistic’ or 'conceptually permissive’ approach to the human spiritual quest. The resultant 'fear of persecution or heresy' has ever hovered over Muslim believer’s quest for authenticity and conceptual clarity. The fear of persecution simply must go if we want Muslim believers to be authentically committed to Islam. The core of the Islamic faith, to my mind, is the belief in Monotheism and a genuine commitment to the mystery of Quranic revelation plus the total sincerity and integrity of Prophet Muhammad. The illustrious personalities I have mentioned above, each in one's own way, had integrated this core faith with basic modern concepts and values that include secular democracy, polymorphous human rights and complete tolerance. They were all authentic persons, who had genuine religious faith (the core of the Islamic faith) and they were also committed to the core values of modern democracy. However, every individual Muslim will have to discover the paradigm that best suits him or her as a unique individual. The patient search for the 'personalized paradigm' of religious faith without fear or favor and the atmosphere of abundant loving tolerance, are the basic needs of all humanity (including Muslim believers, be they citizens of secular societies or Islamic states) in the modern age of science and technology. These two, as such, are neutral to religious faith provided the believer chooses such a paradigm of the concerned faith as does not clash with the 'methodologically legitimate' jurisdiction of science. This insight is the indispensable foundational truth on which humanity has to build its future and the direction in which we must move, failing which we are likely to perish.

In view of the above considerations I do hope and trust that the Vice- Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia would kindly consider devising ways and means, as he thinks best, for the preparation and publication of a suitable full length memorial volume on the life and contributions of a person who was an authentic Muslim, an equally authentic secular patriot, a major benefactor of the Jamia from its birth, and had the unique honor of being Chancellor of the Jamia for a quarter of a century.

Part B: Some Random Observations and Personal Memories of Abdul Majeed Khwaja:

1. About 5’ 8" in height, Khwaja had broad shoulders, a radiantly fair and smooth complexion (right till old age), medium sized dark brown eyes, a well proportioned straight nose, an elongated cast of face with well filled cheeks, a finely chiseled mouth and a shapely chin bearing a French-cut beard, the only minor flaw in his almost perfect body was, a, relatively, short neck. His striking personality made many say that he was even more handsome and physically magnetic than his friend and comrade Jawaharlal.

As a youth I once referred to ‘Nehruji’ in the hearing of my father. This was at Allahabad. Father immediately chided me for not saying 'Jawahar Chacha', and proceeded to relate his own childhood experience long back in Aligarh. In the nineties of the 19lh century he was playing near the main entrance of his father's house when a spacious horse carriage arrived and some distinguished looking visitor alighted and enquired if Molvi Sahab (my grandfather) was at home. The young child (my father) did not know the visitor's name, so he first quietly asked a servant who the visitor was and then rushed to inform his father that Raja Sahab, Mursan had come. Immediately he received a slap from his father for not calling Raja Sahab as Uncle from Mursan.

Our first-born child (a boy) was born in 1950. According to tradition the grandfather selected the name, and father chose 'Jawahar Kabir'. He left the choice of name to me when our second son was born. We named him 'Sundar Habib’. Our third child was a daughter. Again, father selected the name 'Geeta Anjum. For our youngest child (a boy) born two years before Khwaja Sahab passed away we selected the name, ‘Nasser Navin'. Father put into practice his long held view that throughout social space and time personal names had come from the language of the tribe or clan belonging to a region rather than from any religion. He always reminded his fellow Muslims in private as well as in public that when the earliest Arabs of Mecca first accepted Islam they did not change their pre-Islamic names to some supposedly Islamic name. Among his children I and my younger brother, Rasheed, had inwardly accepted father's approach early in our youth. My spouse and I, therefore, welcomed and rejoiced at father's choice of Indian or Hindi names for his grandchildren, first for our son, and then for our daughter. When several persons in our circle of friends and the family mildly objected to a Muslim child being given a 'Hindu' name father pointed out that Jawahar was actually an Arabic word, and not Hindu or Muslim. He also added that he stood for adopting Hindi names that were sweet and short, not Hindu names having a religious significance.

Father loved to invite his dear friend, Pandit Sundarlal, the famous disciple of Gandhi, to address Muslim gatherings for commemorating the birth and character of Prophet Muhammad. The Pandit's transparently sincere and soul stirring speeches and the tears he shed kept large audiences captive for hours at a stretch. I have heard and experienced his magical sermons several times. Sundarlalji's younger friend and disciple, Bishambar Nath Pandey, who edited the presentation volumes, The Spirit of India, in honor of Indira Gandhi, and also served as Governor of Orissa, had learnt his speaking skills from Sundarlal himself.

Gandhiji's elder son, Hiralal, converted to Islam in the mid thirties of the last century. This event caused a sensation and much controversy in the entire country as was to be expected. Some Muslim quarters celebrated this event by lionizing the young heroic son of the Mahatama, and showered gifts of money and invitations to speak at public functions, while others, presumably, felt embarrassed that the Mahatama's own son had repudiated the great leader. In the midst of the crisis Gandhiji wrote a four/six page letter in his own handwriting to his dear friend and admirer, Khwaja. I found the letter in father's papers in the late sixties and read it; fascinated by every word Bapu had written. Most unfortunately I handed over the said letter, along with some other letters of Gandhiji to my brother, Raveend, who is unable to trace them now. I am told that the letter must have been copied and preserved by Gandhiji's personal staff before being posted to the addressee. Nothing will give me greater joy if the copy in fact survives; I am going to make farther enquiries at the earliest.

It is well known that Hiralal was a profoundly disturbed and unhappy soul who hankered after peace of mind but could never win it. He took to blaming his father for his own limitations and failures in life. His conversion to Islam was far from being a genuine spiritual experience. It was a mere pathological reaction to his inner frustrations and after a few months or weeks of basking in the dubious adulation from some short sighted Muslim quarters; Hiralal reverted to his earlier depressed state of mind. Gandhiji had foreseen the result and had merely taken his true friend and follower into confidence. The letter was a moving and transparent document written by an authentic and committed soul, firmly rooted in his own faith, but full of loving tolerance for the genuine faith of all others.

Khwaja was a man of high integrity and extra-ordinary moral courage and unswerving determination. He stood by the truth, as he saw it, without fear or favor. He never hankered after any position though he did seek constructive power as a man of action rather than merely of words and dreams. When political power eluded him after independence due to the passing away of his mentor Gandhi and his own reluctance to play second fiddle to those in power at the national level, he confined himself to exercising power in the affairs of the Aligarh Muslim University as a member of the Executive Council and as Honorary Manager of the Islamia College, Etawah. He also did not interfere with the affairs of the Jamia at Delhi although he remained Chancellor until his death in 1962 due to the insistence of old comrades.

Khwaja was extremely liberal in helping friends and even his critics when they sought his help in some just cause. His donations to Congress party funds, educational, cultural and other public institutions were very generous in relation to his actual assets. He donated his inherited family house in Aligarh to a local school, his rich personal library to Jamia Millia Islamia, in addition to spending continually huge sums on its maintenance from 1920 to 1926, his huge law library to the AMU, considerable land to the Barasehni Degree College, Aligarh, and a huge chunk of land for constructing the proposed Medical College of the AMU. He also gave several scholarships and stipends to deserving students for studying in India and abroad or for establishing small-scale business or production units. He also gave grants and loans to those who approached him for help, but never talked about such matters. A lot of his time was taken up in such works instead of pursuing his own serious work of writing his memoirs and editing his scattered Urdu poems and verses of no ordinary quality. It is, indeed, a pity that a person of his intellectual brilliance, integrity and varied contacts and experiences could not put his thoughts on paper.

Father often expressed his strong disapproval of the well-known grudge of the Shia Muslims against the first three Caliphs who succeeded as the heads of the Islamic state after the death of the Prophet. Khwaja could never digest the open and public abuse of the first three Caliphs or the doctrine of habitually concealing one's inner convictions. However, he ardently admired the moral courage and principled stand of the Prophet's younger grandson, Husain, against the establishment. I had often heard father expressing this sentiment. But the intensity of the sentiment came to my knowledge only when I heard father address a Majlis function at the residence of my sister's father in law, Ali Hasan Khan at Gadhi, District Pratapgarh. This was in the late thirties or early forties of the last century. The other speaker was the renowned orator, Syed Kalbe Abbas of Allahabad, who was known to cast a spell on his hearers. In any case, Khwaja never allowed polemics to stand in the way of his warm relationships with several Shia friends. I cannot help thinking that his self-proclaimed distrust of Shias, in general, was more an exercise of his irrepressible wit and a pose that he enjoyed enacting before Sunni fanatics rather than serious prejudice as such.

8. Khwaja Sahab loved to hear Urdu and Persian ghazals, bhajans and sitar recitals. However, to the best of my memory, I never heard him praise or admire Western music. He firmly rejected the orthodox Muslim view that music was the gateway to moral corruption. On the other hand, he regarded music as the gateway to spiritual catharsis. In view of his greatly developed musical and poetic sensibilities his spiritual mentor, Mir Qurban Ali of Jaipur of the Naqshbandiya order, had exempted him from the traditional orthodox restriction on listening to music. Khwaja was drawn to Sufi thought and poetry, but he disliked credulity and the uncritical acceptance of miracles and the granting of boons by saints and holy men. He believed in seeking help directly from God and exhorted Muslims to combine piety and prayer with rational action.

9. My father's parenting style was marked by the traditional oriental aloofness of the father from his children, specially the sons. He expected them to obey their father in all matters, though he never reprimanded them if and when his children failed to do so. He, however, felt a silent hurt when his wishes or expectations were not met with. I vividly recollect how unhappy I made him when I offered him a gift from out of the first salary I received as lecturer in philosophy at the AMU. I knew well his fondness for Turkish cigarettes that he used to purchase from the famous Macropolo firm of Delhi. I, therefore, asked the firm to make a gift packing of an assorted carton of the finest brands they sold. I placed the impressive packet with an attached loving note in his bedroom and thought what a good deed I had done. But it turned out that father thought that I had blundered into wasting my money on expensive cigarettes. He refused to accept the gift and I had to request a local dealer at Aligarh to buy them back. Likewise, he insisted that I should keep my wife and children at the family house at Aligarh instead of moving them to Delhi after my election to Parliament. However, at my insistence he reluctantly allowed my request. His parenting style was the same with his other children. At the same time he was full of concern and solicitude for his family and friends and was ready for liberal financial help at the cost of his own comforts.

10. Among his fads was his habit of ad hoc constructing buildings without previous planning or consultation from architects. This led to the need of frequent alterations or demolitions and waste of money. He was extremely fond of throwing grand parties to friends and public figures. He loved sweet dishes and insisted on at least one sweet dish being on the table at both lunch and dinner. However, he ate very little of the sweet dish. He loved mangoes, but his main criterion of their good quality was their sweetness rather than flavor. He was not fond of hills and hill stations, but he enjoyed the sea beach.

11. Among his habitual weaknesses was his last minute packing before travel, poor time management and also poor filing of papers. He never resorted to weeding of papers with the result that important and useless papers got badly mixed up as a matter of routine. All the family members and his old and faithful valet, Chotey, who was completely illiterate, then embarked upon a search campaign to retrieve the needed paper. The weakness that I, as a son, wish he had overcome, was his utter disregard for preserving his poetic compositions in Urdu. There can be little doubt that his poetic gift was considerable. He used to scribble verses, or complete ghazals on any piece of paper he could lay his hands on and then not bother to preserve them. At times he noted them down in mini pocket diaries but the contents were almost illegible due to incredibly small handwriting. Likewise, he never properly filed his correspondence papers though I managed to salvage what I could and passed them on to the Nehru Museum, Delhi.

12. Here are some examples of Khwaja's wit and his gift of quick repartee:

Father once invited an English couple (an old Cambridge friend and Judge of the High Court and his wife) to dinner at his residence at Allahabad and served a very sumptuous meal. The desert was delicious mangoes. Father himself sliced the mangoes before offering them to the guests, but he did not help himself to the desert. The lady guest noticed this and asked her host why was this. Father answered that he was too fond of mangoes to eat them in the company of European guests. The answer made the guests all the more curious to know the full reason. Father hinted that mangoes are a special fruit and they taste best when eaten in a special way. The lady guest became curious to know the proper way. Father than ordered a servant to bring a large bowl filled with water. He then removed his Indian jacket and rolled up his shirtsleeves, peeled a mango to the full and started biting into the fruit, to the merriment of all.

Father was once a guest at a dinner party hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Jinnah at Bombay and was seated next to a Muslim public figure who held rather orthodox views about the proper dress code for Muslim women. Father and he were on friendly terms. In the course of polite dinner conversation father heard him quietly curse the devil in the traditional Islamic manner. When father asked him why he was doing so he slyly answered that the low-neck design of the dinner gown the hostess was wearing was prompting him to do so. Father kept quiet for the moment, but soon after he quietly started praising Allah in the traditional Islamic manner. Now it was the turn of his conservative friend to know the reason. Father mischievously answered back that he was admiring the elegance of the dress of the hostess.

Father smoked cigarettes having Turkish tobacco instead of the usual Virginian brands. Some of his friends specially asked for his brand just for the sake of change and he readily offered his German silver case to them. One day his friend, Sir Wazir Hasan, who after retiring as Chief Justice of the Avadh High Court had joined the Allahabad High Court Bar, asked him for his special brand of Turkish cigarettes. Father took out one from his case and handed it over to Sir Wazir, who demanded an explanation for this rather odd behavior. Father replied he was afraid of the Shia touch.

13. Muhammad Hadi, a very close associate of father in Aligarh and a fellow Gandhian worker during the heady Khilafat days related to me on May 18, 1963 the following two incidents. He told me that these were in his personal knowledge:

(a) In 1921 Mr. Liddard, then Collector of Aligarh, accompanied by a few constables, came in person to Khwaja's house, Habib Bagh, to confiscate the arms license of Khwaja. Motilal Nehru was at the time staying with Khwaja as his guest. When the Collector asked Khwaja Sahab to surrender the arms and the license Khwaja replied as follows: "Mr. Liddard, In so far as I am non-violent I don't need my fire arms. When I choose to become violent, I shall not need your license. So, both your license and my fire arms are useless for me". The Collector had no answer, but he collected the license and the arms and left.

(b) Khwaja Sahab had made a general appeal to the Muslims of Aligarh not to sacrifice any cow on the Eid uz zuha (in the period, 1921-22) as a mark of respect and solidarity with the religious sentiments of their Hindu brothers. The appeal had worked. But one gentleman (probably named Sheikh Abdur Raheem) from the city announced before a large gathering at which Khwaja was also present, that he had sacrificed a cow to irritate the leader concerned. Khwaja quietly took out a five-rupee note from his pocket and offered it to the gentleman with the following remark: "You did so not to please God, but to displease me. Please, now sacrifice a goat for the pleasure of God".

The Islamic Vision of Abdul Majeed Khwaja


Abdul Majeed Khwaja (1885-1962,) was one of the galaxy of selfless freedom fighters, public figures and patriots inspired by Gandhiji in the first quarter of the 20th century. His father, Khwaja Muhammad Yusuf, (d.1902) was a close associate of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the principal architect of the Aligarh movement for the social and cultural regeneration and modernization of the Indian Muslims after 1857. Khwaja's early education and upbringing took place under his father under the influence of Sir Syed and Samiullah Khan. He studied Arabic and Persian with competent private tutors at Aligarh but he did not pass any formal examination until he left for Christs' College, Cambridge in 1906. This was the College where Sir Syed had sent his son, Syed Mahmud, some thirty years earlier. Young Khwaja's considerable grounding in Arabic and Persian and his subsequent studies in modern history and comparative religions under world renowned intellectuals and scholars at Cambridge gave him an authentic insight into the modern scientific outlook. Khwaja returned home in 1910 after graduating in History and having been called to the Bar. He was two years senior to Jawaharlal Nehru in Cambridge.

In Cambridge he associated with the famous Islamists, E. G. Browne, Nicholson, and the romantic anti-imperialist Arabist and liberal author, Wilfred Scawen Blunt. He also came in close contact with Muhammad Iqbal, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Wasim, Haroon Khan Sherwani at Cambridge and with T. A. K. Sherwani, Syed Mahmud, among others, at London. It was also in Cambridge that he first saw and almost immediately came under the spell of one, M. K. Gandhi, who happened to be there to address a student gathering. Gandhi was then a famous Barrister and champion of human rights in South Africa. Gandhi returned us his chosen place of humanitarian work in South Africa and Khwaja returned home to practice law, first at his native Aligarh and later at the Patna High Court. His practice flourished and he had bright prospects of being raised to the Bench. But then, all of a sudden, his life took a U-turn at the magic touch, as it were, of Barrister Gandhi now turned into Mahatma Gandhi. He was then staying (to the best of my knowledge) with Barrister Mazharul Haque, and after finishing his day's work at the High Court Khwaja often dropped in at Haque's place to call on Gandhiji.

One evening Bapu jokingly pulled at Khwaja's lawyer's collar bands and asked when were they going to disappear from his neck? And lo! Khwaja, the ardent admirer who until a few minutes earlier, was hopeful of shortly being elevated to the Bench at the Patna High Court, decided to give up his legal practice then and there. This is what transpired in those fateful moments. Khwaja told Gandhiji that he would resign soon after he was actually elevated to the Bench, since this would make a much greater impact upon public opinion and promote the national cause. His mentor gently reminded him that this was his ego whispering in his soul, not the way of 'Nabiji’ (Prophet Muhammad). And Khwaja's mind was made up in this split second. The Khilafat movement was already on and the Ali Brothers, along with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and others were in detention.

More and more Indian Muslims began coming under the magnetic spell of the Mahatama. The rising new leader of the august Indian National Congress was eager to make the Muslim cause of 'khilafat' an integral plank of the National Congress, in addition to the government rectifying the 'Punjab atrocities’ at the Jillianwala Bagh and the demand for the speedy transition to self-rule under Dominion status. After the annual session of the Congress at Nagpur and later at a special session at Ahmedabad the hitherto Indian National Congress was transmuted, as it were, into Mahatama Gandhi Congress. From then onwards Khwaja became one of the most prominent among the younger lieutenants of the Mahatama, next only to the Ali Brothers, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. M. A. Ansari, and Maulana Azad. On the other hand, the liberal and more or less modernized wing of the Congress, including the hitherto 'ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity', Muhammad Ali Jinnah, parted company from the great organization. Thus began the ‘Gandhian era’ of the Congress that was, in origin, the product of British liberalism, at its best, symbolized by A. O. Hume, and the Indian Renaissance symbolized by Ram Mohan Roy of Bengal and Dadabhai Nawroji of Bombay and the great Tagores.

The induction of Muhammad Ali, an Oxford educated, scintillating Muslim into the 'Gandhianized’ Congress led to the blowing of a new wind in the M. A. O. College of Aligarh, the great legacy of Sir Syed, whose Aligarh Movement performed the same function for north Indian Muslims as the Bengal Renaissance, about a century earlier, had done for the country as a whole. Genuinely captivated by the moral genius and the spiritualized politics of the Mahatama, Muhammad Ali accepted 'ahimsa’ as a strategy though perhaps not as a principle. He stood disappointed with the political and cultural stagnation of the Muslims the world over and the slow pace of India's advance from colonial rule to full independence. Under Gandhiji's inspiration and the blessings of the old Deoband patriotic old guard, symbolized by the highly venerated Mahmudul Hasan, Muhammad Ali established the Jamia Millia Islamia at Aligarh in 1920. His active role in the growth and survival of his own baby, however, was short lived, thanks to his over active public engagements and activities at the national level.

In 1921 Muhammad Ali handed over temporary charge for a few months to Muhammad Alam Sahab and then finally to Khwaja. It was Khwaja Sahab who steadily nursed the infant with his lifeblood and tremendous financial sacrifices till 1925, before himself shifting the Jamia to Karol Bagh at Delhi. With Gandhiji's concurrence and blessings Khwaja then handed over charge to Dr. Zakir Husain. Zakir Sahab was a student leader of the AMU who had joined the Jamia at its very inception as a graduate instructor and then left for Germany to pursue higher studies in Economics. It was Zakir Sahab who from 1925 onwards piloted the boat of the Jamia in the stormy seas for the next two decades and more until he was asked by the Muslim Doyen of the Congress organization, and Education Minister at the Centre, Abul Kalam A'zad, to head the Aligarh Muslim University shortly after independence.

The period, 1925-30, saw mutual disillusionment settle between Muhammad Ali and his supporters on the one side and the top Congress leadership, including Gandhiji and Motilal Nehru, on the other. The fateful 'Nehru Report’ is the landmark document of this crucial period. However, Khwaja, along with Ajmal Khan, Dr. Ansari, T. A. K. Sherwani, Abul Kalam Azad, Dr. Syed Mahmud, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai and some other stalwarts firmly remained in the Gandhian camp, though domestic reasons induced Khwaja to withdraw himself from active polities for a pretty long period. However, he was back at centre stage once again from 1944 to1947 in his vain bid to prevent the partition of the country on religious lines.

This period was very trying and painful for all Indians, specially, Indian Muslims who were opposed to mixing religion with politics. When the Congress High Command made a compromise with the Muslim League these honest and brave souls felt tragically deserted by all sides. Few among the Hindu public have ever understood the pathos and tragedy of those Indian Muslims who were ridiculed as 'traitors to Islam', 'Hindu lackeys’, ‘Congress show-boys', 'political orphans’ in this period, while, on the other hand, their loyalty to their cherished motherland was soon to become questionable the moment Pakistan was born. The simple truth of the matter is that the Indian Muslims are the greatest losers, emotionally, politically and economically by the partition of the country. They were not less eager; their sacrifices were not less than others for the cause of national freedom of the motherland. But when freedom came they were condemned to drink the cup of political marginalization on the logic of the two-nation theory. However, I submit, in all humility, that the most poignant suffering fell to the lot of the 'Frontier Gandhi', Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. 'Darkness at noon' was his lot. A tragic finale, indeed, to the symphony of the freedom struggle – the strangulation of personal liberty in the very first embrace of national freedom!

Khwaja's Approach to Islam:

Khwaja's views on religion and politics were not a patchwork response but an organic synthesis of religious liberalism and secular politics. I do believe that his blending of the two is of permanent relevance to all Muslims in the modern age. He was a product of the Aligarh Movement in the second half of the 19th century, but he also enjoyed the advantages of a Cambridge education. In retrospect it is pretty evident that the Aligarh Movement had a two-fold agenda, the spreading of modern education among Muslims, and also the inner growth of their idea of Islam. Sir Syed achieved considerable success in the first objective and this greatly enabled Muslims to gain materially and professionally under the British rule. But his success in the second objective was just marginal, The English educated Muslims certainly became ‘westernized' in their dress, style of living and eating and entertainments, etc. but this was not the same as accepting the rational or scientific outlook on life (in the higher sense) that had 'modernized' Sir Syed and the most enlightened of his close associates. Many Aligarians, 'suited-booted’, as they were, did not, or could not change orthodox social attitudes and mind-sets. Consciously or unconsciously, they had learnt to live in two split compartments, by turns. Their 'religious compartment’ was presided over by the ‘ulema’ while their "worldly compartment’ by modem thinkers and writers (Western or Indian). This was very different from Sir Syed's own vision of Islamic liberalism that involved a radical 'demythologization’ of Islam. His objective was to distil the nuclear core of the Islamic faith out of the social and cultural gloss that, in the natural course of time, had accumulated around the Islamic faith. This happens in the case of all religions, and, therefore, creative followers of all religious traditions try to discover and rediscover the core of their own religious faith.

Sir Syed believed that being a good Muslim meant nothing more and nothing less than pure Monotheism and faith that the Quran was, in some sense or other, the revealed ‘Word of God’ rather than the product of human reflection and linguistic formulation. Belief in myths and miracles and various social, cultural, political and economic institutions and practices in different Muslim societies were not integral parts of the nuclear core of the Islamic faith, as such. Even the putative sayings of the Prophet, though worthy of veneration and authoritative (up to a point) could not claim the same binding power and authority of the revealed scripture. Khwaja had fully and honestly absorbed this liberating insight of Sir Syed as had Amir Ali, Iqbal, Azad, Shibli and many other enlightened and liberal Muslims from Aligarh and other centers of modern education.

Khwaja Sahab's thinking was rooted in the Quran over which he had a good grasp due to his familiarity with Arabic. He remembered by heart numerous Quranic texts, which he readily quoted in his conversations and discussions with friends and in public speeches. However, he was ever careful to distinguish between Divine revelations and their human interpretations. For instance, he held that the Quranic prohibition on eating pork did not necessarily rule out using lard as a cooking medium or using bristles in toothbrushes. One may or may not agree with this line of thinking. But what is significant is Khwaja Sahab's rational approach to Quran and Islam and his awareness that the revealed text was amenable to plural interpretations. And this is the starting point of tolerance and of a rational approach to the human situation.

Khwaja was, thus, opposed to the idea that to be a good Muslim the believer must follow a closed and rigid interpretation of the Quran and the sunnah. He held that one could be a true Muslim without losing one's freedom of choice in an ever changing society, provided one adhered to the spirit of the revealed text and the basic values reflected in the character and conduct of the Prophet. This, I submit, was a very different proposition from the traditional Islamic piety into which he, his parents or Sir Syed had been born and brought up. The reason was his father's very close association with the Islamic reformation initiated by Sir Syed at Aligarh. Khwaja's later exposure to modernity during his stay in Cambridge led the young Khwaja to the enlightened and liberal approach to all religions, including Islam as such. His historical approach to different human civilizations and cultures, belief and value systems had deeply convinced him of the presence of one cultural constant underlying plural forms of worship and different patterns of social behavior.

Khwaja's style of Islamic piety centered on being truthful, honest and adhering to the spirit of the Quran and the character of the Prophet rather than on lengthy liturgies, prayers at shrines and tombs, seeking boons from 'holy' men and saints. He said the Quran was a Divine medical prescription that ought to be used rather than reverently kissed. He was strongly drawn to Sufi thought and poetry but rejected popular Sufi lore and belief in miracles. He appreciated music, painting and dance as art forms. He was the first Muslim in the Aligarh region to bring out his wife and daughters in mixed gatherings without the traditional veil, though he shunned ball room dancing and free mixing of men and women accepted.

Khwaja held that to be a good Muslim did not entail that Muslims should think in terms of being superior to the rest of their fellow countrymen whose souls had to be saved from eternal damnation. He honestly held that that Quranic injunctions dealt, primarily, with spiritual and transcendental beliefs and articles of faith together with basic moral values, and only, marginally, with political, economic, social and cultural matters that belonged to the secular sphere of human life. In other words, he was totally and firmly opposed to the ‘totalist’ function of religion as a complete code of conduct in every walk of life. This liberal approach to Islam was the legacy of the great Syed himself after he had outgrown the earlier impact of his former mentor, Shah Waliullah of Delhi.

Khwaja repeatedly mentioned before family, friends and in public that different religions were different paths to a common goal, or different languages to express a common meaning. It mattered little which path one took or which language one spoke so long as one honestly tried (through actual deeds) to reach the common goal. Another example he gave was that different religions were like different flowers that spread their fragrance in the garden of life. All should be appreciated without one religion trying to displace the other, or any believer diluting one's own personal faith in favor of some other. Gandhiji also expressed the same sentiments and views.

Khwaja had no difficulty in harmonizing his deep Islamic faith with secular nationalism. He often repeated in private and public that he loved Islam as much as he loved India, just as he loved equally his mother and father. He also pointed out the futility of the question that many political sophists enjoyed putting to Muslims before independence and even now: '"Are you Indians first, and Muslims second, or is it the other way round?” Khwaja used to reply that he was a Muslim and Indian at one and the same time just as he was the child of both his parents at one and the same time.

Khwaja not only venerated the Gita but went to the extent of openly and repeatedly affirming that the wide spread Hindu practice of idol worship (though a formal violation of Monotheism) should be viewed in the light of the underlying basic Hindu belief that all gods and goddesses are, ultimately, themselves the manifestations of one Supreme Being or Reality. And this is what Gandhi himself believed in and practiced without castigating those to whom idol worship brought solace and inner peace. This is also what the great scholar and savant of the 11th century, Al-Beruni, said after years of study of Sanskrit scriptures during an extended stay in India. And the great Sufi writers and poets also give the same verdict. Khwaja was particularly fond of the 13th century Persian Sufi poet, Fariduddin Attar. One of his anecdotes is as follows: Once the angel Gabriel heard God saying 'labbaik' (I respond). Since this expression is normally used by humans as a response to the Creator rather than by God Himself Gabriel became curious to know what the matter was. After a lot of suspense the mystery was resolved when Gabriel came to learn that God Himself had responded to an infidel's prayer from Turkey because of its utter sincerity and devotion.

Khwaja also held that the Quran does not specifically contradict the Hindu concept of rebirth based on one's 'karma'. The Hindu concept of 'repeated rebirths' until the evil karma of a soul is exhausted or washed away performs essentially the same function of deterrence as the Islamic concept of Divine punishment on the Day of Judgment. Both beliefs relate to the Unseen world and both serve to exhort the doing of good and the avoidance of evil. Hence it is futile to claim exclusive truth for either. The crucial factor is the doing of good and avoidance of evil and both the Quran and the Gita broadly agree as to what is good and what is bad, though social customs and religious rites do vary from religion to religion.

Khwaja often appreciated the tolerance found in Hindu society in respect of creedal matters though not in social intercourse. Hindu thinkers and religious leaders always allowed the individual to think of the Supreme Being as either God with attributes (saguna) or as without attributes (nirguna). He used to say: let anybody go and ask any Hindu whether there are several supreme Beings or only one Supreme Reality and find the answer.

The Sphere of Religion and the Sphere of Culture: Khwaja was quite clear and repeatedly pointed out that religious faith should not be mixed up with territorial or geo-cultural customs, practices and institutions. Islam originated in Arabia and the Prophet himself was born and brought up in an Arab tribe having its own traditions and customs. He naturally and rightly continued to follow them even after he was blessed with the gift of Prophethood unless Divine revelation or guidance modified or abrogated some specific feature of the tribal tradition. Thus, the pre-Islamic raw stuff of ethnic Arab culture, namely, personal names, language, dress, music, food habits, marriage customs, family structures and relational patterns, prohibited degrees of marriage, gender relations and ideas of chastity, laws of inheritance, disposal of the dead, funeral rites etc., were all retained by a general consensus unless some Quranic text or Prophet's word or deed specifically prohibited them, for instance, the early Arabs who converted to Islam did not change their personal names, the men continued to sport beards and the women to cover their breasts, the burial rites remained as they were, the spoken language and poetry remained the same, the love of horses and camels continued and so on and so forth. However, alcoholic drinks, pork, games of chance, adultery, unlimited polygamy, etc. became prohibited acts as such, though (obviously) violations must have always been present.

Khwaja argued that the above facts show that religion need not spill over into the sphere of social customs and institutions. He held that the early Muslims, in fact, did retain their original cultural traits and institutions in Iran, Egypt, North Africa, Spain and other countries where the Arab Muslims established themselves. Indeed, in the Abbaside period from the century onwards the Arabic substratum of the ruling and culturally dominant classes began to imbibe the much older Iranian and Greek concepts and values to the great annoyance of the Arab cultural puritans. Khwaja pointed out that Iranians retained the old pre-Islamic names, (such as ‘jamshed', 'Parvez', 'Feroze', 'Khursheed', 'Naseem’, and so on) as well as old myths and folk tales, proverbs, turns of speech, similes and symbols, such as the tales of Sohrab and Rustam, Shirin and Ferhad and so on. This also happened in the case of the spread of Islam several centuries later in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. But cultural Arabia won, over and above Islamization, was much more obtrusive in India for different reasons, though even here regional differences remained fairly strong in different parts of the great Indian sub-continent. Khwaja was an advocate of cultural autonomy and pluralism. He welcomed the idea that Indian Muslims should take to ethnic Indian names, which they really liked without any religious qualms or fear of losing their religious identity or faith. He applied the same logic to the style of dress, style of living and eating, music, entertainments, architecture, etc.

Khwaja was, perhaps, the first Indian Muslim in the Aligarh region to bring out his family out of traditional purdah system. He remained highly sensitive to the virtue of feminine modesty and chastity and also disapproved of women taking to fashion in dress, make-up, free mixing, ball-room dancing, dating, love marriages, etc. But what has ever baffled me is that he disapproved of higher education for women on the ground that it was unnecessary and tended to erode domestic harmony, and the welfare of the children. Unfair to women (to my mind) as Khwaja was in this respect, he was an active campaigner for women's equality with men in respect of the right to divorce, if a married woman so wished.

Khwaja's Concern for Reform in Muslim Law of Divorce: Khwaja strongly held that the traditional interpretation of the Muslim law of divorce deprived the woman of equal rights with the male in respect of terminating the marriage contract if she so desired. While Muslim law permitted the husband to divorce his married partner, unilaterally, at his sweet will, the wife had an extremely qualified right to seek a remedy for an unhappy and unwanted union with her husband. The traditional Islamic apologists made much of this theoretical or qualified freedom of the woman in Muslim canon law in the face of the total helplessness and subjection of women in Hindu society. But the intellectual honesty of Khwaja made him painfully aware of how very difficult it was for the Muslim married woman to translate this theoretical right into practice through the provision of khula in Muslim law. Khwaja, therefore, very strongly and persistently advocated that the Muslim marriage contract must always be in writing and should clearly stipulate the equality of the partners to terminate the contract if either or both desire to do so. That this approach was a major step forward in the direction of complete gender equality cannot be questioned. Khwaja not only preached this ideal but practiced it to the hilt when he sought marriage alliances for his own daughters as well as sons. Indeed, his sticking to this principle even in the case of very close relations led to considerable family discord and alienation between loved ones. However, some members of the younger generation in families and friends close to Khwaja Sahab took inspiration from his principled approach. Indeed, his active advocacy lay behind the passing of the Kazmi Act in the late thirties of the 19th century by the then Central government at Delhi. This Act incorporated the view and suggestions repeatedly advanced by Khwaja, though he never put these ideas in writing.

Khwaja's Approach to the Issue of Religious Inter-marriage: According to the shariah a Muslim believer is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim, though a male believer is permitted to marry a female member of the 'people of the Book'. This expression is traditionally applied to Jew and Christians alone. The relevant Quranic verses, as translated by Marmaduke Pickthall, are as follows:

“Wed not idolatresses till they believe; for lo! A believing bondwoman is better than an idolatress though she please you; and give not your daughters in marriage to idolaters till they believe, for lo! A believing slave is better than an idolater though he please you. These invite unto the Fire, and Allah inviteth unto the Garden, and unto forgiveness by His grace, and expoundeth thus His revelations to mankind that haply they may remember.” (Quran, 2:221)

“This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you (lawful for you) when ye give them their marriage portions and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. Whoso denieth the faith, his work is vain and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter.” (Quran 5:5)

Khwaja's point was that these verses clearly state that a Muslim believer may not marry an atheist, polytheist or idolater. But Khwaja held that whether or not a person who enters into a marriage contract falls in this category should depend upon his or her actual conviction, beliefs and practice, rather than upon putting the individual under any formal or blanket category, as such. Khwaja held that the Traditional approach committed the fallacy of categorizing entire groups as monotheists, atheists, polytheists etc. in an arbitrary manner. This approach is invalid on two counts, first, it completely fails to ascertain the actual belies/convictions of the concerned individual, and second, it ignores the internal distinctions between sub-groups within a larger group. Khwaja held that several sects clubbed as ‘Hindu' were very far, indeed, from being idol-worshippers, polytheists, and pagans, etc., for example, the members of the Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, the Kabir Panthis, Sikhs and others.

True to this stand or logic, he also disapproved of marriages when one of the partners was a Muslim believer while the other was an authentic atheist or a polytheist no matter what his or her formal affiliation. He also did not approve of inter-religious marriage under the (now) defunct Special Marriage Act of British times when the parties concerned were obliged to declare they had no religious affiliation. His basic thesis was that the authentic Muslim must follow the Quran in all matters concerning morality and the articles of faith in the Unseen. However, he rejected, on principle, the branding of entire communities as prohibited groups for the purpose of marriage irrespective of the actual beliefs and convictions and quality of life of the individuals concerned.

Khwaja's permissive approach to Hindu-Muslim marriage flowed from the Quranic concept of marriage as a contract. It is amusing and interesting that he was not much given to appreciating love marriages, since he thought that young people usually mistook infatuation and sexual attraction as love and made a mess of their lives. He thought that parents should select temperamentally suitable marriage partners from families of more or less equal social standing and wealth, irrespective of their formal religious affiliation. The children should be taught to respect all religions and make their own authentic choice when they come of age.

Khwaja was very clear, indeed, that an open minded spiritually oriented secularism was not opposed to religion as such. A clash develops only when it is claimed that the jurisdiction of religion covers every aspect of life. He was clear that the essential function of religions (including Islam) was inner purification and respect for the moral law (seeking nearness to and the pleasure of God) rather than the external regulation of political or economic behavior. In short, he had fully integrated his commitment to secular politics in a free and united India (on the basis of joint electorates with suitable safeguards for all minorities or weaker sections) and his commitment to Quranic Islam and universal tolerance. His passionate loyalty and devotion to his mentor, Gandhiji, and his deep admiration and reverence for the Bhagwad Gita were, thus, firmly rooted in his Quranic faith that the Creator had sent Divinely inspired messengers to all nations with a common message, and that Divine mercy and guidance was a universal phenomenon. Khwaja, therefore, pleaded that the Quranic references to the "people of the Book” should not be confined to Jews and Christians alone. Indeed, he often used to refer to the Quran and the Gita in the same breath. I recall with a sense of pride and gratitude to my father that he had encouraged me to read the Gita when I was still a youth.

Khwaja often drew attention to the numerous Quranic verses saying that the Creator had sent His messengers and warners to all peoples in all ages though only a few had been named in the Quran. He never tired of observing that how could people think and behave that such a large and centrally located country like India had not been blessed with Divine guidance.

Khwaja's Approach to Indian Politics:

Khwaja's political thinking was formed by his study of modern history and British political institutions. He held that the British Imperial policy was to prepare the Indian masses for self-governance under the imperial umbrella. As a first step the British rulers formed statutory bodies for local self-government in the large cities and towns and they were given limited powers subject to veto by the state governments. Members were elected to these bodies from out of local residents on the basis of qualified adult franchise. The entire concept of representative governance was, obviously, strange to Indian thinking. Moreover, getting elected to a public body required exposure to modern ideas and institutions apart from a measure of economic strength. It was hardly surprising; therefore, that very few Muslims got elected to these bodies, to begin with. Many conservative Muslim minds developed a fear that the same might happen at higher levels of governance, since the Hindu majority was far more financially secure and ahead in western education than the Muslims who stood totally demoralized and shocked after the debacle of 1857.

With the notable exception of a few forward looking and professionally established Muslims in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras the feudal minded landlords and the small town Muslim nobility could not look at the concerned issues from a sound sociological perspective. They developed fears that the British rulers and the western educated 'Bengali Babus' might totally marginalize them in the fast emerging colonial Indian society. But it would be futile to blame them since it was hardly an easy matter for the demoralized and defeated Muslim gentry to acquire a sound sociological perspective on the Indian situation after having undergone the awesome atrocities of the British army reprisals after 1857.

Under the leadership of Sir Syed's second (?) successor as Secretary of the MAO College Trustees and the Nawab of Dacca a select delegation of the Muslim gentry presented a memorandum before the Viceroy, Lord Minto, in 1906 praying that there should be constitutional provision of a quota for Muslim seats on the basis of separate electorates at all elected bodies, present and future. This policy was, pretty obviously, politically advantageous for the Muslims in the short run. But Khwaja was deeply concerned with the long-term interest and concerns of the common man, both Hindu and Muslim. However, at that point of time the short term interests of the Indian Muslim leadership and the long term interests of the imperial British power definitely converged. And the fateful principle of separate electorates won the day.

When this happened the young Khwaja was studying at Cambridge. Though he had imbibed Sir Syed's liberal approach to Islam, the young dynamic and romantic Khwaja always had a mind of his own. He did not hesitate to develop new dimensions in the legacy of Sir Syed. He deeply felt that separate electorates went against the grain of liberal democracy and that it led to the politics of community and caste. From the very beginning he valued emotional integration of different groups as a principle rather than as a mere strategy or political necessity. No wonder he forged such warm friendships with numerous non-Muslims.

Khwaja, along with Dr. Ansari, Tassaduq Sherwani, et al, was convinced that, despite appearances to the contrary, separate electorates would weaken and dilute the actual and potential status arid power of the Indian Muslims in the governance of the country at large. Muslims will tend to develop a ‘minority complex' and the approach of seeking concessions instead of enjoying the dignity and pride of being absolutely equal citizens along with others. Khwaja stood for equal opportunity in the mainstream of Indian polities with all its risks rather than the safety and security of a pressure group watching from the shore. It was in the same spirit that he so resolutely fought against partition. When the controversy over partition was at its height and he heard some people say that if Pakistan is created it will be the biggest Muslim state in the world he retorted that this will at the same time make India into the biggest Hindu state, and this was not acceptable to him. He wanted neither a Hindu nor an Islamic state but a secular state based on Gandhian principles. When some pro-Pakistan Muslims referred to Jinnah as the great leader (Quaide Azam) of Muslims he retorted that Jinnah was, rather, the great benefactor (Mohsine Azam) of Hindus. In all humility, I submit that this insight of Khwaja Sahab bears the stamp of both his sharp wit and political insight. At another occasion somebody (not very close to Khwaja) rather mischievously asked him to answer clearly whether he was a Muslim or Hindu, and also how could one call Gandhi as both a Hindu and a Muslim. Khwaja replied that if the questioner thought that Gandhi was a Muslim he could, as well think that Khwaja was a Hindu. The questioner was left puzzled and speechless.

Khwaja on Communal Riots and the protection of Minorities: The recurring pattern of communal riots and the great loss of life and property together with a looming sense of insecurity in one's own motherland greatly depressed Khwaja. But he never lost faith in the essential goodness of the vast majority of his Hindu brothers or in the strategy of common action against evil forces irrespective of religious labels. He categorically ruled out vicarious retaliation or revenge against any out-group. He was well aware of the sociological and economic forces at work and the temptations to seek power and short-term gains by exploiting religious sentiments. He was also quite clear that Muslims should not turn communal minded, or become demoralized but that they should fully cooperate with secular and peace loving elements that constituted the silent majority in the country and was bound to prevail in the long run. Khwaja held that while periodic consultations among the aggrieved Muslim minority could effectively help in overcoming the problems faced by Muslims after partition, the politics of separatism, as a strategy, would prove counter effective in the long run, for the simple reason that it would inevitably polarize the mixed Indian society. He was convinced that this was a national task and that the Indian people as a whole, sooner or later, would rise to the occasion and success would come along through constructive work from common platforms.

Khwaja, however, never held the Westminster model of secular democracy as the last word in matters of governance. He was highly critical of the principle of territorial franchise, and at times he even expressed disillusionment with the idea of unconditional adult franchise as such. Khwaja was also at a loss how to reconcile a possible or actual conflict between a law enacted by a sovereign legislature and a clear injunction of the Quran. Though his views on Islamic dogmas and jurisprudence were considerably forward looking and radical in relation to his times, he did not or could not keep up, in his later years, the once extensive reading habits of his Cambridge days. Several post-Victorian advances in Western knowledge and wisdom, went unregistered by his sharp mind. The implications of the seminal work done by Western creative intellects such as Darwin, Marx, Freud, Einstein et al, did not engage his attention. However, Khwaja’s genuine admiration for Gandhiji, his natural goodness and ethical approach to life, warm friendships, cutting across differences of religion, region or caste, and above all his firm commitment to pure Quranic Islam devoid of all temporally conditioned accretions, theologies and local superstitions, his indifference to worldly recognition or success led him to remain a steadfast nationalist patriot as well as a committed follower of Quranic Islam. He remained a fearless, untiring and selfless worker for the causes dear to him – Islam, respect for all religions, communal harmony and national interest of the greater Indian family, though strongly advocating suitable safeguards for the legitimate interests of all minorities and weaker sections of Indian society.

Khwaja's Approach to the Issue of Bank Interest: Khwaja concurred with the general line of Islamic liberalism on this subject. He held that the Quranic term 'riba' referred to usury as it was practiced in early times. Usury was, indeed, highly exploitative and pernicious since it entailed exorbitantly high costs of borrowing money subject to very severe penalties for default. Modern banking was different and therefore it did not violate any Quranic injunction. However, it could degenerate into usury due to human greed. It was, therefore, essential that state and society be ever vigilant in safeguarding the interests of society as a whole rather than merely be content with promoting the welfare of the rich.

Some Other Social Issues: To the best of my knowledge Khwaja Sahab was not very vocal on some social issues, like Quran's non-abolition of slavery, some aspects of Quranic penology, such as corporal forms of punishment for theft and adultery, gender inequality in inheritance and the laws of evidence, and some other matters. This, I submit, has been the predicament of almost all liberal Muslims throughout the modern era. This difficulty can be overcome, without nullifying the concept of the infallibility of Quranic revelation, on the basis of a holistic study of Quranic Semantics. But so far the Muslim community has not undertaken this very fundamental and vitally important task. The early creative religious thinkers threw up remarkable insights, but the Islamic state and society did not tolerate free inquiry into such delicate matters. It would, therefore, not be fair to single out Khwaja for some limitations to his brave and honest approach to understanding Islam in the modern age.

Khwaja's Veneration for Gandhiji: Khwaja used to say that of all persons he had known in his life he found Gandhi to be nearest to Prophet Muhammad in actually practicing and pursuing truth, righteousness and justice. After his mentor's martyrdom Khwaja regularly offered 'fatiha' in memory of the Mahatama. During the period when Jinnah Sahab had veered to accepting the incredible ‘Two-nation theory’ of Indian history Khwaja used to say that Gandhi was closer to Islam than was Jinnah. When some of his hearer critics challenged him to answer whether he was prepared to be placed in the ranks of non-Muslims like (Gandhi) on the Day of Judgment, he readily answered that he would prefer this than to he placed with Jinnanh.

In all humility, I submit that this sentiment of Khwaja Sahab contrasts sharply with the reply Muhammad Ali, (then President of the Indian National Congress) gave to a rather mischievous query from a press reporter, in 1923, whether a morally virtuous and saintly non-Muslim was superior or not to an evil or immoral Muslim believer? Muhammad Ali answered that, according to the shariah, the formal Muslim was superior spiritually though not morally, but avoided giving his own opinion in the matter. I mention this incident, not to glorify my father at the expense of his own venerated leader and friend, but merely to bring out the fact that Khwaja had tremendous moral courage and clarity of thought and that that he sincerely admired Gandhiji. His integration of the Islamic faith with the principle of secular democracy and Indian nationalism was more clear and consistent than the thinking of most of the Khilafat leaders well known and rightly respected for their patriotism. He boldly affirmed the concept of religious pluralism without any dilution of his own faith in Islam. This was the foundational insight and guiding maxim of Gandhi.

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Jamal Khwaja studied Philosophy in India & Europe. He was elected to the Indian Parliament in 1957. He retired as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy, Aligarh Muslim University. He is the author of seven major books. 

Khwaja’s work seeks to answer three inter-related questions: Firstly, What does it mean to be an authentic Muslim? Secondly, How should a believer understand and interpret the Holy Quran in the 21st century?  And finally, What is the role of Islam in a pluralistic society? 

Khwaja believes in judiciously creative modernization rooted in the Quran and firmly opposes shallow, unprincipled imitation of the West. His mission is to stimulate serious rethinking and informed dialog between tradition and modernity in Islam. 

Khwaja’s work is the definitive contemporary discussion regarding the collision of Islam and Modernity. Readers of his work will be in turn, informed, inspired, and intellectually liberated.