VIEWPOINT: 157th URS Mubarak of FAZL-E-HAQ KHAIRABADI(R.A)

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FAZL-E-HAQ KHAIRABADI (1797- 1861) was born in Khairabad town of Sitapur district in Uttar Pradesh. His father Maulana Fazl –e- Imam Khairabadi was the Sadrus Sudoor of Delhi and 1 after the mufti of the court. FAZL-E-HAQ was one of the main figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was a philosopher, an author, a poet, a religious scholar, but is most remembered for issuing fatwa in favor of jihad  against the English in 1857. Khairabadi had been a chief judge in Lucknow. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857 failed, he covered by an amnesty Khairabadi arrested by the British authorities on 30 January 1859 at Khairabad. He had chosen to be his own counsel and defend himself. His argument and the way he defended his case was so convincing that the presiding Magistrate was writing his judgment, exonerating him, when he confessed to giving the Fatwa’ declaring that he could not lie. He was sentenced for life to the prison at Kalapani (Cellular jail) on Andaman Island with confiscation of his property by the judicial Commissioner, Awadh Court. He reached Andaman on 8th October 1859.

Besides being a scholar of Islamic studies and theology, he was also a literary persona, especially of Urdu, Arabic and Persian literature. He edited the first divan of Mirza Ghalib on his request. He had a phenomenal memory and memorized the Quran in a little over 4 months. He also completed the curriculum in Arabic, Persian and religious studies by the age of thirteen. On account of his deep knowledge he was called Allama and later was venerated as a great sufi. He was also bestowed with the title Imam hikmat and kalaam. He possessed a great presence of mind and was very witty. He and his son Abd al-Haq khairabadi established Madrassa khairabad in north India, where many scholars are educated..

Maulvi Fazle–E-Haq Khairabadi, a renowned scholar of Islamic learning, played the most active role in the Indian revolt of 1857. It is also said that he had prepared a temporary constitution for the rebel government of Delhi and was also a member of the military council, after the re-occupation of Delhi by the British; Maulvi continued his anti- British activities by joining the revolutionaries of Lucknow and Awadh. At Rampur, Maulvi  khairabadi worked as translator, tutor and officer over civil and criminal matters. In a very short period of one year Maulvi Kairabadi left for Lucknow, when Nawab Wajid Ali shah became the ruler of Awadh kingdom.

In 1856, after the annexation of Awadh by the British Government, Maulvi  Khairabadi  went to Alwar on the invitation of Raja Vinay Singh. He continued his services in the Alwar state on different posts for about one and half years. He returned to Delhi in August 1857, when rebellion broke out in all over north India. It is also said that Maulvi Khairabadi prepared a constitution to run the administration based on a council of six military and four civilian men. Maulvi Khairabadi played most important role in the governing body of the revolutionary Government. Maulvi Khairabadi himself was one of the members of the administrative council or governing body, which was running under Mughal Emperor Bahadur shah Zafar during the uprising of 1857.

Maulvi Khairabadi also issued a Fatwa against the British to rouse the religious sentiments of the Muslims against the british. It is said that Maulvi issued the fatwa of jihad following the strategy of general Bakht khan, MAULANA FAZLE-E-HAQ KHAIRABADI prepared the Fatwa that was signed and sealed by many reputed theologians of that time. In regards to the religious decree or Fatwa, one could find that it was published in the contemporary newspaper Sadiqul.

After putting down the Rebellion of 1857, British authorities sentenced the Indian- Muslim scholar FAZL-E-HAQ KHAIRABADI (1797- 1861) to deportation to the Andaman Islands, on charges of instigation to murder and high treason. Subsequently the world forgot about him.

FAZL-E-HAQ’S alleged role in 1857 offers an interesting insight into colonial history. He is thought to have called upon all Muslims to participate in a Holy war (Jihad) against the British and “the highly accomplished MAULVI FAZLE-E-HAQ as the director” improvised a system of administration and constitution based on the principles of democracy. His legal opinion (fatwa) seemed to have made him a freedom fighter par excellence. Descendants of the Khairabadi family record that FAZL-E-HAQ died even before his pending release, just when his son Abd al –Haqq arrived at Port Blair to receive his father. However, as many important documents disappeared (i.e. burned or destroyed) before, during and after the troubles of 1857 it is still not possible to claim with certitude that the Crown had agreed to the release of FAZL-E-HAQ.

In this context, some documents are especially informative, pertaining to prison literature. Fazl-e Haqq allegedly wrote with pencil and charcoal on shreds of cloth and paper coded Arabic notes in prose and poetry, notably Qasidas, which were smuggled out of banishment by an earlier released prisoner – the well – known Mufti ‘Inayat Ullah Kakorwi .The notes were reconstructed afterwards by his son ‘Abd al – Haqq Khairabadi. The script was mentioned first in Rahman Ali‘s famous biography of Muslim scholars in 1914 and allegedly used again by Mu’in al- Din Ajmeri (died1940) during the Khilafat Movement. His copy was translated into Urdu by Abd al- shahid Khan Sherwani and was published with a copy.

In dense style Fazl-e-haqq also narrates his experiences of deportation to the Andaman islands, the hardship in prison, his desperation, but also his faith which helped him live through these times of hardship. Then they transported him from prison to prison and tantalized him by means of different inquiries. They took of his shoes and cloths and instead provided him some rough material to wear, they changed his soft bed with hard mattress, which seemed to be covered by thorns. No cup was allowed to him, the meals were horrific. He was given warm water to drink, and in spite of his old age he was humiliated and constantly tantalized. The hardhearted enemies then brought him to an island, i.e the Andaman where the sun would constantly shine right on his head and where difficult hilly paths and dangerous roads made walking impossible. The air was extremely warm and amenities bitterer than poison. The food was more acrimonious than the taste of cucumber, the water worse than snake poison. Sickness was cheap, curing very expensive. Often there were epidemics. The sick had no chance to be cured, the one who cured disease, became ill, and the one who was sick was a definite prey for death. There were diseases totally unknown and dangerous. The doctor could not come up with a diagnosis, instead he gave medicine. Which wrecked the patient. There was no grave, no burial. Hence, one did not wish to die. If suicide were not illegal all prisoners would have committed suicide. It was in such an environment that he fell ill and depressive. Moreover he caught worms and other diseases and although his body was aching he was made to walk and exercise in the morning and in the evening. Soon he would die, after a prosperous and enjoyable life, when he was old and insane, wounded and ulcerated. But still he thanked god for his mercy because next to him he saw sick prisoners in chains that were brought to their daily working place by a terrible who did not show any empathy whatsoever. Khairabadi thanked God for having saved him from these atrocities. Having full belief in God, he asked him in the name of his beloved to free him from that horrifying situation and fulfill his promise to listen to the destitute. The account of his participation in the revolt is important to the construction of collective reality as the doubts about the authenticity of his authorship of the Indian Revolution .The historical memory creates the source it needs for its own reproduction. Thus the importance  for historiography and validity of sources such as letters, autobiographical  notes and prison literature constitute an important basis for the reconstruction of history and also of the processes of mutual perception at the cross-section of European and non-European encounters.

By: Andaman Nicobar Waqf Board