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Allama Iqbal, Zafar Ali Khan and Zamindar

November 06, 2011

The month of November marks the birth anniversary of Allama Iqbal and the death anniversary of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan. Both played a vital role in their respective fields during a crucial period of the subcontinent’s history that was marked with turmoil.

‘Zamindar’, a newspaper edited by Zafar Ali Khan, was the platform he used to launch his ideas and mould the opinions of the masses. ‘Zamindar’ was indeed one of the most important and influential newspapers of the pre-independence India and had the power to mobilise the masses on any political or religious issue through its editorials, news items and opinions. It did create great political problems for the then colonial administration of the British India. The role it played in the war of independence cannot be underrated. Allama Iqbal contributed to ‘Zamindar’ and patronised the newspaper, except, of course, for a brief period during which he did not agree with the policies pursued by the newspaper.

Launched from Lahore in January 1903 as a weekly by Maulana Sirajuddin Ahmed — Zafar Ali Khan’s father — ‘Zamindar’ was initially intended to be a newspaper that would take care of the problems faced by farmers and landowners, hence the name. Moved to Karamabad in district Wazirabad, Punjab, in June 1903, ‘Zamindar’ was by and large considered to be an agricultural newspaper back then. But after the death of Sirajuddin Ahmed in 1909, Zafar Ali Khan brought it back to Lahore and it began its publication from there on May 1, 1911, with a different stance. Now it was a proponent of the cause of the Muslims. Soon its editorials, news and views caught the fancy of readers and with a wider circulation it became a biweekly.

With Italy’s attack on Tripoli in 1911, the popularity of the newspaper skyrocketed and it became a daily. While Zafar Ali Khan’s satirical poems and his anti-British and pro-Muslim policies earned him name and fame and the paper’s circulation rose to a record high, it also invited wrath of the colonial rulers who imprisoned the editor and later also banned the paper’s publication.

Zafar Ali Khan died on November 27, 1956. It might seem quite strange but is quite true that even after the creation of Pakistan ‘Zamindar’ was victimised by the government and during the Khatm-i-nabuwwat Movement its editor, Akhter Ali Khan — Zafar Ali Khan’s son — was sentenced to 14-year imprisonment and the newspaper closed down forever. To cut a long story short, ‘Zamindar’ passed through many ups and downs and was instrumental during many politico-religious movements of the subcontinent.

Zafar Ali Khan held Iqbal in high esteem. ‘Zamindar’ gave Iqbal the importance he deserved; published his poetry, covered his speeches, reviewed his books, published his statements and letters and highlighted his opinion on different issues. It also reported Iqbal’s various engagements with literary and political organisations. As a result, the files of ‘Zamindar’ are a virtual treasure of knowledge on Iqbal, his poetry, his life and his views. Some of such invaluable material was also buried in the files of ‘Inqelab’—another newspaper published from Lahore.

The material on Iqbal published in ‘Inqelab’ was collected and published in the book form by Muhammad Hamza Farooqi who has published four such collections. But such material published in ‘Zamindar’ was only partially edited and published from time to time by different scholars. Much of the rare material about Iqbal, buried in ‘Zamindar’, too, has now been dug up by Dr Akhter-un-Nisa and published in a well-produced volume by Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore. Titled ‘Allama Iqbal aur roznama Zamindar’, the book presents some rare information on Iqbal hitherto unpublished in book form.

In her preface, Dr Akhter-un-Nisa has succinctly described the historic details about Iqbal, Zafar Ali khan and ‘Zamindar’. She is a student of a scholar like Dr Rafiuddin Hashmi, an authority on Iqbal. The book has been divided into three sections: ‘texts by Iqbal’ includes his poetry, prose, statements, letters and opinions published in ‘Zamindar’. The second section has reproduced some interesting articles, advertisements, views, reviews and poems about some of Iqbal’s books. The third one reproduces the news and opinions which were published in various issues of ‘Zamindar’ and were somehow related to Iqbal.

These pieces are about some institutions, associations, political parties or bodies — such as Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam, Punjab Council, Majlis-i-Khilafat, All India Muslim League, All India Muslim Kashmiri Conference and Jamia Millia Islamia. These news items and opinion pieces have been edited in chronological order. This can be invaluable information for anyone looking for the authentic biographical details about Iqbal’s life.

Akhter-un-Nisa teaches Urdu at a postgraduate government college in Lahore and has carried out some research work on Iqbal prior to the publication of this book. Another of her works is a book titled ‘Maqalat-i-Yousuf Saleem Chishtie, a collection of articles on Iqbal. An index at the back of the book, a rarity in Urdu books, has added to the book’s value.

drraufparekh@yahoo.com