Jamal Mian: end of an era

14 Nov 2012

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MAULANA Jamaluddin Abdul Wahhab Farangi Mahali, more commonly known as Jamal Mian, who passed away on Wednesday after a period of prolonged illness, was a symbol of Lucknow’s Old World scholarly culture.

A Sufi and a scholar of the traditional religious sciences, in the mould of his Farangi Mahal ancestors, he played a significant role in the political as well as spiritual affairs of undivided India as well as Pakistan.

It can be said that Jamal Mian drew his literary and political inspiration, and as his spiritual leanings, from his father, Maulana Abdul Bari. According to the family history, Jamal Mian was of Ansari ancestry, with the family tracing their lineage to Shaikh Abdullah Ansari of Herat and on to the distinguished companion, Hazrat Abu Ayyub Ansari. His forebears came to India during the era of the Delhi Sultanate while the famed haveli of Farangi Mahal in Lucknow, after which the family is named, was gifted to the clan by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the late 17th century after Mullah Qutbuddin, one of Jamal Mian’s ancestors, was killed over a property dispute.

Jamal Mian was born in Farangi Mahal on December 5, 1919. As mentioned by British historian Francis Robinson, it was this institution which gave the subcontinent Dars-i-Nizami, the basic curriculum taught in the region’s madressahs. Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that he took to scholarship, becoming a Hafi-i-Quran at the age of nine and securing a degree in Urdu (Dabir-i-Kamil) from Lucknow University, while he was also instructed by family elders. He was fluent and comfortable in both Farsi and Arabic.

Jamal Mian maintained links with the political giants of the time, including Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and M.K. Gandhi. In fact, Gandhiji would stay in Farangi Mahal whenever he was in Lucknow.

He was a powerful orator and it is said that the Quaid was quite impressed with his oratory prowess. He was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1946 and was a key member of the Muslim League, being made the party’s honorary assistant secretary in 1943.

He brought out the newspaper Hamdam from Lucknow, which propagated the Muslim League position.

Following independence, Jamal Mian did not move to Pakistan due to his familial and spiritual commitments in India. But when his Indian passport was impounded by the Indian authorities for suspected sympathies for Pakistan, Jamal Mian acquired Pakistani citizenship and settled in Dhaka in what was then East Pakistan. It was after his resettlement that he perhaps started losing interest in politics. Yet as the former eastern wing crept deeper into crisis (which would ultimately lead to the dismemberment of united Pakistan), Jamal Mian shifted to Karachi in April 1971, where he would reside for the rest of his life. After his move to Karachi he almost totally bid politics adieu.

Jamal Mian served as one of the representatives of Pakistan in the pan-Islamic organisation Rabita al-Alam al-Islami, or the Muslim World League, travelling to different parts of the globe representing the organisation.

A litterateur and poet himself, Jamal Mian maintained an enduring friendship with poet; scholar and politician Maulana Hasrat Mohani; both gentlemen performed Haj together while Jamal Mian edited Kulliyat-i-Hasrat, a collection of the Maulana’s poetry.

He was awarded the Nishan-i-Imtiaz by the Pakistan government in 1999, though some felt his true worth was not appreciated. Jamal Mian also performed the nikah of Princess Sarvath (née Ikramullah) with Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.

While maintaining his political, official and business interests, Jamal Mian remained devoted to his spiritual pursuits. He was a regular visitor to Ajmer during the Hijri month of Rajab, when the annual urs celebration of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishty is observed. He also hosted a milad every year on Rabiul Awwal 12 at his Clifton residence where he would deliver a sermon on the seerah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Those close to him spoke warmly of Jamal Mian as he was always approachable.

Jamal Mian married the daughter of Shah Hayat Ahmad of Rudauli and was said to be amongst the first Farangi Mahalis to marry outside the family. His wife passed away in December 2009. The couple had seven children.