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A man of history

April 11, 2010

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Maulana Din Mohammad Wafai
d. April 10,1950

WHILE passing by the Arts Council on route to the Sindh Secretariat in Karachi, one notices that an important artery is named Maulana Din Mohammad Wafai Road. Many will have stretched their imagination to locate him in the loci of historical figures, but only a few will succeed.

Maulana Wafai was a multifaceted personality of Sindh who left indelible marks on the social, intellectual and political life of the region during the first half of the 20th century. He lived in an era that is termed by many as the golden era of Sindhi journalism; the end of the 19th century saw Al Hilal becoming the launching pad of this trend as acclaimed men of high intellect contributed to its columns.

It is important to note that this newspaper was to communicate the thinking, philosophies and social approaches of the editorial team to the masses. By doing so it performed the critical task of raising political awareness, especially among the Muslims who were less educated. As Sindhi was the common man's language, this communication strategy was found to be fairly effective.

Maulana Wafai joined the Khilafat Movement and worked tirelessly to propagate the message of its leaders. He became associated with the Sindhi newspaper Al-Waheed during the 1920s and soon the publication became a mouthpiece for Muslims on both local and regional issues.

Due to colonial policies successive editors of the paper, including Maulana Wafai, were jailed yet the paper managed to survive. The Muslim political and business elite, foremost among them being Sir Abdullah Haroon, supported the paper even during the most trying times.

As Pir Ali Mohammad Rashdi has written in his book, Those Days, Those People the ascetic Wafai was not affected by the hardships of imprisonment. His fearless efforts to give voice to the suffering of the common folk continued unabated.

He regularly contributed articles to numerous journals and papers; in them he examined the role of Sindh's feudal and religious elite in relevance to the issues faced by the people. He also launched Tauheed and several other periodicals.

His contemporaries regarded him as a veritable encyclopedia on Sindh. Regional and Muslim history, Sufism, politics and sociology were among his domains. His works on the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and the religious reformation led by Shah Waliullah are noted for their academic merit. The works of luminaries such as Maulana Wafai should be revisited as many of their writings offer dimensions for further exploration.