About the Book
Set against the backdrop of the mutiny of 1857, Charles Freer Andrews (c. 1871-1940) draws upon the story of Zaka Ullah’s life to briefly trace the cultural history of Delhi from the decline of theMughal Empire to the emerging nationalist movement in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
A teacher at the Delhi College, and one of the most distinguished scholars of his day, Munshi Zaka Ullah (1832-1911) belonged to that small fraction who, at a time when the Muslims in Delhi were largely indifferent to ‘New Learning’, showed much enthusiasm for modern education and the new sciences. He was perhaps the last relic of an era that saw many changes and for a while, simultaneously accommodated two worlds-the decaying and the emergent. While on the one hand, he embodied the traditional values of an old world culture, he was also a visionary whosepioneerinq contribution to modern education in northern India earned him the reputation of a committed educationist and liberal enlightenment rationalist. Convinced that Western education could be disseminated through the vernacular, he devoted his life to translating and writing numerous textbooks in Urdu on science and mathematics.
Although focused on Zaka Ullah, this book provides an entree into the lives of not two charismatic figures but the trio-Zaka Ullah; his comrade, Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, the great Urdu novelist; and his close friend and biographer, C.F. Andrews. The two introductory essays to this volume offer new insights into the debates on the Delhi Renaissance and the intellectual influences - including the significant role of the Delhi College-that shaped the minds of these men and their contemporaries.
About the Author
C.F Andrews was a close friend of Zaka Ullah and a member of the Cambridge Brotherhood. He came to India in 1904 as a Christian missionary.
Mushirul Hasan is Professor of History and Director of the Academy of Third World Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.
Margrit Pernau is a research fellow at the Universities of Bielefeld and Erfurt, Germany.
Nearly seventeen years ago I began to write these pages in memory of my old friend, Munshi Zaka Ullah, who had been like a father to me during the earlier period of my life in India, when I was working as a member of the Cambridge University Brotherhood in Delhi.
This closely intimate friendship with Zaka Ullah developed slowly at first, but in the end it became very deeply rooted and grounded in mutual confidence and affection. There was, at the outset, a certain shyness and self-diffidence which I found difficult to overcome. There were language perplexities also which often put me to shame; for our conversation was always carried on in Urdu, and I am a bad linguist. But Munshi Zaka Ullah’s wealth of affection was unbounded, and his love for me was so spontaneous that it soon overcame every obstacle. After this it was my greatest happiness to get away from college work and sit with him through the afternoon talking with him and asking him questions.
Everything at this time was new to me in the East, and he could see my genuine delight while our conversation went on from one subject to another. This pleasure of mine kindled his own enthusiasm in turn and made him gladly reminiscent. In this mood he would talk for hours with me about the days when the Moghul Court was yet in evidence at Delhi and the people of the city loved their old emperor, Bahadur Shah, and took pride in their historic past.
He would tell me also about his own family history, his ancestors, and his traditions. He would speak to me most of all about his faith in God, and would try to explain to me, in his own simple way, the central teaching of Islam concerning the unity of the divine nature and the compassion for suffering humanity, ‘which,’ said he, ‘is the supreme attribute of God in the Quran and in all the best Islamic thought.’ I would say to him in answer: ‘Munshi Sahib, your own life is the best commentary on the Quran that I have ever read and studied.’
Some of these conversations will reappear later on in this volume of reminiscences. What I would chiefly wish to represent is a true picture-of Zaka Ullah himself, who personified to me in his old age, as he spoke with such kindness and affection, the ancient courtesy of his own ancestral house and also of the Moghul Court of Delhi, wherein his forefathers had played a distinguished part for many generations as teachers of the royal family.
His face would light up with affection as he narrated his story to me. While he spoke, there was always a tender look in his eyes, which were dim with old age. Every word he uttered carried with it a gentle dignity which was the heritage of a long line of culture and refinement. To be in his presence, while he was speaking, and to watch his singularly expressive face, made the vision that he himself saw of Old Delhi vividly appear before my own kindled imagination, bringing with it those huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, which had haunted me when I was a boy. The dream that I used to dream of the East had almost come true in those illuminating days.
Circumstances that were quite unforeseen prevented my finishing the manuscript of these reminiscences which I had already begun in 1912. Though I have taken it up many times since, and also published fragments of it in India in magazines and papers, I have never been able to complete it in the way I wished to give it for final publication.
But quite recently, owing to increasing racial and religious friction in India, the need for united effort to be made, which may lead to mutual understanding between East and West, has become very acute. The best people on either side are feeling this most of all. It therefore appeared to me that other things could be made to wait their turn if only I might be able to relieve in one direction at least the growing tension by telling the story of such a noble spirit as that of Zaka Ullah. With this thought in my mind I have used the long interval of a solitary voyage on a French steamer from Colombo to Marseilles in order to get ready the material which had been lying so long unused and thus to begin my task. Here, in my old home at Cambridge, it will not be difficult to bring it to a conclusion.
In the work of collecting details concerning Munshi Zaka Ullah, which relate to his family and antecedents, I have been helped most of all by his son, M. Inayat Ullah, who has been untiring in his kindness, patience and devotion. Without his continual aid this book could never have been written at all. His reverence for his father and mother has been most touching to me to witness. Often he has undertaken long journeys to see me, and it was a disappointment to him that what I had already written had remained unpublished so long.
The late Principal S. K. Rudra of St Stephen’s College, Delhi, also gave me the warmest encouragement and assistance while he was still living. He had been the personal friend of Munshi ZakaUllah, and was himself deeply revered for his goodness by everyone in Delhi-Musalmans, Hindus and Christians alike. It was from his house that I used to go day by day to visit Zaka Ullah during the months of his last illness. On my return I would tell him some of the conversations we had together, and would discuss still further in detail the difficult points that had been raised. Every day, while I have been completing my task and revising these pages, I have missed his knowledge and assistance. Those tiny inaccuracies, which are almost certain to occur, in spite of half a long lifetime spent in India, would have been at once detected by his keen insight; and I have no one at hand who can equally render me this service.
One other of my intimate friends has died, who helped me in the preparation of this book while I was in Delhi, and remained very dear to me to the end. Hakim Ajmal Khan and his family will often be referred to in these pages. The Hakim Sahib himself passed away only a few months ago, after spending a life of sacrifice in the service of the poor. His house and hospital were filled day by day with the sick and dying, and he would minister to them, taking no fees except from the rich who were able to afford them. Many times over I had discussed with him the story that I was going to relate about Zaka Ullah and Old Delhi. In his own courteous and considerate way he used gently to chide me for not getting on with my work and for constantly putting other less important things before it. He died of heart failure at the moment of his highest influence in Indian religious affairs-just at a time also when his presence as a peacemaker was required by the whole of educated India with an urgency difficult to describe.
The Memoir of Zaka Ullah attached to this book, which was written by Dr Nazir Ahmad shortly before his death, will itself explain without any further words the debt of gratitude I owe to the author, who was the greatest of all the learned men of Old Delhi, and also from childhood onwards his most intimate personal friend. In translating the Urdu MSS which he wrote for me, I have ventured to be free in my rendering, having English readers in view. I hope that in this way the spirit of the original has been preserved.
Dr Nazir Ahmad was dear to me no less than Munshi Zaka Ullah him- self; and I can never hope to repay the kindness that I received at his hands. He was the acknowledged master of Urdu prose in his own generation, and my book has been greatly honoured by an inscription from his pen.
Many others-among them, my own pupils-have helped me from time to time. I know they will forgive me, if I do not mention them by name. Their service to me in this matter was a service of pure love, which needed no outward recognition; they all know how deeply I reciprocate their affection.
The book, such as it is, has been dedicated to the teachers and students of Santiniketan, where the poet, Rabindranath Tagore, has founded his School of International Fellowship.
It was in London, during 1912, while my thoughts were full of Munshi Zaka Ullah, that I first met Rabindranath Tagore. It has been ever since the highest privilege of my life to have been permitted to work and study under his guidance and inspiration at Santiniketan. The deep love of India which I had learnt and experienced at Delhi has been reinforced and enlarged in Bengal. The heart of India is one. Every day of my life, through nearly a quarter of a century in the East, I have found this to be true.
During all these intervening years-since the War and after the War-Rabindranath Tagore’s mind has turned more and more in the direction of racial and religious unity as the greatest need of mankind, if peace is to be established on a firm foundation, and if any further danger of internecine war is to be averted.
With this object directly in view, the poet has patiently and diligently sought at Santiniketan to found a House of Goodwill and Friendship, where East and West may meet in mutual regard, and men and women of different races and religions may learn to understand and appreciate one another’s varied points of view in an atmosphere of sincere friendship and goodwill to all mankind.
In a certain very real sense, all that Munshi Zaka Ullah stood for in Old Delhi, both in education and religion, has had its counterpart in Rabindranath Tagore’s work at Santiniketan, amid all the outward differences that are immediately apparent. Without any direct link of connexion, Munshi Zaka Ullah’s own spirit may be felt there in the poet’s ideals as they are being put into practice.
This fact itself came slowly home to me through my own personal experience. Santiniketan has been a revelation to me of that inner unity of the East about which I have already written. It is not without significance that the poet’s father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, found the Persian poems of Hafiz to be one of the greatest means of help in his own religious meditation.
Munshi Zaka Ullah’s life and work in one sense belonged to an earlier generation. He was the last relic in Delhi of an age that has now passed away. But in another sense, he was a true prophet of the future. His deepest convictions are bearing fruit in the hearts and minds of men and women of the Indian modem world. Since, therefore, I have good reason to believe that the teachers and students of Santiniketan will best appreciate his ideas and understand his personality, I have ventured, after careful consideration, to dedicate this volume to them. Any profits which may be derived from the sale of this book will be given to Santiniketan.
It may be well, at this point, to explain still more explicitly some of the main motives which made me wish to write.
There was a personal factor which weighed with me most of all when I began my task. It was my great wish, if it were possible to do so, to preserve the memory of my old friend. He admitted me, during the last years of his life, to his inner thoughts, and used to prepare beforehand different subjects of peculiar importance, according to his own way of thinking, whereon he wished to speak to me, feeling that he had some- thing to give to the world. It was made abundantly clear to me that he wished his views to be more widely known. He had been disappointed in his own literary career because his many volumes in Urdu had remained very little read; therefore he clung to me, in those last days, with a hope that I might make some compensation for his own disappointment. On many occasions, after an earnest talk together, he would say to me words like these: ‘I wish that you could write down, in your own way, the things that I have been speaking to you. People will listen to you.’
In spite of the lapse of years I still feel his words to be true. His thoughts, uttered before the great dividing line of the World War, have by no means gone out of date. Zaka Ullah, in many respects is coming to his own today.
The second motive that impelled me was the fact that Zaka Ullah was an original educational thinker. He was a pioneer in a difficult age. On the one hand he remained entirely true to his own Eastern culture. He insisted on all education, worth the name, being rooted in the soil of the country wherein it was given; at the same time, he was one of the leading spirits among the Musalmans-broad-minded, tolerant, and large-hearted-who definitely aimed at the assimilation of all that was best in the culture of the West. His convictions, therefore, on the subject of Indian education, while he attempted to harmonise these two different points of view, are of more than passing interest.
In the third place, Zaka Ullah, while he lived, wielded a great influence in the north of India on account of his sympathy and tolerance towards those of another faith. The Hindus of the city of Delhi loved him no less than the Musalmans. Since there is no more serious question before the people of India at the present time than the improvement of religious relations between Musalmans and Hindus and the restoration of that kindly feeling which once undoubtedly existed, anything which can help in any degree to restore that relationship is surely of value. While resolutions passed at conferences may do something to relieve the strain, it is gener- ally felt that the lives of those individuals whose daily conduct makes for peace and charity in human intercourse can do much more.Zaka Ullah was regarded on all sides as pre-eminently such a person.
I would emphasise the fact which will be apparent in the book itself, that it was from the standpoint of deeply religious Musalmans that I learnt to love these loveable characters in Old Delhi, and it was through them most of all that I learnt to appreciate Islam during my first years in India. I hope, therefore, to make abundantly evident the nobility and simplicity of Islam as Zaka Ullah practised it in his life.
For he followed to its utmost limit the fundamental precept which underlies the ninety-third Surah of the Quran.
By the Splendour of the Morning Light,
And by the Stillness of the Night.
The Lord hath not forsaken thee,
Nor followed thee with hate.
Thy future shall far better be
Than is thy present state.
The Lord shall give thee verily
Blessings and comforts great.
Did He not find thee fatherless,
And give thee shelter meet,
And see thee from His way transgress,
And guide thine erring feet,
And grant thee-poor and in distress-
Thy daily bread to eat?
Then take the orphan for thy ward,
God’s goodness to repay.
To him that asks, thine alms accord,
And chide him not away.
As for the bounty of thy Lord,
Tell of it day by day.
This fine version by Mr T. C. Lewis, which can only dimly represent the majestic beauty of the original Arabic, may serve to make clear to readers in the West something of the practical character of Islam.
I have watched, as an intimate friend of the household and a welcome guest, Zaka Ullah’s gentle courtesy to all his friends, and his devotion and goodness to every member of his family. This embraced within its bounty his personal servant, who was touchingly devoted to him; the humble widow woman who used to pull his punkah during the hot weather; the poor and afflicted who used to come daily to his door for alms, and all sorts and conditions of men, who would seek his comfort, help and support. All belonged to his own family as he belonged to God. These acts of kindness and piety were done in the true spirit of Islam, without any distinction of race, caste or creed. To each and all, in humble thankfulness to God for His great mercies, he was ready at all times to stretch out a helping hand as far as lay in his power.
Side by side with this love for all mankind he was a devoted lover of his own country. India was the land of his birth, and he was Indian through and through in every fibre of his being. It is true that his family had come originally from beyond the Hindukush; but India was the birthplace of his parents, the home of his spiritual adoption, and the home of his love. He was inspired with ever fresh enthusiasm as he read each page of its history; and the study of India’s ancient past was one of the delights of his life, both as a scholar and a patriot.
Not seldom, despondent voices are heard today declaring that India can never become one nation. Munshi Zaka Ullah, living in Delhi, knew better than most people what an amount of bigotry, superstition, and ignorance had to be overcome before unity could be established. There-fore, his confidence in the future of his country was no easy-going optimism. But he had a profound, mystical faith, that Almighty God had fore- ordained and predetermined that Hindus and Musalmans should settle down side by side at last in mutual tolerance and affection.
This was his own ideal, and it coloured all his actions. In that faith he lived, and in that faith he died.
It is a very great pleasure to me to thank my two old friends, Mr. Ramananda Chatterjee and Mr E. W Heffer, for helping and encouraging me in different ways to publish these memoirs. Mr.Ramananda Chatterjee first published them in India in the Modern Review, from whence they have been translated into different Indian vernaculars. Mr. Heffer, whom I first met at Cambridge nearly forty years ago, has now completed their publication in book form in England. To both of them I owe my sincere thanks. I would also thank the publisher, Mr John Murray, for allowing me to use the photograph of Delhi City near the Jama Masjid from one of his publications. The literary editor of the Student Christian Movement has kindly allowed three portraits from an earlier book of mine to be reproduced, and Sir Thomas Arnold has generously given me the use of a very important photograph of the leaders of the Aligarh Movement and Urdu literary revival in north India.
Sharif Culture and Colonial Rule:
A ‘Maulvi’-Missionary Encounter
Preparing a Meeting-Ground:
C.E Andrews, St. Stephen’s, and the Delhi College
Zaka Ullah of Delhi
The Moghul Court
The English Peace
The New Learning
Zaka Ullah’s Family
Zaka Ullah’s Early Life
The Mutiny at Delhi
The Victorian Age
The Aligarh Movement
Zaka Ullah’s Character
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