Maulana Mohammad Ismail Sambhli: Great Scholar, Freedom Fighter and Politican

by Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi*, Riyadh

One of the oldest places in District Moradabad, Sambhal, holds an important position in the historical Rohailkhand region for its academic and intellectual bountifulness.  The great luminaries like Sheikh Hatim lit the light of intellectualism and Mullah Abdul Qadir Badayuni and Abul Fazl came here to acquire knowledge and wisdom.

There has been no dearth of people who sacrificed their lives for their country. During the 1857 upheavals when Prince Feroz Bakht came to Sambhal, Munshi Imamuddin who has been Deputy Mir Munshi  during the reign of Akbar Shah II welcomed Prince Feroz Bakht with great passion and galore. Furious over this, the British hanged him in Moradabad and threw his body in lime kiln and confiscated his property which was later auctioned. His friend Maulana Ghulam Rasool Sambhli was also sentenced to death. Munshi Nooruddin, the grandson of Munshi Imamuddin also participated in Khilafat Movement. He was sent to jail when he was President of Meerut Congress. The rioters attacked his residence at Garhmukteshwar and killed him.

There is a long list of people in the history of Sambhal who confronted with British and posed great resistance with their historic acts of gallantry. Maulana Ismail Sambhli’s younger brother Abdul Qaiyyum, Lala Prem Pal, Qari Abdul Haq, Maulana Maqsood Turki, Chaudhary Riyasat Ali, Lala Chandulal, Lala Roop Kishor, Maulvi Noorul Hasan, Sheikh Abdul Raheem, Chetan Swaroop, Radhey Lal Poddar, Munshi Moinuddin, Maulvi Sultan Ahmad,Maulvi Abdul Waheed and Maulana Ismail Sambhli are prominent among such people.

In the context of Freedom Fighter Maulana Ismail Sambhli Welfare Society, a personal profile of Maulana Mohammad Ismail Sambhli and his national and community services is presented here to help the new generation get acquainted with his exemplary deeds so that his life remains to serve the people as path showing torch of enlightenment.

Maulana Ismail Sambhli belonged to the famous city of UP, Sambhal in district Moradabad. His correct date of birth is, even though, unknown however, to guess, he might have taken birth in 1899 at Mohallah Deepa Sarai. He belonged to the Sarwar Waley family of Turk community. His father, Munshi Kifayatullah was considered among the educated people of the area and was famous with the nickname ‘Munshiji’. His grandfather’s name was Sarwar Husain who was a native to village Mundha in J. P. Nagar. Later he shifted to Sambhal. His family surname, Sarwar Waley was due to his grandfather’s name.

He read the Holy Quran and received primary education HHe receat Madrasatul Mohammadia, Deepa Sarai and was admitted to class VI t continue further education in English against his mother’s wish. She wanted him to get Arabic education and finally her will prevailed. Meanwhile, his father passed away and he was sent to his elder brother at Bahawalpur where he had the honour to receive education from Maulana Farooq Ahmad, Sheikhul Hadees and Head, Jamia Usmania. Maulana Farooq Ahmad was the disciple of Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan and relative of Maulana Mansoor Ansari who was put on exile on the pretext of abetting and participating in the freedom movement. He was extremely unhappy with British and a staunch supporter of freedom struggle. It was his company that helped instill a sense of nationalism in the heart of Maulana Ismail Sambhli and inspired him to participate in the freedom struggle.

After completing education at Bahawalpur, Maulana Ismail Sambhli returned back to his native place, Sambhal and continued with his education at Madrasa Sirajul Uloom. IN the meantime the barbaric incident of Jalianwala Bagh took place that put the whole of India on fire. A public strike was observed in Sambhal as well and a mass gathering f all communities was organized at the gardens of Gul Chhatar. Maulana Ismail Sambhli delivered a very inspiring lecture at the mass convention. Maulana was the youngest among all orators yet his oration impressed the public most and thus his national and political life began. Mualana gained popularity as Raeesul Muqarrareen (master orator).

When the British defeated Turkey, the resulting loss and the sense of defeat made the Muslims furious. On November 22, 1919 the Khilafat Committee was founded and the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind took birth in Delhi. The Khilafat Movement was pronounced through out the country. Just months after the sad demise of Sheikhul Hind Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan, Maulana Ismail Sambhli took admission in Darul Uloom Deoband where his nationalist ideas and concepts received firmness. He started partaking in the nationalist activities with much vigour and zeal and despite him being a student he was arrested on February 22, 1921 for his radical ideas and inflammatory speeches. After two – three days his case was heard at Moradabad Jail and he was sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment. Then the political detainees were generally subject to extreme brutalities. Maulana and his companions borne all types of atrocities. They were put under penal servitude, were imprisoned in small cages and were compelled to sleep handcuffed. Precisely, they were put to all types of brutalities but did not tender apology despite the initiation on the part of the Collector. Finally, he was released after the term of his punishment was over. Back to home he concentrated on completing his education. He joined Madrasatul Sharã at Katra Moosa Khan, Mian Sarai where he received education in various arts with full concentration from Maulana Abdul Majeed, Maulana Kareem Bakhsh and Maulana Mohammad Ibrahim. He went to Darul Uloom Deoband again to gain certificates from Maulana Syed Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and other teachers. After completing courses at Darul Ulloom Deoband he joined Jamia Qasmia Madrasa Shahi, Moradabad as a teacher in later 1924. The country’s condition had changed by the time, Khilafat had come to an end, there were communal disturbances through out the country and Congress had suspended its Civil Disobedience Movement. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned for six years and radical organizations had started gaining prominence. The distinguished people too were feeling let down but Maulana Mohammad Ismail Sambhli’s feet did not staggered and he kept moving ahead with full confidence.

In 1930 a radical change took place. The Congress proclaimed complete freedom. On January 26, 1930 independence day was celebrated throughout the country. On March 13 Mahatma Gandhi commenced his famous Dandi March in violation of the laws of salt. A Civil Disobedience Movement was also commenced.

The government put the nationalist people to extreme brutalities. They were mercilessly beaten, shot by guns and imprisoned. The Jamiatul Ulema sense the need of the hour and vowed to support Congress in its Civil Disobedience Movement. It established a Daira-e-Harabia (Circle of War). Mufti Kifayatullah, Mualana Ahmad Saeed, Maulana Husain Ahmad and Maulana Mubarak Husain Sambhli were arrested one by one as the dictator of Jamiatul Ulema. Maulana Mohammad Ismail Sambhli was the seventh in this order to be arrested and was sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment. He was initially put in the B class of Delhi Jail but was later transferred to Multan Jail. He was finally released after the completion of punishment.

After the announcement of Central Assembly elections in 1934 a Muslim Unity Board was constituted under the president ship of Raja Saleempur. The Board was entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring elections in United Provionce, Centralk Province and Bihar and Madras provinces. Shahjahanpur and Bijnor seats witnessed close fight between Sir Yaqub and Mr. Kareemur Raza Khan who was Board’s candidate. The Unity Board Incharge of Moradabad Board was Maulana Mohammad Ismail Sambhli. He participated in the elections very actively and the Board candidate won the election. It was in fact the success of Jamiatul Ulema and Maulana Ismail Sambhli and it added to his personal influence immensely.

When the time came for Provincial Assembly elections, the Muslim League Parliamentary Board came to existence. On behalf of Maulana Ahmad Saeed, Nazim of Jamiatul Ulema Mohammad Ali Jinnah was given the right to nominate members to the parliamentary board. Mr. Jinnah nominated 22 members from 56 out of which 20 were of Jamiatul Ulema and two of Ahrar. The Provincial Boards were under the control of Central Board. Maulana Ismail Sambhli was admitted to UP Board. He was also declare candidate from Sambhal of Moradabad and Tehsil Bilari constituencies. Those days the land lords, nawabs, kings and English title holders enjoyed great immunity and British supported people were considered prominent in the society. The nationalists participated in the election to defeat the pro-British candidates. The eminent personality of Sambhal, Nawab Ashiq Husain Khan was given ticket against Maulana Mohammad Ismail Sambhli. Nawab Ashiq, being chairman of Sambhal Board for twenty years and special magistrate for almost same period, was a respectable man and used to render a tax of rupees ten thousand per annum to the government . He also enjoyed an influence over the electorate yet he was miserably defeated in the election. Maulana Ismail Sambhli’s success was historic and this provided as a great boost to the nationalists. At other places the candidates of Muslim League won but after elections Mr. Jinnah tried to included the members of pro-government parties in Muslim League while they had been against the League. Some of them were of ill character. However Mr. Jinnah succeeded in getting the resolution of the admission of these members in Lucknow session and did not give ear to the objections raised by other members. Mr. Zaheeruddin Farroqui and others tried to object and said that we should consider the fact that Jamiat has helped the League and it is lenient towards Congress but Mr. Jinnah out rightly silenced them saying that these people had been admitted in the Board and Jamiat or Ahrar had no right to against the principle. Hearing these words, Maulana Ismail Sambhli rose in his seat and with an exemplary confidence said that we joined hands with you for the election purpose and not because we had left our beliefs, principles and objectives. We have the right to follow our own resolution. The full text of Maulana Ismail Sambhli’s speech has been reproduced by Maulana Husain Ahmad Madni in his book. Mr. Jinnah admitted all those people in the League who had been against the freedom of the country and were loyal to British. Maulana Ismail Sambhli and his likeminded colleagues who were a Congress and Jamiat sympathizer formally joined the Congress.

In 1939, the war in Europe started and the Indian government without taking the members in confidence sent the Indian army to war. The Congress opposed the move and boycotted the Assembly. It convened its session at Ramgarh on March 20-21, 1940 under the president ship of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. The Civil Disobedience Movement was pronounced in the session and finally in the last of 1940 the non-violent civil disobedience movement commenced. A programme was chalked out for individual speeches. Maulana Ismail Sambhli was arrested in Moradabad during the movement and was sentenced for nine months’ imprisonment. In August 1942, Congress gave the famous ‘Leave India’ slogan. Mahatma Gandhi was arrested and sent to Sabarmati Jail. There were arrests every where in the country. Maulana Ismail Sambhli was again arrested in Sambhal and was put under house arrest at Moradabad Jail for indefinite period. Later he was released after one year.

In 1946, when the elections were declared, the tussle between Congress and Muslim League was at the height. Muslim League carried venomous but impressive slogans. Supporting the Congress was a daring step and Mualana Ismail Sambhli dared to fight against Muslim League. Initially he was declared defeated due to the cheatings but after the election petition on the part of Maulana, he was declared elected without any fight in the re-election. He remained MLA till 1952 and had to leave the teaching at Madrasa Shahi Moradabad in 1946 due to his preoccupation.

Maulana Ismail Sambhli did not participate in the 1952 elections and stationed at Delhi as the Nazim-e-Ala of Jamiatul Ulema. He served Jamiat for four years and remained busy in social and political affairs. In 1957 he resigned from Jamiat and returned to Sambhal. On the order of his spiritual master Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani and requests of administrators of Madrasa Chilla he accepted to serve it as Sheikhul Hadees.

In 1962, he was appointed as Sheikhul Hadees at Madrasa Imdadia, Moradaba and served there for about three years. Later on repeated requests he joined Madrasa Taleemul Islam, Anand, Gujarat and remained there for eight years as Sheikhul Hadees teaching Bukhari and Muslim. In 1974, he shunned the idea of service and returned back to Sambhal and engaged himself in the literary work only to complete the half hatched books. “Maqalat-e-Tasawwuf”, “Akhbarul Tanzeel” (the Quranic prophesies) and “Taquleed-e-Aimma” are some important books authored by him. Meanwhile he went to Mawana, Meerut on the request of people and stayed there for about eight months. He taught Quran’s translation and analysis at Mawana. In his last age, he spent a few Ramadhan months in Bombay delivering lectures on the translation and analysis of Quran every night after Taraweeh. He fell sick in the last Ramadhan of his life yet he, disregarding the opposition of family members, went to Bombay on the request of people. Everyday after Iftar he used to take injection to be able to deliver the lecture after Taraweek and the whole Ramadhan passed this way. After returning to Sambhal he succumbed to the weakness and was admitted to the Moradabad government hospital. People of all faith, belief, opinion and social and political association came in flocks to see him at the hospital. Several teams of doctors was attending him. The former health minister Mr. Daudayal Khanna along with is companions and the CMO came to see him but nothing could help and his condition kept deteriorating. He insisted family members to take him home. The unconsciousness had engulfed him. He was given the oxygen aid and life saving injections to take him live to Sambhal by an ambulance. He was under deep unconsciousness on the way to Sambhal when he suddenly raised his right hand towards the sky and recited the Kalma loudly in the same typical manner as was seen in his speeches. After one hour from arriving home, he bid last farewell to the world at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, the 23rd November 1975 after one and half months’ prolonged illness.

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*Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi is based in Riyadh and can be accessed at: najeebqasmi@yahoo.com

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