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Historian K.K. Aziz on views of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and others
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Historian K.K. Aziz on views of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and other Muslim scholars and leaders, on support of British rule of India

K.K. Aziz, the well known historian and academic who has written several books about Muslims of the Indian subcontinent and the creation of Pakistan, has also written a life-story of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the translator of the Holy Quran into English, entitled A Biography of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, A Life Forlorn, published in 2010, by Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore, Pakistan.

In the chapter Character and Achievements, there is a section headed A Loyalist (p. 291–303), in which the author deals with the highly favourable and loyally supportive attitude of Abdullah Yusuf Ali towards British rule of India, and in order to explain it he refers in detail to similar views of other Muslim leaders of those times. We have scanned this entire section, and made it available at this link.

As a flavour and brief summary of this section, we give below some quotations from it. (The bolding of names is ours.)

Abdullah Yusuf Ali was an unabashed admirer of British imperialism, the British Indian Empire and British culture and political acumen. (p. 291)

There was hardly any important political or political-cum-religious party or any organized group of Muslim intellectuals and men of religion which, at one time or another, hesitated to express its loyalty to the government, on some occasion in language quite nauseating. (p. 291)

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan entertained for the British a deep loyalty which he constantly offered as a virtue and preached as a necessity. (p. 291)

Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, the fearless editor of Zamindar of Lahore, who prided himself on his love of Islam and his hatred of Christian rule over India, wrote to King George V in an open letter on 22 November 1934, “Sire, I fully know the deep feelings of the eight crore [eighty million] Musalmans of India who accept Your Majesty as their emperor.” (p. 292–293)

(Website Editor’s note: See also this related link for an English article by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan.)

Iqbal’s writings provide us with several proofs of his deepseated and unconcealed allegiance, even obsequiousness, to the British. On Queen Victoria’s death on 22 January 1901 (which day was also the id-ul-fitr), he composed an elegy of 110 couplets, praising the deceased Empress, paying servile tributes to her, grieving for the loss, and calling her death a muharram for the Muslims of India. The poem was published at government expense. (p. 293)

On 22 June 1911 the coronation of King George V was celebrated by the Muslims of Lahore at a gathering in the Royal Mosque of the city, and among the speakers was Iqbal who emphasized the Muslims’ bounden duty to bear allegiance to the ruler of the day. (p. 294)

Iqbal’s teacher Shams-ul-Ulema Mawlawi Mir Hasan, issued a fatwa (religious edict) in favour of loyalty to the British, calling their rule kind, just and a gift from God, and concluding with the remark that it was a matter of pride to be born under such a government. (p. 294–295)

Maulana Shibli Naumani, one of the most highly respected ulema and men of letters, while welcoming the Governor of Agra and Oudh to his Nadwah in 1902, assured the guest that “we look upon our loyalty and goodwill to the Government as our religious duty.” (p. 295)

Khwaja Altaf Hussain Hali, the well-known poet and literary critic, wrote a eulogy of British rule in which he offered a prayer that God may always keep the family of the ruler in His safekeeping and the ruler may always keep India under his shadow. (p. 295)

The foundation stone of the college (dar-ul-Ulum) of the Nadwah was laid by the Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh on 28 November 1908. … The address written in Arabic presented to the Lieutenant Governor declared that “religious tolerance is a characteristic feature of the British Government”, and submitted that “we maintain it as our belief that loyalty to the Government is our proven stance. Through the ulama produced by this school Muslims will advance in their obedience and submission to the Government.” About the speech made by the Lieutenant Governor in reply to the address of welcome the ulema of Nadwah said, “Each and every word of it is Water of Life [ab-i-hayat] for the Nadwah.” (p. 295, 296)