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Loyalty of Nadwat-ul-Ulama to British rule

Their school funded by the British

Their expressed aim: to produce Ulama who would promote loyalty to British rule

The Nadwat-ul-Ulama of Lucknow, India, is a famous institution for training Muslim theologians and Ulama, founded in 1891. One of its best-known personalities was its Rector and high official Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali Nadawi, whose books against the Ahmadiyya Movement are widespread in the world, accusing Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of being sponsored by the British government. Yet when we study the history of Nadwat-ul-Ulama itself, we learn:
“Nadwah also fostered relations with the [British] government, for, in a colonial society, any ambitious leadership required its support. After a period of intense suspicion because of their presumed Pan-Islamic sentiments, the government agreed to patronize secular learning at the school, contributed land for its fine building on the banks of the Gumti in Lucknow, and, in 1908, sent the lieutenant governor himself to lay the foundation stone.”
(Islamic Revival in British India, by Dr Barbara Daly Metcalf, p. 346)
The journal An-Nadwah itself recorded:
“The honourable Lieutenant Governor [Sir John Hewitt] agreed to lay the foundation stone of the Darul Uloom [school] of Nadwat-ul-Ulama. This ceremony was held on 28 November 1908.”
(An-Nadwah, December 1908, vol. v, no. 10, pages 1-2)
It also said regarding the British government:
“Although the Nadwah has nothing to do with politics, its real aim is to produce enlightened Ulama, and it is an essential duty of such Ulama to be familiar with the blessings of the government’s rule, and to spread feelings of loyalty in the country.
(An-Nadwah, July 1908, p. 1)
The proceedings of the ceremony at which the foundation stone of the school building was laid were compiled by Maulana Shibli Numani, Secretary of the school and a renowned historian of Islam, and published in the Nadwah’s Reports. We give below some extracts from the welcome address presented to Sir John Hewitt:
“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for honouring the Muslims generally, and members of the Nadwah particularly, by consenting to lay the foundation stone of Darul-Uloom, Nadwah, with your own hand. We are sure that all Muslims of India will be grateful to you for the encouragement you have given us on this occasion, because no part of India is without the well-wishers of Nadwah. By laying the foundation stone of a religious institute, your honour has set yet another example of the liberality and fair-mindedness which is a distinctive quality of the English people and the central pillar of British rule.

It is certain that our method of education will create a group which will be more able to resist the rebellious and emotive ideas of today. This will be a group which will be respectful to elders, friendly to neighbours, sympathetic to people in general, and loyal to the government. ...

We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts for the land which your honour has granted us. Recently, your honour bestowed upon us a gift of Rs.500 per month, for which we cannot sufficiently express our thanks.”

(Raudad Darul-Uloom Nadwat-ul-Ulama for 1907 to 1909, pages 24 to 33)

Replying to this address, Sir John Hewitt noted in particular the following:
It was pleasing to hear you expressing loyalty to the British government in clear words whose meaning cannot be doubted at all. I am sure that your Nadwah will use its influence to support the authorities and oppose agitation, disorder and ill-will against the government.”
In a speech made in those days, as reported in a Muslim newspaper, the President of the school of Nadwat-ul-Ulama said:
“In its short life, the Nadwah has not only made astonishing progress in attracting the Muslim population of India, but it has obtained a vote of confidence from the government as well.

We Muslims, and especially the honourable Ulama, should give special thanks, with gratitude from our hearts, to Lieutenant Governor Sir John Hewitt, through whose care and kindness we obtained a plot of land for our school and the considerable sum of Rs. 500. I think it advisable that the leaders of Islam, who have come here from all over India to attend this meeting, should make a petition, indeed it should now be our duty, that we should offer all possible assistance to the government in establishing peace in the country. It should be one of the duties of our Ulama to urge the Muslims, in sermons, to go along with the government. I believe that if we do this, we shall be acting on Islamic teachings, which are better known to many honourable persons in this meeting than to me.”
(Newspaper Paisa, Lahore, 30 May 1910)