Quaid-e-Azam & Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

by Prof. Ahmed Saeed

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, though brought up in two different environment, yet both of them, greatly influenced the Muslim nation. The Quaid fought on the political front to safeguard the Muslims from the British and Bania hegemony. Maulan Thanvi dedicated his life to reform the Muslim society. It is interesting to note that both of them never met each other yet they had so much in common in their personal traits, political ideals and thinking.1


Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi was born in 1863 in Thana Bhawan (U.P.). He was educated at Darul Uloom, Deoband. He did not participate in the Khilafat Movement. He also opposed the Non-Cooperation Movement. He even asked the Muslims not to join Indian National Congress. An erudite scholar, he wrote a number of books on Islam. He died on 20 July 1943.


Before discussing their identical political ideals let us have a look at some of their personality traits which they shared. When we go through the Malfuzat of Maulana Thanvi it becomes evident that he laid great stress on obligations towards humanity (). He asked his followers, time and again, to pay more attention to the rights of the people. Maulana Thanvi was of the view that a prompt reply to anyone’s letter was a part of good human behaviour. It is quite interesting to observe that both the Quaid and Maulana Thanvi remained awfully busy from dawn to dust yet they considered it their religious and moral obligation to send a prompt reply to the letters addressed to them.


During the Pakistan Movement the Quaid received hundreds of letter from all over the subcontinent written by various persons ranging from leaders like M.K. Gandhi, S.C. Bose, Rajendra Prasad,, Motilal Nehru, A.K. Fazlul Haq, Allama Raghib Ahsan, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal to ordinary students and political workers discussing important national issues of the movement and seeking his expert advice and guidance even in personal matters.


The Quaid, like Maulana Thanvi, considered it his moral obligation to send a prompt reply. Once while talking to Altaf Husain, Editor, Dawn, Delhi, he said, “When I receive a letter from anyone it becomes my moral obligation to open it and reply.”2


The Quaid has no spare time to write long replies so he was always brief and to the point. Like Maulana Thanvi, the Quaid was very prompt in replying the letters. He did not keep others waiting. Once Mrs. Ayesha Ahsan wrote to him from Patna on 28 May 1942. To this the Quaid replied on 4 June. The distance between Patna and Delhi must be kept in mind.


Similarly Maulana Thanvi used to check his dak daily after Zuhr prayers and would spend his time in replying the letters. He was of the opinion that a certain Hadees which contains the words included the meaning of promptly replying to letters.3 It was his practice to send a reply the same day. Usually he would not use a separate paper but would reply on the sides of the same letter thus saving his time as well as his papers. He received a large number of letters but he never put off the reply to the other day.


Once he said: “I try to pen down the reply the same day, whatever the number of letters might be. Yesterday I replied to fifty-one letters.”4


He wrote brief, simple and to the point. It is no exaggeration to tell that Maulana Thanvi replied to thousands of letters.


The political adversaries of the Quaid have maliciously dubbed him as cold, emotionless and what not. But strangely enough if one peeps into his life one finds the Quaid an entirely a different person. The Quaid possessed a great sense of humour and he displayed it wherever he may be; on the dining table, in the courts, in the imperial Legislative Assembly, in the company of the friends, students and colleagues. It was not confined to any place or with any person. Here are few examples. There was an ill-mannered judge who was notorious for his bitter remarks. Once during the hearing, he ironically remarked, “Mr Jinnah you should at least respect me for my grey hair.” Outcome the reply: “Allow me to say, My Lord, I have not been taught to respect grey hair if there is no wisdom beneath them.”


While speaking on the Indian budget in the Imperial Legislative Council the Quaid said: “This budge is merely an eyewash.” The English Finance Member replied: “An eyewash is good for sore eye”. The Quaid retorted: “But what about those who have no eyes at all.”


While on a visit to his “Muslim Arsenal”, the Aligarh Muslim University, the Quaid was told that a student Mohammad Nouman was a very fine artist of mimicry who could impersonate and talk or make a speech with all the mannerism of his subject. The Quaid was told that he could also impersonate him to such a degree that if he had spoken behind a screen without being seen, the audience would have taken him to the Quaid. The Quaid sent for the boy who took ten minutes to prepare himself. He tuned up, dressed in Sherwani, a Jinnah cap and a monocles. The voice, the words, the gesture, the look on his face everything, appeared like the Quaid-i-Azam. The Quaid was very much pleased with the performance. When it was finished the Quaid took off his own cap and monocle and presented it to the student saying, “Now this will make it absolutely authentic”.


At his Press Conference at Delhi in July, 1947 a correspondent asked him: “will Pakistan be a theocratic state?” The Quaid inquired “What is a theocratic state?” Another correspondent replied. “A state run by the Maulvis.” The Quaid reported: “What will you call a state run by the Pundits”, referring to Pundit Nehru who claimed to be the head of the Executive Council of the Governor-General.


One day M.K. Gandhi was busy in his Prarthana in his Shivgram Ashram when a snake entered the Ashram. M.K. Gandhi kept himself busy with his Prarthana. The snake took a round of the hut and quietly went away. The Hindu newspapers unduly publicized the event attributing it to Mr. Gandhi’s miracle. A correspondent came to Quaid and asked his comments over the incident. He very seriously heard the whole story and remarked “yes professional etiquette.”5


Once the Quaid was travelling from Mysore to Otacomand. On his way he decided to take tea at a certain railway station. When he came out of the saloon a large number of people gathered around him. When his secretary drew his attention to the pushing and shoving at the platform he smiled and said; “Don’t worry it is a storm in tea cup. It will end soon.”


Some of the above mentioned examples belie the callous claims of those who called the Quaid “cold and emotionless.”


Similarly Maulana Thanvi was known to be very strict. Actually, he had laid down certain rules according to which he conducted his daily life. He not only himself practiced these rules but expected others to follow. Because of his strict observance of such rules a general impression was created among the general public that he was cold, haughty and .


Maulana Mohammad Ali was a great expert at nicknaming persons. Once he wrote about MAO College Aligarh that “these days our principal is Archbold and our Secretary is Archweak” referring to Nawab Mohsinul Mulk. Likewise he had some quarrel with Mr. Shephered, the Editor of the Times of India. He, is an article, wrote that there are many sheep without any Shepherd but he is Shepherd without a sheep. Keeping in view the general impression about Maulana Thanvi, Mohammad Ali Jauhar once asked Maulana Daryabadi: “how is our .6 One can enjoy this brief sentence if one keeps in mind that Ashraf Ali was born at Thana Bhawan.


Strongly enough if we have a glance at Maulana Thanvi’s Malfuzat we come across hundred of example to prove that he was not what he has been portrayed. Like the Quaid, he was full of humour and wit. Maulana Abdul Jabbar once asked him whether Huqqa would be available in paradise. He promptly replies yes but you will have to go to hell to bring fire from there.


Once in a meeting Maulana Thanvi was told that in a certain locality and feud over a mosque was going on between the Hindus and the Muslims. When he was informed that a Muslim by the name of Jamaluddin was taking sides with the Hindus he abruptly said, “he is not Jamaluddin rather .”


His Khadim Niaz informed him about the birth of his son and asked him to suggest a name. Maulana Thanvi proposed the name Ayyaz for the boy. After two or three years he again requested Maulana Thanvi to suggest some name of his second son properly rhymed with Niaz & Ayyaz. He said only one is left and that is Payaz (onion).


Once Khawaja Azizul Hasan Majzoob came to Thana Bhawan for a brief stay. On his departure he wanted to present some nazrana to Maulana Thanvi. But as the upper pocket of his Achkan was somewhat tight he took some time to pull out the money. Maulana Thanvi who was closely watching this said: “Just pull off your Achkan and give it to me. I myself will take out the money from it.”


Another personality trait which they shared was their abhorrence of use of big titles and honorifics. It is reported that once among big crowd someone raised a slogan “King of Pakistan”, the Quaid at once asked that gentleman to refrain from raising such slogans. The Aligarh Muslim University decided to confer an honorary degree of Doctor of Law on the Quaid. When Dr. Ziauddin conveyed this decision to him, he wrote:


I have most reluctantly to say that I have lived as plain Mr. Jinnah and I hope to die as plain Mr. Jinnah. I am very much averse to any title and I will be more happy if there was no prefix to my name.”7


Like the Quaid, Maulana Thanvi was also averse to use big titles prefixed with his name. He also disliked such titles as Shaikhul Hadees, Shaikhul Tafseer and Imamul Hind. Once he said that although our teachers were the embodiment of but for them no such titles were used. At the most they were called Maulana otherwise Maulvi was the most common word to address them.”8


On another occasion he opined that just to gain cheap popularity many novel titles are being used such as Tutee-e-Hind, Sher-e-Punab and Bulbul-e-Hind. The Almighty has made them human beings but they feel proud in being called animals. It looks after sometimes they would like to be called a Khar-e-Hind, Feel-i-Punjab or Asp-e-Hind.9


Both of them were very careful about financial matters. They knew that the Indian leaders were often accused of misappropriation of funds. They were very careful regarding chanda collection. The Quaid used to receive himself a money-order of rupees two.


As mentioned earlier, the Quaid and Maulana Thanvi did not have any face to face meeting. But it is on record that they exchanged letters. On 15 September 1938 Maulana Thanvi said: “That during the League-Congress negotiation I wrote a letter to the President of the Muslim League, Mr. Jinnah, stressing upon him that the final settlement must include the religious rights of the Muslims. I also asked him to consult the Ulema about religious matters. He very politely assured me to follow my suggestion.”10


The Quaid was much pleased with Maulana Thanvi for his support to the AIML. In a letter to Maulana, the Quaid informed him that he had “noted down all the suggestions very carefully and assured him to consult him at the proper time.”


A letter of Maulana Thanvi is preserved with the National Archives of Pakistan11 which is testimony to the fact that Maulana Thanvi, had a great regard for the Quaid. Maulana Thanvi keeping in view Quaid’s other pre-occupations, very frankly asked him not to reply his letter. He prayed to Almighty to make Jinnah a source of strength for the Deen-e-Islam. He asked Quaid’s permission to convey to him any useful suggestion which might come to his mind and finally he wrote.



The words themselves speak of the love and affection which Maulana Thanvi had for the Quaid.


As mentioned earlier Maulana Thanvi disliked students’ and teachers’ involvement in politics. He was of the view that both the teachers and the students should only devote themselves to their studies. From his Malfuzat one gets the impression that there were very few political discussions in his Khanqah. Even newspapers entry was banned there. Strangely enough, his political ideas and his general view of the political situation in India so much resemble with that of the Quaid. Starting from the Khilafat Movement down to 1943 Maulana Thanvi had amazing political like-mindedness with the Quaid.


As is well-known the Quaid did not participate in the Khilafat Movement so did the Maulana Thanvi. Maulana Thanvi did not like Gandhi’s participation in the Khilafat Movement so he issued many Fatwa asking the Muslims to keep away from the Movement. For this he was abused, threatened with dire consequences but he never faltered. When the Non-Cooperation Movement was in full swing many people asked Maulana Thanvi about the government service. He advised the Muslims first to arrange some alternative job then forsake the government service. He was of the view that by resigning the government service the Muslims would plunge themselves more in financial troubles.


Amazingly the same suggestion was given by the Quaid as late as January 1943. When a Khaksar attacked the Quaid, Ehsan Ghani, a former I.G. (Prisons) whote to the Quaid offering his services by giving up his job. The Quaid appreciated his spirit but advised him to continue his job.


With the passage of time Maulana Thanvi came closer to the AIML. He sent many deputations to attend the AIML sessions. In 1938, a four-member delegation including Maulana Zafar Ahmad Thanvi and Shabbir Ali, was sent to attend the Patna Session. The delegation met the Quaid and conveyed to him Maulana Thanvi’s message. In the open session Maulana Zafar Ahmad read out Maulana Thanvi’s seven page message to the League which was also published in daily Asr-e-Jadeed of Calcutta on 4 January, 1939.


It was Congress rule (1937-1939) which brought the Quaid and Maulana Thanvi closer mentally than ever before. The Congress after coming into power made Urdu language its main target. Both the Quaid and Maulana Thanvi condemned the Congress for its anti-Urdu move. Maulana Thanvi issued a fatwa declaring the protection of Urdu equivalent to that of the protection of Deen.


The Congress, through the Wardha Scheme tried to liquidate the Two Nation theory. The scheme aimed at the creation of a nation of believers of joint Nationalism. The Working Committee of the AIML met at Bombay on 2 July 1939 under the chairmanship of the Quaid to review the scheme. The Working Committee adopted a resolution totally rejecting the scheme. According to the League the ultimate object of the scheme was to gradually destroy the Muslim Culture.


Maulana Thanvi also strongly criticised the Wardha Scheme and termed it as “poisonous for Muslims” religious life. He condemned the basic philosophy of the scheme such as Ahimsa.


Both the Quaid and Maulana Thanvi vehemently condemned the Congress for forcing the Muslims to recite the Bande-Matram.12


The Quaid over and again tried to remove the misconception that Muslims were an independent nation having their separate religion, culture and way of life. This is very interesting to note that Maulana Thanvi fully endorsed Quaid’s view about the Muslim Nationhood.


Recently Maulana Vakil Ahmad Sherwani, in his journal As Sayana has reproduced some unpublished Mulfuztat of Maulana Thanvi. In one of the Malfuzat Maulana is reported to have said that “Mr. Mohammed Ali Jinnah has very rightly said that as the Hindus and Muslims are not one nation, so the question of rights of minority and majority does not arise. The Hindus and Muslims are two nations so both of them should be given equal rights. It is true that both the nations have been living side by side for centuries, which does not mean that they are one nation. The reason, which did not come to my mind earlier, is that Ahlesabt (the Pherohian) and the Qibti (Capt) the Bani Israel lived in the same country but the Almighty did not call them as one nation instead it said meaning truly that the Qibti were the, a different nation. So the Quran testifies that by residing in one country the Two Nations do no loose their identities and separateness.”13


About Pakistan once he remarked that



It is very important while most of the Ulama of Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Hind supported one nation theory of the Congress and opposed Quaid’s theory that Muslims are a nation according to any definition of term, it is very pertinent to see Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi advocating the cause of Muslims as a nation. Thus both the leaders agreed on the issue of Two-Nation Theory in the Indo-Pak subcontinent.


Notes and References

  1. Zafar Ali Khan, Chamanistan, (Lahore, 1969), pp. 143-144.
  2. Mahe-Nour, December 1948.
  3. Makateeb-e-Ashraf Ali Thanvi.
  4. Al-Ifazatul Yumiyya, Vol. I. p. 163.
  5. Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz, Hindu Keya Hai, (Lahore, n.d.), p. 13.
  6. Rais Ahmed Pervaiz, Seerat-e-Mohammad Al, (Lahore, 1950), p. 117.
  7. Shamsul Hasan, Plain Mr. Jinnah, (Karachi, 1976), pp. 76-77.
  8. Al-Ifazutul Yumiyya, Vol. VI, p. 63.
  9. Ahmed Saeed, Ashraf Ali Thanvi Aur Tehurike Azadi, (Lahore, 1984).
  10. Mohammad Shafi, Majalis-e-Hakeemul Ummat (Karachi, 1974), p. 187.
  11. NAP. File No. 1906, p. 294.
  12. Asre-Jadeed, Calcutta, 26 December, 1938, p. 1.
  13. As Siyani (Lahore, monthly), February 1992, pp. 28-29.

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