Story of a fearless journalist
By: Faqir Syed Waheeduddin
Maulana Zafar Ali Khan had a compact personality which was a blend of countless qualities. He was a fearless journalist and a leader who was known as a fiery orator. He was an extra-ordinary poet who would famous for his spontaneous poetry and his satire was, especially, marvelous.He was a fine translator that a few could match his command over the art. He translated “Al-Farooq” the book of Maulana Shibli Noumani, as “Omer the Great” and Draper’s book entitled “Conflict between Religion and Science” as “Marka-i-Mazha-o-Sience. It is interesting to mention here an incidence for the interest of the readers. My late father had started translating “The spirit of Islam” a book written by renowned scholar Syed Amir Ali. During the course of translation he would take Maulana’s assistance and often I heard from him: “Zafar Ali Khan has made my translation more accurate and understandable”. My father had completed this translation in his life but this precious work was wasted a midst our carelessness and ignorance. Maulana also translated a White Paper published by the government in 1933. This masterful work was immediately gained popularity.
All India Muslim League was making arrangements for its annual but historic meeting at the famous Minto Park where Pakistan Resolution was approved. Minto Park was a few minutes’ walk from my residence and I would often go there. The chief organizer Nawab Shahnawaz Khan Mamdot was bearing all the expenditures incurred to hold that meeting. There were hundreds of workers involved in making arrangements but Nawab Sahib would take personal interest in every work. He would measure the place earmarked for the stage and give instructions to the workers. Quaid-e-Azam made his presidential speech in English.At the end of Quaid’s long speech, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan translated it to the public in his own verbatim style which amazed the audience.
Once British government impounded Zimindar’s press and Maulana was imprisoned. This made him even more zealous and bold. He had a mild heart for religion and nation but was very strong for speaking against the injustices committed by the government. He wrote a Nazm in jail which was smuggled out of it and a young man vocalized it after the Juma prayer at the Badshahi Masjid.
Once I was present in the court when the proceeding of the case against Zimindar was in progress. The declaration of the newspapers was in the name of a person who was uneducated. During the proceedings the Judge asked Maulana as how an illiterate person can supervise the newspaper? Mualana answered off-the-cuff: “As an illiterate Ranjeet Singh governed Punjab”. This one example elucidates the quality of Maulana’s extemporaneous. During the Masjid Shaheedganj Movement the government, in order to check sectarian riots, directed the newspapers to show Editorials before printing them. Sheikh Fazl Elahi was the director information then and he was authorized to check the contents of the Editorials and censor some objectionable material in them. Maulana also sent his hand written Editorial to Fazal Elahi who deliberately stopped the checking of the Editorial to stop its publication in the next day’s Zimindar. Maulanan waited for some time and sent the newspaper for printing. Next day the readers saw the space of the Editorial was almost blank with one sarcastic verse which meant: “How much blessings of Fazal-i-Elahi are on my newspaper that its each and every word has become victim of censorship.
I last met with Maulana in Delhi. I being the commanding officer of Subedar Major Abdulla recommended OBI for him. Abdullah had arranged a tea party to celebrate his feat. I was the chief guest of the function. When I arrived at the function Maulana had already arrived. I was introduced to him when he told me that he knew my family well. I was amazed but glad too.The guests were still having tea whenAbdullah stood up for his speech which was devastatingly in my praise. For me it was impossible to cut him short. After his speech I stood up to say customary thanks for Abdulla’s speech. I was not an orator and in the presence of Maulana I was nervous as well. I cleaned sweat on my face and said: “I feel, it is indecency to speak in the presence of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan but I don’t agree with Abdullah who had tried to give me the credit for his ODI award. In fact it were his hard work, honesty, competence and services which bestowed this award on him. I only recommended his name and had I not done this I would have done dishonesty to my duty”.At the end I had hardly taken my seat when Maulana remarked on my speech: “If you don’t agree with what Abdullah had said in praise of you I am also in total disagreement with you that you can’t make a speech and that performing your duty honestly is not praiseworthy”.
I saw the popularity of Zimindar and also witnessed its many ups and down a midst fines, seizer of the printing press and ban by the government. There was no Urdu newspaper to match Zimindar’s fiery style and popularity. Those who saw the height of Zimindar can’t forget that how Maulana faced that hard time impudently.
I often think that the depth and vision reflected in religious writings of Maulana were not possible without his unwavering faith on Allah and devotion with His Prophet (Peach of Allah be on Him). His Ishaq with Islam and the Prophet (Peace of Allah be on Him) needs no interpretation.