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‘Ujalon Mein Safar’: Inspiring Memoirs of Half A Century Journey With Islamic Movement

Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI—What is the importance of a memoir? It gives insights into the culture, ideologies, religious beliefs of the people. It tells us about relations between communities and the state of society. Overall, it enhances our understanding of the period covered by the memoir. It has helped in the past to write the histories of nations. Significant proportions of India’s history are based on memoirs of Al-Beruni, Fa-Hien, and Hieun Tsang. Had these foreign travellers not written memoirs of their visits to India, the history of India would not have been complete.

‘Ujalon Mein Safar-Tehreek Islami Ke Saath Nisf Sadi’ is a memoir penned by an author, poet, and dynamic Islamic activist Intizar Naeem. His memoir is based on his practical experience with the Islamic movement in India during half a century of his association with Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH). JIH is a pan-India organization that strives to propagate the correct message of Islam based on the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet among Muslims and non-Muslims within the geographical boundaries of India.

The book running into 424 printed pages and published by Shahkar Publishers, provides an understanding of India’s Islamic movement. Many of the events mentioned in the memoir are hard to find in any other literature in any language, including Urdu. However, it contains several important events too vital for any worker of the Islamic movement.

Born in a village in Basti district of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, the 77-year-old Naeem has written and compiled as many as 18 books on various issues. However, his memoir stands out differently from the rest of his publications.

Among many other exciting events, he has mentioned his encounter with Hamid Dalwai, a strong critic of Islam, in a very articulate manner. He happened to meet Dalwai when Naeem was young and had just got affiliated with the Islamic movement. As Dalwai had launched a campaign against Islam and attracted vast crowds of non-Muslims wherever he went to deliver lectures, Naeem met him in Dadar in Mumbai after one of his lectures. In a very polite manner, a trait of a good Islamist, he asked Dalwai if he had read the Quran, the Book of Allah, revealed on Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Dalwai may not have encountered such a person in his life. Dalwai was non-plussed. After a lot of persuasions, Dalwai candidly admitted he had not read the Quran. Naeem suggested he read the Quran, and if he did not feel satisfied with the truth as given in the Quran, then Dalwai could dissociate himself from Islam. Naeem told Dalwai that if he did not believe in Islam, he should openly declare that he was not a Muslim and then oppose Islam.

The book also gives an insight into the relations of the senior JIH leaders with Hindu religious and political leaders of the time. Senior JIH leaders came in contact with the RSS leaders when they were imprisoned during the Black Days of Emergency between 1975-77.  The anecdote on the relationship between RSS leaders and the JIH is fascinating. The Jamaat, including the then JIH President Maulana Muhammad Yusuf, used the opportunity to remove misunderstanding from their minds about Islam and Muslims.

The memoir inspires the younger generation that they need not get upset with the change in circumstances. It teaches us to utilize every opportunity, including incarceration, to spread the message of Allah, which is the duty of every Muslim to rid the world of evils and promote goodness everywhere.

The memoir’s message by quoting events during the 50 years of association of Naeem with the JIH is that we need to stand firm on truth and not be shaken at all, even during the worst circumstances as Indian Muslims are facing now.  JIH leaders prayed five times a day and held ‘Dars-e-Quran’(lectures on Quran) in prison every morning. And the people will be surprised to know that the Dars-e-Quran was regularly attended by senior RSS leaders who were also imprisoned in the Tihar jail.

The author took note of the Jamaat leaders’ good relationship with RSS leaders when they came out of jail after lifting the Emergency. However, hardly anybody knows that when the RSS Sarsanghchalak Balasaehb Deoras visited Delhi for the first time after the Emergency withdrawal, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind was also informed about it. Jamaat’s secretary-general Afzal Hussain and Intizar Naeem, the author of this memoir, were among many to welcome Deoras at New Delhi railway station.

However, it is unfortunate that the relationship between the two organizations did not continue for long. Had the relations between them continued, it would have helped to check the communal tension and an anti-Muslim atmosphere that has engulfed the entire country today.

The memoir also covers the visit of Morarji Desai to the headquarters of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind at Chitli Qabar in Old Delhi when Desai was not Prime Minister. The visit of Morarji, a former deputy prime minister and a Congress leader, was significant because Congress was having a lot of misunderstandings about the Jamaat. The meeting provided an opportunity for Jamaat leaders to present their point of view on several political issues and clear the misconception of the Congress about the Jamaat.

The book also refers to a meeting of then Jamaat chief Maulana Yusuf with late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the issue of communal riots in Gujarat in 1969. Before the meeting, Maulana Yusuf also addressed the Congress party’s session in Mumbai called to discuss the issue of frequent communal riots.

The memoir has also commented on the fake journalism practiced by some journalists from the country’s top newspapers. Now editor of The Citizen, well-known journalist Seema Mustafa had a lengthy interview with former Jamaat chief Maulana Yusuf. She was working with The Indian Express at that time. However, many things were attributed to Maulana Yusuf when it was published, which he had not stated. As a result, Seema Mustafa avoided meeting Naeem, who wanted her clarification about how the blunder cropped in. Naeem finally met the then Indian Express chief editor Arun Shourie and offered him the Quran and other Islamic literature.

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