Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bapu's effort to get allowance for Prof Mujeeb

Nation building. Going by the current trend it has now acquired altogether different meaning. But here I would like to shed some light on an instance which shows that leaders of a different era did everything in letter and spirit for the progress and well-being of their motherland.

This post is about Prof Mohammad Mujeeb and his association with Jamia Millia Islamia. Prof Mujeeb had joined the Jamia in 1926 and devoted himself to it even as the institution battled a severe financial crisis. To ensure that Prof Mujeeb's stay at Jamia Millia Islamia could be as smooth as possible it was none other than Gandhiji who took the lead.

Prof Mujeeb had studied at Oxford and went to Germany to study printing. There he met Dr Zakir Hussain and Dr Abid Hussain after which he decided to commit himself to Jamia Millia Islamia. Prof Mujeeb, just like Dr Zakir Hussain and Dr Abid Hussain, could have chosen greener pastures instead of confining himself to an institution, still in its infancy and miles away from financial stability so vital for the functioning of any educational institution. The death of Hakim Ajmal Khan came as a severe blow to the institution devoiding it of an active worker and committed funder.

For the staff members the desire to work for the national cause meant financial remuneration took a backseat. For many it would have been difficult to manage their affairs and Prof Mujeeb was no different. The staff had voluntarily taken a pay cut in their love for the institution.
Prof Mujeeb's father Mohammad Nasim was a wealthy man and a well known lawyer of Lucknow. For some reason, Mohammad Nasim had stopped supporting his son which must have made life difficult for the young professor. It was then that Gandhiji himself decided to come to the aid of Prof Mujeeb.

Gandhiji had gone to the Aligarh Muslim University in November 1929. There he met Professor Mohammed Habib (father of historian Irfan Habib) who was the elder brother of Prof Mujeeb. Gandhiji took up Mujeeb's cause with him and raised the issue of his allowance.

In a letter (dated November 7, 1929) to Prof Mujeeb, Gandhiji writes about this meeting. "To my agreeable surprise I found your brother to be most receptive and reasonable. I did not need to argue to with him at all. As soon as I mentioned the matter he said he would do so as I asked him to and he agreed that you should be supported by your father and brothers."

Mohammad Habib was married to Sohaila, who was the daughter of Abbas Tyabji, his close friend. It was only during this meeting that Gandhiji discovered about this relationship. And this helped him to be more open with Mohammad Habib. As he himself mentioned in the letter: "It was there that I discovered that he was Sohaila's husband. And Sohaila to me is like my own daughter...I had therefore much less hesitation to speak to your brother than I would have had without a knowledge of this relationship."

Mohammed Habib also asked Gandhiji to write to their father about the matter. Gandhiji went on to write a long and passionate letter to Mohammad Nasim. "You may know that I dote on Mujeeb. He is one of the purest minded young men whom I have the pleasure of knowing. Mujeeb is an acquisition to the Jamia. The Jamia is passing through a financial crisis. Hitherto you have been good enough not only to give Mujeeb to Jamia but to support him. Mujeeb told me that you had now refused to give him your support. Will you not reconsider your decision and not only bless Mujeeb in his work at the Jamia but also give him all the financial assistance he may need which I was glad to be informed you were able to do?"

I wished I could know what were the reasons that led Mohammad Nasim to stop his son's allowance. Gandhiji made it clear that it was definitely not a case of 'supporting a pampered boy'.

"If Mujeeb was not working in a poor national institution I would fully appreciate your refusal to support him for I do believe in parents not pampering their children. But here it is not a question of supporting a pampered boy but supporting an institution to which he has the spirit of sacrifice enough to dedicate himself without reserve."

Can we even think of any leader/politician going anywhere close to Gandhiji's effort to ensure that the services of a young scientist/academician are utilised for national cause. In recent times it would translate into creating the best possible infrastructure or matching the pay with the best in the industry. Well, let's go back.

An 'anxious' Gandhiji also asked Mohammad Nasim to 'reply as early as you can send it to me'. I do not know what reply Gandhiji got but Prof Mujeeb who had joined Jamia Millia Islamia in 1926 went on to serve it till his retirement in 1973. By that time perhaps both Prof Mujeeb and Jamia Millia Islamia had come out of the financial blues. Hopefully, Mohammad Nasim must have agreed to Gandhiji's request.

Interestingly, Gandhiji who met the elder brother to plead the case of the younger brother came away impressed with the elder one too. In the same letter to Prof Mujeeb, he wrote about Mohammad Habib: "I must confess that by his humility and yet dignified bearing he captured me entirely."


  1. Danish sahab,


    For building institution requires vision, dedication, sacrifice, ideal, moral, honesty and sincerity. Incidentally the same set of qualities are need in establish a thriving and well developed nation. Both Gandhi ji as well as Prof Mujeeb had these qualities and Gandhiji being a national/international leader recognized this in Mujeeb. He was looking for such institution builders as only through institutions founded & nurtured by likes of Mujeeb can produce future "educated" generations which may take the nation from the next set of land marks at the global level.

    Its nice to read this piece and realize what kind of people these were. Today India is still in its shape as a nation state due to the efforts and contributions made by these silent workers.

    Khuda Hafiz,
    Ahmad Cameron

  2. Thank you very much Ahmad Cameron sahab.

  3. Does anyone know about the date/month/year of death of Prof. Mujeeb and the circumstances around it? I wish to write a Wikipedia page as none exists about him and I do believe that Prof. Mujeeb deserves a detailed one.