COLUMN: The life and times of Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mehr
By Intizar Husain
THE researching scholar and the journalist stand poles apart. While one is by temperament slow and steady, the other is always in a hurry. But Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mehr should be deemed an exception as in him we see a happy mix of these two temperaments. He enjoyed the status of a researching scholar of Urdu with a number of research works to his credit. Prominent among them is his compilation of letters Ghalib wrote to his friends and admirers.
At the same time, Maulana Mehr was deeply involved in developments on the political front. The Indian Muslims, apart from their participation in the freedom movement, were agitated at what was happening in the Muslim world. Young Maulana Mehr, who had just completed his education and who had a passion to serve the cause of freedom and Muslim millat, began writing in the Daily Zamindar and eventually started working there.
At the end of his days, Maulana Mehr decided to record his life for the benefit of future generations. Mohammad Hamza Farooqi has compiled and brought out the volume called Mehr Beeti. It has been published by Al-Faisal Nashran, Lahore.
Mehr Beeti has its own history. Maulana had dictated it to his son and daughter, Farooq Arshad Shaheen and Muneera Alvi. There is an introductory note written by them which says that they had the opportunity to see their father and listen to him only during lunch time. It was at their ardent appeal that he agreed to recount his life story, from the early years to the end, including his devotion to causes close to his heart. Maulana Mehr once wrote in a letter to a friend that his children were eager to know about their family origins. This desire, according to him, was the consequence of the migration at the time of Partition, when they had to leave their land of birth, Phoolpur, a village in the district of Jalandhar. Recalling his early years in Phoolpur, Maulana says, “I feel we were living in paradise. Suddenly uprooted from there we had the feeling of wandering into a desert.” Mehr Beeti provides graphic descriptions of Phoolpur’s culture and that of adjoining villages.
After his school years in Jalandhar, he enrolled at IslamiaCollege, Lahore where he developed a fondness for the city. He found Lahore to be culturally different from Delhi and Lucknow. Maulana felt that while Delhi and Lucknow were steeped deep in Eastern culture, Lahore was a happy blend of the East and the West.
It was in Lahore that Maulana Mehr had the opportunity to meet Allama Shibli and Waqarul Mulk, who were members of a delegation from AligarhUniversity. He also had the opportunity to listen to Allama Iqbal recite his verses at the annual conference of Anjuman-i-Himayatul Islam.
Maulana Mehr also spent some time in Hyderabad. Though he did not succeed in getting a suitable job, living there gave him the opportunity to attain political education. And it was in Hyderabad that he turned his attention from poetry to prose. This practice proved helpful when he started his journalism career with an editorial published in the Daily Zamindar.
Soon Maulana joined the paper and was in the thick of the battle going on in the name of freedom and Tehrik-i-Khilafat. He had already joined Hizbullah, an organisation started by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. In fact, Azad was an important influence on Maulana Mehr and the latter drew inspiration from what was published in Al-Hilal.
Maulana Mehr has made a brief survey of different movements, political as well as religious, which were going on in those times, and given his judgments on them. Circumstances did not allow him to complete his memoirs.
So we might see them as a scattered autobiography offering us a lot from literature to politics.