The eminent scholar Mawlana Ra'is Ahmad Ja'fari has asked me to write a few impressions about Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali Jawhar (May God have mercy on him). I have agreed to this request but would like to make it clear at the beginning of this article that I have only unseen regard for the Mawlana. Far from meeting with him, I have not even had the honour of seeing him from afar more than twice or thrice.
At the height of the Khilafat movement, I do not remember the exact year (probably 1921 or 1922), the Mawlana came to the annual convention of the Madrasah al-Islah, Sara'ay Mir A'zam Garh, UP, India, where I was a senior student. At the meeting, I remember, a huge crowd gathered in the vast grounds of the Madrasah on hearing the Mawlana's name. Some other distinguished and famous people also accompanied the Mawlana. My mentor Mawlana Hamid al-Din Farahi (May God have mercy on him) who rarely went to any such gathering also attended it. It was an immense assembly. I had never seen such a huge meeting before this. The convention was held in out in the open. A fierce wind was blowing and at that time there was no usage of loud speakers. Because of this it was feared that the Maulana's speech might not be audible which could cause unrest in the congregation. But when the Mawlana rose to speak, his dignity and awe inspiring personality captivated and impressed one and all such that people became like statues, transfixed wherever they were standing or sitting. The Mawlana's loud and resounding voice carried to every corner despite the strong wind and extraordinarily vast crowd. The effect of the speech was such that after a while I saw nary a dry eye. That crowd comprised of ordinary peasants and there were very few educated people in it. For those peasants it was not easy to understand the speech of a person like Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali but there was so much passion of belief and faith and so much empathy that, perhaps, one did not need much to understand it.
I remember an incident from that occasion worth mentioning. When the Mawlana's speech was over, we saw that from one end of the crowd an old peasant arose and tearing across the multitude went straight for the stage. Although he came across many obstacles on the way (to the podium) he was so true to his mission that he did not stop till he reached the Mawlana. Upon reaching he put his hand on the Mawlana's beard and said in his peculiar way: "Muhammad Ali, what you have done, no one else could do." When he turned after saying that the Mawlana said : "I have not received such praise from any other than you."
On that occasion another aspect of the Mawlana's greatness came to light through the impressions of my teacher Mawlana Farahi. After speaking at that meeting Mawlana Muhammad Ali left for A'zam Garh where he was to address a public meeting in the evening. With him went the whole audience of the meeting at Madrasah al-Islah. Even Mawlana Farahi, who was the head of the Madrasah accompanied him to attend the discourse. Before leaving he instructed us to put in his luggage, some sheets of paper and a few good pencils so that he could note down Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali's speech in A'zam Garh. That was very surprising for me. I was aware that Mawlana Farahi liked Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali and Mawlana Azad, but for him to be so impressed by a speech of one of them to the extent of noting it down himself was beyond my imagination. Mawlana was neither an emotional nor a political man. He was merely a researcher, philosopher and sage. He hardly ever, as I have mentioned above, attended lecture meetings or sermons be they religious or political. Yet to listen to Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali's speech he not only agreed to travel but made arrangements to take notes of the address. This gesture of the Mawlana increased the notion of the greatness of Mawlana Muhammad Ali in my mind. I gathered that seemingly, Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali was not only a great political leader but at the level of intellect and knowledge was such an exalted personality that people like Mawlana Farahi valued his speeches so highly as to note them down.
The day after that incident it became evident to me what it was in Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali's speech that impressed my teacher to such an extent. The next morning when the Mawlana returned to the Madrasah, some of the management politely complained that by him going away with Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali the Madrasah's own meeting was disrupted. The Mawlana replied: "Muhammad 'Ali said the essential in his address. After that was there need for any other speech!" the Mawlana said this with so much conviction and confidence that it became obvious to everyone that he did not regret the disruption of the meeting in the least. For him only what Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali said was worth listening to and which the people had heard. To continue the meeting was, to him, a waste of time. Several times after that, praising Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali's speech he said: "There is a reflection of deep faith in Muhammad 'Ali's discourse." Once, jokingly, he said: "Because Muhammad 'Ali is a very intelligent man, like the arrangement of the Qur'an, it is difficult for people to comprehend the organization in his speech and writings."
Then he said: "Similar is the case of Mawlana Muhammad Qasim's speeches and writings."
Although it is not befitting to mention oneself along with such great people, yet for those whose total life assets are the few associations, important or trivial, with the elders, if they do not mention them, where would they find the means to embellish their glory? For this reason, allow me to mention the incident at the above mentioned meeting that introduced me to the public for the first time. It so happened that the management of the Madrasah told me to elaborate on the teaching and instruction at the Madrasah at the very same meeting, therefore I did so. I wrote the speech and though it was my maiden speech in any public meeting, it was very successful given my age and knowledge. Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali and the other distinguished personalities on the stage praised it highly. So much so that Mawlana Farahi presented me with an autographed set of his books on the Qur'an as a prize for my oratory skills. Subsequently, I started getting invited to meetings from far and wide and sometimes attended them. But I did not let this continue. Once he told me that making too many speeches blackened one's heart. Obviously I could not be too inclined to do what he disliked to that extent.
(Translated by Rakshanda Chaudry)