Luteef, Nawab Abdool (1828-1893) Social worker and pioneer of
Muslim reawakening in 19th century Bengal. He was born in 1928 at Rajapur
village of Faridpur district. His father Fakir Mahmud was a lawyer in the
civil court of Kolkata sadar. Abdool Luteef obtained the highest degree
in Arabic, French and English language from Kolkata Madrasa.
Latif started his career as a teacher of Dhaka Collegiate School in 1846.
Later on, he joined CAlKUTta madrasa as a professor of Arabic and English (1848). He joined government
service in 1849 as a deputy magistrate and was promoted to the post of
presidency magistrate in 1877.
serving as the deputy magistrate of Satkhira, Abdool Luteef witnessed the
repression and exploitation of the peasants by the English indigo
planters. He encouraged the farmers there to become united and tell the
government about their grievances. He himself took some initiative in
this regard. Finally, the British government formed the Indigo Commission
in 1860 due to his initiative with the goal of putting an end to the
repressions of indigo planters.
Luteef was nominated a member of the Bengal Management Council when it
was constituted in 1862 during the rule of Lord Canning. In 1863, he
was appointed a member of the examination board for civil and military
services and a fellow of Kolkata University. He was appointed as
‘justice of the peace’ following the formation of CAlCUTta corporation (Municipal Authority) in
1865. He remained in that position until 1875. When there was intense
anger among the Muslim community following the adoption of a proposal
by the Indian Management Council in 1865, Abdool Luteefput forward
arguments in favour of amending the bill through a memorandum submitted
to the British government.
Nawab Abdool Luteef
Luteef made notable contribution in the spread of modern education among Bengalee
Muslims. He realized that the Muslim community lagged behind in all
areas due to their failure in keeping pace with the changing times,
boycotting of English education and the policy of non-cooperation with
the government. He took many initiatives for education and material
development of the Muslims. These included, preparing the Muslims for
reaping benefits out of the new governance scheme of the British; and,
creating a sense of loyalty towards the colonial rulers among them, and
in this way removing doubts and distrust from the minds of the English
regarding Muslims. He believed that if the educated Muslims could
understand the objectives, strengths and strategies of the colonial
government, then a loyal attitude would sprout among them. For achieving
this goal, he was in favour of avoiding all kinds of conflicts with the
ruling class. He advised the Muslims to refrain from anti-government
activities and strive to improve their position with the blessings of the
government by remaining loyal.
orthodox Muslims believed that as long as the non-believers ruled India,
the subcontinent was a ‘Dar-ul-Harb’ for Muslims and it was the duty of all Muslims to wage struggle
against British rule in order to attain emancipation. Abdool
Luteefcollected the opinions of religious scholars to prove that this
notion among the Muslims was wrong. Moulana kAramat ali of Jainpur came to Kolkata
on being invited by him and asserted strongly at a meeting held on 30
November 1870 that the British-ruled India was not a Dar-ul-Harb; rather
it was a Dar-ul-Islam. In this way, he tried to solve the
principal political problem of the Muslims during the 19th century.
Luteef organised an essay competition in 1853 and declared a prize of Taka
100 for the best essay. The topic of the competition was: ‘How far would
the inculcation of European Sciences through the medium of English
language benefit Mohammedan students in the present circumstance of India
and what are the most practicable means for imparting such instruction’?
Many Muslim competitors participated in this essay contest and most essay
writers expressed their opinion in favour of English education.
government constituted an enquiry committed headed by F Haliday in 1853
for investigating the problems faced by Kolkata Madrasa. Abdool
Luteefplaced the demand for development of this madrasa to the enquiry committee as well as the relevant authority. Due
to his active efforts, English and French departments were opened in
Kolkata Madrasa in 1854 and arrangements were made for teaching Urdu
and Bangla. Abdool Luteef always demanded of the government to
create scope for higher education in English for Muslims. As a result,
when the Hindu College was converted into presidency college
in 1854, students belonging to all communities were allowed to study at
British government suspected that the students of Kolkata Madrasa were
involved in the sepoy
revolt of 1857. For this reason, the Lieutenant
Governor of Bengal Sir F. halliday
once recommended the closure of the madrasa. But observing the loyalty of
Abdool Luteefand other former students of the madrasa, the Governor
General thought the madrasa students were not linked to the mutiny. The
British government once again proposed to shut down the Kolkata Madrasa
in 1867. But the madrasa was once again saved due to the efforts of Abdul
Latif. When the executive committee of the madrasa was constituted in
1871, he was elected its honorary secretary.
Luteef played an important role in expansion of facilities for Muslim
students at Hoogly College and school. Although established with the
funds of Mohsin, the institution had effectively become an institution
for Hindu students. Although a madrasa for the Muslims was in vogue
alongside this institute during the period, there were many
irregularities in its management. At the directive of the Lieutenant
Governor J P Grant, Abdool Luteef prepared a report on the madrasa in
1861 after a thorough analysis. English and French departments were
opened at Hoogly Madrasa on the basis of this report and announcement was
made regarding stipends for students. In the meantime, Abdool Luteef drew
the attention of relevant authorities and demanded that money from the
Mohsin Fund be spent for Muslims only in accordance with the donor’s
wish. He continued his efforts in this direction for a long time.
Finally, the Hoogly College was converted into a government college in
1873 and arrangements were made for spending money from the Mohsin Fund
only for the education of Muslims.
the initiatives of Abdool Luteef, madrasas were established for Muslim
students at Dhaka, Chittagong and Rasjshahi in 1874. He continued his
endeavour for the education of poor and meritorious Muslim students and
created a fund by collecting money from affluent Muslims.
notable contribution of Abdool Luteef was the establishment of Mohammedan
Literary Society of Kolkata in April 1863 with the goal of extending the
influence and reawakening of Muslims through Western education. He formed
this society for expanding modern Western education among Muslims,
generating public opinion in favour of contemporary trends and build up
mutual amity among the educated Muslims, Hindus and English people. It
was the first such association for Muslims in India. The Muslims started
to make a collective endeavour on the basis of their identity for the
first time in India through the activities of this society. Besides, the
Muslims were drawn to Western education through holding meetings,
lectures and discussion meetings at different times at this forum.
Luteef received sympathy and support from Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-94).
Sir Syed Ahmed came to Kolkata in 1866 and delivered a lecture on
patriotism and the necessity of growth of knowledge in India at the
half-yearly meeting of the literary society. Besides, Abdool Luteef also
extended cooperation in setting up the ‘Aligarh Scientific Society’.
Abdool Luteef played an active role in establishing ‘Miss Mary Carpenter
Association’ and ‘Reformatory for Juvenile Offenders’ at Alipur in 1867.
Besides becoming a member of the central text-book board committee in
1882, he contributed to the flourishing of the Indian social system
irrespective of religion and colour through his active participation in
socio-cultural organisations like ‘Indian Association of Science’,
‘Albert Temple of Science’, ‘National Indian Association’, ‘bethunE society’,
etc. He retired from government service in 1884. After that, he was
appointed the Governor General’s representative in Bhopal in 1885. But he
was so involved with the fate of the Bengalee Muslims that
ultimately he did not depart for Bhopal.
British government awarded various titles and medals to Abdool Luteef in
recognition of his work-efficiency and significant contributions in the
educational and social arenas. He received Encyclopaedia Britannica and
gold medal from the government in 1867 in recognition of his contribution
in the field of education. He was bestowed with the titles of Khan
Bahadur in 1877, Nawab in 1880, ‘CIE’ in 1883 and Nawab
Bahadur in 1887 as a symbol of greater prestige. He received the
title of ‘Order of the Majedi of Third Class’ from the Turkish
government. Nawab Abdool Luteef was a pioneer in the reawakening of
Muslims in India. He died in Kolkata on 10 July 1893. [ABM Shamsuddin Ahmed]