Luteef, Nawab Abdool

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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.

Abdul Latif started his career as a teacher of Dhaka Collegiate School in 1846. Later on, he joined calcutta 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.

Nawab Abdool Luteef

While 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.

Abdool 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.

Abdool 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.

The 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.

Abdool 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.

The 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 this college.

The 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.

Abdool 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.

Due to 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.

A 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.

Abdool 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'.

Nawab 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.

The 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]