Legacy of struggle against British Imperialism
Jamiotul Ulama, though formally launched in 1919, was inheritor of a rich legacy dating back to early 18th century when Shah Waliullah of Delhi led a revolution to change the whole system by drawing attention of people to the depredations of European imperialism, degeneration and corruption among oriental rulers.
During 1808 to 1915 the Ulama (Islamic Scholars) of his legacy fought organized battles against the mighty British for the freedom of the country. The edict issued by Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi “Our country has been enslaved. To struggle for independence and to put an end to slavery is our duty.” Provided the impetus for raising up arms against imperialist forces by prominent Ulamas like Haji Imdadullah Mohajir Makki and his close disciples Maulana Qasim Nanotavi, Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi and Hafiz Zamin Shaheed.
Ulama, the main target of British oppression
After the defeat of 1857 revolt Ulama were the main target of the British oppression. Maulvi and rebel had become synonymous in their eyes. Of the 200,000 people martyred during the revolt 51,200 were Ulamas. Edward Timus himself admitted that in Delhi alone 500 Ulamas were hanged. Between 1864 and 1871 there were five major sedition cases against the Ulama which are known as “the Wahabi Cases” and the “Ambala Conspiracy Case”. In all these cases the accused were either sentenced to death or to life imprisonment.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind a step forward from armed resistance to Non-violent struggle:
The Ulamas started their struggle with armed resistance, but repeated failure in such attempts motivated them to revise their approach and adopt a new strategy. Particularly the failure of Silk Letter conspiracy in 1916 and arrest of 222 Ulamas, prominent amongst them, Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hassan and his disciple Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, along with Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and others forced them to restructure their strategy for resistance opting for non-violent struggle for freedom with the support and cooperation of their fellow countrymen.
Herald of new era in freedom struggle and Birth of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind
In November 1919, the revolutionary Ulama under the leadership of Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan, on the occasion of the Khilafat conference held at Delhi, resolved to constitute a new organization for carrying on non-violent freedom struggle in cooperation with fellow countrymen. The organization was designated as ‘Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’. Mufti-e-Azam, Maulana Kifayatullah was elected as the first President. The establishment of the organization was a decisive turning point in their revolutionary movement. They gave up armed struggle and chose non-violent struggle and adopted non-co-operation. That strategy eventually led to freedom of the country.