Pak Digest

Ataullah Shah Bukhari: His Life, His Work and His Lasting Legacy

Atuallah Shah Bukhari was born on September 23, 1892, in Patna, India. His father’s name was Hafiz Syed Ziauddin. He belongs to the Syed lineage. In particular, he was the descendant of Abdul Qadir Jillani who was in turn the descendant of Hazrat Hassan.

Early Education of Ataullah Shah Bukhari

Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari got his early traditional education in Gujarat. He learned the holy Quran from his father, Hafiz Syed Ziauddin when he was only 10. He completed his early education in Gujarat and remained associated with Deoband School in Saharanpur. Syed Ataullah Shah and his father believed in the traditional educational system because they considered Islamic schooling more important for Muslims than any other education system. One interesting and unusual aspect of his educational career was that he had never been a regular student of any Madressah. Moreover, he received his Fiqh education from Maulana Mustafa Qasmi and his Hadith education from Mufti Hassan Amritsari.

Bukhari had taken his first oath at the hands of Peer Meher Ali Shah and his second at the hands of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. He attached himself with Deoband’s school of thought.

Religious and Political Career of Ataullah Shah Bukhari

Attallah Shah Bukhari started his career as a religious scholar when he started teaching Islamic education. He started teaching in a small mosque in Amritsar for forty years of his life. He was a very good reciter of the Holy Quran. When he used to recite the Quran, everyone became silent and listened to the Holy Quran. More often, people insisted he recites the Quran on different occasions.

Attaullah Shah Bukhari shared his ideas and thoughts with people from different schools of thought. He also had friendships with socialists and communists, but he never got any influence from them as Quran was his sole guidance.

Attaullah Shah Bukhari started his political career in 1916. The accident in Jallianwallah Bagh greatly impacted him, so he started his political career.

His biographer Shorish Kashmiri wrote about him that Bukhari was a strong anti-British antagonist. He was against Britain and British policies; he always opposed them and hated them. In 1919, he delivered a great speech at the Khilafat Conference held in Amritsar. He joined the INC in 1921 in Calcutta where he delivered a very impressive and passionate speech there. Soon, his popularity turned him into a leader. Thereafter, he was arrested on March 27, 1921, because of that speech.

Non Violent Activist

Bukhari believed in attaining independence through non-violent and constitutional means. He combined his politics with a vision of Islam and followed the injunctions of the Quran throughout his life. He became an eyesore for the administration.

In 1923, he initiated a movement against the Shudi Sangthan movement. In the next year, he participated in the unity conference held in Dehli. Two years later, he signed the document against the Mirzai sect. Bukhari was fully against the newly born Qadiyani movement. He was totally against Mirza Ahmed Qadiyani. He stated that Ahmed Qadiyani was a liar, had a loose character, was ill-mannered, and never abided by his deeds. Bukhari had been to prison several times.

Majlis e Ahrar ul Islam (MAI)

Another great work of Ataullah Bukhari was Majlis-I-Ahrarar Islam. Some religious and political movements emerged from Punjab during the first half of the 20th century. MAI was found in 1929 in Lahore. MAI, in collaboration with other religious parties, worked against the Ahmadis. This group was then divided into two parties. One group has the following members: Malik Laal Khan, Muhammad Alam, Maulana Abdul Qadri, and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan. The other group, led by Fazal Haq, decided to play an active role in the platform of Majlis Ahrar-i-Islam. Fazal Haq was the chief of the new party.

Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari participated in the meeting convened by these parties. He was a member of the INC and JUH. He started his speech after dinner and continued it the rest of the night until morning prayers. The audience at the meeting listened to him with full attention. “According to WC Smith, he would have claimed to be India’s most effective demagogue.” With his oratory, he would hold an audience of thousands inspired and attentive for hours. He was a prized asset of the MAI. He was religious and anti-British.

On March 30, 1930, Fazal Haq presided over the first meeting of the MAI, which grew from an idea into an organization. By addressing this meeting, Attaullah Shah Bukhari urged the youth to come forward and fight for their country’s independence.

The MAI stood for equal wealth distribution, corruption eradication, respect for every religion, and freedom to live according to Sharia. Ataullah Shah Bukhari, in his presidential address at the session, invited the Muslim masses to cooperate with MAI in its struggle to safeguard the rights of Muslims through a separate electorate and the medium of a separate religious organization. The MAI attracted several groups to its ranks, mainly from the educated lower and middle classes, small shopkeepers, and urban Muslim youth.

Post Partition Activities of Ataullah Shah Bukhari

He was a central figure in the Khatm-e-Nabuwat Movement of 1953, which demanded that the government of Pakistan declare the Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

Prof. Khalid Ahmed Shabir stated that Bukhari was among the three persons who had already revealed the reasons for the downfall of Muslims and proposed a solution to the dilemma.

Molana Johar rightly stated about his oratory abilities that “he was not only enthusiastic in his speeches but spiritual.” His words can easily mold the listener’s heart and force the listener to perform the tasks he wants his listener to perform.

Oratory of Ataullah Shah Bukhari

Bukhari was known in India for his matchless oratory. His speeches were full of amusing stories from Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, and Multani. He had a great command on all these languages. His graphics portrayed the sorrows and suffering of the poor. He told people in his speeches that their suffering would end when British rule ends in India. He spread his message all over India. His speeches had a great impact on the minds of the people. He was also a poet and his son Syed Abuzar Bukhari compiled his poetry in the book Sawati ul Ilham.

Death of Ataullah Shah Bukhari

Bukhari died at the age of 69. A large number of people participated in his funeral prayer in Multan.

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