The one who fought for the freedom movement with his pen and used it as a unifier for burgeoning the required nationalism in the Muslim community will be remembered as the father of Urdu Journalism. January 18, 2013 marks the 140th birth anniversary of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan.
Maulana continued the legacy of his father, after taking charge as the editor of ‘Zamindar’ by converting it into a revolutionary press (initially the paper was published keeping in view the farmers). With the irrefutably powerful art of rhetoric he also served as an exemplary spokesman for the Muslim community. There is a remarkable contrast in the various phases of Urdu journalism that evolved since 1911, strictly, to preserve the legitimate rights of the Muslims in sub-continent. Regardless of where they stand today, Pakistani journalistic ambitions were based on sincerity, devotion, truth and a visionary mirror for reflecting ‘community opinion’.
There was no important incident (involving the Muslisms) that was left unattended by the veteran journalist. All the historical events that brought Muslims as a minority against the ruling British or the majority Indians, before the creation of Pakistan, received Zamindar’s glare. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan was part of the formidable chain of ‘militant Muslim journalists’. Khanpur mosque agitation in 1935 combined with Maulana’s effective persuasion made ‘mosque’ the symbol of ‘community identity’. Khilafat movement also received a wide range of coverage by Zamindar.
His bold stance ensued the ‘nationalistic flare’ that resonated among the literary and poetic circles as well. He championed the cause of Muslims by transforming Urdu poetry into idioms of political expressions. The most interesting aspect of his poetic verses was that they were understood by the unlettered in Punjab province. Moreover, he attracted Muslim youth of the Punjab. In light of Maulana’s influential verbal communication, it wasn’t a surprise as to how Zamindar’s circulation reached 15.000 (unprecedented for an Urdu newspaper at that time) even when it was ‘the most’ persecuted newspaper of sub-continent.
Undoubtedly, Zamindar, under the editorship of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan remained irresistible and an outlet for the Muslims to vent out their feelings. It reached the zenith of glory for its unique way of reaching the Muslims hearts via doorsteps. The reason. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan is regarded, as the father of Urdu journalism is that he established the traditions of sacrifice, perseverance, boldness and devotion towards social responsibility in journalism. Zamindar knocked at the door of a common man and played a pivotal role to build an enthusiastic lot of newspaper readers among the Muslims. This intrepid journalistic standard helped the Pakistan movement to gain momentum, which thwarted any insurmountable barrier.
The father of Urdu journalism has left an immutable model that was based on the dialectic of nationalism and communitarianism that moulded Muslim mindset. It was rather an intellectually wise way to equip the Muslims with the ability to recast the ideas of ‘community’ and ‘nationalism’. Journalism at that time was a perfect example, proposed by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, to be emulated.