Maulana Zafar Ali Khan – Father of Urdu Journalism

Maulana Zafar Ali Khan  – Father of Urdu Journalism

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.

Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

A blogger for The News/Geo blogs

Related articles

  • Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

    I agree that he wasn’t a “Militant” in the literal sense, but ‘MILITANT JOURNALISM’ is a specialized term that is used for journalists who don’t shun their journalistic responsibilities even in the face of persecution and censorship by rulers. Late Dr Miskeen Hijazi has written an excellent account of militant journalists of the sub continent.

    • M.Saeed

      The term now used is “Ambush Journalism”. Besides, there are neo-Gonzo Journalism with morphed Yellow Journalism, to suplement the scourge.

      • Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

        I think that Ambush Journalism is pertinent when we talk about ‘television journalists’


    Farroqi sahib — militant not in the sense of the Talibans — militant in the sense of freedom fighter against the British — most of the time the Muslim League sat on the fence waiting for its share — letting the Congress do all the fighting for independence of India — Maulana Zafar Ali Khan was not one of those — he exhorted the Muslims to participate in the freedom fight against the BRITISH along with the Hindus.

    He was a journalist activist freedom fighter against the British Imperialism. And he turned my father into one also.

    In this he was much closer to Maulana Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali.

  • Farooq Hashmi

    The name of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and journalism are inextricably welded together.To think of the one in isolation from the other is inconceivable. Journalism in Pakistan owes it to the traditions set by the journalistic giant, Maulana Zafar Ali khan that it has attained a formidable stature in the present times when information technology is progressing at a vertiginous speed.The Maulana was a multidimentional figure. If we look for the attributes of a journalist, a politician, a poet, a writer, an orator and a Muslim-revivalist ,etc. combined in one person, that one is no other than Maulana Zafar Ali Khan. During the lower half of the 20th century, the Maulana’s newspaper,Zamindar had, on the one hand, put a stupendous impetus behind the movement against the British colonial rule and on the other, rekindled the spirit of nationhood among the Muslims of the sub-Continent.The Maulana’s resplendent name will never lose its luster in the history of Indian Muslims. While I had been studying in the Political Science Department of the Punjab University for my master’s degree I had studied the works of Philip K.Hitti and Prof.Toynbe for the Muslim Political Thought paper. My father had suggested me the study of ‘The Preaching of Islam’ by Prof. T.W.Arnold_____ a valuable book which my father had added to the family’s collection of books (Prof.Arnold was one of the mentors of Allama Iqbal )Had I paid heed to my father’s suggestion,our family would have been saved from a horrendous book-loss.On our visit to our ancestral country-side home in the Gujrat district, we, the members of the family were transfixed with a sudden and unanticipated shock_____a big chunk of the valuable and out-of-print voluminous books collected by my grandfather, father and uncle had over the years, been ruined by rodents. Bandy-coots from the farms adjoining our home,rats and roaches,etc. had conspired to render the books to smithereens.The red and the green annotations,connotations and rubrics in books in Arabic and Persian, had been nibbled up and the leather-bindings devastated. My woe is that I had ignored my father’s advise to read ‘The Preaching of Islam’ which he had stored in our family’s collection of books in our country-side home. Had I accepted my father’s suggestion, the disaster would have been averted, Dr.Haider Farooq Maudoodi paid me a visit a month ago. After I he had told him of the disaster. he advised our family to donate all the books,including the damaged ones, to the Punjab Public Library,Lahore. Scattered in the book-shelves, I had found some valuable material, as the copies of some issues of the daily ‘ Zamindar’ of the Maulana, the daily ‘Ehsan’, the daily ‘ Pratab ‘,copies of some issues of the periodical ‘Nairang-e-Khayal’, a few pamphlets titled,’ Maulvi ka Ghalat Mazhab ‘ by Allama Mashriqi, a book titled,’ Pakistan Kiyoon aur Kaiyse Baney Ga?’ by Maulana Abdus Sattar Niazi and a magazine( I can’t recall its name) which had on its title a cartoon in which Hitler was rolling around a Swastika.The inscription above the title read as: Hitler ki Qalabaziyan( Hitler’s.Somersaults )The scenario is of the World War-2.The War is raging; the Allies and the Nazis are claiming supremacy over each other.All the newspapers in general,and the Maulana’s ‘Zamindar’ in particular, give a picturesque view of the episodes of the War. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan’s all the quintessential qualities_____his journalism, his poetry. his knowledge, his leadership, his command of Urdu language, his anti-colonial rule sentiments and his Muslim-nationalism,etc_____are reflected in the copies of the ‘Zamindar’ I read.

  • Farooq Hashmi

    Dr.NASAH, my mystery is solved. I had been curious to know how did you learn the enviable style of satire-writing which has the bitterness of Alexander Pope and the compactness of Francis Bacon. The style you have adopted has been handed down to you by the satirist of the Urdu satirists, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, through your illustrious father_____a protege of the Maulana. I salute you, Sir!

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    May I take te liberty of countering with Keats, as he puts it in an Ode on a Grecian Urn:

    ‘Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
    As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
    When old age shall this generation waste,
    Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
    Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’


    Thanks for your kind words Raj Chauhan Sb,