Introduction and The Life and Times of Moulvi Sheikh Hasan Ali and Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh

Masood Ali Mahvi

Translated by Rumina Kermani

Moulvi Masood Ali Sahib’s Preface

In the year 1919 my quiet and orderly life was turned upside down by an unexpected and totally unforeseeable event which compelled me to immediately  leave the State of Hyderabad, my employment, and my family behind, and after a period of almost twenty to twenty-two years return to my vatan, qasba Fatehpur, district Barabanki, country Awadh,  and take up residence there. In the course of those twenty, twenty-two years, the vicissitudes of time had changed the very landscape of our vatan. It was not just that our elders were longer with us, none of my peers or contemporaries were living there any more either. The houses which once so teemed with people that there was barely space to put your foot down now lay desolate and empty, and where night and day animated conversation echoed now a state of stillness and dereliction reigned. For these eyes that had seen the hustle and bustle of those bygone days and in whose memory that picture was clearly etched, this current scene was heartwrenching. Humans are powerless, what God determines one has to endure. As someone has so appropriately articulated,

“Is duniya ka yeh he sekha,  wo bhe dekha aur yeh bhe dekha”

“In this life what I learned was this

One goes through the good and one goes through the bad”

I continued to lead my life under the circumstances that prevailed with these constant introspections when one day my kinsman Hakim Nasiruddin aka Abu Mian, may God protect him, brought me a book titled “Kasf-ala-Nasab” authored by Janab Munshi Ubaid Ullah Sahib Marhoom, the subject matter of which was the families of Fatehpur. When I had the opportunity to do so I read the book. A few days later, at a gathering where my kin Moulvi Hakim Ali Mohammad Sahib, Munshi Ubaid ul Aleem Sahib, Kibla Kazi Roonakh Ali Sahib Marhoom, and Abu Mian were all present, I was asked if I had perused the book, and if I had, what was my opinion of it. I replied that the articles collected and the path set forth by the author, our honourable elder Munshi Ubaidullah Sahib, was indeed worthy of consideration and of value, but the book’s compilation, disorderly narrative, confused language, and over and above that, a substaintal amount of what had been written about Makhdoom-ala-Reham’s family was inaccurate and untrustworthy. Besides this, the book was replete with errors in transcription. If some individual were to take this very draft and revise it accurately a very interesting book could be prepared. I only had to say this and everyone present at the gathering began to express their resolve that I take on the task and though I pleaded my lack of family knowledge it was to no avail. Compelled by my elders and the added supplication by my juniors this was something that could not be dismissed, and besides, I had enough time to spare. That is how this work came to be assigned to me. During this period I was sometimes resident in Fatehpur and sometimes in Lucknow and it was during my stay in Lucknow that I gained knowledge about a number of books that I was able to procure which could be of great help me in this process. That boosted my confidence immensely and I set to work, and within a few months was able to compile a reasonable length transcript. After living in Lucknow and Fatehpur for two to two and a half years I had to once again return to Hyderabad and I brought the manuscript back with me. My kinsman Haji Mohammad Rafiq Marhoom who was an enthusiast of family narratives and traditions was delighted and thrilled when he saw my work and took the manuscript with him to Aurangabad where within a few days he had a well-copied transcript made which he handed over to me and busied himself with the task of trying to get it printed and published. But official work and mostly negligence on my part curtailed any further development in this direction. And then life, as it does to such an extent, in its natural course, took a turn, and all those familial personages who were so eager to preserve this family memento in print left this world one after the other; Azizi Mohammad Rafiq, Azizi Qutabuddin Ahmed and Azizi Fareeduddin Ahmed’s deaths meant that now there was no one who could lend a helping hand, in the manner they could have, in facilitating the printing and publishing of this book. And the manuscript instead of being sent to the printing press remained locked up in a cabinet. In 1360 H, i.e. 1941 CE, after I retired from my official duties, my son Rashid Ahmed BA, LLB ( may God protect him) who by and large handled and managed the publication of my academic and literary works drew my attention to the manuscript, and he and the son of Haji Mohammad Rafiq Marhoom, following the wishes of his father, expressed their intention of undertaking the task of getting the book printed and published. Thus, after eighteen, nineteen years of lying around, the book was retrieved from the cabinet and I once again I began to take an interest in it. At this point the question arose about the mode of publication; because the subject matter of this book would not be of interest to the public it would be pointless spending a large sum with the hope of recovering it through sales. I was decided that since the book is a historical narrative of all the Makhdoom Zadagan’s of Fatehpur, it would be unfair for any particular individual or family to take on the entire cost and burden of publication.

The book which has been published under the title of “Makhdoom Zadagan-e-Fatehpur” is in three parts, the first part exclusively delineates the life of Hazrat Makhdoom Sheikh Hisamuddin ala-al-Reham who is the ancestor of all of us, the second part is about the family of Hazrat Makhdoom Ubaid ul-Ghani, and the third part is about the family of Hazrat Makhdoom Qutubuddin.

Introduction and background by Rumina Kermani

The death of the Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir, the sixth and last of the Great Mughals in 1707 proved to be a watershed moment in the history of the Indian subcontinent. The ensuing wars of successions, the uprisings by the Marathas and Sikhs and the overall incompetence of the succeeding emperors sent the formerly glorious empire into a steep and rapid decline. The rapacious invasion of the Turco-Persian Nadir Shah dealt a blow from which there was no recovery. It is said that the destruction wrought on Delhi was unprecedented until the brutal sack of that Imperial city by the British in 1857.

Despite the ongoing political and economic turmoil, Delhi continued to be the epicentre of Hindustan and ambitious young men in search of prospects and opportunities continued to make their way to that cosmopolitan heart of north India. Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was one such individual. Born into a family long established in the predominantly Muslim qasba of Fatehpur in Awadh, Makhdoom Baksh was a descendent of Makhdoom Sheikh Hisamuddin, a Siddiqui Sheikh[1] who came to India in the fourteenth century. Sheikh Hisamuddin’s family were originally from the town of Sohrevard in present-day northwest Iran from where they migrated to Ghazni in Afghanistan before Sheikh Hisamuddin made his way to Delhi. There he became a student and follower of Qazi al-Muqtadir, a disciple of the renown Chishti Sufi Saint Naseeruddin Chirag Dehlvi[2]. When Amir Timur invaded India in 1398, Sheikh Hisamuddin left Delhi for Jaupur from whence he was instructed to move to Fatehpur by his spiritual guide Sheikh Abul Fatah[3], the Khalifa of Naseeruddin Chirag. It is said that Sheikh Abul Fatah had a dream in which he had received these explicit orders for Sheikh Hisamuddin. The Sheikh lived a Sufi’s life and eventually passed away in Fatehpur in 1451 at the age of 96.

Sheikh Hisamuddin’s descendants known as Makhdoomzadas continued to reside at Fatehpur until the early twentieth century.[4]  They persevered with their learning and teaching traditions and produced many well-regarded educators. This scholarship equipped them with the necessary credentials for obtaining employment at the Imperial court at Delhi where they served as administrators and Mansabdars[5], rose to the level of Umrahs[6]  and managed to acquire a comfortable number of Jagirs[7] and Sarkars[8]. However, Mughal Imperial grants were generally non-hereditary and valid only for the lifetime of the grantee. Often the sons were able to extend the jagirs by retaining their father’s post, but this was not always the case, and the jagir reverted to the State at the death of the Jagirdar. Muslim inheritance laws also made no provision for primogenitor benefits, and all landholdings and the inherited property was subject to constant and repeated subdivision as the extended clan grew in numbers. This often compelled the men of the family to seek administrative posts wherever possible, ideally in Delhi, but frequently with minor nobility and local courts in the region, leaving the wives and children at home for extended periods of time.

By the time the youthful Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh made his way to Delhi during the reign of the unfortunate Shah Alam 2 (1759-1806), the Mughal Empire was at its very last stages. It had been several years since the last member of the Fatehpur family had ventured out to the Imperial capital. Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s great-great-grandfather Sheikh Ghulam Hasan had a successful career in the administration of Emperor Aurangzeb as had his father Sheikh Ghulam Hussain (Umdat-ul Umara) and uncle Sheikh Muhammad Rafi (Rafiq-ul Qadar) before him. But the family fortunes declined almost immediately after Ghulam Hasan’s demise with the loss of his jagir and its attached remuneration. And although Makhdoom Baksh’s great grandfather Sheikh Ahmed Ali and his (Ahmed Ali’s) older brother Sheikh Moshin Ali had made a prolonged visit to Delhi in hope of getting the jagir restored, their efforts had been unsuccessful. The rapid turnover of Emperors in Delhi rendered their attempts unachievable and the administrative chaos and confusion in the capital city of the Empire made their situation untenable. Since then none had ventured out towards the Imperial city until Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh, a young man of extraordinary ability, intellect and perseverance. The stories told of his advanced scholastic abilities are a clear indication of the esteem he was held and the standing he enjoyed in the learned milieu of his time. The suffix Moulvi[9] is an indication of an elevated status as a learned, erudite, scholarly gentleman, a title used in Hindustan, as Masood Ali Mahvi informs us, only for those individuals who were men of learning and scholarship. This was unlike its usage in the Deccan where it had replaced the term sahib as a respectful and polite form of addressing a gentleman. Makhdoom Baksh’s own Chacha, Moulvi Akbar Ali in his book Tareef–al-Arfin, accords his nephew this privilege by referring to him as Moulvi whenever he mentions him in the book, a title he uses rather reluctantly in reference to only four out of dozens of men he wrote about. Even his own father and grandfather, who were considered well educated and learned gentlemen of their times were deprived (by Moulvi Akbar Ali) of this designation. A poet with the takhaluz[10] Bakshish, it is indeed unfortunate that none of his work survives today. Masood Ali Mahvi could recall hearing some of his grandfather’s poetry and verses from the late Sheikh Ahmedullah Laherpuri, a brother-in-law of Makhdoom Baksh, but with the oblivious heedlessness and ignorance of youth (regretfully) never thought of writing them down or memorising them.

Translated from Mazhdoom Zadagan-e-Fathepur

Moulvi Sheikh Hasan Ali

Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s father Sheikh Hasan Ali lost his father Sheikh Mohammad, known as Roshan Mian when he was about fifteen years of age, and as the eldest of six brothers was expected to provide and care for them. After Roshan Mian’s death, the only source of income left to his sons was from the family property which had already been divided and subdivided amongst Roshan Mian’s brothers and was certainly not enough for his (Mashallah) six young sons.  It appears, however, that conflicts (within the family) and financial constraints proved difficult for the young man to handle. In keeping with the norms and traditions of the time, Sheikh Hasan Ali had married his cousin Bibi Rehmani, the daughter of his Chacha Sheikh-ul-Huda aka Allah-Daay Mian and his wife Bibi Fatima the daughter of Azeem Uddin Ali Khan of Laherpur. Bibi Fatima had returned to her maternal home in Laherpur at the death of her husband and retired to a life of prosperous comfort and ease there. On hearing about the disputes between her son-in-law and her other nephews and the plight and discomfort of her younger daughter she immediately sent for the young couple. While Sheikh Hasan Ali was reluctant to leave Fatehpur at this juncture, he sent his wife to her mother’s house in Laherpur and divided his time between the two towns, but over a period of time staying on for extended periods in Laherpur. It was not long before his brother Sheikh Akbar Ali too left home to pursue further scholarship in Lucknow leaving him alone with his much younger brothers who were still at school. To ease the financial burden on the household Sheikh Hasan Ali decided to take up permanent abode in Laherpur. Since he could not reside at his mother-in-law or his wife’s Mamu’s homes indefinitely, he had a house constructed for himself and his family. That is how Laherpur became the vatan of this branch of the Fatehpur family for the next seventy to seventy-five years. Writing all those years and three generations later it is impossible to ascertain where Sheikh Hasan Ali found employment and how he earned his livelihood now that the older generation that had privy to this information are no longer with us, and nor are those ancestral writings which our fathers and grandfathers preserved so carefully, all, unfortunately, lost to posterity between the disastrous destruction of Delhi and the constant movement from place to place. I remember overhearing passing references and narratives about my grandfather’s administrative prowess from my late Chacha and other relatives, but now, at this juncture of life, fail to recall much of what I heard in my younger days. The thoughtlessness and insensibility of youth were such, that one never considered putting those anecdotes and accounts to pen and paper; they would most certainly have been of great help at this time.

Reminiscing about his grandfather, Chaca Marhoom, Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed would recount Sheikh Hasan Ali’s qualities as a man of meticulous and disciplined habits: he was knowledgeable and keenly interested in agricultural matters but refused to get embroiled in the ongoing property squabbles and disputes. Disillusioned and disheartened by all the family altercations he left the total management of the Fatehpur properties to his younger brothers and made Laherpur his home for the rest of his life and lived off what he earned from his own hard work. Sheikh Hasan Ali’s Nana (maternal grandfather), Sheikh Mohammad Sharif bin Sheikh Imam Uddin had held the rank of a Risaldar and administrator under Wizar-e-Mulk, Naseer Uddin Abul Mansur Ali Khan (1739-1745), Subedar Lucknow, Nawab Wazir of Awadh, as a result of which he had been the fortunate recipient of considerable wealth and property. According to Moulvi Akber Ali, no one from qasba Fatehpur achieved that level of prosperity and fame after him. He was renowned for his courtesy, generosity and assistance to his compatriots and because of him, scores of individuals from Fatehpur were able to secure employment in the Awadh government. Sheikh Hasan Ali’s wife’s Nana Azeem Uddin Ali Khan had also held an important post as a Mansabdar in that Awadh Government, so for Sheikh Hasan Ali obtaining a viable post in Lucknow would not have been a difficult proposition but we do not know whether he took advantage of these connections or not.

As mentioned above Sheikh Hasan Ali was married to Bibi Rehmani and had two sons, Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh and Sheikh Ahmed Baksh.

[1] A descendant of the first Muslim Caliph Abu Bakar Siddiq.

[2] Naseeruddin Mahmud Chirag-Dehlvi (1274-1356) was a 14th-century mystic poet and a Sufi saint of the Chishti Order. He was a murid (disciple) of noted Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya, and later his successor. He was the last important Sufi of the Chishti Order from Delhi.

[3]  Also known as Khawaja Banda Nawaz Gaisu Daraaz (1321-1422)

[4] Perhaps there are some still there.

[5]  Administrators appointed to all civil and military posts except that of the judiciary

[6] Nobility

[7] Assignment of a piece of land to an individual for the purpose of collection of revenue in lieu of cash salary.

[8] Administrative unit

[9] Unfortunately, the use of this privileged title has now been debased by its application and usage by its attachment to uneducated and illiterate preachers and ignorant mosque officials.

[10] Pseudonym

Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh

Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was born and grew up in Laherpur where he received his education under the tutelage of his Nana Moulvi Mohammad Azim Al Mujaseeb, Azeem Uddin Khan. The family narratives of his intellect and abilities indicate that his education was of the very highest levels in that era. In due course, a marriage was arranged for him with Bibi Sajjani daughter of Sheikh Farhatullah Matri Laherpuri, Revenue Collector.

In Delhi, in the meantime, intrusive meddling and invasive interference in the running of the government by the aggressive British East India Company was on the rise; however, the governmental Lingua Franca was still Persian, and the age-old Islamic and Imperial Mughal laws and edicts had not yet been totally abrogated. While ruler only in name, the Emperor was still in residence at the Fort and many of the important administrative posts were filled by such Muslim luminaries as Maulana Fazl Azeem Khairabadi. In fact, several people from Khairabad were at that time living in Delhi and were well-established there. There were close familial relationships between the shurafa of Laherpur and Khairabad and consequently plenty of back-and-forth visitations between the two qasbas. Remarkably, that luminous flame of learning and cultural enlightenment that was on the verge of extinction was brilliantly ablaze with extraordinary intensity and brightness in the capital city of Hindustan, and for a young man in pursuit of knowledge and stimulating career, what better place could there be than Delhi? Although no close family member had ventured out in that direction in the previous two generations and Sheikh Hasan Ali himself had stayed close to his vatan, anecdotes and tales of the successes of Sheikh Ghulam Hussain (Umdat-ul Umara) Sheikh Muhammad Rafi (Rafi-ul Qadar), Sheikh Ghulam Hasan and Sheikh Ahmed Raza Khan etc. formed an integral part of the family narrative. Now listening to the favourable accounts of Delhi from his Khairabadi kinsmen, it occurred to Sheikh Hasan Ali that his older son, who had obtained a creditable level of education, could well follow in the footsteps of his illustrious ancestors. When he broached the subject, he found the young man indeed most eager and enthusiastic about the proposal. Several Khairabadi relatives, contemporaries and classmates, for instance, Moulvi Fazal Haq, Moulvi Fazal Azeem, Sheikh Fazal ul Rehman Abnai, Moulvi Fazal Imam, Sheikh Hasan Ahmed, Sheikh Hussain Ahmed, Munshi Karam Ahmed and others were already in Delhi and this was more than enough reason for a young man to undertake the journey. The decision was made; Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh set out for Delhi and within a no time was able to secure employment. We do not know the nature of his early appointments, and the trials and tribulations that he might have experienced are impossible to determine, but clearly with his keen intellect, competence, diligence, perseverance and hard work his progress was rapid. Through the retrospective lens, I  remember overhearing passing references and narratives about my grandfather’s administrative prowess from my late uncle and other relatives, but now, at this junction of my life failed to recall much of what I heard in my younger days. The thoughtlessness and insensibility of youth are such, that one never considered putting those anecdotes and accounts to pen and paper; they would most certainly have been of great help at this time.

But one specific incident could not be forgotten. The story goes that a legal hearing was underway at the Commissary-Agency Court in Delhi. In those days, it was common practice for European officials to retain the services of native sheristadars[1] to record the proceedings, but in this case, the broad, rural dialect of the Jat caste peasant in the dock, was largely incomprehensible to the city-bred Hindu sheristadar. To make matters worse he had to then translate and transcribe the testimony into Persian, and, his inordinately slow pace of writing was clearly annoying to the adjudicator who was anxious to wind up the somewhat chaotic proceeding. At this junction, Sheikh Sahib, a junior sheristadar at that time, happened to walk into the courtroom on a separate errand while the Jat was narrating an account of someone escaping, describing it with the use of the following metaphor, “  ………”  the unfortunate sheristadar was totally baffled, and even when it was explained to him he was evidently unable to translate it into Persian. The judge turned to Sheikh Sahib who explained that the phrasing appeared to be a translation of an original Persian verse and further interpreted it. All present were clearly impressed by this clarification, so much so that the judge, suggested that Sheristadar Sahib return to his office work and Sheikh Sahib complete the recording of the hearing. And while the judge remained in office all the hearings in his court were transcribed by Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh.

Chacha Marhoom Sheikh Ali Ahmed would relate that “The Fathenama that was sent out by the administration of the British East India Company to all the States and Kingdoms of Hindustan was written by our father. An earlier Fathenama had been issued from the Company’s Calcutta office but had not been deemed satisfactory. The British Agent/ Resident and Commissioner Delhi[2], Mr William Fraser informed Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh that he had written to the Ladd Sahib[3] and recommended Sheikh Sahib’s writing skills. Subsequently, several drafts were transcribed by both the Delhi and Calcutta offices including three penned by Sheikh Sahib, from which one of his was selected, published and distributed across the country. An exceedingly pleased and satisfied Fraser Sahib had written a lengthy letter of thanks to Sheikh Sahib; this was amongst Bhai Sahib’s paper’s which were unfortunately lost or destroyed during the Ghaddar[4]”.

In short, by virtue of his capability and competence, his proficiency and diligence, he was able to advance to the position of Sheristadar Commissary-Agency Delhi. Although the salary assigned to him was merely adequate for those times, the post carried value in terms of prestige. Due to their unfamiliarity with the native languages, European officials were compelled to rely on their native assistances and repose their trust and confidence in them. Thus, Mr William Fraser, Commissioner and Agent for the Lieutenant Governor was particularly reliant on Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh and the respect he honoured him with cannot be understated, but more on this later; it would suffice here to say that he was in effect the chief administrator of the office of the Commissioner-Agent.

The reign of Emperor Shah Alam was a volatile period in the history of Hindustan. It was a time of uncertainty and vicissitudes; of weakness, vulnerability and disorder. Shah Alam had barely succeeded to the throne when the ceaseless rivalries and political intrigues of his ambitious Umara[5] and the martial advancements of the Marathas drove him to seek out the assistance of Ahmed Shah Abdali. That forceful monarch swept down like a whirlwind from the mountains of Afghanistan and crushed the Marathas Confederacy with such force that they were never again able to rise up to their previous strength and dominance in Hindustan. Having achieved a significant victory, Shah Abdali appointed Shuja ud-Daula, Subedar Awadh as the Emperor’s Grand Vizier[6] and Najib ud-Daula as the Amir al-Umra[7] and returned to Afghanistan. By this time the British were firmly entrenched in Bengal and were steadily expanding their suzerainty and reach in that part of India. Shuja ud-Daula prevailed upon Shah Alam to form an alliance with him and the Nawab of Bengal that resulted in two unsuccessful battles against the Firangi. One of the outcomes of these ignominious failures was the transfer of the Emperor’s custody from Shuja ud-Daula to the British and then to the Maratha Maharaja Scindia. Under the protectorate of the Maharaja, the Emperor’s monthly income was eleven thousand Rupees and a gentleman by the name of Shah Nizam Uddin, the Nazim[8] of Delhi was appointed his caretaker. Shah Sahib was a staunch adherent of (Hazrat) Sheikh Saadi’s famous adage, “Katra, katra darya shud”[9], and in keeping with that philosophy, he took it upon himself to assist the impoverished Emperor. Thus, in addition to the monthly stipend received from the court of Gwalior, he imposed a two and a half cowrie charge on all the shops in Delhi. Heaps of cowries were collected and stored and then added to the Emperor’s monthly allowance; this practice earned Shah Nizam Uddin the sobriquet “Koozah [10] Shah”.

Several battles were fought between Maharaja Scindia and the British in the early part of the Nineteenth century that in the end produced a further victory for the British, and expansion of their power. The unfortunate Shah Alam found himself once more in the custody of the East India Company which assigned a garrison to the fort and appointed a Resident in Delhi to keep him under vigilance. The first Resident appointed by the Company in Delhi was the famed Sir David Ochterlony (1803-1806). The emperor’s monthly income was still a paltry eleven thousand Rupees and one can well imagine the difficulty with which the court expenses were met, and the dire hardships that the Emperor personally had to bear under the circumstances were undeniable. It is related that one day, in court, the Emperor confessed to his Dewan[11], Hafiz Ubaid ur Rehman Shah Nawaz Khan, “Hafiz Sahib tomorrow is Eid and I don’t even possess a dushala[12] which I can wear and step out in.” The British garrison commander was present at the court and was deeply touched by the miserable plight of the Emperor. Immediately after the durbar’s dismissal he had three costly dushalas arranged in a tray and presented as nazar[13] to the old monarch. When news of the Emperor’s penurious condition reached Mir Nizam Ali Khan Asif Jah 2 in Hyderabad he promptly dispatched seven hundred Ashrafis[14] and from time to time provided substantial financial succour to the Emperor. This practice of assisting the royal Mughal family continues to this day.[15] When the British had resumed charge of Shah Alam, he had expected an increase in his monthly stipend. This, however, did not happen and eventually, the Emperor was forced to submit a request that since an increment was not forthcoming, the British could at least take on the expenditure of the royal workshops. The British found this scheme acceptable and proposed that a capable and trustworthy individual be nominated from the Residency staff for the task of evaluation and appraisal of the expenditures, one who would also be conversant with the Imperial court etiquette, for, despite the decline in Imperial authority and power, court decorum and protocol was still strictly practised. Thus, at the grand durbars, the Resident would present nazars to the Company Governor-General and Provincial Governors in the age-old, customary manner. Without much ado, lengthy deliberations, or aggravation, Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was selected for this task. He promptly presented himself at the court and spend a couple of days observing the workings of the Imperial establishment. With the assistance of the Imperial staff, he compiled a detailed list of the workshop’s expenditures and after adding some more items was able to establish the expenses at Rupees seven thousand a month, in addition to this, he also wrote a thorough report on the privations and hardships suffered by the monarch.

Sheikh Sahib’s report was accepted straight away, and a formal inquiry was initiated on the bases of his information. Within a few days, the Emperor’s stipend was increased to one lakh Rupees per month and several villages in the vicinity of Delhi were allotted to him that yielded a monthly income of forty thousand Rupees. These villages did not remain in the royal family’s ownership after Shah Alam’s demise, but the one lakh Rupee income continued until the end of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s reign. One can clearly gather from various narratives that after 1218 H (1803 CE) Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was amongst those employees of the Commissary/Agency in whom the British had complete trust and confidence and that he was considered one of the most outstanding and proficient amongst the Hindustani officials.

However, in spite of his successes, ease of circumstances and financial well-being, Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh did not purchase a house in Delhi, neither did he send for his family; in fact, in keeping with the age-old, customary tradition he continued to go back and forth between Delhi and his vatan. Eventually, he brought his eldest son Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali, who was about ten to twelve years old at that time, with him to the city so that he could personally oversee his education. Sadly, Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh did not enjoy a long life or the fruits of retirement, he passed away soon after his son joined him in Delhi at the age of fifty-two or fifty-three. He is buried in the cemetery attached to the blessed Mazar of Hazrat Khawaja Baqi Billah. Located approximately twenty-five to thirty steps from the north door of the shrine, the grave had an old kekar[16] tree growing on it, and while Chacha Marhoom[17] (Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed) was alive, he took care of the maintenance of the grave; now the entire topography has changed, and it is impossible to determine its location. The graves of our Dadi Bibi Sajjani, our sister Bibi Fatima and our family’s faithful retainer Mama Chando are also in the same area. This graveyard along with Delhi’s many magnificent cemeteries was at one time a sight to behold. Beginning at this Dargah it continued all the way to the Dargah Qadam Sharif and gave the impression of a hushed, silent town. When I last visited, after a gap of almost thirty years its condition had totally changed; I found it in a decrepit, miserable state.

Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh left behind two sons Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali and Moulvi Ali Ahmed and a daughter Bibi Marium.

Of his literary offspring’s a Salam and a Sharjah Qadria Razzaqi[18] are all that remain.

Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Baksh

Sheikh Ahmed Baksh was the younger son of the late Sheikh Hasan Ali and the younger brother of Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh. He too was born and grew up in Laherpur where he also received his education in the traditional, customary manner of that time. He excelled in all that he learnt, so much so that his acumen and intelligence placed him amongst the well-known intellectuals of the day. After completing his education, he left Laherpur for Bareilly in the pursuit of gainful employment. At that time, numerous men of rank and position from Dewa and Fatehpur, such as Nazir Bandagi Baksh Sahib Dewai and others who all held important posts were to be found in Bans Bareilly and it is likely that his decision to go there was influenced by his association and connections with these people. At that time, British rule was in its early stages, and there were no exams that needed to be passed to enter the legal profession. The Judicial authorities considered those who were intelligent, knowledgeable and possessed a good understanding of Fiqh[19] suitably qualified to receive a Sanad vakalat[20]. Sheikh Ahmed Baksh was a well-educated individual and was well acquainted with the fundamentals of Fiqh; his well-wishers advocated he pursue this profession and he readily accepted their advice. The Sanad vakalat was easily obtained and with infinite resolve, Sheikh Sahib took up all the work that came his way. Within a short time, he made a name for himself amongst Bareilly’s well regarded and established lawyers. Bareilly’s location on the Lucknow- Delhi road made it an obligatory stop for all kin and kith travelling between their vatan and Delhi and Sheikh Sahib was unstinting in his hospitality and was a generous and welcoming host to all who passed through.

Sheikh Sahib was married to the Phupi of the late Hakim Mohammad Rashid of Ghazipur, but there were no children from this union. As an outcome of his successful legal practice, Sheikh Sahib acquired considerable wealth but in keeping with the family tradition, he kept nothing for himself. After his death, our father Marhoom (Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali) brought his Chachi to live with him and his family in Delhi. For many years she continued to reside in Delhi with our late mother. Later she returned to Fatehpur to visit her bhatijas (nephews) Moulvi Hakim Mohammad Rashid (Marhoom) and others. They would not permit her to undertake the long and exhausting journey back to Delhi and their love and affection kept her there till the end of her life. Our late father continued to send funds to her from time to time throughout his life, this arrangement ceased only with his death. She lived to a ripe old age and was around when we were children. Bent with age and frail of body, she was unable to move around but whenever we visited, she would shower us with grandmotherly warmth and affection. Seating us close to her she would regale us with stories and attributes of our late father’s life, his compassion and conscientiousness, his caring and generous nature; these memories would bring tears to her eyes. It is a pity that we were unable to take care of her or serve her in any way. She passed away while we were still of school-going age.

[1] Court Recorder or Registrar

[2] In the British Empire a Political Resident or Political Agent was an official diplomatic position that involved both consular duties and liaison function. Basically, the British ambassador.

[3] His Lordship, the Governor-General

[4] Mutiny –

1857 War of Independence

[5] Nobility

[6] Prime Minister

[7] Commander of the troops

[8] Governor

[9] Drop by drop a river forms

[10] Vessel or chest

[11] Finance minister

[12] Men’s shawl

[13] Offering

[14] Gold coins

[15] At the writing of this narrative.

[16]Mesquite tree

[18]Sheikh Sahib was a murid of Hazrat Ramzan Ali Shah, a Sufi Saint from the Sisila of Shah Abdur Razzaq Bansvi.

[19] Islamic Law

[20] Grant or certificate to practice Law

Moulvi Sheikh Akbar Ali



Moulvi Akbar Ali Sahib (via Tareef–al-Arfin)


Moulvi Sheikh Akbar Ali was Sheikh Mohmmad aka Roshan Mian’s younger son. After the death of Roshan Mian, as we have related earlier in the account of Sheikh Hasan Ali’s life, the family essentially fell apart. Sheikh Akbar Ali who had completed his basic schooling in Fathepur left for Lucknow to complete his education there. In Tareef–al-Arfin he has himself recounted this in detail and it will, therefore, suffice to simply offer a translation of it here.

He states that; After the death of our revered father when I was eighteen years of age, certain issues surfaced at home that created an extremely depressing and melancholic atmosphere, a condition that was apparent to some of our elders as well. It so befell that one day I was sitting alone, as usual, despondent and distressed when the excellent and blessed professor of the Academy of the Art of Medicine (Jamia Funoon-i-Hikmat) Janab Moulvi Abid al-Ghani passed that way. Seeing me in that state he addressed me in the tone of compassion and kindness that my condition warranted, “Such self-pity is pointless. I so happens that I will be going to Lucknow soon, I will take you with me and leave you in a place where your education will be taken care of and you will be happy and content as well.” This statement considerably assuaged and eased my state of mind, however, in the midst of things this gentleman fell prey to a number of ailments that made him lose control of his senses to the extent that he could not take care of himself let alone help anyone else. This only intensified my depression further. Hazrat Murshid-Kamil Maulana Shah Hisamuddin who had been concerned about my welfare for a long time inquired about “Akbar Ali’s condition after the untimely death of his father,” from my Chacha Sheikh Ghulam Zain-ul-Abideen, who was in attendance on him at that time. Sheikh Sahib replied that “As a result of the disruption to his education as well as other issues he is leading a life of extreme despondency and dejection.” The response was that “Although it is not our custom to summon anyone, however, my heartfelt desire is that he should come here.” To arrange this, Chacha Sahib arrived in Fathepur and accordingly obtained permission for me to go to Lucknow. I immediately set out and spending just one night on the way, arrived in Lucknow the very next day.

At that time the Pucca Pul had not been constructed between the exalted and blessed Pir Mohammad Sahib’s Teela (mound) and the Palace,  but near Sunheray Burj was a bridge of boats that people used for getting across. Consequently, this humble person also crossed there and arrived at the Teela. By coincident, Kazi Mohammad Hamid’s retainer, a man by the name of Danishman, was present there and upon seeing me he immediately came forward, took my belonging and stashed them away; he walked my horse a few steps before inquiring about my purpose in coming hence. When I disclosed my intentions, he exclaimed: “You did the correct thing, Hazrat Shah Sahib is currently honouring the Dargah of the blessed and sacred Shah Mina with his venerable presence, if you plan on heading that way right now I am at your service and will accompany you there.” I responded, “What can be better.” I left my belongings and horse at the Teela and upon entering the auspicious premises offered my adaab. Since his vision had weakened by this time he inquired about my identity, I gave my name and added that I had come from Fathepur, and with that placed my head at his hallowed feet. Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid embraced me with extreme affection and remarked, “I have been awaiting your arrival for a long time, it is wonderful that you have come here.” After two days I requested permission to proceed to Farangi Mahal. The response was “You can go when this dervish decides.” After that, I did not broach the subject again. Fifteen days later I was instructed that “You should go to Farangi Mahal today and meet Maulana Zahoor Ullah and make the necessary arrangements for your tutorials.”  Accordingly, accompanied by Sheikh Mohammad Yaqoob, Mian Ghulam Minai (Marhoom), Lalay Khub Chand and Ghulam Mohammad Khadim I was sent off to pay my respects to the venerated Maulana. I was privileged to be honoured by the esteemed and revered presence of the Maulana and my tutorials were arranged. For about three months I remained in service of Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid at the Dargah and for my lessons, I would daily attend Maulana Sahib’s lecture group. Soon after the 12th of Rajab came around and Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid announced his intention of attending the Urs of his exalted and honourable Murshid, the blessed Hazrat Shah Ghulam Mohammad at Takiya, located in Goghat. I was worried about the hardship entailed in coming and going for my lessons if I had to reside at Takiya, which was approximately two to two and a half miles from the city. The day before he left for Takiya, Syed Safdar Ali who was from the lineage of Hazrat Ghous-e-Azam, said to me “Tomorrow Hazrat Shah Sahib will set forth for Goghat, and in view of the difficulty you would encounter to and fro, he will leave you behind in the city.” I inquired about his knowledge of this and he responded, “He expressed this himself.”

The next day he set out for Takiya and I too went along with him and stayed there until Asar time. After the Asar namaz, Shah Abid al-Ghor and others prepared to leave and it was indicated  to this humble person that “You should go with those people and take up your abode in Mian Jan Mohammad’s house, I have spoken to him about this.” Hence, I went along with those people and stayed with them, and in this manner, subsequently lived with them for five years. Every Friday and Tuesday I would be in attendance at the service of his honour. Sometimes I would be present until the afternoon and sometimes the evening and occasionally even spend the night there. When  Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid graced and honoured Fathepur with his presence and I was instructed to stay in Takiya, I left Mian Jan Mohammad’s house and took up my abode in Takiya, when Hazrat returned from Fathepur I left Takiya and came back to Shah Pir Mohammad’s Teela. I continued with my service and attendance as per my earlier routine and practice, but with the conclusion of my lessons, my attendance was no longer restricted to just two days, Fridays and Tuesdays. Afterwards, I returned to Fathepur and was constrained by worldly matters (*most probably means marriage), and during this period Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid passed away.”

Maulana Akber Ali held Shah Hisamuddin (Mercy on him) in the highest esteem and veneration and having vowed his allegiance became his disciple; Tareef-ul -Arifeen is a compilation of his life and teachings. This is the one book that offers us some insight into the lives of our elders, if this book did not exist then we would not be able to transcribe the brief account that we have recorded. The book is in Farsi; it starts with Hamd-o-Naats and the plan of the compilation after which there are four sections. The first section is a narrative of the various Pirs from the Silsila of his own Pir-o-Murshid and their Tariqat (Sufi way of life) and their lives. This section begins with the life and works of Makhdoom Abu Al-Fateh Subnahali who was a Murid of Makhdoom Ibrahim, after him, Khawaja Baharuddin, Sheikh Nuruddin Mohammad aka Sheikh Shahi Sakin from the environs of Delhi, country Al-Arifeen, Shah Abid Al-Mulk Chanaputi, Syed Shah Inayatullah Shahi Tatahi, Shah Ruhullah celebrated as Ghulam Mohammad Sarsundi (country Awadh), Shah Syed Ghulamullah Islamnagari (environs of Azimabad) and gives detailed accounts of their lives and works. The second section is exclusively devoted to Shah Hisamuddin Goghati and the third section deals with those dervishes and mystics that he had encountered himself. The fourth section recounts the biographies of our own ancestors and certain other families. The layout and organisation of the book is extremely agreeable, clear, and straightforward, and here and there, the fine points of Sufism and Shariah are delineated in an excellent manner and style in which Moulvi Akbar Ali’s scholarly abilities and proficiency in writing are clearly evident.

We have been unable to obtain any information on Moulvi Akbar Ali’s employment or service. He was married to the daughter of Moulvi Abid al-Ghani (Marhoom), thereby the sister of Hakim Azizuddin (Marhoom) from whom he had two sons Moulvi Hafiz Hakim Mohmmad Ali and Moulvi Mehdi Ali and one daughter Naimat aka Bibi Rehman. Since Bibi Rehman’s mother passed away while she was still very young, the responsibility of bringing her up and educating her was undertaken by her Khala, the wife of Moulvi Waliullah Sahib Farangi Mahali who later arranged her marriage with her husband’s younger brother Moulvi Naimullah Farangi Mahali. From this union was on son Moulvi Ashanullah Sahib (Marhoom)  and two daughters Bibi Sharifa and Bibi Malika.  Moulvi Ashanullah Sahib (Marhoom) had three sons Moulvi Atikullah, Moulvi Mujibullah and Moulvi Mehabullah.  Moulvi Atikullah and Moulvi Mehabullah have passed away, Moulvi Mujibullah by the grace of God is alive and well and practices Law in Hyderabad and has a family.

Moulvi Akbar Ali used the takhaluz Hisami, most likely as a tribute to his Pir and Murshid and his nazams are dispersed throughout the Tareef–al-Arfin. Since Hazrat Shah Hisamuddin was deeply enamoured of Maulana Rum’s Masnavi and would require Moulvi Akbar Ali to constantly recite and gain insight and perception from it many of Moulvi Akbar Ali’s nazams are infused with the same style and rhythm of metre.



Sheikh Asghar Ali

Sheikh Asghar Ali was Sheikh Mohmmad aka Roshan Mian’s fifth son. He was married to Bibi Asima, Sheikh Barkatullah’s youngest daughter and Sheikh Zafar Ali’s sister.   Sheikh Asghar Ali died young leaving behind a son Munshi Nisar Ali and a daughter Bibi Chandan. Unfortunately, I have been unable to obtain any further information about him, neither has Moulvi Akbar Ali Sahib given any specific information in his Tareef–al-Arfin nor has Munshi Ahsan Ali Sahib mentioned him in in his notes. It seems apparent that at the time of his death he had not reached the point of seeking employment and still lived with his brother Moulvi Akbar Ali Sahib, and whatever little was left of the family inheritance was sufficient to sustain him. When Sheikh Asghar Ali passed away his children were still in their infancy and Moulvi Akbar Ali Sahib’s own financial conditions were such that it was difficult for him to take on the responsibility these fatherless children, however, their Mamo Sheikh Zafar Ali Sahib was well to do and free of care and he took on their guardianship and they grew up under his magnanimous care. Later on, upon reaching adolescence, Bibi Chandan was married to Hakim Mohammad Ali Sahib s/o Moulvi Akbar Ali Sahib and employment was obtained for Munshi Nisar Ali in the Riyasat of Mahmudabad.  In those days Sheikh Zafar Ali Sahib had great influence in the neighbouring Riyasats, but more about that in the section about him.


Sheikh Barkatullah

A minor aristocrat of qasba Fatehpur, his marriage had been contracted in qasba Dewa to the daughter of Syed Fateh Ali aka Basti Mian a scion of the family of Maulana Abdus Salam Dewai. Other than this daughter Syed Fateh Ali had three sons, Syed Ahmed Baksh, Syed Akbar Ali and Syed Ghulam Hafeez. These three gentlemen were amongst the well-known aristocrats of qasba Dewa. Sheikh Barkatullah had one son Sheikh Zafar Ali and two daughters Bibi Asima and Bibi Rahat. As related above Bibi Asima was married to Sheikh Asghar Ali and Bibi Rahat to Sheikh Ghulam Imam.


The progeny of Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed

From left to right: Nawab Qutab Yar Jung, Khan Bahadur Hakim Mehmood Ali, Nazeer Fatima, Rashid Ahmed, Atiya Bano, Masood Ali Mehvi and Hakim Azeemuddin

Nizamuddin Ahmed

The eldest son of Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed Sahib Marhoom was from the lady he had married in Delhi and as Moulvi Sahib’s firstborn was doted upon by both mother and father, thoroughly indulged by them, and brought up in great comfort and ease. He was tutored as a Quran Hafiz and as was the custom in those times, arrangements were made for his Farsi and Arabic education. However, he was not scholastically inclined and did not make much progress in that direction. When Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib married for the second time in Fatehpur and brought this wife back with him to Delhi, the first wife decided to go for Hajj and without informing Moulvi Sahib, taking her son Nizamuddin Ahmed with her, she set out for Bombay and having reached there notified him of her whereabouts and her intentions of proceeding for the Pilgrimage. She wrote that “I have got this far but cannot proceed further without your approval. I took this audacious step only because I knew that there was no other way for me to obtain your consent. I request your forgiveness for my transgression and your permission to proceed.” Moulvi Sahib, after reflecting on the current events and circumstances, not only forgave and consented to her request, he also sent her money for travelling expenses although he was well aware that she had in her possession five to six thousand Rupees worth of jewellery as well as ready cash on hand. After having fulfilled the exalted Haj she passed away in Mecca, and, Nizamuddin Ahmed Sahib had to continue his pilgrimage to Medina with the other Hajis from Delhi.  On completing his ziarat to Medina Munawara he returned to Bombay and after staying there for some time came back to Delhi. All this travelling back and forth lasted approximately three years; it not only disrupted his educational progress, he perforce forgot all that he had learned so far. Cognizant of his father’s displeasure he dared not appear before him for quite some time. Moulvi Sahib believed that his son still had some ready cash in his possession and was anxious to secure it since he was concerned that his son’s youth and lack of worldly experience might result in him losing it altogether. But despite his efforts, all that could be retrieved from Nizamuddin Ahmed Sahib was a hundred or a hundred and twenty-five Ashrafis. In his uneducated state, any substantial government employment was problematic; he found work at petty jobs such as at the Post Office and others. Eventually, he entered the employment of Raja Mohammad Jafar Ali Khan, the successor of Raja Baqar Ali Khan Sahib Marhoom, Rias of Pindrawal and was able to lead a comfortable life. However, a falling out between the Raja and his son resulted in his leaving the State and moving to Hyderabad. Here he started a business in trade but without much success. By and large, he was not a very sociable person, but with those that he toke to, he was very warm and affectionate. It was during his stay in Hyderabad that he fell ill, he travelled to Delhi for treatment and there he passed away. Nizamuddin Ahmed Sahib was married to Bibi Zubaida the paternal granddaughter of Maulana Moulvi Nazeer Hasab Sahib ala-al-Reham Muhaddis Dehlvi and the eldest daughter of Moulvi Sharif Hasan Sahib.  From her were two sons Mian Nasiruddin and Mian Moinuddin and a daughter Bibi Saeeda. Bibi Saeeda Marhoom was married to Hakim Imtiazuddin Hasan Sahib from a shurfa family of Bans Bareilly who was amongst the eminent physicians of Hyderabad.  Mian Moinuddin and Mian Nasiruddin also married within the shurfa families of Delhi. Mian Moinuddin’s reminder is a son Zakiuddin Ahmed and Mian Nasiruddin’s son is Fakhruddin Ahmed. Both Mian Nasiruddin and Mian Moinuddin have passed away.


Qutabuddin Ahmed  (1874-1932/1351H)

Version 3
Qutabuddin Ahmed, Nawab Qutab Yar Jung

Moulvi Ali Ahmed’s eldest son from his second wife, the one from the family. Since he was born ten to twelve years after the birth of his older sister he was much cherished and loved by his mother, father and in fact by the extended family as well. His early education was at home; when Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib took up residence in Aligarh as an employee of Raja Baqar Ali Khan Sahib Marhoom, Rias Pindrawal, he was admitted at the Madrasah Aligarh as a day scholar and while Moulvi Sahib employment and residence remained in Aligarh that situation continued. When Moulvi Sahib’s assignment with Pindrawal ended and he returned to Dujana, Qutabuddin Ahmed was admitted to the boarding house. I too was at the boarding house at that time and for a long period hence we shared accommodations. He graduated after I had left for Hyderabad. At the Madrasah he was considered a quick-witted and intelligent but disinterested student. At one time a prize for Urdu poetry was introduced at the Madrasah, many students entered but Qutubuddin Ahmed’s poem was judged to be the best and he won First Prize. From an early age, he was enthusiastic about horse-riding and shikar and indications of this interest were evident during the Madrasah days when he began keeping dogs. Mr Morris who was a prominent professor and an outstanding sportsman greatly encouraged and supported him in these activities and the other British professors including Mr Beck, Principal Aligarh College, also took an interest in his pursuits. As was to be expected, he was considered the finest horse-rider and best sportsman amongst his peers and he regularly won prizes in horse-racing and other sports.

Upon graduation, his name was forwarded by Mr Morris for a tehsildari post in the United Provinces. It was around this time that the Commander-in-Chief of the combined Military of Sarkar-e Alee, i.e  Hyderabad sent in a request to Mr Morris, who had succeeded Mr Beck (Marhoom), as the Principal of the Madrasah for a few smart graduates to enlist in the Hyderabad State Imperial Service Troops. Qutubuddin Ahmed was one of the young men Morris sought out for this proposal and since by this time both I and Bhai Sahib, Moulvi Hakeem Mehmood Ali Sahib were already in Hyderabad, the thought of all of us brothers being in the same place made him chose this prospect over the British Government position and thus he came to Hyderabad and enlisted in the First Lancers of the Hyderabad Imperial Service Troops. He rose rapidly from Subedar to Sub Lieutenant to Adjutant. During Raja-i-Rajagan Sir Maharaja Kishan Prasad Yamin-ul-Sultanat’s Prime Ministership it was stipulated that instead of the Prime Minister having his personally employed aide-de-camp, ranking officers from the State would fulfil that post. Two officers were selected for this task and one them was Qutabuddin Ahmed, and hence for the next two to three years he served as the Maharaja’s ADC. When Ale-Janab Sir Maharaja Bahadur decided to travel to Ajmer Sharif and some other places in northern Hindustan with the objective of performing ziarat, the major portion of the task of organising the travel arrangements was entrusted to Qutabuddin Ahmed. This he accomplished meticulously with the utmost finesse which pleased Sir Maharaja Bahadur immensely.

During his Prime Ministership, Sir Maharaja Bahadur would regularly inspect and review the offices of the District Administration, Revenue Assessment, the Courts and other departments and as was customary the ADC’s would accompany him. On one occasion when Sir Maharaja Bahadur was conducting an inquiry at the Revenue Assessment office he instructed Qutubuddin Ahmed to keep taking notes on the necessary issues that would help in the compilation of the inquiry report. During this investigation Mr RA Dunlop, who at that time headed the Revenue Assessment Department was also accompanying Sir Maharaja Bahadur and taking down his own notes for the preparation of the report. After the investigation was completed and later that evening at dinner the subject of the notes came up; Mr Dunlop expressed his wish to view the notes Qutabuddin Ahmed had made, and with Sir Maharaja Bahadur permission the notes were duly shown to him. Mr Dunlop was a highly experienced and competent Secretary of the British Revenue Assessment Office and was considered the Godfather of the Revenue Assessors in the State of Hyderabad. After reviewing the notes, he asked Qutubuddin Ahmed if he had any prior experience in Revenue Assessment, he was surprised to be told by the young man he had not, and remarked: “It appears that you have a natural talent for this work, if you would like to join this department, I am prepared to take you on as my assistant.” Qutubuddin Ahmed expressed his willingness to do so and accordingly,  upon obtaining the necessary injunction from the Prime Minister, Mr Dunlop proceeded to initiate the transfer proceedings.  When the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Sir Colonel Afsar-ul-Mulk Bahadur, found out about these he objected strongly and wrote in protest that “For an officer of the Military who has been specially selected and who has undergone the local army education, and, moreover has been sent to places like Meerut and others for instructional training in target shooting, military cartography, signalling and other martial skills and on whose military education thousands of Rupees have been spent, to be plucked out of the Army in this manner cannot be deemed correct and acceptable.” The dispute between the department of Revenue Assessment and the Army continued for quite some time, however, since Sir Maharajah Bahadur had already given his consent, the order could not be changed and Qutubuddin Ahmed was released from the Army. Within the Revenue Assessment Secretariat, Mr Dunlop handed over all the important department of Revenue Grants to Qutubuddin Ahmed. He remained there for some time and then progressed to Secondary Taluqdar and then became a Senior Taluqdar (District Collector). As Senior Taluqdar his posting was in Adilabad which is considered the finest Tiger hunting area in the country. His natural inclinations combined with his military marksmanship proved immensely advantageous and within a short time, he won acclaim and fame as a remarkable shikari. From the shooting platform and from the ground he shot approximately seventy tigers. Some of his shikari anecdotes are indeed fascinating, but there is no room for them in this book. Adilabad is a vast but sparsely populated district, much of the land is covered with dense forests and shrubs which makes it the ideal habitat for tigers and other animals. Touring and governing this vast and spread-out territory is only possible if the gentleman in charge is a competent horseman and a worthy and keen hunter. Since Qutubuddin Ahmed incidentally possessed all these skills his efficient performance there was highly thought of and held in high esteem. His superiors, particularly the British, who firmly believe that along with intellectual scholarship and refinement, physical training and proficiency is indispensable for attaining the pinnacle of human perfection viewed him with great respect and admired him.

After Adilabad he was posted to the district of Osmanabad and then B. It was during his posting in B that he developed a weakness in his vision, thereupon he relinquished his post and retired from government employment. In appreciation and recognition of his services, Ala Hazrat Bandiga na-Aali muta-Aali-maad-Salla-Aali Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Awamala-al kibla al-Sultanat bestowed the title of Nawab Qutub Yar Jung Bahadur on him. Soon after receiving this honour the condition of his eyes worsened and the affliction from his cataracts increased to such an extent that he lost sight in both eyes. For a man habituated to hunting and riding, an active and energetic individual to be so constrained and immobilised (no matter what the ailment) obviously had a tremendous impact on his health. to make matters worse his diabetes also flared up. For several days he was compelled to remain in this hapless state and when the cataracts were ready for removal he sent for the renowned Doctor Narayan Rao from Bangalore (at the cost of one thousand Rupees per day) and had his eyes operated on, and thus his vision was restored. During this period, he wrote a book titled “Shikar”; a monograph so comprehensive and delightful that it is impossible to find a comparable book on this subject even in English let alone Urdu.  A genuine zeal, personal experiences, and such locales where every kind of hunt was available were elements that have made this book incomparable and superlative. It is regrettable though that it was not published in his lifetime. After his death, his eldest son Sirajuddin Ahmed has had it printed. It is a book of approximately five hundred pages and is replete with information about all possible aspects of the hunt.

As mentioned above, his health was deteriorating day by day due to his diabetic condition, nor was there anyone to give him the attention and care he needed. He constantly suffered from fever; one day the temperature was so high that his middle son Wahajuddin and his wife admitted him to Doctor Naidu Nursing Home for treatment. I was informed the next day and by the time I reached he was totally unconscious. I stayed with him for a long time and he passed away in front of me.  The sorrow and grief of this unexpected event that was felt by not only me but the entire family is beyond description. Qutubuddin Ahmed was charming, good-natured, and loved by everyone; children, young people and the elders all loved him and he cherished them all. His and my association spanned a period of over sixty years[1] and over this great length of time, our affection continued to increase and grow day by day. Unequivocally his death was an immense and immeasurable loss to the family.

Qutubuddin Ahmed was married twice. His first marriage was in Lucknow to Bibi Bashira daughter of Luqman-ul Haq Firangi Mahali. From her, he had three sons and four daughters who are all alive and well. The eldest son is Sirajuddin Ahmed who is apt at English, Urdu and Persian and is competent in reading and writing but has not passed any formal examination. He has also started suffering from the ailment of diabetes. Prior to this he was, like a father, an excellent shikari and had killed many lions. He has also inherited his father’s interest in dogs; for a long time, the Wali Shaan Nawab Azam Jah Bahadur, the heir apparent left his exotic and valuable dogs in his care and supervision. It is indeed regrettable that his diabetes has prevented him from securing a sustainable government job. He has married into a Hyderabadi shurfa family and has been blessed with children.

The second son is Wahajuddin Ahmed. Like his older brother, he taught at Aligarh College for a considerable length of time. Intelligent, capable, sociable and charming, he is currently employed in the Department of Excise and Taxation.  He is married to his Chacha Fareeduddin Ahmed Marhoom’s daughter Bibi Maryam (the author’s granddaughter through his daughter Bibi Razia). At this time there are no living children.

The third son is Hameeduddin Ahmed; he grew up under the benevolent care of his Phupi Bibi Ruqiya and Hakim Mehmood Ali and received his early schooling in Warangal and a BSC from Nizam College. He then sat for the Hyderabad Civil Service Exam and passed with merit. He is extraordinarily bright, intelligent and hardworking, and is considered one of the most outstanding and diligent officials in the State Department of Revenue Assessment.  He has been selected for the senior Taluqdari post in Kalkari District but due to the War, he is currently in charge of the arrangements being made for the ARP and rationing. He is married to Bibi Atiya, daughter of Ahmed Saeed (the author’s paternal granddaughter) and has several children.

Qutubuddin Ahmed had four daughters; Bibi Habiba was married to Mohammad Ahsan son of Azizi Mohammad Yusuf, sadly both passed away issueless.

The second daughter Bibi Ayesha is married to Mehmood Ahmed son of Moulvi Latif Ahmed Sahib Akhtar Minai (Nawab Akhtar Yar Jung Bahadur) son of Maulana Moulvi Ameer Ahmed Sahib Minai (Marhoom) and Mashallah has offspring.

The third daughter Bibi Soobia is married to Sheikh Abdul Majeed BA  s/o Sheikh Abdul Karim Sahib Dehlvi retired Nazim of the Court. Sheikh Abdul Karim Sahib was a native of Delhi, his father came here and made Hyderabad his home; this family has produced many learned intellectuals and religious scholars.

The youngest daughter Bibi Hameeda is married to my youngest son Habib Ahmed and is blessed with children.

After the demise of his first wife, Qutubuddin married Namdurunnissa Begum d/o Moulvi Shamsuddin Sahib (Marhoom) aka Shamsoo Mian and the paternal granddaughter of Nawab Asman Yar Jung Bahadur (Marhoom). This is one of Hyderabad’s premier families and is connected and related to all the elite shurfa and aristocratic families of Hyderabad. There are no children from this marriage.



Fareeduddin Ahmed (Died 1942/1360 H)

Fareeduddin Ahmed

Fareeduddin Ahmed was Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib’s youngest son. His early schooling was in Delhi, and when Moulvi Sahib employment with Pindrawal made Aligarh the family residence Fareeduddin Ahmed was admitted to the Madrasah Uloom Aligarh where he studied for a considerable duration. He stayed in Hyderabad with me for a short time but did not find it to his liking and returned to Aligarh where he continued his studies until he obtained an FA degree. He was bright and intelligent and was a man of excellent taste and manners in all management matters. Since he did not show much inclination in academic learning suitable employment was promptly found for him. His initial employment was in the Department of Postal Services where he rose to the Inspector level after that had himself transferred to the office dealing with matters of the Law Enforcement within the Police Department. He worked there for a long period after which, during Mr Hydari’s Prime Ministership, he was transferred at the same level to Internal Affairs within the Police Department where he rose to the level of District Superintendent Police and retired with an outstanding record of service.

He was married to my eldest daughter Bibi Razia (Marhooma) in Hyderabad who passed early away leaving behind four daughters and a son. Fareeduddin was at an age where he could easily have married a second time, and several relatives and well-wishers pressed him to do so, but he would never agree to this and dedicated himself to the raising of his children with such love, devotion and ardent earnestness that perhaps even the most affectionate of mothers could not equal. He was extremely proficient in the nurturing of his children and domestic, household affairs. And in each and every government department he worked, he was recognised for his efficiency and finesse in management.  His eldest daughter Bibi Rabia is married to Mohammad Sami aka Piaray Mian s/o Haji Mohammad Rafi (Marhoom) and has been blessed with offsprings. The second daughter Bibi Maryam, who is the most educated amongst her sisters, is married to Wahajuddin Ahmed the second son of Azizi Qutabuddin. The third daughter Bibi Aziz Bano is married to Mehdi Ali s/o Haji Mohammad Rafi (Marhoom) and is also blessed with children. The youngest daughter is Bibi Nazeer Fatima has only recently been married to Sheikh Mohammad Yahya s/o Sheikh Abdul Hai. Fareeduddin Ahmed’s son is Sharfuddin Ahmed, who like his father, Nana, Chacha and Mamo also studied at Aligarh. After graduating from there he sat for the Hyderabad Civil Service exam and passed with Honours. He currently holds the post of Munsif in the Department of Law. In terms of appearance and personality, he is considered exceptional and outstanding amongst his peers and colleagues. Like his father, he excels in nurturing his children and managing and running his household. He is married to Bibi Zakia the eldest daughter of Ahmed Saeed, this writer’s son, and is blessed with children.

Azizi Fareeduddin lived only for a few years after retiring from work. His overall health was quite good when all of a sudden a few boils appeared in his mouth which caused him considerable pain. Medical treatment commenced but the pain gradually worsened. He underwent extensive treatments in Hyderabad and Bangalore but to no avail, and this ailment led to his death. I have, with these eyes, witnessed the demise of many close relatives and friends but I doubt I have ever cried as much as I cried at this funeral. Other than the love I bore him, our relationship and close kinship, what contributed to my condition was that just after we had lowered the body into the grave, Mohammad Sami’s son Mohammad Abid who had been brought up the deceased arrived from Warangal and stood by me; his palpable distress, the manner in which he wailed and cried, the words with which he remembered the deceased, his desire to view the deceased’s face one last time, the intensity of his love and grief was so heart-rending and painful that my own strength, resolution and self-control were totally undermined and I cried like a child along with him.

Sharfuddin Ahmed


Bibi Ruqiya (Died 1923/1342 H)

Mohammadi Begum and others
Bibi Rasool Bandi, Mohammadi Begum, Razia Bano Begum, Bibi Ruqaiya Begum

Moulvi Ali Ahmed’s eldest daughter was from his second wife. Moulvi Ahmed Ali engaged a ustani to teach her the Quran Sharif and instructed her in Urdu and the explanation of the Kalam Pak himself. During the period they were resident in Delhi her marriage was solemnised with Moulvi Hakim Mehmood Ali Sahib the author’s older brother. There was no issue from this marriage. During our stay in Dujana and Aligarh, when I was separated from my mother, she took care of me like a full-blood, devoted older sister would. When my children Razia and Saeed Ahmed were left bereft by the death of their mother she took them into her warm and loving embrace and showered them so much love and affection that they were able to overcome the sorrow of their loss. Indeed, these two children of mine grew up entirely in her motherly nurturing care. When Qutabuddin Ahmed’s first wife passed away Bibi Ruqiya was not of an age to take on the task caring for an infant, but her compassionate warm-heart would not allow for her brother’s cherished progeny to be dependent on the goodwill of others and be left to the mercy of strangers. Mustering up her spirit and resolution she brought Hameeduddin Ahmed up in the way that a most caring of mothers would nurture her own natural-born child. In a manner of speaking it would not be amiss to say that Marhooma was a benevolent mother to all the motherless children in the family. Sadly, this venerable presence has now departed from our family.


Bibi Kulsoom (Died  1942/1361H)

Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed’s youngest daughter and last offspring. A lady of extreme sensibility, fortitude and a calm disposition she was also extremely accomplished and proficient in skilful home management. She was married to Hakim Azeemuddin Sahib s/o Moulvi Hakeem Fazlullah Sahib and was the mother of three daughters. Hakim Azeemuddin Sahib was a Makhdoomzada from his mother’s side and a Kazizada from his father’s. This well-known family has been long established in Fatehpur and by way of marriages and kinship has become a part of the Makhdoomzadagan-e-Fatehpur. Bibi Kulsoom had come to visit us in Hyderabad and was staying with her eldest daughter Bibi Sughra (w/o Ahmed Saeed) when she fell ill and passed away.


[1] Qutubuddin Ahmed’s date of birth according to the Hijri Calendar is 1291 which corresponds to 1874 in the Gregorian Calendar, and his death occurred in 1351 Hijri which corresponds with 1932. Thus according to the Hijri Calendar, he lived to the age of 60 which calculated on the Gregorian Calendar would be 58 years.

Masood Ali Mahvi

Seated from left to right: Bibi Hameeda, Kaneez Fatima with Talat, Masood Ali Mahvi, Bibi Tahira, Ahmed Saeed. Standing from left to right: Anwer Ali Kidwai, Rashid Ahmed, Habib Ahmed with Baber. Seated from left to right: Nasima, Akthar, Zubeida, Nisar Fatima (Meher), Suraiya Jabeen


(The Unworthy) Masood Ali (1861-1953)

The humble compiler of this narrative is the younger son of Sheikh Ahmed Ali Marhoom, may he be favoured by divine mercy.  Although I am convinced that there is no aspect of my life worthy of presenting to the public as exceptional in any way, nonetheless this ongoing narrative cannot be halted merely on that basis. My place of birth is also Delhi. I was still on my mother’s lap when the benign presence of my father left us. The youngest issue and that too an orphan; one can well image a mother’s love and affection for this child. The untimely death of her young daughter only made the surviving offspring more cherished and precious. Our late father left no great wealth, but whatever there was, through her prudent economising and Chacha Marhoom’s (Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib) propitious planning (whereby) the funds were invested in a way that in those cheaper times it was possible to get by with a lifestyle of reasonable quality. Chacha Marhoom’s house in Delhi was located within Habash Khan’s Phatak. This house was extremely spacious and pleasing; it had been constructed at Bahadur Shah Zafar’s behest for his sixth wife Zeenat Mahal’s mother, we resided in a portion of this haveli. When I reached the age of comprehension my mother enrolled me at the neighbourhood Maktab where a Qari Sahib taught only the Kalam Majeed. This Mohalla was largely inhabited by Punjabi Saudaguran (merchants and traders) and it was their sons who studied with Qari Sahib. While we shared our schooling with them our temperaments never matched enough to allow any familiarity or closeness with them.  A few days must have passed when Chacha Marhoom sent for the Sipara for me to recite.  I proved to be a total dolt, I remembered neither the past lesson nor had any comprehension of the next one. He remarked, “Moulvi Waziruddin Sahib teaches the Kalam Majeed at the Maktab Masjid, from now on you will go there, I will let him know.” That mosque too was close by and in accordance with Chacha Marhoom’s instructions, I began going there. ‘Allah, Allah kar ka, I had read only a few Surah’s, when Nana Sahib Marhoom (Munshi Sheikh Baqar Ali Sahib) arrived in Delhi from Fatehpur to escort my mother to the wedding celebrations of her youngest brother Sheikh Amjad Ali. By coincidence, I was just leaving the Maktab Masjid when I noticed a gentleman standing nearby inquiring about something, people offered him some information and he, accordingly, took a particular direction. It happened to be the same route that I took and so I followed behind him. Seeing that his style of dress and bearing were distinct from the typical Delhi style and deportment, I quickened my steps until I was walking alongside him.  Sheikh Baqar Ali Sahib (Marhoom) had never seen any of seen us children, but as soon he set eyes on me he addressed his retainer and remarked: “look at that resemblance to our family faces.” I do not know what answer the man gave since having heard that I had moved on, and, upon reaching home promptly started eating my meal. I had just finished my food and was washing my hands when someone came in from outside and informed my mother that “your respected father has arrived from Fathepur and honoured us with his presence.”  She immediately called for him to be brought inside. The meeting of father and daughter after almost forty to forty-five years was a memorable scene to behold; the picture of it is still clear in front of my eyes. In short, Nana Sahib Marhoom stayed a few days and then taking us with him set out for the journey home to our vatan.

Although in those days a journey by train from Delhi to Lucknow was certainly possible, nonetheless in that era travelling by bullock-cart was perceived as far more desirable, private and safer as well. Chacha Marhoom and certain relatives and close friends came with us up to the Ganga Bridge to see us off on our way. If my memory doesn’t fail me, it was the month of May and the loo [1] blew with great intensity, after about ten, eleven in the morning until four or five in the evening travel was practically impossible. For our journey, we were equipped with a bullock-cart and a two-wheeled horse-carriage. Riding on the bullock-cart was my mother, myself and our old household attendant and companion Bibi Chando who had brought up and raised all of us brothers and sisters, forsaking her own children, kith, kin and vatan, and had devoted forty to fifty years of her life to us, staying faithfully in our service us through good times and bad, through comfort and ease as well as difficulty and hardship. The luggage was on the other cart along with Nana Sahib Marhoom himself and his two attendants. The normal mode of travel was such that while it was still somewhat dark we would all wake up, hurriedly get through our morning needs and be ready for the journey. We were not yet subject to the bane of morning breakfast and tea in those days.  By the time the sun had risen in the sky we had covered two to four miles and around ten or eleven o’clock when the sun was blazing and the wind scorching we would seek shelter under some shady trees close to a well, a stream or riverside and stop for a while. The two carts were placed close together and a purdah tied around the perimeter and the ground covered with flooring. People would disembark from the carts and sit in that space. Within one side of this enclosure preparations for cooking food would then begin. If the food was to be cooked elsewhere the utensils would be sent out. After the meal had been prepared and the eating, drinking, resting and napping was done and over with, the journey would re-commence around four or five o’clock and would continue until eight or nine at night. The night would be then spent in some qasba serai. At that time, I could not have been more than six, seven years of age and till then had never stepped out of Delhi, in fact, most likely never stepped out of my Mohalla. For me, this journey was like a fantastical, magical dream and the impression of it is deeply embedded in my being even now, so much so that whenever I recall that journey it has an unimaginable effect on my heart and mind. Waking up under a canopy of stars; the warble and chirping of the birds; the rising of the sun and its gradual ascent until it reached its fierce apex; our seeking protection from its afternoon heat under the shade of trees; Dhak[2] and Babul[3] forests with their bright orange-red and yellow flowers and delicate fragrance; arriving at the serias in the evening; the bellowing and clamour of the hawkers; the hustle, bustle of the travellers; such scenes, such sights I can never, ever forget. Since then I have had occasion to travel extensively; from Kashmir to Ceylon, to cities and mountains, where I have had the opportunity to view and gaze upon the most incredible sights and scenery, but the truth of the matter is that I have never enjoyed a journey as much as that one.

Approximately fifteen days into our travel we stopped over at the residence of Chotay Mamo, Munshi Amjad Ali Sahib, who at that time was employed in the Munsify[4]of Sikandarabad in the district of Bulandshahr. It was to attend his marriage that this extensive journey had been undertaken. By the time we approached our vatan, the monsoon rains had begun with full force and because of this we were forced to stop for one, sometimes two days, and in one instance, we ended up spending almost an entire week at the qasba of Kursi. During the course of my young life in Delhi, I had never seen a mango tree nor had any idea that this prized fruit was so abundantly available all over Hindustan. The moment we stepped onto Awadh soil, the bounty and splendour of the orchards was all around us. Nana Sahib Marhoom was passionate about mangoes, wherever he saw a large orchard he would alight from his carriage, partake of the fruit, share them with us, and gather some for later. His carriage was virtually a moving bushel of mangoes in which ripe fruit from the many qasbas and villages we passed through were always accessible. Needless to say, in this manner, stopping and going, approximately one and a half month later we arrived in Kursi. Since our intended date of arrival had passed and although the reason for our delay in the qasba of Kursi (as a result of to the heavy rains) had been conveyed via letters, men had been sent out from our vatan to inquire about our wellbeing. The arrival of these men was a source of great support to us; whenever the carriages were bogged down and stuck in the slush and mud and the bullocks stopped pulling, these men would use their strength to haul them out. This part of the journey was indeed covered with great difficulty. When we reached the border of our vatan many of our companions plunged into the river to wash and bath themselves and changed out of their mud-soiled clothes. Some of our relatives had come out to this place to welcome us, and in their company, we arrived at Nana Sahib Marhoom’s house where our kin and relatives of all ages, young, old and contemporaries were gathered in such numbers that one was left wide-eyed with astonishment.

This time Walda Sahiba remained in our vatan for almost two years. During this period Chotay Mamo’s marriage to Afzulunissa, d/o Khan Bahadur Syed Hafeezuddin Dewai and the eldest sister of Khan Bahadur Nihaluddin Ahmed was solemnised and celebrated with great fanfare and ceremony in qasba Dewa. I remember being part of the baraat, arriving in Dewa, seated on the bridegroom’s lap atop an elephant; my crying session that began in the middle of the night;  being carried around the house in the arms of Sakina Bibi who was my mother’s Mamuzad Bhain, and thereby my Khala, who was trying very hard to soothe me. While I remember all this, what I do not recall is how and when we returned from Dewa.

During our stay in Fatehpur, Walda Sahiba had to make a trip to Laherpur, in the district of Sitapur, to commiserate with Sheikh Ahmedullah Sahib (Marhoom) Laherpuri on the demise of his eldest son Sheikh Zahoorul Haq. Of course, I too went with her. Incidentally, it was there that I got my first glimpse of the lifestyle and habits of the larger land-owners, the rural Zamindars. At that time Sheikh Ahmedullah Sahib (Marhoom), and Moulvi Shah Rukunuddin (Marhoom) and Haji Mian (Marhoom) were alive and these three gentlemen were considered the major Zamindars and Rais of Laherpur. If I am not mistaken, amongst these three gentlemen, in terms of wealth, the most affluent was Haji Sahib, then Moulvi Shah Rukunuddin followed by Sheikh Ahmedullah Sahib, but because Sheikh Ahmedullah Sahib held the largest area of cultivated land within the qasba besides being the village headman he commanded greater prestige and respect. Moreover, his middle son Sheikh Nurul Haq Sahib Marhoom’s many interests and activities, his decorum and excellent disposition, his immense popularity and the high regard in which he was held by all those who knew him made this household one of notable distinction and honour. There was no official in the municipality or district, no Rias amongst the aristocrats of the surrounding areas with whom he did not enjoy a cordial, warm and friendly relationship. With his open-hearted generosity of spirit and his enthusiastic energy, he raised every pursuit and activity he undertook to an elevated level of excellence. When he took an interest in developing a fruit-garden, his home garden and orchards were embellished and equipped, as is proper, with a vast variety and assortment of mangoes and other fruit. There was no popular fruit or mango whose tree he did not send for to plant and add to his collection. When he acquired poultry and pigeons, they were similarly unsurpassed in quality. In the same manner and style, he kept peregrines and falcons of outstanding superiority. When he decided to breed cattle for milk, he sent animals from as far off as Gujrat.

Suffice it to say that for me the ordinary and routine activities of the rural lifestyle with frequent gatherings for feasting on the of fruits from the orchards, sugarcane from fields and singhara or water chestnuts from the ponds held an inordinate and extraordinary fascination. I can still clearly picture some of those memorable picnics. It was here that I  witnessed my very first ram-fights and cockfights.

Sheikh Ahmedullah Sahib (Marhoom) must have been approximately seventy to seventy-two years old, but despite that, with his fine full-face, his fresh pink and white complexion, his white roundly trimmed beard, no onlooker could help but be impressed by the nobleness of his countenance. His warm-heartedness, his earnestness and intrinsic graciousness and nobility of character was evident in his every word and action.  A considerable portion of his time was spent in worship and the rest of his time was spent in writing letters to his relatives and friends. Stacks and stacks of long envelopes of (sharbati) pale-yellow paper were neatly and meticulously arranged on his writing takht and within two to four days he would have finished with them. Hardly a day went by when he would not anxiously be concerned about the welfare and health of at least twenty-five to thirty of his close friends, kith and kin and dispatch letters off to inquire about their well-being. These letters were delivered by hand or via regular, economy post. As soon as it was discovered that someone was going to such-and-such place the writing of letters would commence, in fact later in life, letters addressed to different people were written and prepared in advance requiring only the addition of a date and the subject of health and some brief sentence or phrase to complete it. People would view this sagely practice with respectful appreciation. He was particularly attached to us, and not merely due to our kinship, the reason for this was that Sheikh Sahib’s mother departed from this life when he was very young, and his nurturing and upbringing was undertaken by his Chacha’s daughter Bibi Sajjani, the author’s Dadi. A man of his sensibility and warm heart could never forget or fail to acknowledge his gratitude; he would repeatedly and in countless ways express his indebtedness and whenever the subject was brought up, his eyes would involuntarily well up with tears.

We stayed in Laherpur for about a month or two after which we returned to Fatehpur. It was during this time that my mother was summoned by her Mamo, Sheikh Abad-ul Salam Dewai, and as was our usual practice, I went along with her to the qasba of Dewa. Sheikh Abad-ul Salam (Marhoom) was commonly referred to as Salam Mian and at that time could not have been less than seventy years of age; a slender, slim gentleman with a pink and white complexion, his eyesight had failed, but with the assistance of his man-servant, he was efficiently and actively mobile and would at times walk all the way to Fatehpur. Only moderately educated for that era, he was meticulous in the observance of his namaz and rooza and was an extremely virtuous and upright elder. He had one son and five daughters. At the time of our visit, other than his eldest daughter, Bibi Sabira, who was married to Sheikh Abid-ul Samad (Marhoom) Dewai, the other daughters were all living with him. His son Sheikh Ghulam Mohiuddin, who remained a bachelor till the end of his life, worked for the police department in Lucknow.  Sheikh Abad-ul Salam possessed a small zamindari on which he managed to subsist, but the house always appeared full of cheerful hustle-bustle and lively activity.  Walda Sahiba and I stayed for about a fortnight and then returned home.

Although my mother herself could not be included amongst the well-educated ladies of the times, she put in an inordinate amount of effort into our education.  Thus wherever her journeys took her, the first thing she did was arrange for my tutoring and did not let me remain idle for a single day. But obviously, under those unsettled circumstances, no progress was likely. The outcome of this was that I returned to Delhi unlettered and ignorant as I had left it.  Our uneventful return journey was by rail, without any memorable incident worth mentioning. After having tested my learning, Chacha Sahib Marhoom (Ali Ahmed Sahib Marhoom), expressed the opinion that it was not enough to just continue the study of the Holy Scriptures anymore, I had to be taught Urdu and Farsi as well. Accordingly, I was admitted to a Primary-level Madrasah, located within the Habash Khan Phatak precinct, housed in the Mirza Asfandyar Baig’s Shish Mahal. Most of the boys studying there were Hindu of the Khatri caste from the gritty narrow lanes, who, as was to be expected in a bazar neighbourhood came to this Madrasah due to the close convenience of its location; there were also perhaps five or six Muslim children. Although, to a certain degree there was the element of touchable and non-touchable amongst the Hindu children, I was much happier in their company than I had been in the company of Qari Sahib’s Punjabi students. I was soon able to overcome the apathy that had made my progress in Urdu reading and writing torturous. The rate of my advancement was fairly rapid when all of a sudden, an unexpected development occurred in our lives. Chacha Sahib (Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib Marhoom) who had been jobless for an extended period accepted a job in the Princely State of Dujana and he urged my mother to go with him. Although initially, she refused to do so, nevertheless given her circumstances, she eventually relented. Bhai Sahib (Hakim Mehmood Ali Sahib Marhoom) who was at that time studying under the tutelage of Maulana Nazeer Husain Sahib (Marhoom) Muhaddis Dehlvi was left behind in Delhi.

In those days, there was no railway connection between Delhi and Dujana. The journey to Dujana took two days, and one night had to be spent at a serai in qasba Bahadurgarh.  Bahadurgarh serai was a very busy place; all those travelling that way from Delhi, and those travelling in this direction to Delhi stopped at this particular Inn. In the evenings, the scene around the seria was indeed a sight to behold. The building was extensive with identical sturdy, well-built private chambers in front of which was a continuous raised terrace. At the end of the terrace were row upon row of very small (clay) stoves; when these were lit up in the evening it was a magical, marvellous sight to behold. All around the fires were crowds of people; some just sat about and talked, others related stories and tales, while some lively and high-spirited travellers played music and sang. All in all, the atmosphere and ambience at this serai in the evening hours was a splendid sight. After spending one night there we arrived in Dujana.

Qasba Dujana at that time was a very simple and barren place; there were no roads, and other than a mosque no buildings of any consequence, and perhaps other than the residences of the Nawab Sahib and some of his relatives no substantial houses were to be found. Forget about orchards and such like, even the most ordinary fruits and vegetables including paan had to be procured from Delhi or qasba Beri etc. So much so that even the boys there would chew on jowar (sorghum) stalks instead of chewing on sugar-cane stalks. Every week or so when a Kunjra[5] brought in overripe and rotten guavas or dried out and shrivelled tangerines to sell there would be much excitement throughout the qasba. But these inadequacies were compensated by the abundance of milk, yoghurt and ghee, combined with the healthy, wholesome air and salubrious environment.

In Dujana, Chacha Marhoom had me admitted to a Maktab run by a gentleman named Moulvi Imamuddin who promptly dismissed all my Madrassah books and started me solely on Maulana Qazi Sanaullah’s “Mala baad Minah”. However, a few days later, Moulvi Imamuddin made an extended visit to his vatan and the Maktab shut down. Another Moulvi named Moulvi Fakhruddin Sahib was the officially appointed Pesh Imam of the Dujana State Mosque and tutor to the current Rias’s heir apparent Mumtaz Ali Khan (b.1864-d.1908) With the permission of the Rias, he also admitted sons of certain State functionaries to his Maktab. Chacha Marhoom obtained Nawab Sahib’s consent and I too was admitted there. The style of education here was what is the norm amongst aristocratic children. The heir apparent was probably about ten, eleven years old at that time, he was quiet but friendly and clever. He would happily fraternise with the boys at the Maktab, laughing and conversing with them and joining in their games. Towards me was favourably gracious as well and would often reiterate that on completion of my studies he would procure me employment in the State. While the schooling in itself was reasonable, the heir apparent’s words were undeniably heart-warming. In this way, some time passed when Bhai Sahib who had been left behind in Delhi to continue his studies began to experience the lack of good food and drink that our mother’s absence caused. His letters to her about his hardships evoked her maternal sensibilities, she could not allow a son of hers to suffer such privations and immediately resolved to return to Delhi. Chacha Sahib was opposed to this, his main objection was “if you leave, your younger son’s education will suffer.” After much discussion and deliberation, it was decided that Walda Sahiba would return to Delhi to look after Bhai Sahib while I would stay on in Dujana and this plan was followed accordingly. Since Chacha Sahib had rented his house out when he moved to Dujana, and since it made no sense to get such a large house vacated for just two people, Walda Sahiba and Bhai Sahib, Bhai Sahib took a small house on rent near Tahur Khan’s Masjid in the Hakeemon Wali Gali and that is where he settled our mother. It was during that period that our close friendship with Anees ul-Rehman Khan Sahib and Latif ul-Rehman Khan Sahib etc who were the maternal nephews of Qudratullah Khan Sahib developed further. Qudratullah Khan Sahib who was the younger son of Mundo Khan Sahib and the brother of Tahur Khan Sahib had held important commissions such as that of Subedari during the Badshahi period and was a man of high status, held in great esteem, and considered amongst the pious and virtuous people of his time. After the British took over control and administration of Awadh he had purchased several villages near Fatehpur, had moved from Lucknow and taken up residence in Fatehpur. Nana Sahib, Munshi Baqar Ali Sahib and other Rais from the qasba had provided him with land to construct his houses there. His relationship with our family was as that of brethren. Anees ul-Rehman Khan Sahib and others would often pay brief visits to their Mamo in Fathepur and thus were familiar with our family and would always meet us with great cordiality. The house Bhai Sahib had taken on rent did not possess a Mardana[6] section, therefore the seating and meeting area for his visitors was one of Anees ul-Rehman Khan Sahib’s room that was attached to the mosque. However, Walda Sahiba was accustomed to and had spent her entire life in spacious and commodious houses and was greatly distressed with her current cramped accommodations. And to top it all, her faithful maidservant and companion of forty to fifty years standing Bibi Chando passed away in this house at approximately eighty years of age. She is buried in the dargah of Hazrat Baqi Billah where the graves of some of our elders exist.  Bibi Chando’s death made matters worse for our mother. With Chacha Sahib’s move to Dujana, there was nothing left to induce her to stay on in Delhi. The elders back home in our vatan especially our Mamo’s were emphatic that it was only reasonable for her and Bhai Sahib to return home and take up residence there. Bhai Sahib too was by now amenable to the idea. Frequent visits back and forth to the vatan over the last few years had revived old connections, and long-lost and forgotten relationships had been rejuvenated and restored afresh and were exerting their pull with full force. In the end, mother and son both concurred that the logical thing to do was to return to Fathepur and live there.  I was with my Chacha Sahib in Dujana when a letter summoning me arrived; I do not know how Chacha Sahib agreed to send me but nonetheless, he dispatched me to Delhi with someone. Within a month or two of my arrival in Delhi, we departed for Fathepur via rail.

On our return to our vatan we took up residence in our nanial, our maternal home, in the section of the house had had previously been occupied and vacated for us by our sanglay[7] Mamo, Moulvi Nawazish Ali Sahib’s family. That family had moved to the house of their brother-in-law Hakim Sarfraz Ali whose wife had passed away leaving his extremely young children bereft and motherless. The area around the large courtyard within the house was occupied by the family of Moulvi Abbas Ali Sahib (Marhoom) and the smaller section next to it, which was for some reason referred to as the kitchen, was occupied by manglay[8]Mamo’s family (whose wife Bibi Maryam was also my phupi). Nana Sahib was still alive at that time and his residence was in the outside summerhouse pavilion. As it is, the house was under the circumstances, Mashallah, overflowing with people and our arrival now added to the comings and goings, and the lively hustle and bustle of people. In those days none of our Mamo’s resided at home on a permanent basis, they would merely visit from their places of employment for a few days every now and then. However, because of Nana Sahib, Munshi Baqar Ali’s personality, the Mardana was always teeming with his friends and pupils. I will write in detail about Nana Sahib life later, for now it will suffice to say that when Walda Sahiba confided and disclosed to him the consistent shortcomings in my education and her own trepidations about my schooling, he comforted her and reassured her that, “ Inshallah your son will be well educated, there is no need for any anxiety, I will supervise his studies  myself.” Consequently, following this plan of action, Nana Sahib selected a book and commenced my Farsi education himself, while my Kalam Majeed tutoring was assigned to Bibi Rasool Bandi, my Mamozad and Phupizad sister. Not much time had passed after this that Nana Sahib Marhoom’s health began to deteriorate and within a few days he passed away. With his death that scholarly gathering of people that he personally drew dispersed and the arrangements for my education changed yet again.

In those days Moulvi Abid ul-Samad Sahib s/o Moulvi Nawazish Ali Sahib (Marhoom) and  Moulvi Hakeem Ali Mahmud Sahib (Marhoom) s/o Maulana Moulvi Hakeem Masoom Ali Sahib were residing in the qasba; these venerable gentlemen tutored me for a bit, but since both had completed their education and were in quest of work they did not stay in the vatan for long and once again my mother’s anxiety about my schooling ensued. After much deliberation and consultation, it was decided that I be sent to a Maktab located in the house of Moulvi Kazi Mohammad Sirajuddin Sahib (Marhoom ) where Moulvi Saeed Zamin Ali Sahib taught young children.  Moulvi Saeed Zamin Ali Sahib (Marhoom) was an aristocrat from Malihabad who himself had come to Fatehpur to learn from Janab Maulana Nazeer Ali Sahib (Marhoom). He would study with Maulana Sahib and spend the rest of his time teaching children. His bonds and ties to the Makhdoomzadagan of Fatehpur grew to such an extent that he forsook his own vatan and made Fathepur his permanent abode. At the time I am referring to he was a handsome, athletic young man. He studied medium level Arabic with the aforementioned Maulana and resided in Moulvi Kazi Mohammad Sirajuddin Sahib’s house. That house had a magnificent and majestic Imli tree that served as a canopy over the extensive yard and in the north, east and west sides were dalans (halls) of varying sizes and levels. Kazi Jalaluddin (Marhoom), who had lost his sanity lived in the western dalan. The eastern portion had previously been designated for the servants, but later when Kazi Imaduddin Sahib (Marhoom) retired and came home with a pension he took up residence in this section of the house. The Maktab was in the northern dalan, two takhts had been placed here on which the boys sat and studied. The lessons were taught by Moulvi Saeed Zamin Ali Sahib seated across from us on a charpoy. The number of students at this Maktab was small; Moulvi Kazi Mohammad Sirajuddin Sahib Marhoom’s two nephews, his sister’s sons, Mohammad Yaqoob and Mohammad Ayub, Bhai Piaray Jan (Ghulam Mohiuddin s/o Moulvi Ghulam Jilani), our kinsman Abu Al-Hasan son of the now late and highly respected Maulana Hafiz Hakeem Masoom Ali Sahib and if my memory does not fail me, our close relative Moulvi Mohammad Yusuf who was admitted at this Maktab at the same time as myself. After essentially inquiring about my age, Moulvi Zamin Ali Sahib began my studies with the forward to The Gulistan, which is in essence actually very difficult, nonetheless, my proficiency in this had developed to the extent that I could not only comprehend but also appreciate the magical narrative powers of the revered Hazrat Sheikh Saadi and be captivated by them. Certain verses and phrases are still firmly entrenched in my memory. During those moments when I recall those words, I am overwhelmed by a flow of memories, of childhood and carefree times, the faces of friends and peers, of bygone companionships, the very features of the house, all appear in front of my eyes, and my heart, my very being is overcome by a condition beyond description which cannot be expressed and for which neither poetic or philosophical words can be sufficient. However, those people who have themselves undergone such profound, heartfelt experiences can fully comprehend this feeling. My participation in this engaging company continued for approximately three to four years, and during the extent of this period, I made considerable progress in my studies. After reading a few chapters of Gulistan, we moved on to Bustan and read some sections of the divinely blessed and revered Jami’s Zuleika. Moulvi Zamin Ali Sahib was himself studying as well as teaching a considerable number of children; he did not have the time to offer them a second lesson in the day, therefore some of his students took that second tutorial with Moulvi Hafeezuddin Sahib (Marhoom). Moulvi Hafeezuddin Sahib had by this time lost his sight and was therefore unemployed. He liked teaching and was proficient at it, therefore I, Mohammad Yaqoob, Bhai Piaray Jan, cousin Mohammad Yusuf and others began going to him for our second lesson, and since there was no one who kept a watch on us, slowly and gradually we stopped attending the Maktab altogether and relied only on Moulvi Hafeezuddin Sahib’s lessons for our schooling. Thus according to our plan, every morning around seven or eight o’clock Bhai Piaray Jan, cousin Mohammad Yusuf, I and others would leave our homes together for our lessons, each one with a small (paper) packet of salt and chilli powder in our pockets. Our first destination was invariably the red Imli tree that was in front of the Kachi Phulari[9]. Throughout the year this tree would invariably bear some ripe fruit, if however, no fruit was to be found, our activity would focus on the flowers and buds. When our pockets were full of these items we would arrive at Moulvi Sahib’s. After offering our adaab and taslim we would open our books and simultaneously the small parcels of salt and chilli, then some of the ripe Imli fruit or buds would be unloaded from our pockets and the pleasure of savouring this cache would commence. All the students who studied with Moulvi Sahib read different books, while one gentleman read, the others would savour their snack and indulge in swiping and snatching from each other’s stash, in fact, some would not even refrain from eating while reading out their lesson. Being blind, Moulvi Sahib could not view this spectacle, but his ears could hear the lip-smacking sounds that instinctively emanate from the mouth of someone relishing a sour, tangy food item and would often enquire about, “why do you people keep smacking your lips while reading?’ A chipper and evasive answer would be used to fob off the hapless gentleman.  Debility had moderated Moulvi Sahib’s quick temper to a large extent, but on occasions, such deeds and our disinclination to learn would stoke those latent flames into action. Bhai Piaray Jan was the oldest amongst all of us and as a consequence of his patrimonial traditions and affinities as well as heredity learning he was much inclined towards dua and taweez,[10]totkas and shagun.[11] It was he who proposed (to the rest of us) that if we wanted to ensure that Moulvi Sahib did not lose his temper at us we had to follow his prescribed antidote. This entailed taking a pinch of dust from the under the sole of Moulvi Sahib’s shoe and sprinkling it on his head. Piaray Jan himself first enacted this feat since he was the preeminent target of Moulvi Sahib’s ire, and as it would happen on that particular day Moulvi Sahib actually did not lose his temper at him. As a result, every boy who walked in would drop a pinch of dust on Moulvi Sahib’s head. During the wintertime, with his head covered by caps or other headgear, Moulvi Sahib was unaware of what was going on, but during the summer he would often be bareheaded when he taught.  And whenever he would pass his hand over his head he would ask his grandson Mohammad Yaqoob, “Mian Yaqoob where does this dust on my head come from?” Mian Yaqoob was himself a keen participant in this activity, and the neediest since generally Moulvi Sahib’s benevolence would be directed towards him. His simple answer would be, “Dada Jan, the birds have gone and built a nest in the roof, and that is where the dirt keeps falling from.” This response would silence poor Moulvi Sahib. Our lack of interest was such that we would have no idea about where our lesson had stopped the day before, and from which point we had to commence. When one of us would make such a blunder Moulvi Sahib would suggest that “Mian, at the end of the lesson  put some Hing[12] on the page, you can then smell it and start your new lesson.” Moulvi Sahib would only teach a lesson once and when we had each completed our lesson for the day, all of us would head towards the orchards and open spaces. In this manner, frolicking and cavorting we would reach our homes by the afternoon.  Our families would assume that the children had spent half the day being schooled and were now home. For a short period, these activities remained hidden from our families, but this was not the type of behaviour that could be kept secret for long; our diverse pranks and people’s complaints very soon revealed our pastimes. Walda Sahiba was now convinced that her plan to rehabilitate my schooling and education in Fatehpur was an impossibility,  and  in any case Chacha Marhoom had  been consistent in his opposition to the Fatehpur option and had consistently been adamant that I be sent back to Delhi.

The 1877 Imperial Darbar was to be held in Delhi and people from all over were being drawn to the city because of this. My older brother Hakim Mehmood Ali also resolved to head that way and I was sent along with him. The reports that Chacha Marhoom had received, time and again, about my total disinterest and overall lack of progress had convinced him of the futility of expecting any kind of high-calibre scholarship from me. Consequently, it was decided that I be taught some English and Khushkhati (Urdu and Persian Calligraphy) in order to make me eligible for an office job and even if I was unable to achieve that, with Khushkhati I would have acquired a skill with which no one could remain unemployment even in those times. To learn English, in accordance with this plan, I was placed in the charge of Chacha Marhoom’s friend Munshi Inshaullah Khan Sahib who was at that time employed at the Sherista Permit and was well regarded as being proficient in the English language (within the Muslim community). For my Khushkhati lessons, I was tutored by Moulvi Raziuddin Ahmed Sahib son of Moulvi Salimuddin Khan Sahib (Marhoom) whose lineage traced back to Mir Nicha Kush (Marhoom) and who was one of the successors of the renowned Delhi calligrapher Mirza Obaidullah Baig. To attend my lessons with these two gentlemen, I had to go to the corner of Adina Baig Khan and Bulbuli Khana which were about two to two and a half miles from Habash Khan’s Phatak. My reading and writing skills might have increased by only a reasonable level but what I observed in the company of Moulvi Raziuddin Ahmed Sahib convinced me that excellence in a craft cannot survive without appreciation and value. Every skill has its mysteries and subtle points which have been gained over centuries of experimentations and these cannot be acquired or learnt without being taught by the Ustads[13]. This was an era in which neither the prolific perusal of reading or book-writing, particularly the skill of calligraphy, held the preeminent value and significance it had in previous times, but Moulvi Raziuddin Ahmed Sahib’s excellence in this area had made him its custodian not only in Delhi but in the entire north Hindustan. Moulvi Raziuddin Ahmed Sahib’s house was a centre for calligraphers from all over the city which included a venerated gentleman by the name of Moulvi Amiruddin, from the family of the Pesh Imams of the Jamia Masjid Delhi, himself a Master of Naskh Script and a prominent member of this select society. It was Moulvi Raziuddin Ahmed Sahib’s customary routine to emerge from within and enter his Diwan khana or reception-room at seven, seven-thirty, his servant would open the parcels of calligraphy stones and papers that had been sent from other cities for the purpose of transcribing and spread them out in the Diwan khana courtyard; thick bamboo qalams or pens, large ink-pots and all the various tools needed such as cutters and sharpeners were selectively and meticulously laid out on a carpet. On coming out of the house Moulvi Sahib would directly attend to these, he would examine and scrutinise every aspect, shape and size of the papers and stones and would write standing, sitting, or lying down as the task or situation necessitated.  To write with such thick pens, in such a variety of positions and then to use such flourishing strokes for the sweep and curve of the letters, the drawing of parallel and equal circles while ensuring that the alphabets remained pleasing to the eyes was no easy undertaking. But Moulvi Sahib’s experience and God-given ability had made this task effortless and he used those stones and wrote on those papers which were often awkward and ill-shaped with the ease of someone writing on a slate. Moulvi Sahib would complete his work in approximately an hour’s time and then enter his Diwan khana and begin the task of reviewing and correcting his student’s work. The number of students, during the time I was going for my lessons, was never much, if my memory does not fail me, there were two or three other boys besides myself, one of them, whose name was perhaps Saeed Ahmed was the son of Hafiz Saeed Amiruddin Sahib. After the death of his father, he became the Imam of the Jamia Masjid in Delhi. Having examined his student’s efforts, he would get immersed in his own work. At times it would be a book, but more frequently he would transcribe qatats[14] which were often reproductions and copies of old masters such as Rashid Dailmi, Mir Hamad, Mir Ali and many others. These qatats after a few days of scrutiny and observation, of skill and technique, of practice and execution, would be completed in such a manner that even the most discerning and knowledgeable of observers would be unable to tell the original apart from the copy. For the residents of the city of Delhi, Moulvi Raziuddin Ahmed Sahib’s father Moulvi Salimuddin Khan Sahib was a mentor and patron, especially for the poor and vulnerable for whom he was (like) a blessing from God. Amongst the elite families of Delhi, there was no function, whether it be a wedding celebration or bereavement where Moulvi Salimuddin Khan Sahib’s help and assistance would not be sought. Often enough he was assigned the responsibility of ordering, buying and selling of Jewellery and other valuables and this he undertook and accomplished with great pleasure, manner and style. As is the case these days, selling rather than buying of objects was the dominant practice among the Muslim gentry, especially the sale of antique books and fine chinaware crockery. Through the constant sale of these goods, Moulvi Salimuddin Khan Sahib (Marhoom) had become an expert at this, and as such, much of the considerable demand for antique books and antique china-ware in Delhi was handled by him. In this context, many of the qatats rendered by Moulvi Raziuddin Ahmed Sahib would also be disseminated at a reasonable price.

Nonetheless, I had only been able to pursue my calligraphy writing for no more than a few months when the bustle and commotion of the Delhi Darbar ended, and in accordance with a plan devised between Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib and Chacha Marhoom (see the section on Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib (Marhoom), Chacha Marhoom personally took me along with him and admitted me at the Madrasah Uloom Aligarh. Since other than recognising and identifying the alphabets my knowledge of English was non-existent, I was admitted in the lowest grade, which in the manner of numbering in those days was called the new class. At the time that I joined the Madrasah, it had been functioning for about three to four years’ time and the students living at the Madrasah were no more than a hundred or a hundred and twenty-five in number.

There was a particular faction within the Muslim community that disagreed with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s religious thought, and because Sir Syed was the founder of the Madrasah, they were opposed to the Madrasah as well and incessantly sought to destroy and malign it. Sir Syed and his group’s endeavour was to see the Madrasah grow and flourish and for the nation to associate and unanimously accept it. In this significant venture, amongst all of Sir Syed’s supporters the most illustrious and eminent name, in my opinion, is that of Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib. I do not deny that Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib (Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk) and Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib (Nawab Waqar-ul-Mulk) were indeed instrumental in promoting the fame and reputation of the Madrasah in region of the Deccan, but in north Hind, Moulvi Mohammad Samiullah Khan Sahib was solely responsible for this undertaking and only he could accomplish it. Despite being a member of Sir Syed’s clique Moulvi Sahib was generally considered an exemplary Muslim and moved within that same select sphere of powerful officials and other elites and he undoubtedly commanded considerable influence and sway over people. When I reflect on the connections and affiliations of the students at the Madrasah in my time there, other than a few from the Deccan, I can think of no student whose admission had not been a direct result of Moulvi Sahib’s far and wide effort and determination. After all, this was the era when as to be expected in this community, from the perspective of the foolish, the uninformed and ignorant, admission at Aligarh Madrasah was considered an endorsement of irreligiosity and faithlessness, and of course the majority, regrettably were followers of this camp, and still are.

On entering the Madrasah, the people I had the opportunity of living with, spending day and night with were Mohammad Daud, Mirza Qaseem Beg, Mohammad Wajy, Mohammad Fazi, Mazhar Hussain Khan, Ahmed Mazim, Latif Hussain Khan, Yakut Khan and others.

Mohammad Daud and I arrived at the Madrasah the same year and were roommates for about five years. A native of Ambroha, his father was a legal attorney.  Mohammad Daud was a very good-natured and principled man. Later he started writing poetry, some of his masnavis[15] are still remembered by the older students, a collection of masnavis were also printed. If I recollect clearly it was called “The Test of Friendship.” He was with me in school until Intermediate. On the other hand, all my other companions, one by one, got left behind,  the reason being that I never failed an exam in any class. Up to Middle School, I kept moving up a grade every six months and after that on a yearly basis without variation. Mohammad Daud graduated two years after me, he reached the rank of Naib Tehsildar but sadly death cut short all possibilities of flourishing and prospering. He left behind a child who survived only a few years after him.

Mirza Qaseem Beg Chughtai’s ancestral home was Agra but due to the early death of his father, his upbringing and education was taken care of by his Chacha, Mirza Alf Beg who was an eminent bailiff at the Lucknow Supreme Court. The good-humoured natives of Lucknow referred to him as Bailiff Beg instead of Alf Beg. Mirza Qaseem Beg came to Aligarh after passing his Intermediate and was my class fellow through FA and BA and we both graduated together. After graduation, through Mr Beck Marhoom’s intercession the Collector at Aligarh took him on as his secretary for a short while, he was then nominated for the post of a Deputy Collector. After retirement he found employed in various Princely States, he passed away only a short while ago. At the time of his death, he left behind six boys and four girls. One of his son’s Mirza Azeem Beg Chughtai and a daughter Ismet gained considerable repute in Urdu writing, unfortunately, Mirza Qaseem Beg also passed away at a fairly early age.

Mohammad Wajy and Mohammad Fazi were the sons of Moulvi Omer Sheikh Siddiqui a Zamindar from the town of Ghosi in the district of Azamgarh. Mohammad Wajy was my class-mate and Mohammad Fazi a grade below. Neither of the two was able to graduate. After eight years of constant candidacy and effort, Mohammad Wajy became a Tehsildar and later a Deputy Collector. Mohammad Fazi too served efficiently in the Irrigation Department. Neither enjoyed a long life; I have been unable to obtain any information about their off-springs. In qasba Fathepur it was related that the family of Maulana Moulvi Abid Hussain Sahib Marhoom’s family came from this very qasba Ghosi and settled down in Fathepur. I have not had the opportunity to investigate this, but I would not be surprised if the Maulana’s family and my friends’ family were the same.

Mazhar Hussain Khan was a native of Gorakhpur. His father was the administrator of the notable and highly reputed District court there. The famous Tarik, intrinsic and extrinsic “Eighteen seventy-five” which is obviously Nineteen and obliquely Hijra is his compilation. From the beginning Mazhar Hussain Khan genuinely enjoyed listening to and narrating tales of theft and highway robbery, we all used to tease him about this, therefore, not surprisingly because of his interest and inclination he sought and found employment in the Police Force. He passed away after his retirement.

Mohammad Mazim was a resident of Charikot in the district of Azamgarh and a scion of an eminently learned family of Zamindars. His father Moulvi Mohammad Azeem Sahib and his grandfather Moulvi Najamuddin Sahib ranked among the well-known, established scholars of their times. Moulvi Mohammad Azeem Sahib was employed in Secretariat of the Ministry of Civil Works where he worked for many years. He was considered very learned in Islamic reasoning and claimed the right to propose his own interpretations, for instance, he believed that smoking a hookah or cigarettes did not annul one’s fast, as a result, he would keep his fasts but continue to smoke his cheroot throughout Ramazan. Many a time one discussed this topic with him but Moulvi Sahib remained steadfast to his belief to the end. His son Mohammad Mazim also displayed his family’s touchiness and stubbornness. I had managed, based on his entitlement as his father’s son, to obtain an official post for him in the Secretariat of the Ministry of Civil Works, but as in his studies he did not show much interest in his work and after a few days took leave to return to his vatan and did not come back. He passed away there at a young age.

Latif Hussain Khan Sahib was actually from Shikarpur in the district of Bulandshahr, but his family had lived in Aligarh for a long time. Initially, he was a “day scholar”, but for a while, he also lived in the boarding-house. He was an extremely good-natured man. His recitation of the soos[16]was quite outstanding. He also wrote poetry. He was an administrator in the UP Judicial Courts and passed away after retirement.

Yaqut Khan was an Afghan and a native of the Sarhadi region. His father was a  prominent dry-fruit trader. Not that he gained much in terms of education, but he did remain at the Madrasah for quite a long time. He was employed by the Kothwali at Bala Hissar where he attained the post of Inspector before his untimely death.

If I were to write about the lives and activities of all those who were my peers or classmates at the Madrasah and narratives of all the events and incidents that took place at that time that in itself would stretch into a lengthy volume. It is enough therefore to mention a few close friends.

Syed Abid al-Rauf was a Justice at the Punjab High Court and is by the grace of God is still going strong. Mohammad Yaqoob Shah Khan (Marhoom), Sahibzadas Sultan Ahmed and Aftab Ahmed Khan (Barrister), Sheikh Inayatullah (B.A) Ibn Munshi Zakaullah Sahib (Marhoom), and Syed Mohammad Ali, Syed Mehmood Ali (Marhoom) and Syed Hamid Ali who was a maternal grandson of Syed Ahmed Khan. Moulvi Sakafat Hussain Marhoom Barouli, Mir Vilayet Hussain Sahib, Syed Kalan and Qamarumarun. Syed Zainuddin who served as a Collector in the United Provinces for a long time was a very religious man, he passed away only recently. Nawab Islam Mohammad Khan who was Superintend Police in UP, and Sarfraz Khan and Sarfaraz Baksh etc.

In short, those were the best years of my life. The pleasant amiability of college companions, the overflowing affectionate kindness of Madrasah friends and teachers had captivated and engrossed me to the extent that I was oblivious to the wider world and events. It was during my student years that Maulana Shibli Marhoom was appointed Professor of Farsi at Aligarh College. Maulana’s engaging and enlightening presence drew some of us students towards poetry and poetic works and  I too was a keen participant in this. In those days I wrote incomplete and fragmented verses in both Farsi and Urdu. Some of my Urdu poems that were written on subjects and topics current at that time became exceedingly popular at the Madrasah. Once Master Bakhtawar Lal, who was an acclaimed and highly respected teacher and an extremely good-natured individual gave our class some verses to analyse. Several students were unable to this and I was amongst them. The other boys were admonished, scolded and let off but I was ordered to stand for half an hour. I respectfully asked, “Sir, why have I been singled out for this punishment?” Master Sahib laughed and read out a few verses of “An April Fool” and replied “An individual who can write such verses and then is unable to explain these? The punishment is for apathy and inattentiveness.” I responded, “In the first place, there is no proof that these verses are mine, in the second place it is not necessary that a person who can write lyrics in Urdu can analyse English poetry as well.” Master Bakhtawar Lal replied, “Okay beta, go ahead and recite the entire poem.” I replied that I did not remember the entire poem, however, some boys did, and they obligingly recited it. Master Sahib explained that some verses revealed an adroit poetic quality and the picture they painted was indeed adept in its formation.

Amongst my close friends in my vatan were several kinsmen and brethren such as Azizi Mohammad Yusuf, Azizi Mohammad Rafi, Azizi Ali Azfar and Azizi Azimuddin and brethren Khurshid Ahmed Sahib Khawar. My eagerness to meet them can be inferred from the following incident. When Aligarh Madrasah shut down for the summer vacations I immediately left for home, it was twelve noon when I disembarked at Barabanki Train Station,  in those days there was no train up to Fathepur and one had to take yakas [17]from Barabanki to Fathepur. By coincidence the day I arrived the Satrikh Mela was underway and all the carriages had been commandeered by travellers to transport them to Satrikh. I was so consumed with my zeal and keaness to be home with my friends that heedless to the intense heat of the afternoon sun in the month of Jyestha [18] I deposited my baggage with a potter and started off on foot. By the time I got to Dewa, I was in a horrible, sorry state and the painful blisters that had formed on my feet made it impossible for me to take another step.  My youngest Mumani Sahiba, the wife of Moulvi Amjad Ali Sahib was in Dewa at that time and it had been my normal practice, on my way back and forth from Barabanki, to stop over and pay my respects to her but this time my attendance was perforce fated. Mumani Sahiba scolded and admonished me for my foolishness and recklessness. She had me bathed immediately and applied medicated balm to my blistered feet. At that point, I did not experience acute pain but later that night I developed a high fever. The result of my impatience and haste was that instead of reaching Fathepur the same day as I intended, I arrived there four days later, and instead of turning up on foot or in a yaka, on the shoulders of kahars [19] seated in a palanquin.

In those days, a month or a month and a half stay in Fathepur felt like a mere few days or even a few hours stay. Most of the hours were spent in the company of close friends; eating, drinking, sitting around, getting around, all took place together. Fazal Chacha, Hakeem Moulvi Fazalullah Sahib (Marhoom) who was an elder amongst elders and a child amongst children would sometimes participate in our gatherings and would delight us with his entertaining conversation. In the evenings we would all gather at some relative’s house or the other where we would experience and revel in the affectionate kindness and regard of our seniors and elders, the warm-hearted friendliness of our peers and the delightful chatter of the younger children. Ultimately this period was one of such enjoyment and contentment that one would never be destined to experience again, nor hope for any possibility of in the future. To leave this company behind and return to the Madrasah was sheer predition. But the consequence of my comings and goings, of engaging and fraternising had an impact if not on the entire clan, on at least on those close to me; it brought about a change in their approach to progressive education, an added inclination towards learning, and a thought process that gained a wider scope in expanse and tolerance. In fact, there were still people at that time who considered the very learning of the English language heresy. Therefore, on hearing the fact of my admission to Aligarh Madrasah, Chacha Jan, Moulvi Hakeem Masoom Ali Sahib Meh (Marhoom), wrote a lengthy and protracted letter to Chacha Marhoom (Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib Marhoom) in which he quoted a hadith and placing a great deal of emphasis on it’s interpretation he maintained that, “The blame and responsibility of turning this child into a non-believer with his blind irreligiosity lies on your head.” How could Chacha Marhoom, who was himself personally familiar with the (Madrasah) student’s fulfilment of their religious duties and the arrangements made for their religious education accept that mere entry to the Madrasah could destroy an individual’s religious faith?  But those people who were not acquainted with the actual situation were likely to be subject to such erroneous notions. Because people’s view of English education and particularly their perception of Aligarh Madrasah was so distorted, my every utterance and action was viewed as presenting proof of their pre-conceived assumption.  It so happened, that once when I was home in my vatan, during the Madrasah’s summer vacation, Barey Mamo (Moulvi Abbas Ali Sahib Marhoom) and Shanglay Mamo (Moulvi Nawazish Ali Sahib Marhoom) were sitting at home one evening discussing some matter regarding Tibb, I too was present at the gathering. Moulvi Nawazish Ali delineated the four types of Tibb, Tibb Nabvi[20], Tibb Unani[21], Tibb Angerezi[22], and Tibb Vedic[23]. At this, I remarked that Tibb Nabvi should not be included in these categories since it is not based on established principles. It is indeed narrated that some people would approach the Last Prophet and complain about certain diseases, and he, with respect to their habits and the air and environmental conditions of that country would recommend the use of certain medications. Accordingly, these medicines are mentioned in the hadith and a certain gentleman collected and compiled and named them Tibb Nabvi, it is not, however, a special method of treatment. I had only to mention this that Shanglay Mamo lost his temper and launched into a protracted argument while reiterating that Tibb Nabvi like the other Tibbi practices has its special method of treatment and is moreover superior to all the others. I responded that if that was so then it should similarly possess the means to treat all ailments which is clearly not the case. In short, this altercation got to be long-drawn-out and Mamo Sahib in his rage branded and condemned me as a misguided nonbeliever who had been led astray and much more. Seeing the direction this was taking I became totally silent. My Phupi Sahiba who was present in the house came in, took my hand and led me away. By the morning this incident was being talked about in every house. Some good-humoured individuals also spread the rumour that Moulvi Nawazish Ali Sahib would not accept me as his son-in-law until I renounced my false beliefs before the entire gathering at the time of my Nikah. Friends asked if such a demand was stipulated, what would I do? I replied, I am ready and willing to acknowledge what I regard as the truth in this matter not merely in one place but in a thousand places, and, I will never, ever accept any concept I consider to be erroneousness.

Amongst the assets I carried back with me from the Madrasah to the vatan was an appreciation of Farsi poetry and verse as well as Maulana Shilbi’s erudite discourses on poetry. Certain friends and brethren who had the temperament and natural inclination towards versifying were encouraged and motivated by these discourses and some individuals such as Azizi Mohammad Yusuf and brethren Khurshid Ahmed Sahib Khawar and other began composing verses in Farsi and after a few days of practice penned commendable poetic compositions. Azizi Mohammad Rafi had prepared a notebook, whenever any amongst us verbalised a lyric he would enter and transcribe it in his notebook which he had named “Merka Sukhan”[24]. Although Azizi Mohammad Rafi did not himself compose poetry, he by no means lacked the familial fine perception and comprehension of good verse. And to tell the truth, he was the one who would through various means persuade us to compose our poems. This activity continued amicably for a considerable length of time, but after a few years, the thought occurred to me that if I do not put an end to this poetic competition it might eventually lead to animosity and resentment, as indeed ensued between Azizi Mohammad Yusuf and Bhai Khurshid Ahmed. Because of this I stopped composing poetry within this gathering and removed all my previous compositions from the notebook. These writings remained safely with me as a remembrance, and in certain ways, in spite of their many flaws and shortcomings were not without their charm. During my Lucknow sojourn, about which I will write at length later, a trunk of mine was stolen that contained besides many valuable effects, all my certificates and various important papers as well as these unique and old compositions. All were forever lost and wasted.

In 1885 I sat for my Intermediate Exam and that same year I married the daughter of my Shanglay Mamo, Bibi Majida. Although it had been my firm intention not to marry until I had completed my education and procured a job, however being engaged, and then that too within one’s family;  it is to be expected that all such plans will invariably fail and must perforce be revised since they are never likely to succeed. Subsequently, that is what happened in my case as well. Munshi Abid al-Samad Sahib, the only son of Shanglay Mamo, an excellent and worthy young man passed away after an extended illness. Family circumstances demanded that both his daughters be married at the same time and as soon as possible. The younger daughter was engaged to Munshi Aleemullah of Dewa and they too were demanding an early marriage. This issue involved one’s brethren and relatives, it was not just my mother and my brother, but our entire clan that was insistent on this.  Under the circumstances, it was impossible for me to get my way in this matter. However, after my marriage, I continued with my education, so much so that in 1889 I passed my B.A. Exam. This was the first exam held at Allahabad University and we all had to go to Allahabad for it. The Principal of Aligarh College was Mr Theodore Beck. Mr Beck was one of those conscientious and noble-minded Englishmen, who though born in England, once having entered and lived in Hindustan for an extensive period of time had closed all exit doors. From the start I was amongst his very favourite students, he called me gentle Masood and was always extraordinarily supportive and solicitous. Once, when I came down with a bout of diphtheria, he would check on me twice a day and throughout my illness would bring with him specially prepared food and drink that could not be made at the Madrasah and ensure I ate and drank them before he left. In other words, he showered more compassion and consideration on his students than any teacher possibly could.  When the examination results were announced I was at Aligarh and some of us (students) went together to meet Beck Sahib. Beck Sahib’s joy was a sight to behold. He questioned each of us in great detail about our future plans; about me, it was settled that I would spend my vacation wherever I wanted, but I was to report to the college on the day it reopened. There was a vacancy for a teacher in the school at Rupees 200 a month, for which I would be nominated, I would have to live at the college and would have the responsibility of supervising some of the smaller boys and in return. I would not be charged for board and lodging. Moreover, my appointment as a lecturer would allow me to prepare for the Allahabad High Court Law Exam. Thus, after the summer vacations, in accordance with this plan, and after reviewing the tasks consigned to me, I began my work. During the winter vacations, Beck Sahib took a trip down to Hyderabad Deccan and although the era of the Honourable Nawab Liaq Ali Khan (Marhoom ) Prime Minister of the Mehboob Shahi State had ended its effects were still evident. Every minister and every official considered it essential that he maintain a high (Indian/Eastern) standard of living befitting his rank and office. Beck Sahib was a guest of Nawab Imad-ul-Mulk Syed Hussain Sahib Bilgrami (Marhoom) and as a Principal of a Muslim College, he was regaled with great hospitality, honoured and feted. For the first in his life, he had the opportunity to experience the splendour and grandeur of the Mushraqi (eastern) aristocrats lifestyles and the resplendent magnificence of their attire. His admiration and the profound impression it left on him was such that he enjoyed talking about it for a long time thereafter. Hyderabad’s weather and climate, Hyderabad’s sights and vistas, Hyderabadi officials’ style and mode of living, Hyderabadi apparel and clothing, Hyderabadi festivals and banquets, in short, there was nothing that he did not like.

It was not long after Beck Sahib’s return that Sir Asman Jah (Marhoom), at that time the Secretary of Justice in Hyderabad State, on his way back from Shimla where he had gone for some work, decided to make a stop-over at Aligarh to observe the working of the Madrasah. He was accompanied by his associates Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib, Viqar-ul-Mulk, Secretary Revenue, and Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib, Fateh Nawaz Jung, Secretary Home-Department. That evening these two gentlemen came down to the Cricket field to watch a match being played between two groups of college boys. Syed Mehmood Ali (Marhoom) was the bowler and I was batting; Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib asked who the young man on the crease was, and someone apprised him with my name, vatan, and so on. Moulvi Sahib stayed for a bit and then left, but before doing so instructed the boys to inform me, when I came back, that I was to go meet him at Sir Syed’s house that very evening. When I completed my inning and came back the boys briefed me of this exchange. Since I was not too familiar with Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib other knowing than that he was from Fathepur, I was unsure if I should go or not. Several friends were of the opinion that I should most certainly go, consequently after the Maghreb prayers I arrived at Sir Syed’s house. After inquiring at length and in great detail about my life he informed me that he needed a translator for his office in Hyderabad, and although he also had advertisements put out for that position over there he had been unable to find a fitting or suitable candidate so far. I politely responded that I could not make a decision without consulting and discussing the matter with Beck Sahib and others.

From there I went straight to Beck Sahib’s bungalow and related the entire account. Beck Sahib disclosed that “later that evening there is a dinner at Sir Syed’s where I will be meet Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib and will confer with him on this issue. Come and see me tomorrow morning.” I do not know what transpired in that conversation between Beck Sahib and Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib, but the next morning when I met Beck Sahib I was told that “All the preliminaries have been worked out, the salary for that position is Rupees 200 per month with good prospects for promotion. Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib will put forward a formal proposal to the Madrasah to take you away. In my opinion, you should definitely accept the position. Furthermore, Hyderabad is an interesting place, and a Muslim Principality. But, Sir Syed, it appears, is opposed to your going, let us see what happens after the proposal is presented. In the meantime, I will discuss this subject with him again.”

Very soon after that dinner, Sir Asman Jah’s party left for Hyderabad and things were left up in the air. About fifteen days after this episode, Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib’s formal proposal was received. As promised Beck Sahib conferred with Sir Syed on this issue. Sir Syed remained resolutely steadfast in his opinion, but after a lengthy exchange proclaimed, “If you want to send him and he himself wants to go, I will not object to it, but send him to me and I will explain all the issues to him one time, then you and he have my permission to proceed.” This was no exceptional demand, but Sir Syed’s awe-inspiring and imposing personality had such an effect on all of us that when following Beck Sahib’s directive, I arrived at Sir Syed’s kothi, my face was flushed, and my heart was thumping furiously. On being informed of my arrival Sir Syed summoned me inside where, as was his custom, he was seated on a charpoy with a table drawn up next to it on which he was writing something. He gestured towards me and I sat down on a chair, he put his pen down and turning his attention towards me declared, “I am well acquainted with this entire business; it was only a short while ago that Beck Sahib came back from Hyderabad, he is totally enamoured by the undisputable magnificence and grandeur, the sociability and cordiality that he encountered there, but he no inkling or knowledge of the internal state of affairs or the intrigue and squabbles amongst the officials. The salary that Mehdi Hasan has offered you is totally inadequate for your expenses there. What will happen is this, you will have to take a small house on rent in the city to live in, and since you will be unable to afford a cook on this salary you will have to keep a maid and the distance and separation from wife and family and the inherent loneliness of your situation, will make the formation of an adulterous relationship inevitable and that is only natural. Other than all these things, the issue of mulki or ghairmulki[25] is such that no matter how hard and with how much honesty a man may strive, he cannot in truth hold out any expectations for advancement. On the contrary, here there are plenty of possibilities and prospects for you, you possess a BA degree and are preparing for your High Court Exam if you pass getting you appointed as a Munsif will require no special effort. In this country, where at one time the department of Sheristadar in the law courts was heavily populated by Muslims, they have now been emptied (of them) and the government itself is sensible to this. After being made cognizant of all these circumstances, you now have the liberty to choose what you think is suitable for you. I am not opposed to your going to Hyderabad, nonetheless, I thought it appropriate to inform you of the conditions there.” At this, I replied, “Sir who can understand these issues better than you? And who else can counsel and guide me or be more considerate and caring towards me than you?” We were still thus conversing when Maulana Altaf Hussain Sahib Hali walked in and Sir Syed’s attention turned towards him, I offered my salaams and left.

I went and recounted this entire discourse to Beck Sahib who replied, “Perhaps Sir Syed is not aware that I have already given Moulvi Mehdi Hasan my absolute assurance to send you, the matter has been decided and finalised and now there is no possibility of any reversal or change.  I will talk to Sir Syed again about this,  you should, however, prepare for your departure.”

The next day I received a note from Beck Sahib, he wrote that “I have clarified this issue with Sir Syed and he bids you farewell and God’s blessings. You should definitely leave by day after tomorrow. I gathered whatever items I could obtain hurriedly for my journey and on the 21st of February 1890 I set off in the direction of Hyderabad via Jabalpur. I had sent telegrams to Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib and Bhai Khurshid Ahmed Sahib. Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib sent his man to Hyderabad station for me and Bhai Khurshid Ahmed Sahib himself along with some friends came to the station to receive me. In those days Bhai Khurshid Ahmed practised law, he took me straight home with him to Shidi Amber Bazar where he then resided.

The next day I met Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib and handed him the letter of recommendation that Beck Sahib had sent. Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib greeted me with great courtesy and conversed with me on various subjects for a considerable length of time. During the course of this conversation, he asked me if I had seen the letter Beck Sahib has written about you? When I replied in the negative he gave me the letter to read. Beck Sahib had written briefly about Sir Syed’s opposition, and, about me, he had, with great affection used words of praise that I, in reality, did not consider myself deserving of. Having read the letter, I returned it to Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib who remarked, “My expectation is that you will prove yourself just as Beck Sahib has written.” During this meeting, it was agreed that I should go to the office today and sign in my attendance, and by tomorrow shift to his house. Consequently, I followed up accordingly. In those days, the Home Office was located in the building that later became famous as Abid ki dukaan.

During my time in Hyderabad, I have seen many ministries, but the reality of the fact is there has never been a ministry better than that of Sir Asman Jah. Although Sir Asman Jah Marhoom was the least educated amongst all those Ministers that I came across, he, however, possessed an innate perception and knowledge of people’s qualities, and the faculty and capacity to understand others, and most important of all there was a resolute firmness and stability in his character. With much observation and discerning insight he had chosen Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib, Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, as his deputy and had left the entire running of the State to him; the result was that everything worked according to a methodical system and every official was well-versed with the policies of the government and would accordingly strive towards implementing these. They also knew that the administrator who held the reins of government kept a sharp eye on matters and was well aware of affairs and working of each department and official. Because of this, within a few days, the door to dishonesty was shut closed and the inertia that had beset all the departments was banished. However, Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib’s extraordinary governance and his strict administration provided the ammunition required for the growth of a large, nation-wide opposition that included not just officials but also a group of Jagirdars as well. The participation of the Jagirdars was a result of the regulations Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib sought to impose on them, he was also inclined to ignore the basis and source of the endowment granted to these individuals. And so, when I began my employment, there were two opposing factions of office-holders, one that supported and sided with the current government and the other that was averse to it. The later faction included Sir Khurshid Jah (Marhoom), Nawab Sarwar Jung (Marhoom), Mohsin-ul-Mulk (Marhoom), Moulvi Syed Ali Bilgrami, Akbar Jung and other State office-holders. Relationships had got strained to such an extreme level that those employed by the government were afraid to meet those considered antagonistic to the government. I, of course, was unfamiliar with this state of affairs. Because of our prior acquaintanceship Moulvi Abid ul-Ghani Sahib, son of Maulana Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib Muhaddis Saharanpuri, a senior alumnus of our college had started visiting me regularly. Often, he would come by in the evening and we would go for a walk together. One evening as we strolled past Mohsin ul-Mulk’s house Moulvi Abid ul-Ghani Sahib said to me, “You have now been here for quite a while, but you haven’t yet met Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk Bahadur.” I replied, “Immediately after arriving I went to see Mirza Nasir Beg Sahib (Nasir Jung Marhoom), I met him, and he invited me to dinner as well, but I haven’t had an opportunity to meet Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk. He responded, “Come let me introduce you to Nawab Sahib, this is a good time to meet him.” Without giving it any thought or consideration, I went along with him. It was summertime and Nawab Sahib was seated all by himself on the terrace of his house. Moulvi Abid ul-Ghani Sahib introduced me; Nawab Sahib while pursuing his education had himself lived in qasba Dewa and was to some extent familiar with the shurfa of Fathepur. Nawab Sahib’s quick-wit, affability and ebullience were such that it was impossible for anyone not to fall under his magical spell and be captivated by his charm. The government at that time had more or less curtailed all his powers, the Office of Finance existed only in name, every secretary would present the financial matters himself to the concerned department and on acceptance would issue the directive. Once the decree was issued, an exact copy of the ordinance requested would be sent to the Department of Finance for entry into the records. Perhaps Moulvi Sahib might not have verbalised it, but the greatest injustice being inflicted on him was that visits by people especially State officials were viewed disapprovingly. Nawab Sahib possessed a warm-hearted personality and this avoidance and holding back was exceedingly distressful to him. Therefore, anyone who continued to pay him constant visits was considered a blessing and was accorded extraordinary attention. Moulvi Abid ul-Ghani Sahib would deliver the letters sent by Sir Syed’s to both gentlemen, i.e. Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib (Viqar-ul-Mulk) and Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib (Mohsin-ul-Mulk). But as was his habit and style, Mohsin ul-Mulk’s natural charisma and conduct towards him had made him into an admirer and a regular visitor at Nawab Sahib’s. After this what was one to expect from the current government at that time? Consequently, Viqar-ul-Mulk told him in plain words that, “There is nothing more that I can do for you.” Although I had now been in Hyderabad for quite some time, my nature and temperament was such that I had remained basically oblivious to all these factional issues and such matters. When I was leaving, the undoubtedly sagacious Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib cautioned me that, “Your superiors will not approve of your coming here, but if there is no interference from them on this account then you can come see me whenever you like.” I replied, “I will indeed continue to come and go and deem your scholarly company my good fortune.”

In those days Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib spent most of his time in the perusal of books and these were predominantly  the topic of discussion when I was in his company. I had probably meet Moulvi Sahib no more than three or four times when information of my visits reached Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib. Since the Chief of the Police, Akbar Jung was not a supporter of the current government Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib did not receive any intelligence reports from that office, consequently, Moulvi Sahib had himself set up his own spy network and through this he would obtain this kind of information which would be reported directly to him.  On receiving word of my vists he complained about it to Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib (Fateh Nawaz Jung) at a dinner at the Nizam Club.  Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib came back from dinner around eleven, eleven-thirty and sent for me. The manservant informed him that I had gone to sleep and was told to “wake him up and bring him here.” In such matters, Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib was totally oblivious to the discomfort of others. I went in rubbing my eyes; he was in the drawing-room changing his clothes. Sheikh Shujaat Ali Sahib, who was Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib’s childhood friend was also present. Moulvi Sahib told me to sit down and I seated myself on a chair. He asked, “Is it true that you are a regular visitor at Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib’s?” I replied, “Actually, I am not a regular visitor anywhere, but it is true that I have paid Nawab Sahib a visit perhaps two or three times.” He retorted, “You are well aware that he is strongly opposed to the present government, and Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib will not countenance the fact that an individual who is well acquainted with classified official matters should be a regular guest at Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib’s.” I am not in the habit of offering sharp retorts, especially to my elders and superiors, but at that moment, in my overwrought, upset state, I replied in a somewhat insolent tone, “In the first place I was not aware that Moulvi Mushtaq Hussain Sahib does not approve of anyone visiting Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib. secondly, I have heard that he himself regularly visits Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib, and it a strange thing that while he himself can meet him, others should refrain from doing so. Thirdly, I am a translator in the Home Office, I am not privy to any confidential material, so there is no danger of any disclosure of secrets. There remains the fact that a few times Moulvi Mehdi Ali Sahib has summoned me to assist him in some translations, this is not included in my official duties and if you so desires this activity can easily be stopped. And clearly, the issue is that for his excellency, the honourable Maulana, to entrust such an individual with confidential tasks whose actions have to be watched and curtailed and whose honesty cannot be depended does not appear to be appropriate.”  Noticing my trembling lips, flushed face and the tone of my voice, Sheikh Shujaat Ali Sahib, who was a scion of the Lucknow Sheikhzadas and one of our brethren said to me, “You are offended, but all that Nawab Sahib has said has been offered by the way of counsel and advice. You should leave now, I will discuss this issue with you myself some other time.” This is what I wanted as well, I got up and left. After that, Sheikh Shujaat Ali Sahib did not bring up this matter again, but I now understood the tenor of these people and I reduced my visits to Nawab Mohsin ul-Mulk’s.

Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib was not a very highly educated man, but he was extremely intelligent and astute, and his administrative skills were outstanding. Within a short period, he had transformed the Home Office in such a manner that it was counted amongst the best-run offices in the government. In those days the Department of Law, Police, Committees, Registration of Stamps, Education and others, the Mint and the Court of Wards were all associated with this office. To ensure efficiency and good-management, Nawab Sahib had devised numerous rules and regulations and promulgated them through resolutions. He had also gathered together a group of intelligent and proficient officials. Since I was his protégé and lived in his house he reposed great trust in me. One day he asked me about a particular officer, the standard of the work he did and what his opinion of Nawab Sahib was. I said, “He does his work with great diligence but what his perception of you is, I have no knowledge of that.” At this Nawab Sahib made a face and said, “We get no help from you in such matters, nor attain any account of things at the office.” I did not care for the manner in which he asked this, I responded, “From the time I enter the office, I am absorbed in my assigned work and have no time to socialise with co-workers or ask about their views or issues, and even if did I doubt if I could carry out this task. Such and such Munshi Sahib is suitable for that.” My answer did not meet with approval, he declared that “What is a man who lives his life with his eyes shut?  The only difference between a living being and a dead one is one sees and hears and the other neither sees nor hears.” I thought it better not to extend this argument and remained silent.  But thanks be to God, I never let myself be drawn into these espionage undertakings that Nawab Sahib expected of me. As a consequence of this clash of personalities, the type of relationship that ought to have developed between Nawab Sahib and me could not be established.  But in spite of these differences and our natural dispositions, all of Nawab Sahib’s confidential papers were in my custody and whenever he went on his tours and trips he took with him.

Thus when he took a month-long leave to visit Hindustan and I accompanied him there. Numerous noteworthy events made this journey a memorable one. At that time Nawab Fateh Nawaz Jung’s star was at its apex. Not only was he the Home Office Minister and Chief Justice of Hyderabad he was also the State Director of the Railways and Mineralogy. In those days the Director of the Nizami Government State Railway had a special carriage allocated for his use which was richly furnished with red velvet seats, mirrors, tables and chairs. The State Director could use this for both official trips as well as personal ones. This carriage was used throughout for our entire journey. At that time Syed Mahmud was a Judge at the Allahabad High Court and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Sahib (Marhoom) was staying there with his son. Ross Masood was very young and I saw him for the first time. I picked him up and placed him on my knee, on seeing Ross Masood on my lap Sir Syed remarked, “One had heard of Kiran-al-Saeeddin[26], but this is Kiran -al- Masooduddin.” We stayed in Allahabad for only two days. During our Lucknow sojourn Moulvi Mehdi Hasan Sahib paid a visit to Raja Kazim Hussain Khan Sahib, Rais of Bahatwamau at Kaiser Bagh, I accompanied him there. Raja Sahib asked me my name and I complied, he then inquired about my father’s name to which I replied that “It was unlikely that you, sir, would be acquainted my father since he lived his entire life in Delhi.” On my mentioning Delhi, Raja Sahib persisted, “Tell me his name?” When I told him the name he summoned me to approach him and embraced me with great warmth and said, “Perhaps you are not aware of the kinship that exists between us.” He then provided a lengthy explanation of our shared genealogy. (In spite of the close kinship, it appears that religious differences i.e. Sunni-Shia,  have kept the two families from further marriage connections.)

It was not long after our return from this journey that Moulvi Dastagir Sahib, the manager of Nawab Iftikhar-ul-Mulk, Mukhtar-ud-Duala Sahab Jung Bahadur, Minister of Police passed away and this post became vacant. After a prolonged exchange of confidential correspondence between Fateh Nawaz Jung and Nawab Sahab Jung, my nomination for this position was announced. As a result of this, I now earned two hundred and fifty Rupees instead or two hundred Rupees. This appointment, unfortunately, had such a profound impact that I was unable to gain any relief from financial difficulties till almost the very end of my career and it consistently created obstacles and impediments in my advancements and my earnings. Nawab Sahab Jung Bahadur was a close relative of Sir Salar Jung 1 (Mir Turab Ali Khan Marhoom) and was a nobleman with a reserved disposition and reticent habits. If one were to write down his life, an entire book and that too a very engaging book could be composed. But for my purpose, it would suffice to say that Nawab Sahib rarely ventured out other than for specific and necessary reasons and would, for the most part, seldom meet people. If an official found it necessary to meet him for some reason, he would have to first write and procure an appointment time. Generally, Nawab Sahib would see people at night; during the day he would sleep or spend his time in solitude. There was a fixed time and procedure for every task. His assistant was instructed to complete his work at the office secretariat and on completion of the day’s work collect and compile all the papers neatly in a prescribed order and sent them across. Since assembling the day’s paperwork was not a substantial task,  with Nawab Sahib’s permission all the secretariat work of the Departments of  Police, Postal Services, Registration and Stamps, Mint, Religious Affairs and others were delegated and handed over to me. These tasks I continued to execute in this manner year after year and when the any of the Departmental Secretaries left I would take on their management as well, and at times this would continue for months on end. Consequently, Nawab Sahab Jung Bahadur had come to trust and rely on me to such an extent that he would not agree to release me. Eventually, this reliance and confidence on me instead of being a blessing and asset became a hindrance and disadvantage for me. I could neither benefit in any way from leaving his direct employment nor did any Secretary have the courage to extricate me from this Amir and promote and assign me to another governmental department. Albeit, all the Secretaries I had the opportunity to work with were unanimous in the opinion that I was worthy of a promotion. Some head of Departments such as Nawab Imad-ul-Mulk Marhoom (Moulvi Syed Husain Bilgrami Sahib), Secretary of Education and Moulvi Mir Afzal Husain Sahib, Supreme Court Justice both attempted several times to induct me into their departments, but Nawab Sahab Jung Bahadur would not comply. In light of this situation, I realised that even though I would have to continue to report to Nawab Sahib I could at least change my Secretariat affiliations from the offices of Law, Police and Public works, and thus perhaps a change for the better would be possible in the future. In those days Moulvi Mir Kazim Ali Sahib was the Secretary of Building and Construction, the position of his assistant was vacant, and I decided to try and apply for the post and with difficulty managed to convince Nawab Sahab Jung Bahadur to send in my application to the Department of Building and Construction. This Department was also under Nawab Sahib’s jurisdiction, because of that, although with great reluctance, he agreed to this proposal. And although he sent in my application he did not back it up in any way. Moulvi Mir Kazim Ali Sahib was one of those exceedingly cautious people who undertake every action after a great deal of contemplation and thought and would ponder each and every item for months at a time.  However, he was close to several our family members and was an old friend of Haji Raizuddin Sahib, Tehsildar, Hafiz Mohammad Bashir Sahib, Superintend of Police, and Hakeem Mohammad Rashid Sahib (2nd) Taluqedar, and also knew me well. But even in this case, he deliberated in his usual manner. The Right Honourable Sir Maharaja Yamin-us Sultanate Kishen Pershad Bahadur was the Prime Minister and because he and Nawab Sahab Jung Bahadur were not on amicable terms I assumed that it was his prevarication that had put this matter on hold. But in fact, this was not the case and Sir Maharaj himself told me during a conversation that, “I am prepared to do whatever is necessary for you, but your Nawab Sahib is determined that you will not be transferred from the Ministry of Law and Police. Several times he has spoken to me about this matter on a personal level, nevertheless, I have written to him that it is preposterous that you are thwarting the advancement of an individual who has spent a considerable segment of his life in your service and whose abilities and proficiency you yourself have lauded.” Ultimately, after almost one year of negotiations and through Sir Maharaja Bahadur’s mediation my application was accepted. But with the caveat that I would continue as Nawab Sahib’s assistant. In this manner after almost fifteen years of working in the Office of the Secretariat of Law, I was finally detached from it.

Over this long period of time I had occasion to work with the following Minsters; Nawab Fateh Nawaz Jung, Imad Jung 1, Mr Hormasji N. Vakil, Nawab Sarbuland Jung Bahadur, Moulvi Aziz Mirza Sahib, Nawab Nizamat Jung Bahadur. The way I executed my work in this Ministry, and the trust that was placed in me and my work can be measured by the remarks that Mr Hormasji N. Vakil wrote about me at the time his assessment of the Secretariat and which are likely to be amongst the old archival records of the concerned office. “The manner in which Masood Ali has worked with me, the competence and integrity with which he has fulfilled his obligations makes it essential for me to recognise and acknowledge his contribution, and I have no hesitation in declaring that without his help I would not have for a moment been able to complete the crucial tasks of the Secretariat.” A fact worth noting is that Mr Hormasji N. Vakil had been educated in Britain and was amongst Bombay’s most highly regarded legal professionals. In my opinion, there has not been an Advisor as capable as him since. During his tenure at the Secretariat he shut down the Department of Thugee and Dacoit, and it is difficult to find another example of the tactfulness with which he negotiated with the Government of India about the important issues of Stamp and Coinage. If I were to write about the comportment of the other Secretaries towards me this tale will get exceedingly lengthy and serve no purpose either. All this that has flowed from my pen is self-explanatory in itself.

After my transfer to the Department of Building and Construction, my association was with Moulvi Mir Kazim Ali Sahib who reposed the same confidence and trust in me as had the Department of Law and Police. But around this time, Moulvi Mir Kazim Ali Sahib took three months of sick leave having written to the Government that, “for the Department to continue functioning it is imperative that instead of the Chief Engineer or any other individual, Masood Ali be appointed administrator since I have total credence in his abilities.” This was accordingly approved by the Government. At that time, Mr Muraj was the Chief Engineer and he considered this post his prerogative and there is no doubt that he was senior to me in terms of emolument. Understandably this move was objectionable to him, furthermore, he thought I had a part in depriving him of his due, although in fact, this perception was entirely erroneous since I had not the least knowledge about the proceedings undertaken by Moulvi Mir Kazim Ali Sahib to obtain this managerial appointed for me. He had personally penned the request and had himself gone in person to obtain the acceptance. In those days, in matters of governance, nothing could be done in the entire Kingdom without the council, advice and approval of Mr Walker.[27] Moulvi Mir Kazim Ali Sahib was an official of the old-school and it was impossible for him and Mr Walker to see eye-to-eye and this was reason enough for him to detach himself through early retirement.

Although Moulvi Sahib was considered an exceptionally conscientious and well-regarded civil servant, his recommendation was not followed and after his departure Mr Muraj was appointed in his place. Mr Muraj was a native of Bombay and educated in England, he was among the remarkably good-natured and friendly people of this world and his relationship with me was always excellent. He was also a man of great compassion and generosity, but some of his unscrupulous acquaintances and subordinates began to take undue advantage of this kindliness and began meddling and interrupting the flow of office activities and work. When I tried to stop this, my endeavour merely brought their ire down on me and they began to persuade him that, “You have no importance in this office, no standing or respect, the only with any who carries any weight is Masood Ali, whatever he wants is done. Appearing trustworthy he will first offer you helpful suggestions, if you concur, well and good, if you disagree then he will in his presentation manage to get it blocked by Nawab Moin Bahadur.” The nature of this false accusation was such that it took root in Mr Muraj’s heart. One day, Mr Muraj called me and related this entire affair to me and revealed the names of all those who had planted these ideas in his head and said to me that, “If you agree, and are not opposed to it, I can try and get you transferred from this Ministry.” I replied, “I will gladly accept your offer since there is can be no opportunity for my advancement here. But the appropriate thing to do first is to set to rest all those notions about me that have been conveyed to you, and the easiest way to do this is to instruct the office Manager Sahib to take out some records on file where our opinions on a matter were not in accord and see whose suggestions met with Nawab Moin al-Maham Bahadur’s approval. Accordingly, the Manager Sahib was summoned and appropriately briefed. He produced five cases-files amongst which Nawab Sahib agreed with the Honourable Secretary Sahib on four cases and only one in which he disagreed. Among these five files was the file regarding Ala-Hazrat’s Ooty Palace in which there were serious differences of opinion between me and Secretary Sahib. Ala-Hazrat Mir Mehboob Ali Khan had ordered a palace be built for him in Ooty and instructed that the Department of construction take charge of this. Secretary Sahib took this to mean that job should not only remain under the supervision of the Chief Engineer Construction’s office management without the input of other agencies. I deliberated, that in the first place,  the order of undertaking the task did not connote that and it would not be proper to take the assistance of other managerial departments. I wrote several dissenting notes to this effect, but Secretary Sahib did not agree with me. I showed this file to Mr Muraj and told him that what if those ideas that have been put into your head had been true, then in this matter, where our opinions were clearly in conflict, I would have got Moin al-Maham Bahadur  to write an order against your judgement, but this had clearly not been the case and Moin al-Maham has clearly sided with you on this issue. After seeing this Mr Muraj’s misgivings about me were removed, but I had understood the lay of affairs in the office and the daily meddling and interference of some of the lower officials and realized that to seek a transfer out was the appropriate thing to do and with some convincing managed to get Mr Muraj to agree to this.

At that time the position of Secretary of the Majlis-alee-Adalat was vacant due to the death of Nawab Zain ul-Abideen and with Mr Muraj’s commendation and Sir Maharaja Yamin-us Sultanate Kishen Pershad Bahadur’s benevolence I was appointed to this post. From there to the District Court and from the District Court to the Chief Session Judge Warangal and Medak. It was during my tenure in Medak District, that unanticipated and unheralded, a Farman[28] was issued from Ala-Hazrat Bundgan Alee Mutalee Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur’s Secretariat that, “Since Masood Ali’s tenure of service has been completed,  he should consequently be granted the pension he is entitled to, and, he should be informed that it is suggested that it is expedient that after collecting his pension he return to his vatan to reside there. A grace period of one week should be adequate for this purpose.”

It had been almost eighteen years since I had come to Hyderabad and now a substantial number of my kith and kin and all my immediate family members were there as well. The emotional and psychological agony I had to bear at having to leave them behind in this precipitous manner without the wherewithal to cope with it is beyond description, and I do not even want to recount it. In brief, complying with the orders received, I left my family and children in Hyderabad and instead of seven within five days departed for Awadh.

It was almost twenty years since I had seen my vatan; the older generation had passed on and my contemporaries were away earning their livelihoods. The houses lying in their derelict and delipidated state told tales of their ruin and devastation. Seeing them and remembering their former dwellers shattered one’s heart into pieces. I could not bear this distressing sight for long and after staying a week to a week and a half left for Lucknow where I resided for almost a year at the house of Moulvi Nihaluddin Ahmed Sahib, former Deputy Collector. Moulvi Sahib, had very graciously, given me the upper story of his house to live in which was extremely comfortable and quiet and there I resided with my servants. Moulvi Nihaluddin Ahmed Sahib who had been an employee of the United Provinces had served the Government intelligently, shrewdly and with great honesty was by this time a pensioner and had embraced the life of a recluse.  His time was mostly spent in prayers, fasting and litanies. For a short while in the morning and evening, he would venture out from his seclusion. His regular visitors were also no more than two or four gentlemen such as  Moulvi Maulana Waris Hussain Sahib and Mohammad Nasim Sahib the famous Lucknow Lawyer, Syed Hussain Sahib Nagrami and Mr Mumtaz Hussain Barrister.  Still, these surroundings were a blessing for me compared to Fatehpur and the entire city of Lucknow was available for wandering around and meeting people. But Moulvi Nihaluddin Ahmed Sahib during my brief period of residence kept me so occupied and engaged that I did not have much need for further company.

It was during this sojourn that my trunk was stolen in which, other than two hundred, two hundred and fifty rupees, all my certificates and my entire collection of poetry, i.e. all my childhood and youthful writings and all the poems I had written for certain friends and those that they had written for me were lost. The loss of these is far more lamentable than the loss of the money. Amongst these treasured collections were the poems of Asna dul-Mulk Saeed Aka Ali Shostari, Moulvi Fazal Rab, Arshi Taj Puri, Toufiq Hyderabadi, and Mohammad Saleh Madani and others which had been written for me and were extremely valuable and worthy of high esteem. Some of Bhai Khurshid Ahmed Khawar and Azizi Mohammad Yusuf’s eulogies were also amongst them.

I had been living in Lucknow for almost a year when I learnt that my family was arriving from Hyderabad, and so I left Lucknow and returned to Fatehpur to make arrangements for their lodging. Our own personal house, which had been the kept livable as a result of Walda Marhoom’s untiring efforts, and in which the earliest and best years of my life had been spent had since crumbled and fallen and been levelled to the ground. Some of our relative’s houses, however, were lying vacant, from these I selected Azizi Ali Hamid’s house, spent two to two hundred and fifty rupees to fix it up and set up my family residence there. There was nothing to occupy me in Fathepur other than reading books and leading a quiet retired life. I would go for a walk in the afternoon and after Maghrib seek out the company of brethren Janab Moulvi Hakim Ali Mohammad Sahib (Marhoom) where Janab Munshi Ubaid-ul-Haleem Sahib and Kazi Ronak Ali Sahib whenever he was in Fathepur, would also congregate, Janab Maulana Moulvi Abid Hussain Sahib would also attend regularly. These intellectual gatherings could be seen as a continuation of the age-old traditional gatherings of our venerable forefathers in Fathepur. I would stay for an hour or an hour and a half and then go home. By God!  there was a time that such assemblies were to be seen in every house and every drawing-room, now, in these times one such gathering seems a blessing.

“ Nifs sadi may kia sa ka ho gia. Na wo ronak rahy na wo chal pahl rahy. Har taraq sanata phel gia.” *

*“What happened mid-century? There is no lively glow of happiness left, no hustle, bustle left. Silence has spread out in every direction.”

“May nay Nasim sa kaha, ka Allah yeh batay

Ka is ghar may kabhi palhi see ronak ho jaai ge”*

“I asked Nasim, oh God, will there ever be that previous glow of happiness in this house again?”

People were amazed that I who had observed the traditional gatherings (in Fatehpur) and had spent most of my life in big cities could now, in these current times endure a place like Fathepur.  Their amazement was not entirely misplaced, but those people were not quite familiar with my temperament. I am by nature endowed with the faculty that not only can I engage in every kind of conversation and with people of diverse thinking and ideas and benefit from their thought process and language, but I can also participate in their anecdotes and discussions. And the pleasure I get from reading is a blessing that always and everywhere protects me from the trivials and tribulations of solitude.

I was leading a calm, comfortable life in Fathepur when some friends and particularly my close friend and benefactor Moulvi Mir Turab Ali Sahib wrote to from Hyderabad that Ala-Hazrat Bundgan Alee Mutalee Alali has in his charitable benevolence granted certain people like me permission to return to Hyderabad and live there, and that if I sent in an appeal it would most likely be accepted. I wrote back to him that after coming here I sent a supplication to Janab Sir Ali Imam the Prime Minister of the State, affirming my inculpability but I have not been able to find out to this day if it was ever presented to Ala-Hazrat Bundgan Alee Mutalee Alali  or not, thus what hope can I have of availing this opportunity. An insistent Moulvi Sahib again wrote and suggested that the application should be presented to Ala-Hazrat directly. Although I had no expectations of my petition being accepted, I acquiesced and followed my friend’s recommendation, and Ala-Hazrat most magnanimously accepted my appeal. Thus, leaving my children and family behind in Fathepur I returned to Hyderabad. I got off the train and immediately presented myself to Ala-Hazrat to express my gratitude and offer my Nazar. Ala-Hazrat graciously honoured me by not only accepting my Nazar but conversed with me at length about my and my children’s circumstances.

Almost one year later I went back to Fatehpur to attend to the marriage of my daughter Bibi Tahira. I had yet to discharge these responsibilities when I received an injunction from the Nazim of the Department of Writing and Translation Moulvi Inayatullah Sahib Khuf al-Siddiqnashi Zakaullah Sahib Marhoom to the affect; “With the acceptance of your supplication, the Court of His Exalted and Supreme Eminence has granted you an administrative appointment in this Department  and therefore it is imperative that you immediately report to the translation section and assess and evaluate the subject of Legal Affairs.  Having discharged my duties at the marriage ceremonies I presented myself for work. About seven to nine months later, my family joined me from Fatehpur.

From Hyderabad to Fathepur and from Fatehpur back to Hyderabad, the hardships we faced and losses we suffered in the transfer of households are indescribable. On leaving Hyderabad all our household effects, the culmination of eighteen to twenty years of earnings had to be auctioned off for pennies. The luggage that the family left the house with was almost entirely lost when the box it was packed in was wrecked during the journey. A portion of our house (in Hyderabad) that was under construction was left incomplete because of my hurried departure and collapsed during the rains. In Fathepur we had to once more purchase all the essential household items and then had to leave them behind when we returned to Hyderabad. Through these vicissitudes of life, what was most devastating for me, for which there can be no adequate compensation, is the loss of my books.  At the time of my departure, I set apart and entrusted a vast, treasured collection of books with my friend Moulvi Nazir Hasan Sahib Sukha to dispose of if possible. At that time Moulvi Sahib was associated with the Jagirdari estate of Sir Maharaja Kishen Pershad Bahadur. He mentioned these books to Sir Maharaja who examined the list and sent for all the books which were approximately two hundred to two hundred and fifty in number, he then wrote to me asking their price. I wrote back, “It gave me great pleasure to hear that you sent for those books, I cannot ask you to pay for them.” Maharaja Sahib, may he gain paradise, again insisted that the books had to be paid for. After that neither did he ask for an estimate nor did I ever refer to them again. Like this, some books were lost there after I left, some books were lost here, and some were subjected to the mercy of the railway workers on the way. In the end, as a result of all this, out of a thousand to a thousand and a half books only about five to six hundred are left, and that too in a manner that were there were five volumes three were lost and two left behind.  This devastation was by and large on books in the Arabic language that were in numerous volumes and the most expensive. Thus, in this way, Tareek al-Kamil ibn Aseer, ibn Khaldun, Nafs al-Tayeb, hundreds of book selections were ruined. The account of hardships and loss is lengthy, but this is not the time and nor does it appear necessary to deliberate on it. Instead of lamenting and complaining about my kismet, I ought to be grateful to Ala-Hazrat Bandiga Na-Aali Muta-Aali Maad Salla Aali who in his benevolence and graciousness blessed me with his largesse so that I can live out these last days of my life amidst my family members in peace and comfort.

What were the reasons for the abrupt and premature termination of my employment which other than cause such copious losses, was responsible for such extensive material harm and mental suffering, I have not to date, in spite of all my efforts, been able to find out nor am likely to discover since no government office has in its possession any document other than the Farman mentioned above. This much I have been able to determine, after talking with certain gentlemen, is that Raziuddin Mohammad Imad Jung 2, who was the Chief of the Municipal Police Department was complicit in this matter. This much I know that the aforementioned gentleman was disingenuous with me although I had done him numerous favours that he himself acknowledged not just verbally but in writing as well. All those written accounts were secure in my possession up util my Lucknow sojourn when my trunk was stolen, and all its contents distressingly lost. A former Secretary Police and Public Affairs used to taunt me for a long time that, “Have you now seen the outcome of all the loyalty and support you gave Imad Jung 2?” I would always respond to him that, “My deeds speak for me and his deeds speak for him. But all that happened is nothing new, this has been a long-established practice here in Hyderabad, the examples of Fateh Nawaz Jung, Waqar ul-Mulk, Mohsin ul-Mulk, Sarwar Jung, Sarbuland Jung, Mr Hormasji N. Vakil, Nawab Zulqadar Jung Bahadur and others are there for all to see.

Before I end this troubling account of my life, I deem it appropriate to mention some of my writings and translations. During my student days, it was not possible to indulge in this activity much and even after I started working I had no opportunity, the reason being that during the period of my attachment to the Secretariats headed by Nawab Fateh Nawaz Jung, Moulvi Aziz Mirza, Nawab Sarbuland Jung Bahadur and Mr Hormasji N. Vakil, most of the work associated with the departments of Law, Policing and Public Works was handled by me. Moreover, as the assistant to Sahab Jung Marhoom, I had to represent him at the Public Works and Police Department as well. When all this added up, there was so much work that it was difficult to find time for composing, compiling or translating. Besides working at the office, I spent hours working at home as well. However, when attached to those Ministers who did not themselves work so relentlessly or demand unwarranted work from me, I did manage to get some time to myself. Twice I was fortunate enough to get these opportunities, and I was during this period that I was able to write  “ Kaukaba-ay Hameedi” (The life of Sultan Abdul Hameed Khan Marhoom Sultan of Rum) , “Musheerul Vokala” ( The Handbook of Lawyers/Solicitors ), “Usool- e- Waqiat” ( The principles of recording criminal incidents),  “Halaat -e-Aqwam- e- Jarayem Pesha” ( A Report on Tribes pursuing criminal vocations ) “Qanoon-e-Bainul Aqwam” (The International Law ) – Author : Westlake.[29] All four of these have been lost. Mr Hukan was the Chief of Police at that time and under his directive “The Dastoorul Amal Kotwali Hyderabad” (The Established Procedures of the Department of Police in Hyderabad) was compiled which was a major and necessary task. During my stay in Lucknow, I translated a book called “Waqalat” (Law) that has also been lost.  Other than this I have compiled several Farsi writings and poems that have not been published such as “The poets at the court of Mehmood of Ghazni” and “The Early History of Arabia”, “The Origins of Rubai”, a version of this titled “The Elements of Rubia” has been published. At the Department of Translations “Usool-e- Fiqa- e- Islam “(The principles of ‘Fiqh’ in Islam) Author: Justice Sir Abdul Rahim. Madras High Court and Westlake’s “Qanoon-e-Bainul Aqwam” (The International Law), Mann’s “Qanoon – e- Qadeem” (The Ancient Law), “Aayeen-e- Inglistan “(The Constitution of England) by Dicey, “Shara-e-Islam” (The Islamic Sharia) by Mullah Fareedun and many other books were translated which do not need to be mentioned here. The most important works are the compilation of books on Law and Legal case studies to which I devoted approximately four to five years. When I was involved in the translation of a renowned Arabic book with the corroboration of Maulana Imadi, I compiled, collected and translated “Zamana-ay-Jahiliat kay shoura” (The poets in the ‘Dark Ages’ of Arabia) which have not been published. If it were to be printed it would be of great benefit to Urdu literature and at the same time be of immense help to students of Arabic in their understanding and knowledge of Arabic literature.

My first marriage, as mentioned above was to Bibi Majida the eldest daughter of my Shanglay Mamo Munshi Nawazish Ali. After six or seven years of marriage, she succumbed to cholera and passed away in Fathepur. She gave birth to two sons and one daughter, the older boy lived for two to three years before passing away. The daughter Bibi Razia was married to Sheikh Fareeduddin s/o Sheikh Ali Ahmed, tragically after becoming a mother she also succumbed to this same malady in Hyderabad during my Fathepur days leaving behind one son and four daughters as her reminders.  The second son Saeed Ahmed commonly called Ahmed Saeed is blessedly well settled. His early education was in Hyderabad after which he was sent to Aligarh where he studied up to the BA level and even sat for the exam but was unsuccessful. That same year he was selected for the Hyderabad Civil Service class; I tried my level best that he be given another opportunity to appear for his BA exam but was unsuccessful in this. After passing the Civil Service exam he was posted as a Tehsildar and because he carried out the work entrusted to him with great diligence, honesty, integrity, hard work and amiability, he has risen grade by grade to the level of Deputy Commissioner Nazim Irrigation. He is married to the fortunate Bibi Sughra d/o Hakim Azimuddin and has been blessed by one son and three daughters whose names are Bahir Ahmed, Bibi Zakia, Bibi Sultana and Bibi Atiya. Bashir Ahmed’s education remained incomplete due to impaired vision, nevertheless, he can read and write in English and Persian easily. He also possesses good management skills. In temperament, he is affable and affectionate. He is also familiar with the working of electronics. Amongst the girls, the most educated is Bibi Sultana. She had reached the FA level when she was married off and her education was thus abandoned.

After the death of my first wife, I remained single for about seven years and had no intentions of remarrying. Walda Sahiba was alive at the time and she and Bhai Sahib Moulvi Hakim Mehmood Ali  however, were both adamant that I wed again. Other family members such as Maulana Moulvi Ali Mohammad Sahib, my Phupi Bibi Maryam along with my sister Bibi Khadija (Marhooma) and Azizi Mohammad Rafiq were also insistent on my remarriage. In the end, I gave in to the family pressure and my Nikah was solemnised in Fathepur with Bibi Mohammedi the only daughter of Moulvi Mehram Ali Sahib. Moulvi Shah Mehram Ali Sahib, son of Moulvi Akram Ali Sahib Marhoom, was a Usmani Sheikhzada from Amethi who had married Habibunissa the daughter of Shah Nasiruddin Sahib Marhoom a Sahib -e-Sajjad (scion) of the family of the blessed Sheikh-ul-Islam Bandagi Nizamuddin. Bibi Mohammedi gave birth to several children, of these two sons Rashid Ahmed and Habib Ahmed and a daughter Bibi Tahira survive. Rashid Ahmed was born in Hyderabad and had his schooling here at the Nizam College and graduated from there. Because Nizam College did not offer a Law programme he was sent to Aligarh from where he obtained an MA and an LLB. At this time, he is the Hyderabad City Magistrate. He is married to Bibi Kaneez Fatima, the eldest daughter of Moulvi Mir Nazim Ali Sahib Bansvi. Moulvi Mir Nazim Ali Sahib is from the family of the blessed Hazrat Syed Shah Abdul Razzak Bansvi. On her mother’s side, she is connected to the Makhdoomzadas of Fathepur. Rashid Ahmed is the father of two sons Akhtar Masood and Talat Masood, and three daughters Bibi Nisar Fatima, Bibi Suraiya Jabeen and Bibi Fouzia Zareen. Nisar Fatima passed her Senior Cambridge exams from the Hyderabad Grammar School with the highest grades and is currently studying for her FA at Osmania University.

Habib Ahmed was also born in Hyderabad and having studied for many years at Chadarghat High School he was sent to Aligarh from where he graduated. Currently, he is a District Officer in the Revenue Department. He is married to Bibi Hameeda, the daughter of my Chachazad Bhai Qutabuddin Ahmed. He also has children, three sons, Babur Masood, Rafaat Masood and Azmaat Masood and three daughters Bibi Zubeida, Bibi Taiyaba and Bibi Hajira.  Bibi Zubeida has given her senior Cambridge exam while the other children are still at school.

Bibi Tahira is married to Anwer Ali Kidwai BA who is a Deputy Collector in the State of Agra and Awadh.  Although his family is originally from Juggaur in the District of Barabanki, they have long been settled in Rampur for employment purposes and Jagirdari management. Anwer Ali’s honourable father Moulvi Wahid Ali Sahib ‘Abar’ and his Chacha Moulvi Ahmed Sahib ‘Shauq’ Kidwai are included amongst the well-known poets of the Urdu language.

After our daughter was married and our sons were self-supporting, we had thought that the two of us, husband and wife, having fulfilled our social obligations would have a house constructed far from the city, plant an orchard and spend the rest of our days there in comfort and ease. Accordingly, in keeping with this plan, a cultivated plot of land had already been obtained, but God had other plans.

Nisar Fatima, Rashid Ahmed’s elder daughter had been brought up by her Dadi from the very beginning. When she fell ill some relatives were of the opinion that this appeared to be the onset of tuberculosis, although as was proven later this was not the case. But for her Dadi, for whom she was dearer than life itself, this was enough to make her distraught and distressed. She took the child with her to Waltair (Visakhapatnam) and Madanapalle, spent thousands of Rupees and stayed away almost six months. During this period, she developed an ear-ache; a panel of the finest doctors in Waltair gave their assessment that surgery was essential and that there was no other option. On hearing about her ailment, both her sons Rashid and Habib from Hyderabad and her daughter Tahira and her husband Anwer Ali Kidwai from north Hindustan arrived in Waltair. They were all present for the operation which resulted in her death.  Inna lillahi wa Inna ilayhi raji’un (We belong to God and to God, we shall return).

The sea, mountains and forest sceneries held a great fascination for my late wife, and it so happened that providence provided her with a final resting place located directly facing the sea, and when the tide is high the soaring, scattering spray from the breaking waves reaches her grave. No expense has been spared in constructing the grave with lavish marble.  The Kitabat has been composed by me. Her date of death is 15th Ramzan al-Mubarak, 1351 Hijri, Thursday at 2 o’clock, 12th January 1933.

Because of this unexpected tragedy, my entire life was thrown into a chaotic turmoil. After spending some time in great anguish and grief, on the 21st of Zulqadar 1352 i.e. 7th March 1934, with a commitment to perform Ziarat I left Hyderabad for Harmain Sharif.  After almost three blessed months spent in Ziarat at Mecca Mauzzama and Medina Munawwara, I returned home. Since the Nizam’s Government had put me in charge of the Haj caravan, the deep and profound, heartfelt satisfaction that one gets from visiting such exalted places was not fully achieved. The plan was to visit Bagdad and make a pilgrimage to Karbala during this trip, but Sir Nizamat Jung Bahadur and our other companions decided to abandon this idea and I too was obligated. to forsake this journey.

Sometime in 1363 H (1944) having settled and retired from all my official obligations, I moved into my country house, my hermitage in the midst of an already well-established orchard where I now lead a solitary and reclusive existence.

“aab nah huum umar azizaa rehay, aur nah huum naasheen dost, nah who subatain raahen, na who jalsay.”

My interest in poetry, as I have mentioned earlier, was always present even in my childhood years, but the style of Urdu poetry never quite evoked a poetic response from me. As a result, all I ever wrote is in Persian, and in a manner of speaking I developed a certain level of expertise in this and I had no desire to abandon Farsi  and start of as a novice in Urdu poetry writing. The qasidah (eulogies) I wrote in praise of Ala-Hazrat Bandiga Na-Aali Muta-Aali Maad Salla Aali Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan the Nizam of Hyderabad Deccan has been printed and published. I am in the process of arranging for my Deewan of ghazels to be printed, if it pleases God, it will be published soon.

[1] Hot, dry winds

[2] Flame of the Forest

[3] Thorny Acacia

[4] Judiciary

[5] Greengrocer caste

[6] Men’s portion of the house

[7] Number three of four (brothers or sisters)

[8] Number two of (brothers or sisters)

[9] Unfinished garden

[10] Prayers and talismans

[11] Cures or antidotes and omens

[12] Asafoetida

[13] Masters

[14] Fragments or sections of poems

[15] Poem written in rhyming couplets

[16] Lamentations on the killing of Imam Hussain and his family.

[17] One horse carriage

[18] Third month of the Hindu calendar corresponding to May-June

[19] Palanquin-bearers

[20] Practise of Medicine pertaining to the Prophet

[21] Practise of Medicine based on Grecian Knowledge

[22] Allopathic Practise of Medicine

[23] Ayurvedic Practise of Medicine

[24] “The gathering place for poetry”

[25] Native or non-native

[26] Auspicious meeting of two persons or families.

[27] Sir George Casson Walker

[28] Edict or Command

[29] The List of his literary work is appended below: – * Translations, Co-authorship 1. Kaukaba’ay Hameedia (The pomp of Sultan Abdul Hameed of Turkey) 2. Musheerul Vokala (The Handbook of Lawyers/Solicitors) 3. Usool- e- Waqiat (The principles of recording criminal incidents) 4. Usool-e- Fiqa- e- Islam (The principles of ‘Fiqh’ in Islam) – Author: Justice Sir Abdul Rahim. 5. Qanoon-e-Bainul Aqwam (The International Law) – Author: Westlake 6. Qanoon – e- Qadeem (The Ancient Law) – Author: Mann 7. Aayeen-e- Inglistan (The Constitution of England) – Author: Dicey 8. Halaat -e-Aqwam- e- Jarayem Pesha (A Report on Tribes pursuing criminal vocations) 9. Shara-e-Islam (The Islamic‘Sharia)– Author: Mullah Fareedun 10. Dastoorul Amal Kotwali Hyderabad (The Established Procedures of the Dept.of Police in Hyderabad.) 11. Lughat-e-Qanooni / Muqoolajat-e-Qanooni (The Lexicon of Law and legal quotes/references) – unpublished up until his death. 12. Mubadee-ay-Qanoon-e-Faujdari ( The outlines of Criminal Law) HIS OWN PUBLISHED & UNPUBLISHED CREATIONS 1. Darbar-e-Mehmoodi kay Shora (The court-poets of Mehmood Ghaznavi) – unpublished 2. Rubai Ki Ibtidai Tareeq (The origins of ‘ Rubai ‘, a stanza of four lines in poetry ) 3. Zamana-ay-Jahiliat kay shoura (The poets in the ‘Dark Ages’ of Arabia.) 4. Vikalath (The Lawyers’ Profession) 5. Dewan – e – Mehvi (Persian) (A collection of Mehvi’s Poetry) 6. Nazray Aqeedath (Persian) (An offering of homage) 7. Maqdoom Zadegan – e- Fatehpur Family history in 2 volumes 8. Rehnuma-e- Madina (A guide to Madina ) * All the above except item 12 in section 1 and item 8 in section 2 have been listed in his own autobiography on pages 186 –187 – volume II of “ Maqdoom Zadegan-e- Fatehpur, our family history. (Baber Siddiki)

Masood Ali Mahvi
Version 2
Masood Ali Mahvi in 1904
Masood Ali Mahvi
Bibi Mohammadi and Bibi Razia
Bibi Mohammadi
Masood Ali Mahvi
Hyderabad 8
Unknown children
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Unknown children
Mummy and Papa Jan
Kaneez Fatima, Rashid Ahmed and Bibi Mohammadi
Kaneez Fatima
Seated: Bibi Mohammadi with Nisar Fatima (Meher) and Bibi Tahira. Standing: Kaneez Fatima and friend Sara St
Nisar Fatima (Meher) with her nanny
mummy with talat and sur
Nisar Fatima (Meher) Talat Masood and Suraiya Jabeen
Hyderabad 2
Zubeida, Akthar Masood and Nisar Fatima (Meher)

Hyderabad 7

akthar and talat
Talat Masood and Akthar Masood
Talat Masood and Baber Siddiki and Bibi Sobia
mummy and sisters.2jpg
Suraiya Jabeen, Fouzia Zareen and Nisar Fatima (Meher)
Talat Masood, Fouzia Zareen and Suraiya Jabeen


Nisar Fatima (Meher), Akthar Masood and Suraiya Jabeen
Suraiya Jabeen, Masood Ali Mahvi, Talat Masood, Kaneez Fatima, Fouzia Zareen, Rashid Ahmed and Nisar Fatima (Meher)
Image8 (2)
Bibi Tahira
Jan ami 7th Oct 1933
Bibi Tahira
Bhai Mian, Justice Sharfuddin Ahmed Siddiqi
Sharafuddin Ahmed
Raja Kazim Husain Khan, Taluqdar Bhatwamau
Raja Kazim Husain Khan, Taluqdar Bhatwamau
bullock cart
Bullock Cart or Balle

Moulvi Hakim Mehmood Ali

Version 2
Moulvi Hakim Mehmood Ali with family members on his return from Hajj 1931. On his leftMoulvi Masood Ali Mahvi on his right Nawab Qutub Yar Jung Bahadur.

Moulvi Hakim Mehmood Ali (1851-1941)


Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib Marhoom’s older son was born in Delhi and was brought up under the benevolent tutelage of his honourable father. As was the traditional practice in those days, his education commenced with the reading of the Quran, but neither that nor the primary books in Persian and Urdu had completed when his father passed away. Hafiz Ghulam Rasool Varan who had been one of Zauq Marhoom’s favourite pupils and a close friend of his father took it upon himself to continue the boy’s Arabic and Persian tutoring and with great diligence and kindness helped him accomplish this. Hafiz Varan only taught his students up to this level, those who wished to pursue their studies and interests further would then seek out other ustads to fulfil those requirements. There is a saying in English, “One is a product of one’s environment.” And it is a fact that there are very few individuals who can chart out the course of their lives beforehand and then aim to reach their destination. Most of the time the course of events, one’s emotions and needs cast us into a particular mould and we acquire that same form. At the time that Hakim Mehmood Ali’s schooling under Hafiz Varan ended, he was living in the Habsh Khan Phatak Mohalla in Delhi where Maulana Moulvi Nazir Hussain Sahib Muhaddis Dehlvi was also a resident. Maulana Nazir Hussain’s fame was widespread all over Hindustan and students came from great distances to learn from him. These students would be lodged at various mosques and private residences. The house in which Hakim Mehmood Ali Sahib resided was larger and more spacious than most in the neighbourhood and Hakim Sahib his chacha and mother keen to assist young scholars always had some student in residence. Maulana Moulvi Nazir Hussain Sahib’s repute, interaction with his students and his own natural inclinations drew Hakim Sahib towards enrolling and continuing his education under the Maulana’s guidance in Hadith and Fiqh. The intrinsic truth of knowledge is that the more you learn the greater your enthusiasm for it grows.

His mother had returned to their vatan for the marriage ceremony of her younger brother Sheikh Amjad Ali and other than his Chacha Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib there was no one else in Delhi at that time. On the advice of his elders, he moved to Aligarh to pursue his scholarship under the guidance of Maulana Lutfullah Marhoom, an established and highly acclaimed scholar of his time. Unfortunately, the latter’s ill health had forced him to retire to his native town of Palkhana, and his students had been compelled to disperse thus rendering Hakim Sahib’s stay there infeasible. With the intention of gaining and furthering his education under the guidance of Maulana Moulvi Abid Ali Sahib Firangi Mahal, he set his sights on Lucknow. The Maulana who was familiar with his family and their circumstances welcomed him warmly and arranged for his lodgings and tuitions. Because of Ramazan, there was some time before the instructional sessions began and Hakim Sahib decided to avail of this break to visit his vatan and meet his mother and other relatives there. But God had other plans laid out for him. Maulana Nazir Ali Sahib Marhoom, about whom details will be given later, had come down to Fatehpur and established a course of lectures and educational sessions there. Maulana Sahib’s profound and exhaustive scholarship, his erudite academic knowledge, his humility and unique unanimity was such that no individual who had the good fortune of being in his presence could escape unaffected by his charisma. Furthermore, Hakim Sahib’s mother and other relatives were emphatic that “students from Lucknow and other places have come here to study, what reason is there for you to go elsewhere?” The reasoning was sound and besides the magnetic dynamism of the Maulana had already had its impact.  The idea of leaving was relinquished, and the pursuit of learning was taken up on native soil and continued thus for two to two and a half years.  The academic curriculum was almost complete when the idea of following in the profession of some of his illustrious elders, namely Tibb occurred to him. Introductory books on Tibb were taught by Maulana Nazir Ali Sahib Marhoom after which he resolved to complete his education in this field and attain the necessary clinical skills in Lucknow. There he continued and completed his apprenticeship under the guidance of Hakim Mohammad Ismail Sahib Marhoom and Hakim Ali Mohammad Sahib Marhoom. The fame of Hakim Mehmood Khan Sahib Dehlvi Marhoom’s practise was widespread throughout the four corners of Hindustan and was indeed an incitement for every young Tibbi student who had an interest and means of taking up residence in Delhi. Furthermore, his mother had also left Fatehpur for Delhi which now also prompted him to make the move from Lucknow to Delhi. There he trained under Hakim Mehmood Khan Sahib Dehlvi Marhoom and his son Rashid Shifa-ul-Mulk Hakim Abid al-Majid Khan Marhoom, completed his course of book-learning, received his Sanat and worked at the clinic for an extended period. On returning to his vatan he pledged his services to his rishtay ka chacha Hakim Masoom Ali Sahib Meh and mastered the more abstruse points of this science as the Sanat granted him indicates. With this, his education was complete and at this point. His own family situation now compelled him to seek gainful employment.

A gentleman by the name of Shah Abu al-Hasan Sahib of Kara-Manikpur needed an individual to educate his children and sent out a request Maulana Moulvi Nazir Ali Sahib to assist him in “kindly recommending a student who would undertake this task, for which he would be extremely grateful.” The Maulana chose Hakim Mehmood Ali for this undertaking, aware that the assignment would offer the young man a good opportunity to practice his clinical profession. The Maulana’s decision was such that no one among his students could object to it. Hakim Sahib readily accepted the appointment and remained in Manikpur for approximately two years and fulfilled his obligations while at the same time contributing to the welfare of humanity by pursuing his Tibbi practice. The vicissitudes of life carried Hakim Sahib through various places of employment; at one point following the advice of his friend Moulvi Hakeemuddin Sahib he also studied and obtained a degree in Law from Allahabad University. On a visit home, he was persuaded by Maulana Nazir Ali Sahib to join him in Hyderabad along with a number of his students at the invitation of Nawab Bashir Nawaz Jung, the premier Taluqedar of Karimnagar who wished to avail of the Maulana’s company. Several relatives and kinsmen were already employed and resident in Hyderabad and Gulbarga and so the group made leisurely progress stopping along to meet friends and compatriots on the way to Karimnagar. Nawab Bashir Nawaz Jung Marhoom who had become an ardent devotee of the Maulana hosted the group with great largesse and generosity. After a short stay, the Maulana returned to Fathepur leaving Hakim Sahib behind to pursue his legal practice in Karimnagar. For this he needed a Sanad from legal department of the Nizam’s administration, but since he already possessed a University degree and a certificate from the British government his application was readily accepted by them and he was granted a third-level Sanad by the Nizam’s High Court with which he began his practice within the very same district. A year later he sat for the government examination and received a High Court Sanad.  Karimnagar was not a large district and by this time the author and other relatives had also moved to Hyderabad, therefore Hakim chose to move his practice to the city as well and for the next nineteen to twenty years he continued to execute his official duties with great diligence and conscientiousness; the remunerations too were satisfactory. A post for a lawyer to update the official court system in the district of Warangal came up and Nawab Saeed Jung Marhoom a member of the Supreme Court approached Hakim Sahib with the suggestion that if he was interested in the position he would propose his name for the post. Since Hakim Sahib was amenable to the suggestion, his name was forwarded and approved by the Department of Justice. Only after it was all finalised were we informed about the change. None of us were in favour of this move or advocated his decision to forsake a well-established practice in the city as well as his kith and kin for an increase of a mere Rupees 200 a month, but now there was no point in opposing it. Thus, Hakim Sahib along with his family moved to Warangal for the next ten to twelve years and fulfilled his official obligations while still carrying on with his own legal practice.

In the year 1342 H/ 1924 CE, on the tenth of the month of Shawwal, he embarked on a pilgrimage to the sacred city of Mecca and returned home having performed the divinely ordained pilgrimage of Hajj. Owing to ill-health and more so to the perilous nature of the journey, he was unable to visit the Holy city of Medina. This was a source of tremendous grief to him; therefore, some years later he again performed Hajj and complete the pilgrimage to Medina Sharif.

Hakim Sahib was meticulous and punctilious in the execution of his religious and secular duties.  Diligent and accustomed to hard work, the energy and time he spent he spent on reading and writing would be challenging for a much younger man. Consequently, other than the perusal and inquiry into copious books on Religion, Tibb and Law, he had ample time to compile and compose his own compositions and writings. Amongst these, his treatise on pestilence, plagues, influenzas, which were compiled and transcribed after extensive research and hard work are particularly worth mentioning. The monographs that were written for the benefit of the populace were published in large numbers and freely distributed and were viewed with great respect by professional practitioners. There were no financial expectations from these writings nor were there any monetary gains. However, his legal compilations and writings, especially his astrological summaries brought him considerable financial benefits.

Hakim Sahib was married during his Delhi sojourn to his Chacha, Ali Ahmed Sahib’s eldest daughter Bibi Ruqiya; the Khutbah Nikah had been read by Maulana Moulvi Nazeer Hussain Sahib Muhaddis Dehlvi Marhoom. There were no children from this union and Hakim Sahib and Bibi Ruqiya adopted some of the author and his cousin Qutabuddin Ahmed’s children and bought them up as their own. Bibi Ruqiya passed away while they were still residing in Warangal and the children they had adopted could no longer remain with Hakim Sahib due to their employment or educational demands. Moreover, Hakim Sahib was getting on in years and his governmental employment had also ended, therefore he yielded to our entreaty, wrapped up his life in Warangal and moved back to Hyderabad and started living with us. In those days much of his time was devoted to the worship of the Almighty, scholarly study, reading and writing. The rest of his time was committed to the Dewa Khana which had been his life-long interest. The running of the Dewa Khana was entrusted to a dewasaz, but Hakim Sahib personally supervised it himself. The medicines that were produced were prepared with great care and attention and no expense was spared in their making. A substantial quantity of these were utilised in treating the various maladies and ailments of friends and relatives. Amongst those people who came for treatment, very few were charged.  The younger children of the household would visit the Dewa Khana two even three times daily professing stomach aches in order to get a taste of the sweet and sour churan that was produced there The dewasaz would have liked to curtail them but Hakim Sahib took great pleasure in these visitations and gave instructions that sweets and fruit be handed out along with the churan. During this period, all of Hakim Sahib’s expenses were sustained by profits from his accrued savings, income from his ancestral properties in Fathepur and earnings from the cultivated lands there and so on. Not only was this income more than adequate for own personal expenses it enabled him to regularly assist those relatives from Fathepur who were in need. And in times of need, for those of us whose salaries in those days were a thousand or twelve hundred Rupees, he would offer monetary assistance either in the form of a gift or a loan without interest. Throughout his life, Hakim Sahib endeavoured to keep his body and soul together through his own effort and not rely upon or be dependent on the goodwill of his kith and kin. As already mentioned earlier, Hakim Sahib was very conversant and proficient in Persian and Arabic and had a refined appreciation of poets and poetic compositions. Earlier on in life, he wrote poetry himself as well and according to the customs of the times had studied and practised the composition of Persian poetry. Some of these Persian poems are still in the author’s possession.  He used to tutor in Tibb-i-Arabi (medical Arabic) along with its syntax and morphology as well as the books of Hadiths. Indeed, the author and other members of the family constantly benefitted from his knowledge.

Hakim Sahib’s physical and mental faculties were excellent until the very end of his life. Early one day when he got up for his morning prayers and stepped out of the room for wazzu, he slipped on the stairs and fell. The injury to his back and midriff was severe, getting-up and sitting-up became problematic, and this stumble became the pretext for his death. At approximately ninety years of age, he passed away on the 16th of Rajab 1360 H (7th August 1941). He is buried in the cemetery of Syed Musa Shah Qadri where our other kin such as Qutabuddin Ahmed, Fareeduddin Ahmed and many more lie in eternal rest.

Mohammadi Begum and others
Bibi Rasool Bandi, Mohammadi Begum, Razia Bano Begum, Bibi Ruqaiya Begum



 Bibi Fatima

The only daughter of Sheikh Ahmed Ali lived only eight years after her father’s death. She had an extraordinary zeal for learning and her Chacha Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib, who was unemployed at that time took on her education with extraordinary enthusiasm. Having taught her to read the Quran and Urdu books he began to tutor her in Persian with great accuracy and precision. During this period, she fell ill and after a prolonged illness passed away unmarried. For her mother whose life was still overshadowed by her widowhood, the unremitting anguish of this fresh, eternal loss is beyond words. For many years she mourned and wept unceasingly for her beloved daughter. Throughout her life, if ever the mention came up her distress would be palpable.

She is buried in the Dargah of Hazrat Baqi Billah alongside the Mazar of her Dada Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh.



Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed

The City of Delhi Before the Siege – The Illustrated London News Jan 16, 1858

Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed

Sheikh Ali Ahmed was Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s younger son, he too was born and grew up in Laherpur and received his early schooling at home. After the death of their father, and upon attaining gainful employment Sheikh Ahmed Ali took on the responsibility and care of his younger brother. He took him with him to Delhi and arranged for his education there. Although Ali Ahmed Sahib did not complete the formal course of prescribed schooling, his mastery of Arabic, Persian, Mathematics, and other subjects were exemplary. His Arabic reading and comprehension were effortless as was his fine perception of Persian poetry and discourse; what is more, he took a deep interest in all aspects of knowledge and learning. So much so, that late in life, during his period of employment in the State of Dujana, he undertook the study of the Hadith under the guidance of Moulvi Imam Uddin Sahib a learned religious scholar and received a Sanad from him. He was an avid connoisseur and collector of books; it is doubtful that any other remember of our family had as fine or large a library as his and at that time his library was considered one of the finest in Delhi. When Nawab Saddiq Hasan Khan Sahib, Rais[1] of Bhopal came to Delhi to attend the Imperial Darbar in 1877, he expressed a desire to view Moulvi Sahib’s Kitab Khana. Maulana Moulvi Nazeer Hussain Sahib Muhaddis Dehlvi Ala al-Reham facilitated the visit and accompanied Nawab Sahib on his visit. Nawab Sahib spent a considerable amount of time looking through the books and was clearly inspired by the collection. And if my memory does not fail me, perhaps a couple of hand-written manuscripts of Fan-e-Hadiths were also presented to him as Nazar; some books were also borrowed for copying as well.

Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib had acquired the skills to practice the Khaat Shifea under the tutelage of his elder brother Moulvi Ahmed Ali, but the script he regularly used was somewhere in between the Nastaliq and the Khaat Shifea, and by virtue of its neatness and refinement it was very pleasing to behold.

While he was still a student, with his education yet incomplete,Moulvi Ali Ahmed had without the knowledge of his mother or elder brother  contracted a marriage in Delhi with a young woman who was not from their clan or extended family. For quite a long time no one (else) had any knowledge about this. Eventually,  however, when they were informed, his mother and brother found this marriage completely unacceptable. The reason for this was that in those days (amongst our people) marrying outside one’s biradari and one’s own vatan was considered inadmissible no matter how respectable or high-born or noble the individual might be. Furthermore, Moulvi Sahib’s engagement to Bibi Aleemah, the oldest daughter of Sheikh Umeed Ali had already been agreed upon and this complicated the entire matter even more.  Moulvi Sahib possessed a sensitive temperament and an independent disposition and taking umbrage at his mother and brother’s obvious display of disapproval stayed away from home for several days. How could his mother and brother possibly be comfortable with this situation? A couple of days later he was duly summoned and warmly embraced, and with this reconciliation, family relationships were restored. Nonetheless, this new relationship made him realise the necessity of standing on his own two feet no matter how, and to achieve this he had to seek employment. His education had already been interrupted, now the quest for employment brought it to a total halt. This went entirely against the wishes of his older brother who was of the opinion that his education must continue and once that was completed there would be no problem in securing a suitable government post. But this reasoning did not appeal to Moulvi Ali Ahmed’s intrepid character. In those days, the ruler of the State of Alwar was a man whose fame, virtue and nobility of character was universally spoken of in northern Hindustan, one is of course referring to Maharaja Shri Sheodan Singh (1857-1874), whose generosity, benevolence and tolerance had elevated a minor State like Alwar to an extraodinarily elevated status. Munshi Amu Jan Sahib, a scion of one of Delhi’s noblest families, was the Honourable Dewan of the State. With both ruler and minister of one mind and cut from the same mould the small State of Alwar became a centre for many renowned scholars and experts in the arts. If one were to write a history of all the well-known people who were gathered at Alwar in those days it would constitute a fairly substantial book on its own. To sum things up, since Moulvi Ali Ahmed was well acquainted with Munshi Amu Jan and his kith and kin, and since he was in search of a job, he too headed to Alwar and through the mediation of the late Munshi Sahib was assigned the post of Nazir [2] of the State workshops. The Department of Manufacturing was considered an important department within the State where items ranging from cannons and rifles to all the necessities from the smallest of small items were produced. This department was such that almost every employee of the State had some exigency associated with it which could not be met without the assistance of the Nazir. Because of this, the Nazir of this particular department held an exceptional position amongst the State officials. Moreover, Moulvi Ali Ahmed, in contrast to his older brother, was not one who sought solitude or a sequestered life. Within a short period, he had through his affable behaviour, his resourcefulness and compassion attained a position that commanded both eminence and respect from the State officials. Unfortunately, Munshi Sahib Marhoom’s ascendency and his influence was resented by the kinsmen of the Maharaja and a communal coterie  formed which constantly intriguing and conspired against him. The Maharaj nonetheless had total trust and confidence in Munshi Sahib and therefore none of these schemes was able to reach fruition. This unusual ruler was an ardent patron of knowledge and learning and had surrounded himself with Muslims, predominantly a large congregation of shurafa from Delhi. He had little in common with his rustic brethren and his unlettered, uneducated and ignorant relatives and took a genuine delight in the company of the well-educated and the learned. Spending excessive time in their company he changed his lifestyle, his manner of dressing and behaviour, and began learning Arabic. This gave an opportunity to the discontent adversaries to, through different means, spread the rumour throughout the kingdom that the Maharaj had become a Muslim or was desirous of becoming one. This news created extreme anger and resentment amongst the Maharaj’s clan and courtiers, and they all together, came to the conclusion that until Munshi Amu Jan and those associated with him remained, they did not stand a chance of gaining any influence over the Maharaja. The first step then was to remove Munshi Sahib. Consequently, one night about a thousand men descended on and attacked Munshi Amu Jan’s house, and although Munshi Sahib managed to escape with his life, some of his relatives fought valiantly and lost their lives in the process.  As a result of this all those shurafa from Delhi who had assembled under Munshi Sahib’s auspices, demoralised and disheartened, scattered and dispersed and returned to Delhi. Amongst them was Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib along with the wife he had married in Delhi. Wary of the high possibility of dangerous attackers on the road, Moulvi Sahib decided that rather than take any jewellery or valuables with them, they should leave them behind in the safe custody of a trustworthy individual. His wife, however, did not agree with him on this and had all her jewellery and gold buried in various places within the house. Overnight a caravan of people assembled and departed from Alwar. They encountered no misfortune on the way since the raia or common subjects of the State were in fact very happy and contented with the ruling clique. Actually, it was because of this select coterie that the stability of the State structure was maintained, and the extraordinary eminence and reputation of this tiny State was courtesy of their administrative skills. There have been many noblemen since Maharaja Shri Sheodan Singh, but none have left such an enduring imprint and splendid legacy in the scholarly world. “Gulistan Alwar”, a book written by Rashid Agha Sahib, a student of Mohammad Amir Punjhakush Khush Naves was considered the pride of the Maharaja’s splendid library and was one of the most magnificent items in the world. It is said that the very upkeep of this collection, the constant care it required meant that just the expenditure on the employees’ salaries added up to a lakh of Rupees in those days. The Urdu translation of “Bostan-i-Khyal”[3] is also a result of the Maharaja’s munificence. An elegy by none other than the peerless Ghalib has ensured that the Maharaj’s name will remain alive as long as the Farsi language is around.

Needless to say, when Moulvi Ali Ahmed returned to Delhi safe and sound his mother and brother were absolutely delighted and overjoyed to see him. Since enough time had passed since his marriage, and now there was a child born of this union as well, the need for secrecy was no longer possible or desirable. Moulvi Sahib procured a house near his brother’s and took up residence there. Luckily the strategy his wife had conceived for safeguarding her gold and jewels proved successful; other people’s jewellery and gold which had been left behind in trust was misplaced and lost, but her entire collection remained untouched and intact. After the unrest died down in Alwar, she went back, rented the same house again, established her residence there and dug up her belongings from the places they were buried. The amount was considerable although a good portion went towards her travel and living expenses in Alwar.

Once more Moulvi Ali Ahmed found himself anxious, in search of employment. He was able to secure a Government job in the Police Force and for several years was the Superintendent at Mund and Bhawana Police Stations in close vicinity to Delhi. He was immensely respected and liked at each and every place he was posted and the relationships and friendships he developed with a number families and individuals were such that they lasted until the very end of his life.  Moulvi Ali Ahmed remained in the Police Force for forty to fifty years. Although I was just a child at that time, I clearly remember the constant visits of people and the love, regard and esteem that they held him in was outstanding; often people stayed over for extended periods and the hospitality and graciousness with which they were looked after was beyond description.

During his early years of employment, the insistence on his marriage once again resumed from Fatehpur. Those were the days before telegrams and regular mail; the journey from Delhi to Fatehpur took twenty to thirty days, but travel was commonplace, and people constantly journeyed back and forth. How could the news of Moulvi Sahib’s marriage to a non-kinswoman be kept concealed? This news was a source of great distress and anxiety for the extended family, particularly Sheikh Umeed Ali Sahib and he accordingly wrote a letter to Moulvi Sahib’s older brother Moulvi Ahmed Ali to confirm and substantiate this disconcerting report. Moulvi Ahmed Ali found himself in a very difficult position, on the one hand, his obvious preference and earnest desire was for his brother to marry within their circle of relatives and brethren so that the family relationships be reinforced and sustained, on the other was the actual fact of the Delhi marriage. The dilemma that Moulvi Ahmed Ali faced in informing the family was that other than confirming his brother’s deceit, it would mean a long-standing engagement would be broken and as a result would create difficulties later in securing marital alliances within the clan. After much thought and deliberation, the reply was couched in such terms that it neither affirmed nor negated the news that had drifted all the way to their vatan. But more than that, what allayed all consternation amongst their relatives back home was Moulvi Ahmed Ali’s assurance to them that he would personally take on the responsibility of ensuring that the girl would not face any kind of discomfort or distress. This proved extremely reassuring to his Rishtay kay Chacha, Sheikh Umeed Ali Sahib, and subsequently, Moulvi Sheikh Ali Sahib took an extended leave of absence and made the journey back home to his vatan.

Travel was not an easy matter in those days and travelling to the State of Awadh was particularly difficult. To enter the Kingdom of Awadh from the British controlled territories one had to obtain a travel permit and for those seeking to ensure an untroubled journey, it was necessary to enlist the services of an adequate number of armed guards and retainers. Thus, when he set out, Moulvi Ali Ahmed  had in his service two horses, a baggage-waggon and four to five servants. The entire journey passed without any mishap, but when this small party reached the edge of the qasba of Fatehpur a strange incident occurred. Sheikh Baqar Ali Marhoom’s house was located in the north corner of the town; news that government officials in an endeavour to recover and collect land-revenue were on their way had reached them and Sheikh Baqar Ali along with his sons and retainers were ready and prepared to confront them. It was evening by the time Sheikh Ali Ahmed Sahib and his people entered the orchard that was located north of Sheikh Baqar Ali’s house adjacent to Suraj Mukhi Talab (Sunflower Pond). (This orchard has since been cut down and left as open ground.) Sheikh Baqar Ali Sahib’s people thought the Revenue Collectors had arrived and without hesitation fired a round of two to three volleys. Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed was an astute gentleman and immediately grasped the situation at hand, instead of retreating or trying to escape he stood his ground and called out loudly, “It is I Ali Ahmed, and I belong to this place.” On hearing this Sheikh Baqar and his son hurried towards the orchard to make sure no one had been injured and were relieved and overjoyed to discover none had been hurt. They hosted Moulvi Sahib for a while and then bade him farewell. News of this incident spread rapidly throughout the qasba, and the process of welcoming and inquiring about his well-being continued till late into the night. This anecdote was related to me by Chacha Marhoom himself. In Fatehpur, Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed Sahib took up residence at the home of his Rishtay kay Chacha Moulvi Hafiz Hakeem Mohammad Ali Sahib and in keeping with the family tradition it was from this ancestral abode that his marriage was also solemnised.  Since his mother was with her older son Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib in Delhi, his Chachi, the mother of Hakim Masoom Ali Sahib, undertook all the preparations and arrangements for the wedding and bought the eldest daughter of Sheikh Umeed Ali Sahib, Bibi Aleemah, home after the marriage ceremony. At the culmination of the event, Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib returned to Delhi with the understanding that he would send for his new bride later. Within a year or two of Moulvi Sahib’s return to Delhi, the calamity of Ghaddar broke out in Hindustan and this plan had to be postponed temporarily. In the end, after Ghaddar, Sheikh Muzaffar Ali Marhoom escorted her from Fatehpur to Delhi. At the time of Ghaddar Moulvi Sahib was the thanadar at Borwane when a large band of mutineers attacked the thana and tehsil at Borwane, looted the treasury and burned down both buildings. The few guards posted at the station were no match for the larger, well-armed group of mutineers, some were killed, and others fled. Consequently, this part of the country was soon free of British authority and influence.  Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib tried to establish a new thana elsewhere, but people were afraid of the mutineers and unsuccessful in this endeavour, he returned to Delhi. After the rebellion had been put down and British administration restored, Moulvi Sahib returned to his post and continued to serve in government administration for several years. The story of his parting ways from government service was related by Moulvi Sahib himself; “There used to be a weekly bazar close to the thana where I was based. It was market day and two labourers who were unloading a cart of red sugar with shovels got into an argument over something, one man hit the other on his head with his shovel as a result of which he instantly fell down and died.” When an account of this event was reported to the District Magistrate an adverse report was issued which questioned the competence of the thanadar under whose very nose this event had occurred. Moulvi Sahib immediately wrote back in response that, “this report clearly indicated that the senior official is not familiar with the working of the local government at the district level otherwise such an adverse report would not have been issued.  An altercation had taken place between two men, one hit the other on the head in the event of which a fatality unfortunately occurred. This in no way reflected on the competence or incompetence of the local authority.” As a consequence of this rejoinder, he was summoned by the superintendent and advised him to take his words back which he refused to do and instead of apologising he handed in his resignation. After relinquishing this job, Moulvi Sahib did not seek government service again. Nor was he of an age, at this junction, to restart an official career anew elsewhere. He spent the rest of his life in comfort and peace serving at some of the minor Hindustani States bordering Delhi. His first appointment was in the State of Pataudi where he remained till the death of the Rias which was followed by a succession dispute and litigation. After his departure from Pataudi, he was unemployed for a short period before he took up the post of a lawyer and counsellor to a gentleman whose estate lay within the district of Meerut.  The progenitor of this family, a gentleman by the name of Skinner, figured amongst the important people pf the time. Colonel Skinner played an active role in the British-Mahratta wars; eventually the British made a pact with him and weaned him away from the Mahrattas. At this time, a large portion of the family property is in the districts of Bulandshahr, Meerut and the nearby areas. When this job ended he remained unemployed for an extended duration after which he managed to obtain a post in the State of Dujana in the district of Rohtak. There were ongoing lawsuits between Nawab Saadat Ali Khan the ruler of State and his paternal uncle Sher Ali Khan. Nawab Sahib engaged Moulvi Sahib to represent him in these cases. This entailed extensive travel to Lahore and Shimla and wherever the Lt Governor Punjab sojourned Moulvi Sahib had to follow. After several years of continuous representation and effort, the British government decided in favour of the Nawab Saadat Ali Khan and recognised him as the rightful ruler of the State. All the other lawsuits were also ruled in his favour.  Although the Nawab was well-known for his penurious habits, in this instance he displayed considerable generosity. Besides  bestowing Moulvi Sahib with a khilat [4] in recognition of his exemplary service, an ample sum of money was also awarded to him along with a written order that a fixed monthly stipend of …be allocated to him for the duration of his life by the State no matter where he chose to reside. After all the litigation was concluded, Moulvi Sahib continued to reside in Dujana although no particular task was assigned to him and every second or third day he would go in the evening and pay his respects to the Nawab Sahib. After the death of Nawab Sadaat Ali Khan, his son Nawab Mumtaz Ali Khan became the ruler. Unlike his parsimonious father, Nawab Mumtaz Ali Khan was excessively generous (to a fault) and was also appreciative of Moulvi Sahib. However, in his zeal to commence his state rule with administrative reforms he also reduced the stipend Moulvi Sahib was receiving at that time. This was not acceptable to Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib and he subsequently handed in his resignation, returned to Delhi and began to lead a retired life there. It was at that time that his eldest daughter Bibi Ruqiya was married to Hakim Mehmood Ali Sahib  this author older brother.

Because Moulvi Sahib’s offsprings and nephew (i.e. the author) were still young and their education incomplete, and since the income he received from the rent of his properties did not adequately meet his extensive and ever-increasing expenses, the prospect of seeking employment arose once more. Moulvi Mohammad Samiullah Khan Sahib CMG, who was at that time Sub-Judge in Aligarh and an old friend of Moulvi Sahib had come home on leave to his vatan, Delhi. Moulvi Sahib paid him a visit during which, among other matters, Moulvi Samiullah inquired about the state of the children’s education upon which Moulvi Sahib updated him with the particulars of our schooling. This was during the period when Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib was working diligently with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Bahadur KCISI as his right-hand man in the difficult but imperative task of setting up a Madrasah-ul-Uloom Muslimoun in Aligarh. The fact is that Moulvi Samiullah played a major role in the establishment of the madrasah although many people deny that now. At that time there was a widespread storm of opposition to Sir Syed everywhere; the larger section of the population was unaware of the exigencies of the time and were unfamiliar with Sir Syed’s objectives, they viewed him and his endeavour with extreme suspicion and doubt and would not accept the idea of sending their children to his madrasah. In my opinion, the various strategies employed by Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib were exceedingly effective in overcoming this resistance and the laurels of these successes ought to rest on his head alone. Among other strategies, one scheme was aimed at admitting the children of those respectable and aristocratic families who were unable to meet all the madrasah expenses on their own by either allowing them to pay half or even quarter of the expenditure or by offering them assistance through monetary grants. On principle, the late Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Sahib was not particularly interested in this course of action but was persuaded by Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib to agree to this proposal and admissions were being undertaken accordingly. Having heard the full extent of Moulvi Ali Ahmed’s predicament, Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib suggested that “if you are interested in taking advantage of this scheme, I can make the necessary arrangements for you.”  Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib replied that “other than my nephew, none of my children are of the age that they can be removed from home and sent off on their own to the madrasah. The only way I can take care of my children’s education is by seeking employment and residing in Aligarh myself.” Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib was a man of few words but abundant resources. Hearing this he replied, ‘”there is every possibility of something like that, but why would you have any objections to sending your nephew?” Moulvi Sahib had no choice but to accept the offer. In short, with this assurance, Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib returned to Aligarh. One does not know what transpired between him and Raja Mohammad Baqar Ali Khan Sahib, Rais of Pindriwal, district Aligarh, but the Raja sent for Moulvi Ali Ahmed from Delhi and offered him the position of his Agent, based in Aligarh and  for accommodation purposes, assigned him a large mansion commonly referred to as Kala Mahal. Thanks to the auspiciousness and abundance of Moulvi Sahib’s noble intentions, and our good luck and fortune God Almighty thus provided for our education during that period of our lives. For Moulvi Sahib, otherwise, sending three to four children to the Aligarh Madrasah for schooling would have been prohibitive. At the time when Moulvi Sahib’s association as an employee of the State of Pindriwal began I was passed childhood and was of an age of clear comprehension and understanding, therefore all the events of this period are from my own memory of what I saw and heard. In actuality, Raja Baqar Ali Khan Sahib was the sovereign of Kotaha a tiny State in Punjab. This is the very same Kotaha that is mentioned by Mirza Sauda Rafi in one of his poems. He had inherited the State of Pindriwal in the district of Aligarh from his maternal family. And although Raja Baqar Ali was a minor aristocrat, because of his inherited nobleness, his personal virtue, his scholarship and simple tastes he was considered amongst the premier Muslim rais’s in the Aligarh region, and the administrators of that district held him in high regard and respect. Compared to the other Estate managers, who like him resided in Aligarh, Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib enjoyed a superior lifestlye of high dignity and prestige and was personally well acquainted with a large number of the administrative officials of the times. A result of this was that where agents of other estates failed, he managed to resolve issues with great success. Raja Sahib was extremely pleased with him, and he, in turn, was satisfied with the respect and confidence Raja Sahib placed in him. The selection and appointment of legal representatives in lawsuits, the selection of gifts and presentations, arrangements for celebrations and receptions were all Moulvi Sahib’s responsibilities and because of this, he had access to both the administrators and familiarity with the common man.  Raja Sahib always and only referred to him as “Moulvi Jee”. In this manner Moulvi Sahib spent fifteen to sixteen years of his life in the employment of that State and was thus able to fulfil his most important responsibility, that is of providing us with a good education. Towards the end, he would affirm that “the objective and aspiration with which I left Delhi and took up residence in Aligarh was realised with God’s grace and now residing here is no longer a necessity.” It was around this time that an unforeseen emergency compelled Raja Sahib to reduce his expenses and he sought to decrease the emolument that Moulvi Sahib received from the State. Moulvi Sahib did not accept this, he resigned and returned to Delhi.

Nawab Mumtaz Ali Khan Sahib, Rias of Dujana who had always shown great respect to Moulvi Sahib and addressed him as Chacha in view of the services he had rendered the State during Nawab Sahib’s father’s lifetime, and, who was thoroughly ashamed of having withheld the permanent stipend (from the State) promised to Moulvi Sahib now sent for him and declared. “Chacha,  I will not let you go back and forth now, you have been away from me for much too long. If you like you can take on the responsibility for any task within the State, and even this is not necessary, you have the option to live wherever you choose to live.” Moulvi Sahib who loved Nawab Mumtaz Ali Khan as he did his own children could not reject the Nawab’s heartfelt offer, he thanked him and thus resumed his association with the State of Dujana. This affiliation remained until the end of his life. It was during this later period of his life that he made frequents visits back and forth to our vatan, at times staying there for prolonged periods, several months at a time.

Unlike his father and older brother Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib lived a good long life. It is related that in his early years he was very slender and slim but in his youth, he apparently put on some weight. After the age of forty or fifty, around the time I reached the age of comprehension, he had a fit and healthy body well moulded by exercise. A broad chest, full arms, oval face, a finely chiselled long nose, and a wheat colour complexion; all these taken together presented a very pleasing sight. At durbars and government functions, he favoured the old-fashioned, traditional folded (Mohammad Shahi) turban, which was part of the conventional court dress of the Delhi aristocrat. In my time I have come across many other Muslim families where the elders favoured this type of pugree, for instance, the late Hakim Mehmood Khan Sahib and the late Hakim Mohammad Raza Khan Sahib and others who wore the same style of turban. In some Hindu families, this is still the established headgear although this traditional style is no longer customary amongst Muslims. Because of his height and built, his style and manner of dress and appearance, it was impossible for Moulvi Sahib to be present at a gathering and not draw the gaze of the other attendees. After seventy, eighty years of age, he began to lose weight and in his final days, he had become very thin again. His complexion had turned sallow and feebleness made walking around arduous. He avoided travel and his greatest desire was to end his days on the soil where he had spent the best years of his life and find a place in the sanctuary of Sultan Al-Masheikh whom both brothers had long venerated. Although there was no reason for him to continue residing in Delhi since all his children were either in Fatehpur or Hyderabad the magnetic pull of his profound devotion to Sultan Al-Masheikh would not allow him to leave Delhi.

Towards the end, at all times, the wait was for that final day, and for months the preparations for the inevitable had been underway. In consideration of the distance to the Dargah Sharif from Delhi, a light-weight charpoy had been ordered. Cleansed and purified it had been placed safely on a raised dais. He had himself purchased the burial shroud, had it stitched and placed in a chest. So much so that he had bundles of wood for heating the water purchased, washed and put away on the dais as well. All this was done so that when the time came no one would need to search for anything or be imposed upon in any way. He suffered a mild fever for a couple of days, unfortunately, we were all at far-flung locations, only Azizi Fareeduddin Ahmed (Moulvi Sahib’s younger son) who was at the Aligarh Madrasah came as soon as he heard of his father’s illness. Moulvi Sahib was prone to collapsing into a stupor even with the lightest of temperatures, young Fareeduddin alarmed at seeing his father’s condition and being all by himself immediately informed Shifa-ul Mulk Hakim Abid al-Majid Khan Sahib with whom we had old, established family ties. Hakim Sahib arrived promptly, examined the patient, read his pulse and was writing out his prescription when Moulvi Sahib came to, opened his eyes and asked, “Mian Abid al-Majid what are you doing?” Hakim Sahib replied, “I am writing out your prescription.” Moulvi Sahib responded, “Are you a child? This is not the time for medicine, this is the time for prayers.” Having uttered these words he closed his eyes ones again. Soon after Hakim Sahib had written out his prescription and left the premises he passed away. Everything required had been bought and readied beforehand and thus within a short time, the funeral procession was on its way. The cortege comprised of prominent neighbours and friends was indeed substantial in number. The Dargah of Hazrat Sultan Al-Masheikh Nizamuddin Auliya is situated at a considerable distance from Habsh Khan Phatak where Moulvi Sahib resided, hence Shifa-ul Mulk Hakim Abid al-Majid Khan Sahib Marhoom and Janab Moulvi Samiullah Khan Sahib CMG Marhoom had arranged conveyances for all those who did not possess their own means of transport which provided great comfort to the travellers. Suffice to say that with great love, affection and grief a significant crowd of old friends and family members offered their last services to Moulvi Sahib. His grave is situated outside the enclosure of Hazrat Sultan Al-Masheikh’s Dargah Sharif facing the Nustha Khumba.

Through the assistance and services of Maulana Khawaja Hasan Nizami Sahib, this grave along with that of my father have been fortified and an epithet written by me has been inscribed on it. With my permission Khawaja Sahib later had the grave included under the canopy covering his own family graves.

At the time of his death, Marhoom left three sons and two daughters. Nizamuddin Ahmed from his Delhi wife and Qutabuddin Ahmed BA, Fareeduddin Ahmed, Bibi Ruqiya and Bibi Kulsoom from Bibi Aleemah the wife from his own vatan and brethren.


[1] Nobleman

[2] Treasurer

[3] The Garden of Imagination

[4] Robe of honour awarded as a mark of distinction


Bibi Maryam

The only daughter of Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh, Bibi Maryam was younger than her two brothers Sheikh Ahmed Ali and Sheikh Ali Ahmed. She was still a child when her father passed away and she grew up under the loving guardianship of her mother and older brother Sheikh Ahmed Ali. It was he who arranged her marriage to their brethren and his brother-in-law Sheikh Barkat Ali Sahib.  He returned to Fatehpur to organise this marriage with extraordinary ceremony and style, sparing no expense, far beyond what was considered the norm in those days.  In those times, it was rare for shurfa women in our qasba to be able to read and write, but Bibi Maryam had grown up in Delhi with her brothers, and learning was considered paramount in that household. Consequently, she was fluent in reading the Quran Majid along with its translation as well as books dealing with theories and problems (in Urdu). Strict adherence to namaz, rooza and religious rituals and practices were stringently observed while her skills in cooking and other domestic tasks were exemplary. At the time of her marriage there was hardly a lady amongst her in-laws who could read the Quran, but in no time, she changed all that and before long not only did the women of that family but girls from the neighbourhood learn to read and write and very soon were far advanced in education to women of other families. She passed away after a brief illness at the age of twenty-six leaving behind, as her memento an only daughter Bibi Rasool Bandi.  

Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali

Qasr-e-Aarifan by Moulvi Ahmed Ali

Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali (d 1864)

Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali, the eldest son of Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh, was born and grew up in Laherpur and received his early schooling there. His father well aware that Delhi was by far the best place for scholarship and learning took his son along with him to the city so that the boy could further his education under his own personal supervision. However, this was to be an all too brief arrangement unexpectedly shattered by Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s untimely and sudden death. This calamity left the young boy bereft of his father’s love and protection alone in a strange new city far from his vatan, family and relatives. Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh had held an important post in the city and although he was not a very social individual, every one of his friends and well-wishers, including his relatives from Khairabad were anxious to take the boy into their own homes, to provide for him and undertake his education and tutoring. But fate had selected a particular individual for this purpose who none could have conceived of at that time. Once the burial, Fateha and Soyem rituals were over, Maulana Fazal Azeem Bin Maulana Fazal Imam Khairabadi concerned that the young boy would be overwhelmed by his loneliness and grow melancholy over the recent loss of his father took him into his home for the time being. Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s friends, well-wishers and colleagues continued to come by and offer their condolences. It was one of these gentlemen who mentioned that some of Sheikh Sahib Marhoom’s books and belonging were still at the Commissary Office and suggested a letter be written to the Commissioner requesting they be forwarded to Sheikh Ahmed Ali, better still (he suggested) he could go in person to collect them and at the same time pay his respects to the Commissioner. When Sheikh Ahmed Ali mentioned this to Maulana Fazal Azim, he and the other friends agreed that going in person was the better option. Thus, as planned, a few days later some of his late father’s colleagues took him along to the office. The Commissioner was in meetings; selecting a suitable juncture word was sent to him and the boy was invited in. Sheikh Ahmed Ali had often accompanied his father to this office, now seeing his vacant seat his heart was overwhelmed by grief and overcome by the all too recent loss, and given his tender years his eyes welled up in tears. No one present including the Commissioner was unaffected or could possibly fail to be touched by the boy’s distress.

The British in those days had to undertake long and extensive voyages that involved great durations of time, and journeys back and forth to Britain could not be conducted with the ease of today’s travel. Long-distance travel overland that took several months would eventually get them to a seaport where they would have to wait many weeks for a ship to carry them further. The sea voyage would take a minimum of three months and was not without its own hardships and perils. Because of this, relationships with their own countrymen and women more or less ceased to exist or were few and far between. Other than at the ports, the European population in India at that time was sparse and meagre in numbers; this effectively necessitated interaction with Hindustani society and that is where they turned to for companionship and relationships. Hindustani servants, Hindustani officials, Hindustani friends and some even Hindustani women, thus, they, in essence, became half Hindustani themselves. Mr William Fraser who was the Commissioner of Delhi and the Agent for the Lieutenant General was one such European. He beckoned Sheikh Ahmed Ali towards him, placed his hand on the boy’s head and said; “Why are you distressed? Undoubtedly Makhdoom Baksh is dead, but Fraser is still alive, and that should be enough for your well-being and protection. Where are you living now?” Shaikh Ahmed Ali responded, “After my father’s death my maternal uncle[1] Moulvi Fazal Azeem Sahib Khairabadi took me into his own home”. Commissioner Sahib replied, “You are a young man and I don’t like the idea of you residing in the city, there is plenty of space in my house, I would like you to move there immediately”. There and then he wrote out an order that in recognition of his father’s services, Ahmed Ali should be given a place in the department of writing and translations and a watchful eye be kept on his progress. All those present at the office were indeed (greatly) amazed and astounded by Commissioner Sahib’s extraordinary and unusual behaviour. When Sheikh Ahmed Ali returned, Maulana Fazal Azeem and other friends were of the opinion that this should be considered a blessing from All Mighty God and all agreed that the offer must be availed. Accordingly, the very next day, Sheikh Sahib with his scanty belongings moved to Fraser Sahib’s kothi. This acclaimed building was at that time considered one of the finest  European structures in Delhi.

Fraser Sahib indeed fulfilled all the duties and obligations of an affectionate and considerate father. He had two large rooms in the house vacated for the boy, and because taking meals with Europeans was considered inappropriate in that era, he had one of Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s old retainers assigned as a (bawarchi) cook and another as a (khidmatgar) personal servant for him. He instructed them to collect all essentials from the main kitchens and stores on a weekly and monthly basis, take full charge of the food preparation and serving and make sure nothing was lacking in any way to cause any kind of discomfort to the young man.

Sheikh Sahib remained with Fraser Sahib for about ten to twelve years. At the office, during this period, he rose from the position of copyist to office in-charge to the head of the department to the level of supervisor and manager and so on. Fraser Sahib’s trust and reliance in the young man was such that all matters of personal effect and domestic affairs were handled by him. Fraser Sahib never married, but in keeping with the accepted practice and norms of the times he always had several Hindustani women in residence, but the all his accounts and money matters were managed by Sheikh Ahmed Ali. Commissioner Sahib’s European friends, jokingly, referred to Sheikh Sahib as Fraser Sahib’s ‘adopted son’ and were always warm and affectionate towards him. All visitors and Hindustani officials who were desirous of meeting the Commissioner had to channel their request through Sheikh Sahib and as if the effort and recommendation of Sheikh Sahib was not enough, the added comfort of a place to sit and wait for the Commissioner Sahib’s summons could not be overlooked.

Khan Bahadur Moulvi Hafeez Uddin Sahib Dewai Marhoom, retired Munsif[2], and the father of Khan Bahadur Moulvi Nihaluddin Ahmed, Retired Deputy Collector, paid a visit to Delhi during the period that Sheikh Sahib was living at Fraser Sahib’s kothi. Moulvi Sahib would relate that; “When we were in Delhi, we were Sheikh Sahib’s guests and stayed with him in the house that he resided in at that time. This kothi was quite a distance from the city and was situated on a hill; it was always kept immaculate and impeccably clean”. Although Sheikh Sahib had risen within the Office ranks to a managerial position, Fraser Sahib would not give him permission to move out nor would he let him make his own arrangements for buying his own food and necessary provisions. When Sheikh Sahib’s relatives and kin or his friends and acquaintances came for visits or stayed as his guests, their food and drink were also provided by Fraser Sahib’s establishment.

Sheikh Sahib spent the morning hours dealing with the throng of people waiting to meet the Commissioner and present him with their problems and issues. At ten o’clock he left for the office. For conveyance, he kept a horse. He would return at four, four-thirty, and in spite of the distance people would continue to come in from the city. The evenings, however, were free for leisure, and post-dinner was his time for books and reading. Invariably a treatise on tasawwuf (Sufism) would be under study and review. The detail and delight with which the Late Moulvi Hafeez Uddin Sahib would relate a few choice incidents was a clear indication of the high esteem and affection he held Sheikh Sahib in. From my early years, I clearly recall that venerable gentleman who frequently visited Fatehpur on a regular basis and who never failed to beckon me to sit next to him and narrate these stories about my late father.

Sheikh Ahmed Ali had not returned home to his vatan since his father had passed away; his mother yearned to see him and he too longed to see his mother, sister, brother and near and dear ones. Plans for his marriage were also underway and proposals were being sent out. Accordingly, he picked up the courage one day to share all this with Fraser Sahib and ask his permission for leave to visit home. Fraser Sahib had come into the world with a virtuous and compassionate heart. Without considering his own needs, he not only accepted the request for leave but also arranged for all the necessary paraphernalia that was required in those times for such a trip. And so, Sheikh Sahib set out on a journey that was in those days replete with difficulties and hardship.

Bareilly was on the way; there his Chacha, Sheikh Ahmed Baksh had a very successful law practice, and he broke journey to stay with him for a couple of days. As mentioned above, there was a substantial congregation of people from Fatehpur, Dewa etc. in Bareilly in those days. It so happened, quite by coincidence, that Sheikh Baqar Ali Sahib was also present in Bareilly and it was here that he met Sheikh Ahmed Ali for the first time. He took an extraordinary interest in the young man, the reason for this being that amongst the many marriage proposals that had been received for Sheikh Baqar Ali’s only daughter Bibi Salma there was one from Laherpur that had been sent on Sheikh Ahmed Ali’s behalf. The young man made a favourable impression on Sheikh Baqar Ali who thoroughly approved of and liked what he saw in terms of his appearance and deportment, countenance, manners and conduct, and whatever reservations or hesitations he might have had in making a decision from amongst the many proposals received were instantly put to rest after this meeting. After spending a few days with his Chacha, Sheikh Ahmed Ali left for Laherpur. He was still in Laherpur when the acceptance of his marriage proposal arrived. However, he was unable to extend his stay longer and nor was it possible for Sheikh Baqar Ali to make the arrangements for a wedding in so short a period of time and so it was decided that the marriage be postponed for two years. Well aware that the nature of his official employment and Fraser Sahib’s dependence on him in handling his domestic household affairs would make it difficult for him to constantly ask for leave to travel back and forth, Sheikh Ahmed Ali made the decision to take his mother, sister and brother back to Delhi with him and secured a house for them to reside within the city. Although this meant that he was no longer a member of Fraser Sahib’s household, the Commissioner’s former kindness’ and patronage continued unchanged.

A couple of years later, Sheikh Sahib again took an extended leave of absence to make arrangements for his marriage. Cognisant of the complications entailed in re-establishing a household in Laherpur and making the marriage preparations from there, he decided it would be far more practical and expedient to take up residence in Fatehpur and conduct the marriage function and ceremonies there. It was resolved that the ceremony would take place in the ancestral home, but because space was limited there another house would have to be used for living purposes. Consequently, Mian Gohru house, a newly built and extremely spacious structure, located near the Bara Darwaza[3] was chosen. This happy and auspicious event was duly performed with great ceremony under the auspices of Sheikh Ahmed Ali’s paternal uncles[4] Moulvi Hafiz Hakim Mohammad Ali Sahib and Munshi Sheikh Nisar Ali Sahib. Leaving his family comfortably settled in Fatehpur, Sheikh Sahib returned to Delhi. A consequence of the increased familiarity and intimacy that had been forged between his and Sheikh Baqar Ali’s household during this period in Fatehpur was that his younger sister Bibi Marium was engaged to Munshi Barkat Ali, Sheikh Baqar Ali’s middle son. And once more Sheikh Sahib had to make a trip back to Fathepur from Delhi. In this period of time, Sheikh Ahmed Ali had risen to his father’s position, i.e. Sheristadar Commissary-Agency. It was during this sojourn that he had his ancestral home in Fatehpur rebuilt anew with a strong boundary wall and within the compound he had a very large and sturdy pond constructed. Although Sheikh Ahmed Ali lived for a length of time after this however due to his mother and family’s move to Delhi his connections with his vatan were considerably reduced.

As mentioned earlier, Sheikh Ahmed Ali’s schooling had been cut short because of his father’s untimely death and his subsequent employment, but in spite of this, his education had not been impaired. His love of books and learning compelled him to continue to expand on all that he learned before he started working. So much so that he was counted amongst the well-educated people of his time. His writing style was extremely chaste, and his skill and command of the Persian language were evident in his verse and poetry for which he used the taqalus[5]Ahmed.With an intrinsic inclination towards mysticism and Sufism, he took a tremendous amount of interest in the lives and exigencies of Sufi Saints and received ba’it [6]at the hands of his holiness Hazrat Hafiz Shah Mohammad Ali Sahib Khairabadi. Despite all his worldly associations and family relationships, he led a life of individual autonomy and simplicity. Even in the midst of his aristocratic surroundings and circumstances, he did not lose his unworldly intensity which is indeed a very difficult thing. My late mother would recall that Sheikh Sahib’s received his salary on the second or third of the European month, and either that very day or the following day it was dispersed amongst all those who had to be compensated; not a single portion was kept back. Each month, a substantial quantity was allocated for distributed amongst the needy, the widows, the orphans, and a portion for the venerable religious scholars who were custodians of the Dargahs. At some of these shrines, association and ties with the custodians and attendants went beyond faith, devotion and reverence for the Saint to the level of fraternal camaraderie. In particular, he was deeply and intensely devoted to Hazrat Sultan-ul-Masheikh Nizamuddin Auliya and was amongst the special cadre of ardent devotees at this holiest of shrines. In matters of attire and food etc. he was totally indifferent and would eat whatever was placed in front of him and there was never any need for special effort or arrangements in this quarter. By virtue of his affiliations with the Agency, he was expected to attend the Imperial Darbar at such events as the Eid’s, birth anniversaries and other yearly celebrations and festivities. On such occasions, it was customary that the Sheristadar representing the Agency and Commissary be presented with a Khilat or Robe of Honour. In this manner, he received several valuable dushalas or shawls and expensive clothes throughout the year, but these were immediately redistributed amongst friends and relatives. His friends tried to prevail on him retain some of these clothes since he had to regularly visit the Imperial Darbar and interact with high ranking British Officials, but he never paid any attention to it. Chacha Marhoom, Sheikh Ali Ahmed would later recall that; “My habit of having clothes made and taking good care of them arose from observing Bhai Sahib’s indifference to these necessities. Once on Eid, he was getting ready to attend the prayers and go hence to the Fort, when it was discovered that he possessed neither a qaba (full-sleeved outer garment) nor a choja (loose full-sleeved coat) suitable to wear to the court. In the end, it transpired that he would have to be dressed all in white. Once my clothes began to fit him he would wear one of my qabas and go forth. Notwithstanding that until that time a good portion of my treasured wardrobe of expensive shawls and coats had been gifted to me by Bhai Sahib himself. It just so happened that during the period we are talking about, that there was a tailor employed on a full-time basis by Bhai, but his task was confined to make saddlebags and pouches for the horses and goats, collars for the cats and hanging bags for bottles. For himself, he had, at the most, two to four plain outfits stitched in a year”. Every individual has his own special inclinations, attachments and hobbies, Sheikh Ahmed Ali Sahib’s was animals, and he made sure that every animal he kept was nurtured and housed in great comfort and ease. Horses were, of course, necessary for going back and forth from the office and for travelling on tours; camels were used as draft animals; but besides these other animals such as goats, cats and so on were kept purely for enjoyment and extraordinary care was lavished on them. During the period when goats were in favour, a blacksmith was inducted into the household staff. Hundreds of blossom-shaped bells were commissioned that were so meticulously crafted that it appeared as if they had been cast by a good quality machine. It also consistently transpired that the services of a employee would not be severed, the employee could leave if he or she chose to but was never asked to do so by Sheikh Sahib. At one time, there was a need for a carpenter and a painter, and consequently, both were hired; their tasks were completed, but who was going to terminate their services? And if they could not be laid-off, then some new projects would have to be found for them. Soda-water bottles with a rounded base (round bottom) had just recently started arriving from England. In terms of sturdiness and ease of cleaning, these bottles were superior to the bottles that were currently available at that time but since they lacked a stable, flat base they could not be stood vertically. Sheikh Sahib took a great liking to these bottles; the carpenter was instructed to construct arched wooden shelves to hold them; the blacksmith added copper strips to the arches, and the painter painted them. The tailor skilfully continued to stitch the saddlebags for the horses, collars for the cats and strange and odd-looking covers for the boxes and trunks. This was the rationale underlying the vast collections of household utensils that he left behind.

Sheikh Ahmed Ali was one of those whose friendships were deep-rooted and everlasting, indeed whoever he met, he met with an open heart. There was no dearth of invitations to social gatherings and assemblies, of gifts and presents, of food items sent out to him, but he neither went to cultural assemblies or participated in the food exchange, nor with the exception of a few chosen friends did he take part in social gatherings. In the end, people stopped inviting him and sending him dishes of food. Sunday was a day off from work. If he had a commitment he would step out, otherwise, a few of his close, intimate friends would themselves turn up at his house and the day would be spent in their company. Most of the time his visitors were relatives from Khairabad with the addition of two to four members of Delhi’s old aristocratic families, for example, Moulvi Inayat Ahmed (Vakil[7]) and his brother Sheikh Sarfaraz Ali Dehlvi, Malik Jee Ghulam Rasul, a resident of Subzi Mandi[8], Hafiz Varan and others. Malik Jee Ghulam Rasul was amongst the particularly close friends and was one of the most extraordinary of personalities; he was a Malik (Chaudhry)[9] of Subzi Mandi and an extremely charming and well-turned-out individual. He was not an educated man of letters but was nonetheless amongst the finest representatives of Delhi society. People would enjoy his company for years on end, discourse on every subject, every issue, without ever having the slightest clue that Malik Jee was totally unlettered and illiterate. I recall meeting other such distinguished elders from Delhi in my childhood years; such was the society and culture of the times that it created an environment where it was difficult to distinguish between the unlettered and the highly educated.

In those days, it was rare for tawaifs not to be present at the poetry, song and musical assemblies patronised by the princes and dignitaries of the fort, or at those frequented by the inhabitants of the city, even the British. The popular view, widespread at the time, was that they were indeed indispensable at such assemblages and that none could grasp the intricacies and finesse of the Mehfil [10]or gain the refined manners and rules of etiquette without their presence and participation. There is no doubt, and no one cannot deny, that the company of virtuous and chaste women ensures and reinforces politeness, good manners and proper behaviour and decorum at such gatherings and moreover curtails and impedes crudeness, vulgarity and indecency. Although how all this could be achieved at a meeting of wordsmiths is not clear. In any case, whether this point of view was accurate or not, it was widely held, and as a result, a large number of the Ashraf of the of the city were inclined to this practice. I have myself witnessed such bazms taking place and can vividly recall many occasions where our venerable elders and others, both young and old were all present and conversations and discussions took place on every subject. Renowned individuals whom we look up to with great respect and who will be viewed by future generations with even greater respect came and went and frequented these congregations with great ease, informality and familiarity. Thus, in that milieu, for a worldly and cultured man to disapprove of such assemblies in the face of societal sanction and opinion and to choose to abstain from them was not an easy thing to do, but Moulvi Ahmed Ali would not comprise and firmly stuck to his principles on this matter. He eschewed all such events and no one at any of those assemblies that he was present had the audacity to make a suggestion recommending the presence of that sorority that imparted instructions on etiquette and refined culture.

Indeed, in every way, Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib was living a simple, comfortable, tranquil and relaxed life when, on the 22nd of March 1835, by an act of God an event occurred that drastically changed everything. The full account of this affair is lengthy and replete with interesting personalilties but this is not the time to go into the details of the case. In short, Fraser Sahib had gone to a party hosted by Raja Kishan Gada in Daryaganj; at twelve at night he was on his way back home when someone put a bullet through him thereby sadly ending a valuable and worthy life. The impact this event had on Moulvi Ahmed Ali is beyond words. An investigation was initiated by the Company and went on for several months, depositions were obtained from dozens of witnesses and many people were arrested. It turned out that the actual culprit was, in fact, an employee of the Nawab Sahib of Firozpur Jhirka and the promoter of the deed was none other than Nawab Shams Uddin Ahmed Khan, the incumbent ruler of Firozpur Jirkha himself. The sentence given to both the culprit and his mentor was death by hanging, and the State of Firozpur Jirkha was seized and confiscated by the government. While the investigations and inquiries were ongoing, Moulvi Ahmed Ali was under extraordinary stress at work; he was constantly in demand throughout the inquest and scrunity and required to provide information, which at times he could from his own memory and at times through consulting Fraser Sahib’s account books and then noting all the pertinent information down. Since none of Fraser Sahib’s kith or kin were in Hindustan, the management and administration of his wealth and property became the responsibility of the Company, and the task of auctioning and disposing of his belongings was assigned to Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib. The auction of his properties had not yet begun when Fraser Sahib’s younger brother arrived from Britain. Moulvi Sahib handed him a chest that contained Fraser’s collection of valuable jewellery the existence of which was known only to Fraser Sahib and himself. He also presented him with a list of all the items in use and possession of Fraser Sahib’s mistresses including those that Fraser had bestowed on them as gifts and presents from time to time. One could very well say that all this is an ordinary issue, but at such a time, to stay firm, take a strong stand and to exhibit absolute rectitude and honesty is a something that requires great integrity. Fraser Sahib’s brother was so pleased by Moulvi Ahmed Ali’s trustworthiness and conscientiousness that he did not ask for the return any of the items currently in Moulvi Sahib’s usage and as a memento, he gave him Fraser Sahib’s much admired and cherished horse. This animal was always greatly treasured by Moulvi Sahib who used him lightly and sparingly and thus due to the care and attention he received, he lived to a ripe old age and died in Moulvi Sahib’s establishment. After Fraser Sahib’s assassination, Moulvi Sahib would often exclaim that “now I have truly understood what being orphaned in this world feels like”.

Public opinion about the murder of William Fraser amongst the citizens of Delhi was enormously varied as is common in such incidents. Those familiar with him, his friends and Company employees wanted the culprits punished one way or the other. In addition to these was another faction, which comprised of people who were for one reason or the other, were unhappy and annoyed with Nawab Shams Uddin Khan Sahib, the ruler of Firozpur, this group included Mirza Ghalib as well. I have myself heard directly from people who were present at that time and were involved in the inquiries and investigations that were carried out in this matter, that the first person to name Nawab Shams Uddin in front of the judge was none other than the late Mirza Sahib himself. Mirza Sahib was a regular visitor and admirer of Fraser Sahib. In a qasida [11] he thus declares:

“……………………………………………………………………………………………………” Another faction was composed of those who considered Nawab Shams Uddin Khan blameless and were deeply distressed at what they perceived as the humiliation of a Muslim ruler. The third bloc was the moulvis who did not argue about matters of innocence and guilt, they proclaimed that anyone who was associated with an attempt execute a Muslim in retaliation for a murdered kafir[12] was a sinner (in God’s eyes) and would be held accountable. Under these circumstances, for a Muslim involved in the inquest to remain inculpable and above blame from all these factions was a difficult undertaking. But Moulvi Ahmed Ali was one of those moderate, honest and upright people who despite being totally immersed in the inquest emerged from this predicament unscathed and unblemished and did not give any clique reason or opportunity to object or question his affinity or impartiality.

All this eventually passed, but the reality is that it left Moulvi Ahmed Ali with a heavy heart; the grief and bereavement he subsequently suffered (as a result of) this can be best judged by the fact that after Fraser Sahib’s death he became totally disheartened at his job and lost all interest in official work. He had still not quite recovered from the tragedy when on an unexpected pretext a world-shattering calamity unfolded. At that time Moulvi Sahib resided in Kagzi Mohalla. Now how could a man of Moulvi Sahib’s temperament and spending habits possess the means to purchase a house or have one constructed? Since he had moved out of Fraser Sahib’s kothi he had lived in a rented house. His friends insistently pointed out to him “that you are now a family man with children, you should build a house or buy one; how long will you live in rented accommodations?” The response was always evasive. Eventually, a few close friends proposed a scheme whereby it was decided that a trunk made of strong, solid wood be constructed, closed on all four sides with only a hole at the top large enough to allow rupee coins to be deposited but not to be taken out. At the start of each month, when the salary was delivered, two handfuls of rupees were to be deposited in the trunk without fail and when the trunk had filled up to its capacity, it would then be broken, and the money taken out and used towards the construction or purchase of a house. Some friends took upon themselves the responsibility of being present on the day the salary was received and would either undertake the task themselves or oversee to it. The outcome of keeping this scheme going for a couple of years was that the trunk was eventually full, and so, one day with great care, in the presence of all those friends who were the proposers and proponents of this plan the trunk was broken. Still, the money saved was not enough to purchase a house. In the end, these friends managed to somehow or the other make the necessary arrangements and procured a large house with an attached garden in Kagzi Mohalla and Moulvi Sahib settled in. His attention was focused on making adjustments and repairs to the house and adorning and improving the garden when the chaos of Ghaddar broke lose. Kagzi Mohalla existed in the area where the Saddar Railway station is now located. There used to be an English magazine [13] where the Saddar Post Office building now stands. And the spot where the Church built within the memorial cemetery now stands, is was where Moulvi Sahib’s house stood. There is a burr [14] tree in front of the Church that grew in Moulvi Sahib’s enclosed garden and was very small at that time. Once the mutineers entered the city, those English city dwellers who were unable to flee the city took refuge in the magazine along with their families. The mutineers surrounded the building and reciprocal firing began. Moulvi Sahib’s house was in very close proximity to this battleground and bits and pieces of cannonball shells and bullets constantly flew in. People were frightened of stepping out into the open but Moulvi Sahib, as per his habit continued to wander about the house and his garden and to seemingly protect himself from the bullets he covered his head with a mere kerchief. People would laughingly ask, “Moulvi Sahib, how will this keep you safe?” His response was, “It is not intended to protect, in fact, the real achievement is that in the face of the unfolding disaster one’s resolution and faith must not waver or one’s feet falter”. Walda Sahiba would tell us that in the evening when the barrage of bullets would cease, the house would be swept clean; often the bullets and pieces of cannonballs that fell into their compound were weighed and were never found to be less than five to six seers in weight. Almost all the buildings in the neighbourhood and vicinity had been vacated but Moulvi Sahib did not pay any heed to this and calmly stayed on in his house. In the end, the English realised that safeguarding the arsenal was now impossible for them and that if the magazine fell to the rebel soldiers it would be further sustenance to them, decided to put their own lives on the line and set fire to the magazine themselves. The entire building exploded with a thunderous blast and such tremendous force that innumerable houses in the vicinity and neighbourhood were totally obliterated and countless people were wounded or killed. At such a time who was aware were one’s office was, or what its condition was? The Commissary and Agency offices too had been set on fire by the rebel soldiers, this information reached Moulvi Sahib three to four days after the incident. Under the circumstances and at such a time what could one do? Masti Khan was the darogha[15] of Moulvi Sahib’s domestic household and an exceedingly faithful and trustworthy employee. By caste a Ranghar [16]  and a stout-hearted individual, he was nevertheless amazed at the intrepidness of the household. He tried several times to talk Moulvi Sahib into leaving the house but without success. He concluded that perhaps the suggestion had a better chance of being accepted if it was broached by the ladies of the household. Stepping into the deori[17]  he addressed the lady of the house; “You can see the condition of the house with your own eyes. The fact that no one has been injured so far, or that no serious incident has occurred is indeed a blessing from God. The entire neighbourhood has been vacated and I have entreated the master to leave the house numerous times but to no avail. Perhaps if you reason with him he will relent. You have young children with you, are you also not frightened of the sound of the guns and the constant day and night firing of bullets?” The answer came from within, “Even before you bought this up I had already raised this subject several times, but each time I got the same response, “If you are afraid than arrangements can easily be made for you to leave, but I will not go wandering around aimlessly from here to there”. These condition prevails throughout the city, under the circumstances what can I do? And where can I go leaving everyone at home? Who is not fearful of guns and bullets? But I have grown up with these very sounds in my own home, and my earliest memories are of my Dada, father and Chachas indulging in this activity, therefore unlike other women, I am not alarmed by these sounds”. Masti Khan would say that he was dumbfounded by this reply and thought to himself, if this is the extent of folly within this entire household it is pointless to pursue this matter further. I am in the same situation as everyone else here, one should repose one’s confidence in the Almighty.

Not long after the Mutiny began the mutineers extracted poor Bahadur Shah Zafar from his quiet seclusion and proclaimed him the titular Emperor of Hindustan. For the Imperial court to function, assignments of public duties were necessary and consequently written orders were issued for individuals to fill the highest administrative posts in Delhi. Accordingly, someone was appointed Vizier, someone Sipahsalar[18], someone Counsellor and someone Musahib[19]. Since Moulvi Ahmed Ali was an eminent and high-ranking official in the British administration and had represented the Agency at the court on special occasions such as the two Eid’s and other festivities and was therefore a regular attendant at the Imperial Darbar an honourable order was issued in his name requesting him to accept a high-ranking post. Some of Moulvi Sahib’s close friends advised him to accept the position. Chacha Marhoom (Sheikh Ali Ahmed Sahib) would later recount that “I strongly opposed it and the proposal was judiciously declined. In the end, this prudent act proved to be a life-saver for Moulvi Sahib”, as will be clarified later. When the British army returned to besiege Delhi, Chacha Marhoom would relate “I suggested that he disguise himself and find a way to get to the British camp since that would prove beneficial not only to him but later to his offsprings as well. But Bhai would not accept this either. He addressed me thus; “Perhaps you think that I am oblivious to the final outcome of this masquerade that is being played out right now, that is not the case. The facts and circumstances of this situation, its particulars and conditions are clear to me. But in spite of this, my conscience will not allow me to act in a manner that will in any way antithetical to this drama. Immediately upon my arrival at the camp, I will be questioned about the state of the city and my status will be that of an informant. The very thought of that is hateful to me. I believe peace and rectitude are only possible for me if I stay put within my retreat, neither taking this side or that”. Consequently, that is exactly what he did, and until the British army entered Delhi, and the British government announced that the city be evacuated he did not step out of his house. After that proclamation, staying in the city was dangerous and procuring suitable conveyance for the thousands of sequestered ladies became practically impossible. Since the palanquin bearers and servants had fled even those gentlemen who possessed horses were helpless. Consequently, Moulvi Sahib left his house in this manner; the ladies of the house veiled in their chaddars were encircled by their maids and menservants, the children carried by the servants and he himself on foot along with the horses. On the way the peril of an encounter and of being looted or killed by the mutineers or even the British soldiers was constant, therefore Moulvi Sahib had given strict orders that no woman was to wear any jewellery on her person or carry any item of value or cash. It was decided that they would head towards the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya; some close friends on learning about his departure had already arrived there and informed the custodians of the Dargah Mubarak of Moulvi Sahib’s expected time of arrival and route. They had also made arrangements for two bullocks and were waiting for him outside the city. As soon as Moulvi Sahib arrived, they placed the women and children on the back of the bullocks and directed them towards the Dargah. These gentlemen were determined to return to the city and gather such items of value from the house that could easily be transported, but Moulvi Sahib would not let his friends undertake such a dangerous task. He reasoned that by the time they got back to the house, it would have been cleaned out, so to go forth and put one’s life at risk from unknown dangers was futile. Masti Khan would relate that, “In spite of Moulvi Sahib’s injunction I returned home thinking it might be possible to rescue a few valuables, but by the time I got there, the house which only a few hours ago had been extraordinarily full of household items was, as Moulvi Sahib had predicted, totally emptied out, not a needle was to be found”.

In the end, Moulvi Sahib remained at the Dargah Sharif until such time that people were given permission to re-enter the city and allowed to take up residence there again.

After the return of the populace to the city, a notification was issued by the government that all those people who had been government employees prior to the uprising, report to a certain place at a certain time to appear before Mr T. Metcalf. During this period of turmoil, this gentleman was considered the veritable Hajjaj bin Yusuf[20] of his time. The city was under Martial Law and Mr Metcalfe would conduct a cursory investigation and then and pass judgement as he saw fit. Hundreds, nay thousands of men who passed through his courts were sent to the gallows and for anyone to come back safely from his tribunal was considered a singular achievement. The gallows were placed right out courts, a speedy and superficial interrogation was conducted, the verdict was pronounced was given and immediately on exiting the premises the sentence was executed.

Moulvi Sahib too had to leave his house to face this tribunal and this adjudicator. At home, there was much weeping and wailing. Servants, relatives and a couple of close friends accompanied him. Immediately on arrival, Moulvi Sahib was summoned in. Masti Khan would later relate that because all the clerks and personnel at the courthouse knew him well, they did not stop him from going inside with Moulvi Sahib and he was thus able to hear all the questions and answers that followed. Mr Metcalfe had a sheet of paper in front of him, he kept reading and asking questions from it and on this he also wrote down all the answers that Moulvi Sahib gave him.

The first question Moulvi Sahib was asked was to find out what he had done for the well-being of the government during the uprising. To this Moulvi Sahib replied that this event had been so sudden that no well-wisher of the government, leave alone him, had an opportunity to do anything. After this, a number of questions were asked about the burning down of the Commissioner’s office; “when were you informed of this, and what action did you take, since in your capacity as Sheristadar-Commissary you were obligated to safeguard it”. Moulvi Sahib kept answering the questions until the question-answer session finally came to an end. Mr Metcalfe wrote a few lines and then declared his verdict that “no indication of wrong-doing has been ascertained in your case, so therefore you are restored to your employment”. Masti Khan would recollect that upon hearing this ruling “I stepped outside to inform people of this. After this when Moulvi Sahib came out, people surrounded him, there were loud acclamations of Mubarakbad from all sides and as for his kin and well-wishers, their elation was indescribable. Thus, Moulvi Sahib returned home amidst a jubilant throng of cheerful well-wishers, and from the very next day was back at work in the courthouse.

After Ghaddar, the province of Delhi was separated from the western and north-western regions and transferred to Punjab. A new district, Hissar was formed at this time. Official, administrative work in this new district necessitated the selection of a competent and experienced individual for the position of sheristadar and Moulvi Ahmed Ali was nominated for this post. Although Moulvi Sahib did not want to leave Delhi, nor did the posting carry a promotion, but it was decreed by the rulers and so he had no choice, even if it had meant sudden death. Willing or unwilling he had to accept the transfer and make the move.

Perhaps it was in some measure the sorrow of leaving Delhi, in part ill health, after working in Hissar for three to four years Moulvi Sahib put in an application for early retirement on the basis of his ailing condition several years before it was due, and having procured his pension he returned to Delhi and took up residence there. His sole occupation in those days was book-reading and the compilation and writing of literary texts. Books on Islamic mysticism were constantly studied and analysed, and after that those on Tib[21]. He was exceptionally fascinated and inspired by Sufi Saints and a large portion of his literary compositions were on this subject. Qasr-e-Aarifan is a product of those days; beautifully penned by the late Moulvi Ahmed Ali himself this volume was amongst his other books left behind when our late mother made her preparations to join us all in Hyderabad. She packed this book with all the others in a secure chest and left them in the house in Fatehpur. A man by the name of Rahim Baksh, a native of Fatehpur, who had long been in our service was left as the caretaker of the house. Several years later, we were informed that the roof of the storeroom in which the chest had been left had collapsed during the rains, and he had subsequently transferred all the stored items to the house of our kinsman Hakim Azim Uddin Sahib. For a long period of time, none of us visited Fatehpur. Twenty, twenty-one years later, when Bhai sahib, Moulvi Hakim Mehmood Ali Sahib returned to Fatehpur, he found the aforementioned book missing. This book had been greatly treasured by our late Chacha, Moulvi Ali Ahmed Sahib who deemed it as precious to him as life itself. We people, however, were not cognisant of its value and worth, nevertheless, its loss was extremely distressing. During the time that I began composing this narrative at the behest of my relatives and elders I would often contemplate how useful the aforesaid book would have been, had it been available to me, in augmenting my knowledge of the family history, and at the very least it would have yielded some more information about the writer’s life. But the book had disappeared and we all resigned ourselves to its loss. However, before this narrative was finalised, by a stroke of good fortune certain extraordinary incidents occurred whereby we rediscovered and recovered a copy of the original manuscript.

The astonishing manner in which this manuscript was acquired is in itself a fascinating tale. In 1925, I had to visit Calcutta on official work. On the way, I stopped over at Ajmer Sharif for ziarat [22]; the commotion of the Urs was over, but the majority of the pilgrims assembled were still there. I was sitting in front of the Dargah, listening to a Qawwali recital when all of a sudden, I caught sight of Moulvi Hakim Bashir Uddin Sahib Fathepuri approaching. I was, of course, delighted to meet him. As soon as he sat down he said to me, “I have something important to tell you, but since I tend to forget, you must remind of it after this event.”  When the Qawwali ended, we all gathered at Moulvi Fida Husain Fathepuri cell, a place where he had been residing at the Dargah Sharif for a long time. I reminded Hakim Sahib about the matter he had indicated he needed to inform me of,  he explained that “I have a friend, Khan Bahadur Pirzada Muzaffar Ahmed Fazli, former Deputy Collector Nahar. Khan Bahadur Sahib was unwell in Delhi and sent for me to treat, him and I ended up staying a month to a month and a half at his house. He has a large and valuable collection of books in Arabic and Persian and in particular on Sufism. Amongst them, he has your late father’s book Qasr-e-Aarifan as well which he treasures and holds in great esteem. On finding out that I was related to the late author of this treatise, he showed me the book and praised it immensely,  he also asked about the author’s family and their whereabouts. If you write to him, you will, at the very least, be able to procure a copy of the book”. I took down Khan Bahadur Sahib’s complete address and on my return to Hyderabad, I sent him a letter as suggested by Moulvi Hakim Bashir Uddin Sahib. The letter he wrote in reply to this was very warm and affectionate, moreover, he related the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the recovery of the book. The gist of the story is that he sent for some items from the bazaar which were delivered wrapped up in a sheet of paper and placed in front of him. The paper caught his eye and he picked it up and began reading it and immediately realised that it was a leaf from a handwritten book. One of the sentences he read was

In these times, when the author of these pages presented himself at the Astana of Shah Muhammad Ramzan in Meham, and was graced by the shrine of the saints /exalted ones of this family, I came to the realisation that after the death of Shah Muhammad Ismail (may God sanctify his secret), who was the young brother of Shah Muhammad Ramzan (may God sanctify his secret), the youngest son of Hazrat-e Ishan Muhammad Ghaus (adorned with beauty, simple in his sajjadagi and adorned with the apparent / outwardly and inwardly virtues) was to be invested. When I disembarked at Meham, at the shrine of Muhammad Ramzan, where the ceremony of 10 days was in effect, the son was appointed as the spiritual successor, and the ceremonial rituals were awarded to the faqir (son), upon whose forehead (indicated in his fate) blessing were apparent. (God has showered his blessings upon him). Amin to this prayer, from me and from all the world. ”

Pirzada Sahib wrote, “my frame of mind when I read this paragraph is beyond description because Shah Mohammad Ramzan was my paternal grandfather, Mohammad Ghaus my revered father, Meham my vatan, and I, my father’s only son. It was therefore not difficult to reach the conclusion that the naming ceremony mentioned is my naming ceremony and the child referred to is none other than me, this doddering old man. I was now anxious to acquire and view the book from which this page had been taken. A month of resolute endeavour yielded the above-mentioned book in a fragile and damaged state. To make a copy of it I employed a scribe and appointed a Moulvi Sahib for its health and wellbeing. After spending hundreds of rupees on it I attained two transcripts. I cannot say what there is about this book. I have an extensive collection of books on Sufism, there must be at the least four to five hundred books exclusively on the lives and conducts of Sufi Saints in my library, but I have yet to come across another book on this subject that is as accurate and concise as this”.

Janab Pirzada Sahib was a great lover of books and in all matters pertaining to books was actually very guarded and cautious, nevertheless with much brotherly courtesy and fatherly compassion he granted me a copy as a gift. Since he was ailing by this time and had composed his will, he had added me on as the beneficiary of this book. However, his apprehension at the possibility of loss made the postal service an unacceptable means of sending the book to me. He wanted me to come in person to collect the book or else authorise a reliable, trustworthy individual to the task. In the end, after a lengthy and protracted correspondence, I delegated the Honourable Moulvi Abu Al-Hussain Sahib Banera and Maulana Nazeer Hussain Sahib (Marhoom) Muhaddis[23] Dehlvi to procure the book and through their worthy endeavours, I finally received it.

As Pirzada Sahib had written in his letter, the book is indeed, in truth, exceptional and unique. Frequently in these kinds of books importance is not given to dates and references, but in this case, the (late) author has been meticulous about both these things. What is most useful is that, wherever possible, he has provided the location of the tombs of the Sufi Saints he has written about, especially the tombs of those venerable Saints of Delhi that people are now totally unfamiliar with. The sequential organisation of the book is such that Chapter One contains nazams[24], humds[25], naats[26], and munajat [27]as well as short essays and scholarly research on the Prophets, Auliya and Imamate including four Pirs and fourteen lineages. Chapter Two encapsulates the customs of Hindustan, the conquerors, Shaheeds and Badshahs up till Mohammad Shah. In this section, all those issues that are under learned discussion such as votive offerings, praying for the dead and doing good deeds on their behalf, pilgrimages and visits to shrines and graves are included. Chapter Three offers an account of the Chishtiya Order, it’s distinguished Murids[28] and Khalifahs[29] and includes the conquests of Mehmood Ghaznavi. The Fourth Chapter chronicles the acknowledged Khalifahs and Murids of the blessed lineage of the Qadriya and other Orders. It is quite apparent that this is a copy of the author’s first draft. Here and there are cursory notes, and in spite of Pirzada Sahib’s exhaustive supervision, there are numerous mistakes to be found in the transcription due to which it is often difficult to comprehend and make sense of the narrative at certain places. Both poetry and prose are in Persian, a Persian that is exceedingly chaste, and refined.

I had expected the book to provide me with information about the family and at the very least something about the author and his personal life, but in that, I was totally unsuccessful. The late author wrote with an incredible degree of selflessness,  other than his name at the very beginning, there was no mention of vatan, family or employment anywhere. The strictness with which he guarded this splendid citadel was such that no individual, be he a close friend or relative, was allowed to step in to join the esteemed congregation no matter how capable he was. Even from amongst the venerated individuals of own family he confined himself to concise references of those to whom the term Arif [30]was unequivocally applicable.

Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib wrote in an excellent Khaat Shifea script. In my early years, I have seen his kalam[31] in my older brother, Hakim Mehmood Ali Sahib’s possession. The slant cut at the nib of the pen was extraordinarily inverted; at the beginning of a word the tip was utilised, and as the writing progressed the pen would be held straighter and the flow would be fuller and thicker to the extent that it appeared at the end that the piece had been written in one stroke of the pen. I have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of writing, but the reality is I have never seen one so beautifully elegant. Those unfamiliar with this script might have some difficulty in reading it but its reward is the pleasure it offers to one’s eyes.

Moulvi Ahmed Ali Sahib did not live more than four years after acquiring his pension. He had suffered from diabetes for quite some time, then a small blister appeared on his neck which continued to grow and turn cancerous. The physicians consulted recommended immediate surgical treatment, but in that era, neither were allopathic doctors in great numbers nor did Hindustani’s have much confidence in them. Eventually, one capable surgeon prevailed, but the late Malik Ghulam Rasul who was present at that time would later relate that; “I saw Moulvi Sahib at that time, he bore this severe pain with great forbearance, not a crease appeared on his forehead”. Besides the surgery, other treatments were also pursued but his condition continued to deteriorate day by day. Two days before his death he kept asking over and over again about his younger brother Moulvi Ali Ahmed and incessantly inquired about whether he had arrived or not. In those days Chacha Marhoom was employed at the Kothwali[32] in either Mund or Bhawana near Delhi. He left immediately on receiving the letter and travelling through the night arrived early the next morning and went straight to his brother. The conversation that took place between the brothers and was narrated to us often by our late Chacha, was a strange conversation. Chacha Marhoom would relate that’ “After reading the letter sent to me, I was left in a state of great anxiety and this state of mental unease stayed with me throughout my journey until I entered the room where Bhai Sahib was lying and offered my salaam, Bhai Sahib opened his arms and I laid my head on his breast and tears welled up in my eyes. After a while I raised my head I noticed that Bhai Sahib’s face was flushed, tears were in his eyes and the peaceful expression that was always on his face was no more. Since I was well acquainted with his resolve, his rigorous firmness and perseverance, I inquired with some consternation, ‘Are you apprehensive right now?’, Bhai replied, ‘What is there to be apprehensive about? Yes, at times, the thought of my children worried me, but Alhamdulillah, your presence has put that to rest’. After this, I removed myself the bed and seated on a mundha [33] continued to converse with him. Bhai mentioned that ‘Last night I dreamt I was present at a remarkably resplendent and reverential gathering, the head of this congregation was a Buzurq[34] wearing a green turban, his face veiled by a similarly coloured cloth. I ask people about the identity this esteemed reverend, but nobody tells me. I was still in this state of confusion when I suddenly awoke.’ I responded, ‘With your permission, I would like to offer my opinion on this matter’. He replied in the affirmative, I continued, ‘Your dream is an immensely blessed dream, and a very clear one as well. The Buzurq you were fortunate to pay a pilgrimage to is none other than Hazrat Sultan Al-Masheikh Nizamuddin Auliya al-Rehma, to whom, beyond being a follower of his Silsila [35], you are inordinately attached, the extent of your devotion having reached to the level of a passionate commitment”. Chacha Marhoom recalled that with that, a verse from Zuaq spilled from my lips spontaneously, ……

Chacha Marhoom then stated that “Now you should be fully prepared”. The response was, “Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, I am absolutely ready”.

At that time, it was not quite apparent that the end was so close, but the very next morning, after this conversation he passed away, on the eleventh of Rabi-ul-Awwal 1281/fifteenth August 1864 CE.

Even in those days, it was considered extremely difficult to procure a burial space within the precinct of Hazrat Sultan Al-Masheikh Nizamuddin Auliya al-Rehma’s Dargah. A section though was reserved exclusively for members of the Imperial family and highly esteemed religious scholars, now however due to the lack of space, even this privilege is no longer available. Undoubtedly the spirit and power of Hazrat Sultan Al-Masheikh was with his devotee and disciple, and God answered his prayer in the following manner. A gentleman from amongst the custodians of the shrine, an ancestral relative undoubtedly of Maulana Khawaja Hasan Nizami, had saved a burial plot for himself facing the dwelling of the Pesh Imam of the Dargah mosque. During the period of Moulvi Ahmed Ali’s illness, this gentleman would often visit to inquire about his health. Since Moulvi Sahib had always considered service to the custodians of the shrine auspicious, he had close relationships with all of those people, thus Moulvi Sahib mentioned to him that, “You know my greatest wish and desire is that when I die I am consigned to a modest piece of earth under the auspicious shadow of Hazrat Sultan Al-Masheikh. For me, this would the source of the greatest possible felicity and honour. Is there any way you can help me with this matter?” The aforementioned gentleman replied, “You yourself know that acquiring space within the ambit of the Dargah is exceedingly difficult, but our friendship has been a lifelong one; I have reserved a grave-size piece of land within the enclosure of the Mazar of Hazrat Amir Khusro for myself, right in front, facing the abode of the Pesh Imam that I offer to you”. Moulvi Sahib was elated to hear this, and there and then the matter was decided and that is where he was buried upon his death. As far as I know, he was the last person to buried within the Dargah enclosure, after him, no one else had that honour. The initial grave was unfinished, a few years ago I had a headstone with an epitaph erected. In this undertaking, I was able to rely on the brotherly support extended by Maulana Khawaja Hasan Nizami, which was based on the age-old relationships that had existed between our two families. His unstinted and gracious assistance helped facilitate and complete this endeavour. May God bless him a thousand times. (1281H/1864)

Moulvi Sahib left behind one daughter, Bibi Fatima and two sons, Moulvi Hakim Mehmood Ali and this unworthy Masood Ali, the author of this monograph.

[1] Rishta kay Mamo

[2] Judge

[3] Great door

[4] Rishta kay chacha

[5] nom de plume

[6] Allegiance (for spiritual guidance)

[7] Advocate

[8] A suburb of Delhi

[9] The Chief or Headman

[10] Courtly gatherings for music, singing or the recitation of poetry

[11] Eulogy or ode

[12] Heathen

[13] Arsenal

[14] Ficus

[15] Manager, overseer.

[16] Muslim Rajput

[17] Outer courtyard

[18] Commander-in-chief

[19] Aide-de-camp

[20] Controversial and brutal Umayyad Governor of Iraq.

[21] Indigenous medicine

[22] Pilgrimage

[23] Scholar of Quran and Hadith

[24] Poetry

[25] Verses exclusively in the praise of God

[26] Poems in praise of the Prophet Muhammad

[27] Invocation to God

[28] Followers

[29] Leaders

[30] Sufi/mystic

[31] Pen

[32] Police

[33] Reed stool

[34] Venerable induvial

[35] Sufi Order