Generation Inspired by Khairis and Aligarh: Ahsan Hyder and his German and French Teacher Abdul Sattar Khairi

Abdus Sattar Kheiri was my father’s teacher at Aligarh during 1934-35. Khairi along with his brother in 1917 had proposed the idea of Muslim state in British India. Attached is the recommendation that A. Sattar Kheiri wrote for my father Ahsan Hyder in 1939. During its transcription, I discovered several interesting links. My father had a deep respect for his teacher from whom he studied German (and French) at Aligarh University during 1934-35. He had preserved the book from which he studied German at that time, which appears to be supplemental text. It is still with me. Abdul Sattar Kheiri must have acquired his German and French language skills during his stay in Europe. He had a German wife, Mrs. Fatima Kheiri. He died in 1944. However, when my father after retirement returned back to Karachi in 1980, he found that Kheiri’s German wife was old and living in PECHS. He would sometime visit Mrs. Fatima Kheiri for some verification of facts of the history of pre-partition times. She died in the late 1990s.
From 1913 to June 1917 five proposals came out about India’s constitutional and administrative future but in September 1917 the two Kheiri Brothers, Abdul Jabbar Kheiri and Abdul Sattar Kheiri, played a prominent role in advancing the idea of a Muslim state in India.
[Some descendants of Khairis need to write detailed biographies. Pity I couldn’t find an article on him on Wikipedia. Can someone put his picture in the comments below? I will copy and paste it here in this post]
Abdul Sattar Kheiri’s Recommendation for Ahsan Hyder

Transcription of Recommendation Letter for Ahsan Hyder

Transcription of Recommendation Letter for Ahsan Hyder
Letter Head
Schriftwart der Deutsche Gesselschaft
Muslim University, Aligarh (U. P)
Britisch Indien.
Aligarh: 16-2-1939
Mr Ahsan Hyder, B.A, L.L.B, was a student of German for many years. He won a competitive Prize Scholarship in 1934/35. He took very keen interest in learning German. In a seminary course, he translated in to Urdu a German drama by Benedix: Eigensinn [Luftspiel in einem Aufzug].
He was also the secretary of the German Society and worked successfully. He drew the attention of his comrades and teachers by his good character. He is of active habits and untiring worker. I wish him every success in life.
محمد عبدالستار خیری
(Abdul Sattar Kheiri, M. A)
University Teacher of German and French, and
President of the German Society, Muslim University, Aligarh.
P.S: He also attended the French Class for one year regularly and took keen interest
محمد عبدالستار خیری
I think the impact that Khairis had on the generations that were inspired by them needs to be documented. Abdul Sattar Khairi was my father’s teacher. This also reminds me of Mukhtar Masud who captured beautifully the ethos of Aligarh and pre-partition years in his poignant epic Awaz e Dost and Harf-e-Shauq. I also recall my mother who was a prolific reader of literature of all the genres that she was exposed to, and would mention these people. Among the scores of magazines and books that she used to read every month was the monthly Ismat founded by the legendary elder Allama Rashidul Khairi. I grew up reading regularly Ismat and was greatly inspired by Awaz e Dost and of course by my parents.
An interesting observation about this letter head is the slight change in the name of Aligarh University and it’s logo. As per Wikipedia it started out as Muslim Anglo Oriental College, MAO College in 1775. It became Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. Interestingly today’s monogram and Wikipedia says “Aligarh Muslim University”. However, this 1939 letterhead clearly says “Muslim University, Aligarh” in monogram as well as in printed letter head.
Following is from Baber Khairi
In November 1914, two brothers- Abdus Sattar and Abdul Jabbar – and their cousin Abdul Rashid happened to be in Beirut where they had set up a school. Ottoman Turkey entered WW1 on November 5th so the two brothers decided to shift to Constantinople (Istanbul) while their cousin- the writer and publisher, would return to Delhi. To identify each other after the war, they chose a name based on when ancestor Akrama converted and the Prophet (pbuh) said it was “Youm al Khair”. The brothers would hence be called Kheiri and their cousin would be Khairi which in Urdu would be the same name. Thus was born the surname, Khairi/Kheiri.
[I think Allama Rashid Ul Khairi was using Khairi much before. He started monthly Ismat in 1906 with this name]
Pakistan Resolution 1940

Rashidul Khairi, Safia Khairi and Ismat

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Abdul Jabbar Khairi and Abdul Sattar Khairi:
Khairis demanded Muslim homeland in 1917

By Saad R. Khairi

KHAIRI brothers` contribution to the freedom movement largely remains unknown. They were the first to plead at an international organization for India`s partition as far back as 1917 when World War I was still raging.

Their subsequent struggle for freedom took them to many lands, where they worked for the ideals in which they believed. They faced hardships abroad, were arrested at home, and persecuted in many ways but never wavered.

It was at a conference of the Socialist International at Stockholm in 1917 that Abdul Jabbar Khairi and Abdul Sattar Khairi submitted a written proposal to the forum and called for independent status for Muslim states `destroyed by the British`. They named these `states` as Oudh (called United Province during the colonial period and now Uttra Pradesh in India), Sindh, Karnatak, Mysore and Delhi.

It would, of course, be unrealistic to expect the Khairi brothers to have jumped in time and demanded India`s partition something that would be on the agenda of the Muslim League `under Jinnah`s leadership in 1940. But a study of pages 407-08 of the record of the conference should leave us in no doubt that the two brothers had presented to an international conference the idea in embryonic form of the subcontinent`s partition.

More than three decades later, in 1941 to be specific, when the Congress press was attacking the Pakistan idea and ridiculing it, Abdul Sattar Khairi, the younger brother then in prison in India, wrote a letter to Camille Haysmans, secretary general of the Socialist International, seeking his support. Since Khairi didn`t know Haysmans`s address, he sent the letter to Clement Attlee, then in Winston Churchill`s war cabinet, who forwarded it to Haysmans. In his reply via Attlee, the Socialist leader said he remembered `vividly` that the Khairis had demanded India`s partition in 1917.

Belonging to the Bani Makhzoom tribe of Mecca, the Khairis had come to India during Emperor Shah Jahan`s reign with the avowed aim of giving religious education to Mughal royalty a job they performed till 1857 when the British exiled the last Mughal emperor to Rangoon.

Educated in Delhi and Aligarh, the Khairi brothers later left for Baghdad on the way to Beirut and took admission in the Syrian Protestant College (later the American University of Beirut) where the junior Khairi did his M.A. while the elder brother did a PhD. The elder Khairi later acquired a dozen degrees of doctorates from various European universities.

Lebanon and Palestine, even though still part of the Ottoman Empire, had their educational scene dominated by Western, mostly British and French, missionary activity. In 1908 there were 30,000 students in French and British schools, though there were some American and German institutions also.

The Khairi brothers opened Lebanon`s first madrassah, called Madressa-i-Hindia, which later became a college and one of its students, Saeb Salam, became one of independent Lebanon`s major political figures.

In 1915, with the Ottoman empire at war, the Khairi brothers went to Constantinople and launched the city`s first Urdu weekly, Akhovat, using metal-type technology. With Turkey`s defeat in sight, the Khairi brothers left for Sweden via Russia and met Lenin, who gave them a fur-lined coat each and volunteered the statement that Communist Russia would soon come to India`s help and liberate it. The end of the Great War found them in Germany, where they earned a living by writing, lecturing, and translations because they were fluent in German, English, French, Turkish, and Arabic. Even though Germany was in chaos and the Nazis were a rising force, the average German welcomed them because of their anti-British sentiments. The brothers also converted some Germans to Islam. They included Dr. Joseph Goebbels`s sister, whose Muslim name was Nayyar.

Another German woman became Muslim, given the name Fatima, and married Khairi junior.

After refusing to let the Khairi brothers return to India, the British government finally allowed Khairi junior to come home but made clear there was no guarantee action would not be taken against him for wartime propaganda for the enemy. Abdul Sattar Khairi finally returned to India and started teaching German and French at Aligarh. Jabbar Khairi, however, was still a persona non grata with the British and was not allowed to return. Living in London, he asked Attlee to raise a question in the Commons as to why if he were such a dangerous person he was free in England but was not allowed to return to India. The government finally agreed to let him return.

Meanwhile, Sattar Khairi plunged into politics, joined the Muslim League, became the chief of Aligarh ML, started a magazine called Spirit of the Times, whose editor was Fatima, and declared at the League`s Patna session in 1938 that the Muslims of India were not a community but a nation. He rose to become a member of the All-India Muslim League Council. However, the Second World War broke out, and Sattar Khairi was arrested and sent to prison in Jhansi and later Dehradun. Fatima, being a European, was sent to one of the camps in Nainital. At Dehradun, he discussed politics and, in the evening, played badminton with fellow prisoners, among them Jawaharlal Nehru.

Released in the winter of 1944, Sattar Khairi died a few months later. Deeply religious, he hated mullahs and willed that his last rites should be performed by someone else. So Dr. Ziauddin led his funeral prayer and he was buried in Aligarh.

Senior Jabbar took no part in politics after returning to India and spent most of his time in his library which contained thousands of books in many languages.

He didn`t marry. Among his frequent visitors was Maulana Maudoodi. Despite his wish to come to Pakistan, Jabbar Khairi couldn`t make it, since he was not willing to part with his books. He died in Delhi in 1955.

This is an unpublished article written by the late Saad R. Khairi, a scion of the Khairi family. He belonged to Pakistan`s diplomatic service.

Published in Dawn, Supplement Independence Day, August 14th, 2014


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