Friday, July 24, 2009

Jauhar (1907): thoughts on the present discontent

Thoughts on the Present Discontent by Muhammad Ali Jauhar is the cornerstone of historiography of the Indian Muslim community in modern period. It was published in 1907, first as a series of articles in the press and then as a booklet. It gave Jauhar an instant popularity as a journalist, and established him as a leading spokesperson for his community.

It's a pity that his writings are not included in the syllabi of English literature and media sciences in Pakistani universities. Perhaps this will change if we all make an effort to make his writings more widely known?

Here is an excerpt:
It is true, however, that nobody in the wide world is half so sanctimonious as an Englishman. His insularity, added to his puritanic bent of mind, makes him an admirable hypocrite. What the French would cynically acknowledge and laugh over,
and the Germans would boastfully proclaim from housetops, the English would disguise with the most praiseworthy pertinacity. It is this trait of their character which makes alien nations suspect them of conscious hypocrisy. They feel annoyed if other people take them at their word. "We rule India for India's benefit only," says the Anglo-Indian. Yet no philanthropist was ever so persevering in doing good to others against their will. Every civilian talks of exile, and yet I fancy there is not a little regret when the would-be Governor is denied by the examiners the privileges of martyrdom and life-long exile. Such pugnacious altruism and persistent philanthropy are liable to be misunderstood. A little more self-introspection and cynical frankness could sweep away much of the prevailing discontent. A writer in the Empire Review from Johannesburg has put the case with true Colonial directness. "It is not to-day nor to-morrow," says he, "but the day will come when the Indians can justly claim they can rule themselves, and then we must cast aside hypocrisy, and either acknowledge we do not govern India merely for India's benefit, or we must retire. Self-interest in trade is why we rule India, and not pure philanthropy. It remains to be seen which we stand by."
You can read a lerger excerpt in the archives of the Republic of Rumi Website.


  1. This is brilliant! I mean Maulana M. A. Jauhar is absolutely great!!! Thanks for letting us know of this text and such a generous excerpt from it. How can we get the book? Can we hope that it is still in print?
    Abbas Husain

  2. A fierce orator, a delectable writer of english prose, an Urdu poet of caliber and an eminent political mind of his time. He was not given his due in his times, but perhaps those were not his times and as there is a strange way of nature, things unfold according to a master plan, to which we are mere spectators. Muhammad Ali Johar’s time will come, when it will come!

  3. Sir (Abbas Sahib), and Akhtar, thanks.

    Maualana M. A. Jauhar's writings are sadly out of print but fortnately we have a decent anthology at Iqbal Academy's library.

    Yes, Jauhar's time will come, as he himself exclaimed so prophetically: "Daur-i-hayat aaye ga, Qatil, qaza kay baad. Hai ibtida hamari, teri inteha kay baad!" (A round of life will come after death, O Assassin! Our beginning is beyond your end."

  4. Today during my lecture on Sir Syed Ahmed Khan I talked about the caliber of Muslims before partition. I also mentioned Maulana and the piece presented by you is an evidence aboout his brilience. Other than the quality of words the excerpt shows observation of Maulana of British knowledge of their activites.
    I suggest that you should write about the case of treason against him during Khilafat Movement. In this case he defended himself and came out victorious. The details and arguments of this case are very interesting.