Abul Kalam Azad is one of the recipients of Bharat Ratna.

Early life

He was born on Nov 11 1888 and lived up to Feb 22, 1958. Azad's family descended from a line of eminent Ulama or scholars of Islam, hailing from Herat in Afghanistan and had settled in India during the reign of the Mughal emperor Babur. His mother was of Arab descent, the daughter of Shaikh Muhammad Zahir Watri and his father, Maulana Khairuddin was of Persian (Tajik) origin. The family lived in the Bengal region until Maulana Khairuddin left India during the Indian rebellion of 1857 and settled in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, where he met his wife.The family returned to Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1890 where his father earned a reputation as a learned Muslim scholar. Azad's mother died when he was 11 years old.

Azad mastered several languages, including Urduand other languages including Hindi. He was also trained in the subjects of mathematics, philosophy, world history and science.

A young man, Azad was also exposed to the modern intellectual life of Kolkata, the then capital of British-ruled India and the centre of cultural and political life. Azad learned English through intensive personal study and began learning Western philosophy, history and contemporary politics by reading advanced books and modern periodicals. Increasingly doubtful of religious dogma, Azad entered a period of self-described "atheism" and "sinfulness" that lasted for almost a decade.


He was a Muslim scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement. He was one of the most prominent Muslim leaders to support Hindu-Muslim unity, opposing the partition of India on communal lines.

He rose to prominence through his work as a journalist, publishing works critical of the British Raj and espousing the causes of Indian nationalism.

Following India's independence, he became the first Minister of Education in the Indian government. He is commonly remembered as Maulana Azad; he had adopted Azad (Free) as his pen name.

Political life

Azad became a leader of the Khilafat Movement during which he came into close contact with Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. Azad became an enthusiastic supporter of Gandhi's ideas of non-violent civil disobedience, and worked actively to organise the Non-cooperation movement in protest of the 1919 Rowlatt Acts. Azad committed himself to Gandhi's ideals, including promoting Swadeshi (Indigenous) products and the cause of Swaraj (Self-rule) for India. He would become the youngest person to serve as the President of the Indian National Congress in 1923.

He served also as Congress President from 1940 to 1945, during which the Quit India rebellion was launched and Azad was imprisoned with the entire Congress leadership for three years. Azad became the most prominent Muslim opponent of the demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan and served in the interim national government. Amidst communal turmoil following the partition of India, he worked for religious harmony.

He is also credited with the foundation of the University Grants Commission, an important institution to supervise and advance the higher education in the nation.hi is

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