Remembering Kifayatullah Kafi


India’s struggle for freedom involved people of every hue. Despite the British divisive policy, people from all sections of the society contributed to it. There could be a difference only in the means, which the different people adopted. Religion, caste, creed, color barriers were ineffective to hinder the people’s participation in the movement of independence. However, only a few historians have done justice, others have framed the Indian history in a way that we see only a particular community’s contribution. Others have been ignored as if they were British collaborators.
At present as well, history is being distorted in the fashion that Heroes are presented as villains and vice-versa. In this situation, the Muslims – which constitute the second largest population of India, are primary victims. Acknowledging their sacrifices is another question; they are yet to be recognized as citizens. Let alone the concession of their role in the freedom struggle, they are looked down upon and are often labeled as traitors by the majority. However, historical facts tell us a different story.
A good number of Muslim freedom fighters have played a key role in the struggle and even have given blood to the movement. Even the high profile Muslim scholars actively took part in the rebellion. Among them, one of the big names is Molana Syed Kifayatullah Kafi Shaheed. Kafi was born in Moradabad (India) and was an erudite Islamic scholar, a Sufi, and a great poet. But, he relinquished comfort-zone and came out to fight against oppression. It appears that the bravery of Kafi impressed Iqbal to such a degree that he attempted to promote this idea and said; Nikal kar khankahon se ada kar rasm-e-shabiri
Ke faqr-e-khanqahi hai faqat andoh-o- dilgeeri
‘Come out of the monastery and play the role of Shabbir (A.S); for monastery’s faqr (poverty) is but grief and affliction’.
During the revolt of 1857, when Britishers inflicted atrocities on the people and crushed the boundaries of savagery, ‘Kafi’ could not maintain his silence and issued a decree of ‘Jihad’ against the Britishers. Through his edict, he aroused people from slumber and inspired them to take a bold position against Britishers. He was quite aware of the consequences of writing fatwa yet he did not desist. Britishers had already written chapters of gore. Before him, some scholars had met gruesome fate for speaking out. Muslim resistance leaders would be subjected to a different kind of treatment. Britishers would wrap them in a pork rind and then set them ablaze. But, this brutality could not extinguish the courage of ‘Kafi’ to speak against colonialism and to issue a ruling against English – the action which cost him his life. Soon after he issued the injunction, ‘Kafi’ was convicted on grounds of instigating people and was sentenced to death. All proceedings were completed within two days. The case was filed on 4th May 1858, the judgment was announced on 6th May, and ‘Kafi’ was publicly hanged on the same day.
As an accomplished scholar and a brilliant poet, he set some other examples particularly of Prophet’s (SAAW) love.
Kafi’s love for the Prophet (SAAW) was deep-seated, which he demonstrated while ’embracing’ death. History is witness that a moment before the noose was adjusted around his neck he recited following historic couplets:
Koie gul baqi rahey ga na chaman reh jaayega
Par Rasullah ka deen’e hassan reh Jaayega
(No flower will be existent nor will any garden remain; But the beautiful religion of Muhammad SAAW will forever remain)
Naam’ e shahanay jahaan mit jayeingay laikin yehaan
Hashir tak naam’o nishaanay panjtan reh jaaye ga.
(The names of worldly kings will be erased yet till the day of resurrection; the name and mark of five-blessed people [Muhammad SAAW, Fatima S.A., Ali A.S., Hassan A.S., Hussain A.S.] will remain)
From the above poetic verses, one can easily descry Kafi’s poetic standard plus his vision. The brightest star in the galaxy of Indian Islamic poets – Ahmad Raza Khan commended Kafi’s poetry. He mentions that ‘I only listen to the poetry of two poets – My brother Hassan Raza Khan and ‘Molana Kafi’. Furthermore, he described him as Sultan of Naatiya poets and said:
Mehka hai merey boo’ey dehann say aalam.
Yaan nagma’e shireen naie talkhi say baham.
Kafi’ sultaan’e Naat goyaan hai Raza’.
In sha Allah, mein wazir’e aezam.
(The world smells sweet because of the fragrance of my mouth; Here, the sweet songs do not mingle with the bitter ones; Kafi’ is the King of naatiya poets; Allah willing, I will be the prime minister)
Kafi was a prolific writer and produced several good-reads. Tarjumah Shumail Tirmidhi – (Translation of Book of Hadith into poetry) is considered his magnum opus. Other books Majmua-Chehil Hadith (Compilation of 40 Ahadith and their poetic translation) Bahar’e Khulud etc. have also added to his fame as a writer.
‘Kafi’ had the privilege of being the student of Shah Abu Saeed Mujadidi Rampuri, the illustrious scholar and pupil of Shah Abdul Aziz Muhadis Dehalvi. He also knew Ilm’e’Tib (Knowledge of Medicine) and received guidance from Hakeem Sher Ali Qadri in this arena.
No plausible information about his date of birth is available; however, it is beyond doubt that he was martyred on 6 May 1558 (22 Ramazan 1274). He was given capital punishment in the jail of Moradabad and was buried nearby in the dead of night.
‘Khuda Rehmat Kunad Een Aashiqaan’e Pak Teenat Ra’
(May Allah’s blessings shower on his lovers with a noble soul?).