Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, by sponsoring and running “Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq” and the bilingual “Scientific Society Magazine” laid the foundations of press as an institution of society as he had a message to deliver and had no profit motive. These two periodicals, financially sustained more by donors than by subscribers, aimed to bringing about a cultural revolution in Muslim society and a complete re-thinking on age- old concepts unrelated to the real spirit of Islam.

They presented Islam in a rational and scientific perspective, acquainted the readers with the progress of European civilization, urged upon the people to learn modern sciences, reminded them of the glorious past of Islam and with a view to transforming their life, constantly , hammered upon ‘a comprehensive plan for social, cultural, literary and educational renaissance of Muslim society. In other words, these two periodicals were spokesmen of the Aligarh Movement.

The “Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq” ceased to appear after about seven years (1870-1877) while the “Scientific Society Magazine” continued to appear for more than three decades. Their circulation was small but effective, because the readers were men of influence and intelligence—in fact they were opinion makers. Their impact on the contemporary Muslim press was considerable. But the beginning of the 20th century there flourished a number of Muslim papers advocating almost the same policy.

They included “Punjab Observer” of Lahore. “Al-Haq” of Sukkur and “Muhammadan Observer” of Chittagong. The Urdu papers included “Paisa Akhbar” of Lahore, “Phool” at Lahore. For women, there existed “Akhbar- un-Nisa” at Delhi and “Tahzib-un-Niswan” at Lahore. In Sindhi language, the “Muawin” of Hyderabad was a paper of significance. The Bengali language periodicals included “Cyan Dipak”, “Islam Pracharak” and “Muhammadi” edited by Maulana Mohammad Akram Khan.

Politics was significantly tabooed as Sir Syed had persistently asked the Muslims not to participate in politics till they were properly educated. The salient features of the Muslim press during this period included education of Muslims on Western lines, reform of Muslim society, modern interpretation of religion, promotion of a purposeful literature, demand for the due share of Muslims in the public services and a mild interest in the affairs of the Muslim world.

Muslim interest in politics began with the Partition of Bengal (1905) when a new province of dominant Muslim majority (Eastern Bengal and Assam) emerged. Next year, a deputation of Muslim leaders met the Governor-General and obtained the promise of introducing Separate Electorate. In December 1906, the All India Muslim League was established and in 1909, the Morley-Minto Reforms included the principle of separate electorate. It seemed that Muslims were having a smooth-sailing in politics, and that there was a close understanding between them and the rulers.

Soon a number of internal and external developments disillusioned Muslims. Black mailed by a Hindu terrorist movement, the British Government announced the undoing of the Partition of Bengal, that caused deep resentment among Muslims. Then followed the Cawnpore Mosque agitation. A Muslim procession was fired upon ruthlessly and as a result hundreds of people died and received injuries. That added a lot to Muslim resentment. As Muslims were deeply interested in the Muslim world, the loss of Libya as a consequence of Italo- Turkish war and the secession of large slices of European territories from the Turkish Empire as result of the two Balkans Wars, caused humilitation. The Muslims felt that they were beaten both at home and abroad. That gave birth to a new and militant Muslim Press.

During this phase of disillusionment and convulsion, four political personalities entered the domain of Journalism. They were Hasrat Mohani, Mohammad Ali, Abul Kalam Azad and Zafar Ali Khan, while Azad was master of oriental learning, the others were graduates of Aligarh college while Muhammad Ali was, in addition, a graduate of Oxford University as well. All were poets and writers of repute but none was a professional journalist. They adopted the profession in order to promote political objectives.

All were pan-Islamists and anti-Imperialists. With the exception of Azad, all believed in the two-nation theory. Muhammad Ali’s views were more clear-cut than of others for he believed in a political settlement between the Congress and the Muslim League as a pre-requisite for a united front to launch a national struggle for freedom. In the beginning of the First World War all had to suffer repression under the Press Act of 1910. All had to close down their journals and all were-interned. Each of the four beamed their message to different audiences—Hasrat Mohani to the men of literary taste, Abul Kalam Azad to those deeply interested in religion, Mohammad Ali to the new Muslim intelligentsia grounded in modern thought and Zafar Ali Khan to the common men.

Together they created political consciousness of kind unheard of in the past as they stood for confrontation with the rulers. During the War, Congress and Muslim League signed the Lucknow Pact, the first and last of its kind. Thus a united front was forged. After the War the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movements were launched in which more than 80,000 persons courted arrest. During this stormy period the pre-war journalist-cum-politicians re-emerged on the scene and suffered imprisonment along with the new journalists namely Abul Majid Salik, Akhtar Ali Khan, Syed Habib and several others.

The sudden end of Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movements caused disillusionment in Muslims particularly as they were in the vanguard of the struggle. Three-fourth of those who courted arrest were Muslims and among other sacrifices, too, they were much ahead of non-Muslims. The communal Hindu leadership sponsored Shuddhi and Sangathan movements aiming at converting Muslims to Hinduism and organising Hindus on a militant-communal platform for the ultimate object of establishing Hindu rule. That sharpened the conflict between the two major nations of the sub-continent and led to widespread communal riots. As the new constitutional reforms were in the offing, the Congress repudiated the Lucknow Pact and a political tussle began—Muslims demanding their due share in the body-politics of India and Congress dodging them with a view to maintaining and further strengthening Hindu domination.

During that phase of our political history a number of new Newspapers emerged and soon there was a polarisation in the Muslim Press—one group standing for complete and unconditional cooperation with the Congress and other seeking acceptance of Muslim national demands as a pre-requisite to their, participation in the battle Of independence. The former included “Rozana Hind” of Calcutta, “Ajmal” of Delhi, “Madina” of Bijnore and “Zamindar” of Lahore while the latter consisted of “Inqilab”, “Siaasat” and “Muslim Outlook” of Lahore, “Wahdat” and “Al-Aman” of Delhi, “Haq” and “Hamdam” of Lucknow, “Hilal and “Khilafat” of Mombay and “Asre-Jadid” of Calcutta. The separatist Muslim press supported “Jinnah’s Fourteen Points” seeking provincial autonomy, a federal structure at the Centre, separation of Sind from Mombay, raising of the status of N.W.F.P. and Baluchistan to one equivalent of other provinces, maintenance of Muslim majority in Punjab and Bengal and separate electorate for Muslims. When Allama Iqbal in his historic presidential address at the Allahabad session of the All India Muslim League in 1930 made a proposal to the effect that a Muslim national state be established, within or without the British Commonwealth, c^nprising Punjab, N.W.F.P., Baluchistan and Sind, there was a stiff opposition by the Hindu Press but “Inqilab” and “Muslim Outlook” of Lahore and “Hamdam” of Lucknow vigorously supported the idea.

This confrontation between the Muslim and the non- Muslim press and that between the “nationalist” and the separatist Muslim press continued unabated. The separatist Muslim press was re-invigorated by the emergence of “Azad” and “Star of India” from Calcutta, “Deccan Times” from Madras, “Star” from Bombay and by “Eastern Times “.from Lahore which came as a substitute of the defunct “Muslim Outlook”. As the news agencies were dominated by Hindus, the Muslims sponsored a news agency of their own named Orient Press of India which helped in the projection of Muslim views.

With the promulgation of the Government of India Act of 1935, elections to provincial assemblies were held in 1937. Congress won in six Hindu majority provinces and in N.W.F.P. while Muslim League held sway over Punjab, Bengal and Sind. The power-drunk Congress did not include representative Muslims in its majority provinces, depended on puppets with no respect in the community and trampled upon Muslim rights in such -a ruthless manner that there was no course left for Muslims except to demand a separate state of their own. The result was the Lahore Resolution of the All India Muslim League aiming at the establishment of independent sovereign state in the North West and North-East of the sub-continent comprising Muslim majority areas. Later a single state was envisaged. That set the ball rolling in the direction of “Pakistan”.

The closing years of the movement gave birth to a number of newspapers. The independent ventures included “Nawa-e-Waqt” of Lahore and “Jang” and “Anjam” at Delhi and “Pakistan Times” of Lahore that appeared six months before the Partition. In addition Quaid-e-Azam collected a “Create Muslim Press Fund”, established “Dawn” at Delhi under the auspices of a Trust with himself as the Managing Trustee and also sponsored an Urdu daily named “Manshoor” from the same city as an official organ of the All India Muslim League. Of these “Nawai-Waqt” of Hameed Nizami and “Dawn” edited by Altaf Hussain were the most important and influential. Together with the old newspapers, they struggled hard in mobilising Muslim public opinion in support of the Pakistan Movement and ultimately Pakistan appeared on the map of the world as sovereign state.

The following were the salient features of the Muslim press in that crucial period:

  1. Muslim newspapers had a total circulation not exceeding a hundred thousand. Yet they succeeded in influencing the minds of a hundred million Muslims of the sub-continent.
  2. Muslim press was financially weak because of lack of capital, lack of trained personnel particularly in English language journalism, lack of cooperation on the part of Hindu dominated advertising agencies and consequently they were ill-equipped mostly badly edited and poorly-managed. Still they proved to be more than a match against the very strong and well-equipped Hindu press.
  3. the Muslim press thrived on personalities-Maulana Zafar Ali Khan of “Zamindar”, Maulana Murtaza Ahmad Khan Maikash of “Ehsan” and “Shahbaz”, Abdul Majid Salik and Ghulam Rasul Mihr of “Inqilab”, Hameed Nizami of “Nawai-Waqt”, Altaf Hussain of “Dawn”, Faiz Ahmad Faiz of “Pakistan Times”, Abdur Rahman Siddiqi of “Morning News”, and Maulana Mohammad Akram Khan of “Azad”. Lesser personalities included Aziz Beg of “Star”, Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi of “Muslim Voice”, Abdul Majid Sindhi of “Al-Wahid”, Nasim Hijazi of “Tanzeem” and a host of others. It was the charm of personalities and the charm of ideals before them rather than the contents that lent luster to their papers.