The second Sir Syed

Reformist, philanthropist and scholar Maulana Kalbe Sadiq worked for interfaith harmony

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, also known as the Second Sir Syed of India by his followers, passed away on November 24 at the age of 83. He was a reformist, philanthropist, scholar and, above all, a Shia leader of India. Even his last political act was typical of his persona: a fiercely independent person who never shied away from voicing his stance. Shortly before his death, he had visited Lucknow, capital of India’s biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, on a wheelchair to address people protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. He was vocal with his views and took a bold position on the Babri Masjid dispute, maintaining that Muslims should hand over the land to Hindus. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, in which he was serving as the senior vice president, was fighting the case against Ram Temple petitioners.

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq belonged to a family of religious scholars. His father, Kalbe Hussain, was held in high regard. His brother, Kalbe Abid, and nephew, Kalbe Jawwad, are acclaimed Islamic scholars and speakers. His family is called Khandane Ijtihad among Indian Shias. Sadiq Sahib had received an MA in Arabic literature from Aligarh Muslim University. Education was his life and soul. He was best known by many as a campaigner for education reform. He started the Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust, which works for orphans and supporting educational projects. He was fondly called Doctor Sahib or Hakeem-i-Ummat by Lucknowites. His charm was unmatchable. His last journey in pandemic saw a sea of people coming out on the streets to show their love for him. His interfaith work inspired many to come forward and hold hands with everyone. A Sunni scholar led his funeral prayers that were attended by people belonging to other faiths as well.

In 1975, one day a poor person came to him from Nakhaas, an area of Lucknow. He requested Sadiq to help a child, who was meritorious and hard working. Maulana went to see the boy and was surprised to see him reading a book with the aid of a lantern. He was informed that the child had scored good marks in his exams, but his parents could no longer support his education. This was the moment he decided to work for the education of poor children of the community. His son, Dr Kalbe Noori, recalls.

The first boy who got help from Dr Sahib, is now settled in USA. His name is Muhammad Saeed. After this, he decided to start the Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust. The Maulana was especially attached to the free education programme, which still provides quality education, transportation, uniforms, stationery, books absolutely free to the most deserving and underprivileged students in our society. Under this programme, around 4,000 students are receiving quality education in various cities of India including Lucknow, Allahabad, Jaunpur, Aligarh, Moradabad, Jalalpur and Barabanki. In the same programme, Sadiq established a completely free education school in Lucknow, the Unity Mission School. Currently, there are 1,800 students at the school. All their expenses, including books, copies and uniforms are borne by the welfare organisation.

Interfaith and intra-faith harmony is also Maulana Sahib’s important legacy. He was a patron of the Shoulder 2 Shoulder initiative. This initiative organised, for the first time, joint Shia-Sunni prayers on Islamic feasts. This was followed by an all-faith Eid Milan with vermicelli served by Sikh sevadars in the presence of Christian and Hindu priests. His knowledge of other faiths surprised many. He lived the real Indian feeling of multiculturalism. His followers used to swarm around him to listen to him during Muharram.

He touched the hearts of everyone who met or heard him. Condoling his demise, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said in a letter: “He was known for his candour and appreciated for his philanthropy which helped innumerable needy children. His contribution will be cherished.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi also appreciated his work in maintaining communal harmony and brotherhood.

His son fondly remembers his contribution to maintaining peace and harmony. During 1993, when the BJP was doing Rath Yatra for Ram Temple in the country and the situation was tense, he visited Hindu colonies of Lucknow and requested everyone to maintain peace. He also devoted his energies to organising peaceful processions during Muharram. He arranged free food on Hindu festivals. When asked about the recent polarising situation in India, his son said that he felt sad about the hate and targeting of certain communities.

On November 14, the Maulana said his last words to his elder son Dr Kalbe Noori: “Imaandaari ko maqsade zindagi banana, kabhi beymaani ke raste par nahi jaana, kabhi kisi ko takleef nahi dena, kudrat ka kanoon hai vo takleef dene wale ko maaf nahi karti…(Make honesty the principle of your life; never take the wrong path; never hurt anyone; it is nature ‘s law that an oppressor is never forgiven). With his demise, India has lost its second Sir Syed.

The writer is a member of International Association of Religion Journalists and a former broadcast journalist. He can be reached a

The second Sir Syed