Luteef, Nawab Abdool (1828-1893) a prominent personality
of mid 19th century Bengal, the pioneer of Muslim modernization and the
architect of the Muslim Renaissance, was one of those great men who appeared
as saviours of their frustrated, humiliated, demoralized and disorganised
fellow countrymen under colonial rule.
Nawab Abdool Luteef came from a very good Muslim family of the
district of Faridpur. His father Fakir Mahmud, a pleader of Sadar
Diwani Adalat of Calcutta, anticipated the need of western education
under British rule, and got his son admitted to Calcutta Madrasa
for Anglo-Arabic studies. Abdool Luteef started his career as
a teacher in Dhaka Collegiate School. Afterwards, he joined Calcutta
Madrashah as a professor of English and Arabic. In 1849 he was
appointed Deputy Magistrate and promoted to the post of Presidency
Magistrate in 1877. He retired from government service in 1884
and died on 10 July 1893.
Nawab Abdool Luteef
While in service, he always upheld the cause of his fellow
countrymen. When posted in Satkhira as a Magistrate, he did a lot for
the mitigation of the sufferings of poor indigo-cultivating peasants.
His efforts contributed much to the setting up of the indigo
commission of l860.
In recognition of his feelings for his co-religionists,
his merit in public services, and benevolent activities, he was made the
first Muslim member of the Bengal Legislative Council in 1862. A year
later, he was nominated Fellow of Calcutta University. He was awarded
the title of Khan Bahadur in 1877 and was invested with the dignity of
the title of a nawab
in 1880. He was honoured with the Order of CIE in 1883 and invested with
the higher dignity of Nawab Bahadur in 1887.
His chief contribution was in the field of education. He was among the first to understand that young Bengali Muslims should receive modern education. He understood that the Muslims of Bengal had fallen behind in everything because of their prejudices against modern education. He, therefore, devoted his whole life to removing this self-destructive prejudice from their minds. To secure a modern education for them he adopted two different policies. Firstly, he worked to enable them to share the benefits of the new system of the British Government; secondly, he strove to promote among them a loyalist policy to colonial authority, allaying thereby the suspicion of Englishmen towards Muslims. He believed that educated Muslims would understand the intention, power and skill of the Government and thus develop a sense of loyalty to the colonial power. To achieve this goal, he avoided any conflict with the ruling authority. Through Maulana karamat ali jaunpuri, he had it declared that India under the British rule was
not a Dar ul-Harb and thereby tried to settle the main political debate of Muslims in the 19th century.
He announced a prize for the best essay written on 'How far would the inculcation of European sciences benefit the Mahomedan students in the present circumstances of India and what are the most practical means of imparting such instruction'. This was done in order to arouse awareness about modern education among the Muslims of Bengal. His next important step was the establishment of the mohammedan literary society (Mahomedan Literary Society) in Calcutta in 1863 in order to formulate public opinion in favour of modern education and modern scholarship, and to bring enlightened Muslims, Hindus, and Englishmen in close intercourse for mutual benefits. Though the Society was not a political
organisation, it presented before the Government the demands and aspirations of the Muslims.
Abdool Luteef's efforts to start an Anglo-Persian Department in the Calcutta Madrasah and to also teach its students Bengali and Urdu were remarkable. His undaunted efforts convinced the Government of the need of higher education for Muslims. As a result, hindu college was turned into presidency college and made open for all in 1854. Among his other contributions towards Muslim education were 'A Minute on the Hooghly Mudrussah' and 'A Paper on Mahomedan Education in Bengal'. The latter, was in effect, a report on the Hughli Madrasah. On its basis, the Anglo-Persian Department was opened and scholarships for its students announced. Through the Mohammedan Literary Society,
he advanced the cause of Muslim education. At the same time he took an active part in contemporary Muslims politics. Through his efforts the Mohsin Endowment Fund was set
apart for Muslims. Though not a progressive, he could be called a liberal conservative.
Nawab Abdool Luteef was a self-made man and owed his
position in life to his own exertions. From a Madrasah teacher he rose
to be a leader of his people and one of the prominent public men of the
day. As a mark of respect to him, a marble bust of Nawab Abdool Luteef
was unveiled at the Senate House of Calcutta University in 1915. [MA Khaleque]