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Jamal Khwaja

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Abdul Majeed Khwaja

Jamal Khwaja


Jamal Khwaja httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

12 August 1926 (age 97) (
Delhi, India

Indian philosopher(retired)

Living the Qur'an in Our Times

Remembering jawahar lal nehru by jamal khwaja ex mp

The philosophical work of Jamal Khwaja (or, Ahmad Jamal Yusuf Khwaja, Indian philosopher, born 12 August 1926/1928 ), has two facets: an analysis of the nature and causes of philosophical disagreement, and second, analysis of the religious dimension of life, with special reference to Islam. Jamal Khwaja's basic approach to philosophy and religion is irenic rather than polemical. His life mission has been to stimulate serious rethinking and informed dialogue between tradition and modernity in Islam. He believes in judicious modernisation rooted in the Quran and firmly opposes shallow, unprincipled imitation of the West.


Family background

He was born on 12 August 1926 in Delhi, India in his maternal grandmother's house. His father Abdul Majeed Khwaja (1885–1962)[1] was a prominent lawyer, educationist and deeply committed to the Indian Freedom Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. His grandfather Khwaja Muhammad Yusuf (d. 1902) was a prominent landowner and lawyer hailing from Aligarh. The city was earlier named, Kol or Koil.

Aligarh is situated in the central doab (tract of land lying between two confluent rivers) region of Uttar Pradesh and has played a prominent role in the history of the region. In medieval times, the famous traveller Ibn Batuta almost lost his life in Koil. Lord Lake captured the famous Aligarh Fort from the Scindia, after fighting the decisive Battle of Ally Ghur in 1804.

In 1919 Abdul Majeed Khwaja [2] gave up his flourishing legal practice at the Patna High Court in response to Mahatma Gandhi call for non-co-operation with the colonial British Government. He was a prominent activist in both the Khilafat and the broader Indian struggle for independence. A.M. Khwaja was one of the founding fathers [3] of the Jamia Millia Islamia along with Maulana Muhammad Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Hakim Ajmal Khan and others.

His grandfather, Khwaja Muhammad Yusuf was one of the earliest supporters of the Aligarh Movement under the leadership of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the famous Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College. He donated large sums to the College Fund Committee and also toured the country along with Zahoor Hussain, and Zainul Abdeen. Also accompanying the group were the much younger duo of Syed Mahmood, son of Sir Syed and Hamied Ullah Khan, son of Maulvi Sami Ullah Khan to raise funds for the proposed MAO College. He was also very active in the affairs of the Scientific Society founded earlier in 1864 by Sir Syed.

His mother's name was Begum Khursheed Khwaja. She was the eldest daughter of Muhammad Hamied Ullah (later Nawab Sarbuland Jung) (17 March 1864 – 1930) the eldest surviving son of Maulvi Sami Ullah.

Hamied Ullah was the first to be enrolled as a student of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College and was the second member of the larger family of Sir Syed and Maulvi Sami Ullah to proceed to Christ's College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge in England for higher studies. The first was none other than Sir Syed's own son, Syed Mahmood, who became the first ever-Indian judge of the Allahabad High Court. Hamied Ullah eventually became Chief Justice of the Nizam's High Court at Hyderabad with the title Nawab Sarbuland Jung.

Sir Syed and the much (17 years) younger Maulvi Sami Ullah were relatives and close comrades. The courage, which Maulvi Sami Ullah displayed in rescuing Syed Ahmed's family from Delhi in the aftermath of the great Indian Rebellion of 1857, left a deep impression on the later. But differences arose between the two due to some personal reasons as well as some policy matters relating to the affairs of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College. The friends became estranged in the late 1880s. Maulvi Sami Ullah withdrew himself from Aligarh affairs and made Allahabad the focus of his educational mission through founding of the Muslim Boarding House as part of the famous University of Allahabad.


Soon after the birth of Jamal Khwaja, his father moved to Allahabad, and resumed his legal practice at the Allahabad High Court. So his earliest schooling took place in Saint Mary's Convent, Allahabad. He learnt the Quran as also the Persian language in the traditional manner, at home, from the accomplished scholar Maulvi Haidry. Later he joined the prestigious Government Intermediate College, Allahabad.

In 1942 his father, Abdul Majeed Khwaja had a serious heart attack. In 1943 the family moved back to the ancestral home at Aligarh, where Jamal Khwaja joined the Aligarh Muslim University, the erstwhile MAO College for which his forefathers had worked so diligently.

After completing his M.A. in Philosophy from the Aligarh Muslim University, Jamal Khwaja obtained an honours degree from his father's old alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge, in England. Later he spent a year studying the German language and European existentialism at the University of Munster, in Germany.

At Cambridge University he was deeply influenced by the work of C.D. Broad, Wittgenstein and John Wisdom and his college tutor, Ian Ramsey who later became Professor of Christian Religion at Oxford University and subsequently Bishop of Durham. It was Ramsey's influence, which taught Jamal Khwaja to appreciate the inner beauty and power of pure spirituality. At Cambridge he also came to appreciate the value of linguistic analysis as a tool of philosophical inquiry and to combine the quest for clarity with the insights and depth of the existentialist approach to religion and spirituality.


In 1949 he married his cousin Hamida, the daughter of Major General Muhammad Akbar Khan and Qudsia Begum. They have three sons, Jawahar Kabir, Rajen Habib, Nasser Navin and one daughter, Geeta Anjum. He has visited the US and several countries in Western Europe. He performed Hajj in 2005.


In 1953 Jamal Khwaja was appointed lecturer in Philosophy at his alma mater, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Before he could immerse himself in serious academic work, his family tradition of public work pulled him into a brief spell of active politics under the charismatic Jawaharlal Nehru: his father's contemporary at Cambridge University and the first Prime Minister of India. Nehru was keen to rejuvenate his team of colleagues by inducting fresh blood into the Indian National Congress. Jamal Khwaja was one of the young persons he chose. He thus became one of the youngest entrants into the Indian Parliament as an elected member of the Lok Sabha from 1957 to 1962.

While in the corridors of power he learned to distinguish between ideals and illusions, and finally chose to pursue the path of knowledge rather than the path of acquiring authority or power. Returning to his alma mater in 1962, he resumed teaching and research in the Philosophy of Religion. Since then Khwaja has lived a quiet life at Aligarh.

He was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and was a member of important committees of the University Grants Commission and the Indian Council for Philosophical Research before retiring as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy in 1988. He frequently and actively participated in national seminars at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.

Summary of general accomplishments

  1. Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), 1957–62.
  2. Delivered the Schopenhauer Centenary Lecture at Max Mueller Bhawan, New Delhi, 1959–60.
  3. Member, Central Advisory Board of Anthropology, 1959–62.
  4. Joint Secretary, Hindustani Culture Society, founded by Pandit Sunder Lal, Tej Bahadur Sapru, A.M.Khwaja et al., 1964–69.
  5. Member, Government of India Delegation to the International Islamic Conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1969.
  6. Member, University Grants Commission Panel on Philosophy and of Visiting Committee to University of Mumbai (60), 1978–82.
  7. Head of the Department of Philosophy, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, 1978–84.
  8. Dean, Faculty of Arts and Ex-Officio Member of the Executive Council, Aligarh Muslim University, 1980–82.
  9. Member of the Governing Body of the Indian Council for Philosophical Research, New Delhi, 1984.
  10. Governor's Nominee on the Senate of Himachal University, Shimla.
  11. Member, Editorial Board, Indian Philosophical Quarterly, Pune.


His major works include the well received, Five Approaches to Philosophy, Quest for Islam, and Authenticity and Islamic Liberalism. His latest works, Islam and Modernity and Living the Quran in Our Times are in press and slated for release by December 2010.His autobiography, The Vision of An Unknown Indian is slated for publication in 2011.

He is also the author of numerous scholarly articles and essays.

His work is dominated by the passionate quest to answer two questions: “What does it mean to be an authentic Muslim?” and secondly, how should a believer understand and interpret the ‘Word of God’ in our times?”

His first work, Five Approaches to Philosophy, is an analysis of the nature and causes of philosophical disagreement, while his second, principal work, Quest for Islam, analysis the religious dimension of life.

Jamal Khwaja’s basic approach to philosophy and religion is irenic rather than polemical, and he attempts to transcend the traditional polarities of Rationalism and Empiricism, Idealism and Materialism, Theism and Atheism. This irenic approach flows from a critical methodology of philosophy.

Major conferences and lectures

  • Leader of the Government of India Cultural Delegation to Afghanistan, 1960.
  • He was one of the official Indian delegates at the Pakistan Philosophical Congress held at Peshawar in April 1963.
  • He was one of the official Indian delegates at the International Islamic Conference Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1967.
  • He was invited to present a series of three memorial lectures at the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Library, Patna during the mid 1980s.
  • Participated in the seminar: The Concept and Role of Tolerance in Indian Culture, organised by the Center of Advance Study in Philosophy, Madras, 1985.
  • Director, Philosophical Dialogue between Ulema and Modern Scholars, sponsored by Indian Council for Philosophical Research, New Delhi, 1988.
  • He was one of the official Indian delegates at the World Philosophical Congress Brighton, United Kingdom (1988).
  • He frequently and actively participated in national seminars at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. (57)
  • References

    Jamal Khwaja Wikipedia

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