Swami Shraddhanand

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Swami Shraddhanand on a 1970 stamp of India

Swami Shraddhanand (22 February 1856 – 23 December 1926), also known as Mahatma Munshi Ram Vij, was an Indian education advocate and an Arya Samaj missionary who propagated the teachings of Dayananda Saraswati. This included the establishment of educational institutions, like the Gurukul Kangri University, and played a key role on the Sangathan (consolidation) and the Shuddhi (re-conversion), a Hindu reform movement in the 1920s.


  • The original resolution condemned the Moplas wholesale for the killing of Hindus and burning of Hindu homes and the forcible conversion to Islam. The Hindu members themselves proposed amendments till it was reduced to condemning only certain individuals who had been guilty of the above crimes. But some of the Moslem leaders could not bear this even. Maulana Fakir and other Maulanas, of course, opposed the resolution and there was no wonder. But I was surprised, an out-and-out Nationalist like Maulana Hasrat Mohani opposed the resolution on the ground that the Mopla country no longer remained Dar-ul-Aman but became Dar-ul-Harab and they suspected the Hindus of collusion with the British enemies of the Moplas. Therefore, the Moplas were right in presenting the Quran or sword to the Hindus. And if the Hindus became Mussalmans to save themselves from death, it was a voluntary change of faith and not forcible conversion—Well, even the harmless resolution condemning some of the Moplas was not unanimously passed but had to be accepted by a majority of votes only.
    • Swami Shraddhanand in the Liberator of 26 August 1926. Shraddanand, Swami (26 August 1926). "The Liberator".
  • " There was another prominent fact to which I drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi. Both of us went together one night to the Khilafat Conference at Nagpur. The Ayats (verses) of the Quran recited by the Maulanas on that occasion, contained frequent references to Jihad and killing of the Kaffirs.But when I drew his attention to this phase of the Khilafat movement, Mahatmaji smiled and said, ' They are alluding to the British Bureaucracy '. In reply I said that it was all subversive of the idea of non-violence and when the reversion of feeling came the Mahomedan Maulanas would not refrain from using these verses against the Hindus. "
    • July 1926, The Liberator. Quoted from B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • But when the Muhammedan invaders ... conquered the disorganised Hindu hosts, and Hindu young women began to become a prey to the lust of some of the conquerors, the custom of early marriage and the unnatural purdah were introduced by the degenerate Hindus of northern India as refuge against the inroads of Muslim Ghazis in Hindu homes.
    • Hindu Sangathan p. 95, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.377
  • While Muhammadans multiply like anything, the numbers of the Hindus are dwindling periodical­l­y.
    • Hindu Sangathan, Saviour of the Dying Race (Delhi 1926)

About Shraddhanand[edit]

  • It is a notorious fact that many prominent Hindus who had offended the religious susceptibilities of the Muslims either by their writings or by their part in the Shudhi movement have been murdered by some fanatic Musalmans. First to suffer was Swami Shradhanand, who was shot by Abdul Rashid on 23rd December 1926 when he was lying in his sick bed.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946), p. 146.
  • The Arya Samaj was the first Hindu movement to take up a bold stand in this context. Maharshi Dayanand himself had showed up Muhammad for the sort of man he was. Soon after, however, the Arya Samaj was silenced effectively by a series of murders, notably that of Pandit Lekhram and Swami Shraddhananda. The British were inclined to permit fair criticism, particularly that which was based on Islamic sources. But they could not prevent Muslim assassins from taking the law in their own hands.
    • Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1998). Freedom of expression: Secular theocracy versus liberal democracy. [1] Ch. 6
  • A new type of wisdom, though within the four walls of Islamic fanaticism and day-dreaming, dawned upon Khwaja Hasan Nizami in the early years of the 20th century. He was no ordinary pen-pusher or paid mullah in some suburban mosque. On the contrary, he was a highly placed ‘divine’ in the hierarchy of Nizamuddin Auliya’s prestigious silsilã, and widely honoured in the Muslim world. He published in 1920 a big book, Fãtami Dãwat-i-Islam, in which he advocated all means, fair and foul, by which Hindus were to be converted to Islam. He advised the mullahs to concentrate on Hindu ‘untouchables’, and convert them en masse so that Muslims could achieve parity of population with the Hindus. He disclosed in the introduction to his book that he had consulted many Muslim leaders including the Agha Khan regarding the soundness of his scheme, and that all of them had agreed with the caution that the scheme should be kept a closely guarded secret. Unfortunately for the Khwaja, the scheme came to the notice of Swami Shraddhananda who exposed it, fought it tooth and nail, and frustrated it completely by means of his Shuddhi Movement.
  • The book Hindu Sangathan, Saviour of the Dying Race (1926) by Swami Shraddhananda... was a true milestone in the development of Hindu revivalism.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 375
  • This was the practical application of Swami Shraddhananda’s book ‘Hindu Sangathan’, Saviour of the Dying Race (1924). If one book can make you understand modern Hindu activism in general, of which Hindu Nationalism and a fortiori the RSS is only one current, it is that one, far more than Bunch of Thoughts.
    • Elst, K. Guha's Golwalkar, 2016. [2]
  • The reason why Swami Shraddhananda is rarely given due attention in studies of Hindu nationalism is that by his courageous commitment to reform and equality, this pioneer contradicted the negative stereotype so starkly that our expers prefer to keep him out of view.
    • Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". I.272
  • [Gandhi] was harsh on the polemical but non-violent Swami Shraddhananda, and kind to the Swami’s murderer, about whom he stated in public: ‘Abdul Rashid is my brother.’
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.
  • The end of that year 1926 was darkened by a great tragedy, which sent a thrill of horror all over India. It showed to what depths communal passion could reduce our people. Swami Shraddhanand was assassinated by a fanatic as he lay in bed. What a death for a man who had bared his chest to the bayonets of the Gurkhas and marched to meet their fire! Nearly eight years earlier he, an Arya Samajist leader, had stood in the pulpit of the great Jame Masjid of Delhi and preached to a mighty gathering of Muslims and Hindus of unity and India’s freedom. And that great multitude had greeted him with loud cries of Hindu-Musalman-ki-jai, and outside in the streets they had jointly sealed that cry with their blood. And now he lay dead, killed by a fellow-countryman, who thought, no doubt, that he was doing a meritorious deed, which would lead him to paradise. Always I have admired sheer physical courage, the courage to face physical suffering in a good cause, even unto death. Most of us, I suppose, admire it. Swami Shraddhanand had an amazing amount of that fearlessness. His tall and stately figure, wrapped in a, sanyasin’s robe, perfectly erect in spite of advanced years, eyes flashing, sometimes a shadow of irritation or anger at the weakness of others passing over his face — how I remember that vivid picture, and how often it has come back to me!
  • The expected has happened. Swami Shraddhanandji passed a day or two at the Satyagraha Ashram at Sabarmati, now about six months ago, and told me, in the course of his conversations that he often received letters threatening his life. Where is the refoimer who has not a price put upon his head ? Swamiji was a reformer, he was a man of action not of words. His was a living belief. He had suffered for it. He was bravery personified. He never quailed before danger. He was a warrior. And a warrior loves to die, not on a sick-bed, but on the battlefield. God had willed for him a martyr’s death and so, though he was still on the sick-bed, he died at the hands of an assassin. In the language of the Gita, therefore, ‘happy the warrior who achieves such a blessed death.’ Death is at any time blessed, but it is twice blessed for a warrior who dies for his cause, i.e. truth. Death is no fiend, he is the truest of friends. He delivers us from agony. He helps us against ourselves. He ever gives us new chances, new hopes. He is like sleep a sweet restorer. Yet it is customary to mourn when a friend dies. The custom has no operation when the death is that of a martyr. I cannot, therefore, mourn over his death. He and his are to be envied. For though Shraddhanandji is dead, he is yet living. He is living in a truer sense than when he moved about in our midst in his giant body. The family in which he was born, the nation to which he belonged are to be congratulated upon so glorious a death as this. He lived a hero. He has died a hero.
  • I cannot close the reminiscences of the life of a great reformer without recalling his last visit to the Satyagraha Ashram only a few months ago. Let me assure my Musalman friends that he was no hater of Musalmans,. He undoubtedly distrusted many Musalmans. But he bore them no ill-will. He thought that Hindus were cowed down and he wanted them to be brave and be able to defend themselves and their honour. In this connection he told me that he was much misunderstood and that he was absolutely innocent of many things that were said against him. He told me he had several threatening letters. He was warned by friends not to travel alone. But this man of faith said, "What protection shall I seek but of God ? Not a blade: of grass perishes without His will. I know therefore that nothing can happen to me so long He wishes me to serve through this body."
  • If you hold dear the memory of Swami Shraddhanandji, you would help in purging the atmosphere of mutual hatred and calumny, you would help in boycotting papers which foment hatred and spread misrepresentation. I am sure that India would lose nothing if 90 per cent of the papers were to cease today. ... Now you will, perhaps, understand why I have called Abdul Rashid a brother, and I repeat it, I do not even regard him as guilty of Swamiji's murder. Guilty, indeed, are all those who excited feelings of hatred against one another. For us Hindus, the Gita enjoins on us the lesson of equality; we are to cherish the same feelings towards a learned Brahmin as towards a Chandala, a dog, a cow or an elephant.
  • The first great achievement of the Tablighi Jamaat was the cold-blooded murder of Swami Shraddhananda. The swami had been lionized by Muslims when he supported the Khilafat agitation during the first Non-Cooperation movement (1921-22). “But as he was closely associated with the šuddhi movement… a section of Muslims cherished bitter hatred against him. On 23 December 1926, when the Swami after a serious attack of pneumonia was lying in his bed, a Muslim entered into his room on false pretext and stabbed him with a dagger.”
    • R. C. Majumdar (ed.), The History And Culture of the Indian People, Volume XI, Struggle For Freedom, Second Edition, Bombay, 1978, pp. 435-36. Quoted in: Sita Ram Goel: Time for Stock Tacking, App. 1
  • The same Abdul Bari spoke in a different tone in September 1923. Professor Francis Robinson reports: “Abdul Bari, the erstwhile apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity, came to the fore again. Now he spoke the language of the zealot. He urged the Muslims to sacrifice cows without regard to Hindu feelings, and declared: ‘If the commandments of the Shariat are to be trampled under foot then it will be the same to us whether the decision is arrived on the plains of Delhi or on the hilltops of Simla. We are determined to non-cooperate with every enemy of Islam, be he in Anatolia or Arabia or at Agra or Benares.” The immediate provocation for Abdul Bari’s outburst was the Shuddhi Movement started by Swami Shraddhananda in the summer of 1923. Swamiji in turn had been led to pursue this path in response to a book, Fãtimî Dãwat-i-Islãm, by Hasan Nizami... Swamiji had written a pamphlet, The Hour of Danger, in which he had warned Hindu society to be on its guard against mischievous Muslim machinations. According to his biographer, J.T.F. Jordens, “In his pamphlet the Swami went on to show how Nizami in his own introduction referred to his consultations with many Muslim leaders, including the Agha Khan, and how all had agreed that the publication of his work should remain a carefully kept secret, within the Muslim community. The single purpose of the pamphlet was to describe all the means, fair and foul, by which Hindus could be induced to become Muslims.... The Swami felt that he had uncovered a giant conspiracy. His pamphlet consisted practically entirely of quotations from Nizami’s work, showing how all Muslims should be involved in the fight for the spread of Islam: how pirs, fakirs, politicians, peasants, zamindars, hakims, etc. could be used and what their allotted task should be. It also stressed the need for secrecy and for an extensive spy network.’
    Abdul Bari clean forgot that Swami Shraddhananda had unconditionally supported the Khilafat agitation under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. It was Swamiji who had bared his breast in Chandni Chowk on March 30, 1919, and dared the British soldiers to try their bullets on him. It was Swamiji whom the Muslims of Delhi had invited to address them from the mimbar of the Jama Masjid on March 31, 1919. Abdul Bari should have denounced Hasan Nizami who had hatched a plot against the Hindus without any provocation whatsoever on the part of the latter. But the self-righteous Mullah and the authoritative interpreter of the Shariat, had done just the opposite. He had joined his voice with that of the other Mullahs in egging upon a Muslim fanatic to murder Swami Shraddhananda. The Mullahs of Deoband had offered special prayers for the soul of the assassin.
    • Sita Ram Goel, Muslim Separitism - Causes and Consequences with reference to J.T.F. Jordens, Swami Shradhananda: His Life and Causes, New Delhi, 1981, and Francis Robinson, Separatism Among Indian Muslims, Delhi, 1975
  • The Urdu pamphlet Daî Islâm by Khwaja Hasan Nizami came into his hands. He immediately wrote in answer a pamphlet, the title of which clearly expressed his violent reaction: ‘The Hour of Danger: Hindus, be on your guard! The order has been given to attack and destroy the fortress of your religion in the hidden dead of night!’ (…) The Swami found out that the pamphlet was in fact only the introduction to a larger volume called Fâtamî Dawat-i-Islâm, which had been published as early as 1920, years before the shuddhi of the Malkanas started. In this the Swami saw proof that the Muslim reaction of the day was not merely against the shuddhi and sangathan movements, but rather was part of a sinister plot hatched years earlier. In his pamphlet the Swami went on to show how Nizami in his own introduction referred to his consultations with many Muslim leaders, including the Aga Khan, and how all had agreed that the publication of his work should remain a carefully kept secret within the Muslim community. The single purpose of the pamphlet was to describe all the means, fair and foul, by which Hindus could be induced to become Muslims. (…) In the conclusion of his own booklet, the Swami suggested some ways in which the Muslim threat could be countered. The openness and ethics of his methods stood in strong contrast with Nizami’s tactics.”
    • Prof. J.T.F. Jordens, "Swami Shraddhananda, His Life and Causes" (OUP, Delhi 1981). (p.140-141)
  • “Some of his writings about the Muslims expressed harsh and provocative judgments. But (….) they were invariably written in response to writings or pronouncements of Muslims which either vehemently attacked Hinduism, the Arya Samaj, and the Swami himself, or which supported methods such as (…) the killing of apostates, and the use of devious and unfair means of propaganda.” He himself “never advocated unfair, underhand or violent methods”.
    • Prof. J.T.F. Jordens, (Jordens 1981: 174-175) quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Hindu Dharma and the Culture Wars. (2019). New Delhi : Rupa.
  • [Asymmetry was the principle as in the case of Islam;] conversion was held to be and acted upon as something that was an essential principle of Christianity; but when a person like Swami Shraddhananda argued in favour of taking back into the Hindu fold the converts who wanted to return, they were condemned as persons who were inventing a practice for which there was no warrant in Hinduism.”
    • Madhya Pradesh (India), Goel, S. R., Niyogi, M. B. (1998). RIFT IN THE LUTE, in Vindicated by time: The Niyogi Committee report on Christian missionary activities. ISBN 9789385485121
  • J.T.F. Jordens in Swami Shraddhananda insists that there was also no causal relation between Gandhi’s attack and the murder, which was apparently triggered by the Swami’s acquittal in a court case for alleged abduction brought by a Muslim whose wife and children had run away from his home and sought conversion from the Swami... Nonetheless, the allegation that Gandhi was less than even-handed in his criticism of Hindu preachers of conversion and Muslim preachers of murder of converts was supported by many. One of these was Ambedkar, who held it against Gandhi that he had not even condemned the murder of Swami Shraddhananda and other Arya Samaj leaders. One of Ambedkar’s many criticisms of Gandhiji was this: ‘He has never called the Muslims to account even when they have been guilty of gross crimes against Hindus.’ He cites, among other examples (like the Moplah rebellion), the series of murders of people who had criticized Mohammed and the Quran: Swami Shraddhananda, ‘who was shot by Abdul Rashid on 23 December 1926 when he was lying in his sick bed’; Lala Nanak Chand, a prominent Arya Samajist; Rajpal, the editor of the book Rangeela Rasool (‘The playboy prophet’, gossip on Prophet Mohammed’s sex life, in reaction to a similar Muslim publication on Sita), ‘stabbed by Ilamdin on 6 April 1929 while sitting in his shop’; Nathuramal Sharma, ‘murdered by Abdul Qayum in September 1934 (…) in the Court of the Judicial Commissioner of Sind where he was seated while awaiting the hearing of his appeal against his conviction under Section 195, Indian Penal Code, for the publication of a pamphlet on the history of Islam.’ That is ‘only a short list, and could easily be expanded.’ Dr Ambedkar points out that, while the murderers were tried by British judges, the Muslim leadership gave its full moral support to the murderers: ‘The leading Muslims, however, never condemned these criminals. On the contrary, they were hailed as religious martyrs (…) Mr Barkat Ali, a barrister of Lahore, who argued the appeal of Abdul Qayum (…) went to the length of saying that Qayum was not guilty of murder of Nathuramal because his act was justifiable by the law of the Koran. This attitude of the Muslims is quite understandable. What is not understandable is the attitude of Mr Gandhi.’... Note also how Gandhi clean forgot his earlier closeness to Swami Shraddhananda. It was Shraddhananda to whom he had sent his two sons to be looked after and educated at Gurukula Kangri near Haridwar, when he was in South Africa. It was Shraddhananda whom he had met at the Gurukul soon after his return to India. And it was Shraddhananda (not Tagore, as is often claimed) who was the first to decorate him with the honorific of ‘Mahatma’, which he wore throughout his life. The least he should have done was to renounce the title bestowed on him by the Swami when he felt so estranged with the latter as to embrace his murderer as brother.
    • J.T.F. Jordens, Ambdedkar. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.

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