Obituary of Chaudhary Rahmat Ali

published in The Emmanuel College Magazine 1950-51


Choudhari Rahmat Ali will be remembered by a few of his contemporaries as a tall man, old for his undergraduate status, who came into residence in 1932 from the Islamia College, Lahore, to read law. They may also remember how impressive could be his formal and sincere courtesy and how, suddenly, he could speak as if inspired on the subject which he had already made his life, the defence of Islam against Hindu nationalism. It may not be the function of a College magazine to awaken the rancours of the politics of other lands, but it would be absurd not to record he fact that this obscure and single-handed undergraduate of Emmanuel College, who died in Cambridge in the influenza epidemic of the spring of this year and who is buried in the Newmarket Road cemetery, has influenced world events, and may yet influence the future, more than falls to the lot of most men. In his own way he followed a career not unlike that of Karl Marx. Ideas no doubt already well developed in India fermented in his mind, until lie issued from his undergraduate lodgings a pamphlet, in which he demanded the creation of an independent Muslim state in North India, and gave to it the name now well known, of Pakistan. It may well be that invention of the name was his essential feat. For some years all that could. be officially allowed was that this was mere student folly, but as its popularity grew, Ali's invention was seized by men of perhaps greater political gifts. His share in the creation of a new and now powerful state might well have been forgotten though he continued to issue other, and less inspired pamphlets, and to attempt other, and less successful name creations, among which was Dinia, a simple shuffling.of the word from which it is plainly derived. He paid one. or two sudden and rather secret visits to the East but in fact he made Cambridge his home, shifting a little unhappily from lodging to lodging, and using, perhaps rather more than was proper, the College as an accommodation address. His political, or rather semi-religious ideas, are collected in his book Pakistan. the Fatherland of the Pak Nation. He was from time to time sought out by men whose interest in his mission he soon found generally cloaked intentions with which he had little sympathy. He conducted an immense correspondence and latterly became a lonely figure, as his integrity compelled on him quarrels with his associates and as his recent years were harassed by a poverty strangely produced by the loss of his source of income, for his family properties were lost to him in the storms of partition. In the course of its history a College comes to number among its sons men of different claims to fame. Emmanuel accepted Ali in good faith as one of its annual entrants from India, for Emmanuel always recognised its duty to try to maintain its connection with worlds beyond England. By mere accident, we may have made the College a place of pilgrimage to the faithful or the curious, and have added another name to be misunderstood by the guide books. "This College was the College of the founder of Pakistan" - If a guide were to be overheard in such a story it would be a much truer one than many which are heard today in our Front Court about John Harvard.

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