Hyderabad’s history of support and solidarity with Palestine

Even as the Israel-Hamas war rages, given Hyderabad’s historic connections with Palestine, affirmations of solidarity continue

October 21, 2023 09:01 am | Updated 09:01 am IST - Hyderabad

According to historical documents, the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, provided substantial funding for the restoration of Masjid al-Aqsa, in the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to historical documents, the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, provided substantial funding for the restoration of Masjid al-Aqsa, in the Old City of Jerusalem. | Photo Credit: Jon Gambrell

As casualties rise in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, prayers and low-key protest meetings in Hyderabad, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians, have been continuing. Against this backdrop, historical evidence underscores the city’s unwavering support for Palestine, a commitment that spans from the era of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, to more recent times when Syed Vicaruddin of the Indo-Arab League tirelessly advocated the cause.

Well-known scholar from Hyderabad, the late Omar Khalidi, pointed out that Indian influence and Indian presence in Palestine dates back to the 13th century. In the 19th century, the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, played a significant role in this connection. According to a research paper, the Nizam provided substantial funding for the restoration of Masjid al-Aqsa, one of the three holiest sites in the Islamic world, and the first qibla (direction of prayer). Additionally, he contributed greatly to the creation of waqfs (Muslim endowments) in Palestine, and supported the renovation and restoration of a hospice named Zawiyah Hindiyya. This hospice, dedicated to the revered Sufi, Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, was a testament to the enduring bond between India and Palestine.

In his paper ‘Indian Muslims and Palestinian Awqaf’, Mr. Khalidi writes that the caretaker of the hospice, Nazir Hasan Ansari, an Indian from Saharanpur, managed to raise funds it from notable personalities of the day, including Mir Osman Ali Khan. “The main building in the hospice was named as Osman Manzil after the Nizam’s name,” Mr. Khalidi writes.

Important figures of Hyderabad, too found their way there. In one case, Maj Gen Syed Ahmed el-Idroos, the commander of the Hyderabad State Forces, who surrendered to Maj Gen J. N. Chaudhuri after Operation Polo, too visited the Zawiyah. According to Mr. Khalidi, he wrote in its visitor’s book, “Shaykh Nazir [the caretaker] has converted a bit of Jerusalem to India.” The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Al Hajj Amin, made trips to Hyderabad State, and met the Ittehadul Muslimin leader Bahadur Yar Jung.

The connections with Palestine were also acknowledged by the Indian government. For instance, a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) document underscores how the Masjid al Aqsa demonstrates the cultural affinity between India and Palestine. “The Nizam of Hyderabad donated chandeliers to the Al Aqsa mosque, which till date adorn the mosque. Indian Muslims contributed significant amount of money to open the Al Aqsa Mosque University,” its reads. Other sources claim that the over £7,000 were raised for this purpose, but to be repurposed on account of those tumultuous times.

While these are cultural exchanges and solidarities India had for Palestine, in more recent times, several companies entered into an understanding with Palestinian entities to extend their cooperation in the field of technology. Another MEA document, issued in August 2016, notes that at least three Indian companies, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (a GoI enterprise), and two Hyderabad-based companies had tied up with a Gaza-based entity for software training and consultancy.

More recently, Syed Vicaruddin, a stalwart of the Muslim community in Hyderabad, and the Editor of one of the oldest newspapers of the city, Rahnuma-e-Deccan, continues to be regarded as an embodiment of Indo-Palestinian solidarity.

“Vicaruddin sahab dedicated his life for the Indo-Palestinian cause,” said his long time associate Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez. “It was in 1967, soon after the [Arab-Israeli Six Day] war that the Indo-Arab League was established, and thus began his concerted efforts for Palestine, which also entailed raising and sending funds there.”

Mr. Parvez, who is a senior Urdu journalist, said that it was on Mr. Vicaruddin’s invitation that Palestine Liberation Organisation Chairman Yasser Arafat visited Hyderabad on two different occasions. In 1998, the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Shaykh Ekrama Sabri, laid the foundation stone of the Masjid-e-Rahmat-e-Alam, a spacious mosque off Road Number 10 in Banjara Hills. The foundation stone remains a testimony to this event.

“The Indo-Arab League public meetings enjoyed the presence of presidents and prime ministers such as I. K. Gujral, and Indira Gandhi. Vicaruddin sahab, who wanted a Palestinian diplomatic mission set up in Hyderabad, was awarded the Star of Jerusalem in 2015 for his relentless support to the Palestinian cause,” Mr. Parvez recalled.

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