Gandhi on Allah-o-Akbar

February 9, 2022


During the Madras tour, at Bezwada I had occasion to remark upon the national cries and I suggested that it would be better to have cries about ideals than men. I asked the audience to replace “ Mahatma Gandhi ki jai” and “Mahomed Ali-Shaukat Ali ki jai” by “ Hindu-Mussulman ki jai”. Brother Shaukat Ali, who followed, positively laid down the law. In spite of the Hindu-Muslim unity he had observed that if Hindus shouted “Vandemataram”, the Muslims rang out with “Allah-o-Akbar” and vice versa. This he rightly said jarred on the ear and still showed that the people did not act with one mind. There should be therefore only three cries recognized, “Allah- o-Akbar” to be joyously sung out by Hindus and Muslims showing that God alone was great and no other. The second should be “ Vandemataram” (Hail Motherland) or “ Bharat Mata ki jai” (Victory to Mother Hind). The third should be “Hindu-Mussulman ki jai” without which there was no victory for India, and no true demonstration to the greatness of God. I do wish that the newspapers and public men would take up the Maulana’s suggestion and lead the people only to use the three cries. They are full of meaning. The first is a prayer and a confession of our littleness and therefore a sign of humility. It is a cry in which all Hindus and Muslims should join in reverence and prayerfulness. Hindus may not fight shy of Arabic words when their meaning is not only totally inoffensive but even ennobling. God is no respecter of any particular tongue. “Vandemataram”, apart from its wonderful associations, expresses the one national wish—the rise of India to her full height. And I should prefer “Vandemataram” to “Bharat Mata ki jai” as it would be a graceful recognition of the intellectual and emotional superiority of Bengal. Since India can be nothing without the union of the Hindu and the Muslim heart, “ Hindu-Mussulman ki jai” is a cry which we may never forget.

There should be no discordance in these cries. Immediately some one has taken up any of the three cries the rest should take it up and not attempt to yell out their favourite. Those who do not wish to join may refrain, but they should consider it a breach of etiquette to interpolate their own when a cry has already been raised. It would be better too, always to follow out the three cries in the order given above. Nor should cries be incessantly shouted. One often hears an incessant yell when a popular leader is passing through a station. I doubt if this incessant noise does the slightest good to the nation except to provide an indifferent exercise for one’s lungs. Moreover, it is necessary to think of our hero’s nerves and time. It is a national waste to keep him occupied in gazing at a crowd and hearing a cry in his praise or any other for full thirty minutes. We must cultivate the sense of proportion.

Young India, 8-9-1920


July 18, 1947

I very much like all the vows you intend to take. But do nothing merely because I advise it or just to please me. There is no sin as bad as self-deception.

We are falling lower and lower each day. Our depravity has reached such a point that reports of atrocities committed on women have become a common thing. I tremble at this. God will show the path. Just now I have but one prayer:

‘Ishvar’ and ‘Allah’ are Thine names;

To all, O Lord, good sense give. *

[From Gujarati]

* Ishwar-Allaah tere naam, sabko sanmati de bhaghavaan

There was a time when Hindus and Muslims had been united. There was the pact of unity between the League and the Congress in 1916. Whether it was good or bad was not the question. He was a newcomer in India at that time and hardly knew anybody or affairs in this country. Then came the Khilafat Movement and there was a communal unity that had never been seen before that. Today Hindus were frightened when they heard the cries of “Allah-o-Akbar”. In those days, these were the slogans repeated at all meetings: “Vande mataram”, “Allah-o-Akbar” and “Sat Sri Akal”. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in their thousands shouted these slogans with one voice. They were the same people today. Those who were youngsters in those days were grown-up men today. Why could not they live together as friends now? Gandhiji was not prepared to admit that bitterness had gone so deep that it could not be overcome.

SPEECH AT PRAYER MEETING, Chandipur, November 23, 1946



August 23, 1947

Gandhiji first referred to the cry of Allah-o-Akbar to which some Hindus had objected. He held that it was probably a cry than which a greater one had not been produced by the world. It was a soul-stirring religious cry which meant, God only was great. There was nobility in the meaning. Did it become objectionable because it was Arabic? He admitted that it had in India a questionable association. It often terrified the Hindus because sometimes the Muslims in anger come out of the mosques with that cry on their lips to belabour the Hindus. He confessed that the original had no such association. So far as he knew, the cry had no such association in other parts of the world. If, therefore, there was to be a lasting friendship between the two, the Hindus should have no hesitation in uttering the cry together with their Muslim friends. God was known by many names and had many attributes. Rama, Rahim, Krishna, Karim, were all names of the one God. Sat Shri Akal, was an equally potent cry. Should a single Muslim or Hindu hesitate to utter it? It meant that God was and nothing else was. The Ramdhun had the same virtue.

He then came to Vande Mataram. That was no religious cry. It was a purely political cry. The Congress had to examine it. A reference was made to Gurudev about it. And both the Hindu and the Muslim members of the Congress Working Committee had to come to the conclusion that its opening lines were free from any possible objection, and he pleaded that it shoud be sung together by all on due occasion. It should never be a chant to insult or offend the Muslims. It was to be remembered that it was the cry that had fired political Bengal. Many Bengalis had given up their lives for political freedom with that cry on their lips. Though, therefore, he felt strongly about Vande Mataram as an ode to Mother India, he advised his League friends to refer the matter to the League High Command. He would be surprised if, in view of the growing friendliness between the Hindus and the Muslims, the league High Command objected to the prescribed lines of the Vande Mataram, the national song and the national cry of Bengal which sustained her when the rest of India was almost asleep and which was, so far as he was aware, acclaimed by both the Hindus and the Muslims of Bengal. No doubt, every act, as he pointed out the previous evening, must be purely voluntary on the part of either partner. Nothing could be imposed in true friendship.

SPEECH AT PRAYER MEETING, Calcutta, August 23, 1947