Allama Raghib Ahsan was born in 1905 in Neodhi village in Bihar, to Munshi Riazuddin, a government employee. His family later relocated to Calcultta, where Ahsan pursued his higher education. He graduated with a B.A. and M.A from Calcutta University.
It was in Calcutta that Ahsan became involved in politics, starting with his involvement in the Khilafat movement at the age of 13 under the leadership of Maulana Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali. Ahsan became an acquaintance of Muhammad Iqbal, known as the ‘Spiritual Father of Pakistan’, in 1929 and remained his close confidante till Iqbal’s death in 1938.
Role in India’s Independence Movement
His participation in the freedom struggle began when the Khilafat movement joined forces with Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation movement to mobilise the masses towards self-determination. As a result, he was arrested in 1922.
In 1931, Ahsan formed the All India Muslim Youth League. He also helped lay the foundation of Calcutta Muslim League in 1936 and became a member of the All India Muslim League Council in 1937.
Contribution to Constitution Making
Ahsan was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Calcutta, in 1946 on a Muslim League ticket. He did not actively participate in the debates.
Post-partition, Ahsan remained in India, where he continued to advocate for various issues concerning Muslims. He eventually fled to Dhaka in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to escape persecution for his political views.
Ahsan played a crucial role in the Pakistani constitution-building process. His ideas for a welfare state were included in the Objectives Resolution which defined the founding principles of the Pakistani Constitution.
Ahsan remained in Dhaka, where he joined the Pakistan Democratic Party and opposed the creation of Bangladesh. After the formation of Bangladesh in 1972, he relocated to Karachi, where he passed away on 28th November 1975.
Ahsan was a prolific writer who served as the editor of the weekly newspapers Star in Allahabad and the Calcutta-based Star of India. He regularly contributed to the Comrade and Hamdard magazines.
His notable works include Jihad for Millathood, Kitab-i-Mubeen, and Light from the East. He also authored important historical works such as The Pakistan Commonwealth, The Principles of Islamic Economics, and History of the Making of the Muslim Nation in India.
- Allamah Raghib Ahsan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah correspondence (1936-1947) (Islamabad : National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, Centre of Excellence, Quaid-i-Azam University, 2010).
- Iqbal Janah-i-Digar: A Collection of Iqbal’s Letters to Allama Raghib Ahsan by M. Faridul Haque (Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad, 1986)