Dr Zakir Husain Biography

Dr Zakir Husain was the third President of India and the first Muslim to occupy that post. Dr Zakir Husain is best known for his two-year stint at the office of the President of India spanning from May 13, 1967, to May 3, 1969. He was a freedom fighter and educational reformer.

Husain responded to the nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi’s appeal to Indian youth to shun state-supported institutions; he helped found the Muslim National University in Aligarh (later moved to New Delhi) and served as its vice-chancellor from 1926 to 1948. At Gandhi’s invitation, he also became chairman of the National Committee on Basic Education, established in 1937 to design a Gandhian syllabus for schools.

Quick Facts

Also Listed In:Presidents, Political Leaders
Nationality:Indian  
Birth Date:8th February, 1897
Died At Age:72
Sun Sign:Aquarius
Born In:Hyderabad, India
Father:Fida Husain Khan
Mother:Naznin Begum
Spouse/Partner:Shah Jahan Begum
Religion:Muslim
Died On:May 3rd, 1969
Awards:Padma Vibhushan (1954)
Bharat Ratna (1963)

Dr Zakir Hussain was one of the biggest exponents of education in India and it was under his leadership that the National Muslim University was founded. Till today, the National Muslim University exists under the name of Jamia Milia Islamia, a central university in New Delhi, and continues to flourish, producing some of the best students each year. Dr Zakir Hussain had served as the Governor of Bihar and had also taken oath as the Vice President of the country before ending his political career as the third President of India.

Childhood & Early Life:

  • Zakir Husain was born to Fida Husain Khan and Naznin Begum on February 8, 1897, in Kaimganj, Farrukhabad. His family, which originally was based in Hyderabad, had migrated to Kaimganj. He was the third of the seven sons born to the couple.
  • His early years were full of tragic episodes, as his father died when young Husain was merely ten years of age. Within three years, his mother too passed away leaving Husain and his six siblings orphaned.
  • He completed his early education from Islamia High School in Etawah after which he enrolled at the Anglo Muhammadan Oriental College, which is now popular by the name of Aligarh Muslim University.
  • It was while at college that he developed a fascination and bent for politics that shaped the future course of his life. At college, he served as a prominent student leader. In 1918, he passed his B.A. Honors and joined M.A., but the Khilafat and Non-Co-operation Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, inspired him to leave the government administered college.

Career and Returning to India:

  • In 1920, he led a small group of students and teachers and together they founded the National Muslim University at Aligarh in October 1920. Five years later, they shifted the university to Karol Bagh before finally shifting it to Jamia Nagar in New Delhi, where it eventually was re-christened as Jamia Milia University.
  • For two years, from 1920 to 1922, he took up the position of a teacher at Jamia Milia University. However, his deep embedded interest in education invoked yet again and he moved to Germany to gain his PhD degree in Economics from the Frederick William University of Berlin, which he eventually bagged in 1926.
  • It was in Germany that he came out with a collection of the best works of the greatest Urdu poet Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’.
  • Upon returning to India, while other political bigwigs actively involved themselves in politics and Mahatma Gandhi’s Swaraj and Civil Disobedience Movement, he took a different approach and aimed to contribute in the freedom struggle by using education as the chief tool.
  • In 1927, He took over as the head of Jamia Milia Islamia University, which had steeply declined in popularity and was facing the threat of closure due to financial constraints. He aimed to revive the university.
  • For the next twenty-two years, he tirelessly worked uplifting the academic and managerial standard of the university. It was under his leadership that the educational institute not just managed to stay afloat, but contributed in the Indian struggle for freedom from the British Rule.
  • The educational institute under his leadership stuck to its objective of spreading education among the masses. He strongly believed in the fact that national renaissance could not just be gained through active politics all alone. Reformative education would play a dominant role as well.
  • As an educator and teacher, he propagated the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi and Hakim Ajmal Khan and experimented with value-based education. No sooner, he became one of the most celebrated educational thinkers of the country.
  • He thence became an active member of initializing several educational reform movements in India. It was due to his constant and untiring efforts that he gained appreciation from arch political rivals like Mohammad Ali Jinnah as well.
  • In 1937, when Congress won a majority and successfully formed an interim government, a national educational conference was called upon to establish a national policy of education. He along with Gandhi supported a work-centred education instead of the book-centred one.
  • On October 23, 1937, he was elected as the Chairman of the Education Committee. His work involved formulating a scheme of basic education as discussed in the conference. He submitted his report on December 1937.
  • In 1948, soon after India gained independence, he became the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, which faced a crisis situation, as some of its teachers were actively involved in the partition of the country and vouched for their support for the creation of a separate state of Pakistan.
  • Following his term as a Vice-Chancellor, he was nominated to the Upper House of the Parliament in 1956. However, just after a year of being a Rajya Sabha member, he was appointed as the Governor of State of Bihar, a position he served for five years, from 1957 to 1962.
  • In 1962, he was appointed as the Vice President of India. He held the profile for a full five-year term, before being elected to the chair of the President of India on May 13, 1967. With this, he created history by being the first Muslim to occupy such a prestigious post.
  • During his presidential tenure, he marvelled all with his gentleness, courteousness and sense of humanity. He was kind and tender to all irrespective of their social, political and economic status. He led four state visits to Hungary, Yugoslavia, USSR and Nepal.

Awards & Achievements:

  • In 1954, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan
  • In 1963, he was conferred with India’s highest national honour, Bharat Ratna.

Death:

Dr Zakir Hussain passed away on the 3rd of May, 1969, two years after he was sworn in as President of India. His death also made him the first President to die while still in office. He was buried on the campus of the Jamia Millia Islamia (or Central University) in New Delhi.

Timeline:

1897: Zakir Hussain was born on February 8. 

1920: Founded the National Muslim University in Aligarh on October 29. 

1925: The campus of the university was shifted to New Delhi. 

1935: National Muslim University was renamed Jamia Millia Islamia and was relocated in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi.

1948: Became the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. 

1954: Was awarded Padma Vibhushan 

1956: Became a member of the Indian Parliament 

1957-62: Elected as the Governor of Bihar for a period of five years. 

1962: Sworn in as second Vice President of India. 

1963: Recipient of the Bharat Ratna Award 

1967: Became the first Muslim President of India 

1969: Died on May 3.

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