A remnant of Massih Ul Mulk, Hakim Ajmal Khan Legacy at walled city of Delhi
Urdu Sign board depicting: Hindustani Dawakhana under supervision of Massih Ul Mulk
Located in the bylanes of Shahjahanabad, there is an Ayush dispensary run by the Delhi Government in a building named as Hindustani Dawakhana. It was once a dispensary established under the patronage of great Unani Physician, Hakim Ajmal Khan. The ancestors of Ajmal Khan were originally belonged to the Central Asian city of Kashgar who came to India with Mughal Emperor Babur. It was the Hakim Fazal Khan, the grandson of famous Islamic scholar Mulla Ali Quari who started practicing Unani Medicine in ancestral lineage. From then the family has a reputation for making great physicians. It was his grandfather, Hakim Sharif Khan, and the physician of Shah Alam II after whom the family is named as Sharif Khani Family. The 18th-century haveli and Unani hospital located in Gali Qasim Jaan at Ballimaran was named after him as Sharif Manzil.
In heydays, the Hindustani Dawakhana has been reputed to patent more than eighty-four magical herbs. The veteran Chronicler of Delhi, RV Smith cited the year 1910 as the establishment of Hindustani Dawakhana. Some of the well-known drugs that are still used in South Asian Unani practice are Musafi, Sharbet E Sadar, Akise Nisama, and Hebat Kebat came from this center.
In 1883, the elder brother Hakim Abdul Majid Khan founded an Unani school that was officially inaugurated on 23 July 1889 with an objective of modernization by Deputy Commissioner of Delhi, Mr. Clarke. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Maulana Hali, and Maulvi Nazeer Ahmad were among the eminent Muslim leaders who attended inaugural ceremony. On this occasion, the Maulana Nazeer Ahmad also recited an Urdu poem for eulogizing the progress of the school and later on it became the trend of its convocational ceremony. The work of resuscitating traditional Unani medicine in changing time was continued by Hakim Abdul Majid and Hakim Ajmal Khan by strengthing the roots of formal education at this newly established Centre. Nawab Hamid Ali Khan of Rampur and many other notables of Bhopal, & Patiala estate lend their financial support in the establishment of Tibbia College. It was the death of the elder brother, Hakim Abdul Majid on 11 July 1901 at age of fifty-three that draws the complete responsibility of running the Tibbia School came on the shoulders of Hakim Ajmal Khan. Initially, it was a joint stock company with a simple building at the same location. Facing the crisis of funds, the drug company was endowed by Hakim Sahab to Tibbia School, and renamed as “Hindustani Dawakhana”. All the money generated from the pharmacy has been endowed for the research & development of the Tibbia College. In its early days, the building was simple and this austere building came up in 1910 and it was inaugurated by Raja Kishan Kumar. The author and historian Rana Safvi wrote that it was mandatory for the physicians working at Sharif Manzil Hospital to prescribe the drugs from “Hindustani Dawakhana”. The venture made by him appeared to be successful as records showed that annual income of Hindustani Dawakhana raised to 125,000 INR in 1927 from 4499 INR in 1921. The franchise of Dawakhana retail stores was distributed all over the country. All the secret composition of traditional medicines carried by the Sharif Khani family for centuries has been provided to the center by Hakim Ajmal Khan. This is how the great philanthropist alleviates the human suffering and saved the traditional medicine from extinction. Many times the annual convocations of Tibbia College were presided and attended by great leaders like Motilal Nehru, Maulana Azad, and Mahatma Gandhi during the time of Ajmal Khan.
As one of the notable Unani Physicians of his age, Hakim Ajmal Khan has generated an enormous wealth. R.V. Smith cited that for treating the members of Royal families in British India, he used to charge the fee of 1000/INR, an amount equal to one hundred thousand Indian Rupees in contemporary days. Hakim Sahab visited my hometown Pilibhit for the treatment of local zamindar Ashgar Yaar Khan when he was working as Chief Physician for Nawab Rampur. Hundreds of the locals gathered at the residence of Asghar Yaar Khan on hearing the news of his visit. An eyewitness elderly man told my father, that hundreds of the poor patients were treated for free during his one week stay while hundred Rupees per consultation were charged from wealthy elites of the city. He endowed most of his earnings and properties for the cause of humanity. For his extraordinary services to the humanity, he was honored with the title of “Massih Ul Mulk : Healer of nation” and a “King without Crown”. In biographies of Eminent Muslim of India, C.F. Andrews sketched the Ajmal Khan with following words “For more than eighteen years a friend ship, which has grown stronger year by year, has bound me to Hakim Ajmal Khan Sahib, in Delhi. The history and tradition of his family is one of great interest in modern India, and the Hakim Sahib holds to-day, for the time being a place at the head of the popular movement in India, which is a sure token of the respect of Hindus and Mussalmans alike”
A polymath who was born on 11 February 1868 at notable Sharif Khani family left a remarkable footprint in education, medicine, politics, humanities, and journalism. From Aryuvedic & Tibbia College at Delhi up to the foundation of Jamia Millia Islamia, he was founding members of many educational centers. For his educational contributions, he was elected as first Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia on 22 November 1920. An emissary of Hindu Muslim Unity, he is credited for the structured fusion of indigenous Indian Medicine with centuries-old Unani (Greek) Medicine that brought by Muslims in Indian Subcontinent. It was his relentless efforts of six years that provided the legitimate right for the Unani & Aryuvedic physicians to practice from British Government. Even after seventy years of Indian partition, the Unani and Aryuvedic medicine share almost forty percent of its contribution in India with per capita doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000.
Prof. Dr. Salemuzzaman Siddiqui attributed his first discovery, an alkaloid used for treating arrhythmias of heart in the name of Ajmal Khan as “Ajmaline”. A road in Karol Bagh is named after him as Ajmal Khan Road. In changing the landscape of Delhi, the people were hardly aware that the Sharif Manzil was among one of the frequently visited addresses in the walled city by the notable leaders, princes, Nawabs and many heads of the states during the time of Hakim Ajmal Khan.
On 27, December 1927, the great physician, philanthropist, educationist & freedom fighter passed away at Rampur. He was buried at his family graveyard at Delhi. The author and historian, Rana Safvi during the exploration for the “Forgotten Cities of Delhi” found the resting place of the great soul in shabby condition at Rasool Numa compound, Panchkuian Road of Delhi. She wrote “In between a whole row of beds tucked away in one forgotten corner sleeps one of the greatest leaders of our Freedom movement. Revered by Muslims and Hindus alike. I couldn’t believe my eyes so went up closer to read the tombstone”. The veteran Chronicler of Delhi Smith has sketched many lively accounts on the life of Masihul Ul Mulk in his writings. Unfortunately, the fast growing 21st century Delhi has forgotten the resting place of “Masihul Ul Mulk " and his legacy “Hindustani Dawakhana” at Old Delhi.
C.F.Andrews accounts on Ajmal Khan, Natesan, Eminent Mussalmans, Madras, 1926.
Rana Safvi, Hakim Ajmal Khans last resting place: in a forgotten corner of Delhi, 2016. Retrieved from: http://twocircles.net/2016may08/1462717032.html
R.V.Smith, Delhi: Unknown Tales of a City, Roli Books, 2015.
R.V.Smith, the Amazing Hakim Sahab, 2015, retrieved from: http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/down-memory-lane-the-amazing-hakim-sahib/article7268350.ece
Zafar Ahmad Nizami, Builders of Modern India, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Published by Director Publication division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Patiala House, New Delhi, 1988.