Shah Muhammad Umair, who declared that necessities should be transcended and opportunities should be relinquished in order to preserve the wonderful syncretic culture of India, was born in 1903 in Arwal of Gaya district of Bihar state.
His father Shah Ashfaq Hussain was a wealthy zamindar (landlord). After the completion of his primary education at home, he went to Gaya for further education where he abandoned his education to participate in the Khilafat-Non-cooperation movements. His brother Shah Muhammed Zubair also played a notable role in the National movement. He became a member of the Indian National Congress and participated actively in the National Movement.
Working actively in the Indian National Congress, from the level of local units of the organization, Shah Muhammad Umair rose to work in its National level wings. Sometimes his uncompromising nature in the expression of opinions and his straightforwardness not only landed him in trouble but also caused embarrassment to the high command of the Indian National Congress. He moved closely with Mahatma Gandhi and participated actively in the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 for which he was jailed for two years.
Leading the Charge
Shah Muhammad Umair won the admiration of the people moving close with them as a people’s representative in several local self-governments. His generosity in donating plots and building materials won the hearts of 400 poor families in the Arwal region, as he helped them build their own homes. Shah Muhammad Umair became a member of the Bihar Legislative Council in 1939 and continued in that position till 1951. During that period he ably discharged his responsibilities as the Parliamentary Secretary and as the Floor Leader.
In 1940 he opposed the Muslim League’s Resolution for the partition of India terming it as a “dreadful and mischievous step”. In his book “Talash-e-Manzil’, which he wrote when he was in Hazaribagh Jail from 1942 to 1944, he stressed the need to preserve the wonderful syncretic culture of India by transcending the necessities and relinquishing the opportunities. Shah Muhammad Umair was a key participant in the Muslim Mass Contact Programme, which sought to bring Muslims into the National Movement.
Shah Muhammad Umair played a prominent role in Bihar politics in independent India serving as a member of the Rajya Sabha between 1956 and 1962. He passed away on 20 February 1978.