The Tyabjis

Abbas Tyabji

G. O. M. of Gujarat

by Mahatma Gandhi

Harijan, 20-6-1936
It was in 1915 I first met Shri Abbas Tyabji. Wherever I have gone and there has been a Tyabji, he or she has made it a point to come to me as if I were a member of that great and numerous family. I do not know what the binding tie specially was, except perhaps that the distinguished judge to whom the family owe their fame had befriended me in in 1890 [Actually, 1896] when I had come to India from South Africa as an utterly unknown man, possibly an adventurer as some had thought. Not so however thought Badruddin Tyabji and several others I can name.

But I must come back to Abbas Mian of Baroda. As we embraced each other and I looked into his face, it reminded me of the late Justice Badruddin. That meeting laid the foundation of a life-long friendship. I found in him not merely a friend of Harijans, he was himself one. When at Godhra long ago[November 1917] I had, to the surprise of my audience, invited them to have an anti-untouchability conference in the evening at the untouchable quarters, Abbas Mian was there taking as lively an interest in the Harijans as any staunch Hindu. Yet he was no ordinary Mussalman. He had given lavishly to the cause of Islam and was supporting several Islamic institutions. And yet he had never any designs upon Harijans. His Islam had room for all the great religions of the earth. Hence he looked at the anti-untouchability campaign with the fervour of a Hindu. And I know that he retained that fervour to the end of his time on this earth.

The fact is he never took up anything half-heartedly. There were no mental reservations about Abbas Tyabji. At a moment's notice he answered the call of the Punjab. At his age and for one who had never known hardships of life it was no joke to suffer imprisonments. But his faith conquered every obstacle. He put to shame many a young man by his ability to live with an infectious smile the simple life of the Kheda peasant, to share their simple food, travel in all seasons in their rude carts. I have never known him complain about inconveniences which could have been avoided. "His was not to reason why, his was to do and die." He who had once the power as Chief Judge of imposing the death penalty and exacting obedience showed an amazing capacity for submitting unquestioningly to discipline. He was a rare servant of humanity. He was a servant of India because he was a servant of humanity. He believed in God as Daridranarayana. He believed that God was to be found in the humblest cottages and among the depressed of the earth. Abbas Mian is not dead, though his body rests in the grave. His life is an inspiration for us all.

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