Ajmal Khan (or Hakim Ajmal Khan) (1868–1927) was an Indian physician specialising in the field of South Asian traditional Unani medicine as well as a Muslim nationalist politician and freedom fighter. Through his founding of the Tibbia College in Delhi, he is credited with the revival of Unani medicine in early 20th century India. Khan also recognised the talents of chemist Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, whose subsequent research into important medicinal plants used in the field gave it a new direction. A close associate of Gandhi, he participated in the Non-cooperation movement (Satyagraha), led the Khilafat Movement, and became the fifth Muslim President of the Indian National Congress during the 1921 session held in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.Khan was one of the founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia University, becoming its first chancellor in 1920 and remaining in office until his death in 1927
Hakim Born in 1868 (17th Shawwal 1284), Khan descended from a distinguished line of physicians who had come to India during the reign of Mughal Emperor Babar. His family were all Unani doctors who had practiced this ancient form of medicine since their arrival in the country. They were then known as the Rais of Delhi. His grandfather, Hakim Sharif Khan, was physician to Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam and built the Sharif Manzil, a hospital-cum-college teaching Unani medicine.Khan learnt the Quran by heart and as a child studied traditional Islamic knowledge including Arabic and Persian, before turning his energy to the study of medicine under the guidance of his senior relatives, all of whom were well-known physicians.
To promote the practice of Tibb-i-unani or Unani medicine, his grandfather had set up the Sharif Manzil hospital-cum-college known throughout the subcontinent as one of the best philanthropic Unani hospitals where treatment for poor patients was free. He completed his Unani studies under Hakeem Abdul Jameel of Siddiqui Dawakhana, Delhi.On qualifying in 1892, Khan became chief physician to the Nawab of Rampur. Hailed as “Massiha-e-Hind” (Healer of India) and “a king without a crown”, Khan, like his father, was reputed to effect miraculous cures and to have possessed a “magical” medicine chest, the secrets of which were known to him alone. Such was his medical acumen that it is said that he could diagnose any illness by just looking at a person’s face. Hakim Ajmal Khan charged Rs.1000 per day for an out-of-town visit but if the patient came to Delhi, he was treated free, regardless of his position in society.
Khan proved to be the most outstanding and multifaceted personality of his era with matchless contributions to the causes of Indian independence, national integration and communal harmony.
He took great interest in the expansion and development of the native system of Unani medicine and to that end built three important institutions, the Central College in Delhi, the Hindustani Dawakhana and the Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College, which expanded research and practice in the field and saved the Unani System of Medicine from extinction in India. His untiring efforts in this field infused a new force and life into an otherwise decaying Unani medical system under British rule. Khan proposed the absorption of Western concepts within the Unani system, a view diametrically opposite to that adopted by physicians of the Lucknow school who wanted to maintain the system’s purity.
As one of its founders, Khan was elected first chancellor of the Jamia Milia Islamia University on 22 November 1920, holding the position until his death in 1927. During this period he oversaw the University’s move to Delhi from Aligarh and helped it to overcome various crises, including financial ones, when he carried out extensive fund raising and often bailed it out using his own money.
Khan changed direction from medicine towards politics after he started writing for the Urdu weekly Akmal-ul-Akhbar launched by his family. Khan also headed the Muslim team who met the Viceroy of India in Shimla in 1906 and presented him with a memorandum written by the delegation. The following year, he was present at the Dhaka inauguration of the All India Muslim League on 30 December 1906. At a time when many Muslim leaders faced arrest, Khan approached Mahatma Gandhi for help, thereafter uniting with him and other Muslim leaders such as Maulana Azad, Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali in the well-known Khilafat movement. Khan was also the sole person elected to the Presidency of the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League and the All India Khilafat Committee.
Before he died of heart problems on 29 December 1927 Khan had renounced his government title, and many of his Indian followers awarded him the title of Masih-ul-Mulk (Healer of the Nation). He was succeeded to the position of JMI Chancellor by Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari. Ajmaline, a class Ia antiarrhythmic agent and Ajmalan a parent hydride, are named after him.
After the partition of India Khan’s grandson Hakim Muhammad Nabi Khan moved to Pakistan. Hakim Nabi had learnt Tibb (medicine)[clarification needed] from his grandfather and opened ‘Dawakhana Hakim Ajmal Khan’ in Lahore which has branches throughout Pakistan. The motto of the Ajmal Khan family is Azal-ul-Allah-Khudatulmal, which means that the best way to keep oneself busy is by serving humanity.
“The spirit of non-cooperation pervades throughout the country and there is no true Indian heart even in the remotest corner of this great country which is not filled with the spirit of cheerful suffering and sacrifice to attain Swaraj and see the Punjab and the Khilafat wrongs redressed.” — From the Presidential Address, I.N.C., 1921 Session, Ahmedabad..