Allama Abdur Rahim Popalzai alias Imam-e- Hurriat was Mufti -e- Azam of Islam in NWFP ( Khyber Pukhtunkhwa). He belonged to the royal family of Durranis.He was born in Peshawar in 1890 .His father Mufti Abdul Hakim Popalzai who was titled as “Mufti – e- Sarhad” ,was the provincial president of both Khilafat Movement and Jamiat -e-Ulema-e- Hind ( NWFP chapter).Mufti Abdul Hakim was the son of Hazrat Muhammad Amin Popalzai who in turn was the son of Qazi ul Quzza (chief justice during the rule of Ameer Muhammad Azeem Khan ) named Abdur Rahim Khan Popalzai I.
The name of Mufti Abdur Rahim Popalzai II ‘s mother was Nazeer Bagum who was the daughter of Abdul Hameed Kabuli of Lucknow ( father of Nazeer Bagum) and Umrao Bagum( mother of Nazeer Bagum herself a poetess).Umrao Bagum was the ( maternal) grand daughter of the famous Urdu poet Khawaja Haider Ali Atish.Both of these ladies were burried in Rehman Baba ( Pushtoon Sufi poet)graveyard which is the ancestral graveyard of Popalzai family.
After completing his initial Islamic education at home Abdur Rahim Popalzai was sent out to Dehli, Rampur, Mandu and Deoband.He got his certificate of Hadeeth from Hazrat Sheikhul Hind Maulana Mehmood – e -Hasan.He came back to Peshawar in 1912.
He had been introduced by Hazrat Sheikhul Hind to the clandestine Waliullahi Movement and other members of the same movement.
He became a member of the clandestine freedom movement of Abul Kalam Azad named “Hizbullah” in Peshawar. Very little record if any might be found about this secret movement.Haji Sahib Turangzai was also a member and leader of the movement.
0n March 27, 1914 Allama abdur Rahim Popalzai , his father Mufti Abdul Hakim Popalzai,Haji Sahib of Turangzai, Syed Abdul Mabood Shah ( a disciple of Haji Imdadullah Muhajir Makki) and Haji Ghulam Samdani iaugurated a regular school at Masjid Qasim Ali Khan.
Abdur Rahim Popalzai took active part in supporting Otomans Caliphate.He remained in fore front of Hijrat and Khilafat Movements. In 1924 he travelled to Dheli with Abdur Rehman Rya and other associates to counter the Shuddhi movement launched by some Hindus to convert other people to Hinduism. He was also a member of Jamiat e Ulema e Hind.In 1926 he composed an Arabic eulogy and was presented in printed form in the annual meeting of JUI Hind held in Calcutta.
In 1927 the annual meeting of JUH was held at Peshawar.All the Ulema celebrities had come to Peshawar from across the undivided India. It was in this meeting that Abdur Rahim Popalzai was elected as member of the Provincial working committee and his father Mufti Abdul Hakim Popalzai was elected as the Provincial President of Jamiat e Ulema e Hind NWFP chapter.This was announced by Subhaul Hind Maulana Ahmad Saeed Dhelvi who also lauded the services rendered by Abdur Rahim Popalzai. 1927 was the year when Allama Popalzai realizing the need of a news paper reflecting and upholding the cause the down trodden people started his clandestine news paper The “Naujawan Sarfarosh ” which later continued by the name of “Sarfarosh”. It used to be distributed very secretly. In 1929 he was appointed as secretary of a delegation of Ulema by Khilafat Committee to tour as far as eastern Afghanistan to support the progressive and anti imperialist government f Ghazi Amanullah Khan unveil the reality of the British sponsored propaganda against Amanullah Khan.He had the support of other notables including Haji Sahib Turangzai and Bacha Khan.They travelled upto Afghanistan and held jarga meetings with the trible elders and succeeded in winning their support with their signatures. Unfortunately however Amanullah Khan was compelled to leave his country and spend rest of his life in exile.
Abdur Rahim Popalzai was a supporter and office bearer of Peshawar Congress Committee in 1929.
In 1929 He decided to organize and outrightly support Jamiat -e- Nowjawan -e- Sarhad a political party of peasants and labourers of NWFP.This party had been secretely launched a few years back under the clandestine leadership of Maulana Abdur Rahim Popalzai and Kakajee Sanober Hussain Momand.Initially Kakajee Sanober Hussain was the President of the party.But in the beginning of 1930 ( February) the party under the constant threat of religious opposition persuaded its hitherto guardian Allama Abdur Rahim Popalzai to publicly assume the presidentship of the party.When Abdur Rahim Popalzai undertook the responsiility of the presidentship the party was renamed as Naujawan Bharat Sabha in 1930.
This was the crucial time when Civil Disobedience Movement was launched by the Congress with the help of Khilafat and Naujawn Bharat Sabha.
On the morning of 23rd April Allama Abdur Rahim Popalzai was arrested in connection with the Qissa Khawani Masacre.He was awarded a total 9 years rigorous imprisonment in three different cases.Bacha Khan and Agha Syed Lal Badshah Bukhari (Provincial president of Congress) were awarded 3 years rigorous imprisonment each. All of them were released after Gandhi Irwin truce in 1931.
In 1931 he with Kakajee Sanober Hussain led procession on the first anniversary of Qissa Khawani Massacre.The same year ( 1931) he went to Bombay to participate in annual Khilafat session and also to Karachi to participate in congress special session .
In 1931 Abdur Rahim Popalzai while defying section 144 led a procession and held a meeting in Shahibagh Peshawar protesting against the execution of Hari Kishan.He was arrested and sent to jail or one year rigorous imprisonment.On completion of his imprisonment he was not released for three years.(It was during this imprisonment that his biographer Malik Omar Farooq Khan ( brother of Haji Faqeera Khan MLA) attended his lessons on Shah Wali Ullah ‘s book of revolution titled as Hujjat ullah ul Baligha حجتہ اللہ البالغہ with its possible implications on the contemporary Muslim society. Later Omar Farooq Khan cont inued to come to Abdur Rahim Popalzai all the way from Malikpur Hazara to Peshawar to learn more from him).
In 1933 when he was released with the orders of fresh confinement to his locality he resumed imparting religious and political education to his students.Side by side he started a welfare organization by the name of Anjuman e Khuddam e Insaneeat انجمن خدام انسانیت . A news letter by the name of “Iqdam” اقدام was started as the organ of this welfare organization.
In 1934 he also continued participating in the organization and activities of Jamiat e Ulema e Hind Peshawar.
The same year in 1934 he worked hard to support Dr. Khan Sahib for his election as a member of legislative Assembly (central).He mobilized his resources and Dr.Khan Sahib was elected as a member.
In February1935 Maulana Abdur Rahim went to Saudi Arabia via Karachi to perform Hajj and remained there till April 1936. He was reported to have met many leaders with Ghazi Amanullah Khan , Mustafa Kamal Ataturk and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi. When he returned to his country via Bombay he visited and stayed at Bombay , Ajmeer Shareef , Dehli, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Kashmir before reaching Peshawar in August 1936 due to death of his mother.As soon as he reached Peshawar a notice was served to him confining him to the city limits . In 1938 when Gandhi Jee visited NWFP a delegation of progressive politicians held a meeting with him under the presidentship of Abdur Rahim Popalzai to apprise him of the treatment of rightwing congressmen with the leftists.Dada Ameer Haider who was in hiding those days participated by a fake name under the leadership of Abdur Rahim Popalzai.In 1937 he continued his religious and political work and study circles.
In 1938 he was again arrested in connection with Ghalladher Peasants Movement by the Congress Ministry and awarded C class imprisonment for 6 months
He and his colleagues were colleages were not released till Ghandhi jee and other leaders intervened.
In 1939 he started responding to the complaints of peasants of Hazara and hed Ist Hazara Peasant conference at Mansehra and 2nd Hazara Conference at Sarai Saleh.At the end f these conferences he succeeded to get some relaxations of law fr the peasants.
In the same year (1939) he raised voice for the rights of the most down trodden people who were the Sweepers . The first ever provincial sweepers conference of NWFP was held and the reception speech was delivered by him.
In 1940 responding to a letter send by Faqeer of Epi Haji Mirza Ali Khan he went to Kohat and then Bannu to issue a religious decree of Jehad asking the Muslims to join hand with the Faqeer of Epi.He was arrested and awarded 5 years rigorous imprisonment. While he was in jail his 15 years old daughter Safia Bibi died.Also he was still in Jail when his brother Mufti Abdul Qiyum Popalzai was also arrested and later shifted with Maulana Ghulam Ghaus Hazarvi to the D.I Khan jail where he was already imprisoned.His case was challenged by his counsels and the imprisonment was reduced to three years at the end of which when he was released he was almost dying who could servive only for a few months and died on 31-5-1944. He is burried in the area of his Masjid Qasim Ali Khan where he had started his struggle for the freedom of 97% people of his country as against the 3% feudal lords and capitalists. While the dream of others was realised to get independence for feudals and capitalists ,his dream still remains unfulfilled. Capitalist and feudals in collaboration of international imperialism are free to deprive the working class of their hard earned produce.Market economy and modern social reforms in the Western World have however abolished many old forms of exploitation.They seem to have come closer to a humane society as once upon a time envisaged by the Muslim scholars like Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi and Abdur Rahim Popalzai.