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Today marks the 194th birthday of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. In 1869, he travelled with his two sons to England, from where he sent dispatches about his experiences for publication in India. Those fascinating dispatches from England remained unavailable to general public until 1961, when Shaikh Muhammad Isma’il Panipati edited and published them from Lahore. Now, thanks to Dr. Asghar Abbas, the former Director of the Sir Syed Academy at the Aligarh Muslim University we have a new and different edition. It contains the text as it first appeared in the pages of the Gazette, to which he has added several previously unnoticed articles. It makes the new book the most complete collection of what Sir Syed Ahmad Khan wrote publicly about his experiences abroad. In February 1869 the Aligarh Institute Gazette, the weekly bilingual journal of what was established in 1864 at Ghazipur as the Scientific Society, excitedly informed its readers that “the Institute’s Life Honorary Secretary, Maulvi Syed Ahmad Khan Sahib Bahadur, Subordinate Judge (First Class) and Judge (Small Causes) at Benares, was definitely traveling to England in April 1869.” -- C.M. Naim (Photo: Picture taken in Benares in 1869, most probably on the occasion of his departure for London. Syed Ahmad Khan sits on the ground in the middle; standing on the left are: Syed Hamid; Chhajju; and Syed Mahmud. Seated on the chair to the right of SAK is Raja Jaikishan Das)

In recognition of his contributions, the government of Bangladesh honoured him by appointing him the first National Professor from among physicians in 1984. He was awarded Swadhinata Padak (1979); Gold Medal by Begum Zebunnesa and Kazi Mahbubullah Trust (1981); Gold Medal by Mahbub Ali Khan Memorial Trust (1985); Gold Medal by Comilla Foundation, Comilla (1986); Gold Medal by Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah Memorial Trust, Ahsania Mission, Dhaka (1989); Gold Medal by Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (1989). He used to tell the patients: "We are grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to serve." His humility was legendary and most genuine. Deep empathy and compassion were characteristics of his dealing with his patients, especially those who were poor and in pain. He also motivated other doctors to serve the patients with empathy. -- Muhammad Abdul Mazid (Photo: Dr Mohammad Ibrahim)

By far the most stylistically sophisticated poet of the twentieth century, Allama Muhammad Iqbal drew on the best resources of a liberal Western education. While in his early poetry he had spoken of a united and free India where the Hindus and Muslims could co-exist, this belief in syncretism and pluralism soon gave way to Unitarianism and Individualism. The simple lyricism and romantic nationalism of the early phase was replaced by a self-conscious prophetism tempered with a strong political and social undertone. Iqbal's letters, given in their original form in the appendices and referred to also in Atiya's narrative, completes the picture. In one letter he writes, 'Thank you for all your scolding', in another he appends unpublished poems for her comments, offers clarifications as to why he refused teaching jobs at Aligarh and Lahore, confides about intensely personal matters such as his arranged marriage and the grief it has caused him. -- Rakhshanda Jalil (Photo: Allama Muhammad Iqbal)

 

Unable to bear the grief following the death of his mentor Hazrat Nizamuddin, Khusrau died exactly six months later, in 1325 AD. Once Jalauddin Khalji sought an interview with Hazrat Nizamuddin but was politely refused, for the Sufi stayed away from emperors and politics. The sultan planned an unannounced surprise visit to the Sufis khanqah. Khusrau learnt of the sultans secret plan and informed his mentor. Hazrat Nizamuddin left for Baba Farid’s dargah at Ajodhan. The sultan took Khusrau to task for divulging royal secrets. Khusrau explained, “In disobeying the sultan I stand in danger of losing my life, but in being untrue to my master, I stood in danger of losing my faith.” Impressed by Khusrau’s devotion, the sultan let the incident pass. -- Sadia Dehlvi (Photo: Hazrat Amir Khusroo (RA)

This article provides an overview of Nobel Prize Nominee Allama Mashriqi’s unique contributions to the fields of science and mathematics. The article touches on his academic career prior to his entry into politics, including his meetings with prominent scientists of the time like Albert Einstein and Dr. S.A Voronov and induction into the prestigious Geographical Society (Paris), Asiatic Society, and Royal Society of Arts (London). Ultimately, the author argues thatMashriqi’s contributions to these fields need to be explored further in order to fully understand and learn from his thoughts. -- Nasim Yousaf (Photo: Allama Mashriqi)

SAHITYA Akademi of India has brought out a book on one of Urdu’s leading literary figures, Niaz Fatehpuri, who is also known as an outspoken rationalist ever ready to fight for the cause of reason, more particularly in the domain of religion.   They had already rejected Sir Syed’s rationalist interpretations of Islamic teachings and once again the clerics rose in defence of Islamic teachings as interpreted by them. They came out with fatwas of apostasy against Niaz. He got his courage from his beliefs in the basic teachings of Islam. It was only the clerics’ version that he had rejected. Ejaz has quoted a number of writers who insist that Niaz was deeply involved in religion: he studied it a lot and tried to gain access to the truth underlying the teachings. Niaz appeared well settled in India but in July 1962 he quietly left Lucknow and came to Karachi. Niaz never explained the reason for his belated decision to come to Pakistan. -- Intizar Husain (Photo: Niaz Fatehpuri)

 

There is a lovely story from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, remembering that a mysterious visitor came upon him and his companions. The visitor, later revealed to be the archangel Gabriel, proceeded to sit intimately next to Muhammad and quiz the Prophet. He asked Muhammad about three increasingly higher and deeper levels of religiosity, which the Prophet answered sequentially as Islam (wholehearted submission to God), Faith and, lastly, Loveliness (ihsan). This third quality the Prophet identified as worshipping God as if we could see the Divine, and if we cannot, to always remember that God nevertheless sees us. -- Omid Safi

 

Slowly, we are forgetting (or are being made to forget) our national heroes, our history and our culture. I wonder what percentage of our young generation knows about Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali. Tipu Sultan was a good administrator as well as a good warrior. He had inflicted serious damages and casualties on the British in the First and Second Mysore Wars and had shattered the myth of their invincibility. (Portrailt of Tipu Sultan) -- Dr A Q Khan

It is extremely difficult for the Muslims of today to imagine and much less to endure the hardships that the Prophet and his companions underwent. In the ninth year of his mission, the Prophet — having been persecuted and terrorized by his people in Makkah — headed for Taif, home to the Banu Thaqif tribe. There he went to preach his message but was treated rudely by the tribal elders, who told him to clear off and even sent street urchins after him to beat him and pelt him with stones. -- KHALED ALMAEENA

It is extremely difficult for the Muslims of today to imagine and much less to endure the hardships that the Prophet and his companions underwent. In the ninth year of his mission, the Prophet — having been persecuted and terrorized by his people in Makkah — headed for Taif, home to the Banu Thaqif tribe. There he went to preach his message but was treated rudely by the tribal elders, who told him to clear off and even sent street urchins after him to beat him and pelt him with stones. He bled profusely causing his entire body to be covered with blood and his sandals to become clogged to his feet. He headed away from the town and took respite near a rock and made a heart-rending invocation to God Almighty beseeching mercy for the people who had persecuted him a few moments earlier.

It is said that the heavens were moved by the Prophet's prayer and the Archangel Gabriel came and said that God Almighty is aware of what has passed and that he has deputed an angel in charge of the mountains. The angel in charge of the mountains then came forward and offered to bring the mountains overlooking Taif to collide with each other to destroy the inhabitants. However, being a mountain of mercy himself and the mercy of the worlds, the Prophet refused. Note the conduct of our noble Prophet. … In spite of suffering so much at the hands of the Taif mob, the Prophet did not curse or seek revenge, even when the opportunity arose. Instead, he pleaded for mercy. -- Khaled Almaeena

A columnist friend recently asked me to do a write-up on what he described as the Pashtun political dynasties and, specifically, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s family. At the time it did not appear to be a difficult proposition to take up and I agreed. However, when I eventually got to the task at hand, it seemed like a herculean undertaking. It is formidable not because one could not or should not write about the Pashtun polity and role of clans in it but because it would be a serious injustice to the proudest son that Pashtun lands have ever produced to lump him together with any other Pashtun leader that came before or after him, including those related to him by blood. -- Dr Mohammad Taqi

Photo: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as Badshah Khan or Sarhadi Gandhi with Mahatma Gandhi

 

Dataganj Bakhsh was a prominent writer and poet with his works being published in collections (Deewan). His Kashful Mahjub is his masterpiece on Sufism. … He derived the title “Hajweri” from his locality in Ghazani. … He visited India at the behest of his instructor and leader. One day he saw his mentor in a dream. He asked him to visit Lahore as he was given the charge of the city. He replied that Hazrat Khwaja Hasan Zanjani (RA) was already present in Lahore, so it was unnecessary. His mentor insisted that he travel to Lahore at the earliest without further arguments. He reached Lahore at night, and so stayed outside the city. When he entered the city in morning, he saw a funeral procession. On investigation, he discovered that it was the dead body of Hazrat Khwaja Hasan Zanjani (RA) being taken for burial.  Hazrat Zanjani had died the previous night. According to traditions, Dataganj Bakhsh led the last prayers for Hazrat Zanjani. Thus he realised the secret behind his mentor’s order to go to Lahore. -- Rauf Ramish

(Translated from Urdu by Raihan Nezami, NewAgeIslam.com)

 

Denied due acknowledgement in his lifetime, maverick poet Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869) had predicted that the world would acknowledge his greatness posthumously. The newest chapter in lengthening the memory of Ghalib was added on December 26 — a day ahead of his 213th birth anniversary — when his fans installed a beautiful bust of him at his restored haveli (mansion) in old Delhi's Gali Qasim Jaan. If the event warmed up the frozen December evening in the walled city — the fans, holding candles, marched to the memorial from crowded Chandni Chowk — the birth of the bust itself is no less exciting....

The sculptor says the toughest part was to capture Ghalib's droopy eyes and his pleasant smile. "Ghalib had a great sense of humour. He knew how to turn a tense moment into an agreeable one. This was difficult but I captured it in the bust," says Rampure, a JJ School of Arts graduate who initially worked in Mumbai but subsequently moved to Pune, from where he shifted to his hometown Solapur in 2007. -- Mohammed Wajihuddin

Photo: Mirza Ghalib

On October 15, 1979, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that the world’s highest award in Physics would be awarded to three scientists “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles”. One of them was named Abdus Salam and he was born in Jhang in 1926 to a proud working class Punjabi family. He would go on to become one of the most important theoretical physicists of his day, contribute to one of the most important theories in Physics, the Grand Unified Theory and die a proud Pakistani on November 21, 1996 in Oxford after living a life where he was celebrated as one of the greatest minds of the century. His country however would not celebrate him as a hero and his name remain unknown to a large percentage. The tragedy of his treatment at the hands of his countrymen is unparalleled and there is still visible uneasiness and perhaps even fear in accepting him as a national hero. -- Shahid Saeed

The supreme interest of Sir Syed’s life was education in its widest sense. He wanted to create a scientific temperament among the Muslims of India and to make the modern knowledge of Science available to them. He championed the cause of modern education at a time when all the Indians in general and Indian Muslims in particular considered it a sin to get modern education and that too through English language. He began establishing schools, at Muradabad in 1858 and Ghazipur in 1863. A more ambitious undertaking was the foundation of the Scientific Society, which published translations of many educational texts and issued a bilingual journal  in Urdu and English. It was for the use of all citizens and were jointly operated by the Hindus and Muslims. -- Azhar Mohammed K

October 17 is celebrated as the great educationist and reformer Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s (1817-1898) birthday.

Some of the products of the Aligarh movement misunderstood Sir Syed's message. Unlike Sir Syed, they used rhetoric instead of rationalism when they addressed the community. The Ali brothers (Maulana Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali) belonged to this group of leaders who set a bad trend. Emulating the Ali brothers, the myopic Muslim leadership of today exploits the community's fear and keeps it riveted to emotional issues. A few voices who could have been exemplars are largely isolated. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is one of them. Khan's views, though essentially inspired from the Quran and the Hadith, are not accepted by the majority of Muslims. His much-publicised recent advice to the Muslims to relocate the Babri Mosque drew ridicule from most ulema. "He is working for the RSS and doesn't represent us. We have rejected his proposals in the past and reject this one too," declares Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi of All India Ulema Council. -- Mohammed Wajihuddin

 

In recent articles, plenty of light has been shed on the sultan’s refusal to sell land in Palestine to Zionists, prior to World War II. After turning down the offer, Abdulhamid famously refused to meet Mizray Qrasow, the Jewish banker who had offered to pay off the Empire’s debts and build a navy in exchange for the right to buy land in Palestine. Abdulhamid – according to the Arab and Turkish version of events – told one of his aides, “Tell those impolite Jews that I am not going to carry the historical shame of selling holy land to the Jews and betraying the responsibility and trust of my people!” -- Sami Moubayed

 

Perhaps no religion is more misunderstood than Islam, by those who do not follow it. In Europe, for instance, we find a deeply-rooted prejudice against Islam, which is based on ignorance of that which is disliked. It is the duty of the followers of Islam to spread through the civilised world, a knowledge of what Islam means — its spirit and message. They should spread a knowledge of the teachings of the great Prophet, and not allow the more ignorant to narrow down the limits of his teachings. Islam is misunderstood. because of ignorance; and I propose to preface my address with the nature of the prejudices requiring to be met:

1). The first objection against Islam is, that it was spread by the sword, is fanatical, leads to persecution and religious wars and causes blood-shed. Such accusations come from the Christians, who have been notorious for their persecutions. The Inquisition, the Crusades and various forms of persecution employed by the Christians deprive them of the right to attack another faith. -- Annie Besant

When the banner of the great Prophet was first carried to Europe, it came at a period of intellectual darkness. When the Roman catholic faith was a persecuting faith, and when the Moors invaded Spain and founded wonderful Universities, when they brought the light of science to Europe and for six centuries carried a torch of illumination to the European nations — in that time they were looked upon less as scientific teachers than as religious heretics; and because the Crescent instead of the Cross was blazing on their standards, their teaching was banned and they themselves were regarded as enemies.

It is well to remember that from the 8th century to the 14th it was from the Mussalman source that the light of knowledge spread over Europe, that the Muslims revived the knowledge of Greece and of Alexandria as it had been advanced and strengthened in the great University of Baghdad, sending out its messengers in all directions. From that entry into Europe there arose a prejudice against Islam as Islam which was not due to a knowledge of its religious teachings, but as a heretical faith; and therefore all its teachings of every kind were to be banned by good Christian people. -- Annie Besant

Ali’s letter to another of his faithful ally Malik bin Ashter, governor of Basra which is considered as masterpiece of principles of governance. He advised Malik ”do not say, ’I am your overlord and dictator, and that you should, therefore, bow to my commands”, as that will corrupt your heart. He further writes to him, “Let your mind respect through your actions the rights of God and the rights of human beings…for otherwise you will be doing injustice to yourself and injustice to humanity.”

 He also advises Malik Ashter to”Care for them with tenderness with which you care for your children, and do not talk before them of any good you might have done to them, nor disregard any expression of affection which they show in return…” -- Asghar Ali Engineer

 

The internationally renowned Egyptian Koran expert Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd was one of the leading Islamic reformist thinkers of our time. His discourse analytical study of the Koran paved the way for a contemporary understanding of Islam. Abu Zayd recently passed away in Cairo at the age of 66. Loay Mudhoon looks back on the life of this important man

"If the message of Islam is to be valid for all humanity, regardless of place and time, a variety of interpretations is unavoidable," said Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd

 

For Dr. Abdus Salam, his work as a scientist was entirely in obedience to the message of the Quran, and the injunctions of the Holy Prophet. He would say, “The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of his design is a bounty and a grace for which I am my thanks with a humble heart”. He was referring, of course to the recent advances in the Theory of Relativity, and Quantum Theory, which give us a fresh insight into creation.

During his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, he quoted from the Quran; “Thou seest not in the creation of the All-Merciful any imperfection. Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure? Then return thy gaze again and again. Thy gaze comes back to you dazzled, aweary.” – Asif Merchant

The assumption that Iqbal did not believe in democracy rests largely on a verse he wrote in which he said that democracy was “that form of government in which persons are counted, not weighed”. In a democracy, everyone counts for one and no one counts for more than one. This is both the most obvious advantage (in the sense that it prevents monopoly of power and privilege) and disadvantage (in the sense that numerical equality is stressed at the expense of unequal merit) of democracy. That Iqbal should have pointed out something obvious by no means indicates that he was against democracy. -- Dr Riffat Hassan   

 

Instead of colouring Iqbal red or green, Faiz has tried to contextualise Iqbal's message. Placing Iqbal among "poets of affirmation'' like Dante, Milton and Goethe, Faiz described Iqbal as a product of his period whose "work reflected all the inner intellectual contradictions, all the conflicting impulses, all the confused dreams and aspirations of the middle strata of Indo-Pakistani Muslims.'' "It is precisely because of this," says Faiz, "that his work is popular among progressives and reactionaries alike.'' -- Farooq Sulehria

 

There are different legends on how Khwaja Qutub got the title of Bakhtiar Kaki. The most accepted one narrates that his wife used to take provisions on credit from a nearby grocer to feed her starving family. One day, the grocer taunted her, saying that her family would have starved had it not been for his kindness. Khwaja Qutub learnt of the remark and forbade the taking of provisions on credit. Pointing to a niche in the wall, he told his wife to recite “Bismillah” and take bread from it. The kak, bread, continued appearing miraculously till his wife revealed the secret to others. -- Sadia Dehlvi

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