Renowned professor, author and critic of Urdu language passed into ages on 7 September 2022. I got to know about his death from my father’s WhatsApp message ‘asghar bhai Ka aaj Delhi Apollo aspataal main inteqal ho gaya’. Inna nillahi wa Inna ilaihi rajiun (unto Him we belong and unto Him shall we return).
Professor Asghar Abbas retired as professor of Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University. Besides his immense contribution to Urdu language he was considered authority on Sir Syed and Aligarh Movement. He was very passionate about Sir Syed and Aligarh Movement. He was Fida-e-Sir Syed in the true sense. He wrote numerous articles and books on Sir Syed and Aligarh Movement. As director of Sir Syed Academy, he published numerous books and edited versions of books by Sir Syed and documents related to Aligarh Movement. His no talk was free of Sir Syed or Aligarh Movement. In his death, we have lost a great scholar of Aligarh Movement. He retired as professor of Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University. As a teacher he was very popular among his students and was well respected by his peers.
For me he was just Asghar chacha. Whenever I was in Aligarh, a visit to his home, Gulshan Dost, in Sir Syed Nagar was a must. After the death of his wife, he confined himself to his house and reduced meeting others. Whenever I visited him he would insist on tea. One by one he would hand over biscuits to me and would cut fruits himself. He never allowed me or house maid to cut fruits. He would cut himself and would give me piece by piece and would ensure that I finish all. Despite all the protests I would be literally force fed. It was his way of showing affection. Despite his age he would make it a point to visit my home just to meet me and enquire about my daughter, Zainab. Whenever I would tell him that chacha I visited you only two days back and why you took the trouble of coming. He would always say “mohsin tumhari mohabbat kheench lati hai aur isi bahaney Zilli saheb se bhi mulaqaat ho jati hai“.
He loved collecting books. His drawing room cum library was part of his drawing room. Hundreds of books from floor to the roof neatly kept in glass shelf were a sight to behold. Whenever his book was published he would personally bring a copy to my house. He knew my father for almost five decades. Both had immense respect for each other. Whenever he met my father the discussion would always be academic. Many times he would come to my house just to discuss meaning of some Urdu words which had Arabic or Persian root from my father. When we were staying in university quarters in Zakir Bagh (C-20) it was near faculty of arts in which Urdu department is situated. At times he would pass by our house. He would ring the bell. Say salaam to my father and would leave for his classes. When we invited him inside the house his standard reply would be ‘bas Zilli saheb ko dekhney Ka Dil chah Raha tha. Dekh Liya tassalli ho Gayi ab chalta hoon. Phir Kabhi fursat se auonga’. It’s hard to find such love, such respect now a days.
He was a thorough gentleman, very soft spoken and always well dressed. Be it sherwani or suit with matching tie, he was known for good taste of cloth selection. Ashgar chacha never learnt driving and always preferred walking or using the services of rikshaw. Later he bought a car and kept a driver but would still prefer walking.
I met him at his residence during my India visit in January 2022. I had chance to meet him again in July 2022 but he was in hospital. During my hospital visit I found him quite week. May Allah rest his soul in peace and May Almighty raise his status in the hereafter.