Prof Asghar Abbas

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.

Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali

Mohsin Aziz

(Residential halls of Aligarh Muslim University: Person behind the name series/ blog 3)

Hali hostel is one of the six residential hostels of Mohsinul Mulk Hall of the Aligarh Muslim University. The foundation stone of Mohsinul Mulk Hall was laid by the first Prime Minister of Independent India in 1963.

Sir Syed had to face lot of criticism and had to overcome many hurdles including that of being declared apostate in his mission but he was fortunate to have found a very dedicated group of supporters also. One of them was Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, also known as Khwaja Altaf Hussain Hali. Hali was born in 1837 in Panipat and traced his lineage to Hazrat Abu Ayyub Ansari (R.A.A.). Hali’s family settled in Panipat about 700 years before his birth. One of his distinguished ancestor was Khwaja Malak Ali who migrated to India 700 years ago from Herat and settled in Panipat. Khwaja Malak Ali was granted several fertile villages by Ghayasuddin Balban and was appointed Qazi of his area and was given responsibility to control prices and manage graveyards of the learned. He was also given responsibility to give Eid Khutba (Hali, Altaf Hussain, 1927).

Hali enjoys a very prominent position in the history of Urdu literature and poetry. Hali was poet, biographer, author, critic. He was an exceptional prose writer as well. Hali had traditional education as per the norm of the day. He studies Quran, Arabic and Persian in his childhood. At the age of 17 he travelled to Delhi to study in Hussain Baksh ka Madrasa. The Madrasa was situated opposite Jama Masjid (Hameed, 2003). At the same time, Hali started writing Urdu and Persian poetry and took the takhallus (nom de plume) of Khasta (heart broken in the sense of tender heart). It is during his stay in Delhi that he met Mirza Ghalib and was impressed by his poetry. Mirza had may admirers who brought their poetry to him to get his opinion and help for improvement. It was difficult for budding poets to get Mirza Ghalib interested in their poetry and hence to get his guidance. However, when Khwaja Altaf Hussain showed his poetry to Mirza Ghalib, the master poet was impressed (which by the way was not an easy task) and advised Hali to continue to write poetry. Ghalib told him “Young man, I never advice anyone to write poetry but to you I say, if you don’t write poetry, you will be very harsh on your temperament“.

Soon the family found about his whereabouts and brought him back home. Hali got a job at collectors office in Hissar in 1856 (Hussain, S. A., 1986). While Hali was in Hissar, the First War of Independence broke out in 1857. The Britishers termed it mutiny (ghadar) and crushed it with heavy hand. In these difficult times, Hali decided to shift back to Panipat. He stayed in Panipat for almost four years. During this time his daughter Inayat Fatima and youngest son, Khwaja Sajjad Hussain were born. Khwaja Sajjad Hussain did his graduation from MAO college and became the captain of College cricket team. He was politically active and also became the president of student’s union (Hussain, S. A., 1986).

After spending four years in Panipat, Hali once again moved to Delhi. This not only gave him chance to meet Ghalib again but there he also met the rais of Jehangirabad, Nawab Mustafa Ali Khan Shaifta. Shaifta was not only nawab of Jehangirabad but was also a poet of high order who took islah (correction for poetry) from Mirza Ghalib just like Hali It is a tradition in Urdu poetry for young poets to show their kalaam (poetic writings) to an established master poet for correction and guidance). Shaifta offered to take Hali to Jehangirabad and become his son’s teacher guardian. Jehangirabad was near to Delhi. It allowed both Shaifta and Hali to visit Ghalib in Delhi quite often and take islah from him. However, Hali mentions that the company of Shaifta helped him more in his poetry then the islah of Ghalib but with the passage of time, Hali’s respect for Ghalib only kept on increasing. Most probably it was during this time that he changed in takhallus from Khasta to Hali (contemporary) on the recommendation of Ghalib (Hussain, S. A., 1986). When Ghalib passed away in 1869, Hali was deeply affected and wrote marsiya (elegiac poem lamenting the dead). This marsiya is considered one of the finest specimen of marsiya in Urdu poetry despite the fact that Urdu has produced marsiya poets of unmatched quality such as Anis and Dabeer besides many other.

Bulbuley hind mar gaya hehaat

Jis ki thi baat baat main ek baat

Uskey marney se mar gayi dilli

Khwaja nosha tha aur shahar baraat

Ek roshan dimagh tha na raha

Shahar main ek Chiragh tha na raha

In the same year, his friend and mentor, Shaifta also passed away. The death of Shaifta not only deeply saddened Hali but put him in quandary about his job. However, he soon got job in book depot of Punjab government and Hali moved from Delhi to Lahore. This job allowed ample opportunity to Hali to read western literature and opened new intellectual horizons for him. During his stay in Lahore he got in touch with Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azaad. Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azaad was promoting a different type of Urdu poetry which Hali liked very much. In fact, it was Lahore’s stay that changed the direction of Hali’s poetry. During this time, Delhi’s Anglo Arabic College offered him the post of Professor of Arabic which Hali accepted and shifted to Delhi.

Association with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

Hali first met Sir Syed at a scientific society meeting at Aligarh in 1867. It was Shaifta who brought Hali along with him to the meeting. The second meeting of Hali with Sir Syed was at Lahore. In 1888 Hali travelled to Aligarh at the invitation of Sir Syed and stayed in Aligarh for few months (Khursheed, Ata, 2015). Before meeting Sir Syed, Hali had some reservations about him. But after meeting Sir Syed, Hali was convinced of Sir Syed good intentions and became his supporter. Hali support for the cause of Sir Syed flourished with time and continued even after the death of Sir Syed. Sir Syed requested Hali to write a marsiya on the death of a community after 1857. Hali obliged and wrote Musaddas e Hali and as they say, the rest is history.

Hui pahloye amna se huwaida

Dua e Khalil aur naveed e masiha

Wo Nabion main rahmat laqab paney wala

muraden gharibon ki bar laney wala

musibat main ghairon ke kaam aney wala

wo apney praye ka gham khaney wala

faqiron ka malja gharibon ka mawa

yatimon ka wali ghulamon ka mola

Who has not heard these immortal lines from Musaddas e Hali. Maulana Altaf Husaain Hali’sMusaddas-e-Madd-o-Jazr-e-Islam” commonly known as Musaddas-e-Hali (Musaddas on the ebb and flow of Islam) is perhaps one of the most read and powerful Urdu poems. It was first published in 1879 in Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq as well as in book form. It was written at the request of Sir Syed. The poem recalls Islam’s glorious past and mourned its declined in India. A poem which Hali called “dry, insipid, plain and simple poem” (Shackle & Majeed, 1997 ) took the Urdu speaking public with a storm (Sadiq, 1995).

The poem was written at the request of Sir Syed who felt that there is a need for a poem which laments the demise of Islam in India just as there was qasidah lamenting the demise of Muslims in Al Andalus (modern day Spain).

It was most probably the reading of Al Rundi’s famous Rithā’ al-Andalus, lament for the fall of seville (TIGNOL, E. 2016) that prompted Sir Syed to request Maulana Hali to write on the sad decline of Muslim community in India. Sir Syed told Hali that “there used to be mourners for Andalus but that our times are such that no one until now has mourned the condition of our community”. Sir Syed told Hali “God, my master, gave you a tongue but you do not speak; God gave you the marvelous ability to narrate but you do not use this miracle ; God fills our eyes with tears through rain bearing clouds but you do not let them flow one!” (Aligarh Institute Gazette, Aligarh, 26 Jan. 1878, p. 105.)

Musaddas has 296 stanzas containing 6 lines each. Hali traces the journey of Islam since its birth in Arabia. It tells how Muslims made tremendous progress in all walks of life and their contribution to the world. It then moves to the fall of Muslims in India from position of power to penury and powerlessness.

Sir Syed was mighty pleased with the Musaddas and opined that “with this Musaddas begins the modern age of Urdu poetry (Ross Masud, 1931) and famously said in a letter to Hali that “When, on the Day of Judgment, Allah will ask me, “What deeds have you brought”? I will say “I only made Hali write Musaddas and nothing else’ (Letter from Syed Ahmad Khan to Hali, Shimla, Park Hotel, 10 June 1879, In M. A. Mannan (2007). This shows that Sir Syed thought that Musaddas is good enough to get salvation for him on the day of judgement. There can not be a better appreciation of a book. According to Abid Hussain “thanks to Sir Syed, the community got a poet and the poet got a community” (Hussain, S. A., 1986).

The affect of Musaddas was electrifying to say the least. Even stage shows were made on it and the impact was such that people would burst into tears by the end of the drama. A series of poems imitating the style of the Musaddas as well as parodies based on it are testimony to both its popularity and impact.

Ram Babu Saksena (1927) in his survey of Urdu literature writes that “It was a revelation, a landmark in the literary history of Urdu language. A new star swam into the ken of Urdu poets. It gave a lead to the national and patriotic poems of India. The poem was printed and distributed and sung in assemblies, pulpits, mosques, and conferences“. In fact Hali is forerunner to Allama Iqbal and Shikwa and jawab e shikwa are without doubt culmination of Musaddas Hali.

It is worth mentioning that Hali gave the copyright of the Musaddas to the college so that the money collected could be used by the college fund. Sir Syed never let go of any opportunity to collect funds for the college. However this was different. It is to the credit of Sir Syed that he refused and told Hali that the Musaddas belonged to the community and the college would have no copyright over it. It is to the credit of Hali that despite paucity of money, he did did not keep copyrights and did not earn any royalty from its sale. Hali dedicated the Musaddas to the nation and to the community and gave open permission for it to be published and distributed by anybody (Hussain, S.A., 1986).

Pension from Hyderabad State

In 1887, Nawaab Asmaan Jah, Prime Minister of Hyderabad State, visited Aligarh. Sir Syed introduced Maulana Hali to Nawaab Asmaan Jah. The Nawaab was aware of the scholarship of Hali. He fixed a sum of 75 Hali Sicca per month (Till 1858, the Hyderabad State issued coins in the name of the Mughals. From 1858, Hyderabad State issued its own coins which were named as Hali Sicca meaning current coin to differentiate it from the Mughal coins. It was also called Osmania Sicca. For more details see, Reserve Bank of India website) as pension for Maulana Hali so that Maulana can concentrate on his work without having to worry about earning money for living. Hali immediately resigned from the Anglo Arabic School and dedicated to writing. Now it was difficult for Hali to remain in Delhi as all his friends and mentors had died one by one. In the words of Hali:

Ghalib hai na Shaifta, na Nayyar baqi

Wahshat hai na Salik hai na Anwar baqi

Hali ab isi ko bazme yaraan samjho

Yaron ke jo kutch dagh hain dil par baqi

In 1891, Hali visited Hyderabad as a part of deputation of trustees of Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College, his pension was increased by 25 Hali Sicca to 100 Hali Sicca (Hali, Altaf Hussain, 1927).

Hali’s contribution in the establishment Women’s College, Aligarh Muslim University

After the first war of independence in 1857, there was fierce reprisal from the Britishers. Thousands were hanged and Britishers took control of property of many more. A ten year old girl was one such unfortunate soul. She lost all her family members in 1857 and took refuge with Hali’s family. She spent rest of her life with Hali’s family. Hali was very much impressed by her resilience, patience and piety (Hussain, S. A., 1986). Some of the Hali’s poems are attributed to her. When Sheikh Abdullah started to propagate the idea of a girls school at Aligarh, he faced resistence from the society. To put his point forward, Sheikh Abdullah started a magazine called khatun. In 1905, at the request of Sheikh Abdullah, Hali wrote a poem in support of women’s poem – Chup ki daad (variously translated as homage to the silent and justice for the silent).

Ae maun! behnon! betiyon! dunya ki zeenat tum se hai

mulkon ki basti ho tumhin, qomon ki izzat tum se hai

Go nek mard aksar tumharey naam ke ashiq rahey

par nek hon ya bad, rahey sab muttafiq is per

jab tak jio tum, ilm o danish se raho mahroom yahan

ayi ho jaisi bekhabar, waisi hi jao be khabar (chup ki daad)

Chup ki daad praised women as courageous and caring. The poem talked about the hardships that a women has to undergo in her life. The poem mentioned that men are united in keeping women uneducated and ignorant and want women to remain unaware of knowledge. He besieged men to help women in getting educated and praised Begum Sultan Jahan for her support to the cause and cited her support as proof enough of the truthfulness of the venture. Chup ki daad gained quite popularity and played its role in changing the perception of the society towards women’s education. The poem played important role at a crucial time. The school got support from Begum Sultan Jahan and was opened a few months later (Salim, S., 2021)

The title of Shamsul Ulama

In 1904, Hali was given the title of Shamsul Ulama by the British Government. This title was reserved for the highly learned. The occasion was celebrated everywhere. Allama Shibli Nomani wrote a letter of congratulation. Shibli said “Maulana instead of you I will congratulate the title. Now the title has got respect” (Hussain, S. A., 1986). It would not be out of place to mention that Allama Shibli Nomani himself got the title of Shamsul Ulama from the British Government in 1894 while he was Professor at MAO College. Sir Syed was alive at that time and a grand function was arranged at the college to celebrate the occasion.

Works of Hali

Besides poetry Hali wrote books and articles also. His first book was Tiryaq e Masmoom in 1867. His next book was translation of a geology book from Arabic to Urdu during his stay at Lahore. The copyright of the book was given to University of the Punjab. During his Delhi stay he wrote Hayat e Saadi. His other notable work during that period was Yadgar e Ghalib. His major work in the field of critique of poetry is muqadma sher of shayari. But his magnum opus is biography of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan – Hayat e Jawed. Besides he wrote numerous articles primarily in Aligarh Institute Gazette and Tehzibul Akhlaq (Hali, Altaf Hussain, 1927).

Hali was no doubt a rare person. Very soft spoken but very resolute in his ideas. He talked about women’s education when the society was not ready for it. He openly expressed his ideas without fear or favour. He was a true admirer of Sir Syed and remained associated with the Aligarh Movement till his death. His death was mourned by Allama Iqbal:

Shibli ko ro rahe they abhii ahley gulistan

Hali bhi ho Gaya sue firdosey rah naward

References:

Hameed, Syeda, Syedain (2003)  Hali’s Musaddas: A Story in Verse of the Ebb and Tide of Islam (New Delhi: HarperCollins.

Hussain, Saleha Abid (1986) Yadgar-e-Hali: Tazkira-e-Khwaja Altaf Hussain Hali (5th Edition). New Delhi: Anjuman Taraqi Urdu Hind.

C. Shackle and J. Majeed, Hali’s (1997) Musaddas: the flow and ebb of Islam. Delhi: Oxford University Press

M. Sadiq, A History of Urdu Literature (Delhi, 1995), p. 347.

Urdu re-adaptation of an Arabic classic, al-Rundi’s famous Lament for the fall of Seville.

Ross Masud (1931) Khutut e Sir Syed, Ed. Ross Masud: Badayun  

M. A. Mannan (ed), Selected Letters of Sir Syed Ahmad, Aligarh, 2007

Tignol, E. (2016). A Note on the Origins of Hali’s – Madd-o Jazr-e Islām. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 26(4), 585-589. doi:10.1017/S1356186316000080

Ram Babu Saksena (1940) A History of Urdu Literature, pp. 215-216, Allahabad.

Salim, Saquib (2021, June 6) How Hali’s poem paved way for Women’s College at AMU. Awaztheyouth. Available at: https://www.awazthevoice.in/women-news/how-hali-s-poem-paved-way-for-women-s-college-at-amu-2935.html. Accessed on 2 December 2021.

Hali, Altaf Hussain (1927) Maulana Hali ki khud nosht sawaneh umri, Maarif, May, Vol. 19, No. 5, pp. 344-351.

Reserve Bank of India (2021) Available at: https://rbi.org.in/Scripts/pm_hyderabad.aspx. Accessed on 5 December 2021.

Khursheed, Ata (2015) Maulana Hali aur Aligarh, Tahzibul Akhlaq, Vol.34. No.1, pp. 41-48

The Musalman: A heritage publication catering to the niche

Recently random net surfing led me to a news in the Khaleej Times about an almost century old Urdu newspaper published or rather written from Chennai. It was about The Musalman, an Urdu newspaper which is handwritten. Urdu has a tradition of calligraphy. There was a time when books, magazines and newspapers were handwritten. The katibs (writers) wrote with machine like precision. The art of writing calligraphy is called kitabat. Master katibs were high in demand and they were respected for their finesse and dexterity to write in cursive style. With the advancement in print technology the art of kitabat slowly lost patronage and usage. That’s why it came as a pleasant surprise that even in these days and times there is still a newspaper which is published using the beautiful art of kitabat.

The Musalman is published since 1927. It is published on spreadsheet and then folded to make it a four page. The daily was started by Syed Azmathullah of Chennai in 1927. Presently Azmathullah’s grandson Syed Arifullah is running the newspaper. Arifullah has done MBA in marketing and has dedicated himself to the dream of grandfather to continue the newspaper. The Musalman is a daily newspaper. The daily circulation is 21000 copies. It has dedicated readers from all over India and in Chennai it is also available on newsstands. The annual subscription is paltry 400 Indian rupees. The cost per copy is mere 75 paisa.

The newspaper has illustrious history. The first edition of the newspaper in 1927 was inaugurated by famous freedom fighter and a leading leader of Indian National Congress, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari. Some interesting stories are also associated with the newspaper. In early 1960s the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Chennai, he was pleasantly surprised when he was interviewed by The Musalman reporter, Krishna Iyer. While Iyer was interviewing Nehru, a photographer of another newspaper The Hindu entered the room and introduced himself as Mohammed Asad from The Hindu. This example of plurality and composite culture of India where a Hindu was working for The Musalman while a Muslim was working for The Hindu left Nehru speechless. In fact, a few years later, Indira Gandhi held up the incident as a model of India’s secularism (Ziya Us Salam, 2021).Both The Hindu and The Musalman are still published from Chennai. The Hindu is in circulation since 1878 when it started as a weekly and later turned into a daily in 1889 (The Hindu, 2021)

The Musalman is most probably the only Urdu newspaper which still uses the traditional system of Kitabat. However, some of the newspaper reports about The Musalman mention it as the first Urdu newspaper (Joydeep Sen Gupta, 2021). This is not only patently wrong but also shows the casual manner these newspaper articles were written. By the time The Musalman was launched in 1927, Urdu newspapers in India had already completed more than 100 years. Various researchers give the credit to either Jam e Jahan Numa (1821) published from the then Calcutta or to Maratul Akhbar (1822), also published from Calcutta. Besides these there is a long list of Urdu newspapers which were started in early 18th century, thus, preceding The Musalman by almost a century. Some of the important Urdu newspapers from early 18th century are: Agra Akhbar (1831), Jamiul Akhbar (1841), Azam Akhbar (1848), Umdatul Akhbar (1849), Taleemul Akhbar (1851), Suboh Sadiq (1855), Tilisme Hairat (1856) (J.S. Ifthekhar, 2015; Mrinal Chatterjee, 2011).

I had telephonic conversation with the editor of The Musalman on 28 November 2021. I found out that at present the newspaper is delivered through email. The editor told me that hard copy will be back in print within a month. The newspaper at present can be subscribed either by visiting it’s office in Triplicane, Chennai or by sending cheque. At present the management does not accept payment or bank transfer. Either way its a treasure worth preserving and a story worth telling.

References:

J. S. Ifthekhar (2015) All about the Urdu media and more. The Hindu, February 17. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/all-about-the-urdu-media-and-more/article6904069.ece. Accessed on 3 December 2021.

Joydeep Sen Gupta (2021) How The Musalman, India’s hand written newspaper is defying covid-19 challenge. The Khaleej Times, 16 June. Available at: https://www.khaleejtimes.com/coronavirus/how-the-musalman-indias-hand-written-newspaper-is-defying-covid-19-challenge. Accessed on 2 December 2021.

Mrinal, Chatterjee (2011, November 3) The history of Urdu journalism in India. twocircles.net. Available at: http://twocircles.net/2011nov03/history_urdu_journalism_india.html. Accessed on 1 December 2021.

The Hindu (2021) About Us. The Hindu. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/aboutus/. Accessed on 3 December 2021.

Ziya Us Salam (2021) Plural Imprint: Chennai-based Urdu daily ‘The Musalman’ continues its strong show. The Hindu, 27 August. Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/plural-imprint-the-musalman-chennai-based-urdu-daily-published-since-1927-continues-its-strong-show/article35787242.ece. Accessed on 15 November 2021.

Darul Musanneffin Shibli Academy: Change at the top

Darul Musanneffin Shibli Academy at Azamgarh in India is one of the premiere Islamic research institute. In its more than 100 year of existence it has produced invaluable literature in the area of Islamic history, Islamic history in India, Life of the Prophet and the life of the Companions of the Prophet. Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli joined Darul Musanneffin in March 2008 as Director/Secretary. After serving the academy for almost 13 years he has in resigned from the academy in November 2021. The new chairman selected by the committee is Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan.

He is son of well known scholar, Late Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. His younger brother, Saniyasnain Khan is also a writer and publisher and runs Goodword Books. Zafrul Islam Khan got his primary education from Madrasatul Islah, Azamgarh. Later he went to Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow. Later he went for higher studies to Jamia Al Azhar, Cairo and completed his Ph.D. from University of Manchester, UK.

Zafrul Islam Khan is a well known public figure who has a record of public service in various capacities. At present he is editor and publisher of English fortnightly The Milli Gazette. He is also the founder and chairman of Charity Alliance. Charity Alliance is an NGO involved in relief work in India and also runs school for poor in West Bengal. He is former president of All India Majlis e Mushawarat for multiple terms. He is ex chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission.

Zafrul Islam Khan is also a prolific writer and has written several books and numerous articles. Before being elected as Director/Secretary of Darul Musanneffin, he was associated with the academy for several years. He brings vast and diverse experience with him to the academy. Of late, The academy is going through a very tough situation financially. I hope that he will strengthen the academy with his leadership and the academy will thrive and continue its illustrious journey under his leadership, Ameen.

I loved watching WildLens by Abrar. Why don’t you try

Author: Dr. Mohsin Aziz

I was searching for some good travel vlogs on internet when I came across Moto vlog WildLens by Abrar. The headline intrigued me and I thought what’s the harm in checking it. Once I started watching it, I got hooked. Its a travel vlog of Abrar who is Pakistani by origin but lives and works in Germany. He decided to travel to Pakistan on his BMW G310GS Bike all the way from Germany.

Its difficult to pin one thing that I liked about this moto vlog series. There are several reasons for liking it. For one, its in Urdu which is my mother tongue so definitely I enjoyed it more. Abrar’s narration is sprinkled with Punjabi which makes it more enjoyable. Also his demeanor makes watching it more enjoyable. Whatever the situation, problem with the motorcycle, visa denied at border, entry denied at border, Abrar is always smiling. Above all the superb drone videography and excellent editing makes the whole experience exceptionally good. Covered in 52 episodes, the journey will take you through several countries and 61 important stops. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the series from Frankfort in Germany to Nankana Saheb in Pakistan. The countries covered en-route are Germany, Austria, Slovania, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Though the whole series is good but once he enters Turkey the series goes to another level. It can easily be a Netflix series. I enjoyed watching it and to you I would suggest-Go watch it.

The link to the first vlog is

Surely! To Allah we belong

This is my 50th post and I wanted to write something else but with the gloomy scenario around, I decided to share a few verses from the Quran which may give some perspective to us in these testing times. These verses talk about the calamities befalling on human beings, their preferred reaction and the resulting favours of the Lord of the Universe on such people

And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones), (Al Quran 2:155). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” (Al Quran 2:156). They are those on whom are the Salawat (blessings) (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones (Al Quran 2:157)

O Allah, Make it Easy

Author: Dr. Mohsin Aziz

Today got the news of 7th death from back home due to corona. Its like a flash flood which is taking everything with it. Medical system is overwhelmed. Doctors and paramedical staff are overworked. People are under stress. The hardest hit are the children who have to endure online teaching. They miss their friends and their school.

One gets the news that so and so is ill and within two three days the news comes that he or she is no more. These are difficult times. We all are in it togethers. Please take very good care of yourself and your near and dear ones by following all the possible guidelines without getting paranoid. It is true that in the long run everybody is dead and there is no untimely death. Everybody dies on his or her appointed time and place only. Still it hurts when seemingly healthy and young go away just like that. Also there is lot of conflicting information floating around which further leads to stress and more confusion.

A possible way to deal with all the negative news floating around is to reduce our time in front of the idiot box. Let us invest our time in learning something new. Let us get ourselves engaged in some healthy activity and let us talk to each other about something else for a change.

Let us pray that humanity comes out of this quagmire soon and life can return to normal. A life where we can visit each other, a life where kids can enjoy their day in the park, a day when we can sit and eat together, a day when we are not suspicious of everybody around, a day when we can talk and laugh together.

O Lord of the Universe make it easy for us, Ameen.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (1925-2021)

Author: Dr. Mohsin Aziz

Noted Islamic Scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan died of Covid related illness on 21 April 2021 at a Delhi Hospital at the age of 96, Inna Nillahe Wa Inna Illaihe Rajioun (Indeed to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return). He was born on 1 January 1925 in Azamgarh district.

Maulana was a prolific writer. He wrote more than 200 books on Islam, Prophet, Spirituality, Quran etc. Among his notable works is a two volume commentary of Quran, Tazkirul Quran, in Urdu. Besides he also did a translation of Quran in contemporary English. He was editor of monthly Urdu Magazine Al Risala since 1976 which consisted primarily his own articles. His book “Islam: Creator of the Modern Age” is considered a classic on the subject.

Maulana Wahiduddin was one of the earlies among Indian Muslim Scholars to counsel Indian Muslims to surrender claim to Babri Masjid and was a regular presence in many interfaith dialogues.

He was recipient of many National and International awards including Demiurgus Peace International Award, India’s third highest Civilian Awards, Padma Bhushan(2000),  National Citizens’ Award, Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavna Award(2009) and last but not least Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award in 2021.

Personally I heard a lot about him from my father (Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli). He was senior to my father at Madrasatul Islah (Sarimeer, Azamgarh) and for a brief period was his roommate as well at the Madrasah. At Madrasah, while others slept on beds, Maulana preferred sleeping on floor (as told by my father).

Maulana is survived by two sons – Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan and Saniyasnain Khan. Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan is a senior journalist who edits fortnighty Milli Gazette and is former Chairman of Delhi Minority Commission while Saniyasnain Khan runs Goodword Books which publishes Islamic books for kids. Saniyasnain Khan is author of more than 100 books.

His death is indeed a great loss for humanity. May Allah increase his station in hereafter and forgive his shortcomings, Ameen.

Book Introduction: Discovering AMU, Volume 1,2 (Atif Hanif)

Author: Dr. Mohsin Aziz

Recently Aligarh Muslim University celebrated Centenary of its existence. The establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University was culmination of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s dream. It was untiring hard work of Sir Syed and his colleagues and later his successors that the small school that Sir Syed started in 1875 at Aligarh metamorphosed into a modern University by the name of Aligarh Muslim University in the year 1920. The centenary was celebrated with lot of vigor and a plethora of activates at the University. Inauguration of the Centenary Gate at the University and the address of the Prime Minister at the Annual Sir Syed Day along with the launching of a stamp on Sir Syed by the Prime Minister were the highlights.

Alumni of the University also celebrated the occasion by various means all over the Globe. Besides other activities, a number of books and articles were also published to commemorate the occasion. One such attempt to pay tribute to the University and celebrate the occasion is a two volume book by Atif Hanif. Atif is a brand and marketing professional from Lucknow. He was my class fellow at Aligarh during MBA (1997-1999) and a very dear friend.

Front and back dust cover of Volume 1
Front and back dust cover of Volume 2

The theme of the two volume book as mentioned on the cover page is “Centenary chapters revealing 100+ years of legacy“. The idea of the book is to capture the 360 degree view of the University in the past 100 years with the help of photographs in the coffee table book mould. The book contains valuable collection of photographs submitted by Alumni from all over the world. There is calligraphy, paintings, maps, letters etc. covering varied aspects of the rich and proud history of the Aligarh Muslim University and Aligarh Movement. The book is without doubt a welcome addition to the growing literature on the University.

Details about the Book Book

Author: Atif Hanif

Weight: 2730 Grams

Hardcover: 584 Pages

Volumes: 2

Language: English

Dimensions: 29.7 cm x 21 cm

Price: 2000 INR

ISBN: 978-81-947980-4-0

Publisher: Xtraordinary Life Media Pvt. Ltd.

The book can be ordered online at: http://www.xtraordinary.life

Justice Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman

Author: Dr. Mohsin Aziz

(Residential Halls of Aligarh Muslim University Series/ Blog 2)

Sulaiman Hall is one of the oldest Halls of resident of Aligarh Muslim University comprising of seven hostels – Kashmir House, Bhopal House, Agha Khan Hostel, Qidwai Hostel, Hasrat Mohani Hostel, Jai Kishan Das Hostel and Mahmoodabad House. It is named after Sir Shah Sulaiman, Eminent Judge and twice Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. The hall was established in 1945 during the Vice Chancellorship of Sir Dr. Ziauddin (amu.ac.in).

Shah Muhammad Sulaiman was born on February 3, 1886 at Jaunpur. His father, Maulvi Mohammad Usman, was a member of Bar at Jaunpur. He was good at studies and got first division in Matriculation examination followed by a first division at Intermediate examination from Muir College. In 1906, he completed his B.A. from Allahabad University where he stood first. Later he did B.Sc. and stood first. The first position earned him the United Province State Scholarship to study at Cambridge. He completed Tripos in Mathematics from Cambridge in 1909. Simultaneously he completed his Tripos in Law in 1910. Later he qualified for Doctor of Law from University of Dublin. He was called to the Bar from the Middle Temple but Shah Sulaiman decided to return and came back to India in 1911 (Pathak, S., n.d.).

Initially he practiced law at Jaunpur but soon moved to Allahabad High Court to practice law. Allahabad High Court at that time had brilliant lawyers such as Pandit Motilal Nehru, Pandit Sunder Lal, Tej Bahadur Sapru, B.E. O’Conor etc. Shah Sulaiman found fertile ground at Allahabad High Court to express his intellect and very soon made a name for himself in the august company of lawyers practicing there (Pathak, S., n.d.). Starting as Criminal Lawyer, he soon started taking civil cases, and very soon his incisive observations started turning heads. His reputation started to grow and he caught the attention of Chief Justices such as Sir Henry Richards and Sir Grimwood Mears. He was soon offered officiating assignment on the bench. He again moved back to practice but his talent made sure that very soon he was elevated to the Bench as Puisne Judge in 1923. The occasion was recorded by Allahabad Law Journal Reporter in the following words ‘Dr. Sulaiman’s career in the High Court has been one of uniform brilliance and it must be a great sacrifice on his part to accept the Judgeship of the High Court. In doing so, he has upheld the best traditions of the Bar which require that a successful advocate is bound, in point of moral obligation to the State, to serve on the Bench when called upon by His Majesty the King to do so. As an officiating Judge, on two occasions, he made himself universally popular among all sections of the Bar by his courtesy, patience, and evident desire to do justice‘ (Pathak, S., n.d.).

As a Judge he came into his own and very soon made a name for himself. As Sir Tej Sapru would recollect that “Nature had endowed him with gifts of an extraordinary character. Possessed of a penetrative intellect, a mind which could dissect and analyse things as very few other minds could, a power of expression and exposition, he did not take much time on the Bench before he made everyone feel that we had got a Judge of unusual ability and unusual gifts. . . He earned the respect of everyone for his depth of learning, for his sweep of mind and for the promptness of his decisions.”

In 1929 he was knighted by the King-Emperor while he was Puisne Judge at Allahabad. The same year, C. V. Raman was also knighted for his contribution to Physics (The London Gazette, 1929). He acted as Chief Justice in the absence of Sir Grimwood Mears, and thereafter served as a member of the Peshawar Enquiry Committee constituted for enquiring into the riots in Peshawar in 1930.

Upon the retirement of Sir Grimwood Mears as Chief Justice, Sir Shah Sulaiman was appointed as Chief Justice on March 16, 1932. With a reputation whose brilliance was already acknowledged throughout India, it was no surprise when in May, 1937, it was announced that Sir Shah Sulaiman had been appointed a Judge of the Federal Court of India, there was rejoicing everywhere. The new Court was constituted under the Government of India Act, 1935 and for the first time under British rule a focal point was created within the country to which important and grave questions of law proceeded from the High Courts and which, moreover, was vested with original jurisdiction in matters of constitutional importance in disputes between the Central Government and a Province or between one Province and another. When the news of his appointment was announced, there was great rejoicing at Allahabad High Court, and in a reference before a Full Court shortly after the announcement tributes were paid and congratulations showered upon him. When the time approached for him to leave for Delhi, there was a fond but sad farewell. Sir Shah Sulaiman assumed office as Judge of the Federal Court on October 1, 1937. The oath of allegiance was administered by the then Viceroy (Gadbois, G.H.Jr., n.d.).

At the Federal Court of India, Sir Shah Sulaiman immediately showed his brilliance which further enhanced his reputation. The opinion which he delivered in his first case at Federal Court has been described by eminent British lawyer, J. H. Morgan, K. C. in the following words “Now I have just been reading the judgments of the Federal Court at Delhi in that important case. One of those judgments stands out conspicuous and pre-eminent and may well prove to be locus classicus of the law on the subject. It is a judgment worthy of the highest traditions of the House of Lords as an Appellate Tribunal and of the Privy Council itself. I refer to the brilliant judgment of Mr. Justice Sulaiman. In depth of thought, in breadth of view, in its powers alike of analysis and of synthesis, in grace of style and felicity of expression it is one of the most masterly judgments that I have ever had the good fortune to read. Everyone in India interested in future development of the Constitution should study it.”

Similarly, his ruling in what was known as the Communist Conspiracy case in 1933 needs to be read today for certain important lessons. Sir Shah Sulaiman had categorically asserted that, severe punishment on account of political offences or beliefs, defeats the very objective. Today, even calling yourself a ‘comrade’ or reading and referring to Lenin is an offence that can put you behind bars – and even deny you bail.

Besides, his command of law, the other areas of interest were Urdu, Persian, Mathematics and Physics. Interest in Mathematics came to him from his family. One of the most distinguished ancestor of Sir Shah Suliman was Mulla Mahmoud Jaunpuri. Mulla Mahmoud Jaunpuri is the author of highly acclaimed 17th century book on mathematics and astronomy ‘Shams e Bazigha” written in Arabic language (Habib, Irfan, S., 2020). He had a refined taste of Urdu and Persian and wrote a tabsera (Critical note or comment) on Shauq Lucknowi’s Doosra Rukh in Masnawi Alam e Khayal (Sulaiman, S., 1913). He was an ardent admirer of classical Masters of Urdu Poetry Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq who wrote under the nom de plume of ‘Zauq’ and Meer Taqi Meer who wrote under the nom de plume of ‘Meer’. Sir Shah edited and published the poetry of Zauq. He also edited and published the poetry of Meer Taqi Meer by the name of “Intekhab e Masnawiyat e Meer”. He himself wrote the introduction to “Intekhab e Masnawiyat e Meer”. The introduction shows his grasp and mastery over Urdu and Urdu Poetry (Ahmad, A., 1986).

Despite his busy schedule at Allahabad High Court, he always found time for Mathematics and Physics. During his stay at Allahabad, one of his friends was eminent physicist Meghanand Saha who was at Allahabad University at that time. It was during this period that Albert Einstein proposed the Theory of Relativity which settled some unanswered questions from Sir Isaac Newtons time related to gravity. Sir Shah did not completely agree with Einstein and developed his own theory which while departing from Newtons theory also showed calculations to explain the divergence noticed upon application of Einstein’s theory. Sir Shah Sulaiman’s theory with its Mathematical calculations was published in Science and Culture which was published by Meghanand Saha (Habib, S, I., 2020). The theory developed by Sir Shah Sulaiman received widespread recognition in the scientific world including from famous physicists at Harvard University (Pathak, S., n.d.). Even today, his mathematical calculations are available at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Harvard University Websites.

He was always involved with matters of education. He was a member of the Court of the Aligarh University and of the Allahabad for many years. He was a regular participant in the Executive Council of Allahabad University. In 1928, he presided over the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference at Ajmer. He also presided over the All India Adult Educational Conference at Delhi. Sir Shah Sulaiman was also the President of the Anglo-Arabic College of Delhi for a number of years.

However, his biggest contribution to education was at Aligarh Muslim University. Sir Shah Sulaiman acted as Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University at various occasions (Pathak, S., n.d.). He became Honorary Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University in 1929 (amu.ac.in). He was asked to become Honorary Vice Chancellor after the Chancellor of the University asked the then Vice Chancellor, Nawab Muzammilullah Khan, to resign (Naveed, M.). It was to pave the way to implement the recommendations of the Rahimatoola Committee. He was given the Honorary post as a compromise candidate in which Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was also involved (Masood, N). His knowledge of the law helped the University immensely as he was instrumental in getting relevant Statutes and Ordinances framed for the University. He initiated and effected reorganization of various academic and administrative aspects of the University (Pathak, S., n.d.). At that time he was Judge at The Federal Court of India at Delhi and managed the affairs of the University from there. He used to travel to Aligarh twice a week from Delhi. It is noteworthy that he always incurred personal expenses for the purpose and never claimed salary or travel allowance from the University. Later Sir Sulaiman again became Vice Chancellor of the University in 1938 and continued till his death in 1941. He was buried at Nizamuddin Dargah near Amir Khusrow. Had he not died young, he would in all probability became the first Chief Justice of Independent India. During his tenure he gave considerable importance to girls education and Girls intermediate college was upgraded to degree college. He also introduced Urdu as an independent subject in B.A.

His death was noticed widely and obituaries were written all over the world from New York Times (New York Times, 1941) to Nature Magazine. Noble Laureate, C. V. Raman wrote in the Nature Magazine “As chief justice of the High Court at Allahabad for several years and as vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University over a considerable period, Sir Shah Sulaiman was a well-known public figure in India. During the last few years of his life he held the distinguished position of one of the three judges of the newly established Federal Court at Delhi. The news of his death early this year at the age of fifty-five came as an unpleasant surprise to his many friends and admirers, and elicited numerous well-merited tributes to his personality and career” (Raman, C. V., 1941).

Justice Pathak described his life aptly when he noted at the time of his death that “Within the years given to him, he achieved a versatile excellence and an intellectual brilliance which dazzled the generation in which he lived. Like a meteor blazing its luminous course across the heavens, he left a trail of glory behind‘ (Pathak, S., n.d.).

For references and more details, please see:

Ahmad, Akhlaq (1986) Sir Shah Sulaiman. Fikr o Nazar, Vol. 23, pp. 231-242

Amu.ac.in. Available at: https://www.amu.ac.in/amuhalls.jsp?did=10091. Accessed on 13 November 2020

Bhattacharya, A. (2019) Legacy of a Polymath. Frontline, July 19. Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/article28260092.ece. Accessed on 12 October 2020.

Business Recorder (2006) Sir Shah Sulaiman, brilliant judge, , educationist and scientist. 13 March. Available at: https://fp.brecorder.com/2006/03/20060313397214/. Accessed on 18 September 2020.

Gadbois, George, H. Jr (n.d.) The Federal Court of India: 1937-50. The Indian Law Institute, pp. 253-315. Available at: http://14.139.60.114:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/15105/1/022_The%20Federal%20Court%20of%20India_1937-1950%20%28253-315%29.pdf. Accessed on 14 November 2020.

Habib, S. I. (2020) Judging political offence: How this visionary handled it in 1931. The Quint, 3 July. Available at: https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/chief-justice-sir-shah-sulaiman-allahabad-high-court-legal-system-judiciary-science-math. Accessed on 25 September 2020.

London Gazette (1929) Supplement to The London Gazette, 3 June, 3667, p. A2. Available at: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33501/supplement/3667/data.pdf. Accessed on 23 October 2020.

Naveed, Masood (2020) Aligarh Muslim University: Vice Chancellors (1920-79). Available at Indpedia at: http://indpaedia.com/ind/index.php/Aligarh_Muslim_University:Vice_Chancellors(1920-79)#.28VI.29_Sir_Shah_Mohammed_Sulaiman_.2830th_April_1938_to_13th_March_1941.29. Accessed on 15 November 2020.

New York Times (1941) Sir Shah M. Sulaiman. 13 March, New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1941/03/13/archives/sir-shah-m-sulaiman.html. Accessed on 19 October 2020.

Pathak, S. (n.d.) Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman. Available at: http://www.allahabadhighcourt.in/event/SirShahMSulaimanRSPathak.pdf. Accessed on 21 October 2020.

Raman, C.V. (1941) Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman . Nature, pp. 336-337. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/148336a0. Accessed on 12 October 2020.

Sahai, V. (2016) Glorious history, splendid past. Times of India, 13 March. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/Glorious-history-splendid-journey/articleshow/51384342.cms. Accessed on 12 October 2020.

Sulaiman, S. (1913). Doosrey rukh pe tabsera In Alam e Khayal, Maulana Ahmad Ali Shauq Lucknawi, Munro Publishing Company, Lucknow.