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Commemoration Meeting on the Life and work of Dr Mohar Ali

By M. H. Sarkar

"We should build a Dr. Mohar Ali Foundation," proposed by Barrister Ali Mohammad Azhar, the international human rights lawyer, in the commemoration meeting on the life and work of Professor Dr. Muhammad Mohar Ali, held at the Bangla Mirror office on Sunday, the 13th of May, 2007. Barrister Azhar said, "We build a library of his work over here and in Dhaka and we write to the Vice Chancellor that a room should be allocated to Dr. Mohar Ali where all his works should be kept for all students to see."

Speaking about Dr. Mohar Ali's scholarship, Barrister Ali said, "Upto his top education Dr. Mohar Ali never stood second. In Matric, I.A., B.A. whatever you call it. He was always at the top. It was in 1971, he was on the other side of the divide; he had to suffer imprisonment and then came to Saudi Arabia."

Another aspect of Dr. Mohar Ali's scholarship, mentioned Barrister Azhar, "As soon as I stepped into the Dacca University as a student, Dr. Mohar Ali's name was everywhere. Even the teachers said Mohar Ali was the most brilliant product the Dacca University has ever produced."

Barrister Azhar said, "If you go to his house, you will see his library. It is quite a big one, you will never see any document, or any book, may be one or two, in any other language except Arabic. All books are in Arabic and you can imagine how vast learned he was in Arabic."

Speaking about his belief and commitment, Barrister Azhar said, "One thing I can tell you if there is any divide in the world between the Muslim and the non-Muslim he was on the side of the divide of the Muslims, beginning to the end. He was uncompromising. He took his stand and carried his stand until he went to the grave."
Recollecting his visit to Dr. Mohar Ali's house few days before his death, Barrister Azhar, said, "Few days before his death, I had the opportunity of visiting him. He said in the presence of everybody that all my agonies and pains, three-fourth of it, taken away by my wife; constant service to me."

Dr Mozammel Haque
Dr. Mozammel Haque, a writer and columnist, read out his tribute to Professor Dr. Mohar Ali wherein he described Professor Ali a "multi-talented scholar, dedicated to the search of knowledge, who devoted his whole life to bring the correct picture of the history of Muslims not only of Bengal but that of Islam too."

Speaking about his scholarship, Dr. Haque said, "Professor Ali was a real genius produced by the fertile land of Bengal. While he was conducting research on the Bengal's response to Christian Missionary Activities at the University of London, he was simultaneously a member of Lincoln Inn, London. He was doubly crowned with two jewels - Ph.D. degree and Bar-at-Law in the same year."

"Professor Ali spent years after years in the library searching for the documents on the forgotten heroes of Islam in Bengal and wrote books on Nawab Abdul Latif, Syed Ameer Ali and Nawab Salimullah Bahadur," said Dr. Haque.

There was no doubt that Professor Ali was a real gentleman and ideologically committed Muslim, as mentioned earlier by Barrister Azhar and also by Dr. Mumin Chowdhury. "This is due to his solid religious foundation in a Madrasah founded and run by the great saints of Bengal in the 1930s in Furfura and being Islamically trained in the Hooghly Madrasah founded by the most dedicated soul of Bengal, Haji Muhammad Mohsin. Professor Ali was an ideologically committed intellectual soldier of Islam. At the time of trial and tribulations, Professor Ali did not fail to choose the right path."
Speaking about his courage and commitment, Dr. Haque again mentioned, "Scholar, particularly Islamic scholar, is like a warrior in the field of knowledge and learning, never scared to tell the truth in the face of opposition and calamities. We find this courage and bravery in the life of Professor Ali at the time of the turning point in history of South Asia in 1971 when he bravely sailed the ship of truth and faced courageously the fate written by history."

Speaking about Professor Ali's dedication to learning and search of knowledge, Dr. Haque mentioned, "staying away from family and children, Professor Ali, day and night, worked hard silently and tirelessly for the preparation and writings of the History of the Muslim of Bengal and produced three volumes on the History of The Muslims of Bengal, which was published by Imam Muhammad ibn Sa'ud Islamic University, Riyadh, in 1988. Professor Ali was awarded King Faisal International Prize, the Nobel Prize of the Muslim world, in 2000, by Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the present Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, in recognition of his valuable contribution in the field of Islamic Studies. Professor Ali was the only Bengali-speaking Islamic scholar who was honoured with this most prestigious Award."

Professor Mohar Ali also wrote two volumes on "Sirat Al-Nabi (peace be upon him) and the Orientalists” published by King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur'an, Madinah, in 1997.

After his retirement and having a failing health suffering for more than a decade from cancer, Dr. Haque mentioned, "Professor Ali never disheartened by this physical impediment. With a new vigour and missionary zeal, Professor Ali started working full-time on the Translation of the Holy Qur'an Word for Word and it had taken him six years to complete the whole translation of the Holy Qur'an. This "A Word for Word Meaning of Qur'an" (in English) was published in three volumes in 2004 by JIMAS. Professor Ali also wrote a book entitled "The Qur'an and the Orientalists". He was working on the Life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) till last minute of his life."

Concluding his written speech, Dr. Haque observed, "Whether it is the life of the heroes of the Muslims of Bengal or the history of Islam in South Asia or the Bengal's' response to the Christian Missionary Activities or the Life of the Prophet and the Orientalists, Professor Ali scored an excellence of performance.  He had a great passion for Muslims and Islam which came out through his mighty pen in his different publications."

Munawwar Ali
Munawwar Ali, popularly known as Abu Muntasir, son of Professor Mohar Ali and the President of JIMAS, said, "There are people including Barrister Ali Azhar who are like my teacher because they are the friends and colleagues of my father who know more about certain details about my father rather than I know. One of the Hadiths tells us that a part of a person's faith and good conduct is to show respect to one parents' friends. I am only overwhelmed by the respectable gathering that we had today. It would be bad manners of me actually if I try and speak about my father, his philosophy and approach of his life when he has his friends, colleagues and admirers here today who can share better life than I."

The second point, which Munawwar Ali mentioned, is: "Although I am his son I cannot really talk about matching any of his achievements and quality in terms of how he was pious; he was brilliant in his study, how he had rendered service to the Islamic community, how he stood on the side of truth and justice."

Talking about life during East Pakistan, Munawwar Ali said, "We should be proud for whatever we had done which are now counted as politically perhaps sensitive."

"We are very fortunate whether we are commemorating my father's death or reminiscencing about his greatness; ultimately we are very fortunate to be protected by Allah from such trial and tribulation. We have a good life, I think, being in England," said Munawwar Ali and emphasized, "today we need more focus, intelligent focus and dedication for the rights of Muslims and for supporting the cause of Islam and of course intelligently, but in a manner which brings real change to the peoples life."

Dr. M. Abdul Jabbar Baig
Dr. Abdul Jabbar Baig said, "Dr. Mohar Ali was one of the jewels in the crown of the scholarships in the whole of the subcontinent. Dr. Mohar Ali was a prolific writer from the very beginning of his teaching career and he wrote fourteen books as he disclosed me and gave me a list of his books."

Dr. Baig also mentioned about one of Dr. Mohar Ali's works which made him famous in the Indian sub-continent. "An Outline of Ancient Indo-Pak History - the book that secured him prestige not only in Pakistan but also in India, It is because of this book. An Outline of Ancient Indo-Pak History that he earned respect even from the Hindus."

Among his achievements, Dr. Baig mentioned about Dr. Mohar Ali's translation from Arabic to Bengali of the Bukhari.

Mayor Shafiqul Hoque of the Tower Hamlets
Speaking as a chief guest of the commemorating meeting, Councillor Shafiqul Hoque, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said, "I heard about his outstanding achievements. His works and achievements will encourage us generations afterwards. We need to discuss more about Dr. Mohar Ali not only about this occasion but in more other seminars about his life and works. Unless we organize some other seminar or discussion we cannot know much about him."

Dr. Munim Chowdhury
Dr. Mumin Chowdhury of the London Institute of South Asia said, "My respect for him is a respect for a genuine scholar; a man of tremendous faith and above all a true gentleman. I say true gentleman because the word gentleman is commonly misunderstood and misused."

Dr. Chowdhury also observed, "Scholars can write many things for their own benefit or for the benefit of the community or the people at large or for the benefit of knowledge. Dr. Mohar Ali, to my mind, was a person who wrote for the benefit of humanity. I know that his commitment to Islam was unquestionable but to my mind and in my own way of thinking, Islam is the testament of our humanity."

Dr. Chowdhury said, "Why he accepted, without any qualm, an existence outside Bangladesh? He could have been Vice-Chancellor in any university, he could, say, have all the privileges. This is why the true intellectuals suffer and through their sufferings they achieved something on a long term."

Dr. Chowdhury said, "Dr. Mohar Ali has nothing to gain out of our homage or appreciation; what he felt he has done his job. Whether you appreciate it or not; his reward is from his maker. He is not hankering after and he is not dependent on our future recognition of him but for our own benefit we need to recognize these people. For our own benefit we need to appreciate to learn from their wisdom and if we can do, Professor Mohar Ali Professor Syed Sajjad Husain, Professor Hasan Zaman, men like these people be our future guidance to us."

Speaking about the present crisis in Bangladesh, Dr. Chowdhury said, "If we are to overcome this present crisis then we need to have put our passion a little bit behind and reason a little bit above and this is what Dr. Mohar Ali and others tried to do and this is what is needed now."

Dr. Chowdhury said, "Dr. Mohar Ali is not irrelevant; he is more relevant now than even at the time of his death; because of the situation, the ill and malaise in our society and the young generations with their maneuver and mock self-perception. If we are to be a self-respecting nation with our own heritage and with our dignity then we will have to come out of this mock self-perception and find out our real image and real identity."

Dr. Chowdhury talked about intellectual crisis within the Bengali Muslim community and gave the prescriptive remedy. He said, "The crisis is, essentially to my mind, I submit it humbly, is the intellectual crisis. This intellectual crisis, the answer lies in the libraries, the works of like Dr. Mohar Ali."

There are other eminent speakers such as Barrister Yusuf Akhtar, accountant Zuberi and Bangla Mirror editor-in-chief M. A. Aziz, who also paid their tributes to the soul of Professor Dr. Mohar Ali.

Closing the meeting, Barrister Azhar, while acknowledging the favour shown by the Editor-in-Chief of the Bangla Mirror, said, "The favour you have shown us by giving us this room for Dr. Mohar Ali we are eternally grateful. One day this Mirror may be Mirror International so that we can see the whole world through this Mirror."