By Manzar Imam*
New Delhi: Since Wednesday 2 September, 2020 when Amin Usmani Nadwi, founding member and secretary of Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA), India, breathed his last, obituary messages have been pouring in from across India and abroad and, both online and offline condolence meetings are being organized to pay tribute to him acknowledging his profound services to research, academics, intellectual discourses and thought leadership. One such online meeting was organized by Institute of Religious and Social Thought, New Delhi on Saturday 5 September in which eminent ulama and scholars from India and abroad participated and expressed their deep sorrow over the passing away of what they termed “a silent servant of Islam” whose contribution to the revival and renewal of Islamic fiqh are vast and varied.
I can never forget the impression he has left on my mind in promoting the Islamic thought, said Prof Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Indian, USA who has been running the famous Madrasa Discourses program of Contending Modernities Initiative of the University of Notre Dame to promote scientific and theological literary among young scholars. Shaikh Usmani would always inquire about its progress and would be present whenever requested. What kept him thinking was his “constant thought about finding solution to new challenges to Islamic theology in the light of new knowledge”, he said.
Prof Mohsin Usmani, former Dean, School of Arabic Studies, EFL University, Hyderabad, presented a detailed introduction of Amin Usmani’s family which “had come to Bihar from Panipat and was religiously entrenched in the sufi tradition”. His father Shah Isa Usmani Firdausi was a learned man who had written a book Islami Aqida and an article on Prophet Muhammad and Law of War which was published in 1981. Prof Usmani, brother-in-law of late Amin Usmani, said, “the Usmani family led a khanqahi life in which prominent sufis like Shah Zainul Abideen Usmani and Tayyib Usmani are well-known figures.”
Prof Akhtarul Wasey, President of Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur said that since beginning, Amin Usmani became an integral part of IFA. He put in his efforts to face new challenges and always thought about how to improve the system of madrasas. It should be noted that Amin Usmani remained secretary, administrative affairs of IFA since its establishment in 1998 till his demise.
Joining from Kuwait renowned Arabic scholar and author Maulana Badrul Hasan Qasmi said that apparently “Amin Usmani was reticent but he was a man of a brilliant brain” which was a sea of various plans and projects. His mental ability was “unusual”. Despite the fact the many issues and problems in different countries are of a different nature and have a different perspective, he had a good grasp of them which set him apart from other scholars.
During my association with IFA spanning over a decade “I never saw that he was unaware of anything or anyone around”, said Prof Fahim Akhtar Nadwi, Head of the Department of Islamic Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. He would equally participate in the normal routine work, would sit and eat with others. He would be “the first person to come to the office and the last one to leave it.” He was aware not only of the national issues but had a deep knowledge of global changes and challenges. He crafted people’s talents intellectually and even helped them at very individual levels. He was “a revivalist” in his thinking.
Maulana Muhammad Muzzammil-ul-Haq Al-Husaini, working president of Old Boys’ Association of Darul Uloom Deoband said that Usmani’s academic standing, revolutionary ideas, administrative skills and passion for work were his forte.
Earlier Dr Waris Mazhari, Assistant Professor at Jamia Hamdard, also the organizer of the programme, mentioned his ideational connection with Maulana Usmani stating that he used to think about sensitive issues, focus on them and put people to work on them. He was “unique in his understanding and selection of themes” for writing, research and other academic engagements.
An offline condolence meeting was held earlier on the day at the IFA headquarters, Delhi which was presided over by Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, ex Chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission. Dr Khan said that Amin Usmani’s demise was a loss not just of IFA, people of Delhi or Indian Muslims but of the global Muslim community. “Whenever he spoke he spoke to the point” and, whenever he wrote or sent an email, they were always about issues and challenges that Muslims faced across the globe, he said. He was a leader and that is how true leaders are. Dr Khan said this after listening to the views of participants who were almost unanimous in their opinion that Amin Usmani avoided taking a centre stage and rather encouraged others to come forward and do some academic and intellectual work. Dr Abdul Qadir Khan, Maulana Raziul Islam Nadwi, Advocate Firoz Khan, senior journalist AU Asif, Maulana Abul Ala Subhani, journalist Abdul Bari Masoud, Dr Fazzur Rahman Siddiqui, Safi Akhtar, Maulana Firoz Akhtar and others paid glowing tributes to late Amin Usmani and remembered his valuable services. Mufti Ahmad Nadir Qasmi of IFA moderated the programme.
Besides being sectary of IFA, Amin Usmani was also an active member of the Shariah Council of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi and other bodies.
It should be noted that Amin Usmani did not author any book but it was during his tenure at IFA since its inception that many profound and seminal works related to contemporary Islamic theological challenges were completed by individual writers as well as group of scholars. Under his administrative capacity and guidance IFA translated and published Mausu’ah Al-Fiqhihyah (A multi-volume encyclopedia of Islamic jurisprudence) in 45 volumes in Urdu. “Other than the famous annual Fiqhi seminars, most other national and local seminars, symposia and conferences of IFA were planned and executed by him”, informs Mufti Imtiyaz Ahmad of IFA. In 1982 Amin Usmani translated Zainab Al-Ghazali’s Ayyamum Min Hayati (Days from my life) from Arabic to Urdu. The Urdu title Zindan Ke Shab-o-Roz was published by Hindustan Publications, New Delhi. It was also published and widely distributed by International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, Kuwait.
(*Manzar Imam is a senior journalist based in New Delhi)