Published On:17 May 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Renowned Islamic scholar, author and reformist Asghar Ali Engineer passes away

Mumbai: Noted Islamic scholar, author and Muslim social reformer Asghar Ali Engineer passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday after a prolonged illness. Ali was 74.

Ali was one of the most courageous Muslim scholars who advocated reforms among Muslims and the Bohra (an off-shoot of the Shia sect) community to be specific. The Bohra's are a small but well-off community who are based mainly in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

"This is a huge loss because he was a man who spoke without fear of favour, he was the first man in the country to speak and fight for rights for Muslim women," said Zeena Shaukat Ali, a fellow social reformer who collaborated with him on many projects.

Son of a Dawoodi Bohra priest Shaikh Qurban Hussain, Ali had frequent run-ins with the high priest of the community Syedna Burhanuddin. Ali was a born rebel and he was once punished as a young boy when he refused to perform sajda before the Syedna.

He said that a sajda was only to be performed before Allah and not before the Syedna. For this, he was called a devil and was forced to prostrate before the Syedna.

This was the start of run-ins with the Syedna, as Ali began relentlessly attacking the community's practices like female circumcision, levying of taxes by the Syedna even though there was no provision for it in Islam and equal rights for muslim women.

For this, he was not just excommunicated from the community but also ended up facing numerous physical assaults.

The biggest shocker came for him when his parents were refused burial and their bodies could not be buried for three days. "This incident left him a very disturbed and very hurt person, however he continued to stand for what he believed in and he stood by his values," said Zeenat.

Jyoti Punwani, columnist and who has also closely worked with the Muslim community described him as a trail blazer.

"He was a progressive liberal, he was one of the few who interepreted as to how Islam upheld women's rights. He was a rationalist who was against all forms of rituals but he was a believer," said Punwani.

The rising communal violence in the country between Hindus and Muslims disturbed him a lot and he tirelessly worked to foster communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims.

For this, towards the end of 1993, he founded 'Center for Study of Society and Secularism' to promote communal harmony. He has written more than 50 books on reforms in Bohra community and Islam, asking for equal rights for women and communal harmony.

At the time of his death, he was working with Zeenat for codifying the Muslim Personal Law in order to give more rights to women.

(Courtesy: India Today)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on May 17, 2013. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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