S M Fasiullah for BeyondHeadlines
Internationally acclaimed Islamic scholar, progressive thinker, author and social leader Asghar Ali Engineer passed away today morning in Mumbai after a prolonged illness.
Mr. Asghar, 74, died at his residence in suburban Santa Cruz, Mumbai. He is survived by a son and a daughter. His funeral will be done on 15 May between 9AM to 10AM at Juhu Garden Muslim Cemetery, Santacruz (W), Mumbai.
Born in 1939, Mr. Asghar did B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from Vikram University, Madhya Pradesh. He headed the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) as its chairman. The center was formed in 1993 after the destruction of Babri Masjid to spread the spirit of communal harmony in the nation and study problems in the area and organize inter-faith dialogues. CSSS in Santacruz (E), Mumbai, undertakes research, organizes seminars, conducts training and mass awareness programs, in addition to publishing books and pamphlets.
Most of Mr. Asghar’s work remained focused on the communal situation in India, while he also addressed issues of Islam, terrorism and globalization. I feel fortunate to have attended a workshop, organized by Jamia Millia Islamia University a few years back, whose key speaker was Mr. Asghar. In addition to expounding on terrorism and secularism, he answered various queries posed by eminent participants.
The Islamic scholar once noted that for him four Qur’anic values – adl (justice), ihsan (benevolence), rahmah (compassion) and hikmah (wisdom) – were essence of the teachings of the holy book. He said that one cannot be a good Muslim without promoting these values actively.
During his visit to Hyderabad last year, Mr. Asghar pushed for reforms in the Muslim Family Law by proposing the annulment of the system of oral triple Talaq (divorce). He also noted that polygamy in Islam was allowed only in exceptional circumstances.
The scholar was a strong advocate of women empowerment and suggested that mehr (dower), which is given to a Muslim bride at the time of nikah by the groom, should be in the form of gold or silver. He observed that the value of money changes with time.
Mr. Asghar said in an award acceptance speech: “I was told by my father who was a priest that it was the basic duty of a Muslim to establish peace on earth…. I soon came to the conclusion that it was not religion but misuse of religion and politicising of religion, which was the main cause of communal violence.”
An autobiography entitled: ‘A Living Faith – My Quest for Peace, Harmony and Social Change’, is a must read to know more about Mr. Asghar. May God rest his soul in peace.