Remembering Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer

May 14 is the seventh death anniversary of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, one of the most vociferous defenders of secularism and an inspiring member of Indian civil society. Here are some of his key contributions to protecting India’s composite culture in the words of his son Irfan

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Amidst Islamophobia which was increasingly gripping the world after September 11, 2001, Dr. Engineer wrote extensively defending Islam as a religion of peace and harmony. He wrote several books on Islam and his books were translated in Bhasha Indonesia, French, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi.  His approach to religion in general and Islam in particular was that of an empathetic rationalist, studying and examining the Holy Quran, Hadith, history of Muslim rulers and present state of affairs of Muslims. He developed theology of peace and social justice. He was a voice of gender justice and Muslim women’s rights.

He never hesitated to critically examine the role of Muslim civil society and religious leadership and did not spare them if he found them on the wrong side. He had the courage of conviction to speak out the truth and for which he suffered several attacks on himself and his family. Nevertheless, he never wavered from the truth he believed in.

He not only wrote extensively (78 books and several articles), he worked to bring about social change – reforms within Bohra Community; communal harmony and peaceful co-existence between all religious communities and training Muslim women to be alimas and Muslim scholars within their own rights.

He was also a humble human being, accessible to all, sharing his knowledge and convictions with all, even polite to his worst opponent and those who abused him, a wonderful father (more of a friend with whom we could freely discuss and differ), father-in-law, family person, a friend who was always concerned about the well being of his friends. A person without any ego or vanity and truly social human being. He practiced the equality that he preached in his own day-to-day dealings.

I consider myself very lucky that he was my father and I learnt a lot from him. Pray and resolve to carry his forward his legacy. We in Centre for Study of Society and Secularism are striving to do so.  



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