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Prof Muhammad Yunus Nagrami
By Prof Shafiq Ahmad Khan Nadwi

Prof Muhammad Yunus Nagrami Nadwi, who died on 4 March 2001 at Lucknow, was in the true sense a brilliant light of learning and excellence, a dynamic and active intellectual and a moderate and balanced scholar. His personality was a beautiful combination of faith and learning, old and new.

A permanent feature under the caption 'Window on India' penned by Prof. Nagrami, depicting India’s political and social conditions and issues appeared for years in Al-Raid, the Arabic fortnightly published by Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow. In its issue of 16 February 2001, Kumbh Mela, demands of Dharm Sansad and Sangh Parivar and some of their specific terminologies were discussed in refined and polished Arabic and a very mature and elegant style. I was enchanted to read this compact article which was perfect from the standard of Arabic journalism. The very next day I received a letter from Lucknow and in the evening of 3 February an elderly gentleman came to my residence and informed me that Nagrami Saheb could not write a letter to me because of his illness but he desires me to complete soon the work assigned to me. The very next morning I received the tragic news that his condition had deteriorated and he was rushed to Sanjay Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow where he suddenly breathed his last. Inna lilla-e-wa inna Ilaihi raji’oon.

Though his death was a personal loss and grief to me, it was also a collective loss and a matter of grief to the academic and literary world and the educational fraternity. Thus on 5 March a condolence meeting turned into an assembly of the entire Faculty of Humanities held in Jamia Millia’s Department of Arabic.

During one’s lifetime no one cares much for a person or appreciates his value. Only after his death, real worth of a person comes to light. Motion images of the past started reflecting in my mind and I was lost in the memories of bygone days.

Prof. Nagrami was born on 24 July 1941 in an educated family of village Nagram of Lucknow. His father, Maulana Muhammad Owais Nagrami, was a mufassir of the Qur’an whose Arabic compilations are fairly popular in Arab countries. In the history of the twentieth century, educational, scientific, political and reformative performances of this dynasty are well known. Maulana Muhammad Anees Nagrami, Maulana Muhammad Nafees Nagrami, Maulana Muhammad Idrees and Maulana Abdur Rahman Nagrami took full and active part in India’s freedom struggle along with Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani and carried on incessant struggle against ‘shirk’, heresy and wrong customs and traditions throughout Awadh. Maulana Muhammad Owais toured and preached religion and social reforms throughout his life in places like Lucknow, Sultanpur, Rai Bareilly, Barabanki and far-off villages and made arrangements for spreading teachings of Islam in hundreds of homes.

When I was in class I (Arabic) in 1958 in Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, ‘Bhai Saheb’ (Muhammad Yunus Nagrami) was probably a student of class V. There was a declamation contest in Jamiatul Islah (Nadwa Students Union). The subject was ‘Message of the Prophet’s blessed life for the afflicted humanity.’ He read out his article and won the prize. Even today, after forty years, that scene is before my eyes. His style of reading, attractive voice and charming personality, every thing was a model worth emulating for me a young student of class I.
In 1960 when the periodical Al Raid was brought out, his name appeared prominently in its very first issue. In 1964 he got admission in the Islamic University of Madina Munawwara but he returned to Lucknow after a year. His one year’s sojourn there gave a fillip to his religious zeal and interest in Arabic. Thereafter, his articles were published in Nadwa’s Arabic monthly magazine, Al-Ba’th al-Islami, right from 1983 till his death. Thereafter an Urdu fortnightly, Ta'mir-e-Hayat, was brought out in which his articles under a permanent theme, ‘Some time with the Believers,’ were regularly published and were widely reproduced in newspapers and periodicals of the Indo-Pak subcontinent and were subsequently compiled in a book. When he completed his PhD from Lucknow University, his thesis ‘Arabic Language and Literature in India after 1958’ was published with a foreword by Maulana Sayyid Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi. His third book, Nai Arab duniya (New Arab world) was published with an invaluable foreword by Maulana Ali Miyan. Other published works of Prof. Nagrami include Misali khawateen (Ideal Ladies), Khiyalaat (Thoughts), Taqaddus-e Haj (Sanctity of Hajj), Tazkirah-e Maulana Muhammad Uwais Nagrami (Biography of Maulana Muhammad Owais Nagrami), Ahkam al-Qur’an (Rules of the Qur’an) Khaleeji Jung (Gulf War) etc.

He was a professor of Arabic in Lucknow University, a dynamic and active teacher who benefitted the seekers of knowledge. He did not like sitting and relaxing idly and was always busy in studying and writing. He fulfilled all kinds of responsibilities and was always concerned about things big and small. Loyalty was his very nature. Whenever he visited Nadwa, he met teachers and students alike and was present there at all important occasions.

Thrice he was chairman of Urdu Academy, Uttar Pradesh. He was instrumental in getting hundreds of night schools opened in Lucknow and its suburbs for the teaching of Urdu and arranged government aid, established Urdu coaching centers and made arrangements for reading, writing and teaching of Urdu from initial stages, published educational books, arranged for the publication of literary books, short stories, novels, old and modern poetic collections and encouraged emerging poets, writers, calligraphists and publishers etc by offering them prizes and awards. He arranged numerous educational and literary seminars. He established the All-India Muslim Intellectual Forum and was its founder president. He held successful meetings on the sanctity of Haramain Shareefain, restoration of the Aqsa Mosque, Gulf War, National integration and Islam, Social reforms and the Message of Humanity based on moral values and drew the attention of Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals towards national and social problems. He published and distributed many booklets free. He also drew the attention of all human beings towards the commonality of human objectives based on moral values and answerability to some superior authority. He was also a prominent member of the Managing Committee of Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, Mumtaz Degree College, Islamia Degree College and Inter College etc. He had also been a member of the National Integration Council of U.P. and the State Hajj Committee. He was also in the forefront of the general activities of Lucknow University. He also served as a member of the advisory committee of Tagore Library, deputy head of CL Library and provost of Acharya Narendra Dev Hostel and continued rendering assistance and benefit to the nation through his approach and resources. There were strained relations between the students of the Acharya Narendra Dev Hostel and Nadwa’s Shibli Hostel. It was because of his wisdom and handling that the atmosphere of peace and cooperation was restored between the two hostels which are located opposite each other.

Prof. Nagrami was fairly well known at the international level and was the first Indian adviser of the Muslim World League and by virtue of this position he participated in various conferences held in Makka, Jeddah, Riyadh, Cairo, Kuwait, UAE, Colombo, London etc. In 1987 a seminar, under the auspices of the Muslim World League was organized in Doha (Qatar) on the topic of ‘Efforts of Indian Muslims for the Survival and safety of Islamic character.’ Prof. Nagrami’s brilliant lecture in this seminar was published in various Arabic newspapers and periodicals and was very popular. The President of India honoured him with presidential award in 1992 in recognition of his invaluable services to Arabic language and literature. Meer Academy of Lucknow honoured him with Meer Award and Imteyaz-e-Meer.

People call him an ‘intellectual’ but very few people know that he had unbounded passion for service to Islam. He had also initiated the work for revival of his village Nagram’s old school, Madrasa Ma’danul Uloom’. A few years ago he had taken Maulana Ali Miyan to Nagram with this objective. On the other hand, he set up Maulana Muhammad Owais Memorial Society at Rakanpur in Rae Bareilly district with the participation and corporation of Maulana Kamal Akhtar Nadwi and started a big madrasa there. Like his father, he had also started organizing meetings in far off villages of Awadh for bringing about social reforms. He wrote a booklet for the masses under the title How you should offer namaz.

Prof. Shafiq Nadwi is head of the
Department of Arabic, Jamia Millia Islamia

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