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Who was K.A. Nizami (Er. Afzal Usmani)

When K. A. Nizami Centre for Quranic Studies was being inaugurated in Aligarh Muslim University by the Vice-President of India, a dozen of students asked me the very pertinent question, ‘Who was K. A. Nizami?’ The question became pertinent only by the dint of determination, interest and perseverance of AMU administration to organize such a magnificent event of inauguration of the Centre in a way very akin to that of annual convocation or Sir Syed Day speech. Those gala preparations attracted attention of students on the campus in a trice. That’s why I decided to include an introduction to the life of Prof. Nizami so that students and ‘bulbuls’ of Sir Syed may well know the mighty gardeners of this mighty chaman. I hope this brilliant article by Er. Afzal Usmani will suffice to the question.
 —Muhammad Naved Ashrafi, Editor, Al-Mohsin Global

Once Syed Mahmood, one of the architect of Aligarh Movement and son of Aligarh Movement’s founder Sir Syed Ahmad said “Until Indian Muslims will remember my father, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan; they will also remember Lieutenant Colonel G.F.I. Graham”. I am not sure whether we Indian Muslims in general and AMU fraternity in particular kept the words of Syed Mahmud or not but I am sure whosoever will study Sir Syed and Aligarh Movement and praise the efforts and sacrifices of Sir Syed and his associates for the establishment of Aligarh Movement cannot miss to praise the efforts of Prof. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami who worked tirelessly to compile and protect the legacy of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Aligarh Movement.

I was familiar with the name of Prof. Nizami since my early days of Aligarh but could not meet him till 1992 when Literary and Cultural Society of Allama Iqbal Hall decided to invite him to be a Chief Guest for an evening of a five day long Literary and Cultural bonanza “Shaheen-92”. Being a Secretary of Literary and Cultural Society when I went to invite him for 24th November 1992, he took me to his office cum personal Library at his residence “Nizami Villa”. He gave me a tour of his collection of books which left a long lasting impression on me and also created a desire to have a personal library like him. It was only his personal library from Aligarh which got a place in Dr. Raza Ali Abidi’s BBC radio show “Kutub Khaaney”. He wrote numerous books and articles related to Sir Syed, his mission and life. His major work related to Aligarh Movement studies are Syed Ahmad Khan in Builders of Modern India, Sir Syed speaks to you, Sir Syed Ek Ta'arruf, Sir Syed Aur Unke Rufaqa, Scientific Society, Armaghan-i-Aligarh, Sir syed Album, Sir Syed aur Aligarh Tahrik, Sir Syed on Education, Society and Economy, Sir Syed Ki Fikr aur Asr-e-Jadid Ke Taqaze, Ek Dard Angez Kahani Sir Syed Ki Zabani, History of the Aligarh Muslim University, Secular Tradition at Aligarh Muslim University and Aligarh Ki Elmi Khidmaat.

Early Life and Family

Khaliq Ahmad Nizami was born in the town of Amroha in the United Provinces of British India on December 5, 1925. He was the son of Aziz Ahmad and Sayyidah Nizami. His other siblings were Swaleha Nizami, Laiq Ahmad Nizami, Zille Ahmad Nizami, Taufiq Ahmad Nizami and Jamal Ara Nizami. Khaliq Ahmad received his education in India, and though he travelled extensively and gained much recognition abroad, he also largely pursued his academic career in his native country. He attended Meerut College which was attached to University of Agra, where he completed the M.A. in history in 1945. In the following year he was awarded the LL.B. degree by the same institution. He was married to Raziyah Nizami, sister of noted Urdu scholar Khawaja Ahmad Farooqui. The couple had five children, Ahtesham Nizami, Azra Nizami, Wajih Nizami, Mujib Nizami and Farhan Nizami. Dr. Farhan Nizami is the Prince of Wales Fellow in the study of the Islamic World, Magdalen College, Oxford and the Founder Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

Life in Aligarh

In 1947 Khaliq Ahmad Nizami joined the staff of the Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, India, in the Department of History. In the period between 1937 and 1947 Aligarh Muslim University was the foremost center of the Muslim political agitation that eventually led to the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami was among those Muslim intellectuals who opted for Indian nationalism and the cause of the Indian National Congress. In consequence, he remained in India with his family when the country was divided in 1947. One of his younger siblings Er. Zilliey Ahmad Nizami moved to Pakistan after completing his graduation in Civil Engineering from Aligarh Muslim University in 1951. His other sibling Dr. Taufiq Nizami also served as a faculty in Department of Political Science in Aligarh Muslim University.

Prof. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami's rise in position at Aligarh was both steady and swift. In 1953 he became Reader in History, and in 1963 he was promoted to the rank of Professor. In 1971 when Prof. Nurul Hasan relinquished his position as Head of Department of History, Prof. Nizami took over the rein of Department of History and headed it till his superannuation in 1984. The latter appointment was accompanied by his being made head of the university's Centre of Advanced Study in History, which has numbered many of the best and most famous twentieth-century historians of India among its personnel. His principal scholarly concern was the history of medieval Muslim India, and the majority of his publications were in that field. For instance, he wrote extensively on the Sultanate of Delhi, giving particular attention to the religious dimensions of the history. In addition to a general book on the sultans of Delhi (originally in Urdu), he wrote studies on prominent sufis such as Hazrat Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-e-Shakar (Rad.) and on the saints of the Chishti order.

One of the more consequential of his efforts was the publication of the political correspondence of the 18th-century Muslim reformer and philosopher Shah Waliullah (R.A.) of Delhi. This correspondence provided the basis for an enlarged understanding of Shah Waliullah's contribution to Indian Muslim history. Perhaps the most enduringly important of his contributions is his work, together with Prof. Muhammad Habib, another eminent Historian from AMU Aligarh, on The Comprehensive History of India and his Supplement to Elliot and Dowson's History of India which has been a standard source (in translation) of original source materials for Indian history. Prof Mohammed Habib was his mentor. In fact Prof. Nizami was appointed in the Department of History by Prof. Mohammed Habib who took a keen interest in his academic growth and to whom he owed his academic growth and career progression which was a record those days. In fact his most lasting works are “Shah Waliullah ke Maktoobat” and “Tarikh Mashaikh-i-Chisht”. Of course, there is a volume on Sultanate period in “A Comprehensive History of India” co-authored with Prof Mohammed Habib.

As a founder of Sir Syed Academy

There is also a group of works devoted to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the Aligarh Muslim and the most important intellectual and political leader of the Indian Muslims in the latter part of the 19th century. In addition to the studies of the life and times of Syed Ahmad and the history of the Aligarh movement, these studies include an illustrated album and a collection of poems about Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and some of his associates. Professor Nizami had an extraordinary faith in Sir Syed. He established Sir Syed Academy in Aligarh and introduced the process of yearly lectures on Sir Syed. He authored several books on Sir Syed both in English and Urdu which were well received by the readers. Prof. Nizami's books in the field of History also enjoyed fame and appreciation at the international level. In all, Prof. Nizami had published more than 40 books and more than 200 papers in Urdu, Arabic, Persian and English dealing with various aspects of medieval Indian history, culture, Sir Syed and Aligarh. His articles on these subjects, spread through a variety of publications, were even more numerous.

In addition to these publishing activities relating to works from his own pen, he was general editor of the Crescent-Lotus book series. A detailed list of his research papers can be found at the official website of Center for Advance Studies, Department of History AMU Aligarh http://www.cas-historydeptt-amu.com/539 . Among his books on various topics other than Aligarh Movement, the following are especially noteworthy: Makatib Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui, Maulana Azad and the Thirty Pages of his India Wins Freedom, Maulana Azad Album , Religion and Politics in India during the Thirteenth Century, Life and Times of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya (Rad.), Life and Times of Shaikh Naseeruddin Chiragh Delhvi, Life and Times of Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i Shakar, Tarikh-i Mashaikh-i Chisht, Salatin-i Delhi Ke Mazhabi Rujhanat, Mystic Ideology and its impact, Mystic Teachers and their Influence and Akbar and Religion.

Administrative Services

He served as Provost of oldest Hall of residence, Sir Syed Hall. In those days Sir Syed Hall was undivided and Tibbiya Hostel was also attached with it. Current Provost office of Sir Syed Hall (South) was office of Vice-Chancellor and the entire wing with Victoria Gate was Registrar office. A portion of Sir Syed Hall was also occupied by Faculty of Law which was there even when I joined Aligarh in 1988. It is a rare event that during his Provostship of Sir Syed Hall, he made arrangement to print the book “History of M.A.O. College, Aligarh” written by Mr. Shyam Krishna Bhatnagar and distributed to every resident member of the Hall. He also organized several unique shadow play to tell the life story of Sir Syed. Shadow play also known as shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment which uses shadow or flat articulated figures (shadow puppets) to create the impression of moving humans and other three-dimensional objects. Later Prof. Nizami was also appointed as Dean, Students’ Welfare (DSW).

Prof. Nizami at the Helm

Prof. Nizami took over the rein of Department of History of AMU in 1971 and became Head of the Department. He served in this position till his retirement in 1984. He also served as Dean, Faculty of Social Science from 3rd July 1977 to 30th July 1980. He served as Pro Vice-Chancellor from 1972 to 1974 with Prof. Abdul Aleem as the Vice-Chancellor. In January, 1974 when Prof. Abdul Aleem relinquished the post of Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nizami served as Officiating Vice- Chancellor from 3rd January 1974 to 30th August 1974. He was one of the strongest candidates for the Vice Chancellorship of AMU Aligarh but Prof. Ali Mohammad Khusro was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of AMU Aligarh sometime in 1974 and he took charge of Aligarh Muslim University on 20th September 1974. This is the year when Prof. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami’s efforts brought some good news to the followers of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan when Aligarh Muslim University finally agreed to establish Sir Syed Academy in Sir Syed House and Prof. Nizami became its Founding Director. Sir Syed House was originally a military mess. In 1876 it was bought by Syed Mahmood, the first Indian judge of the Allahabad High Court for the residence of his father Jawad ud Daula Arif Jung Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The bungalow, known as Sir Syed House, lay in a dilapidated condition till it was fully renovated and restored to its original grandeur in the early 1970S. It was decided to convert the Building into a memorial for the founder and house in it the Academy named after him. The Academy was inaugurated on 22nd October, 1974 by H.E. Akbar Ali Khan, Governor of Uttar Pradesh, India.

Since its inception the Academy has been trying to create an awareness and understanding about the tremendous contributions that Sir Syed made for the advancement of the cause of educational, technological, social and cultural development. The Academy highlights the substantial effort of Sir Syed to promote unity and ha among the various communities of this vast country and thus to champion the noble cause of Nation Building. He also had a plan to start an Academy of Quranic Studies in the campus of Sir Syed Academy. He laid out the prelim plan in “Sir Syed Album”. But time did not gave him chance to implement his idea. But later his son, Dr. Farhan Nizami who is based in Oxford UK implemented his plan and “Khaliq Ahmad Nizami Center for Quranic Studies” was started as per the plans of Prof. Khaliq Nizami. Prof. Ahtesham Ahmad Nizami, former Dean Faculty of Engineering is its Founding Director. You can know more about of the center by visiting; http://www.amucqs.com

In 1975, Prof. Nizami’s life took another turn and he was appointed as the Indian ambassador to Syria and he served his responsibilities as an Indian highest diplomat in Syria till 1977. He returned to Aligarh in 1977 and took over the rein of Sir Syed Academy of which he was Founding Director from 1974 to 1975. He served in the Capacity of its Director till 1985. He compiled a comprehensive list of Students of MAO College and Muslim University which was later published as Alumni Directory by his brother Er. Zilley Ahmad Nizami, who was Founding Chancellor of Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi Pakistan. Prof. Nizami was also associated with Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy and served as member of the Management Committee and Member of the Editorial board of its monthly journal Maarif from 1989 till his last breath.

Prof. Nizami: A Dedicated Reader

He took good care of his personal collection of books and was always on top of his collection. When I went to invite him again for “Iqbal Day Celebration” in November 1995, he gave me another tour of his library. One of my teacher and warden, Mufti Zahid Ali Khan was also with me. When Mufti Zahid mention about the publication of some Islamic book, Prof. Nizami immediately reached to a shelf and showed us the latest edition of the same book. Mufti Zahid was not even aware of this latest edition of the said book. This was an unforgettable moment for me about Prof. Nizami’s passion for collection of books of the subjects he likes most. He died on Thursday, December 4, 1997 and was laid to rest in University graveyard “Mintoyee”.

*Er. Afzal Usmani is US-based alumnus of AMU. He is the Founder, Controller, Moderator and Patron of famous web-portal Aligarh Movement (www.aligarhmovement.com)
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