Scholars recall Allama Shibli’s role during critical period

Allama Shibli Nomani was an iconic figure who heralded the new age with spiritual intellect in a critical and formative period of the Muslims in the Indian sub-continent, said scholars at an international seminar in Riyadh to mark his death centenary.
The seminar entitled, “Shamsul Ulema Allama Shibli Nomani — a bridge between tradition and modernity,” was organized by Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema Old Boys Association, Riyadh chapter, which was attended by expatriates from the sub-continent.
Addressing the seminar, Ajmal Ayyub Islahi, an Islamic scholar and ex-faculty member of Madinah University, said: “Shibli was a rising star during the decline of Muslim rule in undivided India with scholarly work to revive the glory of Islam and respond to the queries of Western scholars.”
“His life, ideology and above all his scholarship collectively testify to a searching mind to encourage and inspire the Muslim ummah, which was facing scathing attack from the Christian missionaries, western scholars and their publicity bureau,” Islahi pointed out.
He added that the great scholarly works of Shibli which include his magnum opus work, Seerat-un-Nabi (Biography of Prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him) and other masterpieces like Al Farooq, a well-researched work on the life of Holy Caliph Omar Farooq.
The work has been translated into many languages and included in the university syllabus. His Sher-ul-Ajam on the history of Persian poetry was described by E G Brown in his four-volume literary history of Persia as the best critical estimate of leading Persian poets from the earliest times to the latter part of the 17th century.
These are all testimony to his spiritual intellect and literary contributions which helped create great interest in the Muslims of his time and helped restore pride in their legacy.
Riyadh-based educationist, Hussain Zulqarnain, echoed the sentiment saying that the western scholars have done great damage by engaging in propaganda against Islam such as blaming Muslims for destroying the famous library in Alexandria.
“One must hold Allama Shibli in high esteem for his scholarly refutation of the false allegations. He proved with logical conclusion that the library was burnt down by Christian rulers much before the entry of Muslims in Egypt,” said Zulqarnain.
Speaking at the session, Indian diplomat Dr. Hifzur Rehman highlighted Allama Shibli’s rich contributions saying, “The world he lived in and worked was entirely different from today, but his dynamic scholarship paved the way for the revival of the great legacy of Islam.”
“If we really wish to cherish those noble dreams, we have to be tolerant and visionary,” he underlined.
“We need to work in close co-ordination with the people from our pluralistic society and it is only then that our good work will influence them positively,” said Rehman.
Rashid Ali Sheikh, a prominent NRI businessman in Riyadh and a philanthropist, came forward to lead an initiative to promote Shibli College, founded by Allama Shibli in 1883, to the status of a university, saying it will be a real tribute to his visionary leadership.
“Shibli founded the college in Azamgarh to achieve a unique blend between traditional and modern education. Many colleges of those times have become universities, so it is logical that this college too becomes a university. I hereby announce to lead the initiative to make this college a university,” he said.
Akhtar-ul-Islam Nadwi moderated the seminar sessions, wherein young scholars including Ahsan Nadwi, Zakir Azmi Nadwi and Daanish Anwar Nadwi made presentations on various aspects of Allama Shibli’s life and ideas. They also highlighted Shibli’s efforts for Urdu prose and poetry and his courage with which he attempted to reform the conservative scholars of his time while at the same time striving to make the Western-educated Muslim less apologetic.
Earlier, Imtiaz Ahmad, president of Nadwa Alumni Association welcomed the audience consisting of a fine mix of Ulema, professionals and some businessmen.