"Is she around or has she tumbled away?", asked Miyan.
Miyan was in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Medicine Ward of the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College Hospital of AMU, Aligarh. The question was about another patient in the same ICU. This was not a callous statement but quintessential humour of Miyan. Miyan was one of the most caring and sensitive people one would encounter in life. A megalith of compassion. A man of deep sensitivity. In the context of passing away of Hazrat Ammi Jaan, wife of Hazrat Muhi-us-Sunnah Maulana Shah Abrar-ul-Haq Sahab Haqqi (RA) Hazrat Maulana Syed Muhammed Rabe'a Hasani Nadawi(DB) said that for seekers of Allah's pleasure matter of life and death is not a big one. The purity on intent that Miyan had had raised him to that stature that he could joke about death. A joke he did about death. Every living being has to taste the taste of death. So did Miyan. But it was like going through a routine. Even during the most painful phase he traversed his time like going through the formality. "I am not well", he added in a matter of fact tone a few days back before hospitalization.
"Help your brother", said Miyan to one of the regular visitors. That was the day before his speech became slur. In excruciating pain Miyan was thinking about a man whom he had never met. Mighty people have mighty wills. That is also the simplicity of the genius. And a big heart. Beautiful and big enough to contain a Taj Mahal. Nay, the whole world. No wonder Lord Most High planned a Jannah ten times bigger than this world for the smallest of the forgiven. Miyan was a giant. A gentle giant. A man who saw success in giving, not in receiving.
"Would have been so nice if he would have taken studies seriously", said Miyan about the son of a poor helper. Earlier Miyan has rallied his friends circle to help this boy. Miyan was feeling the pain more then the person concerned. Plaintiff lax, witness alert (muddai sust, gavah chust). Miyan was, as if, out of this world.
And when his request to help in the operation of an acquaintance was accepted then Miyan was overwhelmingly thankful. Praising the help to the skies. As if Miyan has been himself helped. There are very few people who bear the burden of others in this world. Miyan was one of them.
And who had a better perspective on Aligarh Movement than Miyan, including the on-roll experts? It was indeed strange to see that people will consult him and present the facts to the world as their own.
Once one of the close people remarked that Miyan you did not achieve that much success as another person. The remark was guileless but unfair. People have strange criterion for success. "I have big house in Greater Noida, two flats in CP, my daughter is a doctor, married to another doctor in France, my son is an engineer in the US". That is what is success, as is well known. Not much wrong in that, except a minor point. These are all a Grace from Lord Most High and no guarantee of ultimate success. Miyan was in a different league. Separated by a boundary from successful people. He was a give. Giant of a giver. And did he give? Yes. He gave and gave. And to Aligarh Movement he gave a life time.
"A man of rare knowledge and an encyclopedia of MAO College and AMU, he was a living history of our time", wrote Qurban Ali a younger fellow journalist in an early obituary notice. Latter is a worthy son of a friend of Miyan Captain Abbas Ali Khan of the Indian National Army of Subhash Chandra Bose. There is a deep connection and a case in point. Miyan was a gateway to the old world. Value-wise and history-wise. Miyan had a regular circle, the halqah. He knew it and he was humble about it. One reason for the regularity and endurance of the circle, and not the only reason, was that there you could live in Mughal times, or the times of 1857, or the early days of Aligarh Movement, the freedom struggle, the independence, the partition and all that. A connection gently severed by Lord Most High.
May Lord have Mercy on such pious souls (Khuda rehmat kunad een aashiqan-e-pak teenat ra).
And this is another case in point. You could address your queries regarding Persian to him. Though not an expert of Persian but he was very much connected with it. And available. And unassuming. Partition of India was a gigantic tragedy for Muslims of India. Part of the tragedy is that their story is not fully told yet. To put the story in perspective the Persian sources have to be utilized and if we believe William Dalrymple then it has not yet taken place to the full extent. And what can you expect for Persian when survival of a current language, Urdu, is hanging in a precarious position? With passing away of Miyan a window into the past has closed.
And this, passing away of Miyan Dr Syed Muhammed Ahmed Sahab, time is the time when many non-family members too will expect that some body should make condolences to them.
And this is also the time when many of the cliche's can be used honestly to vent your feelings.
Knowing me as the most special of the drinkers in the tavern,
For eons the goblet and the wine shall cry for me!
(Jan kar minjumla khasan-e-maikhana mujhe
Muddaton roya kareinge jam-o-paimana mujhe.)
Et tu Miyan? Where shall find a man like you? You know you were a reminder of the fact that in past there was a Sir Syed too? Who shall remind us of that? Tell us Miyan!
Miyan was accessible and remarkable to the limits of surprise and his passing only increases that feeling.(Magar ye chasm-e-hairan hai ke iski hairani nahin jati.)
But first and foremost it is a reminder from Lord Most High. A sign of Lord Most High. Involved in the world we forget death. Most definite of realities. In controvertible sign of the unseen. Faith is all about believing the unseen as heralded by the Prophets (AS). Death is perhaps only seen part of that-the faith.
Miyan was staunch (rasikh-ul-mijaz) Muslim. But he was neither a bigot nor a fanatic. A follower of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan can not be. And thus when Miyan will not agree for hospitalization the poet Owais Jamal Shamsi arranged and old friend Mr Hargovind to be with him. It was known that Miyan will not say no to Mr Hargovind and that is how Miyan made it to the hospital. To take up his final journey in this world. In the times when people shamelessly promote themselves as, "extraordinary people, extra ordinary living", Miyan was a man of simple living. His Raja Mahendra Pratap was a peasant Hargovind.
And then who shall tell us now about Raja Mahendra Pratap? Miyan completed a thesis on Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi. Thus he knew Rajaji's Aligarh connection as well as freedom movement part inside out. Miyan's thesis was submitted after his retirement from the services of the Aligarh Muslim University as its Assistant Public Relations Officer.
What will you do with a Ph.D. so late in your life?", asked friends.
"I'll get it fixed on my tomb", Miyan said. And in one of the convocations people saw the awesome scene of an old man walking with a stick to receive his Ph.D. degree from the faculty of Theology of AMU, Aligarh. This was no honaris causa degree. This was all real. He could use the prefix Dr with his name in official communication.
Talking about convocation one fact should be put on record. The list of various convocation, regular or special, of AMU has been prepared by Miyan. This is a painstaking task and on the official document you do not get any credit. And this was not the only such document which requires hard work and you cannot use it. How does it sound if you say that make me a professor of history because I have prepared so many official lists that are regularly under use but my name is not there? There is a booklet prepared by him that contains quotes related to Sir Syed. There is another one that contains excerpts from various convocation speeches by various Chief Guests of convocations-speeches that are historical. There is a list of famous alumni of AMU in various aspects of life. Its back cover has a collage of autographs of many of the famous personalities associated with AMU-some thin that can be accomplished only by decades of autograph hunting. Lord Most High made him a man of many colours and Aligarh was the dominant colour.
His thesis was published as an issue of an Islamic studies journal called Islam Aur Asr-e-Jadid published by Jamia Millia Islamia.
Collection of material for this thesis was not a target in itself at all. Collection of material was a way of life for him. Somebody said that he was a living encyclopedia. He had done scavenging of many libraries in his life time in India and Pakistan, including the Parliament Library.
For last two years his pet project was to write the history of Aligarh Movement using just some meaningful statements by different people. This is again Miyan in his originality. This is a rather expansive style to work-from the point of view of return-the ration of gain with respect to the effort required. But Miyan did it. We hope to see that document in near future. Lord Most High willing.