Prof. Masood Hussain Khan

  • warning: preg_replace_callback(): Requires argument 2, '_decode_entities("$1", "$2", "$0", $newtable, $exclude)', to be a valid callback in /hermes/walnacweb04/walnacweb04ad/b268/pow.shibliacademy/htdocs/aligarhmovement/includes/ on line 345.
  • warning: preg_replace_callback(): Requires argument 2, '_decode_entities("$1", "$2", "$0", $newtable, $exclude)', to be a valid callback in /hermes/walnacweb04/walnacweb04ad/b268/pow.shibliacademy/htdocs/aligarhmovement/includes/ on line 345.

Prof. Masood Hussain Khan

By Afzal Usmani

On 16th October, 2010 eminent aligarian, linguist and Emeritus Professor of Aligarh Muslim University, Dr. Masood Husain Khan died here at Aligarh and was buried down in the University graveyard `Mintoea. His magnum opus, A History of Urdu language, originally his PhD dissertation which was published in 1948, advanced a new theory of Urdu's birth, contradicting all theories hitherto popular among scholars. 92years' old scholar of Urdu had the distinction to serve as Professor at Jamia Osmania (Osmania University, Hyderabad), Aligarh Muslim University and Vice-Chacellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and Jamia Urdu Aligarh. He is survived by his wife, 3 daughters and only son, Prof. Javed Hussain who is a Professor in Department of Applied Physics, Zakir Hussain College of Engineering & Technology, Aligarh Muslim University.

R-L:Mr. Naseem Quraishi, Prof. Masood H. Khan, Mr. Inam Elahi, Prof. Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi, Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor, Prof. Khalilur Rahman Azmi

Dr. Masood Hussain Khan was born in the family of Muzaffar Hussain Khan in Qaimganj, district Farkhabad, UP, on January 28, 1919. The family has a rich legacy of excellence through education. Muzaffar Hussain Khan was eldest brother of Dr. Zakir Hussain, former President of India. Dr. Zakir Hussain had also served as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. One of his brothers Dr. Yusuf Hussain Khan, professor at Osmania University Hyderabad and Urdu’s renowned critic who later became pro-vice chancellor at Aligarh Muslim University. His brother, Dr Mahmood Hussain Khan was a professor at Karachi University who later became Dhaka University’s Vice-Chancellor and held other important posts such as minister. Family of Muzzafar Hussain Khan was originally from Qaimganj (United Province) but moved to Hyderabad just after one year of his birth in 1894. All of his brothers including Zakir Hussain were born in Hyderabad except his youngest brother Mahmud Hussain Khan. Muzaffar Hussain Khan completed his education from Islamia High School Etawah and Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (M.A.O.) College Aligarh. He started his career in Hyderabad but very soon got infected with T.B. and died at a very young age leaving behind grieving wife, only daughter and 2 sons, Imteyaz Hussain Khan and Masood Hussain Khan. Masood Hussain Khan was just 2 years old when he lost his father. After finishing the primary education from Jamia Millia Islamia, Masood Hussain Khan also studied in Dhaka for a while. He completed his higher education from Delhi University and Aligarh Muslim University. He did his Ph.D. under the guidance of Prof. Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi and wrote his magnum opus “Muqaddama-e-tareekh-e-zaban-e-Urdu” which was later published as a book and became a landmark work of Prof. Masood Hussain Khan. He also studied Hindi and Sanskrit literature and was familiar with Bengali language too. Later on he finished his D.Lit. from Paris in Linguistics. He began his career in 1943 at All India Radio, Delhi, as programme assistant. After quitting the All India Radio job within six months of joining it, he joined Aligarh Muslim University’s Urdu department as lecturer. In 1962, he became chairman at Osmania University’s Urdu department where he served till 1968 when he was made the head of the linguistics department at Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh. [1]

L-R: Dr.Moin Ahsan Jazbi, Prof. Masood H. Khan, unknown, Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor, Prof. Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi, unknown, Prof. Prof. Khursheedul Islam

Prof Masood’s magnum opus, ‘Muqaddama-e-tareekh-e-zaban-e-Urdu’, describes in detail the history of Urdu’s origin and development. On account of coherence and plausibility, the book is considered to offer one of the most acceptable theories on the genesis and development of Urdu. He proved his theory with historical and authentic evidence, taking into account the formation of Indo-Aryan languages. Keeping in view the theories of historical linguistics and ancient sources, he proved that Urdu was born in and around Delhi. According to him, four vernacular dialects, namely Brij bhasha, Mewati, Haryanvi and Khari boli, exerted their influences on Urdu during its long formative phases and among them Haryanvi and Khari boli were the ones that proved to be more decisive. Later, the same language reached Deccan in the 13th and 14th centuries AD with the Muslim armies and slowly but surely gained refinement over the centuries and a standard Urdu language emerged. Before Masood Sahib, Muhammad Hussain Azad, Hafiz Mahmood Sheerani, Shamsullah Qadri, Mohiuddin Qadri Zor, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, T. Grahame Bailey and some other scholars had presented their theories on Urdu’s origin but none found favour with Masood sahib. So he set out to find for himself the truth. His advantage? A keen study of the Indo-Aryan linguistics and an understanding of the Shaurseni Prakrit that later developed into dialects, such as Khari boli, spoken in and around Delhi. In his opinion, the emergence of these modern Indo-Aryan dialects could not have begun earlier than 1000 AD and, therefore, Hafiz Mahmood Sheerani’s theory that saw Punjab as the cradle of Urdu and premised that Urdu was a language that was brought to Delhi by Muslim armies after the con quest of Punjab, was not plausible. First published in 1948, the book, originally his PhD dissertation, has run into many editions in India and Pakistan. Phonetics is the other forte of Prof Masood Hussain Khan’s. He was the first to analyse the words of Urdu from a phonological point of view. During his stay in London, Masood Sahib had had a chance to benefit from the insights of Prof J. R. Firth who was the first to introduce the concept of ‘Prosodic Phonology’. Basing his DLit thesis ‘A phonetic and phonological study of the word in Urdu’ on Firth’s theory, he carried out research that was published in 1954. Said to be a rare feat of descriptive linguistics, it was translated into Urdu and published by Prof Mirza Khalil Beg in 1984. [2]

Prof. Masood Hussain Khan’s modesty, politeness and sweetness never matched with his Pathan background and personality. From 3rd November 1973 to 15th August 1978 he served Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia as Vice-Chancellor and remained Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Urdu till mid 90s. When a conflict erupted between Jamia Urdu Registrar, Mr. Anwar Saeed and newly appointed Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Khaliq Anjum, Prof. Masood Hussain Khan was re-appointed as Jamia Urdu Vice-Chancelor in and around 1994-95. Aside from editing many literary and research journals, he remained Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu Hind’s acting general secretary during 1969-1970. He had also served as visiting Professor at University of California, USA. He has a large number of books to his credit including his autobiography ‘Wurood-e-Masood’ and the collection of his poetry ‘Do neem’.

Prof.Masood Hussain Khan was felicitated by Ghalib Institute of New Delhi. The function was held in Feb 2010 at AMU Aligarh
L-R: Prof. Irfan Habib, Prof. Masood H. Khan, Prof. A.R. Kidwai, Prof. I.Hasnain, Dr. Khaliq Anjum

Prof. Masood Hussain Khan was conferred with Delhi Urdu Academy’s highest honour – Kul Hind Bahadur Shah Zafar Award--in recognition of his contribution to the study of Urdu language and literature. In February 2010 Ghalib Institute, New Delhi felicitated him in a grand function for his yeomen contribution to Urdu language and literature. On this occasion a book was released on Prof. Masood Husain Khan’s life and contribution. He has authored several books and research papers on Urdu including the ‘Rise and Fall of Urdu in India'. Prof Khan is credited with having written 26 books, all of which are considered as valuable contribution to Urdu prose and linguistics. He was also a poet and had published a collection of his poem titled 'Do Neem'. His first book 'Muqadma-e-Tarikh Zaban-e-Urdu' has seen several editions. His second book 'Urdu Zaban-o-Adab' written in 1954 was equally popular. Similar response was enjoyed by his third book, written in English, 'A Phonetic and Phonological Study of the Word in Urdu'. It is a great loss to the entire Urdu world and Aligarh Fraternity. He was very few remaining stalwarts who served Urdu language with great dedication throughout his life. The AMU Vice Chancellor Prof. P. K. Abdul Azis expressed his condolences to his grieved family and said that AMU has lost a great scholar of international repute. Noted historian Prof. Irfan Habib said that AMU has a pride in producing such type of Urdu personality and said that Prof. Masood was a rationalist and he adopted scientific linguistic approach. Prof. Imtiaz Hasnain, Chairman, Department of Linguistics at AMU said that Prof. Masood Husain Khan is a doyen of Urdu linguistics and placed Urdu on the map of academic world of serious linguistic studies. He also mentioned that Prof. Masood Husain Khan was representing the generation of phonologists, called the British phonologists, who developed the concept of prosodic features for describing the phonological structure of language.

Jamia Millia Islamia was founded in 1920 in Aligarh in response to the call of Indian freedom movement leaders. This was one of the token of solidarity of Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Mahatma Ghandhi and and Khilafat Movement of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar who was also the founding Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia. Even though it was a rebel institution to Aligarh Muslim University but its founders never differed with the ideals of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his Aligarh Movement and so Jamia Millia Islamia was also considered as a product of Aligarh Movement. Prof. Masood Hussain Khan had a long association with Jamia Millia Islamia as it was one of his Alma Mater from where he completed his primary education. His uncle Dr. Zakir Hussain Khan had served as Vice-Chancellor from 1926 to 1948. Dr. Zakir Hussain also served as its Chancellor from 1963 to 1969. In 1973 when longest serving Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islami, Prof. Mohammad Mujeeb died after serving the institution from 1948 to 1973, Prof. Masood Hussain Khan was appointed as its 5th Vice-Chancellor. Prof. Masood took the charge of Jamia Millia Islamia on 3rd November 1973 and served till 15th August 1978. At the time of his taking over the institution, Jamia was just like a loosely bounded Federation of few institutions. To maintain the peace among the institutions, Prof. Mujeeb never took any measure to move forward with the mission of Jamia and to make it a vibrant University like other Universities. Progress of Jamia was main concern of Prof. Masood and he initiated the process to make Jamia a vibrant and viable University like other Universities. In 1973, there were no Professors in Jamia Millia Islamia. Prof. Masood took keen interest to create the positions and with the approval from University Grant Commission (UGC) and the first person who was appointed as Professor was Dr. GopiChand Narang, in the Department of Urdu. Dr. Azhar Ansari, who was working as Reader in Jawaharlal University (JNU) Delhi was appointed as Professor in Dept. of History. Prof. Masood merged Dept. of Arabic and Persian and created a new Department of Islamic and Arab-Iranian Studies and Dr. Mushirul Haq was appointed as its Founding Professor. Prof. Mushirul Haq later served as Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University and was assassinated by militants of Kashmir. Prof. Narang later became Vice-President of Sahitya Academy and Head of National Council of Promotion of Urdu Language. He also divided the institutions/Colleges into different Faculties on the pattern of other national Universities. Some of his actions and decisions were not well received but whatever he did, he did it with good intentions and very soon Jamia took a new turn and started marching towards a new horizon. He served till 15th August 1978 as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia and came back to Aligarh.[3]

After coming back to Aligarh, he joined Dept. of Linguistics again and put his best to promote Dept. of linguistics. After his retirement from AMU Aligarh, he was appointed as Visiting Professor at Iqbal Institute, Kashmir University Srinagar. Two legendary Aligarian were at the helm of affairs of Iqbal Institute, Kashmir University. Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor was Director of Iqbal Institute and Prof. Wahiduddin Malik (Prof. W.U. Malik) was Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University. In September 1981, Prof. Masood Hussain Khan joined Iqbal Institute and used to teach research methodology. It was Iqbal Institute where he finished his book on Allama Iqbal on which he received Sahitya Academy award. In his brief stay of almost one and a quarter year at Iqbal Institute, he published several papers of Allama Iqbal and his poetry in different journals including “Iqbaaliyaat”, the journal of Iqbal Institute Kashmir University. By end of 1982, once again he returned to Aligarh.[3]

After returning from Srinagar in mid 80s, Prof. Masood Hussain Khan was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Urdu Aligarh. Jamia Urdu, Aligarh was established as a distance education institution way back in 1939 for imparting Urdu education. Perhaps it was the first such institution in India. There is no doubt that Jamia Urdu has served the nation and the community in a large way. Its courses were recognized by almost all States and the central government. Its courses are not only recognized in India but also by several foreign governments like USA, Singapore and Gulf countries. Almost all Board of examinations also recognise its degrees. Its courses are equivalent to other boards/ universities courses like its Adeeb is equivalent to 10th class and Adeeb-e-Mahir with Intermediate (10+2) or Senior Secondary School examinations. It has educated millions of poor, deprived and marginalized people particularly females by its unique process of distance education. Jamia Urdu also publishes a monthly journal “Adeeb”. Prof. Masood appointed Prof. Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg as Editor of “Adeeb” who took Addeb to a new zenith. His appointment of Mr. Anwar Saeed as Registrar of Jamia Urdu was a turning point in the history of Jamia Urdu Aligarh. Prof. Masood’s modesty and politeness was misused and Anwar Saeed took control of Jamia Urdu Aligarh and treated it like a personal private venture. This started a new tough of war and bloody history in Jamia Urdu Aligarh and Prof. Masood paved the way for Dr. Khaleeq Anjum to become a new Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Urdu Aligarh. The infighting between newly appointed Vice-Chancellor Dr. Khaleeq Anjum and Registrar Mr. Anwar Saeed took very ugly turn and the Jamia Urdu Aligarh campus which is just a few hundred yards away from Prof. Masood’s residence Javed Manzil, a battle ground. Government intervened and Prof. Masood Hussain Khan was re-appointed as Vice-Chancellor but could not do anything for Mr. Anwar Saeed. Mr. Anwar Saeed was at helm of Jamia Urdu’s affair till his last breath and almost decimated Jamia Urdu Aligarh.

On 16th October, 2010 death of Prof. Masood Hussain Khan was an end of era. After living for almost 92 years he is resting in peace in his adopted homeland Aligarh.

[1] -Dr. Zakir Hussain, quest for truth - By Zia-ul-Hasan Faruqi
[2] -Prof Masood Hussain Khan turns 90 -By Rauf Parekh - Dawn
[3] -Dhoondhogey Unhein - Prof. Kabir Ahmad Jaisi

Sad demise of Prof. Masood Hussain Khan

Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Alaihe Rajeoon

With faith in death and destiny, it is sad to know that Prof Masood Hussain Khan Saheb left for heavenly abode. It is a great loss to the Aligarian Fraternity and Urdu as he was very few remaining stalwarts who served Urdu language with great dedication throughout his life.

The loss, one can imagine, is more keenly felt by the kith and kin of deceased. However, we are with all the family members of Prof Masood Hussain Khan Saheb in this hour of sorrow and anguish, our sincere thoughts and prayers are with them.

On my behalf and behalf of AMU Old Boys’ Association Riyadh, I extend my sincere condolences, as we all pray to Allah Tala for Maghferat of noble soul and May his soul achieve elevation and highest position in Jannat-ul-Firdaus. May the Grace of Almighty God and Infinite mercy be with all of us.

To Allah we belong and to him is our return.

Mohammad Zaigham Khan


A.M.U.Old Boys’ Association Riyadh,

Saudi Arabia.

Prof Dr Masood Husain Khan

Allah Prof Dr Masood Husain Khan ko jannat main jagah de Ameen

Prof Alay Ahmad

Sir Syed Bi-Centenary


Hamiduddin Farahi



Masood-ul Hasan

ZH Chowdhury