Professor Masood-ul Hasan: A Doyen of English Studies in India
By Prof. A.R. Kidwai
Dept. of English, AMU Aligarh
Born on 8 July 1928 in Moradabad (UP), Professor Masood-ul Hasan had his university education at the historic seat of learning – the Aligarh Muslim University. He earned his BA and MA degrees in English in 1945 and 1947 respectively at the AMU. At a remarkably young age of only 19 years he was appointed Lecturer in English at Hamidiya Degree College, Bhopal and had a brief stint there from 1947 to 1949. It was in 1949 that he joined as faculty at Aligarh Muslim University and served this great institution with distinction until his superannuation in 1988.
His luminous teaching career and pivotal role in AMU’s corporate life:
From 1949 to 1963 he worked as Lecturer and was later elevated as Reader and Professor in 1963 and 1970 respectively at the Department of English. For almost two decades he had been Professor of English and served also as Chairman, Dept. of English and Dean, Faculty of Arts. Apart from teaching at the Department, Professor Hasan contributed immensely to the corporate life of the Aligarh Muslim University in various capacities. For years he had been the Manager of AMU Schools and infused the spirit of academic excellence into the minds and hearts of both the students and teachers of University Schools. He was the pioneer in sensitizing the AMU community to the National Policy on Education and other developments in the School education by way of organizing workshops and seminars in collaboration with NCERT. At various platforms he spoke fervently about Indian Muslims’ education and human rights. Furthermore, he was the Proctor of the University in 1970s, entrusted with the unenviable task of ensuring discipline on the campus. With his remarkable tact and sagacity, however, he was successful in discharging this onerous duty as well.
Professor Hasan is widely acclaimed as a highly competent teacher, gifted with an exceptional ability to elucidate literary texts for the benefit of his students. His wit and humour made his lectures all the more memorable. Almost every student of the Department of English between 1950 and 1990 cherishes the fond memories of his highly engaging and perceptive lectures. He was a mentor in the true sense of the term as he guided many of his students and research scholars to their bright career. Little wonder then that many of his students, benefiting from his patronage and guidance, rose to important positions in both public life and academic institutions.
His Indispensable Reference Works:
Professor Hasan’s major contribution consists in facilitating research in English literary studies, as he brought out several helpful bibliographies, which are mines of otherwise inaccessible information. Mention must be made of his following substantial works:
1. Rare English Books in India: A Select Locational Bibliography, T.M. Publications, Aligarh, 1970
The title of this self explanatory work guides researchers to the location of the generally little known works on English studies available in India. The bibliography provides an extensive list of 110 major literary periodicals of 18th to 20th century available in the leading libraries of the country. Prior to internet age such vital information was hard to track down and such a bibliography was very precious for researchers desperately looking for primary source material. Those drawing upon this bibliography still feel beholden to Professor Hasan for having facilitated their research studies. It is not therefore, surprising that this work of his was warmly welcomed by distinguished scholars in India:
a. Professor S.C. Deb (Allahabad): “You have by bringing out this volume made the teachers and research workers aware of the extent of problem and the variety of aspects that remain to be explored.”
b. Professor V.K. Gokak (CIEFL, Hyderabad): “You have obliged all scholars of English literature greatly.”
c. Professor A. Bose (Calcutta): “It is a notable and novel contribution to Indian bibliography and should be useful to countless researchers.”
d. B.S. Kesvan (Hony. Library Adviser to the Govt. of India, and former Director, National Library, Calcutta): “ … a landmark bibliography … clearly a labour of love undertaken and executed against odds.”
e. Professor S. Bashiruddin (Veteran Librarian): “It is a research tool of high value”.
f. Professor Naharanjan Ray (Director, IIAS, Simla): “You have been able to work your project out as an expert bibliographer. For more than one reason it would serve as a very dependable guide…”
2. His other reference work of immense bibliographical value is Nineteenth-Century English Literary Works: A Locational Bibliography of Rare Books Available in India, (Delhi, B.K. Publishers, 1978).
It enumerates 286 periodicals and serials in the above important area of English literary history. Needless to add, such helpful reference works contributed significantly to the production of quality research by numerous students and scholars. English literary studies in India owe much to such works of Professor Hasan.
3. Another work of the same category is his Miltoniana in India: A Select Bibliography (Aligarh, Shalig Ram and Sons Publications, 1986).
While the focus of this bibliography is on the great English poet, John Milton, its significance consists chiefly in giving a fair idea of Milton scholarship in various world languages, with special attention to Indian languages. It contains valuable details about Milton’s works, their translations and Milton criticism in 10 major Indian languages and in 34 other languages of the world. It is an epitome of dedicated scholarship, as it unravels a wealth of information which is not generally available with a single volume.
His contribution to English critical studies:
4. Professor Hasan’s original and insightful contribution to English literary studies is reflected sharply in his ground-breaking work, Donne’s Imagery (Aligarh, Aligarh Muslim University, 1958).
John Donne, a seventeenth century British Metaphysical poet is acclaimed for his intellectual toughness. With his enviable critical faculty Professor Hasan has been remarkably successful in deciphering the astounding range of imagery in Donne’s poetry. It is worth-reiterating that Donne’s imagery extends to such diverse fields as medicine, law, horticulture, optics, alchemy, geography and physics. Professor Hasan has nonetheless risen to the occasion in identifying and elucidating the complex and intractable imagery in Donne’s poetry. His exposition is read with much profit by students of Donne to this day. This seminal work of his drew applause from eminent critics of which the following extracts should give some idea:
a. “This scholarly and perceptive study is a useful contribution to work on Donne … with such clear understanding of a poet who is, even among his compatriots, generally found so difficult and elusive.” (Dr R.T.H. Redpath, Trinity College, Cambridge).
b. “… a well-written and scholarly work which shows a genuine understanding of a poet difficult even to English readers” (Professor Kenneth Muir, Liverpool University).
5. His other major work of literary criticism is the revised and updated version of his doctoral dissertation for which he was awarded Ph.D. in English by the University of Liverpool, UK in 1964: Francis Quarles: A Critical Study of his Poetry (Aligarh, Aligarh Muslim University, 1966)
This critical work is a testament to Professor Hasan’s painstaking commitment to English literature in that it embodies the fruits of his scholarship about a little known yet significant 17th century writer, Francis Quarles. Like his other critical works, it was much appreciated by leading critics thus:
a. Professor Geoffrey Bullough (London University): “a valuable study … Not the least valuable parts of the study are your tracing of Quarles’s predecessors and also of his possible imitators … throws much needed light on many of the forms of poetry fashionable in the seventeenth century.”
b. Professor Kenneth Muir: “Solid and valuable work of scholarships.”
c. Professor G.K. Hunter (of Warwick University, Coventry): “Your comments on the rhetoric of … works will be especially helpful to readers … the book is a major addition to the criticism of the religious poetry of the period; and I know of no work I would sooner recommend as a sane and balanced introduction to the subject.”
d. Gorden S. Haight (Professor at Yale University): “… its lucid style and thorough research … I know of nothing that you have overlooked, and I should think your work might well become the final word on Quarles.”
e. Douglas Bush (of Camb. Mass): “… obviously the most thorough study of Quarles there is … your easy command of English is hardly less remarkable than your scholarly command of all the materials … substantial achievement.”
f. K.R. Srinivas Iyengar (Watair): “Quite a meritorious piece of research and criticism.”
6. However, Professor Hasan’s magnum opus is his Sufism and English Literature: Chaucer to the Present Age: Echoes and Image, New Delhi, Adam Publishers, 2007.
This analytical survey of the entire English literary history is the first, refreshingly original study of the Sufi strand in the works of English men of letters from 14th to 21st century, including the fairly recent noble laureate, Doris Lessing. This work is illustrative of Professor Hasan’s thorough familiarity with both English literary and Sufi traditions. Gifted with an insightful critical mind Professor Hasan has established the affinity between the two major traditions. This work of his will inspire many more studies and familiarize students of English literature with a new field of study.
His achievements in Urdu
In addition to his sterling contribution to English literary studies and corporate life of the Aligarh Muslim University, Professor Hasan has made mark also as a writer in Urdu. His pieces in chaste, idiomatic Urdu, interspersed with scintillating humour and wit and occasional bites of irony and sarcasm are a delight to read. His critical writings in Urdu have offered many fresh ideas and perspectives to the students of Urdu literature. His oratory of both Urdu and English often casts a spell on the audience both in and outside classroom. As to his genuine and abiding interest in scholarship, it may be gauged in the light of the fact that at the ripe age of 81 years he is a regular visitor to the Maulana Azad Library, drawing upon the latest advances in various fields of knowledge. Truly he is a doyen of scholarship.