Prof. Nazir Ahmad

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Prof. Nazir Ahmad:

Legendary Persian Scholar and Teacher

By Afzal Usmani

There is a tradition of humility among scholars of the classical mode; showing off knowledge is considered as lacking in etiquette and good manners. This group is, however, that behind the veneer of self effacement, there lie inflated egos and feelings of self-righteousness. One of the very few exceptions was Professor (Emeritus) Nazir Ahmad of department of Persian in Aligarh Muslim University. A highly respected Persian scholar with a humble attitude Nazir Ahmad was well respected the in the intellectual community in and outside of the country. His humility was an embodiment of the old virtue of "Kasar Nafsi" or self-effacement. There was nothing artificial here. If someone had a query, Nazir Ahmad would reply almost hesitantly. In this hesitance was not indicative of lack of self confidence, it was a true reflection of the realization that the ocean of knowledge is vast, almost infinite, it cannot be mastered by any individual howsoever bright or hard working he or she may be. Professor Nazir Ahmad had obviously grasped this fact which obviously eluded most of his contemporaries particularly in the disciplines of oriental languages and theology. The other characteristic of the departed scholar was his ever-smiling face betraying no irritation or stress and strain.

Professor Nazir Ahmad was born on 3rd January, 1915 in a small village Kalahi Gharib (Gharrah), Gonda (UP) India. After completing his primary education from this village, he successfully completed his middle school examination in 1930 and moved to Gonda city for higher education. He completed his high school in 1934 from Gonda with first division and with distinction in mathematics. After completing his high school from Gonda, he joined Christian College in Lucknow and cleared his Intermediate examinations with second division in 1936 and took admission in Lucknow University in B.A. (Persian). During his stay in Christian college, he cleared the examination of Munshi in 1935. He completed his B.A. (Hons.) with Persian in 1939 with first division and first position. He completed his M.A. (Persian) in 1940 with First division and received two gold medals and fellowship for higher studies. After completing his M.A. he started teaching in Government School in Deoria (UP) as Urdu and Persian teacher. Later on he was transferred to Government High School in Basti (UP) in 1943. He worked for ten years as school teacher but he never stopped his pursuits for higher education and continued his research work in Persian. Nazir Ahmad enrolled himself for Ph.D. under the guidance of Prof. Masood Hasan Rizvi and finished his research on Zahoori (Tarshezi) and received his doctorate in 1945. His interest in research convinced him to register for D.Lit. in Lucknow University. In five years, he focused his researched on the Persian poets of Aadil-Shah period and submitted his thesis for D.Lit. in 1950 and got awarded D.Lit. from University of Lucknow in 1950. Same year he was appointed as Lecturer in University of Lucknow. The highest degree of literature did not stop him to pursue for his interest in Urdu and he started his research on Nauras by Adil Shah. During his pursuit in Urdu, his interest in Persian was also alive and he joined University of Tehran (Iran) and completed his diploma in ‘Farsi Baastan-e-Pahlawi and Modern Persian’. His work on Nauras was still in progress and finally he received D.Lit. (Urdu) in 1956 from University of Lucknow.

Association with Aligarh Muslim University:

In March, 1957, the then Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Col. Bashir Zaidi appointed Dr. Nazir Ahmad as Assistant Director of Aligarh-Taareekh-e-Urdu Adab in Aligarh Muslim University and later in August 1958 he was appointed as Reader in department of Persian in Aligarh Muslim University. In 1960 when Prof. Zia Ahmad Badayuni of Persian died, Dr. Nazir Ahmad was appointed as Professor and Chairman of department of Persian of Aligarh Muslim University. This was a beginning for this school teacher of Deoria. In 1960 when the quarterly journal “Fikro-Nazar” was started, he was appointed as its Founding Secretary and Prof. Yusuf Hussain Khan was appointed as Founding Editor. Nazir Ahmad was a trusted person for Prof. Yusuf Hussain Khan and Fikro Nazar gave an opportunity to Nazir Ahmad to flourish. Within 6 years of Fikro-Nazar’s start, it became a reputed journal and many of its articles got translated in different languages. Turmoil of 1965 in AMU campus directly affected Prof. Nazir Ahmad as his elder son Abdul Basit was expelled from the rolls of the University. Prof. Nazir Ahmad tackled it very patiently. When Prof. Yusuf Hussain Khan left Aligarh Muslim University, the editorial team was changed and Prof. Nazir Ahmad did not become a part of the new team. In 1969, he was appointed as Dean Faculty of Arts. In 1977 he was retired from his University services but was appointed as Professor Emeritus in the department of Persian in Aligarh Muslim University. In his excluded comment, Nazir Ahmad had compared the styles of Ghalib, Bedil and Abul Fazal to show that Ghalib had imitated and become influenced by the prose of the other two. He is convinced that only a writer of Mirza Ghalib’s stature could have gone the way of Abul Fazal and Bedil and achieved success as he did. There were other contemporaries of Ghalib, like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who admired Abul Fazal but could not have imitated him with such great brilliance. In fact Sir Syed was brilliant in doing just the opposite: he wrote a conversational style.

Prof. Nazir Ahmad’s academic and administrative responsibilities never distracted him from his primary interest of research and development. He did not contain his knowledge to himself. He always encouraged and promoted his students to come forward and take a lead. He had guided numerous research papers and thesis. He has a long list of illustrious students who excelled in the fields of their interest and achieved recognition and due fame including President of India awardees Prof. Azarmi Dukht Safavi, Prof. S.M. Tariq Hasan, Prof. Khalid Siddiqi and many more.

Professor Nazir Ahmad was highly respected Persian scholar with humble attitude and was a real gentleman. On the request of Amir Khusro Society of America (AKSA) he took a leading role in translation of Aijaz-e-Khusrawi from Persian into English. He was a key element to organize First International Conference on Amir Khusro in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America in 1989. Many scholars from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Europe and North America deliberated in this 3-day conference. It was decided at the conference to have a project for translation of Amir Khusro’s work. Professor Nazir Ahmad reluctantly agreed to lead the project. He recruited many scholars for this effort and the project was funded by the Smithsonian and also partly supported by the late Hakim Abdul Hameed, founder of Jamia Hamdard of New Delhi and former Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.

Award and Honors:

Even after retirement from his active services, his passion and commitment for his research work did not diminished and he continued to work as he used to do in past. He delivered numerous extension lectures, attended and chaired national and international seminars and conferences. In 1976, Ghalib Institute of New Delhi India awarded him GHALIB AWARD. In 1977 he received President of India Award and fellowship for his lifetime. In 1987, government of India conferred Padma Shri on Prof. Nazir Ahmad. In 1987, “Khusro Academy of United States of America” awarded him “Khusro Award”. Year 1988 was declared as “Year of Hafiz” by UNESCO. Prof. Nazir Ahmad edited and published two oldest manuscript of “Hafiz”. Iranian Cultural Council of India acknowledged this work and conferred a title of “Hafiz Sanaash” on Prof. Nazir Ahmad. In 1989, Government of Iran conferred “Jaizah Afshar” on him and later in 1990; University of Tehran, Iran conferred Honorary D.Lit. on this Non-Iranian scholar of Iranian culture for his understanding and knowledge of Iranian culture and civilization.

Prof. Nazir Ahmad authored several books including, Zahoori- Life & Work (English), Tahqeeqi Maqaley (Urdu), Nauras (Urdu), Nauras (English), Makaateeb Sanashi (Persian), Tareekh aur Adabi Mutaaley (Urdu), Beewan-e-Hafiz (Persian), Farhang Qawaas (Persian), Dasturul Afzal (Persian), Kitabus Sidna (Persian), Deewan Saraji (Persian), Taarekh aur Ilmi Maqalat, Naqd Qatey Burhan (Urdu), Deewan Ameed Lawaiki (Persian), Zafaan Goya (Persina), Fazala-e-Balakh(Urdu), Ghalib per Chand Maqaley (Urdu), Farsi Qaseedah Nigari (Urdu),

His academic excellence was dully recognized and he served in different academic committees and editorial board of national and international repute including the editorial board of “Ma-arif”, monthly journal of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy Azamgarh India. Ma-arif is one of oldest journal of India started in 1914 and is uninterruptedly published till date.

Prof. Nazir Ahmad died on Sunday, 19th October 2008 in Aligarh and buried in University graveyard.

Sir Syed Bi-Centenary


Hamiduddin Farahi


Masarrat Ali