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The dervish of Urdu literature

Urdu literature has produced some very interesting and peculiar personalities. You will find, for example, Riaz Khairabadi who composed a huge number of (and perhaps the best) verses on liquor but never tasted even a drop. By contrast, there were Majaaz and Akhter Sheerani who died of excesses and alcoholism. In Urdu one finds a poet like Jigar Muradabadi who after penitence became a pious person. And then there were poets such as Mirza Mazhar Jan-i-Janan and Mir Dard who were in fact Sufis and for whom poetry was an avocation, not a vocation. Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan, too, was perhaps a Sufi first and then an academic.

Dr Sahib, as Ghulam Mustafa Khan was reverently known, was a university teacher, research scholar, linguist, historian, poet and a mystic of the Naqshbandiya order of Sufism. He received his early education at Jabalpur, C.P., where he was born on Sept 23, 1912. From Aligarh he did his BA, MA (Persian), MA (Urdu) and LLB while Nagpur University conferred upon him the degrees of PhD and DLitt.

In 1937, on passing the Public Service Commission's exam, Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan was appointed at King Edward College, Amraoti (Berar), as a lecturer in Urdu. A few years later, he joined Nagpur University as head of the Urdu department but in January 1948 migrated to Pakistan. Shortly after this, he joined the Islamia College, Karachi. But when Baba-i-Urdu Moulvi Abdul Haq established the Urdu College at Karachi in 1950, he joined it as the head of the Urdu department.

In 1956, Dr Sahib started taking classes at Karachi University as well. But Allama I. I. Qazi asked him to join Sindh University as the chairman of the Urdu department and he moved to Hyderabad, Sindh, the same year. Dr Sahib served here for twenty years and upon his retirement in 1972, he was given a four-year extension. In 1988, Sindh University made him professor emeritus in recognition of his services and scholarship.

With a deep and varied study in several languages and a command over Urdu, English, Arabic, Persian and Hindi, Dr Sahib made a perfect research supervisor for students of several disciplines such as literature, language, history and religion. Among his students are a large number of outstanding and well-known scholars, including Dr Farman Fatehpuri, Dr Jameel Jalibi, Dr Aslam Farrukhi, Dr Abul Khair Kashfi, Dr Najm-ul-Islam and scores of others.

The Urdu Dictionary Board asked Dr Sahib to review the manuscript of Urdu's most comprehensive dictionary that is now nearing completion. Other academic institutions and universities also asked Dr Sahib to assist them in their projects. In fact, Dr Sahib is amongst those academics with the distinction of having supervised and examined the largest number of doctoral dissertations in Pakistan. As for excellence in Persian, he was among the few in the entire subcontinent that were regarded as the highest authorities on Persian language and literature.

But above all, he was a Sufi, an ascetic mystic whose mission was to conquer the hearts and souls of people. Armed with Divine love, enormous knowledge, civility, tolerance and a deep love for humanity, he conquered almost everybody he ever met. He was a brilliant example of knowledge and kindness entwined in an inseparable entity, the sort of religious figure we badly need these days: knowledgeable, loving, refined and reconciliatory.

Dr Sahib penned over 70 books in Urdu, English and Persian. Some of his books include History of Behram Shah of Ghazni, Persian Literature in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, Farsi Pur Urdu Ka Asar, the Sindhi Urdu Lughat and the Urdu Sindhi Lughat (in collaboration with Dr N.A. Baloch), Makttobat-e-Mujaddid, Iqbal Aur Quran, Urdu Men Quran Aur Hadith Ke Muhavre, Haali Ka Zahni Irteqa, Ilmi Nuqoosh and Jaame-ul-Qavaid. Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan died on Sept 25, 2005, in Hyderabad, Sindh.

Two publications serve as source material for research on his life and works: a special issue on Dr Sahib published by the quarterly 'Nai Ibaarat' (Hyderabad) and a special section in Sindh University's research journal 'Tehqeeq.' Of late, Masroor Ahmed Zai's doctoral dissertation on life and works of Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan has been published and also serves as a good source.

By Rauf Parekh, drraufparekh@yahoo.com (Dawn)
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