Asghar Ali Engineer
Scholar with a mission
Asghar Ali Engineer
Asghar Ali Engineer was born in Bohra priestly family (amil's family) on 10th March, 1939 in Salumbar, Rajasthan (near Udaipur) where Sheikh Qurban Husain, his father, was an amil at that time. Asghar Ali was given training in Qur'anic tafsir(commentry), Tawil (hidden meaning of Qur'an) fiqh (jurisprudence) and hadith (Prophet's sayings). He learnt the Arabic language from his father and further developed it himself. He has studied all the major works of Fatimi Da'wah by Sayedna Hatim, Sayedna Qadi Nu'man, Sayedna Muayyad Shirazi, Sayedna Hamiduddin Kirmani, Sayedna Hatim al-Razi, Sayedna Jafar Mansur al-Yaman and several others.
Dr. Engineer also acquired secular education besides religious one. He graduated in civil engineering from Indore (M.P.) with distinction and served for 20 years as an engineer in Bombay Municipal Corporation and then took voluntary retirement to plunge himself into the Bohra reform movement. He began to play a leading role in the reform movement from1972 when the revolt took place in Udiapur. He wrote several articles on the reform movement in the Seventies in the leading newspapers of India such as The Times of India, Indian Express, Statesman, Telegraph, The Hindu and others. He was unanimously elected as General Secretary of The Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community in its first conference in Udiapur in 1977 and has continued in the post ever since. He devotes a great deal of his time for the reform movement and has internationalised the reform movement through his writings and speeches.
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Dr.Engineer has also done a great deal of work on communalism and communal violence in India since the first major riot in India in Jabalpur in 1961. His work in this field is considered pioneering and in recognition of his work Calcutta University conferred an honorary degree of D.Lit. on him in February, 1983.
Dr. Engineer, as he is known since then, is also recognised as a distinguished scholar of Islam and is invited for international conferences on Islam by various governments and universities. Dr. Engineer has lectured in several universities in USA., Canda, U.K., Indonesia, Malaysia, Germany, France, Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Mexico, Lebanon, Switzerland, Egypt, Tokyo, Uzbekistan, Moscow, Leningrad etc. He has also lectured in all the universities throughout India.
Dr. Engineer has received several awards on his work on inter-religious understanding. He believes in showing equal respect to all religions and he considers faith in religion as most vital for a meaningful life. However, he does not believe in blindly accepting dogmas inherited from the past. He believes in re-thinking issues and re-interpreting Islam in keeping with the changed times. He is of the opinion that it is our individual obligation to aquire Islamic learning and reflect deeply rather than following any one blindly.
On India's Republic Day this year Dr. Engineer was given the National Communal Harmony Award for 1997 by the Government of India in recognition of his work for promoting communal harmony throughout the country. The award carries a citation and Rs. one lakh in cash.
Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer can be reached by e-mail at Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.