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Footprints on the Sands of Time
(Written on the demise of Imām Amin Ahsan Islāhī)
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time

…An unusual day in the year 1863; the place a remote village of India...

…The tide of time seemed to stop; the wheel of fortune appeared to pause; the elements of nature looked to be motionless -- everything over-awed in anticipation of the birth of … of a prodigious soul which was destined to redirect the Muslim religious thought from the path it had deviated.

Hamīd Uddīn Farāhī as he was called, grew up to be a person of exceptional intellect. As a phenomenal scholar of Islam, he laid the foundations of an intellectual awakening of the Muslim Ummah by opening the way to direct deliberation on the Qur’ān and by emphasizing that the Qur’ān is the Mīzān and the Furqān as it itself claims. He left for his heavenly abode in 1930 after a profound life of research and learning. It was then left to his most outstanding pupil and disciple, Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, to build upon these foundations and give substance to the vision of his legendary mentor. Who knew that Islāhī# would not only develop Farāhī’s embryonic ideas and give new dimensions to them, but would also be able to evolve many original premises.

Today we are mourning the death of this second great Qur’ānic scholar of the modern era. On the 15th of December 1997, he breathed his last at 3 am in the morning after enduring two long years of illness with remarkable patience.


`Abide by the truth even if your shadow deserts you’ was his life-long motto. He lived in an era in which everything except learning and research was given patronage -- an era in which scholarly research in religious issues, in particular, was considered high treason. He lived in a society in which praises were showered on worthless ideas, in which meaningless concepts were applauded and in which senseless thoughts were extolled but, sadly enough, true knowledge was forsaken and condemned. Ignorance was garlanded with an ignorance profound. Muslim religious thought had been crippled with the malady of Taqlīd. An opinion once adopted was seldom thought over again. Every idea once formed was regarded with a sanctity which rendered it eternal. Every view which remained undisputed in the past became no less than the Word of God. Emotional attachment to traditional concepts and conventional thoughts, however foolish they might be and however much they might have distorted the truth, had given rise to prejudice and intolerance. A person who dared to differ with generally acclaimed religious concepts was looked down upon, even if his arguments were based on the Qur’ān and Sunnah.

In such circumstances, Islāhī, following in the footsteps of his illustrious teacher Hamīd Uddīn Farāhī, broke the shackles of Taqlīd and paved the way for independent thinking. Irrespective of all consequences, he continued to traverse the rugged terrain of life as a person possessed with the yearning to live and die for the truth. Even in crucial circumstances, he upheld the voice of his conscience, and faced every adverse current of the society with grit and endurance. Any increase in the intensity of opposition only increased his patience. The more the going got tough, the tougher he became -- for he knew that expending even the last drop of blood in the cause of truth would make this path easier for others to tread. He knew very well that that since the earliest stroke of man’s intellectual voyage, traditionalists have remained the worst enemies of true knowledge. They have always challenged the torrent of man’s intellectual advancement. In all ages of known history, they have obstructed his progress, but then, to no avail. Every time that their claws have closed on the champions of truth, a new episode of man's loftiness has been scribed by the historians pen. An Ibn Taymiyyah, an Abū Hanīfa, a Mālik, a Farāhi, a Socrates, a Copernicus was always there to write with his own blood an episode of man's resolve to abide by the truth. They did die fighting against heavy odds, but their lives became lighthouses of inspiration for humanity.

And today Islāhī’s own death has added fuel to this torch of truth kindled by his illustrious predecessors. It seems to shimmer even more brightly, communicating very articulately a distinct message to all:


Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare

The truth thou hast that all may share

Be bold, proclaim it everywhere

They only live who dare


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