JALEEL ASGHAR, son of noted Islamic scholar and Vice President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Mohammad Shafi Moonis, was closely associated with late Dr. Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi. Jaleel Asghar has worked at Centre for Research and Islamic Economics of King Abdul Aziz University and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah. He did his graduation and post-graduation in Economics from Aligarh Muslim University. He completed his PhD on “Land Reforms in Egypt since 1952” from the Department of West Asian Studies in AMU. In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN, he said Dr. Siddiqi’s death was a personal loss to him as he guided him in every walk of life since his childhood days, personally and professionally. Excerpts:

We all know that Professor Nejatullah Siddiqi has left for heavenly abode. How would you like to share your association with him and your experience about him?

When I was in Rampur during my primary school days, Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi along with Dr. Fazlur Rahman Faridi and Dr. Abdul Haq Ansari visited there. I met with them in the Mosque after Namaz many times. At that point of time, I was very much impressed with Dr. Siddiqi when I came to know the manner in which he took care of one of his friends, who was ill. From there, he went to Aligarh to pursue his studies there.

When I completed my High School from Andhra Pradesh in 1963 as my father was then Ameer Halqua of Andhra Pradesh, Rao Irfan Ahmed Khan, who was a professor in AMU, during his visit to Andhra Pradesh, asked my father about me as to what I was doing. My father replied I have completed my high school. He held my hand and told Father that he was taking me to Aligarh. Thus, I got my admission in AMU.

Professor Rao Ahmed wanted me to pursue some professional course like Diploma or Engineering and then look out for job. But Dr. Fazlur Rahman Faridi and Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi suggested to me to opt for Economics. Then I got my admission in Economics and both of them were my teachers in BA and MA.

What is your experience of Nejatullah Siddiqi as a teacher and how he used to teach?

As a teacher he was very polite and very helpful and was always ready to guide and give suggestions as and when required. He was like a guardian and father figure to me. However, I was very eager to join PhD under his supervision but for one reason or another it was not materialised because the then head of the department was reluctant.

Then I got my registration for PhD under Dr Maqbool in West Asian Studies Centre. There too the topic of my PhD, Land Reforms in Egypt since 1952, was suggested by Nejatullah Siddiqi. And because of the topic, I received scholarship from the Department. Then Emergency came and during the meantime I had applied to go to Egypt for six months to collect some data which was not available in India. So, I got travel grant but when I talked about it, people in the department were surprised and tried to create some kind of hindrance in that way.

You also worked with Dr. Siddiqi outside India. Can you please share your personal experience with him?

The First International Conference on Islamic Economics was about to be held in Makkah and Dr. Siddiqi was the member of its Study Committee. He told me if I could get the formalities done in time and invited me to Saudi Arabia on Umrah Visa. He said people and scholars from Egypt will also come and he would introduce me to them during the conference which will eventually facilitate my work. As per his suggestion, I reached Jeddah. Fortunately, I had to catch flight from Mumbai because flight from Delhi was not available at that point of time.

When I boarded the plane, I saw the then Vice Chancellor of AMU, Prof. A.M. Khusro, Dr. Fazlur Rahman Faridi and Chairman of Economics Department sitting in the plane. It was a pleasant surprise for me. The Vice Chancellor asked me where I was going and was ready to help me in my endeavour. Also, when we reached there in Makkah, Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi had come to receive the Vice Chancellor; and since I was also along with them, automatically I got the invitation and joined the conference. But it became possible only because of Dr. Siddiqi.

He not only guided me in my education but also helped me shape my career. All I can say that he guided and helped me at every step of my life. My rapport with him was so close that even I used to discuss my personal life apart from professional one, he used to encourage me every time.

After the conference, all of them returned to India but I went to Egypt. My visa was for six months. I performed Umrah, when I reached Jeddah.

Friends from Aligarh suggested to me to stay back in Jeddah because of the situation in India after Emergency. They also advised me to go to King Abdul Aziz University. I got appointment in the university and after that Dr. Siddiqi also joined King Abdul Aziz University as a professor. At that point of time there was a department in the university called Muslim Minorities Affairs. At that department there was Dr. Zainul Abdin, who was associated with Jamaat. As I was also from India and associated with Jamaat, he included me in that department. From there a monthly journal was published and I worked there for a brief period. On the recommendation of the First Islamic Economic Conference organised by King Abdul Aziz University, a branch of Islamic Economics was established in the university; it was the Centre for Research and Islamic Economics.

When Dr. Siddiqi reached there, I got my transfer done to the Centre for Research and Islamic Economics. Here too, a journal was published and I got to work with Nejat Sb. I was there for 15 years. In Islamic Development Bank (IDB) there was a centre called Islamic Research and Training Institute. When they came to know about me and my work in a research journal, they called me and after interview asked me to join IDB. When I asked Dr. Siddiqi about joining IDB, he advised me to go ahead.

But I had some doubts in my mind that Islamic Research Institute was based on interest. The money which was in the IDB was haram for them but can be used for charity purpose. Religious scholars were called upon to give their suggestion as to what should be done with that money in the bank. They suggested if the money is left in the bank, it will be used against Islam. So, it is better to take it out from the bank. It may not be used by you all but it can be used for the welfare of others. I had doubt as to how I can work with such an organisation.

I asked Dr. Siddiqi; he said there is no harm because the money with the IDB is not based on interest. But the money of IDB kept in banks in America and other places cannot be used for the people in the bank but it can be used for charity and welfare purpose for others. They spend it on Islamic research or to give scholarship in other countries including India. 

Anything you remember of Dr. Siddiqi which he used to say very often?

On Islamic Bank, he used to say very often that we are at the initial stage of Islamic Bank and what we can see is not the ideal one and there is still a long way to go.  

How would you like to say about the academic talks between Dr. Umar Chapra and Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi?

I am not much aware of the differences. But as far as the contribution of Nejat Sb is concerned, I can say that as Maulana Maududi talked of a very different aspect called “Islami Nizam”, Nejat Sb in the same manner talked about Creation of Wealth against the usual talk of Distribution of Wealth. He gave new dimension to the Islamic Economics.

What was your immediate feeling when you came to know about the death of Nejat Sb?

My association with Nejat Sb was like that of a family member and I am still associated with all of them. After the death of Nejat Sb, his eldest son called me to inform about his sad demise.  Tears rolled down my cheeks. I remember I had not cried even after the death of my father. But I was not able to talk to the eldest son of Nejat Sb. His death was a personal loss to me as he guided me in every walk of life since my childhood days. Whatever I am today, it is because of him and I pray that the Almighty bless him with the highest place in Jannah. 

What according to you should be the real tribute to Nejat Sb?

I believe that the work done by him should be carried forward. His ideas, concepts and debates on Islamic Economy and Finance should be further explored.

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