Professor Muhammad Anas Zarka, a close friend and colleague of Professor Nejatullah Siddiqi for about two decades, writes about the latter’s outstanding scholarship and personal character.
We first met during the First International Conference in Islamic Economics, Mekkah,1976 G / 1396 H.
Then, so fortunate for me, we became colleagues at Centre for Research (now Institute) in Islamic Economics, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, and close friends. But to me MNS was more of a mentor, who provided clear brief and wise advice, academically and personally, whenever asked.
His contribution to that First Conference: “Contemporary Literature on Islamic Economics” was a landmark in Islamic economics, unparalleled in scope and credibility among scholars worldwide. Many participants in that conference, including myself, felt that if the Conference got only this paper and nothing else, it was worth it.
His outstanding scholarship is evident in all his writings.
Especially notable throughout is his measured clear style and moderation. He addressed criticism about Islamic economics open-mindedly, seriously and politely. You don’t see any loose or inflated statements in his writings.
His personal character was no less admirable. He had full control over the tongue. I never heard him in more than two decades say something bad about anybody. Except on two occasions. Once some negative public information came about someone we both knew, MNS started to comment, then abruptly stopped in the middle of his first sentence. A similar thing happened on a different occasion with MNS uttering few words then stopping before completing a sentence. What an admirable tongue control! What a great gift from Allah!
Allah also granted MNS wisdom. Hikmah.
He could perceive the essential elements of a complex situation, put it in wider context, and come up with a reasoned response. You see many concrete examples of this in his last major book: Maqasid-i-Shariah.
In 2014, MNS entrusted me to arrange and supervise an Arabic translation of this book on Maqasid-i-Shariah from the Urdu edition, 2009, Islamabad. I selected a highly endorsed translator. Translation was carried out meticulously with MNS reviewing each chapter to ensure the Arabic expresses his thought accurately. He would respond in detail to our suggestions, and occasionally permitted that I add some reviewer footnotes, in addition to the translator footnotes, distinct from those in the original by the author. I say this to highlight his remarkable academic patience and modesty in dealing with persons who cannot match his scholarship.
He then honoured me by asking me to write a Foreword to the Arabic translation. In my Foreword, I highlighted the fact that this Maqasid book is unique and significant contribution, despite the large number of excellent writings on the subject in several languages, including Arabic and English.
Now I hope and pray for a decent English translation to be undertaken.
O Allah, bestow Your mercy and forgiveness on THE TEACHERS’ TEACHER and my distinguished colleague and mentor in Islamic economics, Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi.
O Allah, You granted him a sharp mind, a truthful pen, wisdom, discreet tongue, and great energy to pursue knowledge. We supplicate You to grant him Your forgiveness and mercy, and a high abode in the Paradise with honourable Muslim scholars.