Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Tribute to Uncle Dr. Irfan Ahmed Khan: A legendary scholar of the Quran
by Dr. Aslam Abdullah

He was over 85, unable to walk properly, living on medicine more than the food, yet, until the last conscious minute of his life he was inviting people to the Quran. His last travel for this purpose was in California and Georgia just 10 days before he had three massive heart attacks in his hometown Chicago. He visited California and Georgia as if he had gone there to say good bye to those who were his disciples and students.
I called him uncle and during his last visit, I had the opportunity listen to him and learn from him immensely. Wherever I drove him, he was always sharing his vision and dreams and his efforts. He was a man of peace and justice. He lived in this world, yet every minute he was conscious of the world he has to move on. During his stay he would every day call his daughters and wife and inform them of the itinerary. He would share with them the details. He visited during his stay in California the offices of Islamicity.org. He spent the whole day there and accepted the request from this largest Islamic portal in America to serialize his work. It is good that what he taught would now be available to the world. 
He was my mentor, my teacher and my friend and his absence would stay would me until I also leave this world.  There are only a few people who live a life they talk about. There are only a few who always think of others. There are only a few who view entire humanity as their own family and he was no doubt one of them. His life must be celebrated as he enriched those who came in contact with him.
He indeed was a sign from among the signs of Allah. He reminded people how the true life of a believer should be. He offered his life as an example of dedication and sacrifice to the ideals he was promoting. His main focus was the Quran. His life was the Quran. Everything he did revolved around the Quran. He was in the process of writing a few more books on the methodology of understanding the Quran before he was recalled by Allah leaving the task to his students. 
His main thesis was simple and appealing. The Quran comprises 114 discourses and each discourse or sura focuses on a few dominant theme and each aya highlights an important issue. All ayas are interconnected and all suras are related. The ayas and sura offer guidance to humanity as a whole to create a peaceful environment to explore the universe and serve humanity to reach a higher degree of consciousness. It was a methodology that a few great scholars of the Quran such as Maulana Hameeduddin Farahi and Abdullah Mubarakpuri had also focused on. It was unconventional because it viewed the Quran as a complete message not a collected of scattered ideas. It is revolutionary methodology capable of ensuring the universality and continuity of the divine message.
His scholarship did not prevent him from activism. Until he breathed his last, he was actively involved in interfaith dialogue. In fact, during his visit to California, he attended the dialogue between Christians and Muslims on the theme Prophet Moses.
He was the president of the Association for Quranic Understanding. He was the founder and a trustee of the revived Parliament of World Religions.  He was the initiator of several interfaith dialogues in the world. More important than all this, he was the mentor and teacher of hundreds and thousands of young people in India and the USA. He did not run after fame. He did not seek any position. He served the cause of peace and justice quietly and left a legacy that would continue to benefit people all over the world.
Dr. Irfan Ahmed Khan was born in the northern Indian state of Uttra pradesh. He got his education in Muslim University of Aligarh and became a professor of philosophy. In 1973 he moved to the United States and completed his Ph D in philosophy and then taught at various colleges and universities in the US.
Despite the struggle in raising a family of five daughters and two sons with meager resources, he remained active in reminding people that Quran must be given due place in Muslim thoughts and actions. His opinion that the Quran should be understood directly by everyone including non Muslims was often challenged by traditional scholars, yet he was firm in his opinion that was fully supported by the Quran. He is one of those few scholars on his life and work, a Ph.d was granted to a student from a prestigious Chicago school.
Dr. Irfan was active in Jamat e Islami, India. He organized several youth conferences while in India and offered youth training in interfaith work and understanding the Quran. His life deserves to be studied closely and his work needs to be referred to by all those who are making efforts to understand the divine guidance. His book Reflections on the Quran: Understanding Surahs Al-Fatihah & Al-Baqarah is a monumental work on the Quran.
Indeed to God we all belong because from him we all come. But there are some who leave behind them imprints that remind people of the meaning of this life and the struggles that one goes through in it. He indeed was one of them.
May God have mercy upon the family

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