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  • Writer's pictureAslam Abdullah

Professor Hamidullah

At the age of 95, Professor Muhammad Hamidullah breathed last on December 17, 2002, in Jacksonville, Fl. He woke up for Fajr (Dawn) prayer and then, after breakfast, went to sleep, never to wake up again.

Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah was born in 1908 and obtained a degree in Theology and Law from Osmania University in the state of Hyderabad Deccan (India). He also studied in Germany and France, where he received his Ph.D. in International Law. He was a law professor in his native city. Later, he settled in France, and a few years ago, he came to the United States. The professor never married. He was being taken care of by his brother's granddaughter, Sadida, who left her job to devote herself to him.

Professor Hamdiullah's scholarship is unparalleled in the last century. He translated the Quran into French and many other languages. He also translated several other important Islamic books in many European languages. He authored more than 250 books and research papers. He lived a life of anonymity in France and the United States without seeking any help from anyone. He was a silent scholar.

Opportunists pirated his books and made hundreds and thousands of dollars, yet he never thought of settling the accounts in a court of law. His books have been printed illegally in different languages all over the world. I had the opportunity to visit him a few years ago in Wilkes Berre. At his feet, I learned the lesson of humility and anonymity. I knew the art of patience and total service, and dedication to Islam. He had no grudge against those who harmed him. He even prayed for those who often tried to humiliate him for his opinions.

It is He (God) who hath power over all things.

As a great researcher of this century, Professor Hamidullah went to those original Islamic sources buried in the dusty shelves of libraries in the Muslim world. He was the one who discovered the earliest hadith manuscript in a Damascus library that he published in the Urdu language known as Sahifa Hamam. He wrote several researched treatise on the early life of Muslims.

He remained a neglected scholar because he retained his freedom and identity. He didn't join any group or organization.

His was a life of dedication to Islamic research, and he left behind him a legacy of intellect that many generations will benefit from. Soon, people will discover him as perhaps the most outstanding Islamic scholar of the previous century. Soon the people will regret that they could not benefit from him when he was alive.

Muhammad Hamidullah ( was a Muhaddith, Faqih, scholar of Islamic law and an academic author with over 250 books. His extensive works on Islamic science, history, and culture are in print in several languages and many thousands of articles in learned journals.[3] His scholarship is regarded by many as unparalleled in the last century. A double doctorate (D.Phil. and D.Litt.) and a polymath, he was fluent in 22 languages, including Urdu (his mother tongue), Persian, Arabic, French, English, German, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Russian etc. He learned Thai at the age of 84.

Hamidullah was from the Deccan area of British India and was born in Hyderabad, the capital city of Hyderabad State (now Hyderabad, Telangana, India), and hails from a family of scholars, the youngest amongst three brothers and five sisters. His family's roots lie in the Nawayath community; his ancestors were eminent scholars in their own right.

He earned his BA, LLB and MA at Osmania University. He traveled to Germany and earned D.Phil from Bonn University in 1932. After serving in Bonn's faculty as a lecturer in Arabic and Urdu for a short time, he went to France to register at Sorbonne University for his second doctorate. He got D.Litt by the university after 11 months. He taught international law at Osmania University between 1936 and 1946.[citation needed]

In 1948, Hamidullah was appointed by the Nizam as part of the delegation sent to London and the United Nations in New York to seek support against the Nizam's territories by Indian Forces.[4] Subsequently, he moved to Pakistan and was involved in writing of Pakistan's constitution after India and Pakistan's partition in 1947.

In 1948, he moved to France, living there for virtually the remainder of his life, apart from travel to teaching posts he held in Turkey for several years. He worked with the French National Centre for Scientific Research from 1954, which ended in 1978.

In 1985, he earned the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award of Pakistan. He donated the monetary part of the prize to the Islamic Research Academy, Islamabad.

Hamidullah was the last remaining citizen of the erstwhile Hyderabad State (which following 1956 reorganization was divided into three on a linguistic basis and absorbed into other states of India, most being in Andhra Pradesh) and never obtained the citizenship of any other nation. Classed as a Refugee of Hyderabad by the French Government, which allowed him to stay in Paris, he remained exiled from his homeland after its annexation by the Indian Government in 1950. Hamidullah devoted his whole life to scholarship and did not marry.

His ancestors and extended family are jurists, writers, and administrators. His great grandfather Maulvi Mohammed Ghauth Sharfu'l-Mulk (d. 1822) was a scholar of Islamic sciences, writing over 30 books in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu seven-volume exegesis of the Qur'an. His paternal grandfather Qadi Mohammed Sibghatullah was a jurist and a scholar of repute writing an exegesis of the Holy Qu'ran and other books. He was the Chief Judge of Madras in 1855.

Hamidullah's father, Mufti Abu Mohammed Khalilullah, was a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence, a director of revenue in the Government of Nizam of Hyderabad, and the pioneer in establishing an interest-free banking system in Hyderabad.

Hamidullah is known for contributions to the research of Hadith history, translations of the Qur'an into multiple languages and in particular into French (first by a Muslim scholar), and for the monumental biography of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in French. He is also famous for discovering a missing work on the Prophet Muhammad, regarded as one of his great contributions to the Hadith literature. The earliest Hadith manuscript still extant today, Sahifa Hammam bin Munabbah, was discovered in a Damascus library. Hammam bin Munabbah being a disciple of Sayyidina Abu Huraira, one of the Sahaba, proved that the earliest manuscripts were much more prominent later compilations.

Thank you, Professor Muhammad Hamidullah, for giving us the research on crucial Islamic issues. Thank you for your remarkable contribution to the body of Islamic literature. You lived a full life. You remained in poverty but enriched the lives of others with your knowledge. You stayed away from the usual temptation of life, yet you inspired many to dedicate their lives to Islam.

Good-bye Professor. We will meet again. We pray that you will be among the categories of those selected scholars who will have the blessings of God upon them. You will be the one blessed because you were the real inheritor of Prophets.

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