The demise of Professor Mirza Mohammad Athar has left the community saddened. At the age of 79, he was inching towards his valedictory breath in Max Hospital Saket, New Delhi. The 26th of February will be remembered for the irreparable loss to knowledge and man-kind. Thousands of people, students, scholars, including the chief minister of the state Akhilesh Yadav, attended his funeral in his hometown, Lucknow.
An alum of Sultan-ul-Madaris, where he graduated and later mastered persian literature. A teacher and exemplary orator, holding a record for his annual sermons at the Moghul Masjid for the last 58 years in the Limca Book of Records.
Those who lived through the era of his sermons at Moghul Masjid now know that it will never be the same. The fierce defender of righteousness and wilayat of Imam Ali will be cherished for his several teachings on human rights, terrorism, Islamic jurisprudence, critical analysis of ideas and authenticity of historical references.
Fondly known as Athar sahab, He also stood strong for justice and as the President of the Law Board (AISPLB), He came up with a set of deterrents to counter the marked apathy towards gender issues, particularly rising cases of violence against women and frivolous divorces.
He also worked on applying restriction to those who opt for infanticide and selective termination of pregnancy to rule out giving birth to a girl child. He strongly believed that No one has a right to play God and eliminate a life in the making due to gender bias, and condemned such acts.
Renowned across the globe for his uniqueness in oratory, eloquence of speech and content, He kept himself away from politics during sermons. When he was questioned about the use of metaphors in his sermons, he replied “Ek zamane mein jo Lucknow ki zabaan thi, abhi kareeb kareeb khatam ho gayi hain” and so has humanity, if he understand his last sermon.
His last sermon was on Humanity, where he exhorted Sunnis and Shias, sects that have been at odds, to stop fighting amongst themselves and respect their differences that stem from the disagreement over who took on the mantle of Islam after the Prophet. He further emphasised over and again about fighting intolerance and popularly said “Where kingdoms don’t exist politics does”
Following Saudi Arabia’s controversial execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr and his three associates, along with 44 others, Athar sahab spearheaded peaceful demonstrations and protest against the Consul General of Saudi Arabia in Mumbai to showcase the apathy and atrocities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
In the end and through his several teachings, we come to the realisation that the tragedy of living is not dying, but what we let kill inside us, while we live. Athar sahab finally gets to meet Imam Ali, who he defended for over 5 decades.
May his soul be given the highest regards in heaven. Will miss his presence! 😦