Exiled writer, educator Dr Daud Rahbar passed away in Florida

By Mehmud Ahmad, Brampton, Ontario
Dr Daud Rehbar, an academic, thinker, writer, poet,musician and author of renown in the 64th year of his exile from
Pakistan in a Nursing Home in Deerfield Beach, Florida.​ He was 86 and is survived by a long-ailing widow and two daughters. He was the first cousin of Zia Mohyuddin.

Dr Rehbar had, during his forced exile taught at the universities at Ankara, Hartford (Connecticut) and Boston. He left Pakistan in early 50’s in the wake of a dust storm of Fatwas against him by the orthodox ​clergy​ and political fanatics for his presentation of an enlightened view of Islam at a colloquium at the Punjab University.

Dr Rehbar last English book was ‘Faith of a lay Muslim”, a 700-page biography of his illustrious father, Dr Sheikh Mohammad Iqbal, Principal of the Oriental College, Lahore. Prominent publishers in Pakistan, India
and even the UK and Holland thought it ‘very sensitive’ in the perspective of prevailing religious fanaticism and expressed their inability to publish. The book is however, available with Amazon.com. Dr Rehbar’s last Urdu book “Tasleemat III” is under print by the Sang Meel.

Let us all pray for the departed soul.
================================= Wikipedia article ===================================
Dr. Daud Rahbar (born 1926 died October 5 2013 ) was a scholar of religions and cultures. After a teaching career in England, Canada, Turkey, and the United States, he was appointed Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at Boston University when he retired in 1991. In addition to his writings on comparative religion and religion and culture, he is also a poet[1] and translator, having translated Urdu works such as The Cup of Jamshid: A Collection of Ghazal Poetry and Urdu letters of Mirzā Asadu’lldh Khān Ghālib. His scholarly interests also include Persian, Urdu and Arabic languages and literature, and the intersection of religion and literature. Today, Rahbar is a senior scholar in Florida, participating in forums concerning religion and culture.[2]
Early life

Rahbar grew up in Model Town, Lahore, Pakistan from 1929 – 1949. Model Town was the first Cooperative Society in India, a suburb fashioned after the ideas of Hindu architect Divan Khem Chand. The town was autonomous from Lahore City’s jurisdiction, and sectioned into blocks. Each block was populated by either Muslims, Sikhs, or Hindus (The Hindu population was by far the largest). Growing up in Model Town naturally had an effect on Rahbar, where he reported that the close association with Hindus “made the love of Hindus a natural condition of [his] soul.”[3] Rahbar’s childhood days were spent writing poetry (he took the penname ‘Rahbar’ at the age of eight), gardening, and taking walks with his father who spoke to him of Arabic and Persian literature.

Rahbar’s father Muhammad Iqbal was born October 29, 1894. He was named after the Indian poet Sir Muhammad Iqbal, who would become good friends with Rahbar’s Father. Iqbal graduated with an M.A. in Arabic and was the recipient of the State scholarship in England. While there, he studied under Arabist Professors Edward G. Browne, R.A. Nicholson, and Anthony Ashley Bevan. When he graduated from the University of Cambridge, he was hired on as the University Professor of Persian at the University of the Punjab in 1922 and remained there for 26 years. Rahbar’s mother died on 13 July 1929, probably due to a miscarriage. She had five children, Muhammad Ishaq who pursued medicine, Muhammad Ya’qub who studied Physics, Muhammad Ayyub who was talented in arithmetic, Muhammad Daud, Muhammad Ilya who was the Director of the Civil Aviation College in West Pakistan, and Sarah who took care of her family after high school until she was married. Rahbar was married to Sabiha Khanum on 9 April 1950.

Rahbar, like his father, graduated from the Government College in Lahore with a MA in Arabic Literature in 1947. He received the McLeod Research Scholarship and was hired on to teach Arabic literature at the Oriental College, Lahore where is father was the Principal. In 1949, Rahbar went to Cambridge University for graduate studies. While there, he received his PhD for his dissertation Studies in the Ethical Doctrine of the Qur’an under the supervision of Professor Reuben Levy. After spending a short time in Lahore, Rahbar accepted the position of Senior Teaching Fellow at McGill University in Canada in 1954, at the invitation of Wilfred Cantwell Smith. Then, in 1956, he was appointed to the chair of Urdu and Pakistan Studies at the Ankara University and stayed there until 1959. In 1959, Daud Rahbar began lecturing, as well as studying, at the Hartford Seminary Foundation in Hartford, Connecticut, initially as Visiting Professor of Urdu and Pakistan Studies and later receiving tenure from 1962 to 1966. He then moved from the seminary setting to the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he taught courses in the Department of Indian Studies for two years. Having always had a great appreciation for the poetry and music of South Asia, Rahbar found his stay in Madison motivating him to study Indian music more systematically. In 1968, Rahbar joined the faculty of Boston University where he taught until his retirement in 1991, initially in the School of Theology and from 1975 onwards in the Department of Religion in the College of Liberal Arts of Boston University.
International Islamic Colloquium

On January 2, 1958, Rahbar presented a paper to the International Islamic Colloquium in Lahore, only the second of its kind where scholars of Islamic subjects came together from universities all over the world to participate. Rahbar’s paper, entitled The Challenge of Muslim Ideas and Social Values to Muslim Society brought about major criticism from the attendants of the conference, to the point that Rahbar was not allowed to return to the platform to explain his points.To this, Rahbar maintains to have written “an innocent and mild statement” that he did not perceive to be “radically unorthodox.”[4] The opposing members of the conference asked the paper to be withdrawn later that day but eventually agreed that an amended edition should be written. In the October 1958 issue of The Muslim World Rahbar’s paper was published with an introductory note outlining the objections of the council and the amendments made thereafter. In this introductory note, Rahbar explains that much of the controversy was due to the necessarily short statements within the paper were not privileged to much qualification and hoped that the expanded amendments would help to clarify those objections raised at the Colloquium.
Religious positions

Rahbar was born and raised as a Muslim but seems to have converted to Christianity as an adult. Rahbar records in his memoir that he was baptized as a Christian by a Protestant Minister of Ankara on 6 July 1959.[5] Rahbar makes a point to note that his conversion was not a result of the 1958 Colloquium[6] but was more closely related to the memories of Partition of India and the current environment in Turkey. He states that the “categorical mercy”[7] of the New Testament and the “Christian world seemed to…offer a spiritual home”[8] from the pessimism he had growing inside of him. A couple of months later, Rahbar wrote A letter to Christian and Muslim Friends as a confession of faith. This confession, however, is not fully accepted within the Muslim community. Khaled Ahmed, a Pakistani political and cultural analyst, has stated that Rahbar’s supposed conversion to Christianity was nothing more than a “myth created in Lahore”[9] by those who did not fully understand “what he really stood for.”[10] He has maintained that Rahbar’s “entire career has been a defence of Islam”[11] and that “anyone who has read his Kalchar Kay Ruhani Anasir”[12] will no longer need to question his faith but rather realize that “he is tolerant of all faiths because he known the essence of them all.”[13] His continued respect and appreciation for the Prophet Muhammad and the religion of Islam is demonstrated in his published writings.[14]

In the published version of his dissertation, God of Justice: A Study in the Ethical Doctrine of the Qur’an published by E. J. Brill in 1960, Rahbar advances the position that God’s mercy is always subordinate to justice, so mercy is only available to believers.[15]
Urdu prose and poetry

Throughout his academic career, Daud Rahbar continued to make significant contributions to Urdu literature and music. He actively participated in musical concerts and poetry readings both in the U.S. and Pakistan during his visits there. His love for classical South Asian music, particularly the ghazal form, permeates his autobiography, Memories and Meanings. “Music has been my solace for the last forty years,” he wrote. “Without it I perhaps could not have been a friend to myself and to others. Music and poetry have made life easier for me everywhere and at every stage of my adult life.”.[16] His published works in the field of Urdu literature include:

Salaam o Payaam. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1996 – Letters to his friends and associates. Subsequent volumes were published in 2004 and 2009.
Kalcar ke Ruhani Anasir. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1998 – Culture and Religion.
Pragandah Taba’ Log. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2000 – Short stories.
Kulliyaat. Karachi: Pakistan Printers, 2001 – Complete poetical works of Daud Rahbar.
Taslimaat. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2004 – Essays on Muslim culture in South Asia.
“Gandhi and the Hindi-Urdu Question.” In Indian Critiques of Gandhi. Edited by Harold Coward, p. 217-238. Albany: SUNY Press, 2003.


^ Husain, Intizar. “Point of View: Dawood Rahbar as a poet” in Dawn Magazine. December 2001
^ Ahmed, Khaled. “Tracking Down Daud Rahbar,” in The Friday Times vol 12, no. 18, June 30 – July 6, 2000
^ Rahbar, Daud. Memories and Meanings 1985, p.87
^ Rahbar, Daud. Memories and Meanings. 1985, p. 303
^ Rahbar, Daud. Memories and Meanings. p.352
^ Rahbar, Daud. Memories and Meanings. 1985, P.343
^ Rahbar, Daud. Memories and Meanings. P.343
^ Rahbar, Daud. Memories and Meanings. P. 343
^ Ahmed, Khaled. “Tracking Down Daud Rahbar,” in The Friday Times vol 12, no. 18, June 30 – July 6, 2000. Khaled Ahmed has republished this article in his book Pakistan: Behind the Ideological Mask (Facts about Great Men we don’t want to know), p. 176-186. Lahore: Vanguard, 2004.
^ Ahmed, Khaled. June 30 – July 6, 2000
^ Ahmed, Khaled. June 30 – July 6, 2000
^ Ahmed, Khaled. June 30 – July 6, 2000
^ Ahmed, Khaled. June 30 – July 6, 2000
^ Rahbar, Daud. “Muhammad and All Men.” In No Man is Alien: Essays on the Unity of Mankind. Edited by J. Robert Nelson, p. 64-84. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971.
^ Marshall, David (1999). God, Muhammad and the unbelievers: a Qur’anic study. Routledge. pp. 79–85. ISBN 978-0-7007-1086-7.
^ Rahbar, Daud. Memories and Meanings. P. 454

Categories: United States

1 reply

  1. I am saddened to have found out about Professor Rahbar’s passing. I was fortunate to have known Daud during my time studying Tabla in the Boston area (from 1987-1992). I would drive him back and forth to practices, open houses (where he would bring two large pots of cooked meat, cauliflower & okra and another one of rice), his apartment and occasionally to BU, where he would let me audit his lectures on comparative religion. Every conversation during our drive included multi-barbed, thought provoking questions. But they weren’t scholarly lectures- He boiled everything down to lay terms. And he had a mischievous sense of humor. During my first couple of years he would suffer my youthful ignorance. Later on, he would let me accompany him as he would sing beautiful raags. He compared music to food to love and relationships and always had a profound quip for the most mundane comment. You had to be on your toes! Here is a man praised for his analysis of Urdu literature, yet he could still get immersed in a pro-wrestling match on TV. He was highly complex and gifted, though I couldn’t begin to list the depth of his abilities here. My deepest condolences to his wife and daughters Samira and Anisa.

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