Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pervez Hoodbhoy, modern Muslim hero?

I met Pervez Hoodbhoy in 2001 at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. We spent some hours together. We exchanged ideas on religion and science, and he shared a little of his relationship with the great Pakistani intellectual Eqbal Ahmad. From these all-to-brief discussions I formed an immense admiration for Dr. Hoodbhoy, which I still hold. For I knew at once I was in the presence of a man whose goal was to serve his people as best he knew how. He could have easily been working in a prestigious Western university, living a comfortable lifestyle. Instead he chose to work in an environment which is at times deeply hostile to his cherished ideas on science and humanity. For years now he has been publishing a range of articles carefully advancing his views on science, religion, progress, intellectual freedom, history, and more.

Consider this recent article on science and the Islamic world. These are the words of someone passionate about his subject, yet respectful of people who hold differing views. His appeal is to Muslims who think critically, regardless of their personal religious views. Whether his readers be atheist or devout Muslims, there is something in his writings to seriously reflect on and ponder, which in my mind is a sign of excellent writing. It is in this sense that I think of Dr. Hoodbhoy as a modern Muslim hero. Having placed himself at the service of his people, who are Muslim, he has engaged Islam. He has taken the time to study Islam and its history. Islam benefits from Dr. Hoodbhoy because he poses challenging, vital questions for its followers in a dignified and respectful manner.

I say these things mindful I have till now completely ignored Dr. Hoodbhoy's individual religious views, and in this sense it is certainly deeply presumptuous of me to suggest he is a "Muslim" hero. Yet when I look to his dedication to his cause, pursued not out of a desire for fame or fortune, I cannot help but be reminded of the spiritual yearning for truth and freedom from the bonds of ignorance that exist within every major religion, including Islam. In this spiritual sense he is more "Islamic" than many practicing believers are. If more religious people were to serve their people instead of their intolerant arrogance, their religion and their community would flourish!

8 comments:

Umair said...

Definitely Dr hoodbhoy is doing a great job.

He is one of those few in pakistan who are really working for the betterment of not only academia but the whole society. he is a leading examplar for presenting liberal and humanitarian views with the utmost conviction.

As a nation, we should acknowledge his contributions as a teacher, scholar and critic.

amir said...

no doubt hoodbhoy is a great person, he is honest, articulates problems with pakistani education and is an intellectual asset of pakistan

Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francis said...

hi damon, i believe you are sadly mistaken about hoodbhoy's religion. He is not a muslim, rather belongs to a non-muslim minority of Pakistan known as Agha Khanis.

Damon Lynch said...

Hi Francis, I covered that in the final paragraph. Ironically, I'm not so sure followers that all Ismailis would agree with your characterization of their religion as not being Islamic.

Aurangzeb Khan said...

Damon Lynch, Hoodbhoy is definitely not a Muslim. Nor are Ismailis. I say that, being an admirer of Hoodbhoy's scholastic achievements.

One's being a Muslim cannot be determined by his claims, nor by anyone's judgment. It can only be determined by one's adherance to the injunctions and practices.

Ismaili is a different religion that has nothing whatsoever in common with Islam. Ismaili injunctions and practices are nowhere to be found in Books of Islam.

Damon Lynch said...

Aurangzeb, when I next see my friend Dr. Mohammad Ali Rajput, who is an Ismaili from a village near Lahore, I will ask him what prompts the kind of religious intolerance you hold comes from. He is an expert on Islamic history and a devout Muslim. Who are you to judge another's sincere interpretation of Islamic history simply because it differs from your own? What next? Will you condemn Tajiks for not being Muslim because they don't practice Islam the same way you do?

Om A said...

P-Hoodboy is not Muslim he's atheist.