ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Emancipatory Intellectual Politics

Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013)

This tribute to Asghar Ali Engineer argues that apart from his contributions to secularism, human rights work and reform within Muslim communities, his abiding legacy would be towards establishing an emancipatory form of intellectual politics which remained analytically open but grounded on politically committed arguments.

There could be many ways to commemorate the contribution of Asghar Ali Engineer, who passed away on 14 May 2013. We may begin in a conventional form and reproduce a story of struggles and achievement to describe Engineer’s political legacy. This is not at all difficult, especially after the publication of Engineer’s autobiography, A Living Faith: My Quest for Peace, Harmony and Social Change (2011), which offers us a systematic account of Engineer’s transformation into an intellectual activist.

Born in a highly religious Daudi-Bohra family on 10 March 1939 in Salumbar, Rajasthan, he was introduced to basic Islamic literature – Quranic tafsir (commentary), fiqh (jurisprudence) and hadith (Prophet’s sayings) – by his father. At the same time, he was also sent to a regular school. These two educational traditions, as he himself points out, gave him a critical outlook to find out a significant difference between Islamic teachings and practices. His autobiography records many incidents where his obvious and deeply Islamic questions were discarded by religious elites.

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