Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

May 2011
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INSIGHT

Rank Nazeer Ahmed
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
How much activity one can pack into a lifespan?  One, for sure, is likely to come across this question while talking to the Indian-American space scientist Dr. Nazeer Ahmed. This humble man from Karnataka’s Tumkur town owns 14 American patents, holds two doctorates from renowned American universities, has worked on several space missions of NASA, has taught in some of the most famous universities, authored half a dozen books, helped hundreds of students in pursuing their studies, dedicated sizeable chunks of land for an Eidgah and graveyard in Tumkur and is currently waiting for the publication of his translation of the Holy Quran into simple American English. But this is not all. Even while doing all this, he made a foray into the politics, won a seat in Karnataka Assembly and quit on his own accord.
Quality had been a hallmark of him whatever he chose to do. A rank student all through the schools and college, he won the sobriquet ‘Rank Nazeer’. He went on to acquire a BE from Mysore University, earned two doctorates in the US, one each from Caltech and Cornell Universities.  He came to be known for his pioneering work on advanced composites and earned as many as 12 of the 14 patents he has, as of now. 
For Rank Nazeer success came rolling and cascading down upon him. An engineering graduate from Mysore University in 1961, he went to the US to earn his MS in Physics and won a doctorate from Caltech (i.e., California Institute of Technology) in theoretical and applied mechanics and another from the Cornell.  He worked on devising the Moon landrover for Apollo missions and still later as chief engineer on Hubble Space Telescope. As he told me, last fortnight, ‘this was the most precise instrument to be built in 20th century to explore the universe in the visible spectrum and look at the very edge of the known universe’.
Exploration of the infinite space propelled Dr. Nazeer into thinking of the Creator of the Universe. This led him to look into the scriptural sources of knowledge of the Divine creation. This is how he began studying the Quran. At one moment, he thought of writing a commentary and in fact wrote 800 pages on Surah Noor itself.  But then he realized the immensity of the task, gave up the effort and fell into sajda and confessed to the Almighty that he was not up to the task. Essence of the tafsir however was transformed into a book titledWhat Makes us Human: Spiritual Perspective that got published later.
Nazeer sahib was here in Bangalore recently and was awaiting publication of his The Quran: An English Translation an attempt at rendering of the meanings of the Quran into simple American English. Not alone this, Dr. Nazeer has compiled a 9000-page Encyclopedia of Islamic History which readers could access on www.historyofislam.com and www.encyclopediaofislamichistory.com hoisted in 2009.
Dr. Nazeer visits Bangalore and Tumkur frequently and helps a lot of students through his Rank Nazeer Sahib Charities. 






Shaar e Mubarak Project
Reports suggest that Calicut would soon have India’s largest mosque, something that can take nearly 25,000 namazis at a time. In its size it would outdo the Delhi’s famed 17th century Jama Masjid. The project named ‘Shaare Mubarak Masjid’ is coming up in the outskirts of the city. Statistics are mind-boggling.  It will come up on a 12-acre plot and entail a cost of Rs. 40 crore. The project is a brainchild of Kanthapuram Abu Bakr Musaliyar, the leader of the Markazus Saqafithis Sunniya, a powerful group of ulema. The built-up space alone would occupy 2.5 lakh sq. feet. The Mosque would also host a centre of Islamic research and an IT Park and some professional colleges.
The grandiose project has raised umpteen questions. Why build a mosque of this gargantuan proportion? Is Kerala short of masjids?  What kind of research will be pursued by the clerics who are known to be dogmatic in views and have hardly ever tolerated difference of opinion and have dubbed reforms as heresy?
It is said some American billionaire approached Israeli President David Ben-Gurion with a proposal to build a synagogue. Ben-Gurion asked him to invest the money instead in a university that could take up serious scientific research. Ben-Gurion University of The Negev came up as a result.  It is a centre of excellence on Arid zone research, medical sciences and Middle Eastern Studies. Israel is today leading supplier of know-how on desert agriculture.
I wonder if any such suggestion would find any takers among people who are going ahead with the mosque project in Kerala. Indian Muslims are yet to have a permanent research body or institute that could come up with worthwhile inputs for their socio-economic and educational development. Most madrassas and Islamic seminaries advertise themselves as research centres. But nothing from their output qualifies for a directive on policy and plan for their development.
The Shaar e Mubarak Masjid project revolves round the ‘holy relic’ of a hair of the Prophet.  There is no way one could verify such relics.  Such relics would have as many devotees as there would be those who contest its veracity.  The larger question is: What is more important for us are the Prophet’s ideals, not his physical relics. Often fakery passes off for them.