Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Shawwal / Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1423 H
January 2003
Volume 16-01 No : 193
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The Research Genius


Dr Muhammad Hamidullah (1908-2002)

The Research Genius

There are many Islamic scholars, but in terms of dedication to Islamic research, no one equals Dr Muhammad Hamidullah.

By A Staff Writer

The greatest living Islamic scholar and prolific writer, Dr Muhammad Hamidullah passed away on December 17, 2002, in Jacksonville, FL, in his sleep after praying Fajr at the home of his brother’s great grand-daughter Sadida Ataullah.

He has, contributed substantially to this world. Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah or M. Hamidullah, as he used to write more often, is probably the most important Muslim research scholar of our time. There are many Islamic scholars, but in terms of dedication to Islamic research, no one is his equal today.

He was 94 years old. His last major contribution was a lecture series which is known as, “Khutbat e Bhawalpur” He delivered these 12 exceptional lectures in Rabiul Awwal 1400 Hijrah (March 1980) in Bhawalpur, Pakistan in celebration of the year 1400 of Hijrah. He completed the final revision of the book on 26th Ramadan 1408 (in 1988). The Islamic Research Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan, has published its translation in English as well.

It was his urge for thoroughness in research that brought him outside Hyderabad, Deccan in India, where he was born. After exhausting the libraries of Hyderabad, he visited those of Makkah, Madinah, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Turkey. These trips taken in early 1930’s were taken at a time when travel afar was very difficult and flying around the world, unless you were very rich, was unheard of.

This research investigation that took him to so many countries is essentially presented in his book “The Muslim Conduct of State”. He wrote this as his master’s thesis for Osmania University in Hyderabad.

Dr. Hamidullah completed his first Doctorate degree from Bonn University in Germany in 1933 in a span of only nine months. He then acquired another doctorate degree from the University of Paris on “Early Muslim Diplomacy,” the next year. Both of these dissertations interestingly are only one chapter each in the above mentioned book.

Born on February. 19, 1908 in Hyderabad, he remained a stateless Hyderabadi citizen without ever applying for the French citizenship.In Paris, he remained a scholar for France’s National Center of Scientific Research for 20 years before dedicating himself to serve Islam. After he was struck with Alzheimer’s disease, he moved to Pittsburgh, PA probably in 1995 and later to Jacksonville, FL.

Dr. Hamidullah’s contribution to Dawa includes his translation of the Quran in French, “Le Saint Coran”. It is more widely used in the French-speaking countries of Africa and France than Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation in the English-speaking world. His “Le Prophete de l’Islam” has been popular in French, English, and Slavic. His book “Introduction to Islam” has been translated in more than 12 languages, and has been published legally and illegally.

Dr. Hamidullah’s foremost research is in Islamic history and Muslim international law. He asserts the uniqueness of Muslim international law very powerfully in his book, “Muslim Conduct of State” and defines it as “being a treatise on Siyar, that is, Islamic notion of Public International Law, consisting of the Laws of War, Peace and Neutrality together with Precedents from Orthodox Practice” of Islam.

Dr. Hamidullah’s other contribution includes his research and publication of Sahifa Humam bin Mumbah, which is the oldest collection of Hadith compiled at the time of the Sahabah. He also published a bibliography of Quran translations in 120 languages of the world, along with translations of the first chapter. He also did a comparative study of all the three of the earliest copies of the Quran found in the world. One in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, another in Istanbul, Turkey and one in India Office Library, London, UK. All three have been traced back to the time of the third Caliph Usman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him).

Dr. Hamidullah said, all three were written on a similar type of skin, and look authentic for that period. He also said, after seeing bloodstains on the Turkish copy, that this was what Usman was studying from, when he was killed.

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