By Dr SLM Rifai
I am shocked and saddened to hear the death of Professor Ataullah Siddiqui. Prof Ataullah Siddiqui hails from a respected religious family from Indian subcontinent. He came to the UK in 1982 to continue his higher education. He initially worked a research fellow at Markfield institute and completed his degree and doctorate at university of Birmingham. He died this week after long battle with cancer. May Allah grace him with his mercy and blessing.
Prof Ataullah has made a greater contribution both in his academic and public service. I am fortunate enough to attend some of his classes at Markfield institute of Higher education. He is an excellent academic with creative teaching skills. He has inspired thousands of students. He provided a dedicated and devotional service at MIHE. He could have worked in many other public universities and yet, he dedicated his life for Muslim education in the UK through his devotional service at this institute. He is a pious and religious person. He always prefers community service over material gain or fame in his life.
He is very committed person and delivered his lectures with devotion and dedication. While he was taking his treatment last July, I sent him one of recent publications. Although he was sick, he had time to acknowledge the receipt of my book and to encourage me to write. To such an extent he is committed person in his life. Whenever we see him, we could see him as a smiling person. He has been helping many students in in their difficult times. He has helped many students to complete their PHDs. He has been an inspiring academic. He was very much concerned about the problems of humanity. He worked for the welling of entire humanity. His PhD was on the Christian and Muslim relations. He has always been making positive academic contribution to bridge the gap between Muslim and Christian communities. His service could be outlined in these areas.
1) Interfaith dialogues:
He has participated in many interfaith dialogues. In fact, he has initiated interfaith forum and interfaith groups as well. The British Muslim community has been in this country since 1950s and yet, no one initiated interfaith forums and groups between Muslim and Christian communities at a higher level till Prof Siddiqui initiated it. In that sense, he was a pioneer in this noble task. May Allah reward him for this righteous deed. Not only with the Christian community alone but he initiated dialogues with many other faith communities. His service in interfaith dialogues is highly acknowledged by many Non-Muslim religious leaders. He earned an honorary PHD for his service in interfaith areas.
He dedicated his life for Markfield Institute of higher education. He has designed its courses and devoted his time and energy for its development. He encouraged many local and international students to pursue their higher education in Islamic studies. He guided many of them to successfully complete their PhDs. He introduced any innovative teaching and learning pedagogies through his teaching. He is very much research minded person with excellent analytical skills. He designed the Muslim chaplaincy course to train Muslim clerics and Imams in areas of Muslim chaplaincy. This course has helped many Muslim imams to develop their counselling skills.
Academic life: He has produced some excellent academic articles and books. He has been a founder and editor of Encounter academic journal. He has produced some government reports as well on various interfaith and minority community issues in the UK. He has given many talks and lectures at local and international conferences. He has contributed many academic discussions and forums. He devoted his life for academic development of Muslims in this country.
He has greatly succeeded in presenting Islam to the western minds as a religion of peace, mercy, and kindness. He promoted the Islamic message of peace and moderation through his talks and writings. When Islam was depicted in the western media as a religion of violence and extremism, Prof Ataullah presented a moderate form of Islamic ideas. He greatly succeeded in this task through his interfaith dialogues.Some of his quotes are worth reading for our next generation
What he said on death
“I am not afraid to move onto the next life and I am prepared to meet my Lord. Live your life with ambition; nothing will overcome your motive.”
“I hope that I have left a spiritual legacy for you all. Always ask yourself: what spiritual legacy will I leave behind?”
On pen and writing.
“The power of the pen must not be underestimated. If you have a thought and it causes you to ponder, then just write it down. You will not regret it.”
“Keep on writing. Be critical but respectful. Do not feel empowered by the knowledge you hold but the value of wisdom through its dissemination”.
May Allah bless him and reward him with Jannah al-Firdaus. May Allah forgive all his sins and reward him the highest place in Jannah. May Allah make it easy for his family members to get through this difficult time.