Remembering Prof. Hasan
By Zafar Khan Yousufzai
The late Professor Hamdani (left)
and the author
Precisely 25 years ago
in November 1981, I met Prof Hamdani at the General Body
meeting of the Pakistan Association in San Francisco. He
was accompanied by his wife and sitting in the audience
when he heard that I contribute to daily Jang and came from
Iran to study for my MBA degree. He met me after the meeting
and introduced himself and mentioned that he too used to
write for a Lahore weekly.
We duly exchanged our phone numbers. I took an instant liking
for him and admired the way he introduced himself and asked
if any help was needed by me.
The Anjuman-Tarriqi-e-Urdu, a San Francisco-based literary
society, invited music composer Naushad Ali to attend a
mushaira. He was also a poet. Prof Hamdani was seated next
to him to present his poem. He had a charismatic personality
and possessed vast knowledge of Islam, world politics, current
affairs, literature, languages, world history, art, music,
and a wide variety of cultures. He enjoyed commendable proficiency
in several languages including Urdu, English, Arabic, Persian,
He was very particular about punctuality and fully valued
time. As the radio host of Subrung at KUSF San Francisco
I invited him to speak in a special segment on Pakistan
Day. He asked me, “Bhai, tell me at what time you
want me at the radio station, and how much time would you
allow.” It was a live show. I was puzzled and didn’t
know what to say. Hesitatingly, I said, “11 o’clock.”
The next day at exactly 10 minutes before 11 somebody knocked
at the door and we saw Prof Hamdani with a winsome smile
on his face but a plaster on his toe! “What happened
Hamdani Sahib?” I asked, to which he replied, “Just
nothing but a little pain. Ok, tell me when is my turn?”
I asked him if 20 - 25 minutes were good enough for him
to speak. He replied, “Fair enough.” I asked
if he needed a pen or paper to jot down some points. He
looked at me and smiled. “Bhai, I do not write my
speeches!” He always paid rich tributes to Quaid-i-Azam
M. A. Jinnah on such occasions, both on radio and at community
A couple of years ago I was hosting another radio show Watan
Ki Awaaz for the Pakistani community. I planned a special
segment on Ashura and called up Professor Hamdani to know
if he was available to record his speech. Because of illness
he told me he could not come but could send his recorded
Once I heard him on a CBS radio talk show about Iran after
Ayatullah Khomeini’s Revolution. He was a big supporter
of the Islamic Revolution.
Besides his academic attainments and scholarship he was
a practicing Muslim and a truly cultured person. When he
happened to be in a good mood everybody enjoyed his sense
of humor. He had an enviable grasp of history and made illuminating
observations which could not be denied. He had a large library
with a wide variety of books on literature, languages, history,
Indo-Pak movement, etc. Many awards and plaques received
by him embellished the library.
He had a simple lifestyle, a very friendly disposition and
displayed extraordinary tolerance while defending his point
of view - historically and logically. The Sikh community
arranged a reception in honor of mayor-elect of Oakland
city (now attorney General-California) Jerry Brown. Prof
Hamdani was the emcee of the event and introduced Mr. Brown.
I was among the guests and heard Mr. Brown say, “I
am surprised that a person like Prof Hamdani can speak such
excellent English in this neighborhood.” (Oakland
is predominantly an African-American community).
About four years ago he started a Mehfil-e-Milad and Hamd
o Naa’t competition under the aegis of the Hamdani
Brothers Foundation. He was also in the process of giving
finishing touches to a center of Islamic Studies for which
I am sure he had traveled to Pakistan to bring a large collection
of books to make the center a good resource of rich knowledge.
He demonstrated great devotion to Prophet Mohammad (peace
be upon him) and rarely missed a Mahfil-e-Milad function.
During Muharram, he used to speak on Shahadat-e-Husain for
ten consecutive days.
Prof. Hamdani was the guest speaker at our daughters’
Ameen ceremony during the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal. I asked
him if we should present salam at the end of the ceremony.
He supported the idea asking, “Why not?” This
reflects his devotion for Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon
him). He wrote many Hamds and Naats under the pseudonym
of Humdum. He was against extremism and frequently used
to say, “Islam is the best religion, but it is in
I learnt he was the chairperson of South-Asian Studies Center
at the University of California, Berkeley and also taught
at Ohio and McGill universities. He authored books on Urdu
language during his tenure at UC Berkeley. He was also listed
in “Who’s Who in Northern California.”
Lately, he disclosed to me that he was compiling Tafseer-Qur’an.
He was also concentrating on building the Center of Islamic
Studies in Richmond, CA where he intended to arrange lectures,
panel discussions, open forums for the benefit of young
More importantly, he organized several local and international
mushairas in the San Francisco Bay area and remained in
the limelight for more than 25 years.
When I was returning to Pakistan after completion of my
MBA, I told him that I was going to get married soon. “Would
you write a sehra on the occasion?” I asked. He nodded
assentingly. A day before the nikah ceremony he called and
congratulated me and said the Sehra was already in the mail.
Prof Hamdani always supported Indo-Pak and Israel-Palestine
peace initiatives. No wonder, he was quite popular among
the Sikh and the Fiji community. I read in community newspapers
that he was the voice of the San Francisco Bay area. He
was rightly called so. I don’t see anyone replacing
him in our community.
Just a few days before his death I paid him a visit along
with my family. I noticed he was weak but enthusiastic to
talk despite the doctors’ clear instructions not to.
Later, he developed lung congestion and heart complications
and was admitted to the ICU. On July 28, 2006 around mid-day
while I was driving I got the sad news: the voice of the
San Francisco Bay area was no more. Inna Lillahe Wa Inna
The Pakistani, Sikh, and Fiji communities would long remember
him. A true friend and a distinguished community member
had passed away.
May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace and grant fortitude
to his family, siblings and friends to bear the loss. Ameen.
(The writer is the recipient of NSEP A 2007 to study at
the University of Washington)