Tribute to a Friend
By Professor Nazeer Ahmed
One of the tragedies of living a long life is that you watch your friends die before your eyes, one by one. It is like the fall season. You are stripped away, leaf by leaf, of your friends and comrades, those who struggled with you in life’s many battles, until you are left standing like a stalk, bereft of the leaves that made the tree beautiful at one time. All that remains is memories.
My long time friend, Mohammed Munim of New York, passed away on Friday, October 7, 2011. He was a man with a noble heart, a writer, a publisher, a reporter, an educationist and a political activist. The Muslim community in America is the poorer without him.
I met Munim at the CCIM convention in Chicago in 1969. It was a high intensity, high energy conference called by Dr. Assad Hussain to discuss the communal riots then ravaging central India. Professor Humayun Kabir, a distinguished scholar, the writer of Maulana Azad’s book, India Wins Freedom, and a Union Minister in Delhi at the time, attended as representative of the government of India. In attendance also were a galaxy of young, emerging scholars, Professor Syed Murtuza, Dr. Waqar Ahmed Hussaini, Dr. Abidulla Ghazi, Dr. Zainul Abedin, Professor Naeem and many, many others. I chaired one of the sessions. After the session, a young man came up to me and introduced himself as Mohammed Munim representing Tameer e Millat of Hyderabad, Deccan. Munim was animated, intense, spirited and unyielding in his convictions and we engaged in a long discussion about the situation in India.
We struck a deep and abiding friendship based on mutual respect even as we continued to disagree about politics and society. He was perhaps the first publisher to start a journal geared to a Muslim audience, the Minaret of New York and he stayed with it for more than twenty years in spite of a lack of support from the community, until he was forced to give it up because of developing glaucoma and the loss of vision. As a reporter he had a way of interviewing presidents and prime ministers with tough questions couched with humor. He was the brain behind the Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan and was a prime mover behind building Islamic schools in the Big City.
It was Munim who suggested in 1992 that I write a book on Islamic history which was later published by Suhail Academy, Lahore, Pakistan and later yet evolved into an Encyclopedia of Islamic History. Two years ago, when I had completed a translation of the Qur’an into easy-to-read American English, Munim, who was by now totally blind, asked a friend to read to him the entire manuscript and even made a couple of good suggestions.
He was the only friend in the world who had the consistent temerity to call me up in the early hours of the morning, at the time of tahajjud prayers, with an admonition: “Nazeer, you have become lazy! Why have you not written anything lately?”
I will miss his calls. May Allah grant his soul peace and admit him to Jannat. He was a good man, a true mohsin, a man of passionate love for the well being of the community.