It was early spring in 2005 when an elderly, but a smart person made an appearance in our classroom and started delivering the pearls in his typical style. I had recently got admitted at the University of Kashmir and many of my apprehensions pertaining to the wisdom of having opted for the history at the master’s level were allayed in the very first lecture delivered by Professor Ishaq Khan.
His exuberant styled coupled with mystical delicacy suggested that he was a gifted being. And my joy knew no bounds when he enquired the name of my village and his links with one of its renowned Sufi families. His concern for my health was something I have stored in my treasure troves.
However, as ill luck would have it, our tryst with Professor Ishaq Khan was short lived as he reached superannuation in that particular year (2005) but his short stint with us had served the purpose. The fear and boring tag associated with history subject was now no more there.
Apart from developing our taste in the subject he made us thinking beings. He promoted a spirit of enquiry in us and really flared up our intellectual inquisitiveness. He would always emphasize on thinking over the issues of varied nature surrounding us dispassionately and act fearlessly.
He was a living Sufi and would advise us to dedicate our lives for the common good. And his words still echo in my ears which he uttered in his farewell address and really will always remain as a source of inspiration. Far from accepting what other speakers present there in Gandhi Bhawan attributed him he struck a serious tone when he said that he will ask for forgiveness from the Lord as he was to leave for Hajj for any err he might have committed in his teaching career.
My hands tremble to draw a sketch of Professor Khan for I won’t be able to do justice with it. However I can’t control giving a vent to my pent up emotions and describe within my limitations the illustrious persona of my teacher.
Well, a reputed columnist from Kashmir updated his Facebook status upon the passing away of Professor Ishaq Khan by writing that that Kashmir had lost a renowned historian but he was more than a mere historian. He was a father concerned about his wards, a mother showering her love and affection for her children, a doctor worried about his patient’s health, an engineer fired with the enthusiasm to build his constructions, an artist who motivates to find beauty in life and above all a true Sufi from whose face lessons of love, service and humility radiated. Despite all his greatness he maintained a low profile in the true Sufi spirit and possessed the captivating spiritual humility.
And then his scholarly achievements are not hidden from anyone. He has authored a number of books and contributed dozens of articles in local, national and international journals. A few of his selected works are ‘History of Srinagar 1846-1947: A Study in Socio-Cultural Change, Perspectives on Kashmir: Historical Dimensions, Experiencing Islam and his celebrated work Kashmir’s Transition to Islam: The Role of Muslim Rishis’.
He received the critical recognition for his literary and human attainments. Even T.N. Madan, a sociologist of international fame observes: “Khan chose to tread this straight but often difficult path of Islamic piety and the pursuit of knowledge many years ago, and has done so with steadfast step and distinction … I have high regard for Professor Mohammad Ishaq Khan and I greatly value his scholarly contributions.”
And the well-known writer Pankaj Mishra writes: “Dr. Khan has done pioneering work on Islam’s acculturation in the Hindu-Buddhist environment of Kashmir. He is a small, round-faced man, gentle in demeanor; he speaks slowly, as if unaccustomed to talking much of his work, but in clear qualified sentences that indicate a quietly active mind………..”
But above all he was a teacher and I miss him sorely. He may have left for eternal abode (5th April, 2013) but the profundity of his thought, the versatility of his scholarship, the depth of his ideas, his penetrating analysis, his sincerity and exuberance will always remain embedded in my memory.
I express my indebtedness to him for all I owe to him and which I will never be able to return. He helped in polishing our intellect, widening our mental horizons, broadening our outlook and above all gave us a purpose in life and a mission to serve.
May Almighty Allah exalt your stations in the hereafter.