Syed Shahabuddin – the last national Muslim leader is no more

New Delhi: Renowned Muslim leader, scholar, bureaucrat and former Parliamentarian Syed Shahabuddin, is no more. He was 82.

A former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer who served in different capacities in Indian embassies including Saudi Arabia and the US, breathed his last early morning Saturday in a Noida hospital. He was suffering from respiratory problems for the last several years and had to be hospitalized several times in the past.

Notwithstanding his poor health, two times former member of the Lok Sabha continued to work at a frantic pace as he had always done over the last six decades. He was a workaholic and till a few weeks before his death, he was a regular at All India Majlis Mushawarat office in Abul Fazal Enclave area in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi.

Shahabuddin will be known for his formidable work on Indian Muslims. At a time when the Indian Muslims lacked an articulate leadership, Syed Shahabuddin was among the very few people, who spoke on Muslim issues without fear or prejudice. He had his own view on almost everything and articulated them in impeccable language.

He edited and published a monthly journal, Muslim India. The publication launched in the year 1983, continued for more than two and half decades. It was eventually closed down as Shahabuddin struggled with health issues and lack of resources. His journal, Muslim India, was a source of information on Muslim issues and had a dedicated readership in India and abroad.

His stint in politics was rather stormy. Many thought that he will be able to rise high in politics. But he was a no nonsense politician who abhorred corruption more than anything. It was one of the major reasons for his eventual failure in politics. Another reason for his failure in politics was the fact that he couldn’t connect and maintain relations with common people. This is a trait that connects a leader and voters. And Syed Shahabuddin, who came from bureaucracy, couldn’t adjust like other politicians.

Syed Shahabuddin was also very articulate on Babri Masjid issue. The mosque in Ayodhya, that was eventually demolished by Hindu fundamentalists on 6th December 1992, was an issue that brought him closer to Muslim masses across the country. While many people claim that he needlessly politicized the issue by bringing it on the streets, he was of the view that without creating awareness about the issue, it would be usurped by the other party without any trace.

Syed Shahabuddin was elected as the president of All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat, a small forum of Muslim outfits. There was a vertical split in the forum around the year 2001, when he was appointed the President. Deobandi, clerics who were part of the forum from very beginning, split it and formed their separate organization.

Recently the two factions were brought together, apparently after persistent persuasion by Syed Shahabuddin. It was a dream of Shahabuddin that he successfully fulfilled. He also gave a formal shape to Mushawarat by establishing its office in predominantly Muslim locality of Delhi. Though he was no longer its president, he was a father figure for the organization. Besides he was involved in multiple philanthropic activities

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