Obituary: Late Sir Muhammad Shafi

The Light (Pakistan), 16th January 1932 Issue (Vol. 11, No. 3, p. 3)

It is with a profound sense of sorrow that we record the untimely death of Mian Sir Muhammad Shafi. The distinguished deceased was no doubt much advanced in years but no one could see the symptoms of age on him. He maintained almost youthly vigour, vitality and buoyancy of spirits and one would have thought he had at least another couple of decades left of his span of life. That is why we feel his death was untimely. It was however still more so from another point of view. India today is standing at one of the most momentous crossroads of her history and political leaders of the calibre of Sir Muhammad Shafi were never in greater demand than at the present juncture. His passing away is certainly a great national loss—nay, calamity.

Many are the tributes paid to the memory of the late Mian Sahib. His was undoubtedly a versatile personality. What struck us as the most remarkable feature of that personality, however, was his strong sense of moderation, so much so that he combined in himself what might at first sight appear contradictory qualities. He was a strong champion of the political rights of his own community but no one could accuse him of the least bias against any other community. His relations with the Hindus were as friendly as with the Musalmans [Muslims]. Then, he was known to be a loyalist to the backbone but notwithstanding the fact that he enjoyed as few Indians do, the confidence of the British Government, he was none-the-less a great lover of India and in his sentiments of patriotism he yielded to no nationalist. His methods may have been different, but no one who knew him could doubt the ardent desire, which he had within him for the freedom of India.

These combinations, communalism with cosmopolitanism, loyalty with love of motherland, should by themselves have been sufficient to lend the departed personality a touch of the unique but there was in him a third combina­tion known to very few which has a special fascination for us. Sir Muhammad Shafi was a product of western culture and western civilization. He belonged to the class of Indians who consider it good form to shrug shoulders at a mere mention of the word religion. Most of Muslim political leaders of the present-day whether of the extremist or moderate school belong to this category. We have of recent years been hearing from the lips of some foremost of them, a good deal of such loose talk as “country first, religion afterwards”, “religion may be changed but country cannot be changed”, “confine religion to the four walls of the mosque”. From his education, from his life-long associations, from his ways of life, one would have at once put Sir Muhammad Shafi down as one of them. But here again you find the same remarkable com­bination. Underneath his clean shaven face, underneath his costume of perfect western cut, there beat within him a heart full of respect and devotion to Islam.

This profound respect for religion was best illustrated when a number of distinguished Muslims met at Lahore to consider a bill pro­posed to be moved in the Punjab Legislative Council, which purported to make it obligatory on the Mussalmans [Muslims] to divide their property among their heirs according to the Islamic Shariat [Law]. There were many who did not look with favour on the bill. They feared their big estates might dwindle away by such exten­sive distribution as enjoined by the Holy Quran, entitling the women folk as well to a share in the property. They raised good many ingenious objections somehow to have the bill put off. Replying to all these, what did the noble-hearted deceased say?

“You may use all your ingenuity to confute the issue,”

said he,

“but just tell me how you are going to meet the clear-cut verdict of the Quran which after laying down the rules of inheri­tance issues the solemn warning: ‘And who­ever disobeys God and His apostle and trans­gresses the limits of God, shall be put in fire and for him shall be debasing punishment. [The Holy Quran, 4:14]’ What are you going to do with this?”

demanded the late Mian Sahib. This shows what a place of honour the Word of God had in his heart.