“Editorials and newspaper columns published around the world quickly paid homage to a unique and fearless thinker. Egypt’s Al-Ahram wrote “Palestine has lost a friend”, while the New York Times, whose Vietnam and Palestine policies Eqbal had forcefully criticized, admitted that he “woke up America’s conscience”. The Economist described him as “a revolutionary and intellectual who was the Ibn-Khaldun of modern times”
Today is the 18th death anniversary of Eqbal Ahmad, who was one of the most brilliant minds Pakistan has produced and one of the greatest public intellectuals.
In the “intellectual indolence” (as he called it) that has reigned in Pakistan, he was a flare of exception, and he continues to be that, years after his departure from this world.
Anyone who has happened to read my ramblings would probably have noticed my eagerness to quote his words and works in them.
Although I became acquainted with his life and work long after his demise, his intellectual honesty, courage and brilliance have taught me to think, to question and to hold writing to a sacred standard of telling the truth, raging against the wrong and raising voice for what is right.
Since the day I read of him, my admiration for him has known no bounds, and delving into his writings has only left an immeasurable impact on my mind.
Eqbal Ahmad is an ideal for me.
Along with numerous others, I am truly indebted to his work for awakening, educating and inspiring me; and for pushing me into the pursuit of ceaseless learning. As audacious as it is, I would like nothing more than to consider myself and to be considered as a student of his
It is a shame that a man like him – whose unparalleled insights and advice writers, politicians, activists, revolutionaries, intellectuals and people from all over the world sought; and who possessed a prophetic foresight – is hardly known of or acknowledged today in his own country.
Edward Said, with whom Eqbal Ahmad shared a cherished friendship and association (Said dedicated his book Culture and Imperialism to Eqbal Ahmad), said it best when he stated:
“Knowing him has been an education”
And on occasion of his retirement from Hampshire College, Said remarked that Eqbal was,
“..to paraphrase from Kipling’s Kim – a friend of the world.”
Eqbal Ahmad was indeed a friend who saw the future before its time, who was an ally of the oppressed and dispossessed all over the world and was an epitome of intellectual integrity, courage and excellence – a friend who, in today’s global moment of confusion, crises and clamor, is all the more important to remember, revisit and consult.
If you wish to read more about Eqbal Ahmad, please do check this excellent page run in his memory on Facebook, along with the Eqbal Ahmad Center for Education, and try getting your hands either on The Selected Writings of Eqbal Ahmad, or Stuart Schaar’s book on him, or simply Google and directly read about his life, his vision, his many, many interviews, and writings. Or watch his lectures online.
Let us remember the man whom we have are fortunate enough to call one of our own, a man whose words and ideas can still guide, enlighten and lead us out of the dim abyss we find ourselves in.