Syed Ali Raza, 1913-2005

Dr. Azra Raza (3 Quarks editor and my sister) writes in Karachi’s largest English language daily, Dawn:

Bhayya_smiling_in_white_sherwaniSyed Ali Raza, a retired director of the ministry of foreign affairs and a devotee of scholarship, died peacefully in his sleep in Karachi on January 6. The youngest of four children of Syed Zamarrud Hussain (1876-1932) and Hashmi Begum (1885-1956), he was born in Bijnor, India, on November 29, 1913.

By the time Ali Raza was four year old, his father had relocated the family to Lucknow. There after began two decades of a life full of economic hardship, but also full of deep family bonding, motivated by the ideals of intellectual and personal enhancement.

Because of his level of comfort in several languages, Ali Raza also acquired a reputation for translations from Urdu, English, Persian and Arabic. One of his finest accomplishments is the direct translation of Hazrat Ali’s Nahjul Balagha from Arabic into English, a publication which has undergone several printings, and remains in wide circulation not only in Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East, but is also found in libraries across Europe and America.

Other books translated from Arabic into English include Aqa-i-Syed Baqar Sadr Shaheed’s Bahas Haul-ul-wilaya, Hashim Maroof Hussaini’s Al Aimmatul Isna-ashr, Mohammad Jawwad Mughannia’s Al-mazahibul Khamsa, Aqae Abdul Hussain Sharful Moosvi’s Abu Huraira, Murtaza Askari’s Muqadmate Miratul Uqool, and Aqaey Mehdi Shamsuddin’s Al-zaroof-us-siyasat-us Shooratul Hussain.

The list of his translations from Urdu into English is too long, but some of his most beloved original contributions are those done at the request of his children such as a tashreeh of Josh Malihabadi’s Wahdat-i-Insani and Hussain aur Inqilab and Allama Iqbal’s Masjid-i-Qurtuba.

Despite the infirmities of his last two years, he was intellectually fully alert till the day he died, continuing to work several hours a day, engaged in reading, writing, editing and publishing.

Read the rest in Dawn here. For a longer and more detailed version of the obituary, including a longish family history, click here.

Syed Ali Raza was, of course, among other things, my father.