Late Shahab Ahmed remembered at Harvard memorial

BOSTON: Colleagues, students, family and friends of Shahab Ahmed, Professor of Islamic Studies at Harvard University gathered to honour the late scholar at a memorial service at the university on Nov 15.

Ahmed, who passed away after a brief illness on September 19 this year, was an “extraordinary scholar who redefined Islam” as his colleague and friend Noah Feldman of the Harvard Law School has written.

The service featured poetry in Arabic, Persian and Urdu with English translations by the late scholar who was proficient in several languages.

Mohsen Goudarzi, a former student of Prof. Ahmed, recited the Surat an-Nur from the holy Quran in Arabic. The programme book contained an English translation done by Shahab Ahmed himself. Goudarzi also read a poem in Persian by Hafiz.

Prof. Amer Latif of Marlboro College, another former student of Ahmed’s, termed Ahmed as a “master of synthesis and analysis.”

Another former student, Arafat A. Razzaque talked about Shahab Ahmed as a teacher.

Dr Shahla Ahmed, sister of the late scholar and a medical doctor based in London, talked about her younger brother who always wanted to be “very close to Pakistan”. The parents, both doctors, are in Lahore.

Shahab Ahmed’s wife Nora Lessersohn, a graduate student at Harvard, spoke of Ahmed’s constant search for learning and Truth.

Prof. Noah Feldman talked about the scholarship of Ahmed that was “at the heart” of their friendship. Shahab Ahmed’s research into how orthodoxy is born, or created rather, is particularly relevant in the current times.

Shahab Ahmed’s first book, ‘What is Islam? The importance of being Islamic’ (Princeton University Press), his 600-page magnum opus, has just hit the book stands.

The service, held at the Memorial Church in Harvard Yard, began and ended with musical recitals by the Orkestra Marhaba, a small group of musicians who play Turkish ‘samaa’ music.