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Muhammad Hashir Faruqi pioneer of Muslim journalism in the West

28th Jan 2022
Muhammad Hashir Faruqi pioneer of Muslim journalism in the West

Muhammad Hashir Faruqi speaking at The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2013 event (Credit: Sumayya M Juma/The Muslim News)

M Ghazali Khan

Mohammad Hashir Faruqi, Editor of the erstwhile Muslim news magazine Impact International, passed away on January 11, at his home in London. Having established the first-ever news magazine of its kind in 1971 with meagre resources and a small team and regularly publishing it for 35 years, he is rightly considered as the pioneer of Muslim journalism in the West.

Faruqi was born on January 4, 1930, in the city of Ghazipur in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. As a student, he participated in the movement for the creation of Pakistan. He served as Secretary of the Muslim Students Union at Kanpur Agriculture College, from where he passed BSc in Entomology. After migrating to Pakistan, he served in senior positions at the Department of Agriculture. In 1960, Faruqi came to Britain to pursue a PhD at Imperial College, London.

He had been planning to launch a magazine since the sixties, but the political upheavals in the Muslim world in the seventies forced him to take a huge turn and change his career. Therefore, he launched the fortnightly Impact International that later became a monthly with himself as the editor, scholar and writer Abdul Wahid Hamid as associate editor and Saleem Siddiqui as manager, who remained with Impact until it ceased to publish in 2013.

To say that his devotion and commitment had made Impact International the only magazine of its kind, especially during the seventies and eighties, in the whole of the Muslim world is no exaggeration. Some of the international figures he interviewed for the magazine included late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, spiritual leader of Iran late Ayatollah Khomeini, President of Pakistan late Gen Ziaul Haq, Palestinian leader Yasar Arafat, President of Indonesia, Suharto and the former Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohammad.

What made the magazine in those pre-internet days unique, is its editor developed a network of volunteers from around the world—including Muslim regions under the USSR, communist regimes in Eastern Europe, sheikhdoms in the Middle East and dictatorships in Africa and Asia.

They risked their safety and regularly updated Faruqi through the postal system about political developments in their respective countries. Based upon their rare information, Faruqi’s write-ups and analyses were read with a keen interest in intellectual circles and by individuals, writers and commentators and were referenced in serious magazines and books.

Contrary to the rumours spread by his critics, he received no financial help from any government. His principles, self-respect, and determination to not compromise his independence did not let him accept even lucrative offers despite the magazine facing severe financial hardships. He had contacts with powerful and resourceful people and had he acquiesced to compromise on his principles, he would not have spent all his life and died in a small, rented flat in Kilburn.

He was a close friend of the late Saudi businessman Salahuddin.Before starting Arabia the Islamic World Review, Salahuddin asked Faruqi to stop Impact and accept Arabia’s editorship. Faruqi declined the attractive offer despite facing a financial crisis and was unsure if he would be able to publish the next issue.

Faruqi played leading roles in establishing the UK Islamic Mission, Islamic Foundation, Muslim Educational Trust, Muslim Aid and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) but never accepted or even tried to get posts in any of these institutions. MCB was purely his brainchild.

Faruqi’s love and devotion to his mission and his self-denial when it came to the interests of the ummah could be judged from an incident his close associate Saleem Siddiqui, former Mayor of London Borough of Hackney describes, according to him: ‘In 1966, the Egyptian Government, through its court, had sentenced Sayyid Qutb to death.
Leading Muslim migrants and students from various countries had gathered at the head office of the UK Islamic Mission to chalk out a strategy to pressurise the Egyptian Government to stop his hanging. During the meeting, Faruqi received a phone call. I overheard him recite innā li-llāhi wa-ʾinna ʾilayhi rājiʿūn and give some instructions to the caller.

We saw sorrow on his face but without uttering a word, he continued to participate in the meeting. After the meeting, we found out that one of his friends had called to inform him about the death of his father, quite an epitome of patience and self-composure.’

He resented showing off and never took credit for anything but extended it to others.

In 2013, my friend Ahmed J Versi, Editor of The Muslim News, wanted to honour Faruqi by giving him the Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award at The Muslim News’ annual award ceremony. We were aware that he had declined to accept such a request from a big organisation. I suggested he tell Faruqi that he wanted the younger generation to know about his work and accomplishments to learn from. The trick worked. In his speech at the award ceremony, he said to the audience, ‘Although I am accepting it, this belongs to all of you here.’

Paying tribute to Faruqi at the ceremony, Versi said: ‘For me, he was an inspiration to establish The Muslim News, and was a true pioneer for his unflinching journalism. To others, he was an innovator in the British Muslim community, being an intellectual lynchpin for many of our struggles as a burgeoning community. And for his readers, he is our connection from the world we inhabit to now to a Muslim world that began its uncertain journey in the midst of decolonisation, war and new modern identities… ’

I joined Impact as a trainee in 1983 and worked under Faruqi until 1992. Even after leaving Impact, he continued to guide and advise me on personal and social issues.My mind has been occupied with old memories. He was an affectionate mentor and his favours on me are numerous.

He hated to be mentioned or reminded of any favour done to anyone and strictly followed this Qur’anic injunction: ‘Believers! Do not nullify your acts of charity by stressing your benevolence and causing hurt, as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen by people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. The example of his spending is that of a rock with a thin coating of earth upon it: when a heavy rain smites it, the earth is washed away, leaving the rock bare; such people derive no gain from their acts of charity. Allah does not set the deniers of the Truth on the Right Way.’ (Qur’an, 2:264)

How many noble qualities shall I narrate about my teacher, mentor, and benefactor? I conclude this article by copying, from memory, what he had written in the obituary of late Muhammad Muslim Saheb, Editor of Urdu daily Dawat, with whom he shared many common qualities including gentleness, commitment, determination, humility and the love of Islam and the ummah, Faruqi wrote, ‘He never expected any credit from anyone. He was collecting his credit from Allah.’

 

Testimonies in memory of Hashir Faruqi

 

Ahmed J Versi, Editor, The Muslim News

The Muslim News Editor’s Special Award Speech March 2013: Born in British India in 1930, he grew at a time of great transition for the subcontinent. He was a student activist in the Pakistan movement, Secretary of Muslim students union as well as the students’ Urdu literary society

Like many others, he made two significant migrations, one from India to Pakistan, the other from Pakistan to the United Kingdom.

He was a trained scientist, and served as an entomologist in Pakistan and in the United Kingdom.
Muhammad Hashir Faruqi led a team to establish Impact International, a news magazine that eventually shook the world and fearlessly led the charge for Muslims in a liberal world.

Impact International was a world-recognised, independent Muslim current affairs publication launched in London on 15th May. It lived up to this ambition for over 35 years – thus far, the longest-running British Muslim publication.

In its hay day, it was distributed in 85 countries, with a readership of over 100,000 and a small international subscription base of 20,000. Its analysis was sharp, editorials forthright, and its agenda was to uphold the idea of a Muslim ummah, a pan-Islamic space with a common agenda. The breadth of the magazine was impressive as it covered developments from all four corners of the world.

As Editor of this magazine, Hashir Faruqi became not only an observer of current affairs, but very much an active participant in unfolding events.

For example, Hashir Faruqi, while interviewing an embassy official, was taken hostage during the drama of the Iran Embassy siege in 1980.

Perhaps one of his greatest contributions came when the British Muslim community formed an identity of its own during the crisis around the publication of the Satanic Verses.

Under his editorship, Impact International highlighted and engaged liberal opinion on the hurt Muslims had felt with this book.

Faruqi became an advisor to the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs – an organization that helped mobilise the Muslim community. He also joined the diverse range of leaders and intellectuals to help form the Muslim Council of Britain. He subsequently became an advisor to successive Secretary-generals.

Faruqi was a tireless, and unassuming servant of the community. He has used his skills as a journalist, and his ability to bring communities together to help grassroots causes. As a result, he was a founding trustee of Muslim Aid, the Muslim Educational Trust, the Islamic Foundation and the Al-Madinah Trust. He has also assisted a range of other charitable activities too numerous to mention here.

I hope, in presenting this award, we state for the record the vast contributions made by Hashir Faruqi.

The fact that we had to persuade and cajole Hashir Faruqi to accept this award is a testament to his quality to remain unassuming and humble. And yet, his reputation has long been established in his reporting and dealing with the rich diversity of our Muslim ummah, here in the UK and around the world.

 

Afzal Khan Manchester Gorton MP

Muhammad Hashir Faruqi’s name will forever be associated with providing a platform for the Muslim voice. I felt incredibly fortunate to attend his moving funeral this week at Regent’s Park Mosque. I would like to dedicate the following in his memory.

Faruqi was a trailblazer in the community. In 1971 he launched Impact International, “a magazine which seeks to interpret the ethos of the Muslim world; provide balanced reporting and analysis on education, society, economics and politics; book reviews, briefings and other special features”. It lived up to this ambition for over 35 years.

It was this publication and his encouragement that had a profound impact on me personally and pushed me into politics. I realised that the Muslim voice deserved to be heard, and I felt a huge sense of inspiration. Much like Faruqi, I wanted to devote my time, work and energy to highlighting issues that were important to Muslims, and ultimately empowered them.

(After working as a cotton mill worker, a bus driver and a police officer, I knew I wanted to do something meaningful with my life and give back to the community that had given so much to me.)
Faruqi played a key role in my political career. His dedication to Islam and the development of British Muslims will always stay with me.

This captures Faruqi’s legacy and contribution to the community. I owe so much to him, and I feel incredibly blessed that my time in politics has spanned from becoming the first Muslim Lord Mayor of Manchester, to holding a position in the European Parliament. I now proudly hold the position of Shadow Justice Minister in the House of Commons.

What underscores all these roles is the same ethos that drove Faruqi’s legendary career. He worked tirelessly to raise human rights issues, writing against injustices and violations of human dignity, urging Muslims to stand peacefully for the weak and the marginalised people. This is something I always aimed to achieve.

We have truly lost a titan within the community and journalism, and my thoughts and prayers are with Faruqi’s loved ones at this immensely difficult time. His legacy will never be forgotten.

 

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Founding member of Impact Intl

During the 1960s, whilst a student in Sheffield, I used to attend the London Islamic Circle that met weekly at Regents Lodge (the main mosque had yet to be built). It was a gathering of Muslim activists of the time.

There I first met Faruqi. He was my senior by a decade. We felt that there was a real need for an English language publication where we could discuss and articulate our concerns, hopes and aspirations for Muslims worldwide in our own words. This was a passion of Faruqi sahib, and he was the driving force behind realising this dream. It was with him and Abdul Wahid Hamid that we set up Impact International in May 1971, with Faruqi sahib as Editor-in-Chief.

The publication started in two rooms on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park. We would spend hours and nights discussing the then erupting civil war in East Pakistan and what it was doing to Pakistan, a nation formed from the horrors of the Indian partition we experienced in our childhoods.
Whilst some demanded the unity of Pakistan in the name of Islam, I felt a deep injustice that crimes were being committed by the Pakistani army in East Pakistan to a people that were not initially demanding separation but for parity with West Pakistan.

Faruqi sahib and I held different positions about East Pakistan. Impact International took the side of Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, which sided with the Pakistani army, who were crushing the demands of the people of East Pakistan. So, I left the publication in December 1972. Despite taking different political positions, there remained mutual respect for Faruqi sahib. He was my elder both as a journalist, academic and a mentor.

I went on to form the Muslim Institute with Kalim Siddiqui in 1973 and the Muslim Parliament in 1992. After I became the leader of these institutions following Dr Kalim’s death in 1996, Faruqi saheb offered his support and invited me to again write for Impact.

I would write several pieces for Impact in the late 1990s. I recall submitting one of these pieces late and getting a call from Faruqi saheb giving me a ticking off. I smiled. Even after all those years had passed, he remained my editor-in-chief.

May God grant him the Highest Garden and bestow Sabr [patience] on his family.

Dr Siddiqui, Founder member of the Muslim Institute and the Muslim Parliament. ‘A Very British Muslim Activist: The Life of Ghayasuddin Siddiqui’ are his memoirs written by C Scott Jordan, Beacon Books, 2019.

 

Rumman Ahmed, Geostrategic and geo-economic analyst

When Faruqi bhai went on a one-way journey to another universe, he was one of the last remaining links to our living history of the South Asia subcontinent.

Born in 1930, he was 17-years-old during the 1947 Partition. He and his family had to uproot themselves from the Uttar Pradesh state in northern India and immigrate to Pakistan, part of the 11 million people who had to crisscross across the new borders of the vast subcontinen. This seminal event in his teens makes his hinterland of knowledge beyond the bookish or academic, his, was a lived experience. He was, what we say in management jargon, a reflective practitioner.

My encounters with him have been episodic. Ever the old school gentleman, with a disarming smile, he would remind me I have not yet written for Impact International and with an eternal hope that I will soon.

I am reminded of his elasticity of mind when once during an away day, which I was leading as a management consultant, he complimented me, during break time, on the innovative thinking I was bringing to the deliberations. With a smile, I replied, you have to thank Mao for that. He looked quizzical, and I explained I was merely trying to creatively use concepts from Mao Tse Tung’s two philosophical essays ‘On Contradictions’ and ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People’.

He looked genuinely intellectually curious and said he needed to read them up. That is the true measure of a man. Already in his mid-seventies, he was still willing to learn from a philosopher-politician whose views vastly differed from his.

That made him a legendary editor in the pantheon of British Muslim journalism. There were four – he and Dr Kalim Siddiqi of Crescent International have departed us. Two still are around, Iqbal Asaria of Afkar Inquiry and Ahmed J Versi of The Muslim News, still resolutely plodding along.
May they be with us for a long time to come. I merely ask if any from the subsequent generations are waiting in the wings to step into their shoes.

 

Unaiza Malik

The last time I met Faruqi Sahib I received a mild scold for attempting the stairs with my arthritic knees. My visit was to offer condolences at his wife’s demise. Our telephone calls had been dwindling even before that time and became markedly less frequent after that.

Hashir Faruqi had a gift for discovering what interests any person held and then forming a connection with them around those interests. Fauqi Sahib was perceptive, intelligent and possessed a phenomenal memory; he could draw upon his considerable experience and knowledge of diverse topics.

In conversations with me about literary styles and topics tackled by the great poets of Urdu literature, he would often take an alternative stand to mine. I realised in time that this was his strategy to promote debate around the subject and skillfully explore more deeply, educate, and sometimes even learn more about the topic.

Faruqi’s habit of fostering a knowledge-sharing culture and adhering scrupulously to his principles has inspired and guided many younger people who will miss him.

 

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, author & parenting consultant

Hashir Faruqi, an icon of Muslim journalism of our time, returned to his Creator on January 11. In his passing, the Muslim world has lost an exemplary public intellectual.

Faruqi was born in India. From his student years, he stepped into the world of activism: initially in the Pakistan movement and then in the UK when he came as a student in the 1960s; he used to write a column in The Muslim, the monthly magazine of the student Islamic group the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), under the pen name ‘Scribe’.

However, he will be globally remembered as the founder-editor of Impact International, the monthly news and views magazine to “promote a genuine understanding of Islam and Muslims to an English-reading audience worldwide”. Through this, he tirelessly raised issues of justice and human rights for all. Impact became a source of sought-after opinions in the Muslim world for the next 35 years.

Faruqi coached a good number of Muslims into journalism. He was instrumental in developing community institutions, such as Muslim Aid, Islamic Society of Britain and Muslim Council of Britain. In 2013, The Muslim News conferred on him the Editor’s Lifetime Achievement Award. All editions of Impact are now available online.

May Allah bless his soul and accept his deeds. “Indeed, we belong to Allah and, indeed, we are returning to Him (Al-Qur’an 2:156).

 

Mohamed Saleem Siddiqui

With others, I helped to prepare the derelict building at 33 Stroud Green Road for use as an office. I joined Impact in 1973 after my wedding and stayed with Hashir Faruqi until it closed in 2007. I was managing and researching for Impact.

Faruqi was one of the kindest and humblest people. He led a very simple life. He lived in a rental flat in Kilburn.

He used to eat very little, even after a major heart operation. He did little exercise. Instead, he spent his time reading. Once he was determined about anything, he did not change his view. He was very persuasive.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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