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Pro. Dr. Muhammad Sabir

For the record
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Sabir
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Professor Dr Muhammad Sabir did his M.A. from the Karachi University (KU) in 1958. He was selected by the Government of Pakistan to do PhD in Turkish language and literature on the scholarship of the Turkish government the same year. After completing his doctorate in Turkology in 1961, he joined the Department of Islamic History at the KU. He completed his PhD thesis on the Masnavi Hairat-ul-Abrar (Wonder of the Pious) of the greatest poet of the Turkish race, Mir Ali Shir Navai, who is also regarded as the literary hero of Uzbekistan. He has taught Islamic History and modern Turkish language at the KU till his retirement in 1995. During his association with the KU he was the caretaker Dean of Faculties of Arts and Commerce. He is the only Turkologist of Pakistan. He edited the first Turkish-Urdu dictionary in 1968 not only in the sub-continent but also in the world.

PAGE: What attracted you to the Turkish language?

Dr Sabir: I was fascinated by Osmanlis as well as the Central Asian Turks, particularly the former for their heroic struggle for liberation against the Western powers in WWI, their cultural influence on the Indo-Pak sub-continent, and the personality of Babur, the founder of the Timuride empire, which is wrongfully called Mughal empire, in Hindustan. The fascination drove me to learn many dialects of the Turkish language from a Central Asian Turk in Kanpur back in 1954. I was fortunate to study under the guidance of some of the very eminent scholars at the University of Intanbul— Prof Dr Muhammad Hameedullah, Dr Ahmet Jafer Oghlu, Prof Nihat Tarlan, Prof Abdul Qadir Karahan, Prof Zaki Velidi Togan, Prof Arat, Prof Eckman Janosh (Hungary), Prof Ritter and Prof Benzing both German. I was attracted by the military and political struggle under Mustafa Kamal Pasha which had a significant influence on the Muslims of the sub-continent.

PAGE: What recollections do you have of your stay in Turkey?

Dr Sabir: I not only immensely benefitted from the libraries but also had a good fortune to enjoy extremely cordial relationships with many of the best respected Turks. Halide Edip Hanim affectionately known here as Khalida Adeeb Khanum, then a retired Professor of English literature at the Istanbul University, was residing just opposite to the University premises. I developed a friendship with Zafer Hasan Aybek, a native of Punjab and an officer of the Punjab Regiment fighting against the Turks, who rebelled against the British to join the Kamalist forces with his colleagues in the WWI. The valour earned Zafer, who was the secretary of the renowned scholar Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, the respect of the Kamalist government. Zafer compiled a Turkish-Urdu dictionary and sent its copy for my opinion in 1968. I was honoured to forward my favourable opinion through the KU. Rauf Bey, an important Turkish Naval and political figure of the WWI, was also a friend. I met great Turkish hero, Ismet Inonu, at his residence in Istanbul in 1959 when he was the leader of the opposition. When he became the prime minister of Turkey in 1961 he directed his government to establish a Turkological Studies Institute at the KU at my request. Despite best efforts by the then Vice Chancellor of the KU, I. H. Qureshi, such an Institute was never established due to the absence of financial commitment from the government. Today the KU still keeps offering a one-year certificate course in Turkish language which was started in 1962.

PAGE: What have been your literary endeavours?

Dr Sabir: I wrote the first Osmanli Turkish history based on Turkish sources in Urdu in 1967 which is a part of M.A. degree in Islamic History at the KU and other academic institutions nationwide. I also compiled the first modern Turkish-Urdu dictionary which was published in 1968. I translated the book on the life and works of the Islamic poet of Turkey, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, in Urdu which was published by the RCD Centre, Lahore in 1970. I edited, with additions, the Turki (Central Asian Turkish) Devan of Behram Khan-i-Khanan (Lord of the lords), the Turkmen warrior and protector (Ataliq) of emperor Akbar, in 1971 at Karachi. At present, I’m working to bring out authentic works of this great Turkmen poet. I translated Tulu-i-Islam of Dr Muhammad Iqbal from Urdu to Turkish in 1962. I have contributed two important articles in Urdu— the persian verses of Babur and Urdu words in his autobiography, Tuzuk-e-Baburi. I am one of the founders of the Institute of Central and West Asian Studies at Karachi in 1968 and remained its joint secreatry till 1997-98.

PAGE: What message will you like to give to PAGE readers?

Dr Sabir: Several Turkish scholars put the global population of Turks over 300 million today, 70 million of them in Turkey alone. Unknown to many, presently there are seven Turkish speaking republics— Turkey, Azerbayjan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Qazaqistan, Qirghizistan and Northern Cyprus, which yet remains unrecognised by the UN. We should have close contact with all these seven republics, particularly Turkey, for a greater cooperation in all fields. Turkish is a very important, and easy, language for the furtherance of our relations with the Muslim countries of the CIS.