Syed Mir Hassan (18 April 1844 – 25 September 1929) was a scholar of the Qur’an, Hadith, Sufism, and the Arabic language. He was a professor of Arabic at Scotch Mission College in Sialkot and was awarded the title of Shams al-’Ulama’ (“Sun of Scholars”) by the British Crown. Mir Hassan is best known as the teacher of the philosopher-poet Muhammad Iqbal and the poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. He was also the paternal uncle of the Pakistani journalist Syed Nazeer Niazi and was affiliated with Sir Syed Ahmed Khan‘s rationalist school of Islamic modernism. Read MGA’s full life at Sialkot here.
His early life
Born on 18 April 1844, Mir Hassan belonged to a religious family of Eastern physicians but did not opt for that profession, and he also refused to take up a career as a traditional prayer leader because he did not want to live on charity. Much to the horror of his family he ended up teaching at a vernacular school run by Christian missionaries. At the age of nineteen he also visited Delhi to meet the famous poet Mirza Ghalib.
Sayyid Mir Hasan was not only Iqbal’s teacher and resident of the same area of the city, but he was also both active in the movement of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan in Sialkot as well as an admirer of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. This was the part of Sialkot where Hazrat Mirza had spent four years in his younger days, leading a life of the utmost purity, and had left a deep impression by his righteousness, support for the cause of Islam, and high moral qualities. Hence it was that Sayyid Mir Hasan expressed his opinion about Hazrat Mirza in the following words:
“Hazrat Mirza sahib came to Sialkot in the year 1864 in connection with his employment, and stayed here. As he was a pious and retiring man, who abstained from frivolous and wasteful pastimes, he did not like meeting the public because it is often a waste of time.”
(Hayyat-i Tayyiba, compiled by Shaikh Abdul Qadir, p. 29.)
2. Many years after Hazrat Mirza’s death, Sayyid Mir Hasan said in an interview with a journalist:
“Sadly, we did not appreciate him. I have no words to describe his spiritual attainments. His life was not that of ordinary people. He was one of those persons who are special servants of God, and who come into the world but rarely.” (Al-Hakam, 7 April 1934; Mujaddid-i A’zam, vol. 2, p. 1236.)
3. In the book Zikr-i Iqbal it is said about Sayyid Mir Hasan:
“In the days when Mirza sahib stayed in Sialkot, the Maulvi sahib (Mir Hasan) had frequent occasion to meet him. The Maulvi sahib observed him from close quarters. Although Sayyid Mir Hasan was a great devotee of the movement started by Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, yet he was unusually impressed by the piety, righteousness and virtue of Mirza sahib, and had great respect for him.” (p. 278)
Syed Mir Hassan and Syed Ahmed Khan
He was a great admirer of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, of whom he became a staunch supporter. He had regular correspondence with him, and had the opportunity to meet him in person on numerous occasions. He was a regular visitor of All India Muhammadan Educational Conference. When Sir Syed Ahmed Khan visited Punjab, Syed Mir Hassan was the first to receive him. He used all his influence to spread Aligarh movement in his area.
Syed Mir Hassan and Sir Muhammad Iqbal
He had a great influence on Sir Muhammad Iqbal. Syed Mir Hasan was “an accomplished scholar with a knowledge of several Islamic languages. Mir Hassan gave Sir Muhammad Iqbal a thorough training in the rich Islamic literary tradition and influence him deeply. It is said that once Iqbal picked up Maulvi Mir Hasan’s shoes as a mark of respect.”
Title of Shams al-’Ulama’ (“Sun of Scholars”)
In 1922, when the British governor of the Punjab proposed to the British Crown that Iqbal be knighted in recognition of his literary achievements, Iqbal asked that Mir Hasan should be awarded a title. When the governor remarked that Mir Hassan had not written any books, Iqbal replied that he, Iqbal, was the book Mir Hasan had produced. Mir Hasan received the title of Shams al-’Ulama’ (“Sun of Scholars”).
Links and Related Essay’s
- Iqbal, an illustrated biography, by Khurram Ali Shafiq.
- Danai Raz, by Syed Nazeer Niazi
- Iqbal Kay Hazoor, by Syed Nazeer Niazi
- Zinda Rud, by Justice Javid Iqbal
- Tulip in the Desert: a selection of the poetry of Muhammad Iqbal by Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Mustansir Mir.