Life and Work(s) of Dr. Mohammad Mustafa Azami

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By Abid Qayoom Mir

Dr. Mohammad Mustafa Azami(1932-2017), the renowned and famous Islamic scholar passed away on 20th December, 2017, at the age of 85. He was one of the leading experts on Islamic literature in the world. Dr. Azami had studied from famous educational institutes of the world like Darul uloom Deoband (India), Jamiya Azhar (Egypt), and Cambridge University (UK). He did his doctorate from Cambridge University on the topic “Studies in Early Hadith Literature”. The great scholar served in many famous universities and educational institutes of the world, both as teaching and visiting faculty which included, Ummul Qura University (Mecca), Visiting Scholar at University of Michigan (Ann Arbor); Visiting Fellow at St. Cross College (University of Oxford); King Faisal Visiting Professor for Islamic Studies at Princeton; and Visiting Scholar at University of Colorado (Boulder). He was also an Honorary Professor at the University of Wales.
Besides all these stupendous achievements, Dr Azami was also a recipient of world`s famous and prestigious award such as the Shah Faisal Award for his contribution to Islamic studies. He was a writer of many books, essays, and research articles which served as source material for students/scholars of Islamic studies. The good Professor lectured in hundreds of seminars and conferences organized by universities throughout the world. He was well aware about the literature of Orientalists wherein they questioned the authenticity and reliability of the Hadith. Dr. Azami is regarded as one of the first Muslim scholar who refuted scholarly, brilliantly, and scientifically the claims and allegations of western writers and Orientalist. He critically investigated the writings of famous Orientalists like Ignác Goldziher, David Margoliouth, and Joseph Schacht and refuted their claims against Islam.
Dr. Azami’s works were translated in many languages. “Studies in Early Hadith Literature” is one of the famous books authored by him. This book is actually his doctorate dissertation. In this book, he has highlighted the historical narrative of compilation of the Hadith. Moreover, in the very same book, Dr. Azami has brilliantly and scientifically proved that compilation of the Hadith had begun during the life of the Prophet (SAAW). Another important book on the same pattern is “Studies on Hadeeth Methodology and Literature”. This book deals with the methodology used to check Hadiths’ authenticity and non-authenticity. Both these books, in general, serve as the references in the various universities of the world.
Besides these two important books, he had authored another important book pertaining to the Quran namely, “The history of the Quranic Text from Revelation to Compilation”. This book is an attempt by the author to highlight many historical ways and methods used by the companions of the Prophet (SAAW) to record, and preserve the divine book of the Almighty. A complete account of steps taken by different Caliphs to preserve the Holy Quran had been provided in this book. Dr. Azami has also provided a detailed list of those companions who took part in the preservation and compilation of the Quran directly or indirectly. In the preface of this book, Dr. Azami has explained the necessity to write this book that a Journalist Toby Lester wrote an article which was published in the Atlantic Monthly (January 1999). In his article, Lester attempted to create confusion among Muslims about the authenticity of the Quran. He had claimed that the Quran as the unadulterated book of Allah is not capable of defending this view scholarly and thus posed a biggest challenge to the Muslims. Dr. Azami took this challenge, in order to answer, and thereby him wrote it.
In this book he scholarly rejected all the claims of Lester that the authenticity of the Quran was in doubt. Furthermore, Dr. Azami has written a book namely, “On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence” in which he had answered all questions raised by the noted Orientalist Joseph Schacht against Islamic Jurisprudence. He had authored many other notable books mostly relating to the science of Hadith and its other aspects. Some of them are, “Kitab Nabi”, “Sahih Ibn Khuzema”, and has ably edited many books like “Mawata Imam Malik”, “Sunan Ibn Ma`ja” and notably the manuscript of “Saheeh Al-Bukhari”.
In short, the Muslim world has lost a great scholar whose notable contributions include many brilliant books and outstanding exegeses which have contributed immensely to the corpus of Islamic studies and literature. May Allah grant Dr. Azami the highest ranks in Jannat and forgive his sins. Ameen!

—The author holds an M.A Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora. He can be reached