In the Skies of Azure Blue: An Ode to Arif Qazi

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By Mehraj ud Din Bhat

For a second you were flying,
Like you always wanted to,
Now you’ll fly forever
In skies of azure blue,
We’ll see your smile in every ray,
Of sunshine after rain,
And hear the echo of your laughter,
Over all the pain,
The world’s a little quieter now,
The colours have lost their hue,
The birds are singing softly,
And our hearts are missing you,
Each time we see a little cloud,
Or a rainbow soaring high,
We’ll think of you and gently,
Wipe a tear from our eye.
Arif Qazi, a man full of compassion and modesty, passed away at the age of 37- an age where a person, especially when everything is coming in one’s way, is full of dreams and plans. His sudden illness and the news of his death left each one of us, who knew, even who met him once, in shock. A tall young man, in his mid 30’s, a fluent speaker and promising scholar of Arabic literature, was loved by one and all for his warm and loving nature. To me, he was a new comer in my life and met me when I was going through the toughest period of my life, trying to find answer to few perturbing questions; Arif left me with much bigger questions to ponder on and maybe with answers to some unasked questions. We knew each other little, yet his smile, warmth and conscious engagement, knew no boundaries, which was somewhat divine in nature, transcending the usual human traits, and opening the gates of his heart to people even whom he knew little, like me, manifesting the qualities of his inner soul with his smile.
Arif Qazi, who studied and graduated from one of the reputed religious seminaries of South Asia—Nadwatul Ulema with a Ph.D. from Jamia Millia Islamia, author of few books, and in such young age, was currently holding the chair of Director in the Department of Arabic language and literature in the Islamic University of Science and Technology. This genteel man, unlike other academics, had tremendous energy and an equal appetite for fun, heading off on mountaineering and hiking trips and wind-surfing expeditions. He often, whenever he used to see anyone with a book in my hand, talked about his passion for reading, his good old days as a student, and his commitment towards realizing the ideals of his life. Though his looks and manners helped fit him neatly into the populist category of a young promising handsome academic cheerfully manifested this image in his personality equally remained to the end a serious, committed scholar and spokesman of his field.
His presence around us, was, as if there was our self-eulogizing mirror, complementing everyone he met, and the beauty and purity of his soul reflected and emanated from his words. The interactions, we have had in our tea sessions, and his silence, as if a student was sitting among learned people, was equally compelling, as one could see how passionately he used to listen, as if no one knew the colouring of individual words, the quicksilver nuances of expression, was not Arif’s forte. Intensely self-critical, he by no means lacked insight into, and empathy with, the beautiful embodiment of his character. At his best, he offered a baritone of unparalleled beauty and a compelling stage presence.
This man, unaware about the politics of hate, was loved even by people who had differences with him—on intellectual and different aspects of his thought processes—couldn’t resist their emotions and the time they spent with this retiring modest man. This helped me to understand the greatness of such people, like Arif Qazi, whose personality and aura, his commitment to who he was and in what he believed. Quran, the sacred text, the divine theoretical framework asserts to see the realization of an ideal in human beings, talks about leaving a legacy behind and marching the path of Prophetic idealism, was what Arif Qazi’s approach to life manifested, and this man, with all his imperfections and weakness tried to realize this Divine consciousness. He continued to do his best to live the life of an anonymous academic, devoting himself to his family, and to writing and teaching. On the milestone of a friend and teacher like Arif’s passing is a strong element of nostalgia – how wonderful things were when he was alive and how sad that he is no more. This element of nostalgia becomes even stronger when the fallen friend is a promising scholar and embodiment of how a Muslim should be like, whose voice and vision were definitive to an age that now seems almost irreversibly altered.
Some people, it seems to me, never die for those whose moral and political imagination is organically rooted in their living memory. I don›t think we, those who knew him can mourn Arif Qazi as long as we live, if mourning is a ritual of reconciliation with a loss, for I don’t believe our conversation with him are ever over. Arif lived so fully, so consciously, so critically through the thick and thin of our times that he has become an inalienable part of our consciousness. I still remember his words, the way, like Prophetic dictum goes “as our Prophet used to completely engage with the other person in the best possible manner”, he was the embodiment of that Prophetic consciousness, and his voice in my ear, and am still moved by the joy and anger of his loving heart.
People I heard and interacted with in Arif’s funeral stressed his genuine modesty and remarkable manners. “I cannot come in terms with this reality that Arif, a man full of energy and compassion and love is no more with us,” said one of his colleagues. As someone else said “He had a much more developed moral and social instinct than most people-much more tact.” Everywhere he went, Arif listened, befriended and contributed. Though, he is no longer here to share his thoughts, he has done enough to enable us to think with him. He no longer needs to be here physically to know what he might have thought or said or written. He lives with those who read and think him through – and thus become indexical, proverbial, to our thinking.

—The author is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Kashmir. He can be reached at: