Tributes Paid to Professor and Interfaith Scholar Ataullah Siddiqui09 Nov 2020
ʾinnā li-llāhi wa-ʾinna ʾilayhi rājiʿūn
It is with great sadness that one of the UK’s leading scholars on Islam and an important name in Christian-Muslim relations, Professor Ataullah Siddiqui passed away this morning.
Faith and community leaders of all kinds pay tribute to him and send condolences to his family.
I knew him as an active co-member at The Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies (CIMS) in Birmingham. He was a scholar of the highest calibre who dedicated his entire life to the service of Islam and the Muslim community in the UK. I remember delivering a paper regarding the Sunni prospective on Hadith-e-Qirtas, The Prophet’s (pbuh) final will, and after the event Professor Siddiqui came over to me and expressed his sincere gratitude with the manner of deliverance and urged me to publish it as an academic paper, such was his sincere concern for others. At that very meeting at CIMS, I alongside other board members discussed a number of forthcoming projects with him, but sadly his illness took a toll on him. I pray we can continue such initiatives in his memory.
“An immensely kind, gentle, humble, upright, deep and wonderful human being.”
Originally from India, Professor Siddiqui completed his secondary education in Kalimpong, Darjeeling. He joined the Islamic Foundation as a research fellow in 1982, moving to the UK around that time. Professor Siddiqui earned his PhD on interfaith from the University of Birmingham, as well as an honorary PhD from the University of Gloucester.
Professor Siddiqui dedicated his studies to Christian Muslim Relations; and Pluralism within Islam. He was especially keen on training the religious leadership of British Muslims.
Among his chief achievements was in the founding of the Christian Muslim Forum of England and the Leicester Council of Faiths.
He was also an important member of numerous interfaith publications and studies, including being the author of a study on Islam in English universities; and pioneered and led the Muslim Chaplaincy programme at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE).
Through it all, he was known for his dedication to the work of Allah the Almighty. Indeed, one colleague, Farooq Murad, commented that he never worked for anyone except Allah the Almighty.
In person, Professor Siddiqui was known as a kind, gentle, humble, upright, deep and wonderful human being. Nearly everyone who knew him commented on his personal warmth when interacting with others, projecting a calm, wise and thoughtful disposition that took a hold of others around him.
One of his students commented that the air of calmness stayed with him through his illness and on his deathbed.
“I am not afraid to move on to the next life and I am prepared to meet my Lord. Live your life with ambition, nothing will overcome your motive,” Professor Siddiqui was quoted to have said.
His Passing Comes at A Time of Great Need for Interfaith Work
Professor Siddiqui’s passing came at a time of great need for interfaith work. We are undeniably living in a time of great polarisation, growing tensions between faith communities and heightened extremism.
For experts, interfaith work has been described as an essential solution to some of today’s problems, both in the UK and elsewhere. Indeed, many such experts in interfaith have been vigorously debating on how to make interfaith work better for local communities.
For Professor Siddiqui, who believed in plurality among Muslims and for progressive ways for Muslims to work within academia, such debates are at the heart of what he wanted to achieve.
We hope that as faith and interfaith practitioners, we can live up to what Professor Siddiqui wanted to achieve, thereby giving new life to the legacy he left behind.
We pray that Allah the Almighty (swt) grants him a lofty place in Jannah and grant perseverance to his family and friends. Ameen.