He is anguished by the recent bout of communal violence in the city. The man who translated the Bhagwad Gita in Urdu is pained that one's religion seems like madness to others.
For retired IAS officer Dr. Hasanuddin Ahmed, religion is a behaviour and not mere belief. He feels the present day differences in the name of religion is the result of not understanding the teachings and beliefs of other faiths.
This well-known Hyderabadi translated the sacred text of Hinduism in 1945 during the reign of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan. And it remains popular even to this day because of the scholarly work and lucidity of expression.
Dr. Ahmed wrote ‘Naghma-e-Uluhiat' soon after joining the Nizam's service as assistant director of the Ecclesiastical Department. This, of course, invited the wrath of his uncle, Ghazi Yar Jung, a High Court judge, and a conservative Muslim. He wanted his nephew to use his talent to write about Islam.
The Ecclesiastical Department was responsible for the issue of grants and maintenance of places of worship of all religions and not just mosques. “The department was more secular and treated all religions equally,” says Dr. Ahmed who served as its last director.
He has a passion for comparative study of religions. Though he did not know Sanskrit, he overcame the problem with the help of lexicon and works of Edwin Arnold and Annie Besant. His perfect translation of the 701 slokas in 18 chapters have come in with high appreciation. Several editions of his book have come out over the years and in 1975, former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, released one of them.
Today there are more translations of Bhagwad Gita in Urdu than in any other language. And surprisingly half of them have been written by Muslims alone. “The teachings of Gita are nearer to Sufism. It is essential that one understands the religion of others,” says Dr. Ahmed.
Even at the age of 90, he keeps himself busy writing books and doing his bit to improve the educational standards in government schools.
Keywords: Bhagwad Gita