To write an article about the late Maulana Nazeer Ahmad Simab of revered memory, ought to occupy much space and time, but to me, I can be brief by saying straight away that he was one of the greatest men that I have ever come across as an educator, philosopher, guide and pioneer.
Maulana Nazeer Ahmad Simab, B.A., H.P. (Honours in Persian) H.U. (Honours in Urdu) Fazil Moonshi (Interpreter of the Qur’an ) was brought to Trinidad and Tobago by the late Sayad Mohammed Hosein of San Fernando. He was sent by the Anjuman Sunnat-Ul-Jamat Association in the late 1930’s to India to look for a Muslim Missionary to work in Trinidad and Tobago. He came to this country under the auspices of the Anjuman but later on switched to the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association.
Whatever the reasons for switching from one body to the other, all his work in this country among the three bodies and the community at large, was dedicated towards keeping the Banner of Islam flying high and teaching our people the truth, bringing them on the Path of Islam and encouraging them to follow the true philosophy of the Holy Qur’an, and the life of the Holy Prophet Mohammed upon whom be peace and blessings.
Among his many achievements in Trinidad and Tobago, it cannot be deemed that his greatest contribution was made under the auspices of the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association Inc., and I am very happy and honoured to have been associated with this body as General Secretary for over 10 years and a member of the Executive and a Trustee for several years after.
It was the late Maulana Sahib who started the dynamic and revolutionary programme of printing the Friday sermon (khutba) and distributing it to every Mosque in the country. These sermons were printed in Arabic, Urdu, and English and every person who attended Friday prayer was sure to come out of the service a more enlightened person because of the substance, depth and relevance of the sermons which he had printed and distributed. The first person in this country to introduce an English translation from the (mimbar) pulpit at a Friday or Eid Sermon was the late Maulana.
It was the late Maulana Sahib who fought a vigorous battle with the then Government of Trinidad and Tobago to remove from the records of West Indian History Book 11, the blasphemous statement that ‘Islam was spread by the sword’. When the matter could not be settled locally, the late Maulana Sahib took the matter to the Colonial Office in London and after several months of struggle, Maulana Sahib and his band of loyal stalwarts were responsible for having the British Government decide to delete completely from the record of all books printed and circulated and from future editions the blasphemous statement already referred to.
Whilst other missionaries have come to this country and made valuable contributions by making conversions to Islam, giving lectures and inspiring people, I make bold to say that none of them has done more constructive work than the Maulana Sahib. It was through him that hundreds of our Muslims in this country learnt to read, write and speak the Arabic, Urdu and English languages, for his system of teaching was very simple, yet most effective. From the moment students started with him they had to write, then to read and speak. In this way nearly five Separas (Chapters) of the Holy Qur’an were dealt with during the daily lessons from Arabic to Urdu, from the Urdu to English. In this way students learned about the performance of each revelation, the time of the revelations, where the chapter was revealed and what was the result of the response of the revelation. I am honoured to be one of those persons who benefited from this system of teaching and I give full credit to the little I know, to his effective and dynamic system of teaching. Maulana’s classes stretched from San Juan (El Socorro Mosque) to Charlieville, Debe, San Fernando and Arouca to Debe. His students were many of varying ages from 10 years (I was 10 years old, the youngest) to 65 years old.
It was the late Maulana Nazeer Ahmad Simab who laid the foundation for Islamic schools in Trinidad and Tobago receiving state aid. It is well known that the El Socorro Islamic School, built and controlled by the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association, was the first non-Christian denominational school to receive state aid in 1949. But the pioneering of this achievement was started many years before, during the life of the late Maulana Sahib, who was instrumental in organizing on a voluntary basis an Islamic school with a full curriculum of the elementary system with a strong religious bias, which was maintained by the contributions of several generous Muslims who loved their religion and loved their Community. In this regard may I associate the names of the late Mr. Henry, who served as Principal for a considerable period and the excellent work done by the late Mr.Abdool Ghany, his son Mr. N.M. Ghany, the late Mr. Latiff Khan and Ramzan Ali (Al Haj), Mr. Sidique Mustapha, Mr. S. Damree, Mr. Rajab Ali, the late Mr. Fazal Mohammed, my deceased father, and the late Sheikh Hashim Muzaffar of revered memory, at whose home the late Maulana lived. There are many others who assisted in various ways, but the names mentioned above stand out for honourable mention.
Judge the quality of the late Maulana Sahib who left his wife and children in Lahore, then India now Pakistan, and came down here to serve Islam. When his first contract with the Anjuman was completed, he returned to visit his relatives in India. He was urged by his wife and children not to return to Trinidad, but the dedicated Maulana replied that the job he started in Trinidad and Tobago was of such importance that he wanted to complete it, in the name of Allah.
The Maulana returned to Trinidad and Tobago to resume his work in early 1940 and in the midst of many frustrations he continued his brilliant work. He taught people, counselled families, mended broken homes, printed books and other literature, consoled the sick and needy, and showed sympathy and understanding to all. He was firm, yet polite. He was neat and clean always in wuzu, despised hypocrites and always spoke and wrote the truth no matter what the consequences. I received Islamic training from several persons such as the late Ghulam Hosein, Howsildar Meah and Suleiman Mohammed, as well as my respected deceased father, Fazal Mohammed, but the deep fountain of my Islamic inspiration truly came from Maulana Sahib. It was the Maulana who taught me the famous Persian verse and asked me to make it the motto of my life:
“Khakee labas may hamm, eke Khaksar hoomai
“Hamdard hoo jahan ka, Khidmat goozaar hoo
I am clothed in material made from the earth, therefore let me be humble –
I am one of the family of humanity, therefore let me dedicate my life to serve mankind.
Maulana Sahib, as brilliant as he was, never boasted, was never proud or cocky, he was always quiet, polite and humble.
Thus it was a shock to all that after a brief illness at the home of his faithful friend Rajab Ali of Arouca he was called away to the great beyond by his creator. On a cold rainy day in December of 19421,his Janaza was read at the El Socorro Islamia School in San Juan by thousands of Muslims – and he was laid to rest at the El Socorro Muslim Cemetery amidst the cries and wailing of adult men who unashamedly shed tears and read Fatiha.
“Qaloo Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un”
“Verily from Allah we come and unto him shall we (all) return”.
In 1958, when I visited Pakistan I was requested by was the Executive of the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association to pay a visit to the Maulana’s wife and children to personally thank them for the contribution which they indirectly made to the work of the late Maulana in Trinidad and Tobago. However, it is sad to record that on reaching the home I was told that the Maulana’s widow had passed away a mere nine (9) days before my arrival in Pakistan. I did, however, to his eldest son, convey on behalf of all the Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago and the people of this country as a whole, our tribute, thanks and our appreciation of what the late Maulana had done and for the tolerance which his wife and children had displayed during his long service here.
As we celebrate the Silver Anniversary of the establishment of the El Socorro Islamia School and the day when State Aid was granted to a non-Christian denomination, the Principal and Staff of the El Socorro Islamia School with the support and approval of the T.I.A. has decided to celebrate this event by the publication of a Brochure and by several other functions.
I wish to warmly congratulate the present Principal of the El Socorro Islamia School, Mr. Nabab Ali, who was the first Head Master to be appointed to this school, being the first (a pioneer) to be appointed to a non-Christian School with Government’s approval. This occasion, therefore, provides us with an opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Ali for the work he has done in this Islamia School which has endeavoured to carry out the policy of the late Maulana Sahib and of the pioneers of the T.I.A. If we all truly love the Maulana and wish to make this anniversary celebrations meaningful, let us all resolve to continue the programme initiated by Maulana Sahib when he first started.
May I take the opportunity to congratulate all those who have helped or assisted in one way or another the T.I.A. and the Islamia Schools, and who contributed to the support and welfare of the late Maulana Sahib. Let us pray that the blessings of the Almighty Allah be showered upon them and their families. I feel very humble for being the recipient of the inspiration and the guidance of the late Maulana Nazeer Ahamad Simab Sahib and will forever remember him as an Ustad and leader, whose calibre and temperament it is very difficult to discover among our less humble and spiritually motivated people of the modern world. May His Soul continue to Rest in Peace and May he enjoy continual abode in Paradise.
“Ameen” Khoda Hafiz
Extracted from Tackveeyatul Islamic Association of Trinidad and Tobago Inc., Silver Anniversary souvenir brochure, 1974
1. The Maulana died on Thursday 10th December 1942 at age 50, at Waterloo Road, Arouca. His name is immortalized in the Seemab Masjid at Charlieville which was constructed in his memory.