Hakim Syed Mahmud Ahmad Barkati
The death of Hakim Syed Mahmud Ahmad Barkati [on 9 January 2013] as the result of an assassin’s bullets is a tragedy of immense proportions. It speaks volumes of the state of criminal violence and targeted killing that has become endemic to Pakistan’s socio-political life. What compounds the tragedy is that the Hakim Sahib was no ordinary person. He was the embodiment of the finest intellectual traditions of Islam, a great scholar of Muslim history, an unrivalled physician of Oriental medicine, and he embodied an excellent combination of core personal qualities. His scholarship is seen in his original research on Shah WaliAllah and his family, on Fazl-i-Haq Khayrabadi and in his other essays, editions, compilations and translations. He was the last Imam of the Khayrabadi School [maktab-i-Khayrābād] of logic and philosophy and the last distinguished exponent of its theories. There is nobody to succeed him. His list of patients – past and present – is immeasurably long and several generations of patients have received treatment at his hands. Above all, he was a non-partisan in the murky waters of Pakistani politics and maintained a neutral stance. Such a principled position was not acceptable to his fanatic foes who brutally gunned him down in his eighty-sixth year. An Arabic saying goes: maut al-‘ālim maut al-‘ālam [= ‘the death of a scholar is the death of the world’]. It is a scholar who gives life and meaning to a world bereft of guidance. That such a lifegiving scholar should himself be deprived of his own life is all the more reprehensible.