Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mohammed Eeza

“Mohammed Eeza”

Mohammed Eeza was a son of a great social and religious reformer of Kerala, Vakkom Moulavi. A perceptive writer and thinker, Eeza left behind a rich tradition, long sustained by Vakkom Moulavi but lying dormant in the post-Moulavi era, which sought to combat religious conservatism and orthodoxy while fully adhering to a genuine secular, pluralist political agenda.
Born in 1929, Eeza had his early education in the erstwhile state of Travancore in the most difficult circumstances. He was only three when Vakkom Moulavi died and, therefore, he had to learn by himself the value and significance of the mission his father had undertaken which spanned over three decades. Eeza went to Madras in pursuit of higher studies and it was there that he came into contact with modern trends in Islam, philosophy and politics. He came back to his home village a different man. By that time Eeza had developed an interest in Marxism (of course, not of the Stalinist doctrinnaire variety) and even worked with the KSP (and subsequently the RSP) for a while. Soon he found himself a prisoner in this field and decided to eschew party politics. This, by and large, helped facilitate a safe return to the intellectual domain where he took to writing, offering new insights into politics, literature, philosophy and religion.
Eeza began his career as a teacher which he continued till retirement in the mid-1980s. The earliest of his writings appeared in the 1950s in K Balakrishnan's Kaumudi. His writings also appeared in Mathrubhoomi, Kala Kaumudi, Chitra Karthika, Kerala Kaumudi and Chintha. Eeza also wrote a lengthy article on Albert Camus which exposed the intellectual dishonesty of the critics of Malayalam literature at that time who not only failed to understand Camus' writings, but continued to cast aspersions on him. Likewise, Eeza's intervention in the context of the Shah Banu controversy provided a sense of direction to the ongoing Shariat debate. He had warned that Muslim orthodoxy and fundamentalism would not only generate the potential for ruin and decay within, but bring in unforeseen consequences for the secular fabric of society. Eeza's forebodings came true when both Islamic and Hindu fundamentalists swelled their ranks, capitalising on each other's unyielding conservatism. This further forced him to take up an exhaustive study on religious fundamentalism which appeared in a series of articles in Chintha weekly, under the caption 'Islamic Fundamentalism: Myth and Realty'. These articles reflected his depth of knowledge, religious acumen, world vision and social commitment. It is no exaggeration to say that there is hardly any work on the subject in Malayalam which paralleled the insights and scholarship of Eeza.

Mohammed Eeza was one of the founding architects of the Vakkom Moulavi Foundation which, since its inception in the early 1980s, has been a leading intellectual forum in the state's capital. He was the manager of the Foundation till he breathed his last on January 17, 1999, striving hard to resuscitate the forgotten mission of Vakkom Moulavi. Eeza was a man of exceptional qualities.

By K.M.Seethi

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