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Dr V Abdur Rahim (1933-2023)

– T Azeez Luthfullah

Dr V Abdur Rahim, world renowned Arabic Scholar, multilinguist, author, and educator passed away in Madinah on October 19. He was 90.

Born in Vaniyambadi in 1933, Dr Abdur Rahim had a long and cherished career in teaching Arabic and writing books. He started teaching Arabic in 1950s and continued it till his last breath.

After doing graduation from Presidency College, Madras, he returned to his native town and started teaching English and Arabic in Islamiah College. His passion for learning and teaching took him away from his loving town to faraway lands and places. He did his MPhil and PhD in Arabic from Jamia Azhar, Egypt.

Then he moved to Sudan to teach Arabic in Omdurman University. After a brief stint there, he moved on to many places like Germany, USA, and British Guyana. Then in 1967 the holy city of Madinah beckoned him and he joined International Islamic University as a Professor of English. When a department of Arabic for non-natives was established, he got attached with it and started teaching Arabic to non-Arabic people, thereby enlightening and transforming the lives of countless students.

When, after his retirement in 1996, he wanted to return to his native place, the Government of Saudi Arabia had other plans to capitalize his multilingual expertise. He was appointed Director of King Fahd Quran Printing Complex to oversee the translations of the Quran in more than a dozen languages.

As they say in Tamil ‘Vilaiym Payir Mulaiyile Theriyum’, his brilliance, fascination and passion for Arabic were very much visible when he was a child. As a child he was sent to a Moulana to read and learn the Quran. A simple query from the child left the Moulana bewildered and speechless. What they call a flower in Arabic, he asked and the Moulana had no answer. In fact, this incident ignited his fascination for Arabic more and more, and he decided to learn Arabic himself. It was his tireless efforts which shaped him into an etymologist and multilinguist. He was a self-made man.

The lessons offered in conventional madrasas consisted of only memorizing the conjugation tables. Dr Abdur Rahim detested this method. He thought it was the most unnatural way of learning a language. Living languages teach sentences straightaway. He decided to design a curriculum to teach Arabic to non-native speakers of Arabic.

The course he designed for this purpose is now known as Al-Durûs al-Lughat al-‘Arabiyyah  li-Ghair al-Nâtiqîna Bihâ. (Now these books are popularly known as MADINAH BOOKS.) This was his magnum opus.

He has written scores of books in Arabic, English and Urdu. One of his unique books is Attibyan, which he wrote on the request of Moulana MA Jameel Ahmed with the purpose of teaching the Quran to neo-Muslims. In this book he has employed an innovative way – first learning similar words in Arabic and Tamil and then go on learning dissimilar words – to learn the language of the Quran. This was an instant hit and hundreds and thousands of neo-Muslims learned to read the Quran comfortably, easily and joyfully.

He was closely associated with Islamic Founder Trust (IFT). A majority of his books have been published by IFT. He used to come with freshly written books whenever he visited Chennai. His efforts fetched him awards and acclamations. He was awarded the Madihur Rasool Sadaqatullah Appa Award 2012 for outstanding Arabic Scholar, from the Department of Arabic, Persian and Urdu,  University of Madras. He was also awarded the national award for ‘Outstanding Arabic Scholar’ in 1997 conferred by then President of India, Dr. S.D. Sharma. He was also awarded MA Jameel Ahmed Award by IFT in 2020.

His funeral prayer was offered at Al Masjid Al Nabawi Al Madinah Al Munawwarah soon after Friday prayers and he was buried at Al Baqi on October 20.

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