Allama Nasir al-Din Hunzai passes away

The centenarian ranked among biggest, most controversial literary figures from G-B

Shabbir Mir January 17, 2017
Nasir al-Din Hunzai. PHOTO: FILE

GILGIT: Allama Nasir al-Din Hunzai, one of the most controversial authors from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), passed away Sunday.

The centenarian died at his home in Austin, Texas in the United States.

Born in 1917 in the then-princely state of Hunza, he was known for becoming the first person to publish a Diwan (collection of works) of poetry in the Burushaski language.

Burushaski is spoken mainly in Hunza, Nagar and Ghizer districts of G-B and was Hunzai’s mother tongue.

He was subsequently given the title of “Baba-e-Burushaski” (Father of Burushaski) for his literary services to the language, even though he had no formal schooling.

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Hunzai is said to have authored over 125 books relating to the esoteric interpretation of the Holy Quran. He wrote both prose and poetry besides composing poetry in Urdu, Persian and Turkish.

The late scholar also co-authored a German-Burushaski dictionary, which was published by Heidelberg University in Germany, and “Hunza Proverbs”, published by University of Calgary in Canada.

For his contributions, the government had awarded him the Sitara-e-Imtiaz.

The late scholar was the father of noted development practitioner Izhar Hunzai, who had contested general elections from Hunza on a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ticket in 2015.

Published works

Hunzai has over 125 books, 60 of which have been translated into English by Dr Faqir Muhammad Hunzai and Rashida Noor Muhammad Hunzai.

Akbar Rajan translated 25 of his books into Gujarati, while a few of the books were also translated into Arabic, Persian, French, Tajik and Swedish.


The late scholar’s life was surrounded by controversies, especially relating to his research and publication organisation called Khana-e-Hikmat.

He and his organisation were accused of deviating from the Ismaili school of thought in various ways.

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After Hunzai’s pupils quit their secular education and flocked to attend his private assemblies, the government included his organisation in the list of proscribed groups and banned its activities.

“Nasir Hunzai is one of the most enigmatic and controversial scholars of Pakistan. He is both admired and loathed by many, mainly because he represents a thought that does not fit into the discipline of institutionalised faith,” said Amir Hussain, a writer in G-B.

Fehmeeda Barcha, an activist, posted online, “A multilingual poet par excellence, controversial Ismaili theologian, author of a hundred books, Naseeruddin Hunzai is no more! His services to the Burushiski language and literature will be regarded down the history.”

Days before his death, US President Barack Obama had praised the scholar on his 100th birthday, saying that his work would continue to broaden people’s vision.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2017.



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