Rarity: Octogenarian with a PhD and 173 books under his belt

His dissertation deals with niceties of Tafsir, differences and other aspects of Mullah Ali Al Qari.

Manzoor Ali August 08, 2011

PESHAWAR: Come term end and students all over the world anxiously wait to do away with course books.  Not Qazi Hafizullah. At 82, he is probably one of the country’s oldest scholars to get his PhD degree.

“Studying and research are my hobbies and I never feel tired of them, even at this age,” Qazi told The Express Tribune. Qazi successfully defended his PhD thesis on Mullah Ali Al Qari’s famous “Tafsir Anwarul Quran wa Israrul Furqan” on July 28 this year at the department of Islamic Studies at University of Peshawar (UoP).

He is currently based in Peshawar with his one of his sons, while another teaches at a government university in their hometown in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

A father of four, Qazi has so far authored at least 173 books on different Islamic topics. Many of these books serve as course text in Afghanistan, having been approved by the Ministry of Education. At least 53 of his books have been published, while some others are under the publication process by the Pashto Academy of the UoP.

Sporting a long, white beard and turban on his head, Qazi appears less a scholar and more a conventional grandparent figure, as the children gathered around tended to look him with a hushed awe of reverence, listening to each word he spoke during the interview.

His approximately 1,000-page dissertation deals with niceties of Tafsir, differences and other aspects of Mullah Ali Al Qari, also known as Al Hirawai, who was born in Heart in northwestern Afghanistan. Exact dates about Al Hirawai are not known, but he is believed to have lived in the fifteenth century.

Qazi received his earlier education in religious seminaries and after obtaining his Bachelors in Shariah from Kabul University, he joined the office of judge in Kabul.

“I served till the Communists came and quit my job when Babrak Karmal came into power,” he said.

Following his resignation, he started teaching Tafsir and Hadith (Interpretation of Quran and Traditions of Prophets) at religious seminaries and served as a mentor at one of them.

Later, he relocated to Pakistan and enrolled in a Masters degree in Arabic. However, he was not able to pursue it due to some personal reasons. “I appeared in the exam as a private candidate,” he said. Mphil and PhD took him six years to complete.

“It was a difficult thing to do at my age,” he said with a chuckle.

He said that he was suffering with arthritis and that was his biggest challenge in perusal. “I was unable to move due to the excruciating pain in my legs, but one of my teachers at the department [helped me by giving me lifts] in his car,” he said.

Another challenge for him was taking the GRE, which is mandatory to get admission in PhD; however, it might have been relaxed by the department, as he does not understand English, a fellow student told The Express Tribune.

“During PhD, I learnt to conduct research and how to reference,” he said, adding that he had not done it for material rewards and God will reward him for his quest to learn the tafsir. However, his doctorate degree is not a means to an end, “I shall continue my quest for knowledge even after getting PhD degree.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.