Masud Husain Khan

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Father of Urdu-Linguistics
بابائے اردو لسانیات

Masud Husain Khan
Masud Husain.jpg
Born (1919-01-28)28 January 1919
Kaimganj, Farrukhabad
Died 16 October 2010(2010-10-16) (aged 91)
Cause of death Parkinson's disease
Nationality Indian
Organization Aligarh Muslim University,
Jamia Millia Islamia,
Osmania University,
Kashmir University,
University of California, Berkeley,
Anjuman-i Taraqqi-i Urdu,
All India Muslim Education Conference
Notable work Iqbal Ki Nazari-o-Amali Sheriyat,
Urdu Zaban-o-Adab,
Do Neem,[1]
Roop Bengal,
Urdu Lafz ka Sautiyati aur Tajz-e-Sautiyati Mutala,[2]
Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah,[3]
Yusuf Husain Khan,[4]
Spouse(s) Najma Begum
Relatives Zakir Hussain,
Yousuf Hussain Khan,
Mahmud Hussain,
Gulam Rabbani Taban,
Khurshed Alam Khan,
Salman Khurshid,
Anusha Rizvi,
General Rahimuddin Khan,
Mahmood Farooqui,
Haroon Khan Sherwani,
Rahil Begum Sherwani,
Muhammad Muzammilullah Khan,
Zahida Khatun Sherwani
Awards Sahitya Akademi Award,
Kul Hind Bahadur Shah Zafar Award,
Ghalib Award,
Karachi Niaz Fatehpuri Award

Masud Husain Khan (28 January 1919 – 16 October 2010) was an eminent linguist, the first Professor Emeritus in Social Sciences at Aligarh Muslim University and the fifth Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, a Central University in New Delhi. He is revered as Baba-e-Urdu Lisaniyat (Urdu: بابائے اردو لسانیات ‎ Father of Urdu-Linguistics).


Professor Emeritus Masud Husain Khan was born in Qaimganj, district Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh. His family has a rich legacy of excellence, and is sometimes referred to as the Family of Vice-Chancellors, having provided Vice-Chancellors to four different universities across the Indian subcontinent.
Masud Husain's father Muzaffar Husain Khan (1893–1921) completed his education from Islamia High School Etawah and Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (M.A.O.) College, Aligarh. He started his judicial career in Hyderabad but died of tuberculosis at the early age of twenty-eight. Masud Husain was just two years old when he lost his father. Muzaffar Husain Khan was eldest brother of[6]-

Masud Husain's mother, Fatima Begum was eldest sister of-

On 16 October 2010 Masud Husain Khan died in Aligarh from Parkinson's disease.[12]


After finishing primary education from Jamia Millia Islamia, Masud Husain Khan studied in Dhaka for a while. He completed his BA from Zakir Husain College, Delhi University and MA from Aligarh Muslim University. He did his PhD under the guidance of Professor Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui and wrote his magnum opus Muqaddama-e-tareekh-e-zaban-e-Urdu which was later published as a book and became a landmark work of Masud Husain. He also studied Hindi and Sanskrit literature and was familiar with Bengali, Persian and French languages too. Later on, in 1953 he finished his DLitt from University of Paris, France in Linguistics.


  • Masud Husain Khan served as Visiting Professor at Department of South Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA.
  • In 1962, he became chairman at Osmania University's Urdu department where he served till 1968 when he was made the head of the linguistics department at Aligarh Muslim University.
  • He was Anjuman-i Taraqqi-i Urdu Hind's acting general secretary during 1969–1970.
  • From 3 November 1973 to 15 August 1978 he served Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia as Vice-Chancellor. Progress of Jamia was the main concern of Masud Husain and he initiated the process to make Jamia a vibrant and viable university like other universities.
  • After his retirement, Masud Husain was appointed as Visiting Professor at Iqbal Institute, Kashmir University, Srinagar and used to teach research methodology.
  • Masud Husain was also the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Urdu Aligarh until the mid-1990s. Jamia Urdu, Aligarh was established as a distance education institution in 1939 for imparting Urdu education.
  • He was the President of All India Muslim Educational Conference until his death in 2010.


  • Masud Husain's magnum opus, Muqaddama-e-tareekh-e-zaban-e-Urdu, describes in detail the history of Urdu's origin and development. On account of coherence and plausibility, the book is considered to offer one of the most acceptable theories on the genesis and development of Urdu. He proved his theory with historical and authentic evidence, taking into account the formation of Indo-Aryan languages. Keeping in view the theories of historical linguistics and ancient sources, he proved that Urdu was born in and around Delhi. According to him, four vernacular dialects, namely Braj Bhasha, Mewati, Haryanvi and Khariboli, exerted their influences on Urdu during its long formative phases and among them Haryanvi and Khariboli were the ones that proved to be more decisive. Later, the same language reached Deccan in the 13th and 14th centuries AD with the Muslim armies and slowly but surely gained refinement over the centuries and a standard Urdu language emerged. Before Masud Husain, Muhammad Husain Azad, Hafiz Mehmood Khan Shirani, Sayyid Shamsullah Qadri, Mohiuddin Qadri Zore, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, T. Grahame Bailey and some other scholars had presented their theories on Urdu's origin but none found favour with Masud Husain. So he set out to find for himself the truth. His advantage? A keen study of the Indo-Aryan linguistics and an understanding of the Shauraseni Prakrit that later developed into dialects, such as Khariboli, spoken in and around Delhi. In his opinion, the emergence of these modern Indo-Aryan dialects could not have begun earlier than 1000 AD and, therefore, Hafiz Mehmood Shirani's theory that saw the Punjab region as the cradle of Urdu and premised that Urdu was a language that was brought to Delhi by Muslim armies after the conquest of Punjab, was not plausible. First published in 1948, the book, originally his PhD dissertation, has run into many editions in India and Pakistan.
  • His second book Urdu Zaban-o-Adab written in 1954 was equally popular.
  • Phonetics is the other forte of Masud Husain's. He was the first to analyse the words of Urdu from a phonological point of view. During his stay in London, Masud Husain had a chance to benefit from the insights of Professor J. R. Firth who was the first to introduce the concept of 'Prosodic Phonology'. Basing his D.Litt. thesis A phonetic and phonological study of the word in Urdu on Firth's theory, he carried out research that was published in 1954. Said to be a rare feat of descriptive linguistics, it was translated into Urdu by Professor Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg under the title Urdu lafz ka sautiyati aur tajz-sautiyati mutalia, and was published by the Department of Linguistics, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh in 1984.
  • Another sphere of Masud Husain's scholarly interest was Literary criticism but at the beginning of his literary career, he used to scoff at the then prevalent trend of criticism that indulged in flowery language and had become too rhetoric. The so-called 'impressionistic school of literary criticism' used to eulogise literary works in a way that reeked of romanticism and based evaluation on subjectivity rather than on any literary theory. Stylistics (field of study), in Urdu called Uslubiyat, is a significant branch of Applied linguistics. During his stay in the US, he was inspired by the theory of stylistics presented by Professor Archibald A. Hill. He then began applying linguistics to Urdu literary criticism and wrote many articles on Ghalib, Muhammad Iqbal and Fani Badayuni, not only presenting the linguistic critical analysis of their poetry but also laying the foundations for what came to be known as Linguistic Criticism in Urdu which later served as a launching pad for other well-known Urdu critics such as Gopi Chand Narang, Mughni Tabassum and Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg. Inspired and motivated by him, his student Professor Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg contributed three books to the field of Stylistics, the most recent being Uslubiyati Tanqid: nazari bunyaden aur tajziye [Stylistic Criticism: theoretical foundations and analyses] published by the NCPUL, New Delhi in 2014.
  • His assertion that Prem Chand's Urdu novel Godaan is not Prem Chand's original work in Urdu but a translation of Prem Chand's Hindi novel by the same title and that it was rendered into Urdu by Iqbal Bahadur Varma Sahar took the literary world by storm. Many doubted Masud Husain's intentions. Manik Toula, a Prem Chand scholar, said Masud Husain was trying to 'disown' Prem Chand as an Urdu writer. Even a scholar of Gian Chand Jain's stature accused Masud Husain of 'literary Jihad'. But the evidence brought to light by Masud Husain was so genuine that it had to be accepted that the Urdu rendering of Godaan began only after Prem Chand's death.
  • Masud Husain commands respect of Urdu researchers when it comes to editing classical Urdu texts. Aside from other rare manuscripts discovered and edited by Masud Husain, Qissa-e-Mahr Afroz-o-Dilbar, edited and annotated by him, is a work that brought to light an important rare 'daastaan'.
  • He had a rare insight into Dakhini and Dakhiniyat. He calls the Dakhini Dialect of Urdu 'the Old Urdu'. A remarkable work of his on Dakhini is the compilation and publication of a Dakhini Urdu dictionary that has been compiled on the basis of a large number of rare and unpublished manuscripts, citing the couplets of Dakhini along with the words and meanings.
  • In his monograph on Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, Masud Husain re-evaluated the poetry of Quli Qutb Shah for the benefit of the Urdu readers.
  • He has a large number of books to his credit, including his autobiography Wurood-e-Masood and the collection of his poetry Do Neem, all of which are considered as valuable contribution to Urdu prose and linguistics.
  • In his brief stay of almost one and a quarter-year at Iqbal Institute, he published several papers of Allama Iqbal and his poetry in different journals including Iqbaaliyaat, the journal of Iqbal Institute Kashmir University.
  • He was also the Chief Editor of Urdu-Urdu Lughat.
  • When he came to Pakistan in the early 1980s, the Urdu Dictionary Board consulted him on their flagship dictionary.

Awards and honours[edit]

  • It was at Iqbal Institute where he finished his book Iqbal Ki Nazari-o-Amali Sheriyat (Criticism) for which Masud Husain Khan received Sahitya Akademi award in 1984.[7]
  • He was conferred with Delhi Urdu Academy's highest honour – Kul Hind Bahadur Shah Zafar Award—in recognition of his contribution to the study of Urdu language and literature in March 2010.[14]
  • In February 2010 Ghalib Institute, New Delhi felicitated him in a grand function for his yeomen contribution to Urdu language and literature.[15]
  • He was granted the designation of "Professor Emeritus" by the Aligarh Muslim University in 1987, the first in Social Sciences.
  • He was also awarded the Karachi Niaz Fatehpuri Award in 1986.
  • Besides, he was given Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy Award on his book Urdu ka Alamia in 1974. This book was edited by Professor Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg.
  • A felicitation volume Nazr-e-Masud[16] (edited by Professor Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg) was presented to him on his 70th Birth Anniversary in 1989 in a function held at Jamia Urdu, Aligarh.


External links[edit]