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Mohammad Habib was an Indian historian of medieval India. In 1947, the year of India's independence, he delivered the presidential address to the Indian History Congress. He was a professor, later emeritus, at Aligarh Muslim University. He was a nationalist historian with a secular outlook on Indian history. He emerged from the milieu of liberal-nationalist historians of the university. Over time, particularly from 1950s, his writings came to acquire a Marxist colouring.
Early life and education
Habib was a son of Mohammed Naseem, a barrister in Lucknow. His wife Sohaila Tyabji was the daughter of Abbas Tyabji, a noted disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. Their sons are Kamal Habib and Irfan Habib, who is a Professor Emeritus of history at Aligarh Muslim University.
Habib studied at the M.A.O. School and College (now Aligarh Muslim University. He topped the B.A. examination of the Allahabad University in 1916. The Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College was then affiliated to Allahabad University. He then proceeded to New College, Oxford for higher studies. He became president of the Oxford Majlis for one term.
It was in Oxford that he received his baptism in nationalism. The ideas of his liberal-minded tutor Ernest Barker, a meeting with Sarojini Naidu and the patronage of Maulana Mohammad Ali, who visited London during his stay in England, played a role in shaping his ideas. At the call of Maulana Mohammad Ali, he returned to India to teach at Jamia Millia Islamia but apparently never became a regular member of its staff. When the non-co-operation movement was called off in 1922, he accepted an appointment as a Reader, and almost immediately afterwards as Professor, at the newly chartered Aligarh Muslim University.
In 1926, he won the election of the U.P. Legislative Council as a Swarajist (Swaraj Party). Soon after he became a great admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru and donated a considerable part of his income to the Congress Party.
At Aligarh, Habib made his mark in many ways. As an academician, his great emphasis was on writing history based on original sources, and he encouraged the study of aspects of history other than dynastic or political rule. He himself wrote on social and cultural history, and painstakingly unravelled the history of Muslim mystics for some of whom he came to cherish an almost personal affection.
In the forties, his interest in Marxism heightened and in 1952 he presented, in a remarkable piece, his introduction to a reprint of volume II of Elliot and Dowson's The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians, which was an interpretation of early medieval India deeply influenced by Marxist ideas. He visited Paris to represent his country at the UN General Assembly, followed by a trip to Peking (now Beijing) in 1952 on the first goodwill mission from India to the People's Republic of China. Both the visits strengthened him in his belief in the need for India to help countries resisting imperialism. He kept nursing the sapling of liberalism in the portals of his university.
He retired in 1958 but was appointed Professor Emeritus soon after. He lost neither his interest in politics nor in research work. He contested for the office of the Vice-President of India in 1967 as a candidate of the combined opposition, partly because he was critical of government policies, and partly because, as he cheerfully told Press Correspondents, he was going to lose. He died on 22 June 1971 following a brief illness.
In 1972 a newly constructed Hall of residence of AMU was named after him. Mohammed Habib Hall is one of the several halls of residence in AMU. It consists of three hostels: Chakraverty Hostel, Umaruddin Hostel and Haider Khan Hostel.
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- The political theory of the Delhi sultanate (including a translation of Ziauddin Barani's Fatawa-i Jahandari, ...) Allahabad, Kitab Mahal .
- Politics and society during the early medieval period: collected works of Professor Mohammad Habib / edited by Khaliq Ahmad Nizami. New Delhi : People's Pub. House [1974–1981].
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- Nauriya, Anil (24 December 2002). "Memories of another Gujarat". The Hindu. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
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- Dr.zakir Hussain:quest for Truth, By Dr. Z. H. Faruqi
- Prof. Mohammad Habib
- MOHAMMAD HABIB HALL
- Mohammad Habib Hall at Aligarh Muslim University
- Prof. Mohammad Habib page at Centre of Advanced Study, Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University
- A biographical account by Irfan Habib at the Wayback Machine (archived 27 October 2009) (from the foreword to Historiography of Medieval India by Sanjay Subodh, Manak Publications, 2003)