A wise veteran — I | Political economics

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looks like Socrates. He is gentle and frank but at the same time contemplative and always at ease with himself. He is always thinking of ways and means to promote wisdom among people in general. Asking probing questions in an extremely gentle tone, another Socratic trait, comes naturally to him.

Even when he makes a specific statement, it’s usually framed as a question. He never boasts of his wisdom or experience, of which he has plenty. On Islamic architecture, his expertise transcends national borders. He has won an astonishing number of laurels for his work.

Dressed in Western attire, with snow-white locks falling unevenly over his head, Professor Gulzar Haider displays the typical innocence of the cherubic toddler. His innocence is coupled with erudition and theoretical depth.

I met him many times and found him to be the embodiment of Socrates’ motto: “You must know yourself before you can say anything about yourself or what you can know” .

Professor Haider is a veteran architectural scholar/practitioner. I am paraphrasing here a profound and concise lesson he once gave me, “if we cannot capture the good in a form, we must capture it in a conjunction of three: beauty, proportion and truth”. Professor Haider worships Iqbal. Once, while quoting from his poetry, to my amazement, tears began to well up in his eyes. So deep is his love for Iqbal, whose mausoleum he visits quite frequently.

The sense of nostalgia for the past is a good escape for him because of the uncertainty of the present. Despite difficult times, he firmly believes that knowledge and wisdom must lead to practical results for the greater good of society.

In candid conversation in the three languages ​​in which he is most fluent – his native Punjabi, Urdu and English – he espouses the establishment of an ethical system based on human reason and inflected with tradition. religious.

Socrates pointed out that human choice is driven by a desire for happiness, but Professor Haider rests a great faith in empathy and pathos. Here he departs from Socrates.

Islam has become a necessary ingredient for his sensitivity to reading the novels of Nasim Hijazi, in particular Insan aur Devta and Dastan-i-Mujahid. Her mother also instilled Islam as a source of culture which was later reflected in her work. A stem on Professor Haider’s background will not be out of place here.

Gulzar Haider comes from a Syed (Gillani) family settled in Gujrat, where he was born and had his first studies at the Islamia school. In this school, Professor Haider remembers the influence he received from the director, Ghulam Abbas, a great disciplinarian but a very gentle soul.

His family is descended from Shah Badr-ud Din Diwan whose mausoleum is near Batala. Gulzar Haider was the youngest of five brothers and three sisters. He got his matriculation from the Central Model School in Lahore. For his FSc, he went to Government College, Lahore. The panel that interviewed him for admission included Dr. Abdul Salam.

He received his BSc (Civil Engineering) from West Pakistan College of Engineering and Technology, Punjab University in 1958 (later University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore). In engineering school, he was a student of Dr. Mubashir Hassan.

Despite the influence of Dr. Mubashir Hassan, Prof. Haider does not subscribe to socialism. Nor does he show any admiration for Marxism. It seems that he remained focused on the study of buildings and how they are constructed. After completing undergraduate studies, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 1961 and completed a Masters (Engineering), BArch, and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Later he was a professor of architecture at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Professor Haider was Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning, King Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, in 1977-1978.

He also worked as Visiting Professor of Architecture at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA in 1980-1981. He was director of the School of Architecture at Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He was a design consultant for 11 architectural firms in the United States and Canada from 1979 to 2005.

Professor Haider was a United Nations consultant to the Karachi Development Authority on housing and environmental issues in the development of the Karachi Master Plan in 1981. He spoke at an international conference on Islamic environmental ethics and delivered a lecture on the future of the Muslim Ummah in July 1987.

Professor Haider was invited as a guest of the Ministry of Education, Government of Malaysia. During his stay in Malaysia, he lectured on the topics of Islamic cosmology and architecture, architectural aesthetics and environmental ethics.

Professor Haider reverses the dominant paradigms with remarkable finesse and dexterity. Architecture is generally considered emblematic of a culture, perceived as a larger social reality. But Professor Haider reverses the notion by saying: “Architecture makes culture possible. A house is made to affirm existence. Its form is a statement of a vision of life. Tools are created, not just used. And the form is given, not simply executed. In this sense, architecture becomes the stage as well as the choreographer of culture.

The novelty with which this statement is imbued is a peculiarity of Professor Haider. He has written extensively on the Muslim Ummah with reference to its heritage and territorialization. He writes in one of his articles, “We find that the universal Islamic paradigm is absent from the collective affairs of the Muslim people. They display a monotheistic worldview and perpetually speak of an Ummah. The fact remains that Islam is not an operative idea in their overall art of living. Far from being an Ummah (a community of people under one God), they are divided into more than forty nation-states that artificially territorialize their histories of Islam, fabricate national cultures and project heritage according to their goals. nearsighted.

Here he seems to be groping for the tradition that has the life force allowing it to synthesize with contemporaneity on its own terms but it is sorely lacking. This is indeed a dilemma for any (Muslim) contemplative mind.

(To be continued)


The author is a professor at the Faculty of Liberal Arts in Beacon House National University, Lahore. It can be reached at [email protected]


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