Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi

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Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi
Born(1903-11-20)20 November 1903[1]
Died22 January 1981(1981-01-22) (aged 77)[1]
Known forHistory of Pakistan
AwardsSitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan) Award
Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Crescent of Excellence) Award by the President of Pakistan
Academic background
Alma materAligarh Muslim University
St. Stephen's College
Cambridge University
ThesisAdministration of Sultanate of Delhi (1939)
Academic work
InstitutionsDelhi University
Punjab University
Columbia University
Karachi University
National Language Authority

Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi (Urdu: اشتیاق حسين قریشی ) (20 November 1903 – 22 January 1981) popularly known as I.H. Qureshi, SP, HI, was a Pakistani conservative nationalist historian and playwright.[1][2][3] He was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Karachi from 1961 till 1971.

An early activist of the historic Pakistan Movement,[1] Qureshi served in the ministries of education and frontier regions as the secretary; in addition, he was elected a member of the parliament of Pakistan. But, due to his association with academia, he resigned from his government appointments and joined the academic faculty at the Columbia University as a professor of South Asian history. But soon, he returned to Pakistan and founded the National Language Authority (NLA) in the 1970s and helped set up the History Department at the University of the Punjab. Later, Qureshi joined the faculty of history at the University of Karachi where he remained the remainder of his life. Qureshi is also credited for editing a four-volume series on history of Pakistan.[4]


Early life and education[edit]

Qureshi was born on 20 November 1903 in a noble family of Patiyali, District Kasganj, a town in Uttar Pradesh, British India.[5] He did matriculation in 1916. At this time, he took active part in Khilafat movement. He did graduation and M.A. in history from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, with distinction.[5][6] In 1927, he got M.A. in Persian. He served as lecturer in history at St. Stephen's College from 1928 to 1944. Between 1937 and 1940, he studied at Cambridge University for a PhD degree. The topic of his thesis was Administration of Sultanate of Delhi. During this period, he also briefly joined the Pakistan Movement founded by Choudhary Rahmat Ali.[1][5]

After returning from England, he joined Delhi University, where he was appointed professor of history, and subsequently, the dean of the Faculty of Arts. He also served as acting vice chancellor of the Delhi University. In 1947, during the Partition riots, when the Muslim students of the St Stephen's College had to be evacuated to the Purana Qila, Dr Qureshi's library was completely burnt down by the mobs.[7]

Career in Pakistan[edit]

After seeing suffering from riots, he migrated to Pakistan in 1948. There, he continued his academic and political career, and served as a member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. In 1949, he was appointed professor of history at the University of the Punjab, Lahore. He also joined the Government of Pakistan as Minister of Refugee Rehabilitation, and later as Minister of Education. Later on, he joined the Columbia University, New York where he wrote his famous book, the Muslim Community of the South Asia, as a story of the trials and tribulations of the Muslims in the South Asia.[5][8]

In late 1950s, Qureshi was brought back to Pakistan by Ayub Khan's martial regime to aid in the crafting of state's new education policy.[9] On his return, he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the University of Karachi and remained its vice-chancellor for many years.[5][10]

Political activities[edit]

Historiography and reception[edit]

Academic history writing had begun in the undivided subcontinent c. the first quarter of twentieth century.[11][9] Thus emerged doyens like Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya, Jadunath Sarkar et al who, in the opinion of Peter Hardy, set the theme of discourse.[9][12] By and large, Hindu (as well as British) historians stereotyped Muslim rulers as despotic barbarians who had inflicted unprecedented damage on India for centuries.[12] Muslims were quite late to enter into the arena and their response was largely reactionary: aiming to recover unprejudiced histories of Muslim rule, they focused on explaining away ruptures like Mahmud's attack on Somnath, Aurangzeb's policy towards Sikh Gurus etc.[12] In the process, a large number of "Muslim apologetic" histories were drafted with the explicit purpose of showing Muslims in a favorable light.[12] Qureshi was among the foremost historians of this generation.[9]

Precolonial Pakistan[edit]

Beginning 1940s, as the Pakistan Movement gained strength, a section of Muslim historians became concerned with ensuring the historical legitimacy of the would-be state.[9][2] Qureshi became one of the most significant ideologues to this effect — he traced a determinist narrative, where generations of Muslim rulers and subjects strove for the development of Muslim community in a foreign territory whose logical culmination was in Pakistan.[9]

Postcolonial Pakistan[edit]

Post 1947, the nation-state needed a new history, invented or not: Qureshi was close enough to the corridors of power and in the opinions of historian Ali Usman Qasmi, single-handedly bequeathed a master narrative of history that would be coopted into a variety of statist projects for the upcoming decades.[9] The precise details of this narrative often underwent strategic shifts, as dictated by political needs of the state[a] — however Qasmi cautions against considering Qureshi as a pen-for-hire; he genuinely believed in much of what he wrote and argued.[9]

A Short History of India-Pakistan[edit]

As one of the six members of the Pakistan History Board, his first act of scholarship was the production of the first semi-official history of the state: A Short History of Hind-Pakistan (1955).[9] The book gave an uncritical description of Muslim rulers[b]—even glorifying figures as contentious as Mahmud[c] and Aurangzeb[d]—and went lengths to emphasize upon the perennial nature of the two-nation thesis.[9][e] Yet the Hindu ancientness was not wiped out or obfuscated or derided.[9][f] As to the colonial period, peasant and labor movements were sanitized in what was a largely sympathetic presentation of the British Government; the focus remained exclusively upon the development of Muslim identity.[9] In Qasmi's reading of the work, the history of Muslim India was reinterpreted to guide (and justify) the policies of the infant state: "fair (yet not equal) treatment of minorities, patronage of arts and culture, and the rule of law".[9]

A Short History of Pakistan[edit]

In January 1965, Khan established a committee of eminent historians to write an authoritative account of the history of Pakistan under the general editorship of Qureshi.[9] This account was meant to be a rigorous work, aimed at scholars and published by the Government itself.[9] Unlike A Short History of Hind-Pakistan, this was set to have an exclusive focus on the history of current territories of Pakistan; dynasties or developments from the rest of subcontinent were to be mentioned only if they were relevant to the development of Pakistan.[9] Treating the history of Pakistan as a branch of historical developments in India was also to be avoided at any cost; a keynote agreed upon by the committee notes that all political events in the subcontinent were to be discussed from within the frame of "the eastward expansion of West Pakistan and the westward expansion of East Pakistan."[9]

To these ends, the four volumes of A Short History of Pakistan were published—the first volume covered pre-Muslim history; the second volume, Delhi Sultanate; the third, Mughals; and the last, Company (and British) rule.[9] India became the common site of invasion, demonstrating the unity of East and West Pakistan in premodern times as in present.[9][g]

The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent[edit]

With time, Qureshi grew an unapologetic advocate of writing histories to serve ideological purposes: history made nations and he felt that it was one's solemn duty to instill a common version of the past among the citizens of a state to forge an unwavering loyalty.[9] Such acts, to him, were not falsifications of history but rather, discovery of history in itself.[9] In 1962, he published his magnum opus—The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610–1947), drafted during his days at the Columbia University—chronicling, what Qasmi summarizes as, the struggle of Muslims to preserve an Islamic consciousness across a millennia against the advances of sponge-like Hinduism, practiced by the majority of population.[9] This ever-strong Muslim consciousness was the byproduct of the canonical requirement of Muslims to establish a polity and thus, superseded linguistic or regional affiliations.[5][9]

Satish Chandra (and Qasmi) found the work to be an exercise in "determinism with vengeance"; for Qureshi, the premodern history of Muslims in India was but a prelude to Pakistan where Islam could finally survive and flourish, under the political domination of Muslims.[9][13][14]


In 1952, Fazlur Rahman— then, Minister of Education[h]—had convened another commission to draft an "authentic history" of "Muslim Freedom Movement" in "Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent" with Qureshi as a member.[9] Writing the preface for the first volume (1957), Qureshi wrote how Akbar's syncretic policies had led to the downfall of Mughal Empire by weakening religious solidarity.[9][i] Feroz Ahmed, writes: "One of the favourite right-wing 'scholars' of the ruling alliance, I. H. Qureshi, went to the extent of stating that Bengalis were a different (implying inferior) race than the West Pakistanis."[3]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • In recognition of his services, he was decorated with the order of Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan) by the President of Pakistan.[15]
  • On 20 November 2001, Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp to honor him in its 'Men of Letters' series.[5]
  • The annual Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi Memorial Lecture continues to be organised by the History Society of St. Stephen's College.
  • Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi was nominated as one of the founding members of Pakistan Academy of Letters in recognition of his services to Pakistani languages and literature.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In a 1963 conference of the SEATO held at Thailand, Qureshi went all praises for the Buddhist history of Pakistan. He highlighted how Brahminical Hinduism (unlike Muslim rulers) obstructed the proliferation of an egalitarian Buddhism!
  2. ^ The Delhi Sultanate is held to have treated Hindus "justly and generously - they provided unprecedent patronage to arts and culture.
  3. ^ Mahmud's raid on Somnatha is noted to be "an outstanding military feat in the annals of Islam" which "sent a thrill of joy through the Islamic world" and delighted the Caliph.
  4. ^ Aurangzeb is held to have executed Guru Tegh Bahadur since he disturbed peace in Punjab with a band of raiders alongside a Muslim rebel. The ceding away of Sikh population to India meant that provocative positions on these aspects were easier to take.
  5. ^ It is highlighted how despite Akbar's Din-i-Ilahi movement, "the two nations—Hindus and Muslims—never merged into one."
  6. ^ Hindu scriptures like Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita etc. are described without negative commentary. The Guptas are held to be the zenith of ancient Indian culture. Harshavardhan, Chalukyas et al are covered in substantial details.
  7. ^ Thus, we have Aryan Migrants starting from Northwest Pakistan in their east-ward journey. Or, we have the Palas move from East Pakistan and conquer North India.
  8. ^ In undivided India, Rahman sat in the Executive Council of the University of Calcutta as well as the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. He had been long keen about correcting the perspective of mainstream history on Muslims: his speech at the Second Meeting of the Advisory Board of Education (Feb. 1949) had no other components!
  9. ^ Qasmi however notes the book to have been drafted in a scholarly manner, citing a host of Persian sources.


  1. ^ a b c d e Rauf Parekh (20 January 2009). "The grand old man of historiography". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b Bajwa, Sadia (Winter 2015). "Reclaiming Pakistaniat". Tanqeed: 138–149.
  3. ^ a b Ahmed, Feroz (1998). Ethnicity And Politics In Pakistan. Oxford University Press. p. 28. ISBN 0195779061. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  4. ^ Qureshi, I.H. (ed), A Short History of Pakistan. University of Karachi Press, 1967 (First edition)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Commemorative Postage Stamp issued in 2001 for Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi". Pakistan Post (Men of Letters series) website. 20 April 2002. Archived from the original on 16 November 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  6. ^ Ashok Jaitly, St. Stephen's College: a history, Lotus Collection, Roli Books, 2006
  7. ^ St Stephen's College, Alumni page Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 22 April 2018
  8. ^ Qureshi, I.H. (1962). The Muslim community of the South Asia, 610–1947; a brief historical analysis. Gravenhage, Mouton
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Qasmi, Ali Usman (July 2019). "A Master Narrative for the History of Pakistan: Tracing the origins of an ideological agenda". Modern Asian Studies. 53 (4): 1066–1105. doi:10.1017/S0026749X17000427. ISSN 0026-749X.
  10. ^ Massacre condemned (by Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi) Dawn (newspaper), Published 14 October 2011, Retrieved 22 April 2018
  11. ^ Chakrabarty, Dipesh (27 October 2011), Macintyre, Stuart; Maiguashca, Juan; Pók, Attila (eds.), "The Birth of Academic Historical Writing in India", The Oxford History of Historical Writing, Oxford University Press, pp. 520–536, doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199533091.003.0026, ISBN 978-0-19-953309-1
  12. ^ a b c d Hardy, Peter (1960). "Modern Muslim Historical Writing on Medieval Muslim India". Historians of Medieval India: Studies in Indo-Muslim Historical Writing. London: Luzac.
  13. ^ Spuler, Bertold (4 July 1964). "Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610-1947). A brief historical analysis". Oriens. 17 (1): 287–288. doi:10.1163/18778372-01701050. ISSN 0078-6527.
  14. ^ Ahmad, Aziz (1964). "Review of The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610-1947), a Brief Historical Analysis". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 84 (4): 420–421. doi:10.2307/596786. ISSN 0003-0279.
  15. ^ Profile of Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi on Overseas Pakistanis Foundation website (archived) Retrieved 29 April 2022
  16. ^ Rauf Parekh (18 July 2016). "Pakistan Academy of Letters promoting country's literature and languages". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 29 April 2022.

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