Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, Senior Lecturer, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, 1958.

Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad is by profession a retired engineer and academic having earned his major qualifications at Aligarh Muslim University, India, University of Wisconsin, USA and University of Sydney, Australia.

However his major passion in life is, and has been for most of his life, the application of Islam in the daily life of mankind, both for Muslims and people of other faiths and beliefs.

He is a tireless community worker having founded the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), Islamic Foundation for Education and Welfare (IFEW), Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair (MEFF) and many other large and community organisations and institutions.

He also has been very active in the interfaith community in Australia and internationally in India, Malaysia, UK, USA and Saudi Arabia.

Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad was born on 12 December 1930 into a middle class landlord family in Eastern UP, North India. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a housewife. When he was two years old, his father died and when four years old, his mother died.

He was then raised by his grandfather who was a retired magistrate who passed away at the age 103 in 1960.

Ashfaq Ahmad and his only elder sister, Akhtar Bano, grew up with their grandfather and aunty (Phoophi) in Mohammadabad Gohna, Azamgarh.

They  belonged to the Sheikhain family of Farooquis, Siddiquis and Abbasis of Arab ancestral origins, hailing from Ghazipoor, UP, involved in legal profession of Qazi in Mughal empire and then magistrates and lawyers during the British Raj.

During World War II (1939-1945), there was a great political upheaval in India that motivated Ashfaq Ahmad to get involved in the freedom struggle for India from Britain during the 1940s.

He met and worked with Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, first education minister of India and Dr Zakir Hussein, Vice President and later President of India.

Dr Ahmad with Hon Michael Jeffery, Governor-General of Australia at the Multicultural Eid Festival & Fair, 2003.

Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad met Ali Hussain Siddiqui while completing engineering at Aligarh Muslim University and after developing a mutual friendship, they managed to arrange marriages on a reciprocal basis (gulawat). They married each other’s sisters in 1949/1950, Ashfaq’s elder sister, Akhtar Bano with Ali Hussain Siddiqui and his sister, Jamal Ara with Ashfaq Ahmad.

Ashfaq Ahmad and Jamal Ara subsequently had six children, three boys (Zia, Najm and Manar) and three girls (Fauzia, Sadia and Najia), all of whom were born in India before their migration to Australia.

In 1959-60, he went to US on a scholarship obtaining MS in engineering from the University of Wisconsin and later completed his PhD while on a University of Sydney scholarship.

Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad at the University of Wisconsin, USA, 1960.

For eight years before migrating to Australia, Professor Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, served as Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering and acting Principal at Regional Engineering College in Srinagar, Kashmir.

As a result of political interference, he was suddenly terminated from his job in 1969 and threatened with charges of being an anti-national and therefore reluctantly decided to leave India thus migrating to Australia in 1971.

Dr Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief, Multi-Lingual Australian Muslim Times (right) with Qamar-al-Din Champion, AMUST Journalist, 1993.

Before his arrival, Dr Ahmad did not know much about Australia but was amazed at how well he was treated by Australians, and came to love Australia developing great friendships with fellow Australians and accepted to take up Australian citizenship in 1973 together with all his family members.

Dr Ahmad 89, now has an extended family of over 70 people, majority living in Sydney, Australia and is a father, grandfather and great grandfather.

Below are some of Dr Ahmad’s community achievements:

  • Founding Secretary, Australian Islamic Mission (AIM) 1972.
  • Founding President, Muslims Australia (also known as Australian Federation of Islamic Councils AFIC) 1976-77.
  • Editor-in-Chief, Australian Muslim Times 1991; Chief Advisor, Australasian Muslim Times AMUST, 2014-current.
  • Member, Board of Trustees, International Council of Islamic Information (United Kingdom), since 1993.
  • Founder and Patron, Islamic Forum for Australian Muslims (IFAM) 1993.
  • Founder, Member and Patron, Aligarh Muslim University Alumni of Australia (AMUAA), since 1992.
  • Member, Association for Indian Muslims (United States), 1992.
  • Founder and Patron, Islamic Foundation for Education and Welfare, since 1986.
  • Co-Founder and Chief Organiser, Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair (MEFF), since 1985.
  • Founder and Member, Council of Islamic Affairs New South Wales (now ICNSW), 1974-1976.
  • Founding President, Sydney University Muslim Students Association, 1972-1974.
  • Assembly Member, Council of Parliament of World Religions, USA, since 1993.
  • Establishment of the Interfaith Youth Friendship Centre, 2006.

Awards and recognition of Dr Ahmad’s contribution include:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Australian Muslim Achievement Awards, 2011.
  • Sir Syed Award, AMU Alumni of Australia, 2003.
  • Centenary Medal for contribution to Australian society, 2001.
  • Services to Islam Award, Australian Muslim Professionals (FAMP), 1994.
  • Community Service Award in recognition of a valuable contribution to the Bicentenary, 1988.

Charles Sturt University is undertaking the Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad Biography Project, which aims to document Dr Ahmad’s contribution to society throughout his life. For information about this project, please contact Dr Mahsheed Ansari ([email protected], 0402 724 568) or Ms Katy Nebhan ([email protected], 0404 004 342).

For information regarding Dr Ahmad and the award please contact Zia Ahmad on [email protected] or 0422 001 382.

Reaction after being named for the Order of Australia on Sunday 26 January 2020.
Interview conducted by Manarul Islam
1. How did it feel to be named as one of the OAM recipients this year?
I feel very honoured but also glad that the tradition of recognising community leaders and volunteers is alive and well because they are backbone of a cohesive society.
2. How does it feel to represent the Muslim community in this years honours?
Well I don’t necessary see myself as a representative of the Muslim community. Yes I am a Muslim and I have worked for the betterment of Muslims and their role within the broader community.
3. Why do you think it’s important to volunteer with so many community groups and organise community events like the Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair?
As I said earlier, volunteers are the backbone of society. Community-based ventures can’t survive without the passion and dedication that volunteers bring. Society need community-based ventures to ensure that they are vibrant and that service goes beyond dollars and cents.  Whilst government services are very important, community-based delivery of some of those services achieve a lot more than throwing lots of money can ever do. This is a value that I sought to instil in my family – that whilst excelling in their profession is important, they aren’t complete without the free time, effort and money they contribute for the betterment of the community.
4. What are some of your proudest achievements to date?
What makes me happiest is to have been part of teams,some of which have included members of my family, that have established sustainable institutions that aren’t based on the cult of a personality. This includes the national bodies for Muslims both in Australia and Papua New Guinea, student organisations, interfaith bodies and, of course, the Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair, which is run annually in Fairfield.
5. What would you say to say to people of various beliefs to encourage interfaith relations?
Reach out and understand others.  By understanding and knowing others better, you also clarify your own identity and beliefs. Others become less a threat and more an opportunity as we realise that the similarities far outweigh the differences. And with that understanding, together we can do better for society.
6. Do you know who nominated you and what would you like to say to them?
Actually I do not. The person has not revealed themselves to me but still I can be and am grateful for their acknowledgement and effort for making the nomination. So I would like to say thank you.  Initially I was perplexed and my inclination was to withdraw. However it is important that the history of Muslims in Australia and their efforts to established themselves within the wider community is better known. Through this recognition of my humble efforts I feel this will help in that objective.
7. How old are you and how long have you lived in Australia?
I am nearing 90 years old and arrived in Australia in 1970.  Except for some years teaching at the University of Technology in Lae, Papua New Guinea, I have been happy to call Australia home.
8. Is there anything else you would like to add?
When I came to Australia to do my PhD at the University of Sydney, I was overwhelmed by the support and friendship shown to me by Australians, including our original inhabitants and owners of the land, those with European ancestry and more recent migrants. I knew very early that Australia would be our new home.