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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org, 0402 724 568) or Ms Katy Nebhan (email@example.com, 0404 004 342).
For information regarding Dr Ahmad and the award please contact Zia Ahmad on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0422 001 382.
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.