Assad Bhuglah, who is a prolific writer, is scheduled to launch his new book MAULANA ABDULLAH RASHID NAWAB – his educational advocacy, social mobilization and institutional legacies, in October 01, 2022, at the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) under the joint-aegis of Editions Le Printemps and the Muslim Educational Society. What is remarkable about this event is the fact that it will be Assad Bhuglah’s third book to be released back-to-back within a little over a year (between May 2021- October 2022). What a remarkable feat! Congratulations to him on his laudable zeal and dedication to local history.
As his readers know, Assad’s books deal with local history and historical personalities, who have left their imprint in society and who, in one way or another, have contributed to enrich, culturally and socially, the lives of our community and country. Unfortunately, their valued contribution to the community has remained for the most part, with the passing of time, blurred or forgotten among the present generation of Mauritians. And, Assad Bhuglah has been trying, in his own modest way, to give credit where credit is due by highlighting their significant contribution that has helped enrich the cultural, religious and social lives of our countrymen.
Assad Bhuglah wrote his first book in 2017 on “Dr Idrice Goumany – the Forgotten Hero of Mauritius.” Dr. Goumany was a lascar and a young medical doctor, freshly out of the university, who took charge of the “Pointe aux Cannoniers Quarantine Station” near Grand Bay, on his return to Mauritius and was hard at work trying to save the lives of Indian indentured (immigrant) workers during an epidemic outbreak and, in the process, he lost his own life.
Dr. Goumany gave his life in the line of duty and that sublime sacrifice of his had long remained literally hazy in the community until Assad Bhuglah’s book came on the scene in 2017.
However, it would be almost four years before Assad Bhuglah would come up with his second book on another almost forgotten personality of Mauritius – “Gassy Sobdar”, who was also a lascar and through whose life-story he brought to light the significant role and contribution of the lascar community of Mauritius to the development of the colony. The lascars had settled in the Plaine Verte area, and they boast their association with Mauritius since the early days of French rule. The colony was then known as “Isle de France”.
The lascars were the first Muslims in Mauritius. They cared for their religion and culture and, despite successive attempts, they finally prevailed on the colonial authorities to get the green light to build the first mosque – better, the first non-Christian ‘chapelle’ ever in a French colony. That was something unheard of in French colonial history until then. As is well known, no other religion but Catholicism was allowed to be practiced in the French colonies.
As everybody knows, that historic Mosque or ‘chapelle’ in Plaine Verte – now called Al–Aqsa Mosque – still exists and Gassy Sobdar was its first Imam and community leader.
The lascars were brought to Isle de France from southern India to help build the much-needed infrastructure, like docks, hospitals, barracks etc. in the harbour of Port Louis. These lascars were mostly seamen and skilled tradesmen and usually worked aboard ships then plying the Indian Ocean between India and the Middle East when the Portuguese and the Arabs were the main players in the spice trade. As a matter of fact, some of the structures or remnants of them put up by the lascars can still be found in Port Louis even to-day. The lascars, who were all Muslim by faith, made significant contributions to the development of Port Louis as a port and harbour. Mahé de Labourdonnais, then Governor of Isle de France, wanted to turn the island into a viable colony and he used the skills of the lascars to help him in that task.
Then in May of this year, Assad Bhuglah launched his third book on “Dr. Hassenjee Joomye,” the philanthropist, who was the Founder of the Islamic Cultural College, now located in Plaine Verte, Port Louis.
Dr. Joomye was born in Mauritius on January 17, 1903. He was deeply involved in promoting education – among his fellow Muslims. His life was as interesting as were his accomplishments although his premature death at forty-six years of age, robbed the country of the great hopes and visions he had for our island.
Also, it must be noted that Dr. Joomye was a celebrity in his own right as a young man. He was the first Indo-Mauritian student to win the coveted English Scholarship – [Lauréat (Bourse d’Angleterre) (Science Side)] in 1922.
Now, less than a year later, Assad Bhuglah is all set to launch his new ‘baby’: a biography of Maulana Abdullah Rashid Nawab and the iconic role he played in the field of Islamic education in Mauritius and the many reforms he introduced that have had a lasting impact in the field and whose beneficial effects are felt till to-day.
In fact, one of sponsors of the launching of Assad’s new book is the “MUSLIM EDUCATIONAL SOCIETY (MES)”, which was founded by Maulana Nawab in 1926 to promote education among the Muslim boys and girls and which is as active an institution as it has ever been moving gloriously towards its own centennial in 2026.
Maulana Nawab was a scholar, an erudite and Alim like no other to ever land in Mauritius. He was an icon who has left his mark among the Muslims of Mauritius. His name has long been a household name among the Muslims of Port Louis. He came to Mauritius in 1915 to serve as Imam/Khatib of the Jummah Mosque of Port Louis. At the expiry of his five-year contract with the Jummah Mosque, he opted to stay in Mauritius and help the Muslims with the education of their children. And, in the process, he made Mauritius his new home. During his stay, he would do yeoman work in the field. He was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where all his family members are still based and most of whom are also interred there. However, when he himself would breathe his last on our island in 1951, he would be buried at the Riche Terre Cemetery. Maulana Nawab had a special love for Mauritius.
Maulana Nawab, as a respected scholar of Islam and Imam of the Jummah Mosque, was called upon to testify, as an expert witness, in the famous court-case launched by the Sunni Muslim Community of Rose Hill against the small group of Ahmadis, who had taken over the Sunnee Mosque in 1918 and the Sunni Muslims of Rose Hill had to go to the Supreme Court to get restitution. The role played by Maulana Nawab, as an expert witness on Islam on the core of the issue at dispute, was crucial in the decision of the Supreme Court in favour of the Sunni Muslims. Assad talks at length about the historic case in his book.
The life and work of Maulana Abdullah Rashid Nawab are vividly explained in Assad Bhuglah’s biography, who traces his early life, his career in Hyderabad, Deccan, and his arrival in Mauritius and the immense work he did in overhauling the Islamic system of education in the madrassas in Mauritius. A book on him and the laudable work he did for the Muslim community of Mauritius has been long overdue. We are happy that Assad Bhuglah has stepped in to fill the long void.
Assad Bhuglah is releasing his book on, October 01, 2022, at the I.C.C. in the presence of the top brass of Mauritius including, among others, members of the late Maulana Abdullah Rashid Nawab’s family from Saudi Arabia.
I have no doubt that this new publication of Assad Bhuglah will be another feather in his already well-feathered literary cap and I am sure the public will give his new book as warm a welcome as they did to his previous works. Assad Bhuglah is on a roll … We are eager to know on whom he plans to devote his next work! We know the best is yet to come from his pen. We wish him all the best!
(Windsor, ON, Canada)