The Book of Muhammad Ali Luqman’s “Men, Matters and Memories” is available online
“Knowledge is the only path to salvation, abundant education is the strongest basis for the equality of nations, their appreciation for each other”.
Muhammad Ali Luqman
I thought of writing an introduction to my father’s book which is the only one of his writings published in English so far.
The book, ‘Men, Matters and Memories’ is a collection of memories that father used to publish each week in his English newspaper, ‘The Aden Chronicle’; they date from 1960, 1961, 1962. Other articles in the series sadly have either been lost or are in too poor a condition, ancient, and fragile to be retyped ready for publication. My father used the spelling of his name as Lokman in all his English writings.
It was almost 40 years after my father’s passing when, the project of collecting, archiving, and publishing his papers, books, photographs, speeches, and radio recordings, was initiated by my brother Maher Muhammed Ali Luqman. He had managed to rescue a large amount of the material already but through publicity and reward he collected other works that had been lost.
This initial stage took a lot of time, money, and effort but once completed Maher approached Dr Ahmed Ali Alhamadani and invited him to take on the next stage of researching the material and preparing it for printing and publication. This was also a time consuming, costly, and dedicated effort which has meant that father’s works are now available to anyone who wishes to access his legacy.
The books detail father’s experiences of life in Aden and elsewhere during that major period in Yemen’s modern history. They provide an unrivalled and definitive source of the history of that time. The project took many years of work, but it is only partially complete as much of his earlier work is still missing, waiting to be discovered, if it has not been destroyed already.
The British left Aden in 1967 after 139 years of occupation and for most of that period it was administered from British India; in the late 1930s control transferred to London. Father’s writings encompass the period from his birth in 1898 until his death in 1966. He did not live to see the end of British rule and the transfer of power to the new regime under the leadership of many individuals who he would have known personally.
The change of rule resulted in a period of political hostility towards the Colonial past and its legacy. The new Government refused to allow any work from that era, academic or otherwise, to be published. It was not until many years later that different ideas prevailed and enabled the launch and publication of the first book which included most of father’s works. The launch of that book in 2006 was the start of many to follow, under the auspices of the University of Aden and Dr Al Hamadani, who conducted the research.
Dr Alhamadani is to be commended for his sterling achievement because, until the books were published, very few records about father were available and, as the people who knew him grew old, and memories faded, there was the risk and danger that an important part of the history of that dramatic period would be lost including aspects of a special and ardent man, who debated and promoted his ideas, actions, and struggles through the various means available to him. His activities ranged from the simplest, such as pressurising the British authorities to granting the residents of Aden their legitimate rights, to political engagement with the British and local leaders in the necessary debate concerning the creation of an independent nation based on his strategic ideas and visions for the future.
The idea of writing his memoirs and publishing them in his newspapers Fatat-Al-Jazira and The Aden Chronicle started in 1960, when my brother Farouq Muhammed Ali Luqman, rest his soul, returned from the United States after completing his Master’s in Journalism at Columbia University. Farouq took over as Chief Editor of both newspapers and suggested to my father that he should concentrate on writing his memories, as that was normal practice for anyone who had history to tell.
It was at about this time that I came into the picture. My childhood memories of father and Aden, in the fifties and sixties, until his untimely death during pilgrimage to Makah in 1966, are precious to me. We were very close, and his influence on me remains strong to this day; that period prior to his death was filled with joy, learning and surprises. Father’s vision was that women should be educated and full participants in the wider world, something that I am proud to have fulfilled. Since the publication of his books, works and writings it has been an opportunity for all of us to rediscover not just the loving and caring father but a man of wisdom and long-term vision who sought to develop his people and homeland in all areas of knowledge and progress.
In his memoirs father writes about his own development through life and he describes how he was influenced from an early age, by his own father, my grandfather Ali Ibrahim Luqman. He was a teacher and a great public speaker. He studied Islamic ‘figh’, and mastered horse riding and shooting. He was a literary critic read poetry, a genius of his time. He spoke many languages and was fluent in English; he worked with the British Government during their rule of Aden and was honoured with the title Khan Bahadoor which was one of the highest honours of the time given by the British.
Father was taught by his own father between 1905 and 1911, when he convinced his father to open a book shop and import books. This was the start of his real education and from this early age he developed a love of books. His extensive reading and learning helped him in later life when he left for India to study Law which was what people could afford in those days as the British scholarships were not yet established. It formed his writing style and began his development on a path that would make him a polyglot, a multilinguist, and philosopher. In his memories father mentions his first Golden Ink Waterman pen which signified the start of his life as a writer.
Father’s legacy to his nine sons and four daughters included enlightenment and awareness of the need to progress as well as the importance of education. He was a great man who began an odyssey to change the fortunes of his people. The changes he dreamed about became his lifelong project. He strove to instil the same passion in his own sons, family and friends and the citizens of Aden, through his newspapers. Today, M A Luqman, is regarded as a legend and a positive role model for subsequent generations and the people he loved and who loved him.
The rediscovery of father’s works and writings was the start of a long journey of discovery of a man who started early in his life to strive for the sake of his homeland and his greatest concern. The various accounts of his life and times revealed an unknown and forgotten history that has proved fascinating to modern readers. These memories portray a remarkable and extraordinary life of a man who dreamt of a future of a self-sufficient, well fed, healthy, educated, modern Aden.
Our gratitude to my Maher Muhammad Ali Luqman, the youngest of all the brothers, who funded this project and the publication of father’s books in order to honour his memory, is unbounded. The response of the worldwide Yemeni diaspora to the result has been overwhelming and has enabled extensive further academic studies from all over the world.
Huda Muhammad Ali Luqman