“A man of enormous personal charisma, incorruptible ideals, unfailing generosity and sympathy to others, Ahmad was a prodigious talker and lecturer and, although his gifts best expressed themselves either in dazzlingly eloquent speech or incisive journalism, he was perhaps the shrewdest and most original anti-imperialist analyst of the post-war world.” – Edward Said
Born in Bihar, Eqbal Ahmad and his family left for Pakistan in 1948. Just prior to that, his father was murdered in bed over a land dispute as the boy lay next to him, a traumatic event Eqbal would occasionally cite. In Lahore, he attended Foreman Christian College, became an army officer for a short period, then went to the US in the mid-’50s. He entered Princeton as a graduate student with a Proctor Fellowship and a double major in political science and Middle Eastern Studies. During the ’60s he taught at Cornell for three years, as well as at Chicago, but, ever the unconventional scholar, he was among the first Fellows of the anti-war Washington Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
As a man of deeply felt convictions and a passion for justice, Eqbal’s interests and involvement spanned the globe including Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Europe, and all over the United States. But the trials and tribulations of Palestinians engaged his passion, intellect and skills of oratory in a way that no other single issue did.
Edward Said, the brilliant Palestinian writer and thinker said, “To struggle for Palestine as Eqbal did was to have none of the material or even intellectual awards of the struggle. Palestine is a thankless cause… Palestine is the cruelest, most difficult cause to uphold, not because it is unjust, but because it is just and yet dangerous to speak about as honestly and concretely as Eqbal did.”
Sources: Dawn and Edward Said tribute