OBITUARY : SHEIKH DR HUSSEIN HAMID HASSAN , PROF HUMAYON DAR
Dr Hussein Hamid Hassan (1932-2020), a jurist, educationalist, Shari’a scholar and advocate of Islamic banking and finance, was a man of multiple talents and exceptional ability. He was at his best when it came to manoeuvring change and influencing thought process. Whether it was leading Benazir Bhutto (late prime minister of Pakistan) to sign off on the large piece of land on which the current campus of International Islamic University Islamabad stands or the likes of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (the ruler of Dubai) to garner more of his commitment to Islamic banking and finance, Dr Hassan was a great charmer. Above all, he was a master of the highest calibre in identifying the finest juristic delicacies in intellectual discourse and scholarly discussions and research. An Egyptian by birth and nationality, his association with Pakistan and love for the country, nevertheless, remained a part and parcel of his personality throughout his life. In 1980, when the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) was set up, he was given the task of developing the university into a global academic institution producing graduates to meet the contemporary challenges in light of, and consistent with, Shari’a. The university has since its inception produced some of the finest brains in Islamic jurisprudence and experts in Islamic economics and finance.After spending 14 years in Islamabad, he moved to Dubai Islamic Bank in its headquarters, gave new directions to the bank and helped built it on strong juristic foundations, something the bank clearly lacked before that. Thousands of students of IIUI benefited from his Friday sermons (khutbaat) that he used to deliver as the President of the University. These khutbaat were delivered in Arabic (and summarised in Urdu) and were addressed more towards the university teachers and students than the general public. The writer is one of the thousands of disciples and students of Sheikh Hussein Hamid Hassan. He had a great way of teaching. The author spent late nights working with him, travelled with him, performed umra with him and worked with him on numerous products and structures. I remember going for umra with him once, from Jeddah to Makkah, probably in 2006. He continued to explain juristic issues during our journey and even during the tawwaf and sa’ii between Saffa and Marwa. He said on the occasion that teaching and seeking knowledge of deen was the best dzikr while performing umra.
Dr Hussein Hamid Hassan was second to none at creating a consensus of opinions during meetings of Shari’a advisory committees. “There is nothing impossible in Islamic jurisprudence (beyond explicitly impermissible things and actions),” he frequently used to say. “If Islam shuts one door, it opens a hundred more.” It may lead someone to erroneously infer that he was a liberal jurist. In fact, he remained a staunch advocate of upholding authenticity in Shari’a structuring. His stance against organised tawarruq and commodity murabaha must continue to remind us of his conservative juristic approach. Dr Hassan’s juristic approach may seem complex to many who worked with him. He would go into the most delicate details of the transaction before settling on a simple solution. By way of example, when he worked on a prize-linked financial product, he emphasised that it should be developed as a Mudaraba-based investment product, with prizes attached to it. He instructed that it shouldn’t be developed as a prizegiving product that also allowed saving and investing in Shari’a-compliant way. Although the end result of the two proposals would have been the same, he insisted to do it the way he instructed because it would keep the developments in Islamic banking and finance within the mainstream domain of the Islamic juristic thought. Similarly, when he helped Deutsche Bank to develop a series of Islamic structured products and Islamic financial derivatives, he emphasised on his preference for the nomenclature of Islamic hedging instruments. Undoubtedly, Dr Hassan had one of the finest juristic minds amongst his peers. Despite having been considered as the top Shari’a mind by his students and disciples, he always gave due consideration and respect to his contemporaries. The writer once asked him to share his view on the ‘number one jurist in the present times.’ He wouldn’t give just one name. He named Sheikh Siddique Al-Dareer before anyone else. When he mentioned of Sheikh Taqi Usmani, he said that he was undoubtedly the lead jurist amongst the contemporary Hanafi jurists. In his response, he also mentioned Syed Abul A’ala Maududi as a great jurist. On the writer’s insistence that Syed Maududi never claimed to be a jurist, Dr Hassan said that he was a jurist of his own kind, who specialised in the Fiqh of Islamic politics and the renaissance of Islam. Sheikh Hussein, as he was commonly referred amongst his students, had great sense of humour, which he would use to please people rather than putting them down. Dr Adnan Aziz and the author worked very closely with him during their days at Deutsche Bank. The author served as Secretary of the Shari’a Board and Dr Aziz was responsible for liaising with the members. At the start of a meeting in Doha, Sheikh acknowledged the hard work of the two by referring to them as ‘Sahibaan,’ which was obviously pleasing to both of them, given the historical significance of the reference to Imam Abu Yousuf and Imam Muhammad, the two companions and disciples of Imam Abu Hanifa. Similarly, once he was having dinner in the dining hall of one of the colleges at the University of Oxford. I think it was Dr Aziz who pointed to a huge painting of someone hanging on the wall on his back and asked, “Sheikh, is it allowed to paint human figures or get someone painted?” Dr Hassan smiled and instantly said, “Yes, if the painting is of that size.” Born in Egypt as Hussein Hamid Al Syed Hassan on July 25, 1932, he passed away on August 19, 2020, in Cairo. He was a law graduate of Al-Azhar University from where he also received his PhD (1965). He also studied comparative laws and economics at the International Institute of Comparative Law (New York) and Cairo University. In 2013, Durham University conferred on him an honorary doctorate in civil law. During a career spanning over 60 years, he was involved in leadership positions in numerous projects of impact and influence. He authored 20 books, over 400 scholarly articles, and supervised the translation of the Holy Quran and about 200 books into the Russian language. His Shari’a advisory engagements abounded most notably the chair of the Shari’a Advisory Committee of Islamic Development Bank. Dr Hassan is survived by seven sons, four daughters and thousands of students and disciples spread all over the world. The writer is Professor Humayon Dar, Director-General, Cambridge Institute of Islamic Finance.