Mawlana Azad is a twentieth century scholar that I have revisited lately. I read some of his work many years ago and had found him to be interesting. Recently I picked up his book Arkan-e-Islam(Pillars of Islam) from the local library and having read it felt that I had underestimated the man last time round. The chapters on the reality of tawheed and prayer are enlightening and in their own way sum up the whole meaning of religion. In many ways he was a good example of the modernist “school” that is sometimes referred to as the Dabistan-e-Shibly.
Apart from being a great scholar Mawlana was Azad was also an interesting personality. Having gone through a period of doubt he returned through the Qur’an to a more rational understanding of religion in general and Islam in particular. He is perhaps more famous for his role in the Indian independence movement which has detracted from his contributions to Islamic learning and culture. His translation of the Qur’an aptly named Tajuman al-Qur’an is one of the best in the Urdu language. His commentary on the Fatiha is a real gem for its elaboration of the Qur’anic concept of tawheed and the explanation of the Qur’anic method of appealing to the signs of God in the world of nature as well as within the human self to engender faith. In my view he definitely deserves more attention than has been generally accorded him. A brief biography can be found here.