Biography of Abdul Hai Habibi
Professor Abdul Hai Habibi was born in 1910 in Kandahar. He is the great grandson of Alama Habibullah, the eminent scholar who was famous as the “Kandahari intellectual” and well versed in Arabic, Dari and Pashto. Alama Habibullah authored a large number of books in religious sciences, ethics, philosophy, logic, geometry, mathematics, and astronomy. Born in a family of scholars Habibi’s father died when he was a child. In his early years he studied in the mosques of Kandahar and in 1920 was admitted to the primary school of Shalimar and received his diploma five years later. At the age of 15 he started working as a teacher in the primary schools of Kandahar.
From the early times his family was raised in an atmosphere of erudition surrounded by books. After the death of his father he was left with a collection of the weekly Seraj-ul-Akhbar Afghania of Kabul, Hub-ul-Mutayen of Calcutta, and books authored by Mahmud Tarzi, the editor of Seraj-ul-Akhbar. The divans of famous Persian poets, Mawlana Jalaluddin Balkhi, Khwaja Hafez Sherazi, and Gulistan and Bostan of Saadi, were among the books he studied in his childhood. While in school he was tutored by his cousin, Abdul Wasey, in religious sciences, poetics and logic. The late Abdul Wasey was a scholar of great prominence and lectured in the laws of the state and participated in political events of the time. When reactionary forces took power in 1929 he was executed for taking a stand against tyranny and regression.
Abul Wafa Kandahari, who was a teacher of religious jurisprudence and the Koran in the Dakan Nezamiya Madrassa in southern India, was another tutor of Habibi while he was a youth. At that time this teacher lived in the family mosque of the Habibi family. He benefited greatly from the teachings of this erudite scholar. As a young boy, while he was busy conducting his studies in religion and Euclidian geometry in the mosques of Kandahar, he also studied the new sciences taught in Kabul’s schools. A self-educated scholar he read and studied the journals Kawa, Iran Shahr, Armaghan and Al-Helal and took great pleasure learning from these works.
In 1927 he was appointed as the deputy editor of Tuloo-e Afghan weekly of Kandahar and three years later became the editor of the newspaper. He worked in this capacity for nine years publishing a plethora of articles in Dari and Pashto. Beside this he published several text and literary books in the printing house of the newspaper. It was at this time he learned English and Urdu. He mastered historical research methodology from Cambridge History of India and the writings of Egyptian and Indian scholars such as Jirgi Zeydan, Shebli Nemaney and Sayed Suleiman Nedwi, the articles of Kawa published in Berlin and the scholarly works of Alama Mohammad Qazweini. He continued his research on the history of literature of Dari and Pashto, history of linguistics and books, especially those related to old Khurasan and present day Afghanistan and India, Iranian studies and the historical geography of the region until his death in 1984.
From his youth Habibi had a keen interest in the constitutional movement of Afghanistan. As a supporter of justice he was active in politics. While working as the president of Education Department in Kandahar in 1946 he established close ties with the people of Kandahar. This was a move which disgruntled the ruling class and as a result he was sent to Quetta as the commercial attaché to distance him from his support in Kandahar. Upon his return to Kandahar a few months later he was elected as representative from the city to the 7th session of parliament. This was a time when the injustices of the ruling class were openly debated by members of parliament. Habibi left the country and went to Pakistan and started the Free Afghanistan movement. In 1952 he announced a republican political system for Afghanistan based on the values of democracy with a president as head of state.
In the early 1950s the consulate of Afghanistan in Peshawar was torched and Habibi was accused of inciting this incident by the Pakistani authorities and he was put under house arrest. Finally in 1961 Habibi and his family returned to Afghanistan after diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed. Even though Habibi had been appointed as the cultural attaché in the Afghan embassy in Karachi in 1960 he was not granted permission to return to his country after the breakup of diplomatic ties. Only after the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul, who was the brother of General Ayub Khan, the self-proclaimed President of Pakistan, was detained by Afghan authorities was Habibi allowed to return to his homeland. Upon his return to his country Habibi refrained from political activity and devoted his time to scholarly work.
As an academic Professor Habibi worked diligently throughout his life. He is the author of 115 books and over 500 papers and articles on the literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, poetics and the culture of the people of Afghanistan. He was the founder of the Faculty of Letters at Kabul University. His major works are in Pashto and Dari.
Summary of official positions
Teacher in the primary schools of Kandahar, 1925 to 1927.
Deputy editor of Tuloo-e Afghan newspaper,1927 to 1931.
Editor of Tuloo-e Afghan,1931 to 1940.
President of Pashto Academy (Pashto Tolana) in Kabul, 1940 to 1941 (at the same time he served as the deputy president of the Department of Publications).
Advisor to the Education Ministry in Kabul,1941 to 1944.
Chairman of the first College of Letters of Kabul University, and president of the Pashto Academy and professor of history of Pashto literature, 1944 to 1946.
President of the Education Department of Kandahar, 1946 to 1947.
Commercial attaché in Quetta, Baluchistan, 1947.
Elected representative of the people of Kandahar during the 7th session of the national parliament in Kabul,1948 to 1951.
Residence in Pakistan, 1951 to 1962.
Return to the homeland in 1962 and continuation of academic work in Kabul.
Received the rank of professor from Kabul University in 1965.
President of Afghan Historical Society, 1966 to 1971.
Advisor on cultural affairs to the prime minister, 1972 to 1973.
Professor of literature and history, Kabul University, 1970 to 1977.
Advisor to the Ministry of Information and Culture, 1978 to 1982.