Monday, 22 November 2010

Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi, a Saudi Statesman, diplomat, poet and novelist

In Memory of Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi,
Saudi statesman, diplomat and novelist

Dr. Mozammel Haque

A Seminar was organised at the Chatham House, London, on Friday, 29th of October in memory of Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, the Saudi statesman, diplomat, novelist, and poet. Tariq al-Gosaibi, the son of Ghazi al-Gosaibi and Lubna al-Gosaibi, the niece of Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi flew from Bahrain and came to London to attend the event. Many diplomats, ambassadors, journalists, attended the memorial ceremony. 11 speakers spoke on his life and achievements.

Ambassador Khaled Al-Duwaisan.
Mr. Khaled al-Duwaisan has been the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Court of St. James since 1993. He recently received email from his friends and former colleagues, former ambassador of Jordon, Mr. Fuad Ayyub who requested Mr. Khaled to convey his message. He wrote in his email, “Ghazi was a man who was enlightened in person and spirit. God knows how much this quality is needed this time in our Arab world. As a former Ambassador to London of many years I was privileged and have pleasure to know him as a colleague and friend. If you can convey this message I would really be grateful.”

After reading out the email, the Kuwaiti Ambassador started by saying, “Ghazi al-Gosaibi was a poet, the ambassador, the author and the minister. He was really larger than life. Well, as you know, many have written many articles about him, with many interviews; they have covered about all aspects of his life, professionally and personally. I will speak briefly professionally and personally to say a few words about my friendship with that great man.”

Ambassador al-Duwaisan said, “Ghazi was very well known and loved among us as Kuwaitis. Kuwaitis will never forget him; his greater role during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He stood besides Kuwait as a giant. He attacked the late President (Saddam Hussein) and his behaviour and that has caused damage to the Arabs and Muslims in the long run and yet he was absolutely right.”

Speaking about his first meeting with Dr. Ghazi after arriving in London in 1993, Ambassador al-Duwaisan mentioned, “I was so impressed about his knowledge on any subject and since then we became best friends. I was following his activities as an Ambassador to his country and admired his dedication to serve not only the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but all the Arab cause. Nobody can forget his defiance to some writers here in Britain and the defence of the Arab causes and his ability to portray his case with dignity and elegance.”

Besides his professional life, Ghazi had a tremendous sense of humour and he was never shy of practical jokes, said Ambassador al-Duwaisan.

“Dr. Ghazi was in every sense a remarkable man; it’s a great loss not only for his family and friends but for the Arab and the Muslim world. May God bless his soul, prayed Ambassador al-Duwaisan.

Former Cabinet Minister. Jonathan Aitken
Former Conservative Cabinet Minister and ex-MP, Jonathan Aitken first met Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi 35 years ago. “I first met exactly 35 years ago when he was Minister of electricity and I called on his office here and he was a very young minister. I was also a young in the Parliament.”

Former Minister Aitken mentioned, “Of course, I remember him best as an Ambassador. He was a wonderful Ambassador here ten years. He was not a conventional Ambassador and up to that point Saudi Ambassadors have been rather shy; retiring figures. These words could not be used for Dr Ghazi. Quite early in his ten years, he engaged tremendously well with parliamentarians. I was running something called British-Saudi Arabian Parliamentary Group and he would come and argue and engaged and answered questions with tremendous vigour in the House of Commons. Ghazi even in the diplomatic reception he would be vigorous.”

“He was very cunning Ambassador, hospitable, courteous, very loyal, and passionate and we had different issues when I was in the cabinet,” remarked Aitken.

“I should remember Ghazi as a great warm human being. He had tremendous sense of humour, very kind person,” said former Minister Aitken and mentioned one incident, “When I got trouble he was the first people to be kind generous welcoming but perhaps one particular point we had in common; we both worked as writers. He was much great writer than me. He had written many more books; but we used to love talking about language; he was a great poet and great phrase maker.”

Former Minister Aitken also observed, “Ghazi al-Gosaibi never neglected his responsibilities in everything in his world. He fulfilled them with originality, idealism, courage and colourful patience. I, like many of you, will miss him, a great man. So bless him in peace.”

Ambassador Ahmed Sakr
Ambassador Ahmed, former Egyptian Ambassador in the United Kingdom and currently the President of Middle Eastern Studies and chair the Foreign Select Committee in Egypt remembered and recollected those days in UK and mentioned about those days as “with lot of joy and lot of blessing”. Ambassador Sakr delivered his speech in Arabic.

Professor Dr Muhammad Abdul Halim
Professor Dr. Muhammad Abdul Halim, Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), in the University of London, said, “Now Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi was a man of great distinction. The first time I met him I was invited to lunch by the Director of SOAS and I was immediately struck by his high intelligence, eloquence, white-cultured warm and lovely sense of humour. We can speak about many aspects of his character, as a poet, as a novelist, as a distinguished speaker, as a diplomat and statesman.”

“For me al-Gosaibi’s literary talent, vision and humane character marked everything here. What I found amazing in Ghazi al-Gosaibi is that with all his demanding commitment of his post, Ghazi al-Gosaibi found time to read articles,” mentioned Professor Abdul Halim.

Professor Abdul Halim mentioned something which is very personal. He said, “As an academic at SOAS, I must point out that SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London is greatly indebted to Ghazi al-Gosaibi. It was he who suggested to the late Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz the idea of setting up a Chair in the London University. The King readily accepted and generously and graciously made the endowment. Gosaibi saw the process through and the King Fahd Chair of Islamic Studies in London was established in 1995. It was the first endowed Chair of Islamic Studies in the London University. Indeed it is the first endowed Chair of Islamic Studies in this country.”

“Islamic Studies at the London University will forever bear the name of King Fahd. This country is marked by maturity, stability and solid culture. No revolution or violence comes here to sweep away all names as happened in many other countries. The first Chair of Arabic was set up in Cambridge in 1632 and it still bears the name of the founder Sir Thomas Adams. And the Chair of Arabic at Oxford University which was set up in 1636 still bears the name of Archbishop Lloyd,” mentioned Professor Abdul Halim..

Professor Abdul Halim also introduced the role and activities of the Centre for Islamic Studies. He said, “One of the first activities of the King Fahd Chair of the London University was the establishment of the Centre of Islamic Studies at SOAS in 1996. It is very active in teaching, research and publications. The most important publication of the Centre is the Journal of Qur’anic Studies which is the first academic journal on the Qur’an in the West. It was actually in the Centre of the Islamic Studies of which I am Director that my work on the new translation of the Qur’an was undertaken. Al-Gosaibi was delighted to hear of this and took an interest in it. One day he asked me how the work was going. I said there are hundred sheets. It needs typing. On the spot he said I will pay for all this and you just concentrate on the work of the translation. I could not say no to his kind and generous offer. He paid some of the money from his own pocket without which the book could not have been ready for the publication by the Oxford University in 2004.”

Earlier this year, Oxford University Press produced a bi-lingual edition of the translation of the Qur’an. Dr. Abdul Halim wanted to present that special copy personally. “I kept that special copy thinking that I would handed to al-Gosaibi personally but because of his untimely death this was not to be. However, I have brought the copy here with me to hand it to al-Gosaibi’s family in loving memory and gratitude to this great man. Every time I remember him I experience an ever fresh feeling of warm and appreciation.”

Professor Abdul Halim said, “We are here to celebrate Ghazi al-Gosaibi’s life and achievements. His soul will, no doubt, be happy to see his friends and family gathered here. May God reward him for all his good deeds and magnanimity that touched everything around him. May God give him joy in the next world; may God give him a joy to his family and grand children.”

Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan
Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, the Director-General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, since 2000, who is also an Islamic scholar, spoke about his experience working with Dr. Ghazi. Dr. al-Dubayan said, “My experience with Dr. Ghazi; it was not much that long; it may be three years. Many of you, I am sure, had or have longer experience with him. But I believe those three years was really very rich and very deep in feelings with Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi. It was really exceptional. He was a remarkable attractive person; we all know that. I am sure many books will be written again about his personality, about his works as poet, as a novelist and all other side. But let me express something about his humane side which is actually I am sure, the authors, the writers would not cover it because they didn’t happen or they did not know him actually personally.”

Speaking about his experience of Dr. Ghazi, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “My experience with Dr Ghazi was mostly in the administrative work. As a Director of the Islamic Cultural Centre, of course from time to time, I had to see Dr. Ghazi to discuss many things and most of the things I used to bring to him were only problems. I really learned a lot from his administrative skills and from his administrative manners; the way how to deal with difficulties; how to manage the problems; the manners to deal with the problems; and the way how not to keep things long time in your office. This is one of the early lessons I received from Dr. Ghazi. And I also learnt the lesson not to ignore even your small employee who work with you or the unknown employee who works with you. These are some of the great lessons I learn from Dr Ghazi during the years I worked with him.”

Dr. Al-Dubayan also mentioned the difficulty to draw a line between what is administrative and what is humane in Dr. Ghazi’s manners. “I am sure those who worked with him specially the staff members of the Saudi embassy who really daily met him daily realised that. He was an Ambassador. Gosaibi himself as a person was a great personality. You see him almost every day in the media and you meet him in the office a man who had sharp mind, sharp mouth and sharp criticism,” mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Speaking about his experience when he met first Dr. al-Gosaibi, Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “I met him for the first time I was really so afraid. I prepared myself for the meeting for the first time and then I realised this man, who is so sharp in his work, really had great heart and feelings to deal with all the people who used to work with him. In my position as a Director of the Islamic Cultural Centre I passed through really many rainy days especially after the 11 September. While remembering those days and those years, Dr. Ghazi was really the man who used to bring all his guidance. You know how much attention we had altogether during those days and in my position as a Director of the Islamic Cultural Centre on one side and the Islamic communities on the other side.”

Referring to Brother Sir Iqbal Sacranie who was present among the audience, Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “He (Sir Iqbal Sacranie) remembers those days I am sure and we passed many difficulties. Dr. Ghazi was always the person to whom we run together sometimes seek for some advice; seek some instructions; seek for some help.”

Dr. Al-Dubayan wrote an article in Sharq alaswat about two months ago wherein he talked a little bit of other side about Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi. Dr. al-Dubayan said, “I am sure many people do not know about it. That is the charitable side. Dr Ghazi May Allah bless him and rest his soul in peace. I am sure he would not really like to talk about this. But I know the person himself, that charitable side. It is always difficult to distinguish between what is humane and what is administrative with this person. In the previous speeches, I am sure that shows the sense of humour Dr. Ghazi had. In a way or other the man was great in human feelings.”

Dr. Al-Dubayan thinks that Dr. Ghazi needs to be studied more thoroughly. “I hope one day somebody might collect some remarks and experiences from all his friends and colleagues and all those who were with him to put this together as a light, guidance for the new generation to use it.”

Dr. Al-Dubayan found an appropriate word to describe this man, Dr. Ghazi. He mentioned, “Al-Jazeera newspaper, sometimes ago, published a book about 400 or 500 pages talking about Dr. Ghazi with the title alistefna, which means, the exception or the exceptional person. I think the exception or the exceptional person is the right way to describe this man who has many aspects, a lot of literature, a lot in administration, a lot of humanities or humane patience and also a lot of friendship and feelings. May Allah bless his soul in peace and May Allah help his family and help us always to remember him in our prayers and not to forget that remarkable man.”

No comments: