A Non Muslim scholar of Islam

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured Topics: Islam, Islamic Scholars Values: Education Views: 10530

Kesar Singh (1869-1935) was the youngest of three sons of Thuman Singh of Dangri village in Punjab's erstwhile Patiala State (pre-partition India). In those days every male child was needed as a helper in cultivation. Therefore, farmers did not send their children to schools. Kesar Singh tended his father's cattle till 12 years of age. He had a strong desire to go to school. He realized that it was not possible for him to fulfill his dreams while living with his parents. 

One day he ran away from home and went to his maternal uncle and explained to him his problem. His maternal uncle had him admitted in a government middle school at Dehera, a village situated five miles away from Kesar's own village. He used to go to school on foot like other students of the village. 

In those days even middle school examination was conducted by the university. Once Mr. Trump, chief inspector of schools, came to the Dehera school to hold examinations. He was surprised to find that the real name of Kesar Singh was Akbar Singh, a very unusual name for a Sikh boy. Mr. Trump ordered his name to be changed to Kesar Singh.

His certificate issued by the University of Lahore dated 11th June 1885 certified Kesar Singh as having passed the vernacular Middle School Examination held in April 1885. At the top left hand of the certificate, his original name i.e. Akbar Singh is written in Persian.

Kesar Singh passed matriculation examination (10th grade equivalent) from Government Model School Patiala and then joined Mahendra College, Patiala.

He topped the university in BA and won the Viceroy's Gold Medal and also a university scholarship for further studies. He joined Lahore Oriented College and chose Arabic which normally only Muslim students used to adopt. Here too Kesar Singh stood first in the final examination. After academic achievements he started the study of the Holy Quran and other Islamic literature. He was among the few Indians who had gained remarkable proficiency in cross culture expressions.

How verses from Holy Quran sat upon Sikh lips is a fascinating question to ask. Even Muslims were surprised by his perfect recitation. He had established unquestioned authority in Islamic literature. It is said that he could recite the whole Quran by his memory. There was a common remark about him that Kesar Singh must have been a Muslim in his previous life and also an Arabic scholar.

He used to quote from Holy Quran and couplets from Persian poets like Shaikh Saadi and Hafiz in his public lectures addressed to the Sikh masses. In his letters to his son he used to quote Holy Quran. In one of his letters to his son he said, "Always keep in mind the moral values which come from the Holy Quran". 

Jagjit Singh Jabewal is Director of Delhi-based Inter Faith Foundation. He is a keen student of Islam and promoter of Sikh-Muslim relations.

Source: Milli Gazette

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured
  Topics: Islam, Islamic Scholars  Values: Education
Views: 10530

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Older Comments:
As-salaam-alaikum my Brother and sisters in Islam:

After reading this article I must admit I find it hard to believe that one could be so steeped in the knowledge of Islam and be a Non-Muslim. I think back to my first exposure to Islam and I tell you from that moment on I knew that not only was it the right thing for me to do(convert)I have been forever humbled to have been Blessed with the deen of Islam. I don't understand how one could not embrace Islam and from that point forward live their life as a Muslim. May Allah(swt)be pleased with the choices we make. Allahu-


I didnt not understand one think in Akbar Singh's Story. Its mentioned "There was a common remark about him that Kesar Singh must have been a Muslim in his previous life and also an Arabic scholar" What does that mean.


Would be even more impressive if all muslims would start READING Qur'an and stop reciting it!

This blessing from Allah was sent as a guidence to mankind...and if we confuse calling the words with understand them....we are indeed IGNORANT WORSHIPPERS.

This thought however, goes counter to the establishment. They would much rather you get EVERY BIT of your Islam from a pulpit they control or some "holy man" who studied at an established institution that propogates certain views under some sheik who believes he can divorce his wife via text-message.

Would be nice if from time to time we stop and evaluate exactly where we are going after 1400+ years of having Qur'an in our hands!


What people fail to realize, is that in all of Hindustan, FARSI, URDU, PUNJABI, and HINDI were commonly taught in the schools nationwide. Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and all others went to school together, were neighbours to each other, and respected each other's beliefs.

After 400 years of british occupation in Hindustan, they managed to split us apart and sow enmity in our hearts for one another. that was the sad thing. Let's not forget, that this is an example for us in history, as we are currently living in a time of similar war. What I mean is, do not let the same thing happen in Iraq - do not let them split us, do not let them split Kurd from Sunni, or Sunni from Shi'a, or Shi'a from Kurd, or anything else. The more they divide us, the more they conquer and control us. This has been their geo-political strategy ever since.

But Alhamdulillah, NOW, Pakistan and India, have basically told everyone else, mind your own damn business, we can talk to each other and deal with each other. Now that is one thing I have liked about Musharraf - let us deal with our own problems, but let them know that in a civilized manner. Whether anyone likes it or not, Pakistan and India are friendlier to each other than they have been for over 50 years.

Manhomar Singh and Pervez Musharraf, doesn't matter how much you like or dislike them, are accomplishing things step by step, the way Bhutto, Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi, Zia al-Haqq, Nehru or Qaid-e-Azam never did.

So I will conclude by saying that Punjab is not a region reserved for India or Pakistan, along the borders drawn up by the British. Punjab stretches across both of today's nations. The gurdawara of Guru Nanak still stands in Lahore, Pakistan, and Sikh pilgrims still come from India in trains every year to pay their respects. Many people in India and Pakistan do not even realize is that the Guru Nanak was actually Muslim for 17 years. He even went for Hajj and wrote a few books on Islam....


yes that is my real name, and I am not the same man in the article - but I Salut him with, Adaab. The name Akbar is commonly used in present day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh. Akbar was also the name of the most famous Mughal Rajput ruler of India, for 53 years he ruled from Burma, to Afghanistan, and everythign in between, for 53 years HIMSELF! I am not here to start a debate with the random trouble maker here, so please do not make this comment section into a debating arena where we argue about Akbar and that he did this wrong and that, thanks. I only mention his name as someone else mentioend that Akbar Khan was the name of Akbar Baadshah, ruler of India - it is not. My name even, Akbar Khan, is not really Akbar Khan, but Akbar Khaa, as Khaa is a Rajput title. There were millions of Rajputs who embraced Islam when the message came to India. They embraced Islam openly with love. I do admit about 400 years ago, my ancestors were most likely Hindu idol worshippers, may Allah show them His mercy.


Everybody loves the truth (one way or the other). The Quran speaks of the Truth. I wonder if Akbar was not a self pronounced Muslim in his heart.


"It is said that he could recite the whole Quran by his memory. There was a common remark about him that Kesar Singh must have been a Muslim in his previous life and also an Arabic scholar"

Does it talk about reincarnation??? And yeah did he become a muslim?

Thanks for sharing :)

i'm not so very surprised at his name. He could simply have been named after Akbar Khan, the king. I've been told that lines of religion are a bit less rigid in india.

Great article:) I understand that many of us might not be very enthusiastic by this article for the fact that Kesar was never converted to Islam, but I think this phenomenon was an example of Islam's universality, that the holy Qur'an is not merely perfect from Muslims' perspective only but also from non-Muslims. I hope that Islamicity will be posting more articles with inter faith themes in the future.

i enjoyed reading this artilcle, and i am curious about that fact that if he was a non muslim, how was he given the name akbar and did he convert to islam at any time....thanks