When I started learning religion from both the mentor and his student, Mawlānā Amīn Ahsn Islāhī and Javed Ahmad Ghāmidī sāhib, almost at the same time from 1980 onward, the few people I knew who were doing likewise many years before me included Ishāq Nāgī sāhib.
I can't imagine his picture in mind without a peculiar smile on the face. He was soft in his speech but strong in opinions. His opinions were never without sound arguments. One could always disagree with them, and he allowed the other person to disagree, but one couldn't accuse him of forming opinions without giving the contesting views a good chance of influencing him.
Nāgī s@āh@ib, as we, his junior friends in the fraternity, would call him, was fond of books and audio cassettes of religious lectures delivered by scholars. For a very long time, he had the largest collection of audio cassettes of Jāved Ghāmidī s@āh@ib's lectures. He made it a point to be present on each occasion where a lecture was to be delivered for him to willingly undertake the self-imposed obligation of preserving the valuable words of the scholar. He used to undertake the entire exercise with enthusiasm and missionary zeal.
His love for reading and collecting books on religion was enviable. He had a particularly clear understanding of who was right and who was wrong in the famous disputes of Muslim history and he had his books ready to be shown as evidence to prove his point. He urged me on several occasions, even though in most cases unsuccessfully, to read the books he thought were important for me to read in Muslim history. Even without becoming a religious scholar at the level that would enable him to disseminate the message of Islam directly, he got involved in the process at a one-to-one level, through meeting people, arranging for audio cassettes of scholars and religious books and lending them to others.
Nāgī s@āh@ib was a brave man, a fighter against odds, and a determined soul. I remember when more than two decades ago he got seriously injured by the cut of a knife which was inflicted on him by a fellow worker in a factory, he had a calm expression on his face while explaining to us what had happened when we visited him in the hospital. One of his daughters developed serious abdominal problems on inadvertently drinking a chemical. Even though he was informed by some doctors that hers was a hopeless case, he never lost hope and eventually ended up getting her cured through Dr Khawājah Jāved who was a famous gastroenterologist. The late doctor was himself a devout Muslim with a strong favourable leaning towards the Mujāhidīn of Afghanistan and Taliban. Nāgī s@āh@ib used to take his daughter early in the morning for several years, exchanging religious views with the soft-spoken, extremely pious, and resolutely determined doctor. When the latter was killed by those who opposed his strong support for the Taliban, Nāgī s@āh@ib, despite his difference of opinion, was extremely sad on learning about his death.
The late Nāgī s@āh@ib never lost any opportunity to correct others when he thought they were saying or doing something unacceptable. I received calls from him on numerous occasions telling me that I had said something on a television program which wasn't correct. In most of the cases he used to be right in his observation. I owe it to him that he guided me towards the correct understanding on religious issues many times.
The way Nāgī s@āh@ib battled with cancer in the last two years of his life was simply because of his strong faith in God and the next life. Each time I met him during the last days of his life, knowing clearly that the duration of his stay was very brief, he had only one concern: Will the Almighty forgive his sins? From what I know of him, I am very hopeful that the Almighty will respond positively to his concern and cause the suffering he went through in the last few years of his life to become a reason for the atonement of his sins.
I heard it from Nāgī sāh@ib that Mawlānā Amīn Ah@san Is@lāh@ī said only a few days before his death: "Although I am in pain, yet it is nowhere close to the suffering of the hereafter. I hope my God will forgive all my sins in lieu of the pain I have endured now." I pray that the Almighty accept my mentor's prayer, who was also my mentor's mentor too. And I also pray to God to kindly forgive all the sins of my late brother, Ish@āq Nāgī.