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in memoriam

Cesar Adib Majul

By Dr. Susan Boyle
ing Muslim intellectual of Christian Arab and Filipino heritage, he tracked the China link to Islam in the Philippines, placed the history of the Philippines in its southeast regional context, and addressed the neglected history, the current conditions, and the culture of Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu. Dr. Majul published seven books and over 120 articles. In addition, he was instructor of Philosophy and Political Science for years at the University of the Philippines. He was also a visiting professor at Cornell University for the 1966-67 and 1973-74 academic years and received several national awards in the Philippines for his historical and biographical works. In the 1960s and 1970s, he supplemented his academic endeavors with administrative responsibilities as dean at the University of the Philippines and then as head of the University College, Department of Admissions and the College of Arts and Sciences. Also, during that time, he served on the Board of Regents of the University of Mindanao, and he was dean, Islamic Philosophy professor, co-founder of the Institute of Islamic Studies, and officer-in-charge of the Institute of International Studies and the Asian Center. In addition, he served as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Amanah Bank. In 1975, Dr. Majul was chairman of the Presidential Commission that drafted the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines. During the period of martial law under President Marcos beginning in 1972, Dr. Majul worked as guardian and
guide, instructing and counseling students

dr. cesar adib majul (Adb Majl) passed away on Saturday, October 11th, 2003 in his home in San Pablo, California. He died of cancer ten days before his eightieth birthday. Best known for his work on the Filipino revolutionaries, Apolinario Mabini and Jose Rizal, and for his classic work, Muslims in the Philippines, he influenced several generations of Filipinos through his commitment to honesty in the smallest of things and his service as an incorruptible moral compass. Dr. Majul was born in the Philippines as one of nine children to a Syrian Damascene immigrant father from the Ottoman Empire and a local Spanish-Malay mother. He spent several childhood years in Davao and studied at La Salle and the University of the Philippines before obtaining his doctorate in Political Science as a Fulbright Fellow at Cornell University in New York in 1956. Upon his return to the Philippines in 1957, he came to prominence for his analysis of the meaning and significance of building a national community. As a lead-


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(some of whom would become priests and some revolutionaries), advising government officials, and suggesting policy and ideas to end the impoverishment, neglect, and abuse of Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu. Throughout this period, he said he remained devoted to three things: to protect the Muslim minority; to help in the cohesion of a growing national community; and, as much as possible, to raise the educational and national level of ordinary Filipinos. In 1980, Dr. Majul left the Philippines just as his father had left the Ottoman Empire secretly in fear of his life never to return save to provide the 1999 commemorative speech on Jose Rizal at the University of the Philippines, where ten years earlier he had received an honorary Doctor of Laws in absentia for his unremitting dedication to the highest standards; his selfless service; his inspiring
Calligraphy by Cesar Majul from the front of his forthcoming book Remembrance and Forgetfulness in the Quran.

transcending retribution and a culture of vengeance; and of fractured man awakening beyond ego, tribe, and sect to a world of common concern. For Majul, the challenge was always that of individual choice: to assume the responsibility of choosing to become truly moral. After a lifetime of teaching, he reflected days before dying that some 30,000 people know my face through my lectures (some lectures had 300 per class) on philosophy, on logic, on Islamic institutions, on Rizal . Students flocked to his lectures to witness his brilliance, his unyielding respect for inherent human dignity, and his irrepressible moral impulse. They were inspired by Majuls faith, discipline, and moral courage to achieve critical, creative, and meaningful lives which ennobled both the individual as a social being and the nation as a whole. Throughout his life, Dr. Majuls reputation grew as an incorruptible character a man seeking peace whom revolutionaries would embrace. I have always loved fairness and hated vindictiveness, he said days before passing. He spent his final years still deeply connected to the Muslim problems in the Philippines, ever available for counsel and advice to all sides. Amidst sectarian conflict and tribal divisions, he called upon individuals to transcend their differences to secure the common good. At a time when the world is stained with bloodshed and awash with hundreds of thousands of refugees, Cesar Majul, a Muslim of Christian ancestry, remains an inspiration: a man of peace who understood progress in its most fundamental dimensions of life lived with moral courage and character. Intellectual brilliance was and never is sufficient; for without a spiritual capacity, there is little to guide humanitys refinement and creation of a compassionate, caring, just, and fair domain united beyond blood and ideology by the moral anchor of a common purpose a common good.




strength of character; his singular contribution to history and political science, and his dedicated service to the country. In the final days of his life,

Dr. Majul prepared to update and publish his

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essay, Islams Advent and Spread in the Philippines, and to distribute copies of his most recent essay, Remembrance and Forgetfulness in the Quran; he was also preparing to obtain his dual citizenship (U.S. and Filipino). Though pained by those who had turned on him during the Marcos period, he remained without anger. His aphorism was, Dont let resentment poison your blood. You hurt yourself if you are vindictive. He transcended the petty, ever focusing on principle and the fundamental moral goal of working towards the common good of the nation. His own life resolved the paradox of spiritual man seeking refinement in a material world; of broken man


Shakir Massoud adds:

dr. cesar adib majul was a truly delightful friend and teacher, who passed from this world on the 15th of the lunar month of Shabn of this year, 1424 Hijrah. Upon nearly everyone who ever met him, he bestowed some treasured gift; yet, even more so, over the course of the latter half of the 20th Century, he attained an important and unique position in the modern history of Islam. Looking at some of what we know of his life and legacy may offer a glimpse of his station in our common history. Diverse peoples, cultures, and movements intersected through Dr. Majuls life. Firstly, he inherited from his father, Adib, many aspects of the classical Arab culture of 19th Century Damascus, and, in his own life, that culture blended with the Southeast Asian and MoroIslamic legacy of the Philippines, the country into which he was born. His life also bridged Orthodox Catholicism, through his Christian family origin, and Islam, though his later contact with many great Islamic scholars and personages of the 20th Century. From his early classical education, he was not only fluent in Spanish but also knew by heart large portions of the Catholic Liturgy in Latin. That, combined with his embrace of Islam and taking part in its scholastic pursuit, made him a formidable authority in comparative religion. He bridged young and old through his years of teaching and his interest in the affairs of young Muslims up until his death. He was a significant point of contact between Islamic scholars in the Middle and Far East and Muslim converts in the West. Also worthy of mention is Dr. Majuls valiant military service. During World War II, when the Majul home was bombed by the Japanese, the family fled into the provinces. For the Filipino Resistance, Cesar Majul ran messages under fire to coordinate the Guerillas and the U.S. Forces. At one point, he fought room to room to clear the Manila Hotel of Japanese soldiers for General MacArthur. After the war, despite encourage-

ment from his comrades to apply for U.S. military veterans benefits, Cesar Majul refused, stating that his only intention had been to rid his country of its occupiers. Dr. Majul had not only a lifelong interest in and appreciation of Islamic Law and political power but also an enduring devotion to the spiritual disciplines of Sufism. He attributed his path to Islam and Sufism first to his fathers encounter with the charismatic 19th Century Algerian resistance leader and spiritual devotee, Emir Abdul Qdir. The emir, in his latter life, had been the main instrument in the revival of the books and Sufic teachings of Shaykh Mu^iyuddn ibnu lArab. The young Adib Majul was taken by his father before the great shaykh in Damascus to be blessed. He was later taken on as a retainer to the Ottoman authorities in Damascus and educated in their traditions. Furthermore, Dr. Majul used to say he was profoundly influenced through sitting attentively by his fathers side after Bible study every Sunday to listen to him recite Surah Ysuf from the Quran. Besides his more worldly academic pursuits, in his later years, Dr. Majul was initiated into several Sufi ~arqas (paths), most notably the Naqshabandiya path through Shaykh Muhammad (Mehmet) Zahid Kotku of Istanbul. An Inveterate Academician Dr. Majul spent his entire life in the service of education. He began as an exceptional student. One philosophy professor at Cornell University expressed his shock at Cesar Majuls high performance as a graduate student from the Philippines who came up with innovative ideas on the thought of Bertrand Russell; this professor said that he had up until then assumed that Majul was just an upstart student from an inconsequential American colonial backwater. Dr. Majul was intrigued with many different issues and topics, and his keen, analytic mind, trained in logic and philosophy, often discerned subtleties and hitherto unknown


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aspects of whatever subject he applied himself to. His research allowed him access to some of the best libraries in the world, and through it, he also became acquainted with internationally renowned academics. He helped establish and oversee the Institute of Islamic Studies of the University of the Philippines, and he served as Trustee on the Board of the Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization in Qatar. Even in informal gatherings, Cesar Majul would often deliver what was, in effect, an impromptu lecture, or, if his companions possessed information or insights that stimulated his interest, he would elicit from them every pertinent detail until the subject was exhausted. Dr. Majul required from his students and aides diligence and accuracy, and he never put up with sloppiness, often to the point that some initially viewed him as a severe taskmaster. Nonetheless, his critics usually later came to realize that his uncompromising attitude had bettered their skills and habits. Historian Through Dr. Majul, the history of the great Sultanates of the Philippines was preserved. He compiled and expanded on the works of the Arab-American Army surgeon, Dr. Najeeb Mitry Saleeby (of the American colonial peri| au t u m n w i n t e r 2 0 0 3 - 4 | s e a s o n s

surmised through his research that it is more than likely that they were three of four cousins from the 80 or so Muslim emigrants to Abyssinia during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad . The fourth of them is known to have perished en route and is buried at a spot on the coast of Southwest India. Dr. Majul also researched the life and ancestry of the Muslim admiral, Cheng-Ho. Lover of The Quran Although Dr. Majul was the first to admit that he had no formal training in the Arabic language or other areas of Islamic academic disciplines, he nonetheless exercised his considerable intuitive powers and reason to gain new and dramatic insights into some linguistic and numeric aspects of the Quranic text. Although his methodology was considered by some controversial due to its non-traditional approach or being liable to misinterpretation, Dr. Majul did not agree. He viewed these ideas and methods as unique contributions to the wealth of knowledge that establishes the Majesty and Perfection of God through consideration of the inimitability (ijz) of the Quran. Calligrapher and Artist Partly from his love for mathematics and partly through his interest in the elegant design motifs of Islamic Andalusia, Dr. Majul developed a talent for creating wonderful geometric Arabic calligraphic designs, which was one of his favorite hobbies. He admired those who knew the meaning and cosmological symbolism behind many of the traditional forms of Arabic calligraphy. For him, art, architecture, and the creative process were essential to life and happiness. Social Issues Dr. Majul was always passionately opposed to oppression, not only as it related to the political and cultural oppression of the indigenous Muslims of the Philippines but also to other

od) and others to create the definitive and authoritative textbook on Philippine Islam called, Muslims in the Philippines. Some of his essays were translated by Dr. Nabil Tawil Subhi into Arabic and published in Beirut as Al-Islm f Sharqi l-Aq| (1966). Dr. Majul speculated on and set out to establish a solid connection with the inception of Islam in China and the earliest Arab Muslim travelers. Tang Dynasty records note the immigration of three Muslim holy men from the West, and their gravesites are still known and revered. China historians have not agreed on the details of who exactly these men were or when they arrived in China. Dr. Majul


beleaguered peoples such as the Palestinians. Dr. Majul respected the courageous work of journalists such as Robert Fisk, whose career he followed avidly. Although sympathetic to various resistance movements, he tempered his support for such causes with practicality and reason. He envisioned and worked towards the formation in the Philippines of a multicultural, tolerant, and pluralistic society, not one born of violence and polarization. The Philippine government held him in such high regard as to have appointed him mediator in disputes with Moro political groups and in some of their foreign affairs involving Muslim countries. Conclusion Those lucky enough to have known Dr. Majul remember that he was always able to elicit a good laugh with one of the humorous anecdotes he gleaned from his experiences. He was never a stranger to having a good time, to having dinner out on the town, or to appreciating a classic Japanese samurai movie. In his selfdeprecating humility, he sometimes used to call himself a kasl (lazy loaf). His kindness and generosity seemed limitless, extending not only to family and friends but even on occasion to passing acquaintances on public transportation as well as near neighbors. He lived his years of retirement in semi-obscurity, in an unassuming house in a working class suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area. I saw one of his Hispanic neighbors break down weeping when she learned that Don Cesar had just passed away, saying she would miss his kindness and companionship. I recall one afternoon walking several blocks with him in Berkeley, and no less than a half a dozen people came running out of the shops and cafes with huge smiles just to greet and embrace their friend, Dr. Cesar. Dr. Cesar Majul is survived by his loving and gracious wife, Wiene; his son, Dr. Zainul Abidin; his stepdaughter, Christina; his grandsons , Amr, Ahmad, Muhammad Umar, and

Muhammad Salih; his adoring sisters; and legions of friends, former students, and acquaintances around the world. Many will miss him now that he has passed on to the next Stage in his journey. May God enliven us all by his memory, enable us to make good use of his teachings, and shower him with rewards, divine mercy, and forgiveness.
a selection of some of cesar majuls many published books & articles:

Muslims in the Philippines (Univ. of Phil. Press, 1st edit. 1973, last edition 1999). (This book is also translated into Malaysian.) Family Planning in Islam (1973). The Divine-Human Encounter in Islam (Cornell Univ., 1974). What Jerusalem Means to Muslims (1974). Basic Islamic Concepts Underlying the Principles Governing the Islamic Family and Their Implications on Modern Islamic Society (AlAzhar, 1975). The Beautiful Names of Allah (Salam Magazine, Sept. 1974). Arabic Kufi Inscriptions in the Stole of Archbishop Hubert Walter (1978). Islams Explanation of the Human Paradox and its Solution to it in the Modern World (WAMY, 1979). Islamic Traditional Values as a Force for Modernization (Rockefeller Found., 1979). The Prophet Muhammad as the Norm for True Humanity (1980) Islam and the Social Sciences (Univ. of Malaya, 1981). Code of Islamic Personal Law (collaboration with Al-Azhar Univ., Cairo, at request of Philippine Government, 1981). The Names of Allah in Relation to the Mathematical Structure of Quran (1982). Islam and Creative Development (Qatar Univ. 1983). Four Special Names of Allah in the Quran (1984). The Contemporary Muslim Movement in the Philippines (Mizan Press, Berkeley, 1985).


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