A cradle of research in Madras

The Department of Arabic, Persian and Urdu of Madras University was started in September 1927, and at the time, was called the Islamic section of the Institute of Oriental Studies and Research (IOSR) with two staff appointed as Senior and Junior Readers. When IOSR was reorganised in 1930, the Islamic section was renamed as the Department of Arabic, Persian and Urdu comprising three staff: a Senior lecturer and two Junior lecturers.

In 1927, soon after he obtained Master of Arts degree from Aligarh Muslim University, in July, Dr. Hussain Nainar was appointed by the Syndicate of the University of Madras on the recommendation of an expert committee to the post of Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Arabic, Persian and Urdu in September. He was promoted as Reader and Professor in the University of Madras (1927-1938). The other sections of the institute were Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Sanskrit. Dr. Nainar’s main object was to project his studies in a manner as to reflect South Indian culture and studies, either from Arabic, Persian or Dravidian sources. His knowledge of Tamil and South Indian culture was always utilised to the fullest advantage. His publications testify to this fact.

As senior lecturer in Arabic, S.M. Hussain Nainar was sent to England in September 1936 to join the School of Oriental Studies (now known as School of Oriental and African Studies), London, to undergo training in modern methods of research in Oriental languages. While there from 1936-38, he prepared the thesis on the topic Arab Geographers’ Knowledge of Southern India. He visited libraries in France, Cairo and Istanbul, besides having contacts with professors in Oriental learning in Brussels, Paris, Bonn and Berlin. The aim of the department throughout was to assess the contribution of South India to the general history and Islamic learning which would not have been possible for research workers in North India and outside India. Hence the department concentrated on translating Arabic and Persian chronicles relating to South India and editing with critical notes and introduction, manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Urdu composed by South Indian authors which had not till then seen the light of day.

  • Sources of the History of the Nawabs of the Carnatic; Part I, (1934)
  • Sources of the History of the Nawabs of the Carnatic; Part II, (1939)
  • Sources of the History of the Nawabs of the Carnatic; Part III, (1940)
  • Sources of the History of the Nawabs of the Carnatic; Part IV, (1944)
  • Sources of the History of the Nawabs of the Carnatic; Part V, (1955)

The above tomes serve as source books for the study of the history of the Carnatic region, the peninsular South Indian region between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal, in the erstwhile Madras Presidency and in the modern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and southern coastal Andhra Pradesh. The originals are in the Persian language. Persian manuscripts referred to are: 1. Tuzak-i-Walajahi by Burhan Ibn Hasan; 2. Sawanihat-i-Mumtaz by Muhammad Karim Zamin; and 3. Bahar-i-Azamjahi by Ghulam Abdul Qadir Nazir. These Persian books supply not only new facts, but also constitute an indispensable supplement and corrective to the accepted notions of the history of the Carnatic, and throw light on many missing links, which explain a number of doubtful points.


Arab Geographers'Knowledge of South India (English) 1942

This is based on Dr. Nainar’s thesis for the Ph.D degree at the University of London. The Arabists who had worked in detail on the Far East from Arabic sources were deterred from taking up this subject for study because they did not know the Dravidian language and culture. A large number of place names, mostly of Dravidian origin, are transliterated in Arabic in a crude and obscure form and it is very difficult to arrive at proper conclusions in regard to the identification of the place names and other facts without a familiar acquaintance with the Dravidian languages. The geographical information supplied by this work shows the nature of contact between Arabia and South India from 7th century to the 13th century AD. This book was prescribed as a text-book in many universities in India for M.A. Islamic History and Culture.


Tuhfat-al-Mujahidin (English) 1942


This historical work in the Arabic language by Zainuddin Makhdoom II, has been translated into English as it constitutes an important addition to our knowledge of the geography of southern India and the beginning of Portuguese history in India. Here again, the many South Indian customs recorded in Arabic could not be interpreted without a knowledge of Tamil, Malayalam, and South Indian culture.


Seydakkadi Nondi Nadagam (Tamil) 1939

This is a mono-drama in Tamil, edited by Dr. Nainar, who published the Tamil text with an English introduction. It is about Shaikh Abdul Qadir, who also sported the title, Vijaya Raghunatha Periyathambi Marakkayar, a noted Tamil Muslim philanthropist from the coastal town of Kilakarai and among the first south Indians to enter into trade with the British East India Company in the 17th century.The drama throws light on the period when the war between the Mughals and the Marathas was in full blaze at Chenchi about the end of the 17th century AD. It is noteworthy that Tamil Muslim poets composed their poetical works in accordance with the traditional literary form in Tamil. The book abounds in references to Islamic ideas and culture, and side by side contains allusions to Hindu thought and studies.


Seydakkadi Vallal (Tamil) 1953


This work includes Seydakkadi Nondi Nadagam already published by the University of Madras in 1939, and the following work Seydakkadi Peril Kalyana Vazhthu also done by the author. In the place of the English introduction to the Nondi Nadagam, Dr. Nainar has written an introduction in Tamil giving a fuller account of the biography of Seydakkadi, with other historical details.

Scanned copies of these rare books are available at a nominal charge. Please email us for more details.... thenainarfamily@gmail.com