He was born at Nahthaur in the district of Bijnore in a distinguished family. He was an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University from where he obtained his B. A., M. A. and Doctorate. He completed his M.A. in 1951 and then his Ph.D. and join AMU as a lecturer. Prof. Zahiruddin Malik served the department of History for more than forty years with distinction.
His Book A Mughal statesman of the eighteenth century, Khan-i-Dauran, Mir Bakshi of Muhammad Shah, 1719-1739 is generally recognized as standard work on the subject.
Another work from his pen is Agrarian System In Medieval India which is based on the newly discovered contemporary source material. It examines the law revenue structure in sarkar Shahabad in Bihar under the Mughals and the changes effected therein by the British during 1734-1790. In this work he used contemporary historical evidence to support his arguments.
His most remarkable work however is The reign of Muhammad Shah, 1719-1784. This is the magnum opus of the author wherein he changed the hitherto perceived notions that the first half of the eighteenth century was a period of cultural decadence and political decline. In his biography of Muhammad Shah he showed that the period in Indian history witnessed socio-economic prosperity and cultural efflorescence.
In 2001 he published another significant work Agrarian System in medieval India a micro study of Land Revenue arrangement in Sarkar Shahabad (Bihar), 1734- 1790 published from the Center of Advanced Study department of history.
His other works include a biography of an important Turani noble entitled ‘A Mughal statesman of Eighteenth century “Khan–i-Dauran“, Mir Bakhshi of Muhammad Shah 1719-1739, illuminates life of Mughal nobility in what is considered an age of decline in graphic details.
One of his last academic engagements in the Department before his demise was in an international Seminar organised by the History department on Syed Ahmad the founder of the University and contributed a paper on the political ideas of Sayyid Ahmad Khan.
One of his earlier essays another ‘Some Muslim Patron saints of Hindu chiefs in North India and the impact of their interactions’, is another example of his broad vision and liberal approach to his subject. Another of his article “Some Muslim Patron saints of Hindu chiefs”, also points to his broad vision and deep insight approach in research.
Apart from his academic activities, Malik Sahib remained also remained active in other engagements of the Department. For many years he was the Teacher Incharge of the Department Library. I remember when I was a PG student in 1980-82 sessions, he would pay us surprise late night visits. A number of times he would suddenly walk into the MA Students Seminar Room at 3:00 am to check whether we were studying or not!
He remained actively engaged in research even after retirement in 1984 and took a lively interest in the academic concerns of the members of the department and over all issues related to the University community his alma mater.
A Personal Note:
To me he was more than a teacher! I remember when after the Baburi Masjid demolition there were all round riots and unending curfew, he would be very concerned if we were getting the necessary supplies or not! Many a time he would walk over to our house with eggs, butter, bread and packets of cigarettes which he had bought and arranged for me during the curfew! And then many years later when I was shifting house, he and his daughter not only offered but brought lunches and dinners for us consecutively for three days! Malik Sahib would bring us the food prepared by his daughter! And when I had some trouble with the then Chairman, a certain Shahabuddin Iraqi, he with full concern met him a number of times to solve the problem. He was through out a loving mushfiq teacher who was always concerned about his students. Though I had never directly studied any course from him, he considered me his student!