Jamal Sahib is the author of a well researched work on Aligarh – the district, not the University.
He had started his academic career as an Assistant Archaeologist, a position which he gained in 1968. In 1974 he was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of History, AMU, a post which he ultimately vacated in 1984, when he joined as a Reader in the same department.
From 1968 to a few years before his death, he remained involved in a number of Archaeological Excavations which were carried out by the Department. He participated in important excavations such as those conducted at Atranji Khera, Lal Qila and Fathpur Sikri, conducted under the supervision of Professor RC Gaur. He was also a part of the team which carried out excavations at Jhakera under Dr MDN Sahi.
His book Aligarh District: A Survey from Ancient Times to 1803 was published by the CAS. The theme was suggested to him by Professor Nurul Hasan who launched a mega project on the history of Urban areas.
In view of the continued relevance and importance of the work, it has been reprinted by the Centre this very month. No other such work has ever been attempted on Aligarh District. From place names to epigraphs, from forts and tombs to indigo manufacturing, the book deals with a wide gamut of themes. Being a study based on a historical survey of Aligarh district, it shifts the focus of research from royal courts to villages and mufassil towns. It very exhaustively uses the primary sources and epigraphs along with up till then untapped local sources and oral records.
Jamal Sahib being well versed in Urdu, Persian and English also translated a number of books into Urdu. His Urdu translation of the Agrarian System of Mughal India by Irfan Habib is the most prominent amongst them. This translation came out in 1977. Two years later he translated RS Sharma’s famous monograph, Sudras in Ancient India. Moreland’s two books, viz., From Akbar to Aurangzeb, and Agrarian System of Moslem India were also translated into Urdu by him.
During my student age, I remember him teaching a course on Archaeological Theory and Practice, and another on Historical Archaeology. He had also been given the responsibility of making the time table for the BA and MA classes.
He also wrote a number of research papers. One paper, interestingly critiques the nomenclature ‘Medieval Archaeology’. If excavating a medieval site is medieval archaeology, then why can’t we have Khalji archaeology or Tughlaq Archaeology, he argued. Ironically today however, he is remembered as a Medieval Archaeologist!