Syed Sujeel Ahmed | India Tomorrow
BENGALURU—Ali Manikfan, 83, who is among 102 eminent Indians selected for the Padma Shri Award this year, is clueless on how his nomination reached the central government and how he got selected for the prestigious award.
Manikfan, who currently lives in Kozhikode was born in 1938 in Minicoy Island of Lakshadweep. Due to lack of education facilities in the island, he was sent to Kerala for school education by his parents, which he discontinued when in Grade V and returned to the island.
When asked by this reporter as to how did all this happen, Manikfan responded with amusement, “I don’t know. I never sent any nomination nor do I know who sent the nominations,” he said.
However, former student activist and an admirer of Manikfan’s work Suhail KK, believes that it was Lakshadweep’s administration that sent Manikfan’s nomination to the Central government.
Manikfan told indiatomorrow.net, “I got a call from a ministry official in Delhi, saying that I am selected for the Padma Shri. After that I also got a call from the Governor of Kerala.”
Manikfan sounds neither ecstatic nor dismissive of the award. When asked, what his reaction was when the news about the award came to him, he calmly replied, “I didn’t feel anything special on getting the award. People have already recognized my work.”
Manikfan has been conferred with Padma Shri in grassroot innovations category.
Manikfan is a retired official from Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Lakshadweep, who reached the post all by hard work and commitment without any formal education. His interest in nature and the universe brought him closer to different aspects of science. Suhail, who has made a video series on Manikfan which is available on the Youtube, describes him as, “an inquisitive mind, who looks at the universe in a way different from the common man.”
Manikfan is called an autodidactic polymath for his research work in diversified fields of science that include marine biology, astronomy, agriculture, motorcycle design and ship building, all on his own, spanned over a period of almost six decades.
His notable contributions include setting up a fish museum of rare fish species in Mandapam Regional Centre of CMFRI. He was instrumental in identifying, classifying, and preserving about 400 species of fish for the museum. In 1968, he discovered a fish which was unknown till that time and named scientifically after him as ‘Abudefduf Manikfan’.
When asked what his favourite innovation is or for which innovation he is honoured with the Padma Shri, Manikfan smilingly responded, “I don’t see anything that way, I live one day at a time. I can say that recently I have designed a motorcycle for the handicapped.”
Manikfan is also a polyglot who knows 14 languages including the rare spoken Hebrew, all learnt by his own. He is fluent in English, French and other international languages.
Strives for Global Hijra Calendar
One of the key focus areas of Manikfan’s research from past many years is Islamic Moon Sighting. He has been trying to educate Muslim world on the importance of a unified Hijra calendar that recommends the beginning and end of all the Islamic months on a same day across the globe. Going by Manikfan’s calendar, the beginning of Ramadhan and celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr would be on the same day across the globe. Manikfan argues, “you cannot have three days for one day. You cannot celebrate Eid on three different days.” He had approached the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Saudi Arabia with his calendar without much success.
His thoughts on the unified Hijra calendar echoes with those of Yousuf Al-Qardawi and Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, who have termed moon sighting as not a matter of religion or Deen but scientific one, which must be left to the experts. Manikfan too believes that the controversy of moonsighting arose due to the omission of the first part of the Hadith, “Ashshahru tis’un wa ishroon…”, meaning the month is 29 days so if you see the moon start or end your fasting. Manikfan writes, “The Hadith was told to avoid controversy on the Quranic verse, “When you witness the month of Ramadan, fast for it”, a doubt was possible that Muslims of that time would have believed that they had to fast 30 days and not less, hence the Prophet told the Hadith that recommends sighting of moon to start and end fasting.”