As mentioned in my earlier blog (my first), Sir Syed Excellence Award for 2019 has been given by the Aligarh Muslim University. The award in the International category has been given to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford. In the National category it has been awarded to the Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy, Azamgarh.
The awards were given on the occasion of Sir Syed Day Celebrations on 17 October 2019 at a function held at the Athletics Ground of Aligarh Muslim University. The chief guest of the program was Dr. Frank F. Islam, an Aligarh alumnus and USA based Entrepreneur.
Dr. Farhan Nizami accepted the award on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. He is founding director of the Centre. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Nizami said that “The Centre serves as a bridge between the east and the west” and that “its very presence at Oxford symbolizes a commitment to the promotion of cooperation and friendship between peoples and cultures”.
On the relationship between the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Aligarh Muslim University he said that “there is a connectivity between that and this University. To this audience it would be obvious where the idea of the Centre has come from. Sir Syed’s vision for Aligarh has no doubt been an inspiration”. He further said that “Sometimes, the Centre has been described as an Aligarh at Oxford just as Sir Syed had visualized an Oxford at Aligarh”
Dr. Nizami further said that Sir Syed “remains a beacon of guidance and inspiration not only here in Aligarh but for many around the world. They have much to thank Sir Syed for and much to be grateful for”. About the relevance of Sir Syed and his thoughts in present times, Dr. Nizami pointed out that “the questions that Sir Syed put to the Muslims of India over a century and a half ago remain as relevant today as they were then and, therefore, needs to be asked still and answered as best as we can for our times and for our circumstances”.
Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli accepted the award on behalf of the Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy. He is present director of the academy since 2008. In his acceptance speech, Prof. Zilli said that the “Darul Musannefin was established a century ago by Allama Shibli who was a close associate of Sir Syed and a renowned teacher of MAO College. Sir Syed and MAO College played an important role in the development of the personality of Allama Shibli. Similarly, services of Allama Shibli for the MAO College are remarkable”
Professor Zilli further said that “Today it is not even possible to visualize the state of mind of Indian Muslims after the failure of the first war of Indian Independence in 1857. In the life of any community, the road from power to slavery is extremely painful. It is not easy to visualize and start something grand in such an environment. It required vision, indomitable courage and perseverance. These characteristics are very difficult to find in an environment of defeat and helplessness. After seeing Jama Masjid, Strachey Hall and Victoria Gate, who can say that these were built by a community who had just lost everything? This extraordinary effort was a reflection of yearning to regain the lost glory. It was a symbolic indication of trying to move from the present darkness to a bright future and also a pointer to future possibilities. When the political power was lost, Sir Syed laid the foundation of Kingdom of Knowledge and Enlightenment. It was not just an institution where degrees were awarded to get government jobs but it fulfilled many cultural and psychological needs of the besieged Muslim community”.
Coming back to the contribution of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy, Prof. Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli said that the “Shibli Academy had no parallel in the history of Muslim scholarship. As a matter of fact, in our history, Baitul Hikmat is the only institution that can be truly called the predecessor of Shibli Academy”. However, he pointed out that “there is a huge difference between the two. Baitul Hikmat had at its disposal the unlimited resources of the Abbassid Caliphate at its peak. Contrary to that the scholars of Darul Musannefin who had nothing but commitment for the service of their community, trust in God and the courage of conviction.”
Talking about the literature produced by the Darul Musannefin, he further stressed that “the literature which has been prepared by the academy on subjects such as The Life of the Prophet (PBUH), Life of the Companions, Islamic History, Indian History, Literature, Philosophy, etc. has no substitute. It has no parallel not only in the Indian Subcontinent but in the wider Muslim World”.
It would not be out of place to mention that both the institutions which were awarded this year were started by the people associated with Aligarh Muslim University. Interestingly, the Directors (Dr. Farhan Nizami and Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli) of both the institutions who accepted the award on the behalf of their respective institutions are also alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University.
Jo Abr Yahan Se Utheyga, Wo Sarey Jahan Pe Barsega
Note: The speech by Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli was delivered in Urdu. If there is any mistake in the translation, it is my fault.