100 Years of Aligarh Muslim University: The Journey Continues

This month Aligarh Muslim University celebrated its Centenary. Series of events are planned at the University for this joyous occasion. The Story of Aligarh Muslim University started after the first war of independence in 1857. At that time, Sir Syed was posted at Bijnour as Sadr Amin. He saw the destruction brought upon Indians and particularly Muslims after the Colonial Power suppressed the independence movement. Sir Syed was deeply affected by what he saw. He was so distraught that he even planned to migrate to some other country. Sir Syed decided to stay and work for the upliftment for the community as he himself said that it would be an act of cowardice to leave the community in such dire straits at such crucial stage of their history and settle abroad.

To achieve his aim of uplifting the community from the quagmire of poverty and illiteracy that it found itself, Sir Syed worked simultaneously at several fronts. While on the one hand he was trying to inculcate scientific temperament among the Indian Muslims by establishing Scientific Society in 1864 and bringing out magazine like Tehzeeb-ul- Akhlaq (Mohammedan Social Reformer) in 1871. On the other he was urging them to adopt modern education. Naturally he faced multi faceted opposition also.

It was on 1 April 1869 he embarked on a journey of England where his son, Syed Mehmood, got scholarship for higher education. Sir Syed’s stay in England lasted for 17 months. The visit brought major change in Sir Syed’s outlook. Although the underlying factor for his England visit was to collect material to write rebuttal of Sir William Muir’s book on Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him). During his stay in England Sir Syed visited colleges and universities and was inspired to started a “Muslim Cambridge” back home. Back in India, Sir Syed hit the ground running and immediately started working on his plan.

After seeing the advancement in Science and Technology, Sir Syed realised that the only way forward for the community was to embrace the new Science. However, back in India he faced stiff resistance from the community as the community felt that educating their children in English would make them Christaan (Christian). Despite all the adversities Sir Syed showed his character and stood his ground and worked till his death to achieve his purpose. He was lucky in a sense that he got the support of many intellectuals of his times. Similarly many in the landed aristocracy wholeheartedly supported him. Among the intellectual giants who supported Sir Syed in his endeavour are Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, Allama Shibli Nomani, Nawab Muhsinul Mulk etc. Personally Sir Syed did everything to raise funds for his College. He begged, danced on stage, played lottery, sang on stage and what not. In his last message Sir Syed said that “

To achieve his goal of uplifting the Muslim community, he started Madrasatul Uloom Musalmanan-e-Hind at Aligarh. The Madrasa opened its doors to students on 24 May 1875 to coincide with the 56th birthday of Queen Victoria. Two years down the line it became Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh on 8 January 1887. The inaugural function of the establishment of the College was presided by the the then Viceroy and Governor General of India, Lord Lytton, in the presence of Sir Syed and other dignitaries. Lord Lytton laid the foundation stone of the college. The address presented by Sir Syed to the Lord Lytton said that “from the seed we sow today, there may spring a mighty tree, whose branches like those of banyan of the soil, shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth, and themselves send forth new and vigorous sapling: that this college may expand in a University whose sons shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free enquiry, of large hearted toleration and of pure morality

Later when Lord Ripon, the Viceroy, visited Aligarh in 1884, Sir Syed said: “Some day when our endowments are sufficient, we would request the Government to confer upon us the legal status of an independent University.” In July 1906, Badruddin Tyabji said in an address to the Aligarh College Association in England: “If, as I hope, Aligarh develops into a university it will become the centre of attraction of education for all Mohammedans, not only from the various Mohammedan schools and colleges of India, but also, it may be, from all other parts of the Mohammedan world“. The college later became University on 9 September 1920 through a bill passed in the Imperial Legislative Assembly.

Today Aligarh Muslim University is one of the Central University of the Republic of India and has been consistently ranked amongst the India’s best Universities. The University is spread over 467.6 hectares (1155 acres) in the city of Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. Presently the University offers more than 300 courses in the traditional and modern branches of education. The University has about 28000 students, more than 1300 teaching staff and about 5600 non teaching staff on its rolls. The University boasts of 12 faculties comprising of 98 teaching departments. Besides there are 3 academies and 15 centers and institutions in the University. However, the heart and the soul of the University is its residential character. Most of the staff and students reside inside the campus. There are 19 halls of residence for students with 80 hostels. Besides the University runs one primary school and seven high schools including one for the visually challenged and two senior secondary schools, one each for boys and girls.

There are ample opportunities for sports and cultural activities on campus thus providing for all round development of students. The University maintains Willingdon Cricket Ground for Cricket, Meston Swimming pool for swimming, Gymkhana, Hockey field with asto turf besides several football grounds, skating rink, basketball, volleyball and Lawn Tennis facilities. The University also has a hiking and mountaineering club. However, the University Riding Club is its crowning glory. It is more than 100 years old riding club with excellent horses and coaching facilities. Riding Club has its own riding ground for practice. Yours truly is a former member of the riding club having earned my horsemanship certificate from Janab Hamid Ansari Sahib during his tenure as Vice Chancellor of the University. For Cultural activities there is General Education Centre which boasts of Kennedy Auditorium. The activities in General Education Centre are organised through Drama Club, Music Club (Hindustani and Western Music), Literary Club and Film Club.

The University also runs three off campus in the districts of Malappuram (Kerala), Murshidabad (Bengal) and Kishanganj (Bihar). These campuses offer MBA and integrated B.A.L.L.B. courses.

Its alumni are spread all over the length and breadth of the globe as envisaged by the sage himself. The alumni of the University have established schools, colleges and universities all over the globe and have advanced the cause of education. However, there is still lot to be done particularly in India. Various reports make it clear that Muslims in India lack behind other communities in education. The situation is even worst when it comes to higher education. It is time for Muslims of India to take initiative and invest all their time, energy and money in raising their educational standards. It is time for them to rededicate themselves to learning and contribute even more to the progress and prosperity of India and humanity at large.

Urdu goes Hi-Tech: Mirza Ghalib meets Jeff Bezos

On June 5, 2020, Rekhta Foundation launched its Amazon Alexa Skill enabling Urdu lovers to enjoy Urdu poetry on Alexa. It allows lovers of Urdu poetry to enjoy hundreds of Urdu couplets by master poets by simple voice command. Connoisseurs will be able to enjoy this service on both Amazon Echo Range as well as Alexa enabled devices. At initial stage, it allows one to listen to almost 1000 poetry tracks from about 50 poets. To make it easy for users, the Urdu couplets have been arranged according to poets and genre like poetry on sadness, love etc.

It can be used by giving commands in both English and Urdu by simply saying “Alexa open Rekhta” or “Alexa, Rekhta Shuru karo”. It can also be used according to poet, genre or mood. example, simply telling it “Alexa, tell me a love shayari” will enable Alexa to play love shayari. At the launch of the service, the Country Manger Alexa Skills and Voice Services, India, Mr. Dilip R.S. said that “With over 1000 Shayaris to choose from, we are exited about Rekhta’s new Alexa Skill and believe it is a great way for poetry lovers to enjoy their favourite Shayaris in a hassle-free manner through simple voice commands at the comforts of their homes”.

According to Mr. Sanjeev Saraf, founder Rekhta Foundation, “With changing times, the ever-increasing charm of poetry has reached personal devices and Echo devices and Alexa-enabled smart devices perfectly fit the environment of personal leisure time. We are pleased to bring this home for the lovers of the language”.

This is a novel experiment and the need of the times. This will allow larger audience to benefit from vast collection of Urdu poetry. This may very well become a wonderful opportunity to promote the language with the help of technology. I am exited and looking forward to using this. Indeed, exciting times for Urdu and Urdu lovers.

For more information and references, Please see:

 

 

 

 

Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy cries out for help

Darul Musannefin popularly known as Shibli Academy or Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy is a research institution based in the Indian city of Azamgarh. The idea of a residential academy where scholars can stay and undertake quality research was conceived by Allama Shibli Nomani (3 June 1857 – 18 November 1914). Shibli Nomani bequeathed his property at Azamgarh city for the purpose. Besides his relative also donated their share of the property. Today the Academy is situated in 23172.67 square meters campus. The campus has a library, meeting hall, mosque, mango orchard, press and staff quarters.

The purpose of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy is to:

  • Nurture and sustain a body of scholarly authors.
  • To provide a congenial environment for scholars to create, compile and translate literary works of high scholastic and historical value.
  • To undertake printing and publication of the literary works of the Academy.

The Darul Musannefin since its establishment has nurtured a body of scholars of repute. It provides a congenial academic environment for scholars to create, compile and translate high quality literary work. So far it has published more than 250 high quality books. Some of the best-known books of Darul Musannefin are ‘Seerat -un- Nabi’, ‘Al Farooq’ and ‘Seerat- e- Aisha’.

The Darul Musannefin also publishes a widely reputed Urdu monthly ‘Maarif’. The first issue of Maarif was published in July 1916. The journal has already completed 100 years of uninterrupted publication. At present, it is the longest surviving Urdu journal in the world.

The Press Information Bureau of  Government of India, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Academy, described it as “Moulded in the scholarly tradition of India’s ancient centres of learning, the Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy, in the old Azamgarh town of Uttar Pradesh, has taken its place alongside some known modern research institutions. The small band of devoted scholars in the Academy, who preferred the pursuit of knowledge to the lure of status, comforts or emoluments which could have been theirs for the asking, recalls the glory of the ancient scholars of Nalanda, Cairo, Taxila and Transoxiana.”

Among its admirers Shibli Academy can count stalwarts as Allama Sir Mohammad Iqbal, Maulana Abul Kalaam Azad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Pandit Motilal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Zakir Hussain. The present president of the Academy is Hamid Ansari (Former Vice President of India).

To show support to the Academy prominent personalities became life members. Some of the important life members of the Academy were Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Maulana Abdul Kalaam Azad, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Nawab Hamidullah Khan.

In the past prominent political and intellectual personalities made it a point to visit Academy. Some of the prominent personalities who have paid visit to the Academy are Mahatma Gandhi, Motilal Nehru, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia, Suchitra Kriplani, Chaudhary Charan Sigh, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Bi Amman, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, Sarojini Naidu, Dr. Zakir Hussain, V.V. Giri, V.P. Sigh, Professor Sir Ziauddin, Professor Abdul Salaam (Nobel Laurate), Rahul Gandhi and Hamid Ansari to name a few.

Before Independence, Shibli Academy got valuable monetary support from the Princely states of Bhopal and Hyderabad. Particularly, the Begum of Bhopal was an important patron of the Academy. However, these sources dried up after Independence of India. Despite offers from the Government of India, the Academy opted not become a government organisation so as not to lose its independence of thought. Presently, due to a variety of reasons, the Academy is in dire financial situation. Had it been about construction of a Mosque or supporting a Madrasa, it would have been much easier to generate funds. However, people usually do not understand the importance of a research institution or a think tank. Hence, the lukewarm response of the community towards the Academy. The people at the helm of affairs are trying to tide out of the present precarious situation. Since the Academy survives purely on the donations received from the general public and does not have any permanent income stream, the present administration is trying to build a corpus fund. The idea is to make the Academy financially sustainable so as to reduce the need to go to the community again and again for support. However, due to certain factors, particularly the lockdown, the Academy’s finances are really stressed out. So much so that the April salaries were delayed by 15 days, perhaps first time in almost 106 years of its proud existence. The Director of the Academy, Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli, has appealed to the community for help. The Academy is in precarious situation. I am appealing you to kindly help in whatever way you can.

There are several ways to financially help the Academy. Some of them are:

  • Become life member of the Academy
  • Buy books published by the Academy
  • Direct monetary contribution. Monetary contribution can be either one-time lump sum amount (no amount is small. Even 100 Indian Rupees would be helpful). The other more sustainable method is to give standing instruction to your bank to transfer a particular amount every month to the Academy (Again no amount is small. Most of the banks accept standing orders of minimum 100 Indian Rupees per month). It would not be out of place to mention that the Indian contributions to the Academy get tax benefit under 80C. The Academy also has permission to receive funds from outside India.

For those who would like to contribute directly to the Academy, the Account details are as follows:

Account Name: DARUL MUSANNEFIN SHIBLI ACADEMY

General Account No: 4761005500000051

IFSC Code: PUNB0476100

Foreign Account No: 0504010100046001

IFSC Code: PUNB0476100

Bank Name and Address: Punjab National Bank, Heerapatti, Azamgarh.

For further details the website of the Academy can be visited at:

website: www.shibliacademy.org

The administrators of the Academy may be contacted at:

E-mail: shibli_academy@rediffmail.com

info@shibliacademy.org

Note: Please forward the post to your friends. You never know who may help.

For more information and references, see:

 

Educating the community: Some inspiring news and some random thoughts

A group of Ulema from the Indian State of Jharkhand have appealed to Muslims to solemnize marriages with simplicity. They have decided not to officiate marriages with baraat (often the big group of people who accompany bridegroom to the bride’s house for marriage) or unnecessary extravaganza. It is indeed a welcome decision.

Anyway, many were already forced to drastically cut down on marriage related celebrations due to lockdown. Billions of rupees are spent every year on marriages. Not all expenses are unnecessary, but a huge part of the expenses fall in the category of unnecessary.

A similar report about Meerut city in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh estimates that around 60000 nikah have taken place in Uttar Pradesh alone during lockdown. The report also mentioned about how marriages were done with less than 10 to 15 people from both the sides. The news report also mentions as to how the simplicity in marriage ceremonies is helping families save significant amount of money. In fact, some people have mentioned that if not for the forced simplicity due to lockdown they would have taken loan to perform marriage with all the required extravaganza due to social pressure. I was just making some rough calculations. Imagine each person saving rupees one lakh due to reduced expenses. This is a very conservative estimate. 60000 marriages saving one lakh each amount to massive 600 crore. This is the saving only during the lockdown period and only from one state. Even if we take this as amount saved in a whole year still it is a huge amount. Let us assume that 75% of this saved amount is used by the family and 25% is used on education of the community. That would still be 150 crores. Assuming that it requires around 2 crore rupees to start a new school, this amount of money is enough to open 75 schools every year. It would not take more than 10 years to transform the education map of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh.   It is high time that the community starts thinking along these lines.

It reminded me of a silent movement already going on in the Muslim community on the need to save money on marriage and cut down on multiple umrah and instead use the money on educating the children of the community. A Faizur Rahman of Harmony India and Prof. Aslam Parvaiz, Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad Urdu University, Hyderabad, India have calculated the amount of money spent by Rich Indian Muslims every year on Umrah. Their rough estimate shows that the money spent on Umrah just for one year can fund the education of 3 lakh kids for 18 years. They are not asking people not to go on Umrah, they are simply asking them not to go every year as many rich Muslims are doing and rather spend the money on the betterment of the community.

I would finish by taking excerpts from an article by Maulana Hafizur Rahman Azami Omeri where he has quoted Imam Ghazali on such practices. “These rich people are very fond of spending their money on the Hajj. They perform the Hajj again and again sometimes even at the cost of their neighbours suffering in hunger”.

For reference and further reading, see:

Aas Mohammad Kaif Twocircles.net (30 May 2020) लॉकडाऊन में इस्लामि कैसे बन गए निकाह के तौर-तरीक़े ! Twocircles.net. Available at: http://twocircles.net/2020may30/437185.html. Accessed on 4 June 2020.

News 18 Urdu (3 June 2020) جھارکھنڈ کے علمائےکرام کا بڑا فیصلہ، شادی میں دھوم دھام اور فضول خرچی

ہوئی تو نکاح نہیں پڑھائیں گے جھارکھنڈ کے علمائےکرام کا اعلان

Available at: https://urdu.news18.com/news/nation/big-decisions-of-religious-leaders-of-jharkhand-for-the-efforts-of-social-reform-nau-ns-305484.html. Accessed on 6 June 2020.

Maulana Hafizur Rahman Azami Omeri (25 May 2012) Multiple Hajj and Umrahs are not a priority in Islam. Twocirlces.net. Available at: http://twocircles.net/2012may25/multiple_hajj_and_umrahs_are_not_priority_islam.html. Accessed on 20 May 2020.

Rasheed Kidwai (24 March 2019) ‘Rich Muslims’ expense on Umrah, marriage can teach 3 lakh poor Muslim kids for 18 yrs’. The Print. Available at: https://theprint.in/opinion/rich-muslims-expense-on-umrah-marriage-can-teach-3-lakh-poor-muslim-kids-for-18-yrs/210834/. Accessed on 27 December 2019.

Most dangerous ways to school

While browsing internet one day my wife stumbled upon a documentary series called “Most dangerous ways to school”. It was out of curiosity that we decided to give it a try. We all started a bit apprehensive as documentaries are usually too much detailed and often boring unless one is interested in the topic. Surprisingly, it turned out to be one of the most meaningful and beautiful documentaries that we have seen recently. By the end of the documentary we realized that there is a whole series covering different isolated communities from around the world. So far, we have seen quite a few and to say that the series is amazing and has been a huge learning experience would be an understatement. It exposes one to the different cultures and traditions and the diversity of living conditions from around the world. The series really makes one realize how blessed one is. To see that simple things in life that most of us take for granted are luxuries and beyond the reach of so many around us was a truly humbling experience. While during lockdown many of us are always complaining about the favourite ice cream flavour not being available, the series brings us the stark reality of so many of us around the world who survive on so little and are still happy. Despite their crushing poverty, they have the desire to succeed and are able to celebrate life whenever they can with whatever little they have.  The series gives us a peek into the lives of the people living in remote parts of the world. The series also brings with all force the sacrifices that so many families are making so that their children can study and live a better life than themselves. It also brings to fore the perseverance of the kids, often less than 10 years of age, in the face of adversity. The whole series is a great education for kids to know and learn about different countries and cultures. They are not only fun to watch for kids; they are virtual geography class without the often-boring lectures.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

For the kids braving the difficult terrain to reach school, they learn to work as team and help each other on the way. I believe they learn more on the way to school then inside the school. When they grow up most of them would be much better team workers and leaders than their school peers who come from privileged backgrounds. The series highlights what difficulties and adversities families and children are ready to face to get education in the hope of a better future. For most of us, getting to school is boring routine affair. For many it can be life threatening journey. Quintus Media’s series entitles ‘The most dangerous ways to school’ highlights just that.  The series is produced by Maximum Films. It shows the struggle of kids to reach school living in remote communities from around the world. One the one hand is spectacular natural beauty while on the other hand is the life-threatening danger that the environment poses to the kids on their way to school. Still its gratifying to see young children battling all odds to reach school. The way to school lies precariously balanced between the surviving the elements and their hunger and thirst for knowledge. From kids in Nepal and Columbia using zip lines to cross rivers and gorges to kids in Peru navigating snake infested jungles to small kids in Nicaragua crossing river on their own to kids in Siberia going to school on horseback early morning in -50 degree Celsius to kids in Papua New Guinea walking in jungle for 7 days or Ladakh for 4 days in -40 degrees so that they can get admission in school is fabulous. Most of the families are so poor that they cannot even afford shoes for their children. What is striking about these amazing kids is that before walking 2 to 3 hours to reach school every day they also help their parents in fields. It is worth watching. Go watch with your kids. They will learn so much more about life.