Book Introduction: Discovering AMU, Volume 1,2 (Atif Hanif)

Author: Dr. Mohsin Aziz

Recently Aligarh Muslim University celebrated Centenary of its existence. The establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University was culmination of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s dream. It was untiring hard work of Sir Syed and his colleagues and later his successors that the small school that Sir Syed started in 1875 at Aligarh metamorphosed into a modern University by the name of Aligarh Muslim University in the year 1920. The centenary was celebrated with lot of vigor and a plethora of activates at the University. Inauguration of the Centenary Gate at the University and the address of the Prime Minister at the Annual Sir Syed Day along with the launching of a stamp on Sir Syed by the Prime Minister were the highlights.

Alumni of the University also celebrated the occasion by various means all over the Globe. Besides other activities, a number of books and articles were also published to commemorate the occasion. One such attempt to pay tribute to the University and celebrate the occasion is a two volume book by Atif Hanif. Atif is a brand and marketing professional from Lucknow. He was my class fellow at Aligarh during MBA (1997-1999) and a very dear friend.

Front and back dust cover of Volume 1
Front and back dust cover of Volume 2

The theme of the two volume book as mentioned on the cover page is “Centenary chapters revealing 100+ years of legacy“. The idea of the book is to capture the 360 degree view of the University in the past 100 years with the help of photographs in the coffee table book mould. The book contains valuable collection of photographs submitted by Alumni from all over the world. There is calligraphy, paintings, maps, letters etc. covering varied aspects of the rich and proud history of the Aligarh Muslim University and Aligarh Movement. The book is without doubt a welcome addition to the growing literature on the University.

Details about the Book Book

Author: Atif Hanif

Weight: 2730 Grams

Hardcover: 584 Pages

Volumes: 2

Language: English

Dimensions: 29.7 cm x 21 cm

Price: 2000 INR

ISBN: 978-81-947980-4-0

Publisher: Xtraordinary Life Media Pvt. Ltd.

The book can be ordered online at: http://www.xtraordinary.life

Justice Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman

Author: Mohsin Aziz

(Residential Halls of Aligarh Muslim University Series/ Blog 2)

Sulaiman Hall is one of the oldest Halls of resident of Aligarh Muslim University comprising of seven hostels – Kashmir House, Bhopal House, Agha Khan Hostel, Qidwai Hostel, Hasrat Mohani Hostel, Jai Kishan Das Hostel and Mahmoodabad House. It is named after Sir Shah Sulaiman, Eminent Judge and twice Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. The hall was established in 1945 during the Vice Chancellorship of Sir Dr. Ziauddin (amu.ac.in).

Shah Muhammad Sulaiman was born on February 3, 1886 at Jaunpur. His father, Maulvi Mohammad Usman, was a member of Bar at Jaunpur. He was good at studies and got first division in Matriculation examination followed by a first division at Intermediate examination from Muir College. In 1906, he completed his B.A. from Allahabad University where he stood first. Later he did B.Sc. and stood first. The first position earned him the United Province State Scholarship to study at Cambridge. He completed Tripos in Mathematics from Cambridge in 1909. Simultaneously he completed his Tripos in Law in 1910. Later he qualified for Doctor of Law from University of Dublin. He was called to the Bar from the Middle Temple but Shah Sulaiman decided to return and came back to India in 1911 (Pathak, S., n.d.).

Initially he practiced law at Jaunpur but soon moved to Allahabad High Court to practice law. Allahabad High Court at that time had brilliant lawyers such as Pandit Motilal Nehru, Pandit Sunder Lal, Tej Bahadur Sapru, B.E. O’Conor etc. Shah Sulaiman found fertile ground at Allahabad High Court to express his intellect and very soon made a name for himself in the august company of lawyers practicing there (Pathak, S., n.d.). Starting as Criminal Lawyer, he soon started taking civil cases, and very soon his incisive observations started turning heads. His reputation started to grow and he caught the attention of Chief Justices such as Sir Henry Richards and Sir Grimwood Mears. He was soon offered officiating assignment on the bench. He again moved back to practice but his talent made sure that very soon he was elevated to the Bench as Puisne Judge in 1923. The occasion was recorded by Allahabad Law Journal Reporter in the following words ‘Dr. Sulaiman’s career in the High Court has been one of uniform brilliance and it must be a great sacrifice on his part to accept the Judgeship of the High Court. In doing so, he has upheld the best traditions of the Bar which require that a successful advocate is bound, in point of moral obligation to the State, to serve on the Bench when called upon by His Majesty the King to do so. As an officiating Judge, on two occasions, he made himself universally popular among all sections of the Bar by his courtesy, patience, and evident desire to do justice‘ (Pathak, S., n.d.).

As a Judge he came into his own and very soon made a name for himself. As Sir Tej Sapru would recollect that “Nature had endowed him with gifts of an extraordinary character. Possessed of a penetrative intellect, a mind which could dissect and analyse things as very few other minds could, a power of expression and exposition, he did not take much time on the Bench before he made everyone feel that we had got a Judge of unusual ability and unusual gifts. . . He earned the respect of everyone for his depth of learning, for his sweep of mind and for the promptness of his decisions.”

In 1929 he was knighted by the King-Emperor while he was Puisne Judge at Allahabad. The same year, C. V. Raman was also knighted for his contribution to Physics (The London Gazette, 1929). He acted as Chief Justice in the absence of Sir Grimwood Mears, and thereafter served as a member of the Peshawar Enquiry Committee constituted for enquiring into the riots in Peshawar in 1930.

Upon the retirement of Sir Grimwood Mears as Chief Justice, Sir Shah Sulaiman was appointed as Chief Justice on March 16, 1932. With a reputation whose brilliance was already acknowledged throughout India, it was no surprise when in May, 1937, it was announced that Sir Shah Sulaiman had been appointed a Judge of the Federal Court of India, there was rejoicing everywhere. The new Court was constituted under the Government of India Act, 1935 and for the first time under British rule a focal point was created within the country to which important and grave questions of law proceeded from the High Courts and which, moreover, was vested with original jurisdiction in matters of constitutional importance in disputes between the Central Government and a Province or between one Province and another. When the news of his appointment was announced, there was great rejoicing at Allahabad High Court, and in a reference before a Full Court shortly after the announcement tributes were paid and congratulations showered upon him. When the time approached for him to leave for Delhi, there was a fond but sad farewell. Sir Shah Sulaiman assumed office as Judge of the Federal Court on October 1, 1937. The oath of allegiance was administered by the then Viceroy (Gadbois, G.H.Jr., n.d.).

At the Federal Court of India, Sir Shah Sulaiman immediately showed his brilliance which further enhanced his reputation. The opinion which he delivered in his first case at Federal Court has been described by eminent British lawyer, J. H. Morgan, K. C. in the following words “Now I have just been reading the judgments of the Federal Court at Delhi in that important case. One of those judgments stands out conspicuous and pre-eminent and may well prove to be locus classicus of the law on the subject. It is a judgment worthy of the highest traditions of the House of Lords as an Appellate Tribunal and of the Privy Council itself. I refer to the brilliant judgment of Mr. Justice Sulaiman. In depth of thought, in breadth of view, in its powers alike of analysis and of synthesis, in grace of style and felicity of expression it is one of the most masterly judgments that I have ever had the good fortune to read. Everyone in India interested in future development of the Constitution should study it.”

Similarly, his ruling in what was known as the Communist Conspiracy case in 1933 needs to be read today for certain important lessons. Sir Shah Sulaiman had categorically asserted that, severe punishment on account of political offences or beliefs, defeats the very objective. Today, even calling yourself a ‘comrade’ or reading and referring to Lenin is an offence that can put you behind bars – and even deny you bail.

Besides, his command of law, the other areas of interest were Urdu, Persian, Mathematics and Physics. Interest in Mathematics came to him from his family. One of the most distinguished ancestor of Sir Shah Suliman was Mulla Mahmoud Jaunpuri. Mulla Mahmoud Jaunpuri is the author of highly acclaimed 17th century book on mathematics and astronomy ‘Shams e Bazigha” written in Arabic language (Habib, Irfan, S., 2020). He had a refined taste of Urdu and Persian and wrote a tabsera (Critical note or comment) on Shauq Lucknowi’s Doosra Rukh in Masnawi Alam e Khayal (Sulaiman, S., 1913). He was an ardent admirer of classical Masters of Urdu Poetry Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq who wrote under the nom de plume of ‘Zauq’ and Meer Taqi Meer who wrote under the nom de plume of ‘Meer’. Sir Shah edited and published the poetry of Zauq. He also edited and published the poetry of Meer Taqi Meer by the name of “Intekhab e Masnawiyat e Meer”. He himself wrote the introduction to “Intekhab e Masnawiyat e Meer”. The introduction shows his grasp and mastery over Urdu and Urdu Poetry (Ahmad, A., 1986).

Despite his busy schedule at Allahabad High Court, he always found time for Mathematics and Physics. During his stay at Allahabad, one of his friends was eminent physicist Meghanand Saha who was at Allahabad University at that time. It was during this period that Albert Einstein proposed the Theory of Relativity which settled some unanswered questions from Sir Isaac Newtons time related to gravity. Sir Shah did not completely agree with Einstein and developed his own theory which while departing from Newtons theory also showed calculations to explain the divergence noticed upon application of Einstein’s theory. Sir Shah Sulaiman’s theory with its Mathematical calculations was published in Science and Culture which was published by Meghanand Saha (Habib, S, I., 2020). The theory developed by Sir Shah Sulaiman received widespread recognition in the scientific world including from famous physicists at Harvard University (Pathak, S., n.d.). Even today, his mathematical calculations are available at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Harvard University Websites.

He was always involved with matters of education. He was a member of the Court of the Aligarh University and of the Allahabad for many years. He was a regular participant in the Executive Council of Allahabad University. In 1928, he presided over the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference at Ajmer. He also presided over the All India Adult Educational Conference at Delhi. Sir Shah Sulaiman was also the President of the Anglo-Arabic College of Delhi for a number of years.

However, his biggest contribution to education was at Aligarh Muslim University. Sir Shah Sulaiman acted as Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University at various occasions (Pathak, S., n.d.). He became Honorary Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University in 1929 (amu.ac.in). He was asked to become Honorary Vice Chancellor after the Chancellor of the University asked the then Vice Chancellor, Nawab Muzammilullah Khan, to resign (Naveed, M.). It was to pave the way to implement the recommendations of the Rahimatoola Committee. He was given the Honorary post as a compromise candidate in which Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was also involved (Masood, N). His knowledge of the law helped the University immensely as he was instrumental in getting relevant Statutes and Ordinances framed for the University. He initiated and effected reorganization of various academic and administrative aspects of the University (Pathak, S., n.d.). At that time he was Judge at The Federal Court of India at Delhi and managed the affairs of the University from there. He used to travel to Aligarh twice a week from Delhi. It is noteworthy that he always incurred personal expenses for the purpose and never claimed salary or travel allowance from the University. Later Sir Sulaiman again became Vice Chancellor of the University in 1938 and continued till his death in 1941. He was buried at Nizamuddin Dargah near Amir Khusrow. Had he not died young, he would in all probability became the first Chief Justice of Independent India. During his tenure he gave considerable importance to girls education and Girls intermediate college was upgraded to degree college. He also introduced Urdu as an independent subject in B.A.

His death was noticed widely and obituaries were written all over the world from New York Times (New York Times, 1941) to Nature Magazine. Noble Laureate, C. V. Raman wrote in the Nature Magazine “As chief justice of the High Court at Allahabad for several years and as vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University over a considerable period, Sir Shah Sulaiman was a well-known public figure in India. During the last few years of his life he held the distinguished position of one of the three judges of the newly established Federal Court at Delhi. The news of his death early this year at the age of fifty-five came as an unpleasant surprise to his many friends and admirers, and elicited numerous well-merited tributes to his personality and career” (Raman, C. V., 1941).

Justice Pathak described his life aptly when he noted at the time of his death that “Within the years given to him, he achieved a versatile excellence and an intellectual brilliance which dazzled the generation in which he lived. Like a meteor blazing its luminous course across the heavens, he left a trail of glory behind‘ (Pathak, S., n.d.).

For references and more details, please see:

Ahmad, Akhlaq (1986) Sir Shah Sulaiman. Fikr o Nazar, Vol. 23, pp. 231-242

Amu.ac.in. Available at: https://www.amu.ac.in/amuhalls.jsp?did=10091. Accessed on 13 November 2020

Bhattacharya, A. (2019) Legacy of a Polymath. Frontline, July 19. Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/article28260092.ece. Accessed on 12 October 2020.

Business Recorder (2006) Sir Shah Sulaiman, brilliant judge, , educationist and scientist. 13 March. Available at: https://fp.brecorder.com/2006/03/20060313397214/. Accessed on 18 September 2020.

Gadbois, George, H. Jr (n.d.) The Federal Court of India: 1937-50. The Indian Law Institute, pp. 253-315. Available at: http://14.139.60.114:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/15105/1/022_The%20Federal%20Court%20of%20India_1937-1950%20%28253-315%29.pdf. Accessed on 14 November 2020.

Habib, S. I. (2020) Judging political offence: How this visionary handled it in 1931. The Quint, 3 July. Available at: https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/chief-justice-sir-shah-sulaiman-allahabad-high-court-legal-system-judiciary-science-math. Accessed on 25 September 2020.

London Gazette (1929) Supplement to The London Gazette, 3 June, 3667, p. A2. Available at: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/33501/supplement/3667/data.pdf. Accessed on 23 October 2020.

Naveed, Masood (2020) Aligarh Muslim University: Vice Chancellors (1920-79). Available at Indpedia at: http://indpaedia.com/ind/index.php/Aligarh_Muslim_University:Vice_Chancellors(1920-79)#.28VI.29_Sir_Shah_Mohammed_Sulaiman_.2830th_April_1938_to_13th_March_1941.29. Accessed on 15 November 2020.

New York Times (1941) Sir Shah M. Sulaiman. 13 March, New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1941/03/13/archives/sir-shah-m-sulaiman.html. Accessed on 19 October 2020.

Pathak, S. (n.d.) Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman. Available at: http://www.allahabadhighcourt.in/event/SirShahMSulaimanRSPathak.pdf. Accessed on 21 October 2020.

Raman, C.V. (1941) Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman . Nature, pp. 336-337. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/148336a0. Accessed on 12 October 2020.

Sahai, V. (2016) Glorious history, splendid past. Times of India, 13 March. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/Glorious-history-splendid-journey/articleshow/51384342.cms. Accessed on 12 October 2020.

Sulaiman, S. (1913). Doosrey rukh pe tabsera In Alam e Khayal, Maulana Ahmad Ali Shauq Lucknawi, Munro Publishing Company, Lucknow.

Sir Syed Excellence Award 2020

Author: Mohsin Aziz

The Sir Syed Excellence Award 2020 has been announced by the Aligarh Muslim University. The award in the National Category has been given to Anjuman-i-Islam, Mumbai, while in the International Category the award has been conferred on Dr. Gail Minault. The national category award carries a citation and an amount of one lakh India rupees while in the international category it carries a citation and two lakh Indian rupees . The awards was conferred on the recipients during the online Sir Syed Day commemorative function on October 17, 2020 (AMU, 2020)

Professor Minault is a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (1972) and has taught at The University of Texas since 1972. At present she is Professor Emeritus at the Department of History, The University of Texas at Austin. Her field of research is 19th and 20th century history of India especially focusing on religion, politics, intellectual and social history and women’s movement. She is author of highly acclaimed books such as:

  • The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India (1982)
  • Secluded Scholars: Women’s Education and Muslim Reform in Colonial India (1997)
  • Gender, Language and Learning: Essays in Indo-Muslim Cultural History (2009).

Besides she has edited the following books:

  • The Extended Family: Women and Political Participation in India and Pakistan (1981)
  • Separate Worlds: Studies of Purdah in South Asia (1982)
  • Abul Kalan Azad: A Religious and Intellectual Biography (1988)

She has also translated “Voices of Silence (1986). Professor Gail said that she is “greatly surprised, humbled, and honored to be offered this prize” (The University of Texas at Austin, 2020). During her address in the virtual program conducted to confer the award, she discussed her research on the Khilafat Movement and how important it was for her to find out what the Ali Brothers, Abdul Bari Firangi Mahali, and Maulana Azad were writing, thinking, and saying (AMU, 2020).

Anjuman-i-Islam is a Mumbai based educational conglomerate. It was started by a group of visionary Muslims led by Badruddin Tayabji in 1874. The organisation is the biggest Muslim educational conglomerate of institutions in India providing quality education in varied areas of specialisation. Today the social organisation runs more than 100 educational institutions in the state of Maharashtra, particularly Mumbai. The institutions run by Anjum-i-Islam range from pre-primary schools to Post Graduate courses and caters to around one lakh and ten thousand students. It has provided yeoman service to the nation in the field of education (AMU, 2020). The award was given to Anjuman for “Anjuman-Islam’s exemplary efforts for propagating education among Muslims and other marginalized sections of society” (Wajihuddin, M., 2020). The award was received by Dr. Zahirul Islam Kazi on behalf of Anjuman-I-Islam. While receiving the award he said that “Anjuman Islam follows the teachings of Sir Syed in providing he marginalised sections with the quality education (AMU, 2020).

Congratulations to both Professor Gail Minault and Anjuman-i-Islam for the award. The contribution of Anjuman is immense and deserves a separate blog and hopefully my next blog will be on the history and contribution of Anjuman to the cause of education.

For references and further reading, please see:

AMU (2020) https://www.amu.ac.in/about3.jsp?did=1960. Accessed on 24 October 2020.

The University of Texas at Austin (2020, October 22) Professor Gail Minault Receives Sir Syed Excellence Award. Availabel at: https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/southasia/news/professor-gail-minault-receives-sir-syed-excellence-award. Accessed on 24 October 2020.

Wajihuddin, Mohammad (2020) Anjuman education trust bags national award from AMU. The Times of India, October 10. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/anjuman-education-trust-bags-national-award-from-amu/articleshow/78588037.cms. Accessed on 24 October 2020.

100 Years of Aligarh Muslim University: The Journey Continues

Author: Mohsin Aziz

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.

Kirti Chacha

On 13 September 2020 I received a WhatsApp message “Mohsin Kirti Uncle nahin Rahe. Madhu Chachi” (Mohsin, Kirti Uncle is no more. Madhu Chachi). It was from Madhu Chachi, wife of Kirti Chacha. Yes I called him Chacha. Soon after my mother called from Aligarh telling me that “Kirti ka Inteqal ho gaya. Chachi se baat karlena” (Kirti has passed away. Don’t forget to talk to Chachi). The news came as a shock. My family has a long association with the family of Kirti Chacha. So many of our memories are associated with Kirti Chacha and Madhu Chachi.

Professor Kirti Kumar Trivedi retired from Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi. Before moving to Delhi, he was associated with Department of History at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). His wife, Madhu Trivedi, is an alumnus of Department of History at AMU. She did her Ph.D in history from AMU. She retired from Department of History, School of Open Learning, University of Delhi. It was at Aligarh that the friendship between my father and Kirti Chacha developed. Abbu called him Kirti while Kirti Chacha always called him Zilli Sahib.

It was year 2006 and I was moving to Muscat to join my new job at the Ministry of Manpower, Sultanate of Oman. My flight was from Indra Gandhi International Airport (popularly known as IGI), Delhi. The flight was early morning so it was decided to go to Delhi one day before so as to avoid travelling at night from Aligarh to Delhi. The importance of Kirti Chacha and family for us can be gauged from the fact that while many members of our family live in Delhi but we all decided to go Kirti Chacha’s place to spend the night. We reached Kirti Chacha’s house at evening. After dinner, all of us went to bed except Kirti Chacha, Madhu Chachi and Abbu (I call my father Abbu). All three just talked and talked whole night without sleeping or taking rest even for a minute. Chachi ensured that the supply of tea was maintained at regular intervals. Chacha used to smoke at that time. He just smoked and had innumerable cups of tea and all three old friends talked like there is no tomorrow. Now when Chacha is not there, all those memories keep coming back.

There is one small incident which Chacha loved to recount quite often. Chacha liked his kebab. Once he came to our house and on the door itself I told him “Chacha aaj kebab nahin baney hain” (Uncle there is no Kebab today). Listening to this he laughed heartily and said “Arrey bhai kabhi kabhi sirf milney bhi ajatey hain” (Sometimes I come just to meet). When I met him few years back in Aligarh he reminded me of that incident and laughed a lot.

One of my childhood memories is going to Delhi to see off my uncle, Professor Ashfaq Ahmad Zilli, who was going to Iraq. His flight was from Palam Airport, now called IGI. He was working as Professor at University of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region of Iraq for some time. That was his last visit to Iraq as he soon came back to India due to Iran-Iraq war. Sulaymaniyah was at border between Iran and Iraq and bore the brunt of war. At that time there was no security protocol at the Airport and relatives of people flying out could go almost up to the Aircraft and could see the passengers boarding the plane. That was first time I saw Aeroplane from close quarters. That was also first time I saw automatic door and had quite fun running in and seeing the door open on its own. It was almost like magic. We stayed at Kirti Chacha’s house in JNU. JNU campus is near Palam Airport. When planes land at the Airport they pass over JNU at very low altitude. Those who live there are habitual but for us coming from quite campus of AMU, we kept waking up at night to the roaring noise of landing Aircrafts . In the day time, as a small child along with Kirti Chacha’s elder son Koshu, I found it quite fascinating to see Aircrafts about to land. In Aligarh I was used to seeing Aircraft almost like a toy up above the sky. Here they seemed so big as they were very near to the ground just before landing. I think I spent a lot of time watching with awe the landing planes. Next day Kirti Chacha, Abbu and me went for a short tour of Delhi. It was then that I first saw Jama Masjid and was fascinated by its sheer size. I remember while my father prayed at the Jama Masjid, me and Kirti Chacha sat and waited in the courtyard of the grand mosque. Next day we visited Mehrauli. Climbing Qutub Minar was so much fun and daunting as well. Visitors were allowed upto first level. Later it was closed due to some incident. If I remember I counted 181 or 183 stairs leading to the first stage. Besides Qutub Minar and Ashok ki Laath I dont remember any other details of Mehrauli visit.

Whenever, Kirti Chacha or Madhu Chachi visited Aligarh, a visit to our house was a must. Abbu also tried to meet them whenever possible while visiting Delhi. For last several years during my annual visits to India, I planned to visit Delhi just to meet Kirti Chacha and Madhu Chachi but due to paucity of time I could not. Last time I talked on phone although Kirti Chacha could not talk much. It was only through Madhu Chachi that I talked to him. Of late he developed throat cancer and after surgery it was difficult for him to talk. Now when he is no more, I wish I had somehow found time and visited him.

There are so many things which I want to share about Kirti Chacha. I leave them for some other day. Dear Kirti Chacha, you were an important part of my life. You will forever live in my memories.

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:

 

 

 

 

Black lives matter, Every Life matters

On 25th May 2020, Minneapolis Police arrested a 46-year-old Black American named George Floyd for buying cigarettes with counterfeit 20 dollars. There were four policemen involved. One police officer named Derek Chauvin pinned George Floyd to the ground and kept his knee on Floyds neck for full 8 minutes and 46 seconds even when Floyd was lying unconscious. In the videos George Floyd is repeatedly heard saying that he can’t breathe. His last words which can be heard in videos are I can’t breathe, Man. Please. Mama. Mama. I can’t breathe. Still the policeman did not remove his knee from Floyd’s neck. Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter. All four policemen involved have been fired by the Minneapolis police department. The medical report has classified Floyd’s death as homicide. It was through the CCTV cameras and videos made by bystanders that the world came to know about this heinous crime. The videos sparked a wave of protests across United States, some of them even turning violent with arson and looting.

Today America is burning. America is wounded and in pain. America is in turmoil and mourning. The person at the helm of affairs is further dividing the great country instead of providing the healing touch. He has been calling governors to do more and to dominate the protestors and telling some of the Governor that if they fail to dominate the protestors they will “look like a bunch of jerks”. So much so that the Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo while talking to Christian Amanpour offered some strong advice. He said ‘ Let me just say this to the President of the United States on the behalf of the police chiefs in this country: Please, if you don’t have something constructive to say, Keep your mouth shut, because you’re putting men and women in their early twenties at risk”.

Personally, I connect to this incident at a quite deeper level. One of the abiding and life shaping memories of my childhood is perhaps the only time I was beaten by my father. This is about 1978 or 79 when I was in either Kindergarten 1 or Kindergarten 2. There was a group of foreign students who lived in rented apartments near our house in Aligarh. Today Aligarh is a city of almost million residents. Back then it was a small University Town known for the world-renowned Aligarh Muslim University. Besides, students from all over India, it drew students from around the globe. There were a lot of foreign students in the University. However, the sizable majority of foreign students comprised mostly from various African countries, Thailand, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Palestine. I was playing with other kids from the neighborhood outside the house when one of the African students passed by on his bicycle. Some kids in my groups started calling him black man. I also joined in without even knowing what it meant. Thankfully, my father was sitting in the drawing room with outside door open and listened to us shouting those ugly words. By the time he came out to stop us, that student was gone. My father came straight to me and next thing I remember is a slap. Not only me, all the kids got a slap each. Next, we were all assembled by my father in the drawing room of our house. We were told and explained that all human beings are equal and that the colour of the skin and religion or facial features are not an excuse to discriminate, exclude or humiliate anybody. Because my father did not know where that fellow lived, he waited for next day and when that student passed by again, he was requested to stop. My father took me to him, and I was asked to say sorry for my previous day behaviour. My father also apologized on our behalf to that student. He was a nice fellow. He not only accepted our apology but put his hand on my head and said its ok. After that he became friends with all the kids, and we used to say hello aloud whenever he passed by. That was an extremely valuable lesson for me. Since then I have never discriminated against anybody because of colour of skin. We have to teach our kids from very early age otherwise they may learn and imbibe to hate somebody or discriminate against somebody from their environment. Today in the list of my heroes are a lot of black icons ranging from Dr. Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela to Mohammad Ali to Rosa Parks to Maya Angelou. They keep on inspiring people and are role models for people from around the world.

Let’s pray and work for a day when nobody has to beg for life, when nobody has to beg to breath, when nobody has to beg to be heard, when nobody has to beg to be treated equally, when nobody has to beg for dignity just because of his or her colour of skin or gender or religion. Am I hoping for too much? I hope not.

For references and more details, see:

Sir Syed Excellence Award 2019

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 thatthe 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 thatthe 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.

 

 

Sir Syed Excellence Award 2019

The Sir Syed Excellence Award for 2019 has been announced by the Aligarh Muslim University, India. This year the award has been given to Institutions and not individuals in both national and international categories. The award in the international category has been given to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies while in the national category it has been awarded to the Darul Musannefin, Azamgarh.

The award carries cash prize worth Indian Rupees two lakhs in the international category and Indian Rupees one lakh in the national category. The award will be presented to the representatives of the respective institutions on the occasion of Sir Syed Day Celebrations on October 17, 2019 at Aligarh.

The 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 research was concieved by Allama Shibli Nomani (3 June 1857 – 18 November 1914) and he bequeathed his property at Azamgarh city for the purpose. However, he died before he could convert his dream into reality. It was left to his disciples to  establish it. The students fulfilled the teachers wish and Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy was registered three days after his death on 21 November 1914. The founding President of the committee at the time of establishing the academy was Allama Hamiduddin Farahi. Malulana Syed Sulaiman Nadvi was the founding director and secretary. Maulana Masood Ali Nadvi was the founding Manager with two other members namely: Maulana Abdus Salam Nadvi and Maulana Shibli Mutakallim Nadvi.

The purpose of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy was 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. Most probably it is, at present, the longest surviving Urdu journal in the world.

Congratulations to Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy for the prestigious award. Let us hope and pray that the institution becomes stronger in the days to come.

References:

ttps://www.amu.ac.in/about3.jsp?did=3237

http://www.shibliacademy.org