Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, KCSI

(Residential Halls of Aligarh Muslim University Series/ Blog 1)

Soorat se ayaan jalaley shahi

chahrey par faroghey subhey gahi

wo mulk pe jaan deney wala

wo qaum ki naaw kheney wala

(Allama Shibli Nomani)

As promised in my previous blog, this is the first in series of blogs on the personalities on whom halls of residence at Aligarh Muslim University have been named. The list includes the luminaries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It is a veritable who’s who list. But none among them can match the towering personality and lasting impact of Baba e Qaum, Sir Syed Baba. He is lovingly called by this name by Aligarians (Alumni of Aligarh Muslim University). Two halls of residences in University are named after the founder of the University: Sir Syed Hall North and Sir Syed Hall South. These halls of residence contain many heritage buildings associated with the history of Aligarh Muslim University, many of them designed by Sir Syed himself and built under his supervision. Some of the heritage buildings in the Sir Syed Hall compound include Victoria Gate, Jama Masjid, Strachey Hall, Beck Manzil, Asman Manzil, Sami Manzil, etc.

Syed Ahmed Taqvi bin Syed Muhammad Muttaqi, popularly known as Sir Syed, was born on 17 October 1817 at Delhi. His family was in service of Mughal Court for several generations (Bhatnagar, 1969) and his early education of Quran and Science was in the court itself. After the death of his father in 1838, the income from the Mughal Court reduced significantly. to support his family, Sir Syed started his career in 1838 with East India Company and after some training started working as Sadr Amin (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 42). In 1839, he was called to Agra by Sir Robert Hamilton and made Naib Munshi in Agra Collectorate (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 43). During his stay in Agra he prepared and passed the competitive exam for post of Munsif and got his diploma (Hali, 1939, p. 44). The material which he prepared for his competitive exam was published by him with his brother as co author to help others to prepare for the post of Munsif by the name of Intekhabul Akhween. It become quite popular and many people cleared the exam of Munsif with the help of the book (Hali, 1939, p.44). During this period he wrote three more books. The first was Jala ul Quloob bi Zikril Mahboob on the life of the Prophet Mohammad ﷺ . The second book was Tuhfah e Hasan and third book was Tasheel fi Jarre Saqeel which was translation of Ibn Sina’s book. It was published in 1844 (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 45). During this period he was awarded the title of Jawwadud Dawla and Arif Jung in 1942 during a ceremony at the Court (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 45, Bhatnagar, 1969). After the death of his brother, Sir Syed was transferred to Delhi where he continued to publish the newspaper, Sayed al Akhbar, which his brother started. The newspaper had its own printing press. It was here in 1847 that his book on the historical monuments of Delhi, Asarus Sanadid (Remnant signs of Ancient Heroes ) was published. It was a unique book in the sense that no such book was written on similar lines before. It contained the details of pre 1857 Delhi and its monuments, buildings and people. The book contained detailed drawings and measurements of the monument. It was translated into French in 1861 by Garcin de Tassy and based on the French translation, the Royal Asiatic Society made Sir Syed its honorary fellow on 4 July 1964 (Hali, 1939, p. 50). A highlight of Asarus Sanadid is the four statements of praise (taqreez) which are contained in the book. One of them is written by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (Naim, 2010). The hard work that Sir Syed put in collecting relevant information for Asarus Sanadid was an indicator of things to come. It was evident that if Sir Syed started a project he would give it all and would go to any length to get quality. To read the inscriptions on Qutub Minar, he would sit in a basket and the basket would be suspended on scaffolding high enough to read the inscriptions thus putting his life in danger (Hali, A. H., 1939, pp. 47-48). This quality of Sir Syed stood him in good stead in later life.

On 3 January 1855, Sir Syed was transferred to Bijnor as Sadr Amin (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 52). During his posting at Bijnor Sir Syed published an annotated edition of Ain e Akbari. He included a number of pictures which were missing in the Ain Akbari.

In April 1858 he was transferred to Moradabad as Sadrus Sudur (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 70). In 1859, the British Government constituted a commission to try those involved in the 1857 War of Independence. Sir Syed was made part of the commission in Moradabad. His presence ensured that the work of the commission was done with Justice (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 71) and not with a feeling of taking revenge. Same year i.e. 1859 he established a Madrasa for teaching Persian at Moradabad (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 73). In 1860 there was severe famine in the area in and around Moradabad. The responsibility to arrange relief was given to Sir Syed by the Collector of Moradabad, Sir John Strachey. Sir Syed worked tirelessly to provide relief regardless of religion or social status. He personally supervised the relief efforts and even used to wash clothes of people who were sick (Hali, A. H., 1939, pp. 91-92). Sir Syed also ensured that orphans were given for adoption according to their religion to either Hindu families or Muslim families and not to the Christian Missionaries which were working there under the patronage and with the support of the British Government. It was one of his conditions to accept the responsibility of managing the relief efforts which was accepted by Sir John Strachey (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 93). Sir Syed ensured that none of the orphans was given to the Missionaries. Very soon Sir John Strachey was transferred and replaced by Mr. Power. He was inclined towards the Missionaries and ensured despite protest from Sir Syed that the orphans which were given to Hindu and Muslim families were taken back and given to Christian Missionaries by force. Even the four or five orphans who were living at Sir Syed’s house were not sparred. This incident shook him to the core and decided that very soon he will establish an orphanage for Indians were both Hindu and Muslim orphans will be taken care of and the funding will come from common people through donations. However, he very soon realised orphanage is no long term solution and unless there is education among Indians they situation can not be changed (Hali, A. H., 1939, pp. 91-94).

On 12 May 1862, Sir Syed was transferred to Ghazipur (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 105). He established a school at Ghazipur in 1863 (Hali, 1939, pp.107-108). By that time Sir Syed was of firm belief that modern ideas, particularly scientific ideas, can not be propagated unless they are available in vernacular languages. To achieve the said goal, he published an appeal “Iltimas ba khidmat saaknaaney hindustaan dar baab e taraqi taalim ahley hind” (Appeal to the residents of Hindustan regarding development of education of Indians) and distributed it in 1863 (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 106). He appealed to the people to make a society for translating old Indian books and modern scientific books in English language into Urdu language to inculcate scientific temperament. The appeal worked and Scientific Society was formed at Ghazipur in 1864. Sir Syed was elected its honorary secretary. The Duke of Argyll accepted to be appointed its patron. Lt. Governor Edmont Drummond (Lt. Governor of North Western Provinces) and Lt. Governor Sir Donald Friell McLeod (Lt. Governor of Punjab) were appointed Vice Patrons (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 106). The scientific society was later shifted to Aligarh when Sir Syed was transferred to Aligarh. The society proved to be a milestone and an important pillar in the Aligarh Movement. Membership was open to all. Out of 109 people who accepted the membership 28 were British, 34 Hindu and 47 Muslims (Usmani, A., 2009).

In 1864, Sir Syed was transferred to Aligarh from Ghazipur (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 108).. At Aligarh, on 10th May 1866, on the urging of Sir Syed, Aligarh British Indian Association was formed at Aligarh (Hali, A.H., 1939, p. 111). By 1867, he was promoted and became Judge at a Small Causes Court. In 1868, Sir Syed wrote a book “Risalae Ahkaam Ta’am Ahle Kitab“. In this book, Sir Syed used Quranic Verses and Hadith to argue that Muslims can eat with Christian and there is nothing in religion which stops them from doing so. It was quite provocative thought in that environment but according to Sir Syed himself people slowly accepted the argument and it became quite common for Muslims to share their dinning table with Britishers after some time (Hali, A.H., 1939, pp. 127-129).

It was the first war of Independence in 1857 and the subsequent suppression of Muslims by the British that shook him to the core and caused him to ponder over the fate of the community. At that time, he was posted at Bijnor and firsthand witnessed the calamity that was brought upon Indian Muslims as revenge for First War of Independence by the British. Although there was participation of every community in the War of Independence, greater blame was put on Muslims and hence the revenge. Sir Syed was so much affected by the large scale destruction and near complete annihilation of Muslim Elite (Shurafa) and was was so pained that he even thought of migrating to Egypt. However, he decided to stay and do something for the uplifting the community. In his own words, it would have been namardi (cowardice) and bemurawwati (disregardful or delinquent ) to leave the community in such a dire situation and find safe haven for himself. He decided to stay back and help his community in those trying times (Hali, A. H., 1939, p. 70). In 1859 he was promoted to the position of Sadrus Sudoor and transferred to Moradabad (Hali, 1939, p. 70). During his posting in Moradabad, he published Tarikh e Sarkashi Bijnor (History of the uprising of Bijnor,). Same year he wrote Asbab e Baghawat e Hind (The Causes of the Indian Mutiny) and submitted it to the British government. Given the times and circumstances, it was a daring and forceful critique of the British, their policies towards Indians particularly Muslims and their heavy handed handling of the revolt.

Meanwhile in 1861, Sir William Muir’s book “The Life of Mohammad” was published in 1861 from England. The book was full of Christian bias against Muslims and Islam as was noted by contemporary scholars. When Sir Syed read the book, he was saddened and wanted to write a rebuttal. He started collecting material for the same. In the meantime he got an opportunity to travel to England. His son Syed Mahmood got scholarship for higher education in England. Sir Syed decided to accompany him to England. The reasons why Sir Syed wanted to travel to England were manifold. Apparently he was going there to see the development of Science and Technology and firsthand learn about the reasons of Britain’s development. The idea was to learn and apply the same for the benefit of Indians so that they can also prosper. Another underlying desire for this journey was to collect references from the British libraries for his rebuttal of Muir’s book. Sir Syed believed that he can get relevant material in British Museum Library and India Office Library (Hali, A.H., 1939, p. 118). Before this opportunity arose, Sir Syed had already started writing rebuttal of Muir’s book. However, he faced paucity of reference material in India. The opportunity to travel to England was too enticing to be missed as Sir Syed and he immediately started his preparation for the all important journey. It is interesting to note that the recommendation of scholarship to Syed Mahmood was given by Sir William Muir himself in his capacity of Lt. Governor of North Western Province. It is also interesting to note that Sir Syed called on Sir William Muir before embarking on his journey to England. On 1 April 1869, Sir Syed left for England. For Sir Syed the journey was so important that to raise money for the same he mortgaged his house at 14 % per annum and borrowed money from his friends so as to meet the expenses of his trip (Naim, C.M., 2011). Besides mortgaging his house Sir Syed sold his personal library for which had so painstakingly collected books (Hali, A. H.,1939, p. 132). Sir Syed’s stay in England lasted for 17 long months. During this time, he was able to meet a lot of dignitaries of British high society. He was invited to many meetings in England. Besides he visited several colleges and Universities. He also extensively used the library of British Museum to collect reference material for his book. He wrote a series of articles in Urdu and got them published in England itself by getting them translated to English. During his stay in England he was awarded the C.S.I. on 6 August 1869 by the Duke of Argyll (Hali, A. H., 1839, p 137). During his stay in England, Sir Syed attended several meetings of Royal Asiatic Society and was present in the last reading of Charles Dickens at the Society. He was also was given membership of Athenaeum Club. It was a huge honour as at that time there was a waiting list of more than 3000 people, some of whom were waiting for 12 years to get its prestigious membership. Sir Syed stayed in England for 17 months and left England for India on 4 September 1870 (Hali, A.H., 1939, pp. 139-144).

Once back in India, the first thing Sir Syed did was to start Tehzibul Akhlaq. The first volume of Tehzibul Akhlaq came out of press o 24 December 1870. Sir Syed was major contributor of articles to Tehzibul Akhlaq in its first inning of six year as can be gauged from the fact that out 226 articles during that period, Sir Syed alone contributed 112 article. These articles covered a variety of topics ranging from religion, education, morality, philosophy etc. (Hali, A. H., 1939, pp. 148-150). Sir Syed’s articles in Tehzibul Akhlaq besides their inherent message were examples of Concinnous (Insha Pardazi) writings of the highest order. According to Allama Shibli, It was because of Sir Syed that Urdu language became capable of expressing a wide variety of topics in the realm of politics, morality and philosophy (Nomani, S., 1898).

To further 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 (Hali, A. H.,1939, p. 168). Two years down the line it became Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh on 8 January 1887. This was perhaps the first concrete and thought out response of the Muslims of India to the challenges amidst the hostile environment facing them in the later half of the 18th century after the first war of independence 1857.

This inaugural function of the establishment of the College was presided by 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 ”.

Despite the negative comments and personal attacks against him, Sir Syed had complete faith in what he was doing. Addressing Sir John Strachey during the foundation laying ceremony of the central building of the then college, he said “The central hall of our college buildings, which is to receive your name, and on the basement of which we are now assembled to greet you, will become one day the scene of intellectual contests of youthful ambition and educational honours” (Bhatnagar, 1969). The major problem that was faced by the College committee was to raise enough funds to run the College. Different methods were used for the purpose. Committees were formed which went to different districts to raise funds. Sir Syed even started a lottery for an amount of 30,000 rupees. After distributing the winning amount, 20,000 rupees was saved and used for the development of the College. In response to the criticism for the methodology used to collect funds, he argued that while one does many wrongs for his own personal benefit, what is the harm in one wrong for the benefit of the community? (Hali, A. H., 1939, pp. 176-177). Another innovative method which was adopted by him to raise funds for the College was to draw paintings with message and send them to rich people. The method worked and many new avenues of funding were opened (Hali, A. H.,1939, pp. 182-183).

Despite the paucity of funds, Sir Syed did not compromise when it came to the construction of buildings. While the other members of the College Committee wanted to save money, Sir Syed was of the view that the buildings of College should be grand. He believed that grand buildings will create a positive impact and would last for a long time. It is a fact 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” (Zilli, I.A., 2018).

1n 1876 Sir Syed took premature retirement after serving in various capacities in the British government to focus on his educational movement at Aligarh. His pension was fixed at 400 rupees per month (Kidwai, S., 2010, pl. 39). While at Aligarh in 1877 he started writing the tafsir of the Quran by the name of “tafsir al quran wa huwa al huda wal furqan“. He continued working on it till he breathed his last in 1898. He was able to complete 7 volumes which cover 16 para (parts). According to Sir Syed there are Muslims who need philosophical proof and logic for everything and his tafsir was an attempt to convince them with logic and it was not for those who already have belief and conviction. However, since its publication it has drawn criticism and negativity from majority of Ulema. As a result even the positive aspects in the tafsir have not been discussed by and large (Azmi, A. A., 2020). What is disheartening is that many have questioned his intention. His intention towards Islam and Prophet ﷺ was clear when he sold his library and mortgaged his house so as to travel to England to write a rejoinder to Sir William Muir’s book and defend the honour of the Prophet ﷺ.

While at Aligarh he was made member of Viceregal Legislative Council at the recommendation of Lord Lytton which was later continued on the the recommendation of Lord Ripon (Hali, 1939, p. 206). It was here that he was honoured with Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (KCSI) in 1888 through his membership to the Imperial Legislative Council (The London Gazette, 3 January 1888, p. 14). He was also chosen fellow of Calcutta University and Allahabad University by the Viceroy in the years 1876 and 1887 respectively. The 1889 he received an LL.D. honoris causa from The University of Edinburgh on the recommendation of Sir William Muir (Naim, C.M., 2010). Once at Aligarh, he immersed himself into the College project completely. On 27 March 1888 he left this world (Hali, A. H., 1939, pp. 266-67) leaving behind an unmatched legacy and a void that would be impossible to fill. It was almost 22 years after his death that Sir Syed’s dream of establishing a University for the Muslims of India was fulfilled when on 9 September 1920 through a bill passed in the Imperial Legislative Assembly and Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College was converted into a University (Noorani, A. G., 2016).

Sir Syed was a multi faceted personality. Besides being an Urdu writer par excellence, he was educationist, religious scholar, mufassir e Quran, social reformer, historian, judge, community organizer, philosopher and philanthrope all rolled into one. Whatever field he picked up he worked tirelessly and achieved excellence. One of his fiercest critic, Akbar Allahabadi, acknowledged the same at the time of Sir Syed’s death in the following words

hamari baten hi baten hain syed kaam karta tha

na bhulo farq jo hai kahney waley karney waley main

kahey jo chahey koi main to kahta hoon ki ae akbar

khuda bakhshey bohot si khoobiyan theen marney waley main

For more information and references, please see:

Azmi, Altaf Ahmad (2020) Tafsir al quran (Sir Syed): Ek Muta’ala. Maarif (April), Vol. 205, No. 4, pp. 245-253.

Bhatnagar, Shyam Krishna (1969) History of The M.A.O. College Aligarh. Sir Syed Bicentenary Celebrations Aligarh Muslim University. Caxton Press: Delhi.

Faruqi, Shamsur Rehman. (n.d.) From Antiquary to Social Revolutionary: Syed Ahmad Khan and the Colonial Experience. Available at: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00fwp/srf/srf_sirsayyid.pdf. Accessed on 11 October 2020

Hali, Altaf Hussain (1939) Hayat e Jawed. Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu (New Edition). Delhi.

Khursheed, Anwar (2019) Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s Legacy Goes Beyond Securing Minority Rights. 17 October. The Quint. Available at: https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/muslim-rights-sir-syed-ahmad-khan-constitution-of-india-amu. Accessed on 11 October 2020.

Kidwai, Shafey (2010) Cementing ethics with modernism – An appraisal of Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan’s Writings. Gyan Publishing House: Delhi.

Naim, Choudhri Mohammed (2010) Syed Ahmad and His Two Books Called ‘Asar-al-Sanadid’. Modern Asian Studies (pp. 1-40). Cambridge University Press

Naim, Choudhri Mohammed(2011) A Musafir to London. Outlook. 17 October. Available at: https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/a-musafir-to-london/278673. Accessed on 9 October 2020.

Noorani, Abdul Ghafoor Majeed (2016). History of Aligarh Muslim University. Frontline (13 May). Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/history-of-aligarh-muslim-university/article8523802.ece. Accessed on 14 October 2020.

Shibli Nomani (1898, May) Sir Syed Marhoom aur Urdu Literature. Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College Magazine and Aligarh Institute Gazette. Vol. 6, No. 5., pp. 205-214.

Siddiqui, Mohammad Asim (2015) Man who knew tomorrow. 16 October. The Hindu. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/sir-syed-ahmad-khan-man-who-knew-tomorrow/article7770311.ece. Accessed on 11 October 2020.

The London Gazette (1888). Issue 25722, p. 14. Available at: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/25772/page/14. Accessed on 15 October 2020.

Usmani, Afzal (2009). A history of the Scientific Society. Two Cricles. Available at: https://twocircles.net/2009aug25/history_scientific_society.html. Accessed on 16 October 2020.

Zilli, Ishtiyaq Ahmad (2018). Excerpts from speech given while excepting the Sir Syed Excellence Award 2018 on behalf of Darul Musanneffin Shibli Academy at Aligarh Muslim University. Available at: https://mohsinazizblog.org/2019/10/20/sir-syed-excellence-award-2019-2/. Accessed on 14 October 2020.

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.

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