Time To Wake Up October 5, 2017 – Posted in: Uncategorized

Time to Wake Up!

An Invitation to join the AMU Policy Council

For the last seventy years the AMU community has been on a sabbatical; absent from a leadership role, hiding in the ivory tower of self-interest. The sabbatical mindset has so overtaken us that now we want to declare Saturday as our official holiday. Confronted as we are with the multifaceted challenges today, I believe that it is about time to work hard; to burn the midnight oil. Make no mistake, the Aligarh Friday with half-day off for salatul jumu’a has a very special significance; it directly connects us with the rope of God (حبل اللہ المتین), with the age-old tradition of Madrasatul Uloom and epitomizes at its best the Aligarh Spirit. Any move to undo our Friday ethos will make us just another institution.  We should not let it happen.

Correct me if I’m wrong, Aligarh is not a mere academic institution; it is much more. It originated in our intellectual response to the 1857 debacle when all hopes of an Islamic future in India were dashed out. Those were testing times. Our founder, the great Sir Syed never gave up. With a host of educational, scientific and intellectual initiatives eventually we turned the tide. The Loyal Mohammadans of India carved a niche for themselves. Aligarh became a citadel of hope not only for the Muslims of the subcontinent but for all those who cherished independent thinking, inclusiveness and God-consciousness. Ever since our arrival on the scene, we remained as movers and shakers, not only of the Muslim destiny but of the entire Indian nation, and with launch of the Khilafat Movement, reaching out much beyond the Indian borders. Great leaders and thinkers of various religious and political persuasions would flock to Aligarh. Then, we were looked upon as light on the hill.

Today, once again, Muslim Indians are experiencing an 1857-like situation. A psychological war is being unleashed by fringe Hindutva groups under the tacit patronage of a hostile government and its intensity is only growing. From love jihad to ghar wapsi and from stated opposition to Muslim Personal Law and AMU minority character to Cow-terrorism, there lurks a cunning design of a potential psychological pogrom. In 1857, Muslim dead-bodies were to be found hanging from the trees, and in 2017, they are lynched to the ground in full public view. The shocking incidents created uproar; the civil society was on the boil, compelling an impressive number of conscientious and wakeful citizens to join the ‘Not-In-My-Name’ campaign. But during all these traumatic days our campus was totally calm. The press releases originating from the campus during the period tell us that our professors were busy in sorting out other thorny issues; as to who should become the provost or warden, or who deserves to be a director and who should be replaced by whom, or whose stature has risen, and to what extent, by just attending an international conference or bagging a government project and who has become a world renowned author – a V.S. Naipaul or an Amartya Sen – by simply inclusion of his article in some foreign publication. Aligarh as a factor has been shamelessly absent from this noble and organic movement so central to our mission and so crucial for our survival. A lone news came from Mumbai where a former AMU Vice-Chancellor was reported participating. The Aligarh intelligentsia did not speak their mind; they bore a criminal indifference to the traumatic events that jolted the nation at large. Shame on us!

Elie Wiesel, the Jewish survivor of the holocaust has said that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. In Dante’s Divine Comedy the hottest place in the hell is reserved for those who in a period of moral crises maintain neutrality. And in the Ethics of the Fathers, Hillel says: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? Although I do not plead for any Jewish or Christian maxims, you get the point.

Having lived some four years under this Iron Dome of Indifference – mind you, I joined the university as a faculty in late 2013, I have gathered some insights into how the Iron Dome mechanism successfully repels any call to change and wakefulness. In 1981, Saiyid Hamid, the then Vice-Chancellor, took a bold initiative to impregnate the iron dome. He revived Tahzeebul Akhlaq, the Mohammadan Social Reformer. (The journal is still in operation but even a cursory look at its content makes one believe that it is published in Deoband, not in Aligarh). As an undergraduate student of the time, I was witness to the launching ceremony. Saiyid Hamid spoke at length, passionately pleading for an all-out revival of the Aligarh Movement. Saiyid’s days were stormy. He was maligned and union leaders were used to raise alarm that his initiatives had put Islam in danger. Through all the years he lived on the campus, he kept mulling over publishing Sir Syed’s magnum opus, the Tafsee-ul-Quran, but eventually decided not to. Later, he painfully regretted about this missed opportunity:

علی گڑھ مسلم یونیورسٹی نے اپنے بانی کے ساتھ جو ظلم کیا ہے اور کر رہی ہے وہ احسان فراموشی اور نسیان کرم کی داستاں میں ایک تاریک باب کا اضافہ ہے. یہ کہتے ہوئے میں اپنی کوتاہی کا بھی اقبال کر رہا ہوں. سر سید نے اسلام کی جو تعبیر انیسویں صدی میں کی اس نے فہم دین کو ایک نیا رخ دیا لیکن ان کی بعض بے بنیاد توجیہات اور تاویلات سے خائف ہوکر ہندوستان میں ملت اسلامیہ نے ان کی تفسیر کو سر بمہر کر کے طاق نسیاں پر رکھ دیا. کیا ان لوگوں پر جنہیں خذ ما صفا دع ما کدر کی ہدایت کی گئی ہے یہ لازم نہیں آتا کہ وہ ان کی تفسیر سے بالخصوص اور ان کے مذہبی افکار سے بالعموم صالح اور حوصلہ خیز اور دیدہ کشا اور دل انگیز عناصر نکال کر عوام کے سامنے لے آئیں

فکرونظر، سرسید نمبر، مرتب راحت ابرار، علی گڑھ

Unlike many of his predecessors, Saiyid Hamid was aware that Sir Syed’s educational mission drew its inspiration from his reading of the Word of God, which in his opinion was a key to understanding the work of God, the phenomenal world. In his Tafseer, Sir Syed had categorically stated that modern knowledge without a modern interpretation of and insight into the Quran may be detrimental to one’s faith. Since he had initiated modern education among Muslims, he believed that the onus lay on him to lay the foundation of a new theology to save the new graduates from unfaith. His warning came true. The more we distanced ourselves from a rationalist reading of the Quran, the more we became a shadow of our former self.

When I joined the university in 2013, Sir Syed bicentenary commemoration plan was on the anvil. As a member of the commemoration committee I took it upon myself to publish the Tafseer. The move was initially blocked by some accidental Muslims, but later the EC approved the idea and the vice-chancellor Gen. Shah happily sanctioned the funds for its publication. A newly composed three volume Tafseer compendium is still in the press awaiting financial clearance from the present administration. I believe that the infusion of the Qur’anic wisdom and the entire gamut of Sir Syed’s theology of Islamic Rationalism into our academic discourse will revitalize our dormant mind and restore our self esteem. During the last four years, as my bit of Aligarh awakening, I also organized a series of high profile conferences on issues that were so dear to our founder. From ‘Intellectual Crisis of the Muslim Ummah’ to ‘Rebuilding the House of Islam’ to ‘Muslim Ummah: The Road Ahead’ and very recently ‘First Global Islamic Reconciliation Summit’ — we tried to put Aligarh at the heart of global discourse. People came from all over. At times it appeared that Aligarh was on the move again. Under the high patronage of Gen. Shah, the then vice-chancellor, we also made a unique experiment in polymath education: The Bridge Course for Graduates of Deeni Madaris. The result was spectacular.

With this much of ground work, I take pride in putting forward the proposal for establishing THE AMU POLICY COUNCIL. I believe that the moment for spearheading the Second Aligarh Movement has finally arrived. The world needs us more than ever before. Let us be decisive and determined. If we fail to act now, it will not be a failure but a betrayal.

The New Aligarh Movement will be a global phenomenon involving major old boys associations across the world and the POLICY COINCIL will serve as its command and control centre. The Policy Council will be a supreme body of Aligarh fraternity. It will work much like a global think tank, as a Majlise Hukama – The Council of Elders. Major policy institutes, peace organizations, interfaith dialogue centers, right’s watchdogs, relevant UN and OIC agencies, prominent Ulema and scholars and the interested ruling elite across the spectrum, and especially in the Muslim World, will have working relations with the proposed Council. We have four former vice-chancellors and an amazing number of thinkers, scholars, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, litterateurs and artists in our midst. I am sure, together we can do wonders. And with true Aligarh zeal we can always outshine and outsmart others.

The Policy Council will have its permanent headquarters in New Delhi. Arrangements are being made to hold its inaugural session in Mumbai before the curtain falls on bicentenary commemorations.

Your input is vital,

Your brother,

Rashid Shaz

ISESCO Goodwill Ambassador

& Professor at the Aligarh Muslim University

Email: futureislam@gmail.com, amupolicycouncil@gmail.com