The Sir Syed Day celebrations, marking the 205th birth anniversary of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) founder, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan returned back in meatspace after two years of Covid induced restrictions with traditional gaiety and vigour. Guests, arrived in the elegant vintage phaeton drawn by a pair of horses at the venue of Gulestan-e-Syed, where they were ushered to the stage by a long line of assembled students of the University Riding Squad.
Delivering the Sir Syed Day commemoration address, the Chief Guest, Prof Tahir Mahmood (Former Chairman, National Commission for Minorities) called the AMU community to spread Sir Syed’s rationality, modernity, manners and amity to corners of the Nation and the world. “Preservation and propagation of Urdu is also an integral part of Sir Syed’s legacy that needs our attention”, said Prof Mahmood.
He pressed the need for a deep focus on Sir Syed’s thoughts and teachings that emanated through the words of Allama Iqbal in one of his poems, ‘Syed Ki Loh-e-Turbat’.
“Reflecting on Sir Syed’s philosophy, Allama Iqbal wrote, ‘Mudda’a Tera Agar Dunya Mein Hai Taleem-e-DeeN, Tark-e-Dunya Qaum Ko Apni Na Sikhlana Kahin’ (If your aim in the world is Deen’s education, Never teach your nation world’s abdication). In this context, we need to understand that Sir Syed was awakening the community and convincing it for the new education system in an era when the rational and traditional aspects of the education system got intertwined and had taken the form of theological education”, emphasised Prof Mahmood.
“Sir Syed played a very influential role in bridging the gap between the Oriental and the Western world. He knew what changes were required in society in order to move forward and keep up with the rest of the world. He dedicated his life to striking a balance between tradition and modernity and strived for traditional Oriental and Western scholarship”, said Prof Mahmood.
In the welcome address, AMU Vice Chancellor, Professor Tariq Mansoor said, “Sir Syed’s ideas of secularism and inclusiveness are reflective in the way AMU operates. The University is a monument of large-hearted tolerance and communal harmony and its portals are open to the students of all communities from its very inception”.
“We have maintained Peace and Harmony on the campus and successfully overcome challenges, problems and crisis by exercising restraint and stressing on unity and consensus”, the Vice Chancellor pointed out.
He emphasised, “AMU is marching ahead for progress and development. The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Bhai Modi while participating in the centenary year celebrations called AMU as ‘Mini India’ and praised the contribution of the university in Nation building. Besides Prime Minister’s participation, the last five years also witnessed the participation of the then President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind and others in various events of the University”, he emphasised.
Prof Mansoor added, “Despite the Covid pandemic; a record number of new courses, colleges and departments started at AMU”.
The Vice Chancellor drew attention to rising academic standards of the university and said, “AMU has been accredited with grade A+ by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. (NAAC) and the National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 is also being implemented with the modifications in syllabus and curriculum”.
“As we gather here to pay tributes to our dynamic and legendary benefactor, Sir Syed; let us always remember how he moulded the destiny of the nation and the community. He was a versatile genius with a multifaceted personality and a distinguished architect of modern India”, stressed the Vice Chancellor.
He pointed out: “Sir Syed firmly believed that modern Education was the cure for all ills and aptly described ignorance as the mother of all trials and tribulations. His concept of education was inclusive and he strongly believed that Indians cannot get on the path of empowerment unless they build up their own educational Institutions—and this is why he took up the cause of modern education and pursued it rigorously throughout his life. It is this that we call the Aligarh Movement”.
The Vice Chancellor stressed: “It would be too simple a statement to regard Sir Syed only as the founder of the college that became a university. It is important to visualise and capture the time and space Sir Syed lived in, and how he came out of the socio-cultural web of the 19th century colonial India. To appreciate and comprehend what Sir Syed did, we need to look at the fact that he was born in 1817 in a family that was close to the Mughal court. His traditional upbringing did not deter him from taking up the cause of Muslims when they faced near annihilation in 1857; and also standing up for unity among people of various faiths living in India”.
Recollecting history, he pointed out: “At a gathering in Gurdaspur on January 27, 1884, Sir Syed famously said, ‘O Hindus and Muslims! Do you belong to a country other than India? Don’t you live on this soil and are you not buried under it or cremated on its Ghats? If you live and die on this land, then bear in mind, that ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ is but a religious word; all the Hindus, Muslims and Christians who live in this country are one nation”.
Prof Mansoor called for spreading the message of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan for education, free enquiry, tolerance, interfaith understanding and national unity.
The Vice Chancellor also announced that teaching will remain suspended on Tuesday.
The Chief Guest, Prof Mahmood and Vice Chancellor, Prof Mansoor presented the ‘International Sir Syed Excellence Award’ to Barbara Daly Metcalf (Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Davis, USA) with a cash prize of Rs 200000 for her seminal works on the history of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, South Asia and Islam.
They also honoured New Delhi based voluntary, non-profit social service organization, the ‘Maulana Azad Education Foundation’ with the ‘National Sir Syed Excellence Award’ carrying a cash prize of Rs100000 for promoting education amongst the educationally backward minorities in particular and other weaker sections in general.
AMU Registrar, Mr Mohammad Imran (IPS) read the citations for the awardees.
Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari (Former Chief Justice of Patna High Court), who also attended the programme as the Guest of Honour stressed, “Sir Syed was an apostle of secularism and Hindu-Muslim unity who advocated and supported ban on cow slaughter. He once wrote, ‘If prohibition of cow sacrifice can bring peace and friendship among the Hindus and the Muslims, it would be wrong on the part of the Muslims not to relinquish this right’.”
Prof Farukh Arjmand (Department of Chemistry) and Dr Hifzur Rahman Siddique (Department of Zoology) received the Innovation Council Award for Outstanding Researcher of the Year. They received Rs 50 000 each as prize money with the awards.