Sir Syed Day Celebrated by the Aligrah Muslim University Old Boys Association-Riyadh

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“Education is the only tool to make humankind reasonably equal”, this was stated by Mahesh Nanabhai Bhatt before an august gathering of Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association-Riyadh aka: AMUOBA-R. Mahesh Nanabhai Bhatt – the prominent Indian film director, producer and screenwriter – was especially invited by AMOUBA-R as the Chief Guest for its event marking the Sir Syed Day – in remembrance of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan – the greatest educationist of the sub-continent and founder of Aligarh Muslim University.

Mahesh Bhatt spoke eloquently both in English and Urdu inviting applause from the audience. He began with his impressions upon seeing the poor workers from the subcontinent at Riyadh airport. He said nobody happily leaves his or her country to go to other country in search of job. “We have failed to provide the basic and fundamental education to our poor in order to equip them with the tools to fight the divide that divides them”, he said. He also said that the only function of a free man is to make others free – and education is the key to making someone free. Speaking very high of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan he added that great changes have always and invariably come at the hands of one great man. ‘One Prophet Muhammad, one Gandhi and one Sir Syed are the glaring examples before us who strived and toiled all alone to bring about revolutionary changes in their own rite and in their own respective era”, he added. He urged not to underestimate the power of an individual. He quoted an instance from his own personal experience. He said once a lady came to him looking for a job. He provided her with a personal computer and helped her learn how to use it – with an idea that this would help her stand on her own feet. “It was a small investment for me at that time. But later it gave a big dividend as the lady worked very hard and later on went to become a celebrated writer of Bollywood.  And, I am very proud of this”, he informed. He also mentioned that God has given Sun for everybody on this earth. “But today we see that powerful and mighty take control of God given resources and do not share or allow others to benefit from it”, he added. He then went on to express that we see that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan did not take anything for himself from others but chose to give, instead. “He gave such a tremendous gift to the Indian Muslims in the shape of Aligarh Muslim University”, he added. Finally, he said that every individual in his or her own right is quite capable of giving to others and hence become an agent of change.

Earlier on Mahesh Bhatt was accorded a very warm welcome and a standing ovation from the audience. Along with him a Saudi former diplomat, a writer and a former alumni of AMU – DR. Ali Al-Ghamdi – was also accorded a very warm welcome by the audience.

Salman Khalid – Secretary General of AMUOBA-R – very ably moderated the proceedings and invited the honored guests to take their respective seats on the stage.

At the start of the proceedings Vice President of AMUOBA – Badshah Khan – gave a very detailed presentation about AMU. He informed that AMU was founded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan first as Madrasatal Uloom Musalmanane Hind at Aligarh – about 120 Km south-east of New Delhi – in 1875. This later became Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO) and which later eventually became Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 1920. Originally it was conceived by Sir Syed to be a seat of learning for the Muslims of India so as to train, prepare and equip them with all the skills required for the government services in the British-India. Badshah Khan also informed that Mahatma Gandhi visited AMU in 1920. He also informed that the first Vice Chancellor of AMU was a Muslim lady and the first graduate of AMU was a Hindu named Dr. Ishwari Prashad – who later became a famous and decorated historian of India. Amidst clapping he informed that famous and illustrious graduates of AMU include Dr. Zakir Hussain (former President of India), Liaquat Ali Khan (former Prime Minister of Pakistan), Fazl-e-Elahi Chaudhary (former President of Pakistan), Mansoor Ali Khan (former Prime Minister of Bangladesh), Mohammad Amin Halim Didi (former President of Maldives), Khawaja Nazimuddin and Malik Ghulam Mohammad (former Governor General of Pakistan), Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan – former President of Pakistan, and many more.

After this presentation on AMU by AMUOBA-R Vice President Badshah Khan, Shamsuddin Shams the incumbent President of AMUOBA-R took the dais and presented his welcome speech. He paid rich tributes to the Chief Guest Mahesh Nanabhai Bhatt for his immense contributions for the film industry of India and also for his philanthropic role towards promoting the cause to fight AIDS in India. Speaking about Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Shamsuddin said that Sir Syed was a great man who will be long remembered for what he did for the Muslims enlightenment in India. He also added that it was very sad to note that another Sir Syed could not be born in India. He paid glowing tributes to Sir Syed for bringing out the Muslims of India from the educational abyss. He read out a famous Urdu poetry line in his honor, “Hazaron Saal Nargis Apnee Benooree Pe Roti Haey; Baree Mushkil Se Chamna Mein Hota Haey Deedwar Paida”. Meaning great men are born in centuries.

Describing Mahesh Bhatt as a pride of India he read out another poetry line to pay him rich tributes. “Wafayen Baant Ta Hoon Roshni Beekherta Hoon. Bus Itna Hee Ta’aruf Hae Mera – meaning I am all of service for the people”.  He also added that Mahesh Bhatt is the friend of the oppressed and is known for raising his voice for them. He said many have targeted him with unjust criticisms but all of these have not deterred him from doing the good that remains his mission from many years. “He remains friend of the poor, of the oppressed and the minorities in India”, he added. To impress on this quality of his, he read out another poetry line for Mahesh Bhatt. “Mere Haunslon Ko Dodona Mushily Hay Saundra Mein Tina Pane Name Hay Abhee – meaning my resolve is too great to defeat it”.

He also welcomed Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi by introducing him as a great Saudi writer, intellectual, a former diplomat and above all an Alumni of AMU. He informed that Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi accomplished his MPhil and PhD from AMU in 1990. He said that AMUOBA-R was greatly honored to have Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi in their midst.

He then announced memento shields for a number of members for their outstanding services for AMUOBA-R. Those who were awarded with memento shields included: Mrs. Zeenat Jafar, Mohammad Sabir Khan, Nadeem Karim, Abdul Azeem Khan, Dr. Syed Ali, Mohammad Fazil, Sohail Ahmed, Naseem Akhtar, and Ghazanfar Ali Khan. Special memento shields were also awarded to the Chief Guest Mahesh Nanabhai Bhatt and to the Guest-of-Honor Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi.

At the end Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi was invited to speak. Dr. Ghamdi began his speech by delivering a message of best wishes for AMUOBA-R from Khaled Al-Maeena (Editor-in-Chief of Saudi Gazette) who sent his telephonic message from Cairo. Dr. Ghamdi mentioned that Sir Syed was no ordinary a person. “He proved that great things can be achieved through resolute resolve”, he said. He also added that he didn’t know much about Sir Syed but he knew for sure that his antecedents came from Arabia, who travelled first to Iran  and then to the Indian sub-continent. He also said that he was proud to have been associated with AMU. He said the best way to pay tributes to Sir Syed was to follow in his footsteps by founding a Charity Trust in his name for the purpose of promoting education – especially amongst the needy and the disadvantaged.

Finally, a group of Alumni of AMU and member of AMUOBA-R sang in chorus the traditional song of AMU written by great poet Majaz Lakhnavi. The event was attended by about 400 men and women – largely by the friends and families of the alumni of AMU. The program concluded with sumptuous dinner consisting of Desi and Arabic culinary cuisines.

About Faiz Al-Najdi

My actual name is Syed Faiz Ahmad and I use a pen-name (nom de plume) of Faiz Al-Najdi. I am basically a civil and structural engineer and write (in English) for passion only. I grew up in Karachi-Pakistan, accomplished bachelors degree in civil engineering from NED University of Engineering & Technology, Karachi and later obtained a masters degree in Structural Enginering from Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok-Thailand. I am presently living & working in Riyadh-Saudi Arabia since April 1997. I work as Chief Structural Engineer for M/S Saudi Oger Ltd – a large construction contractor in Saudi Arabia. I write on current affairs and also on light reading for common readers on issues that appeal to me from time to time. I am inspired with Art Buchwald.

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