Sir Ziauddin Ahmad, who is believed to have evolved a Muslim middle-class in the Indian subcontinent by going out of the way to educate the youth at Aligarh Muslim University, was paid tributes on his 66th death anniversary.
The institution established after his name - Ziauddin University (ZU) - organised a seminar on Monday to commemorate the life and achievements of its ideological patron. ZU chancellor Dr Asim Hussain presided over the event.
“The educated Muslim middle-class that emerged amid the extremes of the aristocrats and the impoverished over a span of two decades ended up being the basic strength behind the All India Muslim League’s struggle for a separate homeland,” pointed out Shahid Aziz Siddiqui, a former vice-chancellor of ZU, as well as, the chairperson of Pakistan State Life Insurance Corporation.
For Siddiqui, any discussion on Dr Ahmad’s services would be deficient without keeping in view the tough times he lived in. “With modern education as his prime focus, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan being the precursor took upon himself the task of bringing Muslims back into the mainstream in a way that was consistent with new political realities,” he said. “Dr Ahmad being the culmination of Sir Syed’s struggle was one among the pillars of Aligarh Movement who carried the mission of his precursor forward as true followers of his ideology.”
The versatile educationist and political figure of the Indian subcontinent had remained the founding pro-vice chancellor of the Aligarh University and later its longest-serving vice-chancellor until a few months before his death in December 1947.
For a former Karachi commissioner, Shafiqur Rehman Paracha, the biggest service rendered by Dr Ahmad was shifting the focus of Indian Muslims toward achieving ‘intellectual ecstasy’ as opposed to ‘visual ecstasy’ that they inherited from the Mughal era. “One Taj Mahal was built by a Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to commemorate a dead loved one, while the Aligarh University, the intellectual Taj Mahal was built with endeavours to give life back to the nation,” Paracha made a stark comparison.
“In times when Europe was striving to establish universities and institutions, the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent had spent their time and energies in availing such visual delights.”
Sharing anecdotes of Dr Ahmad’s commitment towards education, Paracha said that despite his high stature of serving as the vice-chancellor at Aligarh University, Dr Ahmad used to spare time to teach mathematics to high school students once or twice a week.
It was in one of those classes, narrated Paracha, when he found that someone had teasingly written a verse on the blackboard: “Malika bohat bara hai riazi mein aap ko ... Tool-e-shab-e-firaq zara naap di jiye [You have gained a great mastery over mathematics ... Please quantify the length of the night of separation and longing].” In response, Dr Ahmad simply wrote “infinity” on the board and left.
For Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, the ZU vice-chancellor, the 66th anniversary of the eminent educationist yet again calls for a change in the prevailing mindset.
“There is no point in losing hope in the face of adversities. If life seems messed up, rearrange it; if you have dreams, interpret them into an achievable reality; and if milestones appear hidden from the sight, discover them,” he advised, while addressing his young students.
“That’s the most significant lesson one could extract from the life of Dr Ahmad and in this way you will be able to struggle to add your best contribution to the society as well as the nation.”
Dr Aijaz Fatima, the daughter of Dr Ahmad, told the audience that her father was not only an educationist, but also a loving father. “He chose a life of toil and struggle to educate his own family and the Muslims of Indian subcontinent.”
Dr Naeem Aon Jafarey, another former ZU vice-chancellor, and Prof Viqaruddin Ahmed, Ziauddin Memorial Society president, also spoke at the event.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2013.
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