Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association (AMUAA) of Northern California held its annual Sir Syed Day Banquet and International
Mushaira (Urdu Poetry Recital) on Saturday, December 3, 2005 at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark to help the local community
remember the 19th century light of education and hope that one amazing individual left behind for South Asia's Muslims. That
this light remains lit for many (including Non-Muslims) to take advantage of today through Aligarh Muslim University in Northern
India is testimony to both its strength and continued importance, as many in the post 9/11 Islamic world look for models to
emulate and grapple with how to fully participate in the Information Age. Added to that, for those who continue to love the
literary treasure chest which is the Urdu language, this annual gathering gives Indians and Pakistanis of the area another
opportunity to listen to the poetry by local and international craftsmen (and women) of Urdu who continue to enthrall us with
event started off with an introduction by Afzal Usmani who invited Dr. M. M. Sufyan Beg to recite from the Holy Qura'n. Mr.
Afzal Usmani also took the opportunity to share with several hundred people in attendance here some rare facts on why Aligarh
gatherings and Urdu poetry recitals (Mushaira's) go together. He reminded the audience of a historical meeting between Aligarh's founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib in the city of Muradurabad
(India). Ghalib is considered (unquestionably)
Urdu's greatest poet, and at this meeting he shared with Sir Syed, what he had recently observed in Calcutta, that there was an Industrial and Scientific revolution coming and that the Muslim
community needed to be part of it or it will be left far behind. Thus the Aligarh Tehreek (movement) was influenced, not just
by reformist Sir Syed but poet Ghalib too and this Aligarh movement later resulted in the founding
of the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental
College, which later became Aligarh
President Ms. Amtul Suhail in her speech officially welcomed everyone. She thanked Dr. Shaheer Khan for his continued efforts
in connecting AMU Alumni globally through AMU Network (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AMUNetwork). She also recognized some of the people that the Aligarh
community had lost during the past year. She said that the purpose of the AMUAA was to carry forward the educational aspects
of Sir Syed's legacy, especially the pursuit of female literacy. She added that the organization was continuing its scholarship
program and asked all in attendance to contribute (details are available at http://www.amualumni.org). She also took the opportunity to thank a number of individuals for their help this year including Mr. Abdus Salam Qureshi,
Drs. Hasan Kamil and Talat Hasan along with Dr. Karim M. Hussain, Mr. Syed Sarwat Mahmood, Dr. Waheed Qureshi, Mr. Zain Jeewanjee,
Mr. Javed Ellahie, and Ms. Raana Faiz. She ended her speech with a prayer that Sir Syed wished for the betterment of children
in his community back in the 19th century.
year's keynote speech was delivered by Mr. Razi Mohiuddin President of the Muslim Community Association of Santa Clara. Speaking
in English (with apologies) Razi Sahib shared his relationship with Aligarh
and explained his sentiments on a visit there six years ago. His talk focused on local issues here in the United States and "Giving back to get something back." On
what the role of the American-Muslim community should be, he stressed two areas that need attention. "What relationships we
build with other people and what services we provide to the community around us. Those are the two things I think, that will
help us continue to become the part and parcel of this country," he said. "Let us think of giving back (to America)," he added. He said that money is important to organizations
but even more important is your experience, expertise and talent, which cannot really measured in dollar amounts. "A few hours
a week of volunteer work would go a long way," said Razi. On getting something back he said that even though he did not expect
anything in return, that too could not be measured (I am sure that some in our community including this writer are well aware
of this fact). In a nutshell what Mr. Razi Mohiuudin said in his speech was what Sir Syed and the Aligarh movement has been all about for over a century!
impressive "Sir Syed Day Magazine 2005" (Editors: Drs. Shaheer Khan & Masood Haider) which was distributed during this
gathering continues to be a window into the progressive thinking that Aligarh
has been famous for in its history. This year's Magazine "Foreword" alone is bound to generate some controversy.
to end the first (formal) half of the program before the poetry, one has to report that no Aligarh program is complete without
the customary singing of the AMU anthem known as the "Tarna-e-Aligarh" which once
again drew an enthusiastic response from the Alumni present at this event.
year the International Mushaira was conducted by poet Saghar Khayyami (India)
and Presidency was given to Senior, Kalim Ajiz (also from India).
And if one lists the poets that originated from the closest local venues to the farthest here, then Faisal Azeem, Mahnaz Naqvi
and Rabia Siddiqi from this area gave locals something to be proud if. Abdul M. Saeedi (Chicago), Aziz Qureshi (Virginia)
and Noon Meem Danish (New York) represented American Urdu poets quite well, while Pakistan's Mohsin Ihsan and (a very short
guest appearance by the film famous Mrs. Ruhksana Noor) and India's Habib Hashmi and Zubair Rizvi provided the icing on the
challenges of reporting on an Urdu event in English are many. Any attempt here would need another full report that would not
capture the essence of the poetry recited. To derive an analogy, it would be able to describe the bottle of perfume, its color
and possibly its fame but it would still be devoid of its fragrance.
In conclusion, once again it was a pleasure to be in the company of Aligarh Alumni or "Aligs" for Sir Syed Day
in Northern California this year. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's vision deserves a great deal of post 9/11 study by Muslims worldwide
and must be revived in Pakistan today.
Even U.S. Think Tanks who have over studied the other India
origin Deoband model of Islamic religious thought for quite some time now could greatly benefit from studying the Aligarh
Muslim University (AMU) reformist trend. And as one who finally had the opportunity to visit the AMU Campus with his mother
last year and tried to trace a late father's long faded footsteps in front of his hostel or dormitory "Mumtaz House", and
stood in front of the grassy grave of Sir Syed in the courtyard of the main campus Mosque, among other things that I
remember uttering was "Thank you Sir." And the follow up question regarding Sir Syed Ahmad Khan that comes to mind was no
surprise. Who knows where Indian-Muslims and Pakistanis would be today without his immense contribution to our lives?