Prof. Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli
By Afzal Usmani
In the early morning of 2nd February 2008, a fatal accident took away the life of Maulana Ziuddin Islahi. It came as a great shock not only to his family but also to the community at large as he was head of a prestigious institution of the Muslims of India, Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy Azamgarh, India. The Academy was passing through the toughest time of its long history and it made this loss more unbearable. In an emergency meeting on 16th February 2008 Shibli Academy managing Committee appointed Prof. Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli as its new Secretary & Director with the hope of bringing the academy from the brink of disaster back to its past glory. After some reluctance and on the insistence of the well wishers of The Academy, Prof. Zilli accepted the assignment on voluntarily basis. The joining of Prof. Zilli as new Director of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy has changed the face of the Academy that was once a glorious institute of Muslims of India. His continuous exertions to generate momentum and garner support for reviving the Academy have turned him into the savior of this precious heritage of Muslims of India. Prof. Zilli had served in the department of History, Aligarh Muslim University till 2004 and is Founding President of Idarah Ulum Al-Quran, Aligarh, which was established in 1984.
Prof. Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli was born on 2nd May 1942 in a small village “Chhaun” of Azamgarh in UP. After completing his Fazilat from Madarsatul Islah, Saraimir, Azamgarh in 1962, he joined University of Medina for a brief period. Later he joined Lucknow University from where he completed his B.A. in 1966 and took admission in Aligarh Muslim University in M.A. (History). After completing his MA in 1968, he was appointed as Research Assistant in the Department of History, AMU Aligarh. He completed his M.Phil in 1969. He was a resident of Hasrat Mohani Hostel in Sulaiman Hall. He completed his Ph.D. in 1978 while he was working as lecturer in the Department of History. From 1990-91, he had also served as Provost of Mohammad Habib Hall, AMU Aligarh. In 2000 he was appointed as Professor in the department of History. He published several important papers on medieval Indian religious and cultural history. His list of publications includes a book "The Mughal State and Culture: Selected Letters and Documents from Akbar's time". He retired from the Department of History in 2004 and lives in Aligarh with his family.
Prof. Zilli is respected scholar of Quran and Founding President of Idarah Ulum Al Quran, Aligarh. He is also Editor of biannual journal, Majallah ‘Ulum Al-Quran, which is published by Idarah ‘Ulum Al-Quran. He is a member of the management committee of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy since 2000. He is also a member of Association for the Study of Persianate Societies (ASPS). He is also member of Iranology Foundation, Tehran, Member of the editorial board of the Journal of Persianate Studies published by E. J. Brill, Leiden. He was invited to present paper or give talk to Georgetown University, Washington D.C., Paris, Leiden University, Holland, Tangiers, Morocco, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Tehran and Tbilisi, Georgia. In November 2006, University of Chicago invited him to deliver a talk on Shibli and Muslim League on the occasion of the completion of one hundred years since the foundation of Muslim League. In October 2009, he was again invited to United States to speak in a Quranic Conference " The Quran Conference -Building Our Relationship With The Quran" organized by The Association for Understanding the Quran in collaboration with IQRA International Foundation and Al-Furqan Foundation of Chicago. He spoke on the theme “Farahi's Methodology of Understanding the Quran” and “Teaching Quran in Jamiat ul Falah and Madrasat ul Islah, Azamgarh.”
Though never been a student of History, I know Prof. Zilli from the day I joined Aligarh Muslim University in class XI in 1988 due to his association with my best friend Dr. Athar Ali Moinuddin, who also joined AMU with me in the same class and same section. In those days, Prof. Zilli used to live in the staff quarters next to Mohsinul Mulk Hall in AMU campus. His kind, affectionate and humble personality always used to inspire us. During my entire stay in AMU, I found Prof. Zilli among the first people to reach out to the students community in the hour of difficulties and crises. Even if the students were angry with AMU Administration and staff, they always listened to Prof. Zilli and his likes. I still remember when an AMU Student was kidnapped in the year 2000 and students surrounded Proctor of AMU, Prof. Sayeedur Rahman Siddiqi, in the Strachey Hall and did not allow him to go out of Sir Syed Hall Campus until AMU Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Hamid Ansari, would ascertain the whereabouts of the missing student. Prof. Zilli with Dr. Rashid Hasan of Dept. of Physics and Dr. Saud Alam Qasmi of Dept. of Sunni Theology and Nazim-i Diniyat-i Sunni at that time, stayed there in Sir Syed Hall campus for the whole night consoling the students and requesting them to keep calm and patience.
After a gap of 10 years, AMU Aligarh got an academician Prof. M.N. Farooqui as Vice-Chancellor on 15th October 1990. After initial reluctance Prof. Zilli joined his team of administration as Provost of Mohammad Habib Hall. In a very short time he brought a lot of positive changes in the residential life of his wards at Muhammad Habib Hall. He was well respected among his wards. He took stern action against illegal occupants of the hall and all of them were shown the door. He also did not spare those who had already joined the University as faculty but continued to live in the hostels. His impartial behavior made him well respected among his wards. Hall canteen, overhead water tank and minarets of the Hall mosque are included among the works of his tenure as the Provost. After serving for about one year, some incidents in Muhammad Habib Hall so deeply hurt him that he resigned form the post and never accepted any administrative assignment during his next 13 years of stay in AMU.
After retiring in 2004 from the service of AMU, Aligarh, he dedicated himself to the service of Idarah Ulum Al-Quran of which he is Founding President. In the year 2000, Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy selected him as a member of the Managing committee. From March 2008, he is serving as Director & Secretary of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy, Azamgarh and Editor of its monthly journal "Maa-rif". Traditionally Director/Nazim of Darul Musannefin lives in the Academy campus but due to his commitment to Idarah Ulum, Aligarh, he continued to live at Aligarh but makes regular trips to Darul Musannefin Azamgarh. Before him Mr. Shahabuddin Dasnavi also had worked from Patna