Juhd-e-Musalsal - Aligarh se Aligarh Tak- (1951-1959) : Dr Abidullah Ghazi

Juhd-e-Musalsal - Aligarh se Aligarh Tak- (1951-1959)

By Afzal Usmani

This afternoon after reading portion of his new book Juhd-e-Musalsal, I talked to Dr. Abidullah Ghazi sahab. His voice was crumbling, did not have same energy what he used to have but I can feel that from inside he still has the same passion and energy but unable to bring it to his lips. He is among the few rare people of his generation whom I will surely remember for a long time. I wish and pray that Allah give him full recovery and health and he live amongst us for a long time. "Nayab nahee kamyab hain yeh"

I got familiar with Dr. Abidullah Ghazi sahab's name sometime after joining AMUNetwork in 1998 when I started my career in New Delhi. But met him for the first time in July 2004 in New York when I was there to attend 3rd Annual Convention of The Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations (FAAA). I was representing AMU Alumni Association of Arizona and Dr. Ghazi sahab was representing AMU Alumni Association of Greater Chicago. It was my first opportunity to meet many respected senior Aligarians of North America including Dr. Abidullah Ghazi sahab. It will not be an exaggeration if I claim that he stood out in the midst of so many shining stars of the Aligarh fraternity in North America. This first meeting left such an impression that even today I am in touch with him and miss no opportunity to meet him or at least talk to him. He is a prolific writer, eloquent speaker, and over and above a lifelong soldier of Aligarh Movement and he misses no opportunity to spread the message of Sir Syed around the world.

Dr Abidullah Ghazi studied in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) from 1951 to 1959 and completed his Masters in Political Science. He also did Masters from London School of Economics and finished his Doctorate from Harvard University in 1973. He founded “Iqra International” in late 1989 in Chicago IL USA which develops curriculum and books of Islamic schools for US and other countries. He also established Association of South Asian Studies (ASAS) in Aligarh (UP) India in 1998. He authored several books and wrote many articles in different literary journals and magazines. His AMU stay have a vibrant history: was elected Honorary Secretary of AMU Student's Union in 1954; got elected, un-opposed, President in 1959. One of his contemporary in AMU , Dr. Masood Haider, and another Aligarian Dr. Shaheer Khan, Editors of the annual Souvenir and Sir Syed Day Magazine of FAAA persuaded Dr. Abidullah Ghazi to write his anecdotes of his AMU days for the magazine. Ghazi sahab agreed and part of it was published in the magazine. Only the 1959 was left to be de recollected. Due to his poor health, we were worried; but to the surprise of many, it was completed and not just as an article but added in a complete book,

Juhd-e-Musalsal - Aligarh se Aligarh Tak- (1951-59)

Koi sune na sune inquilab ki awaaz - pukaarney ki hado(n) tak to hum pukaar aaye

H.G. Wells' Time Machine, is a work of fiction but Juhd-e-Musalsal proved to be a Time Machine for me and took me back to the era of 1951-59. I travelled back to the past re-living it with ease. without feeling like an outsider. While going through it I got the feel of the era: 1951-1959., It felt as if he is talking about my period 1988 to 1997 of Aligarh only names of the characters changed. I always used to think that my Aligarh was way different from that of Ghazi sahib. After going through his memoir, I had to change my opinion about Aligarh. Exterior of Aligarh may have changed but to its core it was still the same as of mine. The period (1951-59) covered in the book is more than 3 decades earlier than I lived there but his picturesque articulation gave me a feeling as if one is watching a movie and visualizing almost every place and character of the campus. His pre-arrival to Aligarh depicts the cultural and traditional heritage of Indian Muslims. His Aligarh arrival and entry into a vibrant life of student politics, debates, speeches, Students Union elections, winning Secretary's election, loosing and then un-opposed election to the highest office of the Students Union and establishing and getting elected as founding President of Council of University Student's of India in 1959 is a marvelous and remarkable journey of Ghazi sahab. Withdrawal of Nomination by his opponents Mr. Umar Farooq (now based in Atlanta GA and erving as Founding President of Aligarh Education Endowment Fund) and (Late) Mr. Ibne Farid in his last election of 1959 for the office of President of AMUSU reflected a unique tradition.

The book also describes the legends of his time among students, teachers and Milli leaders. Presidential election of Ahmad Saeed "Anda" against Amin “Bulbuliya” and tradition of "Janazah" (funeral) after election and its demise is nicely depicted and described as a firsthand account. Urdu debates and exit of Champion of the time (Late) Obaid Siddiqi Sahab and entry of Abidullah Ghazi sahab to fill the vacuum. Zakir Hussain sahab and Saeed "Anda" sahab's speech in presence of Vinoba Bhave is a testimony of higher political aesthetics of Aligarh and their concern for the future generation of Muslims of India and their identity related concerns in the diversities of the country with long civilizational histories. One gets many “firsthand” accounts helping us gauge the thought processes of India’s Muslims, specially the educated ones, in the early years of India’s independence and post partition psyche.

Dr. Abidullah Ghazi was part of Indian officials delegation to China just few years before the Indo-China war of 1962. His first passport and swapping of pictures episode is memorable. Reminded me of my passport story which I will avoid to write here. This 60 years old incident give me a sense that in few aspect, Indian officials working is not changed much.Dr Abidullah Ghazi sahab did not forget his financial difficulties and recognized the people who helped him in those difficult days. His description of final days of his final examination related preparations and his encounters with Mohammad Hamid Ansari sahab (former Vice-President of India) who was his classmate, is quite mesmerizing. It took me back, down the memory lane, to my own examination days and once again I did not find it different that of 1959. Inclusion of historical pictures and his famous poem, "Akhiri Shab - Alwidaa Aligarh", is particularly more touching, hence a bonus read.

Let it be said that this memoir is one of the finest additions into the long list of memoirs of the Aligarians and that too from a person whose whole life is a vibrant and dynamic one. Even now, when he is almost a bed-ridden person, yet he is still working to finalizing his autobiography. We thought we got out of the trauma period of post-partition but present situation of Indian Muslims are no different from what Muslims of India faced immediately after partition in 1947 . There are many lessons for our generation to learn from elders like Dr. Abidullah Ghazi sahib, helping us make sense of and grapple with the challenges of the day---looking into past with vision for better future .


Dr. Abidullah Ghazi with delegates of the 3rd annual convention of FAAA in New York in July 2004
L-R : Afzal Usmani, Dr. Ghazi, Dr. Shaheer Khan, Mr. Ahsan fazli