Redefining the Role of AMU: Revitalizing the Tehzeebul Akhlaq


Redefining the Role of AMU:

Revitalizing the Tehzeebul Akhlaq

Dr. M. Sajjad* & Dr. Amir Ali**

In the year 1870, the Tehzeebul Akhlaq (Mohammedan Social Reformer), an Urdu monthly, was launched by Sir Syed Ahmad (1817-98). It was a medium of propaganda of the Aligarh Movement. The sole objective of the Aligarh Movement was empowerment of Muslims, primarily through modern education (which would inevitably lead to political consciousness, but that was expediently and strategically left for sometime). But unfortunately, the agenda of empowerment still remains unfulfilled (as much glaringly catalogued by the Sachar Committee Report, not to say of the previous reports like this). Nothing can be more obvious than the fact that today the AMU is a campus in disarray and the journal that was started by its founder is reduced to little more than a campus magazine with a paltry circulation of under 2000, whereas only the campus of AMU has around 50,000 people (including both employees and students).
The Tehzeebul Akhlaq served as the vehicle through which the ideas of the Aligarh Movement could be disseminated among a wider audience. Though Aligarh had to be the centre where the ideas of political modernization and empowerment would first be conceived, it was the Tehzeebul Akhlaq that would take these ideas to the people at large. It thereby served two functions: the progressive infiltration of such ideas among the people to remove the bias against reform and progress and secondly to make the people aware of the political strategy of the Aligarh Movement. It thereby delineated the best strategy to adopt under the circumstances that the Indian Muslims of 19 th century found themselves in.

Today when the Aligarh Muslim University's role as the intellectual rallying point of the Muslim community is under doubt, it is important to begin a process of re-thinking regarding the exact contribution that the university can make. The sad story of the AMU especially in the past two decades is of a campus that is ailing. It suffers from periodic bouts of rowdyism, violence and controversies. Such a situation can obviously never be conducive to the expression of new ideas about the uplift of the Muslim community. It is important that the university maintains its character as the leader of the progressive and forward looking sections of the community. One of the best ways to do this would be by reviving the Tehzeebul Akhlaq as a journal of social reform among the Muslims and by drawing upon its historical legacy as the vehicle of such ideas.

Rightly or wrongly, the vice Chancellor occupies a special position in the university, which is incomparable to the kind of influence other vice chancellors enjoy in their universities. This being the case, his offices and persona could be effectively used to actualize the said objective. AMU's VCs have long been perceived as not just the head of this important institution but also a leader committed to the educational uplift of the Indian Muslims. In this manner the VCs would be able to effectively reach out to and communicate with other sections of the community through the debating platform that this magazine ought to be.

In the 21st century, the media is all-pervasive and the social groups without an influence in the media will remain quite vulnerable . So having an influential voice for the Indian Muslims is a sine qua non. The media is being projected as the 'super power', 'demon', 'underworld' and so on and so forth. Many scholars have pointed out that the Indian Muslims must have a media of their own. Theodre P Wright, V.T. Rajshekhar etc have emphasized this point. In a democratic world the key to people's empowerment is information and opinion mobilization. This can be done through intensely informed debates, dialogues and discussions. For this kind of debate the historical legacy of the Tehzeebul Akhlaq can be used rather than launching a new magazine. In this magazine, rather than displaying a personality cult with which almost all the newspapers are afflicted, there should be an editorial every month which could address the various issues confronting the community.

Here it is imperative to point out that the problems of the Muslim community/communities can not be addressed in isolation from the problems of other vulnerable groups of society. The magazine should be able to contextualize the problem of the Indian Muslim communities in the larger framework of the ongoing struggles for empowerment and democratization. Thus, the magazine would be able to contribute in substantial measure to the re-vitalization and re-juvenation of the Indian civil society. The magazine, through its articles and discussions should be able to penetrate existing structures of inequality and power within the community. This would be done by seeking support from other progressive sections from outside and in turn allying with them to exert pressure on the state.

The editorial need not necessarily come out with an answer to the question; it should rather put the problem with all the intricacies and dynamics involved in the question. Needless to say, the editorial should be the outcome of a group effort engaging the noted scholars on the issues. In short, the editorial should problematize the various issues. The rest of the pages should provide space to the writers of every school of thought so that the democratic spirit remains integral to the magazine. This would be a welcome change from the usual practice of the Urdu newspapers, which indulge in refusing to give space to contending views. Moreover, a sufficient space should be given for letters to the editor so that all the necessary improvements could be brought about in the magazine. This column should further become a debating platform. Since it will be a views-magazine rather than a newsmagazine so it must cover all the contemporary problems of the community quite meaningfully and relevantly. The magazine must be in the thick of all the intense debates that have engulfed the community and will in all probability do so in the future.

To bring out a magazine of this nature it is important that an editorial structure and team of extremely high caliber is built up. The post of editor along with an editorial committee should be kept aside for those serious scholars who have done serious researches in the area and who are committed to bringing about some kind of reform. This would also involve complete computerization of the editorial offices and handsome remuneration for the contributors. All these efforts will obviously require a sufficient capital base. Two things can be done about this. Old boys or alumni of AMU employed in important and lucrative professions around the world can be requested to help raise funds. Apart from the alumni, many sympathizers can contribute to re-vitalize the Tehzeebul Akhlaq. Simultaneously with such a highly enriched content, a scientifically aggressive marketing campaign can be launched. Thousands of copies can be sold within the campus and there would be a number of alumni across the world who would be only too willing to subscribe. Once this takes place possibilities of commercial advertisement will automatically help to raise the capital base, making the journal financially self-sustaining. AMU students and Old boys' network would of course be helpful in promoting the sales.

While the Tehzeebul Akhlaq was a journal started by the Aligarh community to keep alive the spirit of Sir Syed's reform movement it is important that the journal does not remain confined to the 'limited' aims and intent of the founder which was to persuade the Muslims to go for modern education. The debate about modern education has largely been resolved and this in itself was a remarkable contribution of the journal. Today the context has changed and it is here that the journal's role needs to be re-defined. It is a context that is defined by the need to empower socially and politically marginalized sections across the world and it is precisely this issue that the journal needs to address.

*Dr. Mohammad Sajjad, Asstt. Prof., Centre of Advanced Study in History, AMU Aligarh

**Dr. Amir Ali, Asstt. Prof., CPS, JNU, New Delhi 110067

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