Future of Aligarh Movement—Rationality or Orthodoxy?

Rationalism, intellectualism or genuine scholarship those have not unfortunately remained the forte of our so called contemporary Islamic scholars in the biggest seat of Islamic intellectualism i.e; AMU. They have perpetually remained mired with traditional outlook, orthodoxy, and oft repeated lines of thinking. The problem with them is that they don’t want to come out from ‘ghetto mentality’ or cocooned shell. Their approach is so called  “Islamization of all Social Sciences/ Arts or Humanities” rather than understanding and adding more facets to social sciences/Humanities or any other branch of knowledge and adopting interdisciplinary approaches. There appears a pathetic tale of our so called Islamic scholars at Aligarh in particular and all over the sub-continent in general. In fact even debating such issues even considered taboo among Muslim intelligentsia so how far we would accept any rational ideas to rest with using the damage that be?

The bimonthly U.S. international affairs journal Foreign Policy has just published a survey of the world’s top 20 public intellectuals and the first 10 are all Muslims headed by top Turkish intellectual like Fatehullah Gullen, followed by Yousuf al Qardawi the Qatari based Rationalist , Iranian Nobel Laureat Shirin Ebadi and others and unfortunately none from Indian Sub-continent or from any of the 30.000 Madrasa spread across India could come out as scholar of international repute or publication worth of putting up a show at global level.

The newly created KhaleeqAhmad NizamiQuranic Studies Centre with huge cost, funded by several agencies (from Middle East,channelized through Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies) will remain another seat of orthodoxy and shallow scholarship without any substantial output as the motto and goal set for the centre is nothing but an eyewash—not even better than any substandard madarsas’ syllabi ( withQira’t or Nazra or basics in Quranic teaching), which could have been done anywhere else. Khaleeq Ahmad Nizami, an eminent professor of History had stood for intellectualism and rationality in thoughts and writings, but the prime land of Sir Syed House wasted for creating a niche for spreading orthodoxy, would be only serving few Madarsa educated souls. Those funds are presumed to be wasted which doesn’t apply to our rationality, senses and furtherance of ongoing

debates and discussions about Muslims, about Islam, Muslims relation with other Religionists or any substantial addition to knowledge pool. The premise of VilayatManzil(which houses department of Theology, AMU ) still has vast open field where this KAN centre would have been more suited ( if at all that was a necessity) along with Theology Dept. But our planners in the campus definitely lack vision on such issues. They are adding to already overburdened religious zeals of Aligs with dozens of new religious buildings and more and more succor to the religious elements in the campus. It is in fact feeding and fattening only those “regressive elements” that had in the bygone days, rebuked and heaped scorn on Sir Syed for his Modern outlook and rationality. Rather than coming out with a Centre of Comparative Religions or Sir Syed Chair, the contemporary Nizamis’ lack of vision is very much reflected in their actions for caving in or giving way to the old worn out thought of creating such a place which would guarantee them a place for the departed soul to Jannah, rather taking cue of serving thealive moribund qaume Muslim, which are poor backward, ill-educated and cry for our attention.

There is no effort to even copying what Syed has left to us. Syed was well versed in Hebrew as well (apart from command over various other aspects of knowledge) and had delved deep into Christianity – just his magnum opus Tabiyunulkalam is massive reflection of his depth on the issue. Ours so called Islamic scholars have got only ‘blame game’ to their worsening fortunes to the westerners on various counts. The westerners have left us far behind not only in science and technology but in terms of scholarship on Islam and theology too. So those who are rational, those who are knowledgeable would rule the world as the westerners are–unfortunately our ulema have remained confined to nikah-o-talq issue and khutbaye-Eidayin—- what to expect from them would they be putting up any challenge to the western scholars in terms of rationality or they would remainconfined to Orthodoxy in the Islamic fortresses called madrsas and feed on charity without any substantial service to humanity or qaumemuslim?

Centre of Islamic Studies in AMU, Aligarh now reduced to a mere department where still Phillip Hitti’s History of Arab is the best prescribed book (as our Islamic scholars could not match the Western scholars’ scholarship in terms of researches on Islam or on Arab History). The same is the case of Department of Theology, where the output is hardly substantial in terms of publications or in terms of intellectualism. If AMU’s Yesteryears great Urdu department (which had produced the original poets and writers) has been reduced to work on “ Hayataurkarname”of those Urdu scholars of past, the Theology Department would go bit further with“Hayataurunkedeenikhidmat” just taking up any previous Muslim illuminati’s life and achievements and assigning those as themes to research scholars for Mphil/ Phdsprogramme.

There is an overall sense of deprivation and deficiency in terms of Muslim intellectualism around us.

 By: Dr. M Waseem Raja, Sr. Asst. Professor, D/ O History,AMU, Aligarh

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