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Shibli Academy: gearing up to face the challenges of the 21st century

By Salman Sultan, TwoCircles.net

Azamgarh: Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy is a 95-year old institution based in Azamgarh. Established by Allama Shibli Nomani, this academy was a unique experiment in housing writers so that they can focus on research and write books that will advance human understanding and knowledge.

Professor Ishtiaq Ahmad Zilli, retired as Professor, Department of History, AMU, Aligarh, was looking after “Idara-e-Uloomul Quran”, Aligarh, as its founder President. Due to the sad and sudden demise (car accident) of Maulana Ziauddin Islahi, Secretary, Shibli Academy, Azamgarh, Zilli Saheb was chosen to join Academy as its new Secretary/Director. Though earlier he was member of the managing committee, Shibli Academy (SA), but as Secretary/Director he took charge at the end of March 2008. Prof. Zilli was interviewed by TwoCircles.net (TCN) after his return from a tour of Muscat, UAE and Bahrain.

TCN: what was your impression after taking stock of the situation as Director?

Zilli: Though I was aware of the general situation prevailing in the Shibli Academy but at close quarters it was a shock to see the condition, as every department needed immediate attention. This campus that was the most beautiful place was actually in very bad shape. I was at a loss as what to do in view of prevailing bad financial condition. Salaries were low, a pittance. Everything needed finance and it was not available. It took some time to start planning. Books needed to be published, as available books were not presentable. In this age books need to be published in attractive form with a nice getup. It was decided that in spite of lack of funds, a multipronged strategy need to be prepared to take SA out of its pitiable condition. After overcoming initial shock we set on with the consultation of members and well wishers of SA to prepare a plan to put the SA back on course. In the plan almost all the fronts have to be tackled simultaneously because urgency demanded no delay on any front. We began with an increase of 50% in the basic salary of staff with further enhancement of 50% again in a few months. Even this 100% increase in Salary is still very low and needs substantial rise to lead a dignified life.
We also took up the job of republication of Academy’s books in a big way keeping up the modern standards and am happy to inform that during the last two months no less than 20 books have been published.

TCN: Recently you were on a tour of Gulf countries. Was it a promotional tour?
Zilli: Basic purpose of my tour of Gulf countries was to introduce SA and try raising funds badly needed for improving condition of SA. The idea came in the form of a suggestion from one of my student Mohd. Irfan, who works in Dubai as Sales Manager. It was felt that many learned people are not aware of the great service that SA has done in catering to the needs of Muslim community. It was urgently required that bringing back SA to its past glory people should be made aware of the aims and objectives of SA and the great service it has rendered and the condition of decline and neglect in which it finds itself at present. It was also felt that at least some people will feel the need to make some contribution towards the fulfillment of the objectives of the Academy. My son lives in Muscat and I was planning to go there for sometime. It was decided to do something in Muscat and to extend the journey to UAE and Bahrain where Mohd. Irfan had already prepared the ground for my visit. I reached Muscat on 8th April but it was decided to take up the work of introduction of SA in Muscat after my return from UAE and Bahrain. I left for Dubai on 14th April and reached there at noontime. In the evening there was a program for the inauguration of Dubai Islamic Centre, the only center of NRIs (of Indian origin) recognized by the government. Besides office bearers of the Centre Indian Consul General was also present and a select gathering of Indian Muslims was present. It was a brief program and I was also given an opportunity to talk for few minutes. My talk was naturally devoted to the introduction of SA. I stayed there for 20 days, possible with the help of fiends/students and well-wishers of SA.

TCN: How did you proceed?
Zilli: The method adopted was for some friend will invite some selected people over dinner or lunch and there SA was introduced, its achievements highlighted and its problems and future plans were discussed. A number of such meetings were held beginning with the one at the residence of Mr. Haleem Khan followed by many at residences of Mr. Mohsin Bhatkali, Mr. Salman, Mr. Asjad Husain, Mr. Shan Sultan, Dr. Salim, Dr. Arif Rafi, Mr. Anees Ahmad (President AMUOBA). Those who participated enthusiastically and worked to make the mission success include besides Mohd. Irfan (prime mover of this movement), Mr. Haleem Khan, Mr. Naiyar Iqbal, Dr. Arif Rafi, Mr. Atif Rafi and Mohiuddin Ghazi Falahi. AMU alumni in view of Allama Shibli Nomani’s association and great contribution to Aligarh (then MAO College) took great interest to make this tour a success. In this regard names of Mr. Anees Ahmad, Hasan AZiz Amir, Naiyar Ahsan, Engr. Qutbur Rahman, Engr. Mohd. Obaid, Mohd. Ejaz and Mansoor Ali may be cited from amongst many friends and well-wishers. Hafi Shafiullah of Azamgarh played important role in promoting the mission. Haji Abdur Raza Rasasi was extremely helpful. Some of the people closely related to me were also very helpful and contributed to the success of the mission. They include Dr. Abdur Rahman (with whom I stayed), Ghanim, Saad Shamim and Saud Shamim.
I also went to Al-Ain with Haji Shafiullah, Anees Ahmad (of village Dauna) and some other friends to meet Maulana Taqiuddin Nadwi who is a senior member of the managing committee of SA. We had useful discussion, enjoyed his hospitality and were assured of extension and completion of the mosque of SA.
After returning (from UAE) I traveled to Bahrain on the invitation of Mr. Shakeel Ahmad Azmi, a well respected person who runs a very good CBSE pattern 10+2 school in Bahrain. Through his good office several meetings were organized mostly on the premises of his “Ibnul Haytham Islamic School”. We had good opportunity to bring the message of SA to the notice of a large section of people. President of AMUOBA, Mr. Qazi Mazher accorded a reception in Paradise Hotel. They gifted SA a DVD consisting of 12000 most important books of Islamic sources. Those who were helpful include Mr. Shakeel Ahmad (of Sabrahad), Mr. Marghoobur Rahman, Mr. Izharul Haq, Mr. Taiyab (Principal of Ibnul Haytham Islamic School) and many others.
In Muscat the program was worked out with Mohd. Munir Khan who invited a select gathering of people of Indian origin at his residence on dinner and very useful discussion followed. Munir Khan was very supportive and has promised to pursue the matter. He has offered sponsorship of a good Annual seminar on the theme of SEERAT as was held at Idara Uloomul Quran, Aligarh. He has also offered to sponsor one Scholar in the Academy.

TCN: Finally what you feel about this tour of Muscat, UAE and Bahrain?
Zilli: It may be said that on the whole it was a successful and satisfying trip. The message of SA has been brought to the notice of many people and now people know better of the history and achievement of SA. It is expected that good result will, Insha’Allah, follow.