By Prof. Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli,
On November 21, 2008 Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy completed 94 years of its life. Earliest research institute of its kind established by the Muslims anywhere in the Subcontinent, Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy specialises in research on Islamic learning, oriental studies and medieval Indian history. It was established on November 21, 1914 three days after the death of Maulana Shibli Nomani (1857-1914) by his disciples led by Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi. The founders included Maulana Saiyid Sulaiman Nadvi, Maulana Abdus Salam Nadvi and Maulana Masood Ali Nadvi.
Over the period of more than nine decades the Academy had eminently succeeded in meeting these objectives. Inspired by Allama Shibli’s personal example and his legacy of well researched and scholarly works such as Sirat un Nabi, al Faruq, heroes of Islam series and many other books on various aspects of Islamic Studies and History, the early scholars of the Academy such as Maulana Saiyid Sulaiman Nadvi, Maulana Abdus Salam Nadvi and others continued to create new critical and scholarly works of highest degree. By the virtue of their rigorous research these works have been acclaimed throughout the world and used as authentic reference books. The Academy has so far published more than 250 books. Besides books of exceptional value, the Academy had maintained an unbroken tradition of the publication of its renowned Urdu monthly journal Maarif in uninterrupted circulation since 1916. Its publication commenced in July 1916 and in this long period it has not missed even a single issue. Besides training several generations of writers and scholars, it has served as an effective vehicle for bringing the fruits of the rigorous researches of Academy’s scholars and others to the notice of the public at large. The Academy has nurtured and promoted a rare environment of single minded and selfless devotion to academic pursuit. The small band of devoted scholars in the Academy preferred pursuit of knowledge to the lure of status, comforts and emoluments which could have been theirs for the asking. Soon after its inception the Academy developed as an integrated and self contained institution where research, editing, collation, compilation, calligraphy, printing and sales constituted parts of a unified whole and all in one campus. The role that the Academy has played in the revival of Muslim scholarship, catering to the intellectual needs of the community and setting the tone of academic and scholarly discourse in beyond measure. The role that Darul Musannefin has played in reviving the interest of the Muslim community in its history and cementing its attachment with its past remains unparalleled.
During recent years the Academy had been badly affected by severe financial problems. Its precarious finances are barely adequate to maintain a skeletal staff on such meagre remuneration which is difficult even to imagine. Absolutely no funds are available for development programme. Urgent help is needed to enable it to maintain its glorious tradition and continue to serve the community for which it was founded. At present its annual budget is Rs. 15 lacs. If the Academy is to function as a vibrant modern institution it needs to be increased many folds. Following areas need immediate attention. Lately we have been able to raise some funds to be used for development plans of the Academy. For the present it will see us through but it is not adequate for the future needs and development plans of the Academy. Brief description of present needs and future plans of the Academy is given below.
* Maintenance and restoration of buildings which have not seen repair for many years. Restoration, repair and maintenance of buildings and sprucing up of the campus is urgently required. By the grace of Almighty we have been able to do some work in this regard. The campus has been cleared, circular road built and lawn and flower beds have been laid. Exterior of the Library building has been repaired and painted and its rickety and leaking roof has been thoroughly repaired and painted. The work of repair and painting of the interior of the building will be taken up soon, Insha Allah. It will be followed by extensive repair and painting of other buildings will be taken up as funds become available. Most of the buildings are in extremely bad shape and very dilapidated condition.
* Launching of a vigorous programme for the publication of famed books of the Academy in accordance with the modern standards is urgently needed. Out of its more than 250 publications, many are out of print and many more are in a very bad condition and need to be republished. The task was taken up in earnest even as the Academy was bereft of necessary resources. During the last two months about twenty books have been published in keeping with the modern requirements. These could be placed along side books of the best Urdu publishers. We intend to accelerate the speed as necessary funds become available.
* The Academy is launching a project of publication of Hindi translations of its books. We need to reach out to our countrymen and make an endeavour to provide satisfactory answers to their questions and clarify their doubts about Islam and Muslims. Clarification of doubts about Islam and Muslims was one of the primary objectives behind the establishment of the Darul Musannefin. Moreover, increasing number of Muslims is now unable to read Urdu and necessary information about our history and religion could be provided to them only through the medium of Hindi. It is therefore need of the hour to cater to their religious and spiritual needs. First steps in this direction have already been taken. As the Academy’s main specialisation is in the area of he biography of the Prophet (SAWS), it was decided to begin the Hindi series with the publication of a biography of the Prophet. For the purpose Rahmat-i Alam (a biography of the Prophet SAWS) by Maulana Saiyid Sulaiman Nadvi, was selected. I am happy to report that the translation is now complete and we hope to publish it some time next month Insha Allah. This will be followed by a brief biography of Allama Shibli and an abridgement of three volumes of Musalman Hukmaranun ki Mazhabi Rawadari in one volume. These books are under various stages of preparation and will be ready for publication soon. These will be followed by others as necessary means become available.
* English translations of some of the books of the Academy were published earlier. But now these are out of print. We are proposing to republish them. The English translation of the biography of Hazrat Aisha Siddiqa is almost ready for publication. It will be followed Insha Allah by the publication of Al Faruq. We have drawn an ambitious plan for the publication of English translation of Academy’s books. It will be implemented as necessary resources for the purpose become available.
* The rich and vast library of the Academy has not been able to add new books to its collection for many years except the ones that it gets as gift. Very large number of new books has been published in Arabic, Persian and English in the area of interest of the Academy. These books are urgently required as without books it is impossible to carry on the kind of meticulous research for which the Academy was established and for which it is now known. But buying books is a costly affair and it will require huge funds.
* The library is still managed as libraries used to be managed in the olden times. There are no catalogues and old register system is followed. The library urgently needs to be modernised, properly catalogued and professionally managed. Besides other things it would need recruitment of professionally educated and trained library staff on salaries paid elsewhere. Moreover, more than six hundred manuscript, some of which are extremely valuable, need to be properly preserved. All this will require considerable money.
* At present there are three fellows working on different projects. The modern age has thrown new challenges to the community and answers for them need to be found. In our own country the community is facing new challenges from the forces inimical to it. Old challenges have not died out rather they have assumed more acute form. This makes it imperative that at least some more fellows and research scholars are recruited. But this could not be done without sound financial basis. The stipends of the present fellows are very meagre and need to be substantially raised.
* However, the most important task at hand is creation of a corpus fund that could yield sufficient income to run the Academy from year to year. At present a small amount is invested in shares and that is the only permanent source of income. But that is very small and can not serve even the minimum needs of the Academy. The monthly expenditure of the salary of a staff of 29 persons is less than eighty thousand and even this meagre amount is difficult to be raised. Therefore creation of corpus fund that could take care of its basic requirements is the need of the hour.
This seems to be a tall order but Darul Musannefin is one of the greatest assets of the community and a heritage that has been handed down to us by our worthy ancestors. It needs to be preserved and nurtured. Any help for any of the above needs of the Academy will be greatly helpful and will be deeply appreciated. On our own we are making all possible efforts in this direction and our efforts need to be supported by well wishers like you Estimates of cost of these plans and requirements as well as others which mostly relate to the construction of library and residence space for the staff are appended below.
Prof. Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli is the secretary and director of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy. http://shibliacademy.org/