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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Gaya Muslim Orphanage
Striving to keep alive amidst government apathy
By Danish A Khan

At a time when self-interest has become the order of the day and education has become just another business, the Gaya Muslim Orphanage (GMO) at Cherki, stands apart as an institution—unlike many ‘education shops’ mushrooming here and there. The institution recently completed 86 years of its establishment. A programme was held to commemorate the Foundation Day on 16 December 2003. 

The first part of the celebrations was observed as Jalsa-e Seerat-un-Nabi (pbuh). Maulana Syed Rabey Hasani Nadwi, chairman of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and rector of Nadwatul Ulama, was the chief guest. Addressing an impressive gathering, Maulana Nadwi extolled the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and said that the Prophet preached love, peace and humaneness which are the essence of Islam. It was only to fight injustice of the worst kind that the Prophet waged Jihad. But it is sad and lamentable that the very meaning of Jihad is being totally twisted in the present times. "Jihad does not necessarily mean indulging into fighting with non-believers. Jihad, which also means removal of ignorance, can be waged by using the power of the pen and spreading meaningful education among the illiterate and ignorant masses," Maulana Nadwi said. He reminded the gathering that Surah Iqra, which exclusively meant the spread of education, was the first divine revelation of the Holy Qur’an.

From L to R: A Samad Khan, Dr Farasat Hussain, Justice A M Ahmadi, Dr Q H Khan, Sabir Khan and Md Hamid

Justice A M Ahmadi, former chief justice of India and chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, was the chief guest at the Foundation Day celebrations, which was conducted in the afternoon. Expressing immense satisfaction over the way in which the Orphanage was being managed and maintained, Justice Ahmadi said the need for the spread of education has grown even more particularly when people were facing stiff challenges and competition. "Institutions like the Gaya Muslim Orphanage are in fact providing real service towards the spread of mass education besides caring for the destitute and orphans, which is becoming an uphill task for the society in these particular times," he said.

Inside view of the GMO campus

Pointing out that Muslims in the country are educationally backward, Justice Ahmadi said that the dropout ratio among girls was 65% while in the case of boys it was 50-55%. This meant that there was a sharp decline in human resources as a result. "Islam lays great stress on education. However, this does not mean that secular education be totally ignored at the expense of religious education," he added.

Justice Ahmadi said that there is a paramount need for the formation of an enlightened society as only this can help alleviate sufferings of the people and create an atmosphere free from rancour and violence. "When the population is educated it makes a good society. At the same time we have to be cautious and not let fear of any kind to tread in our minds. Confidence has to be developed," he said. "At least 80% of the preamble of our country’s Constitution can be traced to Islamic philosophy," Justice Ahmadi elucidated. The former chief justice declared that now since he is retired and presently associated with the AMU, his energies and efforts would solely be directed towards the educational well-being of Indian Muslims. 

Maulana Syed Rabey Hasani Nadwi and Justice A M Ahmadi also paid separate visits to the sister organisation of the GMO, The Gaya Muslim Girls’ Orphanage (GMGO) at the founder’s native village Kolowna, which is situated at a distance of a km from Cherki. GMGO was established in 1986.

The GMO owes its existence to the munificence of Enayeth Khan. Being a dedicated worker and a great champion of social justice, the founder of the orphanage was pained to see the plight of orphans who were detested, rebuked and ill-treated. Thus with a view to ameliorate the lot of the impoverished young orphans, the GMO was established in October 1917 by Enayeth Khan at Cherki, 18 km away from Gaya town in Bihar. Initially the orphanage was put up in a rented hutment. 

The institution today is vividly a potent symbol of communal amity. It is no wonder that while on the one hand the establishment of the Orphanage had to face stiff resistance from Muslim landlords of the area, on the other generous help came from unexpected quarter, a Rajput Hindu lady, Nainchali Devi of Rampur, Pargana–Manohra, in a remarkable sense of philanthropy and humanism, donated two bighas of land in 1941.

From the very first day of its establishment, Enayeth Khan was following the path shown by Syed Ahmad Khan, i.e. "We can't separate ‘Deen’ (religion) and ‘Duniya’ (world) into two water-tight compartments. Muslim youths should be imparted such education which makes them a "Muslim" in true sense and useful for their society.

Today GMO is the oldest, biggest and one of the best managed institutions of its kind. It has carved a niche for itself in the whole of North India. It is a living testimony that the community can achieve a lot with its own resources. At present the annual expenditure of the Orphanage, excluding construction work, is Rs 12 lakh approximately.

It is heartening to note that some of the alumni hold high places in various fields like medical, engineering, teaching and administration etc. An alumnus is teaching theology at the Aligarh Muslim University. At least two alumni are now settled in UK and are regular donors.

From its humble beginnings, today the orphanage has two large beautiful double-storey buildings with 55 big rooms, a middle school, a high school, an industrial training workshop, a mosque, two lush green parks and a vast playground. A separate GMO Technical Training Institute is also in the offing, the foundation of which has already been laid by the then Governor of Bihar, Dr A R Kidwai, in 1994.

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