Special Reports

Sir Syed Day & Mushaira in New York

By Shaheer Khan, PhD

The Alumni of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) celebrated Founder's Day on 17 October at Akbar Restaurant in Long Island, NY, which was the 192nd birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the  19th century scholar, historian and social reformer who spent most of his time on promotion of social, economic and educational conditions of Indian Muslims. The Aligarh alumni are spread in large numbers all over the world and everywhere they celebrate the founder's day which is popularly known as 'Sir Syed Day'.
M Zakir Husain Khan (with stick) with the Alig community

The formal program as always in the Aligarh tradition started off with a recitation from the Holy Qur'an which was presented by Ms. Naila Ali. Mr. Faiq Siddiqi, well-known TV personality in NY, was emcee for the program. Secretary of the association, Mr. Muzaffar Habib presented the annual report and thanked the volunteers and sponsors. He stressed the need to keep the Aligarh tradition alive and spoke about what needs to be done to achieve the association's goals. He presented a plaque to Mr. and Mrs. Riaz Alvi for their services to the association. Dr. Masood Haider presented the obituaries of Dr. Abdul Bari (past President of the association) and Haneef Akhgar Malihabadi (popularUrdu  poet of USA) who passed away this year.  Mrs. Bari was presented a plaque to recognize the contributions of her late husband to the association.

Mr. Muhammad Zakir Ali Khan was honored with "Life Time Achievement Award" for his outstanding services for the continuation of the spirit of the Aligarh Movement and to the cause of higher education in Pakistan. His efforts have been exemplary, especially due to his part in the establishment of Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology at Karachi.

Born in 1926 at Rampur (UP), Zakir Ali Khan did his B.Sc. in 1945 and B.Sc. Engineering in 1948 from the AMU. The Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi, established by him, offers immeasurable services to and opportunities for young Pakistani men and women. He has served as the General Secretary of the Aligarh Old Boy's Association, Karachi for almost 4 decades and has edited the association's monthly magazine Tehzeeb for many years. He has been a prolific writer who has authored a number of books highlighting socio-cultural life of the AMU, the most renowned of them being Riwayat-e-Aligarh. Zakir Ali Khan was awarded the first 'International Award for Literature' instituted by the Aligarh Muslim University, at last year's world alumni summit at Aligarh. 

Mr. Muzaffar Habib and Dr. Masood Haider presented the award to Zakir Ali Khan carrying a cash prize of Rs. 100,000 and a citation. Zakir Ali Khan expressed his gratitude for the award and he donated the whole prize money to the welfare of AMU students. 

The keynote address of Zakir Ali Khan was equally inspiring. He shared Aligarh anecdotes and wisdom that just had to be appreciated. Especially interesting was his emphasis on team work which resulted in the establishment of Sir Syed University. He said that the best tribute to Sir Syed is to take his educational movement forward.

The Mushaira, which originated in the courts of kings and patronized by the nobility, survived these institutions due to the links with the common man. This time, seven poets enthralled the audience for almost four hours. Participating poets included Tahir Faraz (India), Abbas Tabish (Pakistan), Meraj Faizabadi (India), Waseem Barelvi (India), Zamin Jafri (Canada), Saleem Kausar (Pakistan), and Manzar Bhopali (India). At the start, Tahir Faraz was invited to present his poetry. He proved to be a good opener and enthralled the audience with his poetry and melodious voice: Aahat si mahsoos huyi hai aankho(n) ko / Shayad koi Aansoo aaney walaa hai

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2009 on page no. 17

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