These are the days when attempts to see everything as a monochrome are being made: this is saffron, that is green. By doing this we are committing the folly of not appreciating the variety and explosion of colour in a garden! Remember the vibrancy of a polychrome as compared to the dullness of a monotony! Riot of colour symbolises to gaiety, while opposite is implied by a single black or white!
Let’s look at my alma mater: it represents almost all colours of the rainbow: the green of Islam, the saffron of Hinduism, red of communism, the mustard of Sikhism and so on and so forth! It’s a Garden with myriads of flowers of every shade and colour….
Do you know that Ishwari Prasad was the first graduate from Aligarh Muslim University? [Incidentally he is not the famous historian of that name!]
And that the famous Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi (31 July 1907 – 29 June 1966) was initially a lecturer of Mathematics there (from 1931-34)?
Jadav Chandra Chakravarti (1855 – 26 November 1920) who was a famous mathematician and author of books like Arithmetic and Algebra taught at AMU? He joined MAO College in 1888 and retired in 1916.
Or Piara Singh Gill (28 October 1911 – 23 March 2002) a nuclear physicist who was a pioneer in Cosmic Ray Nuclear Physics was Professor and head of the Department of Physics at AMU from 1949 to 1963.
Or that Satish Chandra (20 November 1922 – 13 October 2017) spent most of his academic career at Aligarh?
Or that the Atranjikhera site which definitively brought the association of PGW culture (I.e. Vedic Culture) with iron, was excavated by Professor RC Gaur (1929-89), who taught at AMU?
Did you know that the first VC of AMU was a Shia and the first Chancellor, a woman?
Maharaja Sir Mohammad Ali Mohammad Khan, Khan Bahadur, KCSI, KCIE (4 June 1878 – 23 March 1931) was the Vice Chancellor of AMU between 1920-23
Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum (9 July 1858 – 12 May 1930) was the Chancellor from 1920 to her death in 1930.
Another Shia, Allama Saiyid Sibtul Hasan (1908-78) helped establish the world renowned Manuscript Section of the Maulana Azad Library where he served as its Incharge between 1958-71. His Minhāj i Nahjul Balāghah was amongst the first works to challenge those doubting the authenticity of Nahjul Balaghah the word of Imām Ali.
Further that AMU is the only University in India which has an independent Department of Shia Theology where such world renowned Shia theologians and scholars like Allāma Saiyid Ali Naqi Naqavi, (1905-88): undoubtedly the most influential 20th Century Shia scholar of India; Allāma Mujtaba Hasan Kamoonpuri (d. c 1973) and Allāma Saiyid Kalbe Abid (1923-86) taught and served.
Allāma Saiyid Ali Naqi Naqavi
Allāma Saiyid Kalbe Abid Naqvi
Did you know that Sir Syed himself collected a large number of sculptures? Both Hindu and Jain? And that they are still proudly displayed at the Central University Museum at AMU?
And that at the time when he founded the MAO College, he ordained that the University Jami Masjid would hold two congregations five times a day: one led by a Sunni Imām and another by a Shia! And that even on Fridays and Eids the Shias and Sunnis both will pray in the same mosque?
My Garden even has a common graveyard where Muslims of all sects find their resting place!
Not only this, but my garden boasts of many illustrious scholars known for their secular and non-religious ideology: Thus we had Professor Mohammad Habib (1895-71), a scholar with mystical approach who founded and shaped the Marxist Historiographical traditions, especially in the field of Medieval India. His book Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni laid the foundation of secular, scientific and Marxian approach to writing Medieval Indian history. DD Kosambi, the first Indian Marxist historian has already been mentioned earlier.
Another such person was Professor Kunwar Pal Singh (1937-2009). He considered illiteracy and communalism as a national threat and dedicated his life for the eradication of the scourge. He was an advocate of composite culture and organized several symposium and workshops to promote Urdu language and literature as well. The great ideals and traditional values of Aligarh Muslim University lived in his persona and he remained to be an epitome of the Aligarianism that an Aligarian is known for the world over.
One such individual who in fact is an institution in himself is Professor Irfan Habib (b. 1931), one of the living legends of History and a Marxist historian. He is well known for his strong stance against Hindutva and Muslim communalists. His Agrarian System of Mughal India published initially in 1963 is considered the Bible of Medieval Indian History.
And this is the beauty of my garden which was laid down by Sir Syed and that is why it is a beacon of hope in these conflicting times!
• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi