The celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Malayalam weekly Prabodhanam, the mouthpiece of Jamaat-e-Islami, Kerala, were kick-started with an emotive note at a significant function at Edayur (Malappuram Dist), the birthplace of the magazine on October 2. The function was attended by a galaxy of cultural and political leaders in Kerala as well the remaining members of the first generation of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders in Kerala. The reminiscences of the elderly leaders about the obstacles they had to overcome to take the magazine to its present position of prestige were quite evocative and raised many an eyebrow among the young generations.
Many people had travelled all the way not only at remote places in Kerala but even in neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to make it to the makeshift pandal at Edayur, braving frailties of old age and intermittent heavy rains. Many however found their journey immensely rewarded when the speakers at the function took a trip down the memory lane and told the tale of trials and tribulations that had to be experienced before Prabodhanam became what is today, a respectable Islamic magazine that has thousands of readers cutting across religious affiliations.
Delivering the inaugural address, former Minister of Education (Kerala State), Mr E T Muhammed Basheer recalled his long association with the magazine as an avid reader and praised the magazine’s moderate and non-confrontational approach to issues and ideas that the magazine disagrees with. “I am not a Jamaat-e-Islami activist but belong to a political party that has an altogether different take on various issues. The unique feature of Prabodhanam is that it remains a publication that can be read and kept by me, a person belonging to another party.” He also reiterated that Prabodhanam had succeeded in presenting Islam as a complete code of life.
Mr T Arifali, Amir, Jamaat-e-Islami Kerala, in his presidential address, observed that Prabodhanam is the only Islamic weekly magazine that completed 60 years of publication in Kerala. He reminded the people that while basking in the past glory, one should not forget the heavy tasks ahead. As in the past, the magazine should continue to carry out its duty of taking the message of Allah to the Malayalees around the world in the present times of new challenges and possibilities of postmodernism as well.
Ejaz Ahmed Aslam, Editor Radiance Viewsweekly and member Central Advisory Council (CAC) Jamaat-e-Islami Hind was guest of honour at the function. Talking about the formation of Jamaat-e-Islami in India, he dwelt at length on the social unrest and political uncertainty of Muslims all over the world and India in particular, caused by the fall of the Khilafat and foreign invasion of Muslim countries, before the birth of Jamaat-e-Islami. In those times of awful crises, it was the pen of Syed Abul A’la Maudoodi that bought the Muslim community out of the doldrums and brought fresh air to Islam and Muslims in India. Prabodhanam, the brainchild of Haji V P Muhammed started in 1948 at Edayur and later shifted to Calicut, carried out the stupendous task of spreading the thoughts of Maudoodi and the message of Jamaat-e-Islami in Kerala.
Mr M Ali, an MLA of the neighbouring constituency, offering felicitations, suggested that it was high time Jamaat-e-Islami stepped into the burgeoning arena of the visual media, a suggestion was later endorsed by Halqa Amir T Arifali. “Insha Allah, there will be a visual medium in Kerala that can carry out the work the daily newspaper Madhyamam is doing with an enviable number of readers cutting across the lines of politics and religion, managed and run by Jamaat-e-Islami,” he said.
Delivering the keynote address, T K Abdullah, former editor of Prabodhanam and member of Jamaat’s CAC, speaking with his characteristic witticisms recalled the initial woes experienced by Prabodhanam and said that at a time when all Islamic publications had Arabic words as their names, the very Malayalam name Prabodhanam (propagation) was a revolution of sorts, a factor that contributed to the popularity of the magazine with the secular intellectuals in Kerala.
Recalling his initial association with the magazine, T K Abdullah said his leaving his education at Aliya Arabic College in Kasargod to join Prabodhanam, at the behest of Haji V P Muhammed Ali, was ‘like a baby having been plucked away while feeding at his mother’s breast’. While dwelling on the tremendous impact of the magazine among the public, he recalled how he had been invited by a Communist activist, E J Mammu for a debate on Islam and Marxism. While preparing for the debate, the Communist activist had read the back issues of Prabodhanam. When T K went to him for the debate, it was astonishing to hear the Marxist’s apologist talks about floating a Jamaat unit in his place. His reading of Prabodhanam issues had made him think on those lines.
Mr T K Abdullah reminisced about the constructive and healthy debates, conducted in a very cordial atmosphere and decorous manner – how the magazine used to be engaged in with the secularist apologists and Communist thinkers.
T Muhammed, while rendering his services as Editor of Prabodhanam, wrote ‘The Undercurrents of The Indian Civilization’, first serialised in Prabodhanam and later published as a book under the same title which went on to bag the prestigious Kerala Sahitya Academi award. It showed that the Islamic magazine had tremendous appeal among all kinds of readers and people. He also recalled many erstwhile leaders of the movement who walked miles to distribute Prabodhanam in the remote villages of Kerala. Such was the interest the common people, including the unlettered, evinced in the magazine that a group of bidi (local cigars) makers used to employ one among them to read out Prabodhanam to the rest of the group and the reader was paid from the wages of the listeners. He hoped and prayed that Prabodhanam would continue to fulfil the duty it has been carrying out for 60 years, in the coming years as well.
Offering felicitations, Mr K P Ramanunni, an illustrious litterateur in Malayalam, said that the message of Prabodhanam was that the pen was to be used for guiding people to the right path shown by Allah. He lashed out at the attitude that excluded religion from public sphere and said that such an attitude would be tantamount to rendering politics and public life devoid of any values and ethics.
Citing the words of Gandiji, he said death would be preferable to politics without religion. Islam, he said, was not the exclusive property of Muslims but was for all humankind and contained some inherent antipathy to materialistic outlook and Capitalist worldview now rampant in society. He also suggested that, as Islam is not for Muslims alone, Prabodhanam should also not be for them alone and should address the people and doctrines of other religions too.
K T Jaleel, MLA of the area, maintained that Prabodhanam showed the Keralites how Islam must be presented in the modern world. The role played by the weekly in spreading the message of Islam among the educated members of society was praiseworthy. The very fact that Prabodhanam was banned from publication for two years during the Emergency was a testimony to the refusal of the magazine to be pigeonholed as a religious magazine with limited appeal, he said. He also highlighted the big responsibility of the magazine at this juncture of disinformation and misinformation campaigns against Islam. Prabodhanam should continue to dispel the misconceptions about Islam and show to the world its true face of peace, justice and tolerance, he added.
Among those who offered felicitations included V K Ali, Director Al Jamia Al Islamia Shatapuram, Prof. Ismail, P Abdurahman and K K Raheena. The logo of the 60th anniversary, designed by K A Sajid from Aluva, was unveiled and the designer given a cash award at the function.
The programmes, to be conducted during one year of anniversary celebrations lasting from August 2009 to August 2010, include history seminars, media persons’ get-together, release of an anniversary issue of the magazine, a handbook on Islam for media persons, workshop for budding writers and quiz contests.