MOHAMMED AZHARUDDIN, hailing from Khamgaon in Buldana district of Maharashtra, who did MA in Economics from Pune University and M.Phil from Amravati University of Maharashtra, is now National President of Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO). Joining SIO in 2001, he was local president at Khamgaon in 2002, district organiser in 2003-04, general secretary of Maharashtra zone in 2005-06, zonal president of North Zone of Maharashtra in 2007-08 and campus secretary in the SIO Headquarters and member of the organisation’s Central Advisory Council in 2009-10. In an exclusive interview with DR. WAQUAR ANWAR he talks of what his organisation stands for in society. Excerpts:
Who are the persons who have attracted you, besides your father of course, those who shaped your association with the organisation?
Islamic movement comprises a battery of – almost all of them – very worthwhile persons. Whoever comes in contact leaves an imprint. The basic reason of my association with the Islamic movement is my senior, who has also been my teacher, Mr. Umair Ahmad Khan. He brought me closer to the organisation and trained me therein. Besides him, I had the advantage and honour of getting benefited by many important persons in Maharashtra like Nazar Madoo, the current Amir Halqua; Sheikh Abdul Mujeeb, Hamid Hussain, Khalid Mohsin, Rizwanur Rahman Khan, and many others. All of them have paid their attention to me in order to train me in the organisational matters.
Tell us about the contributions of SIO.
The journey of SIO during the last 27-28 years in a plural society like India is a successful voyage. SIO has not only presented itself and proved its existence but has also contributed to this plural society in many ways. First of all it has developed confidence in the Muslim youth, provided them with balanced thinking, a positive approach and higher aims of life. Further, it has motivated students and youth to work in campuses in a multidimensional manner. Today students are generally either self-centred or working for petty objectives. It has been a characteristic feature of SIO to shape the abilities of students and youth for positive and constructive purposes by developing their multidimensional personalities. It utilised Islam as a binding force at a time when religion was utilised for causing discord and disruption. Until and unless we are associated with religion, it is not possible to reconstruct the society in a positive fashion. In the field of education it has initiated a debate on some basic principles, particularly on the object of education, putting on a question mark on the existing philosophy of education.
What do you mean by multidimensional personality?
Student-life is the age of learning. This process of learning should be a natural process along with being multidimensional. For example, it is necessary for a student to give proper attention to his studies, achieving excellence in his field of study and proceeding towards specialisation and completing his studies in the best possible manner. On the other hand, he should be aware of the developments in the society, be updated with the problems around, analysing the events with a sense of concern. He should participate in solving those problems on individual as well as collective levels. Then he should nurture his mental faculties developing intellectual capabilities.
Today we find that students struggle to achieve money power and muscle power. Earning money becomes their aim of life and they devote much time and effort to developing their physical outlook and appearance. Their concern for developing this money power and muscle power surpasses their concern for mental power and mental exercise.
SIO encourages them to use and develop their mental faculties. Along with education and social side of personality the moral and spiritual sides too are important ingredients of one’s personality. Consider the extent of moral degradation in campuses. In order to counter the malaise, moral and spiritual development of students is urgently needed. Thus multidimensional development of personality comprises educational, practical, societal, moral, and spiritual and such other developments. SIO alhamdulillah addresses all these aspects.
SIO had decided to focus more on students than on youth. What is the status of that approach?
Student orientation of SIO had been a very significant approach of SIO in the first decade of the 21st century that has just passed. This orientation started in 2001 and got momentum with the passage of time. Many zones have completed this orientation and new members overwhelmingly belong to the student’s community. Many other zones are moving in this direction. In fact students and educational institutions are fertile areas of a society that can play an important role in its positive reconstruction. So SIO decided that, being a part of the Islamic movement, it should concentrate in this area exclusively. If we achieve this objective of giving required orientation to campuses, this will be a great service to the cause of the movement.
We notice that SIO has shown concern in many non-educational and non-campus activities in the past. Is their any justification for that in view of your vowed position of a students’ movement?
As a matter of policy SIO has decided to be concerned about the issues pertaining to students and educational institutions. But students are part and parcel of the society and they cannot be completed isolated and unconcerned about issues cropping up therein. So our policy is to work for creating and building up public opinion on social, national and international issues as per need. However, it is correct that involvement on all issues will affect our long term goal. Some restraint is called for. Instead of reacting on volatile issues, it is better for us and other ideological organisations to work on long term and basic issues.
What will be the focus of SIO, particularly out of the activities which the organisation has inherited from the past?
One important debate that SIO started a couple of years ago relates to philosophy of education. Debate on the existing approach towards education and the Islamic philosophy of education forms the nucleus of our activities which should go on. This requires both theoretical and practical researches. Till now we have been working on creating awareness on student-related issues. We should go one step ahead, beyond the awareness programme, towards contributing something concrete to the welfare of the students’ community. Further, efforts to play a positive role for improvement of the national educational policy will continue.
Any new focus that SIO has decided in its recently concluded Central Advisory Council (CAC) meeting under your stewardship.
Our goals require a long struggle and these call for continuity of lines of actions. We cannot change approaches in every term. It is not proper for the organisation to vie for a very big change in any single organisational period. I personally feel that the organisation needs a balanced line of action. By this balance I mean both balanced thinking and action. For example, education and educational institutions, tazkia (self purification), and growth of organisation all need to be addressed simultaneously. So our focus in this term will be to address all these aspects in a balanced manner.
We have further decided to encourage students to do higher studies in social sciences as this is being neglected. Further, we have decided to organise research scholars and assist them in their respective fields of study, providing them with proper orientation.
Are you thinking in terms of organising old boys of SIO?
SIO is a wing of the Islamic movement in India and so the persons who become old boys here join the mainframe movement. In fact, that is the basic purpose of SIO. Old boys associations are needed in the institutions where further similar platforms are not available. That vacuum does not exist in our case as a bigger platform in the form of the Islamic movement is available. However, persons retiring from SIO remain emotionally attached with us and both formal and informal relationships exist.
What qualitative change in membership has occurred and how to make it better?
The age group of membership has changed. Now with students’ orientation of the organisation relatively younger boys are becoming members. For example, we may differentiate between student-members in the age group of 18 to 24 years from that of 25 to 30 years. That latter group is comparatively more matured and so that may contribute to training of their younger brothers. Besides, this one-to-one approach for tazkia we have decided to give more stress on studies of the Holy Qur’ān. We feel that the Qur’ān is the best source and guide of tazkia. Our CAC has decided that our attachment with the Qur’ān should not be merely for knowledge sake. Rather it should become emotional and be ingrained in our persona. The recitation and study of the Qur’ān should not be limited to preparing for dares-Qur’ān but for our own tazkia as well.
Do you think members and associates of SIO have developed distinct traits with which they are recognised in campuses?
We can say that associates of SIO, wherever they are present in campuses, are recognised because of their thinking and character. Balanced thinking, constructive approach, seriousness about studies, broadmindedness, keeping extremism at bay, maturity in education and concern about the society are the characteristic features of members of SIO and these make this organisation distinct from other students organisations. Although we are not satisfied fully as more attention is required in their mental and character building.
What is your message for the students’ community and your members?
We wish that SIO should become a trend-setter among students. It is the responsibility of SIO to make its mission and message a topic of debate in the society, making these the burning issues of our times. Students should be ready to discuss Islam ideologically, socially and academically. We should work proactively and not reactively. We do not have to look towards other organisations present in the campuses as we have to set our own priorities, resisting any urge to conflict or becoming rivals. Conflicts and rivalry have never served the society. Our vision is to serve our mission constructively.