The Aligarh Muslim University Alumni of Australia (AMUAA) is celebrating its 25th Sir Syed Day on Saturday 4 November 2017, indeed a quarter century of sustained development and high achievements.

This also coincides with the bicentenary celebrations of Sir Syed Day marking  Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s 200th birthday on 17 October 2017, who founded the Aligarh Muslim University.

AMUAA has been working for more than 25 years and in addition to celebrating annual Sir Syed Days and holding educational and social events, one of its great achievements has been the initiation of a sustained scholarship program to economically disadvantaged students in India from a scholarship fund established in Australia.

Initially the Alumni granted scholarships to students at the Aligarh Muslim University, but later on the programme had included Jamia Millia Islamiah in New Delhi as well as to school students in Faizabad, UP.

The Alumni also helps in infrastructure projects to establish school buildings, classrooms and scientific laboratories for technical education in high schools.

There were very few Aligarians who had migrated to Australia by 1990.

It was perhaps during a social gathering at the residence of Dr Farhat Yusuf in Ryde during 1989, where the few Aligarians who lived in Sydney were also present including Mr Ali Hussain Siddiqui, Mr Qutbuddin Siddiqui, Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, Mr Sultan Haider, Mrs Yusuf, Mr Kamil Hussain Kazmi, Mr Mahmoodullah Khan, Mr Zafar Siddiqui and Mr Zia Ahmad, that the idea of establishing an AMU Alumni was floated.

As I recall, Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad being a visionary, a pragmatic man and with well-developed multitasking ability, assigned the tasks to prepare documentation and other resources required for the formal registration of AMU Alumni of Australia as well as Anjuman Taraqi Urdu, for the promotion of Urdu language.

Other non-Aligarians of Indian as well as Pakistani origin present at the gathering who were highly inspired by the Aligarh movement and Sir Syed’s vision as well had great concern for the Urdu language voiced their enthusiastic support for the twin projects.

Later, two organisations namely the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni of Australia as well as Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu were registered as non-profit community associations. Two senior Aligarians, Mr Shameem Ishaq from Brisbane and Professor Akhtar Kalam from Melbourne also gave their assurance of support for the Alumni.

Subsequently, a number of twin events including SS Day combined with Mushaira conducted by the Anjuman were organised. I remember one of them perhaps in November 1989 at Bonnyrigg Public School where the Chief guest, then Indian High Comissioner to Australia, an Aligarian and later Indian Vice President Mr Hamid Ansari, a cousin of Dr Ashfaq Ahmad, gave an excellent speech in Urdu on Sir Syed’s vision as well as appreciating and encouraging us to  promote Urdu in Australia.

By 1992 as a result of chaos after the first Gulf War, a number of young Aligarians migrated to Australia from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and a fully functional AMU Alumni of Australia was established.

The first formal Sir Syed Day was celebrated in November 1992 at the Islamic Council of NSW Community Hall in Chullora (currently the premises of Malik Fahd School). This wa a twin event to introduce both the Alumni as well as Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu to the wider community and included a Mushaira and children performances in addition to the standard SS Day program including the recitation of the Tarana.

We were very busy with the running of the weekly multilingual newspaper, the Australasian Muslim Times AMUST that consumed most of our energy and time during those days.

Again, Dr Ashfaq Ahmad pointed out that the Alumni was conducting some good social activities, but it should do more serious work in order to practically serve Aligarh, our Alma Mater.

Thus a Scholarship Committee was established in 1996 and started operating under his chairmanship with a devoted team of young Aligarian technocrats with very frequent meetings, minuting and strict financial accounting.

A complimentary scholarship committee was also established at AMU in India under the Chairmanship of Dr Qidwai in order to facilitate publicity and selection of meritorious but disadvantaged students for the allocation of scholarships.

The Alumni has been working consistently for more than a quarter century now holding in addition annual Sir Syed Days, educational seminars, picnics and other social events involving both Aligarians as well as other community members from diverse background. It’s a great success story.

As far as I know the Scholarship Program of AMUAA is unprecedented of any AMU Alumni in other countries where it has been conducted successfully for more than 20 years with great dedication, transparency, equity and enthusiasm.

Annual Scholarship Reports have been published and presented at SS Day regularly every year with names of donors, amounts donated, recipients of the scholarships as well as full transparent accounting.

With this long and meticulous track record of the Scholarship Committee, the donors, both Aligarians and others have felt great confidence in the operation of the Scholarship program and therefore continue to donate generously.

It is great to notice that we have now seen the fruits of the efforts by the scholarship initiative by way of some Aligarians now migrating to Australia who received scholarship from AMUAA in the past.

Zia Ahmad is the Managing Editor of the Australasian Muslim Times AMUST. He was one of the founding members of AMUAA and spent his childhood in Aligarh while his father Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad was a lecturer there during the mid 1950’s and then later studied at AMU from 1969-1971.