Behind the cycles & burqas of Aligarh Muslim University


“Write a note on Aligarh Muslim University.’ My teacher at the Noor-ul-Islam High School in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district enunciated one day as she entered our class, 10th Blue. I tried my level best, but couldn’t make it more than 50-odd words. I always remember one of the beautiful sayings of AMU founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, ‘Ignorance is the mother of poverty.’ This made me to hold the pen and complete my ‘note’ on Aligarh Muslim University in a different way.

In the Doab area between the beautiful rivers Ganga and Yamuna, in western Uttar Pradesh, some 130 kms from Delhi, lies the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) – ‘the Mecca of Education’ and a victim of stereotypes propagated by certain sects of the media.

A benefaction of Aligarh Movement led by great reformer of modern times Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the AMU has proved to be like a living architect redefining and maintaining the structure of the solution, and ensuring that it will meet the requirements.

A living symbol of composite culture of India and a bulwark of its secular principles, spread over 467.6 hectares of land, the AMU has grown in leaps and bounds and today offers more than 300 courses in the traditional and modern branches of education. One of the beautiful sayings of M K Gandhi, ‘A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave,’ finds more relevance here. Students of the varsity come from different countries, states, have different accents and socio-cultural backgrounds and they make a concoction of ‘Aligarh Tahzeeb’.

Aligarh, contrary to the popular view, has been a meeting ground of different dialects, languages, religions and cultures.

Today, the Alumni of AMU are everywhere in the world spreading the light of knowledge and spirit of the same brotherhood among fellow human beings.

It is the symbol of multi-regional, multi-religious, multi-racial and of course multi-lingual university. It has a legacy of warmth, affection, respect and admiration for seniors and teachers.

The university is being misperceived as the vicarious journey of Burqa but it’s not all that, behind this image it has grown its spheres and widens its achievements. It’s a living example of brotherhood among all the sects of the society.

Here women are empowered, secured, and it helps us to eradicate the image of women from one’s mind that she is pressurized for Hijab and is suppressed. Women folk in AMU are treated equally and stand at same position where their counterparts are. A lady in Hijab imbued with all the technological advancement seems more empowered and enlightened ‘than others’. AMU is having many women as young scientists, researchers, guest faculties, social workers, administrators and what not? This institution has proved a great platform for women folk to flourish their potentialities while at the same practice their religion at best. It produces graduates who are practically-oriented without sacrificing academic and scholastic excellence.

The varsity is playing an important part for the promotion of social, scientific and economic development of India, not only Muslims. It has recorded a remarkable growth in mushrooming the education system throughout the length and breadth of the country. Games and sports have been a distinctive feature of the AMU. The Cricket, Football, Hockey, Tennis, Basketball, Skating and Horse Riding teams have excelled at the inter-University level. Perhaps, this is the only university in India with a Horse Riding Club. Unlike few media reports, no firearm or special gun training is being provided anywhere, in any course in the university.

AMU has been imparting a great deal of practices for reinventing higher education. The result is a new hybrid university that combines the best moral values with the operational ingenuity of the modern education.

The university has a CEC (Cultural Education Centre) which is acting as a world class platform for cultural promotion and transformation between generations. This platform is at work to restore the ‘lost’ beauty of the customs. This paradigm is very similar to the shift we see in the media where power is shifting away from ‘broadcast’ media such as print and television to the ‘interactive’ medium of the Internet, where individuals are not passive consumers of information but also producers of information.

The best part of the institution is the language which is making the culture more and more alive here. The preservation of Urdu language enables us to see the years old culture still prevailing in the campus. It is well said “if you want to end a culture, kill its language.” On the surface of this campus, one can see people with culture rich in hand with newer technology. Innovations and inventions take place here but there is no compromise with traditional rules and regulations.

Cycles and rickshaws are the rich mode of transportation. Even, noted historian and Professor Emeritus Irfan Habib, is famous among the students for using cycle as a means of transport. This is an unwritten proof of the simplicity within the campus. Indian education system is being criticized for being flawed. Education reforms is the most voiced demand. Other universities should make AMU as their role model for at least restoring the simplicity and rich customs and traditions on par with modern education. If transferring customs and traditions of a nation from one generation to another is communalism, then AMU is a leader. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change. Vibrant Aligarh Muslim University is the Temple of education and Mosque of traditions.


(The author is a research scholar at the Department of Mass Communication, Aligarh Muslim University and blogs at

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