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Aligarh-Millia-Hamdard: Grooming leaders or Producing followers?

Sunday June 05, 2011 03:40:54 PM, Dr Wasim Ahmad

Often I wonder why those Universities which are on the top are the ones which do not have Qur’an in the Right Hand and those which (are supposed to) hold the Book in the Right Hand aren’t anywhere near the top. This is a question which we need to ask ourselves till we reach to a clear answer. Without Qur’an in the Right Hand, however, it will be difficult to argue why the three or any other Muslim Institutions should groom leaders instead of producing followers. We will have no satisfying rational basis for that.

It is not sure if the Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jamia Hamdard have clearly decided to groom leaders instead of producing followers. This is besides finding out if there is a clear VISION in these Universities. While there is a focus on developing the existing infrastructure it is noticeable that there is less stress on the kind of product that these Institutions want to send out to the world.

For a change, let us start considering our students to be the Very Very Important Persons (VVIPs), the teachers as Very Important Persons (VIPs) and the rest of the people only Important Persons (IPs) – for apparent reasons. Let us find more occasions and excuses to celebrate our students than anybody else. For instance, the foundation stone of new buildings should be laid by a student. Why not? The current record in this respect is not quite encouraging.

Whether we are producing leaders or we are manufacturing followers will be clear by analysing the current alumni of the AMU, for instance. If we are doing the same things which were being done by our previous generations then it is an indication that we aren’t leaders. If our ideas are the same as of the last generation then how can we consider ourselves to be the leaders? If we state a problem and do not try to figure out what needs to be done and how then we are anything but leaders. To top it all, if we aren’t aware of our direction and destination then we are certainly followers.

Apparently there is a need to work more in these Universities at the conceptual level. For instance, we need to see if everyone in the University knows that we need to groom leaders and not followers. This is a work which will require continuous and long interactive sessions with teachers before anybody else. When the people speak their mind, then the things become clear and intervening becomes possible. And there seems to be no short-cuts for the advancement that we want to see in these Institutions.

Long and patient communication with teachers and in an environment wherein they are motivated to speak their mind is the only option. During discussions it will become clear whether they are leaders or followers. If it turns out that they are leaders it will be great. If the result is otherwise then some work will be required in this regard. It is next to impossible for the followers to groom leaders. Hence, efforts should be made to turn the teachers into leaders first. The day the teachers become leaders it will be a red letter day.

The people at the helm of affairs will have to come out of the aura of high offices. They have to intermingle openly and constantly. They will have to listen more and speak less. And it is not an easy task. The ideas which they may not like they should listen to those ideas even more attentively and with greater interest. Only then the people will be encouraged to openly share. We have to find out how the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) dealt with his Companions and was able to turn them into leaders? The principles are the same – in all times and climes. We will have to stop on these points for a while and find out more on this subject.

We will need to hear more from the experts in the Business Administration Departments especially those who teach Leadership as a subject and ask them to relate all those insights which they teach with actual environment of these Institutions. These experts have to identify the gaps and then suggest the ways to fill those gaps. They have to follow up on this front with utmost consistency.

It appears to me that we the Indian Muslims need a fresh direction. And so do these Universities, especially the AMU for obvious reasons. In fact, the AMU has to spearhead this campaign of a paradigm shift – given the status that it enjoys and the facilities that it already has. The Muslims of India have a lot of hopes from these Institutions. We need to (re)articulate those hopes as well. And then find out if the followers can meet those expectations or the leaders.

(The author is Dept Head of Islamic Studies, Ajman University, UAE)





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