Thursday December 08, 2022

Sindh Madressatul Islam: Quaid’s alma mater

December 25, 2021

From producing visionary leaders to promoting education in the sub-continent, Sindh Madressah will always be the place that reminds us about the presence of the father of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Sindh Madressatul Islam (SMI) is one of the country’s oldest historic educational institutions, founded in 1885 by Khan Bahadur Hassanally Effendi on the model of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s Aligarh School. The story of SMI begins with the movement aimed at educational reforms in the south Asian subcontinent during the last quarter of the nineteenth century under the leadership of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. The movement’s main goal was to provide contemporary education to Indian Muslims while also incorporating it into their social and religious practices. This movement arose out of the realisation among Indian Muslim intellectuals as well as British colonial officials that the widespread lack of knowledge among the Muslim masses was not only damaging to the Muslim community’s development but also to India’s polity. In July 1887, less than two years of Sindh Madressah’s establishment, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was enrolled in the institution and studied there for the longest period of his academic life, from 1887 to 1892. The available record at Sindh Madressatul Islam shows that he was admitted to the secondary school section, in Standard 1 (the fifth year of education... after four years of primary) in the English branch on July 4, 1887. Khoja was mentioned as his sect and Karachi was recorded as his birthplace. In the record kept at SMIU, he was shown to have completed his four classes of primary education in Gujrati in the column “previous instructions” in his previous school certificate at the time of his first admission here. His date of birth was not given, although he was said to be 14 years old when he left the institute (SMIU). On January 30, 1892, when enrolled in Standard 5 of English (class 9th), he left the institution, noting in the general record that he was “leaving for Cutch on marriage.”

SMI left deep imprints on Quaid’s mind which he enjoyed throughout his life. As is evident from his last will, he gave one-third of his personal possessions to Sindh Madressah. In paragraph number 12 of his Will dated May 30, 1939, he wrote and declared: “Subject to above, all my residuary estate including the corpus that may fall after the lapse of life interest or otherwise to be divided into three parts - and I bequeath one part to Aligarh University, one part to Islamia College, Peshawar and one part to Sindh Madressah of Karachi”.

Despite leaving this institute at an early age and later achieving his further educational pursuits, he never left himself aloof of his great alma mater. He was part of the ceremony when his alma-mater was elevated from school to college level. He personally came to inaugurate “Sindh Madressah College” on June 21, 1943. On that occasion, he was overwhelmed by his sentiments. While reminiscing his school days, he informed the audience that he knew every inch of the magnificent grounds of the institution where he had studied and played as a youngster fifty-five years earlier. The news account of the event as published in the next day’s Daily Morning News and Daily Star of India was as under:

“Karachi June 21: Mr M A Jinnah, President of the All India Muslim League, today opened Sindh’s first Muslim College.

“The college is situated in the premises of the Sindh Madressah, a premier Muslim educational institution in Sindh. Mr Jinnah was born in Karachi and himself passed out of this school 55 years ago. Recalling this fact, Mr Jinnah said: ‘I know every inch in the splendid grounds of this institution and it is no wonder if I am a bit sentimental in opening a college here although after 55 years. Mr Jinnah added that after the death of the founder of the Madressah, there was nobody to look after his creation with the care it deserved. That must not happen. There must always be continuity of the programme of work of any institution. Continuity must be maintained not only in educational but in all departments of life of Mussalmans,’ he said. Speaking in a reminiscent mood, Mr Jinnah said he was overcome by sentiment to be present at the development into a college of his Alma Mater where 55 years ago he had played and studied as a schoolboy. ‘Every inch of these splendid grounds where I took part in various games, I know,’ said Mr Jinnah. He particularly stressed the importance of building up a strong endowment fund for the college and he hoped that patrons of education would come forward to provide funds not merely for the new college but for many more colleges of its kind. Mr Jinnah himself led with a donation of Rs 5,000 and a total of Rs 62,000 was promised on the spot by other donors”.

Finally, after about a century and a quarter since its establishment at the hands of Khan Bahadur Hassanally Effendi and sixty-nine years after attaining the status of a college at the hands of the Quaid-i-Azam, Sindh Madressatul Islam was elevated to the level of a University on February 21, 2012.

While highlighting the importance of the institute, its historical significance, and its affiliation with the great leader, the vice-chancellor of Sindh Madressatul Islam University Prof Dr Mujeebuddin Sahrai Memon shared his thoughts on the importance of.

“Without any doubt, it is one of the historical institutes of Pakistan. During the 1880s the literacy level of Muslims was quite bad, even not a single Muslim student passed the exams at that time. After looking at this situation the founder of (SMI) Khan Bahadur Hassanally Effendi informed Sir Syed Ahmed Khan that he and his colleagues-in-cause were planning to establish a school in Karachi. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan advised him: “Don’t think of a school only. Aim at a college to expand it into a university”. Just after two years, Quaid-i-Azam joined the institute, further enriching its historic significance. He directly went for higher studies after completing his early education from this institute.

“Being a Vice-chancellor of this institute, I’ve always highlighted the importance of this institute for producing such great leaders and its affiliation with the father of the nation to my students who join this institute,” Dr Sahrai explained.

While talking about the captivating architecture of the alma mater of the Quaid-i-Azam, he emphasized the maintenance and preservation of this historical structure. “This building is declared as heritage by the government of Sindh but it requires a good amount of money like 10 times more than any normal building to preserve and maintain its architecture. We need special funds for it but despite its historical importance, unfortunately, it has not given the importance that it deserves,” he maintained.

With the beautiful architecture, Sindh Madressatul Islam has a separate room dedicated to Quaid-i-Azam where all his academic records are kept. IN the same room a big corner is dedicated to the institute’s founder Hassanally Effendi. While sharing the information related to the Jinnah museum and archive room the Vice-Chancellor mentioned some important facts. “All the educational details of the Quaid-i-Azam are there, from the attendance register, school registration to the original certificates where every detail of his academic life has been archived. There are two portions of the museum one is dedicated to Hassanally Effendi and the other is for Quaid-i-Azam. Even the classrooms where Quaid-i-Azam used to take classes are still there and used by our school students now”. It overwhelms a visitor to visit the Quaid’s museum and see the general register of Sindh Madressatul Islam where Quaid’s admission details are mentioned. One of the greatest gifts that Quaid-i-Azam got from his studies at Sindh Madressatul Islam was his command over English. During the final year of his studies, the educational inspector in Sindh Mr H P Jacob remarked, “The Madressah has made satisfactory progress during the year. In the high school classes, there is improvement all along the line. I was particularly struck with the boys’ spirited recitation of English and Persian verse. Great pains had evidently been taken by the teachers to ensure clear and correct pronunciation”.

Quaid-i-Azam had countless opportunities to connect with the highest-ranking British officials in colonial India during his time at Sindh Madressah. At least four big programmes were held during his time at Sindh Madressah, which were attended by the viceroy and governor-general of British India, the governor of the Bombay presidency, and the commissioner in Sindh, among others. In addition to his education, his school has also helped him to polish his skills in the field of sports. As per his own admission, “it was on the sands of Karachi that I played marbles in my boyhood’. Indeed, this is such a proud feeling for all the people associated with this institute that they are a part of this place where Quaid spent some quality time and left his imprints behind to learn great things.

In addition to Quaid-i-Azam, Sindh Madressah has produced several other leaders who got their education here. Some of these include: Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, Sir Abdullah Haroon, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Khan Bahadur Mohammad Ayub Khuhro, Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi and others. It has also produced great educationists, jurists, soldiers and men of letters. Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, SMI alumni and prominent educationist used to call SMI as “the Child of Sindh and Mother of Pakistan” in this context.

According to its historic motto, ‘Enter to learn- Go forth to Serve,’ the alma mater of the Quaid-i-Azam Sindh Madressatul Islam aspires to enhance society by providing high-quality education and conducting research while promoting national integration, inter-cultural harmony, and respect for diversity.