On a damp summer night of 1976, an 11-year old boy walks inside a tiny classroom of Madrasa Faiz-ul-Uloom located in a narrow lane behind Islampura’s Juni Masjid. An Arabic class led by the late Maulana Mafuzurrahman is in progress where the students are in their late 40s, 50s and even 60s! Escorted and asked by his father, the boy joins the night class and becomes the “youngest” and the “brightest” student in no time! 23 years later, the “boy” becomes the first and the only Indian approved by United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Education to teach Arabic and Islamic studies! The boy’s name was Anis Ahmed.
How Anis Ahmed became Maulana Abu Saleh Anis Luqman Nadwi is an inspirational story of sheer obsession with Arabic. All these years, the soft-spoken Islamic scholar-turned-teacher has dangled between “obsession” and “madness”. He took pride when people labeled him “mad” in 1980s; for him the word MAD was an acronym which stood for ‘Make A Difference’!
After passing standard 7 from a Municipal Urdu school, Maulana was enrolled by his father Luqman in Malegaon’s Madrasa Baitul Uloom. It was the late Maulana Mafuzurrahman who persuaded Luqman that Anis must join full-time madrasa(sanctuary). After securing two degrees of “Alimiyyah”, first from Baitul Uloom and second from Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, Maulana taught Arabic, literature and Islamic sciences in Malegaon. He also designed and taught a crash course on Modern Standard Arabic for young Muslims, school teachers, doctors, engineers and businessmen in Malegaon, Mumbai, Delhi and Abu Dhabi.
A student of renowned Islamic scholar Syed Abul Hasan Ali Miyan Nadwi, Maulana has closely worked with renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiddudin Khan for seven years as a full-time research assistant and translator at Delhi-based Islamic Centre for Research and Da’wah.
“I have critically revised/thoroughly rechecked/minutely edited almost every single page ever penned by Maulana Wahiddudin Khan”, he told Inquilab from Abu Dhabi.
He has translated Wahiddudin Khan’s Tazkirul Qur’an into Arabic, revised and edited the famous translation and commentary of Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. He was also on the editorial board of the Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an.
In 1996, Maulana shifted to Abu Dhabi and joined Islamia English School as a senior teacher. He was simultaneously assigned the job of school’s PRO (Public Relation Officer) in view of excellent command over Arabic language and effective negotiation skills.
In 1999, Maulana became the first Indian to get Ministry of Education’s license to teach Arabic which, as per the existing bylaws, is granted exclusively for the native Arabs nationals who have to pass a number of extremely tough written and oral tests. He had challenged Ministry officials to exceptionally allow him to appear for the exam. To the surprise of officials, he passed the exam with the highest marks ever! This breakthrough remained a “secret” for three years because Maulana was not keen to “publicize” it. In 2002, Ministry of Education organized a program for the Arab teachers to launch a nationwide campaign for raising the standards of teaching Arabic. He delivered the keynote address of the program which was attended by 500 Arabic teachers. It was at this program that Government Inspectors of Arabic language narrated the tale of how Anis Luqman had challenged them!
Maulana has translated not less than 8,000 pages from English and Urdu into Arabic or vice versa. “As a matter of routine, every month I translate no fewer than 150 – 200 pages consisting of Ministerial Circulars, official letters, documents, welcome addresses, etc. from Arabic into English and vice-versa”, he said.
Maulana became “passionate” about learning Arabic at a much later stage in life after passing out from Bait-ul-Uloom and Dar-ul-Uloom Nadwa. His ‘mastery’ in Arabic is a “byproduct” of his “voracious reading” of Arabic books and his “madly” attempt during 20s to revolutionize traditional Madrasa education starting with an unprecedented experiment of teaching Arabic to non-Madrasa people without any textbook! “I consider it a ‘byproduct’ because to get mastery over any language had never been my aim”, he said.
Maulana’s obsession with Arabic can be gauged from the fact that from mid 1983 he stopped reading Urdu except few books! He used to converse in Arabic at home. “Since then on I started unconsciously speaking a language which may be called as’ Anglo-Arabic Urdu’; that is Urdu in Arabised accent ‘loaded’ with Arabic and English phraseology”, he said. In the meantime, Maulana’s ‘command’ over Arabic unconsciously improved but he didn’t realise that his spoken or written Arabic is good according to the Arab scholastic standards until a compliment by Dr. Abdul Halim Owais, a renowned Egyptian thinker and widely read author in mid 1987. After hearing Maulana and reading some of his translated pieces, Dr. Abdul Halim was impressed. He asked Maulana for how long he has been studying in Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Upon realisation that Maulana has not spent a single day in both the countries yet, he was stunned and said, “Wow, you write and speak Arabic much better than some of those who teach there in the Arab universities!”
Maulana has always taken an alternate stand in matters of education. “Education is generally defined as ‘answering the questions’ but I would prefer to define it as ‘questioning the answers’!” he said.
Maulana considers himself as a “natural-born teacher”. His teaching style contradicts traditional methodology and is extremely popular among the students. He says that traditional teaching hardly constitutes 10% of real teaching.
“Teaching is essentially a mind-activating activity which can be exercised between two or more young or old persons. Text books, charts, writing board, lesson plans, e-devices and other ‘teaching stuff’ are useful but not indispensable tools for this ‘mind-activating activity’”, he said.
Maulana is a harsh-critic of traditional as well as modern education and schools run by Muslims. “Education, theoretically, is supposed to be an ongoing process of ‘behaviour modification’. But, practically, education has caused throughout the generations more ‘behaviour distortion’ than positive ‘behaviour modification’”, he said.
Maulana is known to sum up his lectures in the form of 5 to 10 keywords. For instance, QE=EBUC (i.e. Quality Education is equal to Expected Behaviour Under Unexpected Circumstances/Mutawaqqa kirdar ghayr mutawaqqa halat mein).
Maulana counters the long-held view that school is a place where “the destiny of a nation is shaped.” He claims that school, at best can be likened to a “maintenance workshop” where students are either “well-maintained” or at worst would even be “spoilt and mutilated.”
Apart from this, Maulana has been closely working to help Indian Diaspora living in United Arab Emirates. He has voluntarily handled a number of tough labour disputes involving Indian workers. Indian Embassy often requests him to appear for legal disputes concerning immigration, release of passports from Labour Ministry etc. During the 2007 Amnesty period, Maulana facilitated release of thousands of Indian passports’ from Ministry of Labour. In recognition of voluntary services, he was awarded an Appreciation certificate and a Memento by the then Indian ambassador Talmiz Ahmed.
Maulana says that with the rapid commercialisation of schools, his concept of teaching, though theoretically much appreciated, would hardly get general acceptance.
“It is, therefore, most likely that within next few years I will have to quit teaching as a ‘profession’ and devote my time and energy to Dawah and research.”