AINA which takes a narrow street from opposite side of the Shah Adam Khaki mausoleum at National Highway No 37 is still rising brick by brick under the care-ship of a youthful, energetic and committed team of teachers and volunteers.

By Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi

During my recent trip to Assam and my native place Karimganj I managed to visit Al-Islah National Academy (AINA), Badarpur, within Karimganj district of Assam on 18 February 2020. It was intra-school art and crafts carnival going on in the school. Children were out on ground in groups and were busy sketching or shaping to produce tiny master pieces of art and crafts out of their creative but childish minds in the presence of visiting artists and crafts men from Silchar. I did interact for a while amid their paint brush, clay and crayons were put at pause to provide me some space to talk.

It was my fourth interactions with the AINA students since its inception. This time Mr. Baizid Mahmood Faisal, an internationally acclaimed author of various books from Sylhet province of Bangladesh, was also present over the stage with a few other dignitaries.

Al-Islah National Academy or AINA which means mirror in Hindustani language, is a nascent academic endeavor by Mr. Mohammad Shajahan (an engineering graduate) and his team at Badarpur, the gateway township of Barak Valley region in Assam. Badarpur is situated some 300 kms away from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, over the bank of Assam's second major river- the Barak. It is the birth place of prominent scholar and saint Shaikh Ahmad Ali (ra) of Banskandi, work place for dynamic leader and versatile scholar Maulana Abdul Jalil (ra) of Nadwatut Tamir and the last abode for Shah Adam Khaki (ra), one of the forty companions of Shah Jalal Mujarrad-e Yemani (ra) (1271-1346 CE). This small township is the main rail junction connecting Tripura and Manipur states with rest of India via Assam. Badarpur is now rightly developing as an educational hub for Barak Valley. It has madaris, colleges, good schools and more educational institutions are springing. Hopefully, the township will bring the first private university in the Bengali speaking only Barak Valley region of Assam one day in future.

AINA which takes a narrow street from opposite side of the Shah Adam Khaki mausoleum at National Highway No 37 is still rising brick by brick under the care-ship of a youthful, energetic and committed team of teachers and volunteers. This AINA and such other schools have been my dream projects for India where academic excellence meets peaks of innovation and creativity, and better schooling kisses high morals and required spirituality. Where young human minds are modulated to innovate rather than pushing them to parrot learning and copy-pasting the printed text books to race in the percentage bonanza education market where students' evaluation stands on how better one performs as a xerox machine and not as a creative human being.

Moreover, it has been my understanding for past one decade or so that Islamic ideals can also be rightly protected in the 21st century India by Muslim managed private schools which incorporate standard Islamic tenets within curriculum and co-curriculum as essential components because madaris and makatib which had been the standing pillars of Islam within Indian subcontinent since 1857 have already begun to degrade due to various social, economic, political and academic factors.

I believe one day these Muslim managed private school will serve as large group of makatib for the Muslim community in India as the present schooling from dawn to dusk along with tuition, even from pre-primary level, have massively reduced children's time to spare for maktab education. On the other hand, uncalled for interference from the Government in the affairs of madaris will make this education system even tougher to productively continue for long time. Therefore, an alternative system or a backup plan from Muslim Indians is an urgent call to respond by the community en masse which should meet both religious need as well as present educational demand with better quality and required quantity.

I have visited so many Muslim managed schools in the length and breadth of India - from South to North, in the East and the West part of the country and I am confident that some schools are functioning well and in the right direction - Al-Hamdulillah. The pass outs of such schools can fill up the vacuum, God forbids, if a vacuum ever happen to arise due to any political or social outburst anytime in India.

Al-Islah National Academy, Badarpur is, to me, within that chain of schools which can be the future life line for Muslims as an identical group in India. During the meeting some teachers expressed their concerns to me saying that this year the first batch of their students is appearing for the tenth standard board exam for the first time. The board result will mean a lot for them as well as for the school. I think the state board exam result alone should and must not be the perimeter for such idealistic schools which are part of a larger academic movement. Utility evaluation of these schools be done by their alumni when they are amalgamated within Indian work force in private or public sectors.

I wish AINA all the very best for future and better result in the ongoing board exam of its students. I also suggest, rather request the management of AINA to always remain steadfast with founding principles of the school either you are down or up in positioning your school in future. AINA's tag line or brand distinction must remain as education for both the world - here and hereafter, always in letter and spirit without slightest compromise ever.

Thank you very much and JazakumuAllahu Khaira AINA for your love and affection, for your care and honour and for your incorporation of this humble man within your spirited team and this great mission of education and social upliftment. May Allah grant us all and help us do better for us and all – Aameen!

The author is an Assamese native and editor of Eastern Crescent, Mumbai.