Padma Shri for Zahir Qazi is for his 40-year missionary service in education

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 05-02-2024
Dr Zahir Qazi, President, Anjuman-e-Islam
Dr Zahir Qazi, President, Anjuman-e-Islam


Mansooruddin Faridi/New Delhi

“When the (Narendra) Modi government took charge, Muslims were worried and many feared they would face prejudice and be discriminated against. I am telling you honestly, that our ‘Anjuman’ and 'Islam' associated with it never faced any discrimination or prejudice. Instead, Anjuman-e-Islam has received full support and assistance from the government at all levels and stages, be it the proposal for the expansion of educational institutions or the approval for new ones. The government has always supported us”.

This is what Dr. Zahir Qazi, president of Anjuman-e-Islam, a 150-year institution in Mumbai, said while speaking with Awaz-the Voice. Dr Qazi would soon be conferred the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award for his 40-year service in the field of education. His name was announced among 31 other distinguished citizens for the honour on Republic Day.

Dr Qazi is a physician by profession, but he also worked in the field of education for four decades. Today, due to his increasing involvement in the Anjuman during 15 years, he just has one-fourth of his time for medical practice.

Dr Zahir Qazi at a function

​On his institute’s association with the government, Dr. Zahir Qazi says if someone is positive, helpful, and sincere, one should acknowledge it unhesitatingly. “Yes, there was an atmosphere of anxiety in the institution. I got a resolution approved in the meeting of the general body that we will work with the government. This is a positive thought. In response our institution received all the necessary help; we faced no obstacle. In fact, we received more support than we had ever expected. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's principle is that whether one votes for him or not, everyone will be treated at par.”

“Anjuman-e-Islam has never been discriminated against, the organization has not faced prejudice. The system is completely transparent; there is no swing in favour or against any particular thought process.”

Speakign with Awaz-The Voice, Dr. Zahir Qazi said he was always passionate about the education movement and wanted to be its part. “I was busy in my medical profession as I was associated with many hospitals and medical institutes, but I realized that it was important to educate the ‘quom’ and take it on the right path. One had to devote time to this. With this thought and concern, I joined Anjuman-e-Islam as a member. For the past 15 years, I have been holding the position of President. I must tell you one thing: this work is not easy; it demands sacrifice, intention and the intention has to be empowered with transparency.”

Dr. Zahir Qazi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Anjuman-e-Islam was founded in Mumbai 149 years ago by a small group of progressive Muslims who wanted to promote the educational and social status of the community. Dr. Badruddin Tayabji, the third President of the Indian National Congress and the first Acting Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, led the group. Badruddin Tayabji's elder brother and the first Indian lawyer, Qamaruddin Tayabji, a businessman Nakhda Muhammad Ali Rogge, also joined him in this mission.

The first Urdu medium school – Anjuman-e-Islam - was established in Mumbai on 21 February 1874, a year before the establishment of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

The society started a high school at Babula Tank near Umarkhadi in the then-Bombay Province. At that time 120 students were enrolled and the school had three teachers.

Today, Anjuman-e-Islam runs 97 institutions - from pre-primary schools to graduate and post-graduate level including College of Engineering, Polytechnic, Unani Medical College, College of Education, College of Commerce. and Economics, Law College, Institute of Institute. Management Studies, College of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, College of Home Science, School of Pharmacy, and School of Architects.

It‘s a Muslim minority institution and its 1.10 lakh students are from all religious communities. The society is focused on improving the quality of education, bringing in transparency in its functioning, and development so that it becomes a world-class educational social service organization. The association has set up an integrated technical campus at Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, with faculties of Engineering, Management, Pharmacy, Architecture and Computer Applications (Information Technology).

Students Of Anjuman-e-Islam interacting with a foreigner

Besides, Anjuman-e-Islam runs various programs which are managed by 15 different trusts.

Dr. Zahir Qazi said that institutions are not set up just by erecting a building; it requires thought and sustained concern. It involves a lot of research and planning. “We work on a plan with absolute transparency and this is paramount in any work that is done with relief funds or donations. It is necessary to keep the soul (of the institution) pure. This is the reason why elections are held in Anjuman-ul-Islam every year. Those managing it are elected based on their performance. We don't start any project blindly. We keep the requirements of the region in mind for any new project or course. As of today, Anjuman-e-Islam is not limited to Mumbai, slowly we are moving to other cities. We are being invited to set up campuses in North India as well. This is under consideration.”

The place where this institution was founded is today the central administrative office. Five colleges - two catering colleges, a college of business management, a college of home science, and a law college - have been established in the remaining three-acre campus, a polytechnic for women, a junior college, and two schools in both English and Urdu medium. It also has a library and a research center with a collection of 50,000 books.

Speaking with Awaz-The Voice, Dr. Zahir Qazi said that there he had noticed a big change in Muslims’ attitude towards education in 40 years. This attitudinal change is the reason for the success of his movement. “Otherwise, we would not have been able to create more institutions or expand the existing ones.”

Students of Anjuman-e-Islam posting for a picture with US Ambassador Eric Grecetti

Zahir Qazi said Anjuman Islam’s success in the last decade is commendable. The institution has become famous not only in India but even abroad. The alumni are holding good positions all over. “This was my dream which has come true.”

​Anjuman-e-Islam has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MIT University, Cambridge for an exchange project in March for five of their faculties such as Engineering, Master of Business Administration (MBA), Pharmacy, and Elementary Education.

The students who go for the exchange programme will be trained in Boston. It is in talks with the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy in Baltimore, Washington DC, for collaboration with Anjuman’s Kalsekar School of Pharmacy, Panvel. Temple University, Philadelphia (USA) has approached Anjuman-e-Islam's Barrister AR Antulay College of Law for support.

The Anjuman-e-Islam has 70% of women teachers in its 97 institutions and 45% of female students. Anjuman Islam also works as a charitable trust, managing two orphanages for girls - one in Versova, Mumbai, and the other in Bund Garden, Pune.

Dr. Zahir Qazi said the institution also takes care of others like women who are not very educated. They are training in cutting and sewing and these women received an order of 10,000 flags from the Mumbai Municipal Corporation for the Har Ghar Trianga, Ghar Ghar Trianga campaign.

Dr. Zahir Qazi in the UK

The institution also provides free and subsidized education to needy students through donations. These students get a waiver of 50 to 100 percent on their fee for which the funds are arranged from Zakat and an in-house endowment fund.

Dr. Zahir Qazi says that Anjuman-e-Islam is setting up new campuses for 10,000-12,000 students. Soon the foundation stone of a state-of-the-art building at the Sabu Siddique College campus in Byculla, Mumbai, will be laid. It will have post-graduate and Ph.D. courses and also an incubation center.

Besides, a large medical education campus will be set up in the Kalyan-Bhiwandi belt or Panchgani, Maharashtra. It will offer MBBS courses, a dental college, nursing, physiotherapy, and a homeopathic college.

A new campus in Sholapur will have a college of pharmacy, and law, a degree college for girls, and a high school. The management is finalizing a location in Panaji, Goa, for starting catering, pharmacy, and a high school college.

​The Institution will celebrate its 150th year on February 21. The Society is planning spectacular events and is expecting the participation of more than one lakh alumni.

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Dr. Zahir Qazi said that efforts are being made to hold the opening ceremony at the Wankhede or Brabourne Stadium and possibly invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend it. He said the Anjuman wants President Draupadi Murmu to attend the closing ceremony.