Islam Habib Khan is a 1951 commerce graduate of AMU. A senior financial adviser at the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in Riyadh, he has been in Saudi Arabia since 1973 and worked for Petromin before joining the ministry. He was the chief guest at the 2009 Sir Syed Day celebrations at Dhahran International Hotel in Alkhobar.
By Siraj Wahab
Published in Arab News on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009
Prominent alumni of India’s historic Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) have called for concerted efforts to promote the mission and ideals of the university’s founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.
They were speaking at Sir Syed Day celebrations over the weekend organized by the Eastern Province AMU community at Dhahran International Hotel. The event brought together hundreds of AMU alumni in various Saudi government institutions and private sector firms in Dammam, Alkhobar, Jubail, Ras Tanura and Khafji.
Islam Habib Khan, a 1951 commerce graduate of AMU, delivered the keynote speech. A British national, Khan is a senior financial adviser at the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in Riyadh. Khan has been in the Kingdom since 1973 and worked for Petromin before joining the ministry.
Khan said Sir Syed was a visionary who set about to halt the degeneration of a nation by initiating a series of constructive steps that led to the beginnings of the university.
Khan, who attended the university from 1942-1951, said the institution was not just a place for classroom education. “It injected into its students a sense of belonging and brotherhood, which has remained with us for a lifetime. This is what created the spirit of Aligarh which still exists today,” he said.
Khan said there was an even more-senior AMU alumna in the Eastern Province. “She is my elder sister, Salma Zuberi, who graduated from Girls College in 1948 and lives here in the Eastern Province with her son,” he said.
Dr. Jamil A. Qureshy, director of libraries at Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University, noted the efforts of the AMU community in organizing the event but said more steps should be taken to carry forward the cause of Sir Syed.
“Just one program a year is not enough to promote the message of Sir Syed. His was a mission that needs to be reinforced,” he said and called on the initiators of the program to form an AMU alumni chapter in the Eastern Province.
M. Rahat Sultan, a very senior and respected Indian executive and one of the key organizers, said the overwhelming response from the local AMU community was delightful. “We never expected so many people to turn up. A lot of us owe our jobs in Saudi Arabia to our education at AMU. This was one small way of acknowledging our gratitude to the university.”
Another guest was Iftikhar Alam who worked for 22 years in the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Department. He is now a technical director at the Eastern Province-based Al-Khodari and Sons Group. “The university played a significant role in the life of the nation and also in the lives of a huge number of students who studied there,” he said.
Mukarram Ali Khan, a veteran at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, recalled the events that led to the creation of the university. Interspersing his speech with interesting Urdu couplets, he drove home the point that Sir Syed’s idea was to inculcate a spirit of knowledge and scientific inquiry.
Senior alumnus Parvez Askari said the program was the first step to bring the AMU community together, and that an Eastern Province alumni directory is planned.