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SEPTEMBER 2000

MONTHLY    *    Vol 14-09 No:165    *   SEPTEMBER 2000 / JAMADI-UL-THANI 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

COMMUNITY INITIATIVE


Seyyid Madani Dargah at Ullal
Victims of Nature's Fury

Seyyid Madani Dargah at Ullal

Shrine with a Difference

The Dargah at Ullal carries forward the mission of Seyyid Madani through modern schools, colleges and hospitals

Seyyid Madani Dargah and Jama Masjid Complex at Ullah

Seyyid Madani Dargah and Jama Masjid Complex at Ullah 
in D.K. District of Karnataka

By A Staff Writer

BY any stretch of imagination this should be a modest dargah. It is less known beyond the south-western coast of the Indian peninsula. Yet its spick and span premises is ever abuzz with activity. Not the activity of the usual kind with swarming devotees, rising plumes of incense, offering of chaddars and placing of flowers, or tying of knots on its latticed windows. But the activity that takes forwards the mission of the saint resting within its sacred precincts.

Haji U.K. IbrahimThe coastal village of Ullal on the south-western tip of Karnataka would have been just another sleepy fisherman’s village but for the tomb of Hazrath Syed Shareeful Madani.

The saint reportedly came here from Madinah in Arabia 400 years ago and became a beacon of spiritual enlightenment. Today his followers, the custodians of the dargah, carry forward his legacy of spreading education among poor and caring for their health.

Sayyid Madani Charitable HospitlaSyed Madani Dargah is today a beehive of welfare activity. The band of humble people who head the Dargah management committee direct every paisa coming through offering to a string of schools, vocational training centre and hospital. It was in 1982 that the committee headed by people like Haji Kamal, U.T. Fareed and U.K. Ibrahim began to take steps to direct the offerings for welfare activities by forming Syed Madani Charitable Trust.

Situated in the sylvan surroundings of the West Coast and coconut groves, Ullal was then a sleepy village. Devotees that descended there in thousands often found basic facilities lacking. The committee enlarged the Jama Masjid in 1958 and the saint’s tomb was renovated in 1970. The annual urs celebration was being held once in five years. The committee introduced receipt for every offering be it a goat, a kilogram of rice or a bunch of coconuts.

Sayyid Madani Charitable Hospitla - Ayurvedic HospitalThe Trust set up the Seyyid Madani Charitable Hospital in 1982 with 40 beds. Today the small hospital has 130 beds and provides health-care to all regardless of their faith and caste.

The Seyyid Madani Industrial Training Centre came up in 1983 and trains nearly 180 students in various technical trades and receives some grants from the government too.

The Dargah management set up a chain of lower primary schools in surrounding villages of Kotepura, Hallekotte, Sunderbagh, Darendra Baghelu, Kallapu, Alaikkal etc. Their annual intake is over 1100 students. Tippu Sultan High School was set up in 1987 under the aegis of the Dargah. Trust now manages even a college, namely Tippu Sultan First Grade College which offers courses such as BBM, B.Com etc.

Parallel to modern education, Ullal Dargah has initiated steps to promote Islamic learnings. Arabic madrassas were started in 25 mosques that are managed by the Ullal Dargah. Says President of the Dargah Management Committee U.K. Ibrahim: “ We now plan to set up an engineering college and a school of nursing.” The Committee is concerned with ill-health of Muslim women engaged in hazardous beedi rolling. It plans to train the women in vocation such as garment stitching, stationery making, agarbathies or candle-making. It has started eight tailoring centres for this purpose. Future plans include setting up a shopping complex, printing press, a community hall and a rest house at Ullal.

According to U.H. Ahmed Bawa, vice president, the trust also extends help for marriage of poor girls, scholarships for professional education and textbooks etc.

With 500 employees under its aegis and nearly 10,000 students (including the madrassa students), Ullal Dargah sets a new precedent in returning to the people what they contribute to the Dargah as a mark of affection for the saint. With glass like transparency in accounts, the Dargah Committee has shown that resources, if managed well and invested in long-term development of the community, could produce a community that can realize the ideals of the many a saint that lie entombed in the sacred soil of India. 

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Muslims of Assam's Chars

Victims of Nature's Fury

Muslims of Assam’s Chars (riverine) lands are a picture of total apathy.

Mokhlesur Rahman in Dhubri

ONE of the most backward and neglected areas of lower Assam is the Char or riverine land area. These areas constitute those land which go under water during monsoon flow of Brahmaputra and remain dry thereafter.

Over 21 lakh people reside in the 2098 Chars under 14 districts of Assam and most of these people are Muslims. The forlorn look at their faces could be seen on a boat journey during autumn. The inhabitants of the Chars represent 25 per cent of the total population of Assam. They have remained cut off from the mainstream for so long that few bother to remember them. The living condition of these people are sub-human and they have to brave floods and erosion of their lands every year. Though the main occupation of these people is cultivation, yet in recent times some of them have ventured out of the Chars in search of jobs and shelter in the urban areas.

Known as Bhatia Muslims, the Muslim inhabitants of Char are farmers. Floods change the topography of the land and cause dispossessions of their land

The socio-economic conditions of the Chars are appalling. Poverty is so prevalent that men, women and minors toil all day long in the fields to ensure one square meal a day. On an average, each family consists of five to seven members living under the same roof.

All that most families own are a thatched bamboo house, on larger than 200 square feet straw beds, earthen utensils and a piece of cultivable land which is also temporary due to the erosion.

Only 13.6 per cent people of the doomed Chars are literate and more than 99 per cent people are farmers. The condition of their children living under such straitened circumstances can never be imagined. Seldom they go to schools. There is neither any higher educational institution nor any government office in the Chars. There are a few primary schools, but they are largely non-functional due to lack of attendance, and leaves taken by teachers. These condition dissuade parents from sending their wards to schools.

People are forced to lead a semi-nomadic life because inundation and formation of new Chars are very common in the lower course of Brahmaputra. When a Char is flooded in the monsoons, people wait for months in their boats on the shore of the new char and begin life anew. The flooding and erosion often changes the topography of the land and landowners are often dispossessed of their lands for no fault of theirs.

The people living in the Chars are called ‘Bhatia’, means people living on the lower bank of the river. Most of them are born tough. They work 12 to 16 hours at a stretch. But despite this they are perpetual ‘Outsiders’ in civilized society. It is only during the elections that they are much sought after.

In the last 15 years, some of these people have become paupers due to the worsening flood situation. Bhatia Muslims often lament that they are called “Bangladeshi”. Others rarely understand that they would have no need to move about if they were not threatened by perennial floods.

As with most poor communities a girl child is perhaps the most unwelcome person for the Bhatias. These poverty striken people are forced to send their girls to work as helping hands even before they are into their teens. A few more fortunate ones send them to wealthier relatives. Whatever these hapless children earn is collected by the parents at the end of the month.

It is certainly ironic that at a time when the country has already completed 53 years of Independence, children of this community survive with uncertainty. Not that the government has done nothing in this regard. A national policy on children was formed in 1947, but it has made no difference to children of the Chars.

Various socio-economic factors like poverty, lack of infrastructure, paucity of funds etc. have led to the failure of numerous children’s welfare scheme in the past.

Lack of political will and indifferent attitude of the powers- -that-be towards the people of this community are some of the other factors that can be held responsible for the gradual decline in the living conditions of the Bhatia Muslims.

They have been insulted, reproached and corrupted by the government and political brokers since time immemorial.

Besides population growth rate is quite high among this community. Even a small family has eight to ten children.

The Char people are always blamed by the government for their growing birth rate which brings a lot of miseries to the life of women in particular and pose a great threat of population explosion in general. But it is not sufficiently realised that if these families are empowered through education and decent livelihood, the birth rate will automatically come down. Most families raise large number of children to supplement meagre family income.

It is time the Assam government chalked out a policy regarding the char inhabitants, their education, economic well-being and floods and their impact. 

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