The Shillong Muslim Union, a non-profit making charitable organisation, was born in the year 1905, a year before the emergence of the erstwhile All India Muslim League in 1906, thanks to the philanthropy and farsightedness of the founding fathers of the Union. With a view to the changing geo-political scenario and equation in British's diplomacy immediately in the aftermath of Bengal partition 1905, the Muslim intelligentsia of the erstwhile newly created province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in British India, whose population formed two third of total population of the province, could profoundly sense the need of coming to a common platform under one such Union to represent the needs and wants of their community to the then British Government, whose administrative headquarter of colonial Assam was located at Shillong. By realizing the fact that the Musalmans of the Province were the most backward community of all the communities of the region in the field of education and economy, the founders of the Union, which consisted of representatives from various parts of the Province, pledged to prioritize their work for developing education of the backward Muslims, besides politically dealing with the then Government. From the study of first drafted constitution of the Union, which the then makers acknowledged as tentative one, drafted in the first meeting held for the formation of the Union at the residence of Khan Bahadur Amzad Ali at Laban Shillong, dated 3rd December 1905, the Muslim Union's function was restricted from involving in the Indian electoral politics; and instead it was streamlined to work for noble causes, to engage with the Government for the community's cause in peaceful terms, and to work harmoniously with all other Musalman associations in other districts also.
Khan Bahadur Amzad Ali, the first modern Khasi poetry writer and one of the founding members, worked for reforming Khasi society, preserving their cultures and social institutions, and also for developing them by strengthening their social bonds. The past history recorded that some of those founding fathers contributed some shares, indispensably, in developing trade and commerce, transport and communication in this land. Khan Bahadur Kashimuddin Molla, the first president of the Union, was one such a personality, among many, worth mentioning. He was the first person who introduced Tonga service in Shillong Guwahati road, driven with Alvion car. Indeed, the tradition of this Union mirrored itself into the service of charity; philanthropy, peaceful co-existence and running non-profit making institutions of general education as well as Deene talim. Obviously, the Union was created based on Islamic ideals with the aim to work for the cause of Muslims in particular and essentially as Islam enjoins it, to cater its service to all human beings irrespective of caste, creed and sex depending upon the feasibility going to the prevailing capacity of the Union to deliver the kind of service.
Iconic personality, Sir Syed Saadullah, the first premier of Colonial Assam (1937) also played his part along with his contemporaries in the Union to rejuvenate the Union. With the passage of time, and going through the dramatic changes in colonial politics in India, the Union gradually narrowed its activities down to the compartment of working for noble causes â€”religious as well as humanitarian services, and became less active as a pressure group!NGO. In the same way the Union, after having gone through several decades in tumultuous course of Indian history, i.e., the progression from British India to pre-partition days to undivided Assam to the hitherto state of Meghalaya, has now become set in the state of Meghalaya only. It has now confined its jurisdiction in this state only with its headquarter at Shillong, the popular educational and commercial hub of the North East India. However, in regard to delivering noble service, it is not confined to any geographical boundary though Meghalaya is its priority. The educational institutes, the Islamic education (talim), the library etc., are open to all. The people who worked for the Union at the earliest part were from all diverse parts of the erstwhile province. Their descendents and others, who joined the Union later, took forward this Union till the division ofAssam, but those people were scattered to different countries, states and regions due to successive inter and intra partitions in the later years. That is how we have inferred that this Union had a rich background in the past. There is no doubt that in twenties and thirties the Union stressed upon religious work, promotion of Islamic education, and grass root level mainstream education. They opened a Markaz (theological institute), a lower primary school and a library etc. The Syed Tayebullah Orphanage run by this Union from the earliest period is a testimony of its humanitarian service from inception. The Union has been taking the role in preserving and enriching Muslims' cultures and practices by organizing routine and occasional Islamic festivals and seminars. People of other religions too were also invited at such occasions â€” akin to interfaith meets.
As stated before, when we looked back to its past history, it can be noticed that the Union started its steady decline from early forties and then became literally defunct during Second World War and a few years in the aftermath. During a discussion with Janab Hashibuddin, one of the eldest leaders of the Union, who passed away a few years before, reminisced about the dramatic decline of the Union; he gave his opinion that after the successive partitions, so many persons who dedicatedly worked for the Union before, had got detached from the Union. The conventional objective and framework of the Union of the undivided people could not have been practically furthered; people started losing enthusiasm in making efforts to reorganize the Union. He also said that, it was at the initiation of Late Janab Fakheruddin Ali Ahamed (Ex-President of India), the Union was resurrected in the year 1950-51. At his behest, Janab Hashibuddin Ahmed shouldered the responsibility of reviving the Union who could re-organized a few persons and formed Executive.
Body in which Janab Fakheruddin Ali Ahmed and he were President and General Secretary respectively. He added that the Executive Committee met twice or thrice in a year and started organizing Eid Meets.
It is difficult to get any material/record containing information of the period prior to 1965 from the Union office, he and others were of the views that additional information about the early period might be with the people of Sylhet, Dhaka, Silchar and other parts of Assam where many people, who worked for the Union at one time, and their descendents had settled. Janab. Sayeedullah Nongrum explored all possible ways and means to draw and gather information by way of contacting through phone calls to all those whom he knew that their forefathers had a connection with the Union in the early times: by writing letters, by sending pamphlets to mosques, by publishing advertisement in newspapers and magazines. He wrote letters to the former General Secretaries namely Janab M. Y. Ciddiqui, advocate, JanabShueb and JanabHashibuddin seeking their kind co-operation for providing information about the past. He also sought for necessary suggestions from them.
As stated already, it is a fact that the Muslim Union, inspite of beginning with a rich historical background, had declined to its moribund state at some point of time. Though resuscitated in the year 1950-51, the Union remained stagnant in terms of its activities and service rendered to the people in fifties and sixties. Most of its activities were confined to organizing annual festivals, running an orphanage and the L.P. school without sufficient resource, and occasional petty work of repairing the old and rough Assam type building. But somehow, in the late sixties the then members of the Union began to be overwhelmed by the overall deteriorating condition of the Union, and they nourished sense of responsibility for protecting and preserving the Union's assets. They started organizing meetings to discuss about the ill health and the diminishing of properties of the Union. There was a dark period in its history, way back in late thirties and early forties, when the Union was almost like an abandoned child and the Union's assets were in complete disarray and had fallen prey to many unscrupulous encroachers and usurpers. So, during sixties and early seventies, among many, persons like Janab. Moinul Haque Choudhury, Janab. M. Sultan, Janab Alhaj JalilluddinAhamed and Janab S.M. Sawoodullah etc., started to revived the lost life and purpose of the Union by campaigning for re-structuring its functions, taking up measures to identify and legalise the demarcation of Union's land, mobilizing fund for Id-gah construction and repair work of orphanage building, and organizing Islamic festivals in larger scale etc. Though they could not make substantial progress in their times, their struggle paved the way for their immediate successors and other new entrants of the time to work with dedication and conviction. It is by dint of hard work and sacrifice of these people in the last thirty five years that the Union has been propelled to its current height.
Among many, late Janab C.Z.Ghaffoor, Janab Aquil Ahamed, Janab A.K.M.Karim, Janab. Abdul Mazid Kharbithai, Janab Nejamuddin Ahamed, Janab. AssadYousuf, late Janab Kalimullah Khan etc., (sincere apology to those not being mentioned) were pro-active workers for the Union in the early part of the last thirty years and moreover their times were marked by a revolution because of the entry the then young Janab. Sayeedullah Nongrum, who, later, became the leading light of the change for the Union.
The Shillong Muslim Union has shown a paradigm shift to the world about how to successfully manage and enrich wakf property and public property as per the basic tenets of Islam and obligations laid down by Islamic shariah. The upright members of the Union have made a breakthrough in fighting against vested interests throughout the period of 35 years. The present Executive Members under leadership of Janab Sayeedullah Nongrum, General Secretary, have accomplished competent roles in protecting and enriching the wealth of the Union and made the Union unparalleled in terms of its achievements with its counterparts elsewhere in the field of rendering noble service to all mankind. When Janab Nongrum took over as the General Secretary of the Union in the year 1982, the Union was in such a bad condition that he was given a paltry sum of Rs. 12.76 as the retained asset of the Union. The assets of the Union were in complete disarray and under the scourge of many unmoral opportunists. Both guest house and orphanage were in dilapidated buildings. The guest house was run as a vice-den; the Idgah ground was in terrible condition with the worn orphanage building housing to a dense of unauthorized occupants. But today, in that very Idgah land, we have seen the grandeur of the complex encompassing, the Madina Mosque (the biggest in the North East India and a unique in India), an Islamic learning centre (a markaz), an islamic library (recently renamed as Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Islamic Library), a school for underprivileged and orphans, and a college of higher education with the provisions of education on modern science, arts and technology. These milestones are basically not only aimed at providing a space for Muslims and preserving Musalman culture but also doing equally a good service to the people all religions and beliefs - a dimension of service to cater to preserving and promoting synthetic culture of Shillong.
The Muslim Union has also successfully sponsored four other Mosques along with Kabrastans (graveyard) in other districts of Meghalaya.
Janab Sayeedullah Nongrum and his close associates in the Union namely Janab A.S. Siddiqui, Janabldris Khan, Janab prof. Agha Ahamed, Janab Iqbal Hajarika, Janab T.R. Laskar, Janab Khurshid Thabah, Janab Noor Nongrum and Janab Azam Khan (with sincere apology to those whose names missed mention) etc., are people of high integrity and uprightness. It is evident that ever since these people started working for the Union, for so long, till today they have been spending their own energy, time and money for Allah's Sake.