“You Are the Solution Summit” organised by the Global Interfaith Wash Alliance India held at Rishikesh in Uttarakhand in June 2017 saw the convergence of spiritual leaders from across the country. A hitherto unheard-of Madrassa teacher from Assam, Mufti Nashihur Rahman, represented the Muslims of the country at the Summit, sharing the dais with Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji Muniji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati from the Hindu faith, Acharya Roopchandra Muniji from the Jain faith, and Jathedar Patna Saheb Giani Iqbal Singhji along with Kiranjot Kaur from the Sikh faith. It was his dedication to the cause of a Swachch Bharat as envisioned by Prime Minister Modi that had catapulted Rahman to the national scene of cleanliness and care for the environment. He was honoured with the special Ganga Award for spreading the message of Swachhta and Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) amongst his community and congregations. Rahman had received the award from the hands of the Governor of Uttarakhand, Dr Krishna Kant Paul.
Rahman was born in 1983 at No 1 Thekerabari village of Darrang District in Assam and had his elementary education at the village primary school. Then he studied in three different madrassas in the State until he went to Darul Ulum Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, one of the most renowned Islamic theological institutions in the world. In a stay spanning from 2002 to 2007, he completed his education there, then taught in a madrassa in Deoband for a year and came back to Assam to join as a teacher at Madinatul Ulum Madrassa in Dalgaon, Assam. To fulfil the aspirations of his native area, he returned to Mangaldai and took over the post of the principal of the girls’ madrassa there in 2010.
The Madrassa in Mangaldai caters exclusively to girls and about 150 of them are now engaged at different stages of the seven-year course that will lead them to the level of “Title” which is equivalent to a Higher Secondary course of schools administered by the State Board. A girl is admitted to the Madrassa only after she has passed class VII or more from a public or private school.
The Madrassa at Mangaldai hosts a religious meet called the “Jalsa-e-Siratunnabi” every year in which the teachings of the Quran and that of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are propagated before the public. But in recent years, Rahman has ensured that concern for cleanliness and the environment also find place in the agenda of the congregation. The next Jalsa is scheduled to be held on February 9, 2018 and the morning’s session is planned to begin with a tree plantation programme in which Ashok Kumar Barman, Deputy Commissioner, Mangaldai is expected to be the chief guest. Thereafter the girls of the Madrassa will lead a cleanliness drive across the town that would culminate at the Civil Hospital Complex in the District Headquarter town.
Talking on the subject of health and hygiene, Rahman recalls his visit a few months ago to nearby No 4 Nangli Char, a habitat on one of the islands on the Brahmaputra, to enquire about the welfare of one of his students who was ill and had gone back to the village. Rahman had to stay overnight and in the morning, he asked the residents to show him a lavatory where he could respond to the call of nature. The villagers had none and informed him that they had always defecated in the open. Rahman asked them to bring a spade, a few bamboo poles, and some thatch. In a while he had constructed a toilet and that changed the history of sanitation in the village.
In recent months, the Mufti and his associates have used all kinds of forums including preaching in mosques for creating public awareness about health, hygiene, and sanitation. His team often fans out to the nearby villages to verify if the people there have made proper use of Government funds made available to them for construction of toilets and if they have constructed toilets, whether the upkeep is up to the mark or not. Rahman is very appreciative of the help and support he and his team have been receiving from the local MLA, Guru Jyoti Das, in all endeavours for making people more conscious about a clean and green environment towards fulfilling the dream of a Swachch Bharat.
Nowadays, Rahman is often invited by different institutions and NGOs to visit their areas and share the story of his sanitation mission. The UNICEF had invited him to take part in a discourse in Guwahati recently wherein spiritual leaders from across India along with Union and State ministers had taken part to deliberate on sanitation needs of the society. Rahman was also asked to deliberate at an open session at the Veterinary Grounds in Khanapara, Guwahati where Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was present.
Rahman’s latest dream projects include establishment of a “Swachch Bharat Garden”, the first of its kind in India, within the Madrassa complex touching the National Highway No 15 that connects Arunachal Pradesh with Assam. He is confident that the Government and civil society will come forward to help and support this project as it would send a widespread message in favour of cleanliness, sanitation, hygiene and a healthy environment for our communities.
As things stand today, Rahman and his girls’ madrassa are sure to become the epicentre for a positive revolution that can transform the mindset of the people in general and the rural Muslim community in particular towards their health, hygiene, and sanitation needs. The ‘Swachchata Maulana’ has emerged as a true brand ambassador of the Swachcha Bharat Mission in the interior areas of Assam.