By Zuleqa Husain
Dr. Sheikh Abdul Husain Jaleeluddin Moeen-ul-Hukama Khusru-e-Deccan Nawab Arastu Yar Jung Bahadur.
Royal physician to last two Nizams
That was the name of my great great grandfather. He was the Royal Physician to the last two Nizams of Hyderabad, Deccan. His first wife Amtul Quyyum Begum helped build a mosque in Husaini Alam. His second wife helped set up a girl’s education fund. Their ideals and legacy are enshrined for posterity in their 12 children and their families, numbering over 1200 today and spread all over the world. Like him, the family is dedicated, has a devotion to serve humanity, and has taken leadership roles in their respective regions.
Arastu: Title bestowed by Nizam Mir Mehboob Ali Khan
Arastu (Arabic for the Greek philosopher Aristotle) as a title was bestowed upon Dr. Abdul Husain by Nizam Mir Mehboob Ali Khan in the year 1905. This later became the family’s last name. Over the years, a majority of the family has settled in the United States of America, some in Pakistan, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. A substantial minority still calls Hyderabad home.
For the past 15 years, some members of the family had the vision to bring the entire 1200-member clan in one place. It was a daunting task. About two years ago, a small band decided to make this vision a reality. In 2015, the Haji Kurban Husain family had pioneered a 300 family-member reunion at North Bay Adventure Camp in Maryland USA, exclusively reserving the entire space for the family and conducting many programs over the course of four days. This became a blueprint for the Arastu family. At first the task of just connecting with each family member was intimidating. Getting the young generation excited about meeting their third cousins, fourth cousins, in any era is tough. In a world of nuclear families living in the West, convincing a family to take four days out of their precious vacation time to spend time with distant relatives that they may have never met before is Herculean. By the time ZilHajj rolled around, we had registered over 500 people for the reunion, and had over 700 folks submitting their contact information in our directory, and best of all, we had crossed the Whatsapp limit of 250 participants in our Arastu Reunion group. Apps such as Google Drive and Whatsapp really helped in reconnecting families and individuals who may have known each other as children in Hyderabad, but had lost a part of them when they left Hyderabad for foreign lands. The memories and stories shared on Whatsapp prior to the reunion really set the tone for a nostalgic yet forward looking, legacy-building experience.
500 family members gathered
Those 500 members – from the USA, India, Ireland, England, and UAE gathered in Maryland, USA this past Eid-al-Adha August 2019 to celebrate family ties, rekindle bonds of friendship and learn about the legacy of their family elders. This was an opportunity for the next generations to connect; a way to preserve family traditions and values; a place to have a fun time together, and to reconnect with faraway old friends/relatives.
This was a one-of-a-kind event and quite rare to see Muslim immigrant families host such a gathering that brings together five generations in one place. Elders who were marking their century on this earth and interacting with young kids who are still learning their place in society. Hyderabadi etiquette, Khandaani tehzeeb, and Arastu talent were on full display.
The program kicked off on Thursday August 8th with an introduction to Arastu Yar Jung through a seven-act play performed by young members of the family. The Hyderabad Chloroform Commission was given prominence to showcase how Arastu Yar Jung invented the modern-day chloroform mask.
Wise words of Arastu Yar jung
Arastu Yar jung would often tell his children, ‘Gain mastery in whatever you do such that your livelihood searches to find you and not the other way around.’
On Friday morning, after congregational prayers, family members were enthralled by the Arastu family vocational fair where they learnt at different stations what projects each member is pursuing. Many showcased their varied career paths such as education, engineering, IT, medicine, architecture, journalism, Islamic studies, law, and art.
Many other activities included zip-lining, kayaking, olympic-level table tennis tournament, cricket, football, musical chairs and chess. Each night family members got a chance to showcase their talents in music, poetry, theatre, and other performing arts.
The real conversations were the ones happening in peer group open chats where each generation came together to discuss their challenges – societal, spiritual, environmental, vocational, educational, and everything in between. Many working groups were created to address them moving forward.
When asked what the difference was between those who were educated and those who were not, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said “as great as between the living and the dead.” He used to say that education was an ornament in good times and a refuge in bad. Not different from what Arastu Yar Jung would say about the same topic. Only befitting then, that the top award at Osmania University given to the student who gets the highest grade in the field of medicine is the Arastu Yar Jung Gold Medal.
Last day of the gathering
Eid came on the last day of the gathering, Sunday morning bright and filled with a sense of rejuvenation. If a family of 500 can wake up to spiritual devotion, hugs, and laughter followed by a sumptuous meal of pot roast, what more could one ask for?
Eid Ka Din Hai Gale Aaj To Mil Le Zalim,
Rasm-e-Dunia Bhi Hai Moqa Bhi Hai Dastoor Bhi Hai
Among his family, many will recognize Dr. Khursheed Husain (physician to the last Nizam of Hyderabad), Fida Husain (Sessions Judge), Mazhar Husain (Director, Bureau of Statistics), Dr. Yousuf Husain (Ophthalmologist), Prof. Abid Ali (Vice Chancellor, Osmania University), Prof. Abde Ali (Principal, College of Chemical Technology, Osmania University), Dr. Shamshad Husain (Director, Shadan Hospital), Minhaj Arastu (Principal, Focus High School), Dr. Irfan Motiwala, Iftekhar Husain (Faiz e Aam Trust), Nabeel Husain (Noori Travels), Ali Shajee Taiyebi & Dr. Gazanfar Husain & Mujahid Husain (Haji Kurban Husain & Sons), Iqbal Taiyebi & family (Shabbir Medical Hall), Asif Husain Arastu (AA Husain & Sons), Saleem Arastu (Hotel Arastu). They are based in Hyderabad, India.
Arastu Yar Jung’s daughter Bilquis Begum has written a book about him in Urdu titled, ‘Maseeh e Deccan’. There is a new English translation of that book available here. Dr. Sajid Ali, grandson of Arastu Yar Jung manages the legacy left by his parents through the yearly Arastu Yar Jung lectures in Hyderabad and the various scholarships offered in his ancestors’ name at Osmania University. His great grandson Dr. Naveed Hussain has written another book that details Arastu Yar Jung’s medical accomplishments. Dr. Naveed Hussain travels regularly to Hyderabad to help train the staff at Nice Hospital.
It was clear from the conversations at the reunion that everyone felt a general sense of coming home, after spending just three days in each others’ company. There was a fervour amongst many to want to build on the legacy of Arastu Yar Jung. After all, Allama Iqbal has said:
Baap ka ilm na bete ko agar azbar ho
Phir pisar qaabil e meeras e pidar kyunkar ho
But it also means that keeping those connections to our families, to our elders and to our community is one of the best ways to build identity; and standing on their shoulders, achieve greatness.
Dekhna saath hi chootay na buzurgon ka kaheen Pattay paydon par lagay hon to haray rehtay hain