Dr. Syed Hasan (Syed Bhai)

Founder of INSAN SCHOOL, an independent, non-profit, residential, educational institution, on November 14, 1966

As taken from the website for Insan Mission (INSAN: Educational Metamorphosis / Humanitarian Platform)

In Jamia                In USA                   A Life for Others

Dr. Syed Hasan credits his mother as a first teacher for his passion for education and helping others. She was home schooled but highly educated lady. She was also very intelligent and a religious woman. She was inspired by many reform and progressive movements and efforts in India. His mother was, in particular, a great admirer of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and his movement. Sir Syed was a leading educator, reformer, the 19th century visionary, and founder of the Aligarh Muslim University. She named her eldest son Syed Ahmed, but when her son died, she was so committed to the ideas of Sir Syed that she named her second child Syed Hasan.

yed Hasan was 10 years old when he was sent to Jamia Millia Islamia to study. Jamia Millia was a unique institution founded by many of the Aligarian (Aligarh alumni) who had been influenced by Mahatama Gandhi's call for an education based on self-reliance. There he was privileged to be educated and nurtured by many great, dedicated and, talented educators of its time including Dr. Zakir Husain, the third President of India. Instructors like Akhtar Hasan, Gaffar Madholi, Syed Mujtiba Husain Zaidi, Akbar Ali, Irshad ul Haque, Maulana Aslam Jaipuri, Khawaja Abdul Hai Farooqui, Barkat Ali, Saeed ud deen Ansari, Ali Ahmed, Waqar Azeem, Hafeez ud Deen, Dr. Mohammad Mujeeb, Dr. Abid Husain, and E. G. Kalat also had a significant influence on his educational development.

Young Syed Hasan was very saddened by the disparity of his people and injustices of colonial imperialism. However, he also saw hopes and was very influenced by many reform efforts, ideas, and personalities such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ali Brothers, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and Sir Dr. Mohammad Iqbal and others. In his 5th grade he read an inspiring book about a Japanese youth who had gone abroad for learning and higher studies then returned home and joined his countrymen in their nation-building efforts.


It was a dream comes true when in the 6th grade he had an opportunity to meet and visit Allama Sir Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, a noted poet, reformer, and Nobel Prize nominee. This experience also played a great impact on Dr. Hasans life. As a result of this inspirational interaction with Dr. Iqbal, and environment and surroundings of Jamia, at the tender age of 13, Syed Hasan decided that he too would choose to serve people in general and his people in particular.

At Jamia he also had the privilege to meet, and observe the discussions of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi, Abul Kalam Azad, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Jaya Prakash Narayan, Chaudhery Khaliquzzaman, Abdur Rab Nashtar, Raj Gopal Acharyah and many prominent leaders of that time who were shaping the future of the subcontinent. As student President, twice he was deputized to serve Mahatama Gandhi. He was also given the responsibility to organize the shelter, food, and security of over 200,000 refugees of ethnic violence. Jamia was a great experience for Dr. Hasan; it not only provided him with a good education but created opportunities for total development of his personality: his organizational and administrative skills, his ability to endure great pressures and his ability to work with the complete spectrum of people with equal ease. He was a top student as well as a great athlete. Dr. Hasan considers Jamia his second mother in his early development.


The stories of World War I were still fresh when the World War II broke out. Pre independent India was not only burning with the bullets of British Raj but also going through the blood baths of its own communal riots. Syed Hasan was deeply affected by conflicts and human sufferings the world and his country were going through. During his teen years he used to often pray quietly and ponder on various issues. Once again he saw rays of hopes. He was also inspired by the non-violent independence movement, peace efforts, nation building and other progressive intiatives. He felt that education held the key to the solution of many challenges faced by his own society as well as humanity in general. This realization would eventually become his firm belief and would shape the rest of his life and actions. Having a mentor like Dr. Zakir Hussain, and the slightly earlier example of Sir Syed, further strengthened his views. At the age of 18 his dream of serving humanity, not surprisingly, chose education as the means of its fulfilment.

After completing his Bachelor Degree he began his career as a teacher at Jamia. He was very well liked, popular and respected teacher and colleague there. Here his desire to help others started to emerge. At one point not only he was supporting and helping his four younger brothers, but many cousins, relatives, and villagers; practically any one who listened to him and agreed to send their kid to Jamia but can not afford. He was doing all at a very modest teachers salary often sacrificing his young married life leaving his newly married wife in village with her parents. Always ready to sacrifice himself, he gave up earlier opportunities and scholarships to come abroad. His brothers were still studying and he was helping his retired parents.

During holidays he often organized events such as cleaning of streets and alleys in his village where rich, not so rich and poor kids and teens participated. He himself led the events. Given the class system and status quo which existed these were an unlike practice of the time. He also organized several shows which were open to all and were very popular. He was so well liked among all that he was given the nick name Kashmir ka tukra (a piece of Kashmir).


In 1955 he came to the United States on a fellowship by Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. Later he transferred to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. During his ten years in America he remained involved in the field of education as a student as well as an educator. While working as a graduate assistant and graduate fellow he completed his Ph.D. in education at Southern Illinois University. He was a member of Phi Delta Kappa, and Kappa Delta Pi.

As a student in SIU, he would also sometimes ponder on the educational, economical, and social disparities between India and America, social attitudes and behaviors, reasons and solutions. Some of these disparities were even magnified among minorities and Muslims. At SIU, he also sponsored and helped dozens of individuals achieve higher education. Only three were his relative and the rest individuals from Jamia. Here too, he maintained a very modest life. He did not buy any car, home, or fancy clothes.


Dr. Hasans stay in the United States fine-tuned his preparation for his educational mission. He became very fond of the fundamental elements of education here that emphasize creativity, originality, critical thinking, honesty, appreciation of merit, opportunity, dynamism, exploration, and leadership. He also admired the relationship and cooperation among faculty and students. He also experienced the transformation and expansion of SIU under the able leadership of its then President Dr. Delyte Morris. At SIU he was also blessed with great teachers like Dr. Charles E. Skinner, Professor of Psychology, Dr. Willis G. Schwartz, Dean of graduate studies, Dr. Eugene D. Fitzpatrick, Chairman of Guidance, Dr. Clarence D. Samford, Chairman of Education, Dr. Edward J. Shea, Chairman of Physical Education, and Dr. Arthur E. Lean, Dean of the Education. One of the highlights of his life at SIU was watching and listening to then the presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. 


In 1962, he became an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Frostburg State University, Maryland, where he earned Instructor of the year award. He was noted for his innovative, distinctive and unique style of teaching, such as maximum student participation, a very fun, practical and simple approach, and creative to the extent that he never taught the same subject the same way.

His stay in America also prepared him for his overall inspiration to help fellow men. He studied, observed and became found of many of the great things America has to offer. The civic and social infrastructures in India were at best badly broken. The newly independent country needed some new ideas and solutions. He was also affected by racial segregations and many of the social challenges America itself was facing. But again he was inspired by many reform initiatives which were underway. 


A Life for Others - Ambassador of Humanity
In 1965, Dr. Hasan returned to India leaving behind many opportunities in the United States. The people who came to welcome him at the airport were surprise to see that he did not bring ant radio, T.V., or other American stuff, but only four big boxes of books. In India, he had offers from many Universities, but he started to lay the groundwork for his own educational work. Though he had several areas in mind he finally had chosen Kishanganj area, at the time, the most backward and illiterate area, as a challenge to start his mission. He had toured this area in 1952 and had been in his mind ever since. As education has started to come in middle classes in other parts of the country, the education in this area remained negligible even in the elites. 

He toured many localities, towns, and villages, many times tens of miles on feet and up to knee in mud. He campaigned for educational awareness and social upliftment. In those days western clothes were almost rare there. Most men wore traditional top shirts and lungies, women wore saris with barely any blouses. Seeing him in suites and western clothes and in mud, people thought of him either a nut or some foreign spy.


Sometimes he would send his wife and wives of other friends to go to women and campaign for girls education. The early responses ranged from only whores go out to willingness to listen at least.

Dr. Hasan continued spreading his message and vision. He helped and thought in local madarsa. He helped in foundation of National High School in Kishanganj, and Nehru College in near by Bahadurganj, where he also taught classes. People were affected by his charm and styles. They were particularly amazed by his humbleness as saw him working side by side with low earning laborers shoveling dirt, cutting bamboos, and hammering nails. He would encourage students and others to join him and help themselves in building their classes.

His key solution for a country's sustained development and social growth was through a long-term commitment and a concerted effort at education. He started an educational mission by the name of Taleemi Mission Core (Educational Mission Corp). It is not our aim to produce degree holders, but to produce well-educated people with all around development; this was adopted as his mission statement in Taleemi Biradri (Educational Brotherhood), an educational journal he founded.


His efforts paid off. Insan School, Insan College, and Insan Adult School came as offspring to his mission. Insan Adult School promotes literacy campaigns among illiterate adults and has run hundreds of centers. Dr. Hasans ultimate goal has been to develop a model university, and its multiple satellite centers acting as vehicles for the propagation of his mission to the four corners of the world. He named his institution INSAN for he believes that educational institutions are to serve fellow humans and humanity (Insan, a Quranic word, refers to the Islamic emphasis of humanity, mankind, brotherhood and Universalism). He believes education plays a vital role in the upliftment of people, in finding constructive peaceful solutions to many of social challenges, illnesses, and needs, and in building mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence among people of all walks of lives, hence in making this world a kindlier, gentler and safer one for all.


His active role in the field of education has not been limited to Insan School. He has helped many schools and educational causes. A vast list of services and contributions with which he has been involved in include many provincial and national educational projects; such as Educational Panel of the Bureau for Promotion of Urdu, New Delhi; Childrens Literacy Panel of the Bureau for Promotion of Urdu, New Delhi; Bihar State Adult Education Board; Bihar Urdu Academy; Jamia Faculty Selection Committee. He has been a life member of the Indian Adult Education Board since 1977. He has also served in Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), Grants & Aids Commission for Experiments in Education, District Primary Education Program (DPEP), and Decentralization of Education Management.

He has also given lectures to many universities, spoken on numerous occasions, coined many slogans, and written many articles. In all these, his approach has always been finding constructive and peaceful solutions, many times followed by actions, for the benefit of people at large. His efforts literally started in the jungles of Bengal but his messages and missions have powerful humanitarian universalities. 


He was awarded "Nehru Educational Award" and finally the prestigious title of "Padma Shree" for his distinguished service in education. (The Padma Shree is a modified Indian equivalent of the Sir replaced after Indian independence from the British.) He is also a NOBEL PEACE PRIZE Nominee. 

Over the years, Dr. Hasan has touched and influenced the lives of many students whom he has taught and guided in other schools, colleges, and universities and as well as in the private setting. As a psychologist, he has added another feather to his cap: he had helped many mentally disturbed people achieve normal lives as usual without any compensation. He has always been a helping hand to others in whatever capacity and situation.

His sense of civic service is deep rooted in his heart and runs through his blood. He will hardly attend an extravaganza party, marriage or birthday but will make a point to go to the marriage of a poor man's daughter for moral support. Many poor and needy people find him friend and will come to him asking for money or duaa (prayers). He will even take care of people who are sick. In the past, he had cared even Tuberculosis patients by cleaning their beds, handling their blood and clothes.


He was even affected by Tuberculosis himself in 1971. He was on complete bed rest when the entire school, then in infant stages, was burnt. Only eleven remaining student, had to give him this news in their tears. He got up and never rested since. Thanks to his sheer spiritual strength, he recovered soon completely.

In a country where political connections are regarded very important and almost a necessity for success or getting things done, he remains nonpolitical. Though he is very known and respected in the inner circles of governments, the elite, and community leaders, he has never used it for any personal benefit. 

He has always been a giving man and asking from individual, organization, or government agencies have been very hard for him. As a true educational servant to his fellow man, Dr. Hasan has completely dedicated his life to education and has never taken any salary or financial compensation for his services, from anyone, since 1965. All his personal expenses have been taken care of through his familys resources. He is a very simple man. In the last three decades he has hardly bought any clothing for himself. He was still wearing his Timex watch which he purchased in America in 1955 until 3 years ago when it finally gave up. He prefers used clothing given to him by family. Then again he gives away most of those to others just leaving a couple for himself. 


In a culture where three full meals and afternoon snack is common, he survives barely on two. He has slept for a maximum of four hours most of his life. He is always on the move, and walks more than ten miles a day. Though, many of his well wishers have been asking him to slow down. He maintains a very modest lifestyle. Always a hands-on man, journalists and guests often confuse him with a laborer when they find him working on the ground with his knees bent. 

He is a man with extreme inner strengths, and spirituality. He is often seen praying quietly in times of hardships. He is a devout Muslim and his actions, philosophies and values reflect his strong faith. 


Over the years this mission had many ups and downs, obstacles and challenges. Even several attempts have been made to derail and even destroy. The campus has been burnt many times. In those moments, he told his students the classes will continue even on the ashes.

Dr. Hasan is a man with extreme commitment, dedication, and love for others, self-determination, and an ability to work against all odds. A man who has no self-financial gain, and who is a rare species in these days. He is indeed an open book and someone who is very difficult to trivialize with words and hard to write in these lines.