Sir Syed Ahmed Khan


    In Context

    • Recently, a book on Sir Syed Ahmad Khan namely,Sir Syed Ahmad Khan: Reason, Religion and Nationhas been released by eminent scholar and critic Shafey Kidwai.
      • Also, 17th October 2021 marks his 204th birth anniversary.

    About Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

    • Early Life:
      • Born on October 17, 1817, in Delhi to a wealthy family that was close to the Mughal court.
      • Education and career:
        • He also received an honorary law degree from the University of Edinburgh later in life. He was a widely read person and studied books on mathematics, medicine, Persian, Arabic, Urdu, etc.
        • He worked as a civil servant, journalist, educationist, social reformer and historian among others.
        • He served the British administration before the revolt of 1857.
        • The 1857 revolt was one of the turning points in Syed Ahmed’s life and he penned a pamphlet titled The Causes of the Indian Revolt to explain the reasons of the revolt from a “native perspective”.
      • He is regarded as one of the founders of the Two-Nation Theory which says that Hindus and Muslims cannot be one nation.
      • Sir Syed was knighted by the British in 1888.
      • Death:
        • He died on 27 March 1898 in Aligarh.
    • The biography of Sir Syed, Hayat-e-Javed (1901),  was published three years after his death.
    • Role as a Social Reformer:
    • Transformation in the Education sector
      • Sir Syed is, first and foremost, known for his pioneering role in transforming educational opportunities for Muslims.
      • He realised that Muslims could only make progress if they took to modern education. For this, he started the Aligarh movement.
    • He also worked for democratic ideals and freedom of speech.
    • He was against religious intolerance, ignorance and irrationalism. 
    • He denounced purdah, polygamy and easy divorce.
    • Critical of National Movement
    • In his later years, Sir Syed encouraged the Indian Muslims not to join the National Movement. He felt that education and not politics was needed by them.
    • He encouraged the forces of communalism and separatism at this stage.
    • He was nominated to the Viceroy’s Legislative Council in 1878. He supported Dadabhai Naoroji and Surendranath Banerjee in obtaining representation for Indians in the government and the civil services.
    • Writings:
      • He has also written a paper titled “The Causes of the Indian Revolt” to explain the reasons for the revolt from an Indian perspective.
      • Tahzebul Akhlaq (Social Reformer in English), a magazine founded by him, tried to awaken people’s consciousness on social and religious issues in very expressive prose.
      • The Aligarh Institute Gazette, a magazine published by Sir Syed was an organ of the Scientific Society.
      • He wrote a profound booklet ‘Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind’ (Reasons for the Indian Revolt of 1857) which cited British ignorance and aggressive expansion policies as the chief causes of the revolt.
      • He also advocated interfaith understanding. He was also a scholar on Christianity and wrote a book, ‘Commentary on the Holy Bible.

    Image Courtesy: Wikipedia


    What was the Aligarh Movement?

    • It was conceptualised and propagated by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.
    • It was a systemic movement aimed at reforming the social, political and educational aspects of the Muslim community.
    • In 1886, he set up the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Education Congress which was later renamed the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Educational Conference. It aimed to bring together education and culture. 
    • Sir Syed also emphasised the need for an autonomous Muslim institution free of any government funding.
    • It undertook to modernise Muslim’s education by adapting English as a medium of learning and western education rather than just focusing on traditional teachings.
    • The movement helped the Muslims revival and gave them a common language Urdu.
      • It motivated Muslims to help open a number of educational institutions. It was the first of its kind of such Muslim NGO in India, which awakened the Muslims from their deep slumber and infused social and political sensibility into them.

    Aligarh Muslim University

    • It grew out of the work of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh Movement.
    • It was founded as the Madrasatul Uloom in 1875 in Aligarh and evolved into the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College.
    • In 1877, Sir Syed founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh and patterned the college after Oxford and Cambridge universities that he had visited on a trip to England.
      • The objective was to build a college in tune with the British education system but without compromising its Islamic values. 
    •  By 1920 the college was transformed into the Aligarh Muslim University.

          Source: Firstpost