Muslim Scholar, Leader and Writer.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a great Muslim scholar, leader and writer. He was the founder of the great Ali Garh University. He was born on 17 October 1817. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan used to go to the shrine of the king Shah Jahan with his father since his childhood. His mother was very intelligent and raised him well. The religious atmosphere of his home put a positive impact on his personality from his childhood. He was educated according to the old traditional criteria of that time. First, he learned the Holy Quran and read the course books of the Farsi language. He also got the education of Arabic, math and medical. When his father died, he was just 22 years old. His uncle Khaleel ul Lah was the leader of Delhi at that time, so he also got the job there based on his uncle’s reference. After that, he became the assistant Economist in the office of the commissioner of Agra. In 1841, he passed the competitive government exam and became a Judge in Main Puri city. In 1876, he left the job to accomplish his goals and was settled in Ali Garh. He was also titled as “Sir” by the government of that time. He remained honest in all the 45 years of his job. He also kept writing along his job. He is best known for three things writing, correcting of the wrong religious concepts and the guidance to a nation. He wrote to minimize the hatred between the Englishmen and the Muslims. He spent his whole life for the betterment of the Muslims in many directions. Urdu language also was promoted too much because of his efforts. He never saved money for him and never paid attention to anything else except education. When he died on 27 March 1898, there was nothing left for his burials not even a single penny.
The greatest Muslim reformer and statesman of the 19th Century, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was born in Delhi on October 17, 1817. His family on the maternal and paternal side had close contacts with the Mughal court. His maternal grandfather, Khwajah Farid was a Wazir in the court of Akbar Shah II. His paternal grandfather Syed Hadi held a mansab and the title of Jawwad Ali Khan in the court of Alamgir II. His father, Mir Muttaqi, had been close to Akbar Shah since the days of his prince-hood. Syed Ahmad’s mother, Aziz-un-Nisa, took a great deal of interest in the education and upbringing of her son. She imposed a rigid discipline on him and Sir Syed himself admitted that her supervision counted for much in the formation of his character.
Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) was a Muslim religious leader, educationalist, and politician. He contributed to the intellectual and institutional foundation of Muslim modernization in southern Asia.
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan emerged as a political leader of the Muslim community of Northern India in 1867 mainly due to the Hindi-Urdu controversy. In response of adoption of Hindi as a second language of UP (United provinces now Uttar Pardesh) Sir Syed pleaded for Urdu as the language of Muslims of India. Earlier Urdu has been developed by Muslim rulers of India and was used as a secondary language to Persian in the Mughal courts during Mughal dynasty. But after the decline of Mughal dynasty and during British rule north Indian Hindus demanded Hindi as the second official language strongly opposed by Sir Syed. Sir Syed controversially exclaimed that “Urdu was the language of gentry and Hindi that of the vulgar. His remarks provoked a hostile response from Hindu leaders, who unified across the nation to demand the recognition of Hindi. But Sir Syed continued his job by establishing schools in Urdu medium and the Scientific Society under Sir Syed translated western works only into Urdu.
The early years of Sir Syed’s life were spent in the atmosphere of the family of a Mughal noble. There was nothing in young Syed’s habits or behavior to suggest that he was different from other boys, though he was distinguished on account of his extraordinary physique. As a boy he learnt swimming and archery, which were favorite sports of the well-to-do class in those days.
Sir Syed received his education under the old system. He learnt to read the Quran under a female teacher at his home. After this, he was put in the charge of Maulvi Hamid-ud-Din, the first of his private tutors. Having completed a course in Persian and Arabic, he took to the study of mathematics, which was a favorite subject of the maternal side of his family. He later became interested in medicine and studied some well-known books on the subject. However, he soon gave it up without completing the full course. At the age of 18 or 19 his formal education came to an end but he continued his studies privately. He started taking a keen interest in the literary gatherings and cultural activities of the city.
Syed Ahmed Khan was born in Delhi, then the capital of the Mughal Empire. He was an Indian educator and politician, and an Islamic reformer and modernist. His family is said to have migrated from Herat (now in Afghanistan)in the time of emperor Akbar, although by other accounts his family descended from Arabia. Many generations of his family had since been highly connected with the Mughal administration. His maternal grandfather Khwaja Fariduddin served as wazir in the court of Akbar Shah II. His paternal grandfather Syed Hadi held a mansab, a high-ranking administrative position and honorary name of Jawwad Ali Khan in the court of Alamgir II. Sir Syed’s father Mir Muhammad Muttaqi was personally close to Akbar Shah II and served as his personal adviser.
However, Sir Syed was born at a time when rebellious governors, regional insurrections and the British colonialism had diminished the extent and power of the Mughal state, reducing its monarch to figurehead. With his elder brother Syed Muhammad Khan, Sir Syed was raised in a large house in a wealthy area of the city. They were raised in strict accordance with Mughal noble traditions and exposed to politics. Their mother Azis-un-Nisa played a formative role in Sir Syed’s life, raising him with rigid discipline with a strong emphasis on educationSir Syed was taught to read and understand the Qur’an by a female tutor, which was unusual at the time. He received an education traditional to Muslim nobility in Delhi. Under the charge of Hamiduddin, Sir Syed was trained in Persian, Arabic, Urdu and religious subjects. He read the works of Muslim scholars and writers such as Sahbai, Rumi and Ghalib. Other tutors instructed him in mathematics, astronomy and Islamic jurisprudence.Sir Syed was also adept at swimming, wrestling and other sports. He took an active part in the Mughal court’s cultural activities.
His elder brother founded the city’s first printing press in the Urdu language along with the journal Sayyad-ul-Akbar. Sir Syed pursued the study of medicine for several years but did not complete the course.Until the death of his father in 1838, Sir Syed had lived a life customary for an affluent young Muslim noble. Upon his father’s death, he inherited the titles of his grandfather and father and was awarded the title of Arif Jung by the emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. Financial difficulties put an end to Sir Syed’s formal education, although he continued to study in private, using books on a variety of subjects. Sir Syed assumed editorship of his brother’s journal and rejected offers of employment from the Mughal court.
Social reforms in the Muslim society were initiated by Abdul Latif. He founded “The Mohammedan Literary Society” in Bengal. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan established the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental college. Later, this institution came to be known as the Aligarh Muslim University. He opposed ignorance, superstitions and evil customs prevalent in the Muslim society. He firmly believed that the Muslim society would not progress without the acquisition of western education and science. Having recognized the steady decline in Mughal political power, Sir Syed entered the British East India Company’s civil service. He was appointed serestadar at the courts of law in Agra, responsible for record-keeping and managing court affairs.In 1840, he was promoted to the title of munshi. In 1858, he was appointed to a high-ranking post at the court in Muradabad, where he began working on his most famous literary work.
Acquainted with high-ranking British officials, Sir Syed obtained close knowledge about British colonial politics during his service at the courts. At the outbreak of the Indian rebellion, on May 10, 1857, Sir Syed was serving as the chief assessment officer at the court in Bijnor.Northern India became the scene of the most intense fighting. The conflict had left large numbers of civilians dead. Erstwhile centres of Muslim power such as Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Kanpur were severely affected. Sir Syed was personally affected by the violence and the ending of the Mughal dynasty amongst many other long-standing kingdoms. Sir Syed and many other Muslims took this as a defeat of Muslim society. He lost several close relatives who died in the violence. Although he succeeded in rescuing his mother from the turmoil, she died in Meerut, owing to the privations she had experienced.
Nawab Mohsin ul Mulk, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Justice Syed Mahmood, he was the first Muslim to serve as a High Court judge in the British Raj.
The Causes of the Indian Revolt
In 1859 Sir Syed Published the booklet Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind (The Causes of the Indian Revolt) in which he studied the causes of the Indian revolt. In this, his most famous work, he rejected the common notion that the conspiracy was planned by Muslim élites, who were insecure at the diminishing influence of Muslim monarchs. He blamed the British East India Company for its aggressive expansion as well as the ignorance of British politicians regarding Indian culture. Sir Syed advised the British to appoint Muslims to assist in administration.
Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali wrote in the biography of Sir Syed that:
“As soon as Sir Syed reached Muradabad, he began to write the pamphlet entitled The Causes of the Indian Revolt (asbab-e-baghawat-e-hind), in which he did his best to clear the people of India, and especially the Muslims, of the charge of Mutiny. In spite of the obvious danger, he made a courageous and thorough report of the accusations people were making against the Government and refused the theory which the British had invented to explain the causes of the Mutiny.”
When the work was finished, without waiting for an English translation, Sir Sayyid sent the Urdu version to be printed at the Mufassilat Gazette Press in Agra. Within a few weeks, he received 500 copies back from the printers. His friend warned him not to send the pamphlet to Parliament or to the Government of India. Rae Shankar Das, a great friend of Sir Syed, begged him to burn the books rather than put his life in danger. Sir Syed replied that he was bringing these matters to the attention of the British for the good of his own people, of his country, and of the government itself. He said that if he came to any harm while doing something that would greatly benefit the rulers and the subjects of India alike, he would gladly suffer whatever befell him. When Rae Shankar Das saw that Sir Syed’s mind was made up and nothing could be done to change it, he wept and remained silent. After performing a supplementary prayer and asking God’s blessing, Sir Syed sent almost all the 500 copies of his pamphlet to England, one to the government, and kept the rest himself.
In 1878, Sir Syed was nominated to the Viceroy’s Legislative Council. He testified before the education commission to promote the establishment of more colleges and schools across India. In the same year, Sir Syed founded the Muhammadan Association to promote political co-operation amongst Indian Muslims from different parts of the country. In 1886, he organised the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Aligarh, which promoted his vision of modern education and political unity for Muslims. His works made him the most prominent Muslim politician in 19th century India, often influencing the attitude of Muslims on various national issues. He supported the efforts of Indian political leaders Surendranath Banerjea and Dadabhai Naoroji to obtain representation for Indians in the government and civil services. In 1883, he founded the Muhammadan Civil Service Fund Association to encourage and support the entry of Muslim graduates into the Indian Civil Service (ICS). While fearful of the loss of Muslim political power owing to the community’s backwardness, Sir Syed was also averse to the prospect of democratic self-government, which would give control of government to the Hindu-majority population:
“At this time our nation is in a bad state in regards education and wealth, but God has given us the light of religion and the Quran is present for our guidance, which has ordained them and us to be friends. Now God has made them rulers over us. Therefore we should cultivate friendship with them, and should adopt that method by which their rule may remain permanent and firm in India, and may not pass into the hands of the Bengalis… If we join the political movement of the Bengalis our nation will reap a loss, for we do not want to become subjects of the Hindus instead of the subjects of the “people of the Book…”[
When the government of India had the book translated and presented before the Council, Lord Canning, the governor-general, and Sir Barthold Frere accepted it as a sincere and friendly report. The foreign secretary Sale Beadon, however, severely attacked it, calling it ‘an extremely seditious pamphlet’. He wanted a proper inquiry into the matter and said that the author, unless he could give a satisfactory explanation, should be harshly dealt with. Since no other member of the Council agreed with his opinion, his attack did no harm.
Later, Sir Syed was invited to attend Lord Canning’s durbar in Farrukhabad and happened to meet the foreign secretary there. He told Sir Syed that he was displeased with the pamphlet and added that if he had really had the government’s interests at heart, he would not have made his opinion known in this way throughout the country; he would have communicated it directly to the government. Sir Syed replied that he had only had 500 copies printed, the majority of which he had sent to England, one had been given to the government of India, and the remaining copies were still in his possession. Furthermore, he had the receipt to prove it. He was aware, he added, that the view of the rulers had been distorted by the stress and anxieties of the times, which made it difficult to put even the most straightforward problem in its right perspective. It was for this reason that he had not communicated his thoughts publicly. He promised that for every copy that could be found circulating in India he would personally pay 1,000 rupees. At first, Beadon was not convinced and asked Sir Syed over and over again if he was sure that no other copy had been distributed in India. Sir Syed reassured him on this matter, and Beadon never mentioned it again. Later he became one of Sir Syed’s strongest supporters.
Many official translations were made of the Urdu text of The Causes of the Indian Revolt. The one undertaken by the India Office formed the subject of many discussions and debates.The pamphlet was also translated by the government of India and several members of parliament, but no version was offered to the public. A translation which had been started by a government official was finished by Sir Sayyid’s great friend, Colonel G. F. I. Graham, and finally published in 187
The death of his father in 1838 left the family in difficulties. Thus young Syed was compelled at the early age of 21 to look for a career. He decided to enter the service of the East India Company. He started his career as Sarishtedar in a court of law. He became Naib Munshi in 1839 and Munshi in 1841. In 1858 he was promoted and appointed as Sadar-us-Sadur at Muradabad. In 1867 he was promoted and posted as the judge of the Small Causes Court. He retired in 1876. He spent the rest of his life for Aligarh College and the Muslims of South Asia.
Sir Syed’s greatest achievement was his Aligarh Movement, which was primarily an educational venture. He established Gulshan School at Muradabad in 1859, Victoria School at Ghazipur in 1863, and a scientific society in 1864. When Sir Syed was posted at Aligarh in 1867, he started the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental School in the city. Sir Syed got the opportunity to visit England in 1869-70. During his stay, he studied the British educational system and appreciated it. On his return home he decided to make M. A. O. High School on the pattern of British boarding schools. The School later became a college in 1875. The status of University was given to the college after the death of Sir Syed in 1920. M. A. O. High School, College and University played a big role in the awareness of the Muslims of South Asia.
Unlike other Muslim leaders of his time, Sir Syed was of the view that Muslims should have friendship with the British if they want to take their due rights. To achieve this he did a lot to convince the British that Muslims were not against them. On the other hand, he tried his best to convince the Muslims that if they did not befriend the British, they could not achieve their goals. Sir Syed wrote many books and journals to remove the misunderstandings between Muslims and the British. The most significant of his literary works were his pamphlets “Loyal Muhammadans of India” and “Cause of Indian Revolt”. He also wrote a commentary on the Bible, in which he attempted to prove that Islam is the closest religion to Christianity.
Sir Syed asked the Muslims of his time not to participate in politics unless and until they got modern education. He was of the view that Muslims could not succeed in the field of western politics without knowing the system. He was invited to attend the first session of the Indian National Congress and to join the organization but he refused to accept the offer. He also asked the Muslims to keep themselves away from the Congress and predicted that the party would prove to be a pure Hindu party in the times to come. By establishing the Muhammadan Educational Conference, he provided Muslims with a platform on which he could discuss their political problems. Sir Syed is known as the founder of Two-Nation Theory in the modern era.
In the beginning of 1898 he started keeping abnormally quiet. For hours he would not utter a word to friends who visited him. Medical aid proved ineffective. His condition became critical on 24th of March. On the morning of March 27, a severe headache further worsened it. He expired the same evening in the house of Haji Ismail Khan, where he had been shifted 10 or 12 days earlier. He was buried the following afternoon in the compound of the Mosque of Aligarh College. He was mourned by a large number of friends and admirers both within and outside South Asia.
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan Pictures