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Syed Ahmad Khan – Aligarh Movement

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  • Difficulty Level : Expert
  • Last Updated : 20 Jun, 2022

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had a remarkable impression on history and is known for his remarkable work for the upliftment of Muslims in Social, Educational, and Economical fields. He had many names to be recognized for such as Civil servant, journalist, historian. However, he is prominently known for his pioneering role in transforming educational opportunities for Muslims. He understood that education is the most important tool through which Muslims could rise and follow the path of success in every field and this could help them to uplift in society.

After the 1857 war of Independence, the Muslims were recognized as backward sections as the majority were illiterate and hopelessly facing failures in every walk of life. They were deprived of their basic rights and were neglected and victimized. Sir Syed compelled the Muslim society to get themselves acquainted with modern and western education. His slogan was “Devote yourself to education; this is your only salvation”. He believed that the cure of every problem of Muslims was modern education, the only key to political and economic progress. Therefore, he commenced many educational programs to uplift the deprived and disappointed Muslims. He took some concrete steps for education plans and reforms by the Aligarh Movement.

The Aligarh Movement not only contributed towards the revival and resurgence of Muslim society but also helped the Muslims to get rid of backwardness and taught them to have futuristic goals in terms of education.

A Brief History of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan: 

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was born on October 17, 1817, in Delhi. He was born in a family of high nobility that had a long history of serving the Mughal court. He had traditional education and studied mathematics but was highly intrigued by the traditional Islamic culture and history. After his father’s death he got employment in East India Company in a clerical post but was soon promoted to Sub-judge of the small court When the war of independence broke out in 1857, he helped in saving lives of many English men, women, and children and was rewarded as a knight by British in 1889. He died on 27th March 1898, and till date is known as one of the greatest reformers, statement, a Muslim philosopher of all time.

Sir Syed Ahmad’s contributions to the Renaissance of Muslims:  

Sir Syed Ahmad played a key role in inculcating and instilling the progressive mindset for education among Muslims. For this purpose, he is known for his contributions to the Renaissance of Muslims. Some of his contributions are listed below:  

  • He played a major role in the fundraising and setting up of the Fund Committee for the establishment of a Muslim College. Sir Syed Ahmad toured all over the country for collecting funds. It was first decided by the committee decided for the formation of the school later which turned into. Thus, in 1875, Sir Syed made the foundation of the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental School located in Aligarh. Later in 1877, Lord Lytton inaugurated the up-gradation of school to College.
  • In 1886, another institute was set up by Sir Syed Ahmad namely as Mohammedan Educational Conference, which aimed at offering a twelve-point program in western and religious education in various languages. The main focus was to make the Muslim society aware of the importance and substantial essence of Education.
  • In 1867, a controversy broke out regarding Urdu being the official language that was written in the Persian script. It was opposed by the Hindus who wanted it to be replaced with the Hindi language written in Devnagri script. This Hindi-Urdu controversy has made it very clear about the Hindu-Muslim disharmony and brought a paradigm shift in the mindset of many Muslim leaders. Sir Syed Ahmed that Muslims need to be uplifted in society else can be suppressed by the majority. He actively participated in building up Central Association in Allahabad to protect Urdu. He made his effort towards making Urdu easy and comprehensible.

Aims/Objectives of Aligarh Movement:

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was well aware of the conditions of the Muslims then and knew that the Muslims had failed to regenerate themselves as well as keeping at par with the modern world of Science, Education, and Technology. He wanted the Muslims to first become aware of it and the key to achieving or instilling this realization would be modern education. He made this his goal and started putting the efforts to bring a shift in Muslim’s medieval outlook to a modern one.  

To achieve this goal, he was quite transparent in his thoughts that there should be a mutual understanding between British Government and Indian Muslims, and this could be attained through Educational means. Thus, he started the Aligarh Movement of which Aligarh was the centre.

Educational and social reform were the two pillars of his program, he initiated the Aligarh Movement with thinking of achieving the following objectives:

  • To encourage mutual understanding between the British government and the Indian Muslims.
  • To encourage Muslims towards Education and understanding the fact that it is the key to every problem.
  • To make the Muslims realize that their betterment lies to stay from political agitation.
  • To instil and inculcate intellectual aspects in Indian Muslims.

His passionate thoughts towards the welfare of Muslims attracted other renowned scholars, philosophers, and high political figures namely Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, Shibli, Mohammad Hayat, Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, Chiragh Ali, Zakaullah, and others.

Syed Mahmud, a renowned educationist, scholar, and jurist and being a pious son helped Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in establishing Aligarh College and giving momentum to Aligarh Movement. He was also helped by some English Professors like Morison, Arnold, Bech, and Rhaleig supported him in building Aligarh College into a top-rated institution.

Some of his contributions towards the literary society:

  • Gulshan School, Muradabad, 1859
  • Set up Victoria School, Ghazipur, 1863  
  • The Scientific Society at Aligarh, 1864  
  • Aligarh Institute Gazette, 1866  
  • Committee Striving for the Educational Progress of Muslims, 1870

Consequences/Impacts of Aligarh Movement:

  • The Aligarh Movement has been marked in the history of upliftment, revival, renaissance, and resurgence of Muslim society.
  • This movement backed by Sir Syed Ahmad khan not only gained momentum but recognition in British and much-renowned society scholars.
  • This movement was responsible for a paramount shift in Muslims from their backward, medieval thoughts to a modern outlook with a whole lot of future prospects.
  • This movement helped Muslims to gain confidence and turn towards a brighter perspective towards, knowledge, education, science, and understanding.
  • This has helped to bridge the gap between the Muslims and British Government and laid the foundation of a political approach for Muslims. Educational organizations under Aligarh played an essential role in the educational upliftment of the Muslim community.
  • Sir Syed’s confidence in imparting western education to the Muslim community has impacted their economic prosperity as his philosophy made them dreamt of government jobs. Aligarh Movement contributed to the political awareness among Muslims also.
  • This historic movement has conferred the title named “Prophet of Education” to Sir Syed Ahmad khan.
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