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Article 415

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan-Man with a Great Vision

By Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi

(Dr. M. Iqtedar Husain Farooqi,) (Retd. Scientist, NBRI, Lucknow)

Secretary, Urdu Scientific Society,

Shahid Apartments, Golaganj, Lucknow-226018


Tel: 0522-2610683, 9839901066       


      “… the real greatness of the man (Sir Syed) consists in the fact that he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it’’

                                                        Sir Iqbal

       Sir Syed was an ardent reformer and he wanted to reconcile modern scientific thought with religion by rationalistic interpretations and not by attacking basic belief. He was anxious to push new education. He was in no way communally separatist. Repeatedly he emphasized that religious differences should have no political and national significance.       Pt Jawaharlal Nehru

 “Sir Syed’s vision and his laborious efforts to meet the demands of challenging times are highly commendable. The dark post 1857 era was indeed hopeless and only men like Raja Mohan Roy and Sir Syed could penetrate through its thick veil to visualize the Nation’s destinies. They rightly believed that the past had its merits and its legacies were valuable but it was the future that a society was called upon to cope with.

      I offer my homage to Sir Syed for his vision and courage that withstood all obstructions both from the friends and the foes”      Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral,


Vision of Sir Syed

 –“Sons (of MAO college later AMU)) shall go forth throughout the length and breath of the land to preach the message of free inquiry, of large hearted toleration and of pure morality”

“Acquisition knowledge of science and technology is the only solution for the problems of Muslims.”

“Call me by whatever names you like.
I will not ask you for my salvation. But please take pity of your children. Do something for them (send them to the school), lest you should have to repent” (by not sending them) 

“We will remain humiliated and rejected if we do not make progress’’ (in scientific field)

“Get rid of old and useless rituals. These rituals hinder human progress.”

“Superstition cannot be the part of Iman (faith).”

“The first requisite for the progress of a nation is the brotherhood and unity amongst sections of the society”.

“Yes the main purpose of this college (MAO) is to impart modern education to Muslims who are suffering because of lack of it but this institution is for all, Hindus and Muslims alike. Both of them need education.”

 “We (Hindus and Muslims) eat the same crop, drink water from the same rivers and breath the same air. As a matter of fact Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan. Weakness of any one of them will spoil the beauty of the bride (dulhan)”.

“We (Hindus and Muslim) have evolved a new language Urdu”.

“I wish that youth of India should follow the example of young men and women of England who are religiously engaged in the hard work of industrial development of their country” (During the stay of Sir Syed in England).

“Look forward, learn modern knowledge, do not waste time in studies of old subjects of no value.”

“Ijtihad (innovation, re-interpretation with the changing times) is the need of the hour. Give up taqlid “(copying and following old values).

“Do not show the face of Islam to others; instead show your face as the follower of true Islam representing character, knowledge, tolerance and piety.”

“We should not (by remaining ignorant and illiterate) tarnish the image of our able elders”.

“All human beings are our brother and sisters. Working for their welfare is obligatory for Muslims.”

“Remember that the words Hindu and Muslim are only meant for religious distinction: otherwise all persons who reside in this country belong to one and the same nation.”

Life of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

·         Born on October 17, 1817 in Delhi.

·         1847-Authored the famous archaeological Masterpiece, “Asarus Sanadeed.”

·         1864 -Instituted Scientific Society.

·         1866 -Aligarh Institute Gazette, an organ of the Scientific Society.

·         1870 –Started “Tehzibul Akhlaq” for propagating modern ideas to Muslim Community.

·         1875 - Established a School at Aligarh.

·         1877- Foundation of MAO College laid, which became Aligarh Muslim University in 1920

·         1888- He was Knighted.

·         1889- Received Honorary LLD from Edinburgh University.

·         Died on March 27, 1898

The supreme interest of Syed’s life was education – in its widest sense. Sir Syed wanted to create  scientific temperament among the Muslims of India and to make the Western knowledge of  Science available to them. He championed the cause of modern education at a time when all the Indians in general and Indian Muslims in particular considered it a sin to get modern education and that too through English language.

Through Aligarh Institute Gazette, Sir Syed succeeded in agitating the minds in the traditional Muslim Society.  Some of the traditionalists and orthodox Muslims opposed him to the extent that they called him, Mulhid( Atheist ), Kafir etc. Anyone with a poor level of commitment would have backed off in the face of strong opposition but Sir Syed responded by bringing out another journal ‘Tehzibul Akhlaq’ which greatly  succeeded in infusing a new desire amongst Muslims for acquiring modern knowledge. It also gave a new direction to Muslim social and political thought. Along with his search for a solution to the community's backwardness, he continued writing for various causes of Islam without prejudices against any religion.

Sir Syed finally reached to the conclusion that lack of education was the main cause of the backwardness of the community. With all the odds, Sir Syed became successful in his mission and gave a firm foundation of Aligarh College (Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College)  which afterwards became Aligarh University. Sir Syed got moral and financial support from a cross section of the society. Amongst the first 120 people who gave valuable donations for the construction of School Building were several Hindus like Choudhary Sher Singh, Kunwar Lekhraj Singh, Raja Shiv Narain Singh, Raja Ghanshyam Singh, Raja Uday Pratap Singh, Lala Phul Chand, Lala Vasudeo Sahai and others. Their names still decorate the old Buildings of Aligarh Muslim University.

This Aligarh Muslim University produced intellectuals in large numbers who served the country in various capacities. It is a tribute to Sir Syed that the first graduate of Aligarh  University was the great revolutionary Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh. No one can forget persons like Dr. Zakir Husain and Dr. Syed Mahmood, the products of Aligarh, who adorned the high offices of the country.

Sir Syed wanted MAO College to act as a bridge between the old and the new, the East and the West.  While he fully appreciated the need and urgency of imparting instruction based on Western learning, he was not oblivious of the value of oriental learning and wanted to preserve and transmit to posterity the rich legacy of the past. He, therefore, decided to keep a fine balance between the two. The College he founded was the visible embodiment of reason and progress.

The aim of Sir Syed was not merely restricted to establishing a college at Aligarh but at spreading a network of Muslim Managed educational institutions throughout the length and breadth of the country. To this end, he instituted All India Muslim  Educational Conference. This Conference motivated the Muslims to help open a number of educational institutions in India. 

Today Muslims lag behind in all  walks of life . The main reason for their sorry status is their backwardness in modern education. Only the Vision of Sir Syed can help the Muslims to come out from the present situation.

It is high time that we realize the message of Sir Syed and the spirit behind the Aligarh movement.  Let us expand and propagate the Aligarh Movement for creating a modern  society  with a scientific outlook.



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