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Old Wednesday, April 16, 2008
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Default Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898)

Sir Syed Ahmad khan

Biographical Details

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was born in 1817 in Delhi. He came from a wealthy family which was well known and respected in the area. Great care was taken by Sir Syed’s father to ensure that he received a high-quality education.

By the age of 18 he was skilled in Arabic, Persian, Ahmed Khan Mathematics and Medicine. He had also been introduced to some of India’s most able writers and had developed a love for literature.

In 1838 Sir Syed’s father died and he was forced to seek employment. He quickly rose from a lowly position in the legal system to become a judge in Delhi in 1846 .That year he wrote his well-known book on archaeology called Athar-al-Sanadeed. When the War of broke out in 1857 Sir Syed was working as chief judge in Bijnaur and is said to have saved the lives of many women and children during the fighting. In return for his loyalty the British offered him an estate with a large income , but he refused the offer.

His belief that armed uprising against the British was pointless him unpopular with some Muslims, but it did not stop him working towards reconciliation between British and the Muslim community after the war .He appointed Chief Justice in Muradabad and later was transferred to Ghazipore. In 1864 he was transferred to Aligarh where he played an important part in establishing a new college. In 1876 he retired cork in the law to concentrate on running the college and to devote himself to improving the positions of Muslims in the sub-continent through education.Aligarh became the centre of a ‘Muslim renaissance’.

He died in 27 March 1898, having served his fellowMuslims in a way which few had rivaled.


Sir Syed was extremely unhappy about the position of the Muslims in the subcontinent. Since the days of the Mughal empire their social and economic status had declined sharply. The role of Muslims in the War of Independence had led to a further decline in their fortunes as the British took measures to ensure that their control would not be subject to further challenge.

Sir Syed felt that the poor status of the Muslims was due to the way they were treated as second-class citizens by the British and the Hindus, but that they also had to take some of the responsibility themselves. Many Muslims considered the British to be little more than invaders in India and wanted nothing to do with them. Sir Syed believed that the Muslim community had to accept that the British were rulers who intended to stay for many years. The Muslim position could only be improved if they adopted a more positive approach to the British. They needed to accept more British ideas and to take advantage of British education. If they did not, then the Hindus would continue to prosper because of their more cooperative approach.

Sir Syed wanted to see the Muslims united and prospering. He also wanted to see an improvement in their economic, social, political and religious fortunes. He made this ambition his life’s work and, because so much of his effort revolved around a ‘Muslim renaissance’ taking place in Aligarh, he is said to have founded ‘The Aligarh Movement’.

The central aims of the Aligarh Movement were to:

-Improve relations between the British and Muslim communities by removing British doubts about Muslim loyalty and Muslim doubts about British intentions,

-Improve the social and economic position of Muslims by encouraging them to receive Westerneducation and take up posts in the civil service and army,

-Increase the political awareness of the Muslim community in order to make them aware of the threat to their position from the Hindus policy of co-operation with the British.


1. Improving Relations between the British and Muslim Communities

Sir Syed believed that the position of the Muslims in the subcontinent could only be improved if relations with the British were improved and Muslims gained higher-quality education. There were two major obstacles to good relations.

A . The British had put the entire responsibility for the War of Independence in 1857 on the Muslims. As a result they carried out policies of repression against the Muslims after 1857. The Hindus and other religious groups were considered to be loyal and prepared to assist in governing India, but the Muslims were seen as rebellious and unhelpful. Even as early as 1843 the British Governor-General had stated:

I cannot close my eyes to the belief that the Muslim race is fundamentally hostile to us.Our true policy is to reconcile the Hindus’.

Sir Syed wanted to ensure that this false view was corrected.

B. There was a deep-seated resentment of the British among many in the Muslim community. This was sometimes based on the fact that the British were seen as ‘foreign invaders’ and sometimes because they were thought to be trying to replace Islam with Christianity. Other Muslims rejected all Western ideas because they were often not in line with Islamic beliefs. Sir Syed wanted to ensure that the benefits and advantages of British rule, in particular in the areas of science and technology were embraced by the Muslim community to improve the lives of the masses.

Convincing the British

In 1860 Sir Syed wrote The Loyal Mohammadens of india. In this work he defended the Muslims from the British accusation that they were disloyal. He gave a detailed account of the loyal service which Muslims had given and named various Muslims who had shown particular loyalty to the British. At the same time he called on the British to end their hostility towards the Muslim community.

In order to convince the British that they were wrong to put the full blame for the events of 1857 on the Muslims, Sir Syed wrote a pamphlet called ‘Essay on the causes of the Indian Revolt'
In his writing he pointed out the main reasons for the uprising were:

1. The lack of representation for Indian government of the country.
2. The forcible conversion of Muslims to Christianity
3. The poor management of the Indian army

He also listed many other measures taken by the British which created dissatisfaction and led to resentment among the Muslim community.
This pamphlet was circulated free amongst the British officials in India and was also sent to members of Parliament in England.

Even members of the Royal family received copies. Some British officials were angered by what Sir Syed wrote as he seemed to be blaming them for the uprising. Others read what he wrote with sympathy and accepted that there was truth in his words .Sir Syed also tried to clear up a misunderstanding amongst the British who resented being called ‘Nadarath’ by the Muslims. The British thought that this was an insult , but Sir Syed pointed out that the word came from ‘Nasir’ , an Arabic word meaning helper. So the term was a reflection of the positive image Muslims had of British , not an insult.

Convincing the Muslims

Sir Syed was aware that the British knew very little about Islam. Indeed, on a visit to England he was so offended by an English book on (P.B.U.H) that he immediately wrote his own work correcting the many errors.

It was also true, however, that the Muslims in India knew very little about Christianity. He tried to overcome this was by writing Tabyin-ul-Kalam, in which he pointed out the similarities between Islam Christianity. Due to lack of resources the work was not finished, but it showed Sir Syed’s commitment to improving relations.

Another example of this was the British Indian Association which Sir Syed established to try to increase co-operation between the two peoples.

Many Muslims, however, were very suspicious of any British influence because they believed it corrupted Islamic learning .Sir Sved realized that he needed to increase awareness of the benefits of western technological advances. He did not accept the arguments of British Christian missionaries that the technological advances that had been made in Europe were a result of the teachings of Christianity. He believed that they had to do with greater political development and a higher standard of education, particularly in science. He therefore laid great emphasis on the need to bring about improved education for Muslims.

2. Encouraging the growth of Western education

As we have seen after 1857 the Muslim community discrimination at the hands of the other British , whilst the other groups were supported. The Hindus for example, had decided that they should work with the British. This helped the British to see them as a counter to the supposedly ‘disloyal Muslims’, So Hindus were keen to learn the English language and to acquire a British education in the subcontinent. This helped them to gain employment and to make progress in society. By 1871 there were 711 Hindus in government employment compared with only 92 Muslims.

The ‘Hindu Movement’ gained strength as more and more Hindus received education in the new schools ,colleges and universities which were springing up. This increased confidence among Hindus also led to them viewing Muslims with an increasing lack of respect.

Sir Syed took steps to change Muslim attitudes to receiving British education. In this he came into conflict with ulema. They believed that acceptance of scientific and technological ideas might undermine Islamic beliefs. Sir Syed believed that the Holy Quran emphasized the need to study and that an understanding of modern scientific beliefs actually helped reveal the full majesty of God.

-To gain support for his views Sir Syed set up an Urdu journal called Tahdhih-ul-Akhlaq. This journal contained articles from influential Muslims who agreed with Sir Syed that there was a need for a new approach to education. Although some ulema attacked the journal, it played a major part inbringing about an intellectual revolution amongst Muslim thinkers.

-In 1863 Sir Syed founded the Scientific Society at Ghazipore. Its main purpose was to make scientific writings available to a wider market by translating them from English, Persian or Arabic into Urdu. When he was transferred to Aligarh in 1864 he continued his work and in 1866 began issuing a journal called the ‘Aligarh Institute Gazette’.

-He had already shown his commitment to expanding educational opportunities when, in 1859, he opened a school in Muradabad. In 1864 he opened another school in Ghazipore.

-In 1869 Sir Syed travelled to England to study the university system there. He dreamed of setting up a university for Muslims in the sub-continent .
He was very impressed by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and hoped to set up an educational institution based on their model. However, on returning home, he found that his plans were often met with suspicion. He could not start with a university straight away. So instead he decided to begin with a school.

-A committee was set up, which toured the country raising funds for anew Muslim school. On 24 May 1875, the Mohammaden Anglo-Oriental School was set up in Aligarh on the pattern of English public school system. Sir Syed worked hard to have the school upgraded to a college. In 1876 he retired from his employment and devoted himself full-time to the school. In 1877 the school was raised to college level, but as part of the University of Calcutta. The British would not allow it to be affiliated with a Muslim university outside British territory so, for the moment it could not become the Muslim University that Sir Syed wanted.

-The college offered both Western and Indian education, though Islamic education was also provided. It became much more than an educational institution. In the days before the Muslim League, it became a symbol of Muslim unity. Many of the future leaders of Pakistan, such as Liaquat All Khan and Ayub Khan, were educated there and some historians have commented that the college was the institution which contributed more than any other to the formation of Pakistan.

-In 1920, some years after the death of Sir Syed, the college became the University of Aligarh.

-However, Sir Syed’s work in education did not end with the formation of the college. He wanted to publicize the new educational methods being used at Aligarh. So in 1886 he set up the Mohammaden Educational Conference. Its aim was to raise educational standards among Muslims. It held meetings at a number of cities across the subcontinent and sub-committees were formed in many places. The Conference attracted famous orators and writers and also played a major role in establishing a political platform for Muslims, in the days before the formation of the Muslim League.

3. Increasing Political Awareness

Sir Syed was determined to improve the status of the Muslim community. By writing his Essay on the Causes of the Indian Revolt and The Loyal Mohammadens of India he had shown a desire to re-establish good relationships with the British, as he hoped this would lead to greater opportunities for Muslims. This earned him a reputation of being too moderate and too British. But, in fact, Sir Syed realised that the British were too powerful to overthrow and that Muslims would gain more by cooperating with them.

He also believed that Muslims should have good relations with Hindus, as they had a common long-term aim — to restore the authority of the local people in their own country. In a speech to the Indian Association he said:
‘We Hindus and Muslims live together same soil under the same govern interests and problems are common and, therefore I consider the two factions as one nation.’

However, Sir Syed soon realised that the not so keen on working with Muslims and this led him to the conclusion that the two groups could not work together. In time he came to believe that Hindus and Muslims were different enough to be considered as two separate groups within the subcontinent.

Indian National Congress

-In 1885 the Indian National Congress was formed. The British saw this body as a means by which they could hear the views of the educated elite in Indian society. The Congress said that it would represent the views of all the communities regardless of their religion. However, it soon became apparent that the Congress dominated body which was working to establish Hindu supremacy over the Muslims.

Political Representation

-A good example of this was the call by Congress for the introduction of a democratic system of political representation similar to that practiced in Britain. This sounded fair, but since they were four times as many Hindus as Muslims, they would win every election. Democracy would leave the Muslims with no representation at all. Sir Syed spoke angrily against any such plans saying:
‘I am convinced that the introduction of the principle of election... .would be attended with evils of greater significance . The larger community would totally override of the smaller community’

Competitive Examinations

-Congress also suggested that appointments in the government service should be by competitive examination. Since Muslims were not receiving education of a standard similar to that received by Hindus, this would greatly disadvantage them. Sir Syed commented that only when equal educational opportunities were provided could such an idea work.


-A further cause of concern of Sir Syed was the Hindu-Urdu Controversy’. In 1867 the Hindus demanded that Hindi should be made the next official language in place of Urdu (which had become the official language in 1825). It was not until after his death that Hindi became the second language, but the Hindu opposition to Urdu was another factor guiding Sir Syed towards his ‘Two ion Theory’.

-Sir Syed was bitterly opposed to this attack on Urdu and particularly shocked to find that the Hindu members of his Scientific Society wanted the society’s journal to be published in Hindi.

Sir Syed’s belief that Congress was working in the interests of Hindus, and in a way which was harmful to Muslim community, led him to refuse to attend its meetings. Instead he organised an alternative body
Called the United Patriotic Alliance. In 1893 this became the Mohammaden Defence Alliance . By this time rivalry between the Hindu and Muslim communities was increasing and there were several examples of Hindus showing disrespect for the Muslim religion. In Bombay some Hindu extremists began playing loud music mosques.

It seemed that in some areas it was becoming increasingly difficult for Muslims and Hindus to live in peaceful co-existence.


Sir Syed Ahmed Khan played a vital role in improving the status of the Muslim community in subcontinent .

-He worked tirelessly to restore relations with the British, particularly after the War of Independence.When many British were of the opinion that the Muslims were disloyal and untrustworthy. His, his writings, his tireless work and the example he set was to convince the British to see the Muslims in a new light.

-Sir Syed played a major part in bringing about a Muslim revival, largely
through the work of the Aligarh Movement .Muslims came to value education as a means of self-improvement and of obtaining better employment. From this came greater feeling of self-worth.

-Linked to the Muslim revival was a greater political awareness. As Hindus sought to take advantage of the poor relations between the Muslims and the British, Sir Syed emphasised the threat to Muslims and developed his ‘Two Nation Theory’. Once Muslims came to accept the wisdom of this theory, it was only a small step to call for partition. For this reason Sir Syed Ahmed Khan can rightly be called ‘The Father of the Pakistan Movement’.
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Smile Grammar Errors

[COLOR="Green"]Dear writer,
You know very well about your topic and you do have facts and figures but in your whole writing there are several places where grammatical errors can be seen.
So work on sentence structure and tenses.
Anyhow, your essay is well equipped with information.
some error are:
1- "He appointed Chief Justice in Muradabad" (He was appointed)
2- His belief that armed uprising against the British was pointless him unpopular with some Muslims, but it did not stop him working towards reconciliation between British and the Muslim community after the war. (made him unpopular, he did not stop his working/efforts)
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Old Monday, November 24, 2014
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Whats the difference on writing Sir Syed Ahamad regard to Indo-pak history and pak affair?
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