Sir Syed Ahmad Khan Historical thread.

  • Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, CBE KCSI [1] (also Sayyid Ahmad Khan) (Urdu: سید احمد خان} (October 17, 1817 – March 27, 1898), commonly known as Sir Syed (although this is technically incorrect; he would have properly been called "Sir Ahmed" as Sayyid is itself a title in this case), was an Indian educator and politician, and an Islamic reformer and modernist[2][3]. Sir Syed pioneered modern education for the Muslim community in India by founding the Muhammedan Anglo-Oriental College, which later developed into the Aligarh Muslim University. His work gave rise to a new generation of Muslim intellectuals and politicians who composed the Aligarh movement to secure the political future of Muslims in India.

    Born into Mughal nobility, Sir Syed earned a reputation as a distinguished scholar while working as a jurist for the British East India Company. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857 he remained loyal to the British and was noted for his actions in saving European lives.[2] After the rebellion he penned the booklet Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind (The Causes of the Indian Mutiny) — a daring critique, at the time, of British policies that he blamed for causing the revolt. Believing that the future of Muslims was threatened by the rigidity of their orthodox outlook, Sir Syed began promoting Western-style scientific education by founding modern schools and journals and organising Muslim intellectuals. Towards this goal, Sir Syed founded the Muhammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875 with the aim of promoting social and economic development of Indian Muslims.

    One of the most influential Muslim politicians of his time, Sir Syed was suspicious of the Indian independence movement and called upon Muslims to loyally serve the British Raj. He denounced nationalist organisations such as the Indian National Congress, instead forming organisations to promote Muslim unity and pro-British attitudes and activities. Sir Syed promoted the adoption of Urdu as the lingua franca of all Indian Muslims, and mentored a rising generation of Muslim politicians and intellectuals. Although hailed as a great Muslim leader and social reformer, Sir Syed remains the subject of controversy for his views on Hindu-Muslim issues.

    Syed Ahmed Khan Bahadur was born in Delhi, then the capital of the Mughal Empire. His family is said to have migrated from Herat (now in Afghanistan)[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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 a figurehead status. 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 education.[citation needed] Sir 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.[5] Under the charge of Maulvi 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.[citation needed] Other tutors instructed him in mathematics, astronomy and Islamic jurisprudence.[5][7] 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.[citation needed] Sir Syed pursued the study of medicine for several years, but did not complete the prescribed course of study.[5] Until the death of his father in 1838, Sir Syed had lived a life customary for an affluent young Muslim noble.[5] 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.[8] 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. Having recognised 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.[citation needed] In 1840, he was promoted to the title of munshi.

    The Social Reformer was a pioneering publication initiated by Sir Syed to promote liberal ideas in Muslim society.

    While continuing to work as a jurist, Sir Syed began focusing on writing, from the age of 23 (in 1840), on various subjects (from mechanics to educational issues), mainly in Urdu, where he wrote, at least, 6000 pages.[9][10] His career as an author began when he published a series of treatises in Urdu on religious subjects in 1842. He published the book A'thar-as-sanadid (Great Monuments) documenting antiquities of Delhi dating from the medieval era. This work earned him the reputation of a cultured scholar. In 1842, he completed the Jila-ul-Qulub bi Zikr-il Mahbub and the Tuhfa-i-Hasan, along with the Tahsil fi jar-i-Saqil in 1844. These works focused on religious and cultural subjects. In 1852, he published the two works Namiqa dar bayan masala tasawwur-i-Shaikh and Silsilat ul-Mulk. He released the second edition of A'thar-as-sanadid in 1854.[11] He also penned a commentary on the Bible — the first by a Muslim — in which he argued that Islam was the closest religion to Christianity, with a common lineage from Abrahamic religions.[5]

    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.[citation needed] Northern India became the scene of the most intense fighting.[12] 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.[citation needed] Sir Syed and many other Muslims took this as a defeat of Muslim society.[13] 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.[12][citation needed]

    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. Publishing the booklet Asbab-e-Bhaghawath-e-Hind in 1859, Sir Syed studied the causes of the revolt[citation needed]. 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.[citation needed] Sir Syed blamed the British East India Company for its aggressive expansion as well as the ignorance of British politicians regarding Indian culture. However, he gained respect for British power, which he felt would dominate India for a long period of time. Seeking to rehabilitate Muslim political influence, Sir Syed advised the British to appoint Muslims to assist in administration. His other writings such as Loyal Muhammadans of India, Tabyin-ul-Kalam and A Series of Essays on the Life of Muhammad and Subjects Subsidiary Therein helped to create cordial relations between the British authorities and the Muslim community.[5] Tafhimur rahman has further edited

    Muslim reformer

    Through the 1850s, Syed Ahmed Khan began developing a strong passion for education. While pursuing studies of different subjects including European [jurisprudence], Sir Syed began to realise the advantages of Western-style education, which was being offered at newly-established colleges across India. Despite being a devout Muslim, Sir Syed criticised the influence of traditional dogma and religious orthodoxy, which had made most Indian Muslims suspicious of British influences.[14] Sir Syed began feeling increasingly concerned for the future of Muslim communities.[14] A scion of Mughal nobility, Sir Syed had been reared in the finest traditions of Muslim élite culture and was aware of the steady decline of Muslim political power across India. The animosity between the British and Muslims before and after the rebellion (Independence War) of 1857 threatened to marginalise Muslim communities across India for many generations.[14] Sir Syed intensified his work to promote co-operation with British authorities, promoting loyalty to the Empire amongst Indian Muslims. Committed to working for the upliftment of Muslims, Sir Syed founded a modern madrassa in Muradabad in 1859; this was one of the first religious schools to impart scientific education. Sir Syed also worked on social causes, helping to organise relief for the famine-struck people of the North-West Frontier Province in 1860. He established another modern school in Ghazipur in 1863.

    Upon his transfer to Aligarh in 1864, Sir Syed began working wholeheartedly as an educator. He founded the Scientific Society of Aligarh, the first scientific association of its kind in India. Modelling it after the Royal Society and the Royal Asiatic Society,[7] Sir Syed assembled Muslim scholars from different parts of the country. The Society held annual conferences, disbursed funds for educational causes and regularly published a journal on scientific subjects in English and Urdu. Sir Syed felt that the socio-economic future of Muslims was threatened by their orthodox aversions to modern science and technology.[14] He published many writings promoting liberal, rational interpretations of In face of pressure from religious Muslims, Sir Syed avoided discussing religious subjects in his writings, focusing instead on promoting education.[15]

    Advocacy of Urdu

    See also: Hindi-Urdu controversy

    The onset of the Hindi-Urdu controversy of 1867 saw the emergence of Sir Syed as a political leader of the Muslim community. He became a leading Muslim voice opposing the adoption of Hindi as a second official language of the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). Sir Syed perceived Urdu as the lingua franca of Muslims. Having been developed by Muslim rulers of India, Urdu was used as a secondary language to Persian, the official language of the Mughal court. Since the decline of the Mughal dynasty, Sir Syed promoted the use of Urdu through his own writings. Under Sir Syed, the Scientific Society translated Western works only into Urdu. The schools established by Sir Syed imparted education in the Urdu medium. The demand for Hindi, led largely by Hindus, was to Sir Syed an erosion of the centuries-old Muslim cultural domination of India. Testifying before the British-appointed education commission, Sir Syed controversially exclaimed that "Urdu was the language of gentry and Hindi that of the vulgar."[citation needed] His remarks provoked a hostile response from Hindu leaders, who unified across the nation to demand the recognition of Hindi.

    The success of the Hindi movement led Sir Syed to further advocate Urdu as the symbol of Muslim heritage and as the language of all Indian Muslims. His educational and political work grew increasingly centred around and exclusively for Muslim interests. He also sought to persuade the British to give Urdu extensive official use and patronage. His colleagues and protégés such as Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Maulvi Abdul Haq developed organisations such as the Urdu Defence Association and the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu, committed to the perpetuation of Urdu.[citation needed] Sir Syed's protégé Shibli Nomani led efforts that resulted in the adoption of Urdu as the official language of the Hyderabad State and as the medium of instruction in the Osmania University.[citation needed][16] To Muslims in northern and western India, Urdu had become an integral part of political and cultural identity. However, the division over the use of Hindi or Urdu further provoked communal conflict between Muslims and Hindus in India.[citation needed]

    Founding Aligarh

    On April 1, 1869, Sir Syed travelled with his son Syed Mahmood to England, where he was awarded the Order of the Star of India from the British government on August 6. Travelling across England, he visited its colleges and was inspired by the culture of learning established after the Renaissance.[citation needed] Sir Syed returned to India in the following year determined to build a "Muslim Cambridge." Upon his return, he organised the "Committee for the Better Diffusion and Advancement of Learning among Muhammadans" (Muslims) on December 26, 1870. Sir Syed described his vision of the institution he proposed to establish in an article written sometime in 1872 and re-printed in the Aligarh Institute Gazette of April 5, 1911:

    I may appear to be dreaming and talking like Shaikh Chilli, but we aim to turn this MAO College into a University similar to that of Oxford or Cambridge. Like the churches of Oxford and Cambridge, there will be mosques attached to each College… The College will have a dispensary with a Doctor and a compounder, besides a Unani Hakim. It will be mandatory on boys in residence to join the congregational prayers (namaz) at all the five times. Students of other religions will be exempted from this religious observance. Muslim students will have a uniform consisting of a black alpaca, half-sleeved chugha and a red Fez cap… Bad and abusive words which boys generally pick up and get used to, will be strictly prohibited. Even such a word as a "liar" will be treated as an abuse to be prohibited. They will have food either on tables of European style or on chaukis in the manner of the Arabs… Smoking of cigarette or huqqa and the chewing of betels shall be strictly prohibited. No corporal punishment or any such punishment as is likely to injure a student's self-respect will be permissible… It will be strictly enforced that Shia and Sunni boys shall not discuss their religious differences in the College or in the boarding house. At present it is like a day dream. I pray to God that this dream may come true."[citation needed]

    By 1873, the committee under Sir Syed issued proposals for the construction of a college in Aligarh. He began publishing the journal Tahzib al-Akhlaq (Social Reformer) to spread awareness and knowledge on modern subjects and promote reforms in Muslim society.[citation needed] Sir Syed worked to promote reinterpretation of Muslim ideology in order to reconcile tradition with Western education. He argued in several books on Islam that the Qur'an rested on an appreciation of reason and natural law, making scientific inquiry important to being a good Muslim. Sir Syed established a modern school in Aligarh and, obtaining support from wealthy Muslims and the British, laid the foundation stone of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College on May 24, 1875. He retired from his career as a jurist the following year, concentrating entirely on developing the college and on religious reform.[7] Sir Syed's pioneering work received support from the British. Although intensely criticised by orthodox religious leaders hostile to modern influences, Sir Syed's new institution attracted a large student body, mainly drawn from the Muslim gentry and middle classes.[17] The curriculum at the college involved scientific and Western subjects, as well as Oriental subjects and religious education.[7] The first chancellor was Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, a prominent Muslim noblewoman, and Sir Syed invited an Englishman, Theodore Beck, to serve as the first college principal.[17] The college was originally affiliated with Calcutta University but was transferred to the Allahabad University in 1885. Near the turn of the 20th century, it began publishing its own magazine and established a law school. In 1920, the college was transformed into a university.

    Political career

    In 1878, Sir Syed was nominated to the Viceroy's Legislative Council.[18] 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).[7]

    However, Sir Syed's political views were shaped by a strong aversion to the emerging nationalist movement, which was composed largely of Hindus. Sir Syed opposed the Indian National Congress (created in 1885) on the grounds that it was a Hindu-majority organisation, calling on Muslims to stay away from it.[19] 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:[20][21]

    "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 Koran 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…"[21]

    Sir Syed Ahmed Khan lived the last two decades of his life in Aligarh, regarded widely as the mentor of 19th- and 20th century Muslim intellectuals and politicians. He remained the most influential Muslim politician in India, with his opinions guiding the convictions of a large majority of Muslims.[citation needed] Battling illnesses and old age, Sir Syed died on March 27, 1898. He was buried besides Sir Syed Masjid inside the campus of the Aligarh university. His funeral was attended by thousands of students, Muslim leaders and British officials. Sir Syed is widely commemorated across South Asia as a great Muslim reformer and visionary.[7]

    His fierce criticism of the Congress and Indian nationalists created rifts between Muslims and Hindus.[19] At the same time, Sir Syed sought to politically ally Muslims to the British government. An avowed loyalist of the British Empire, Sir Syed was nominated as a member of the Civil Service Commission in 1887 by Lord Dufferin. In 1888, he established the United Patriotic Association at Aligarh to promote political co-operation with the British and Muslim participation in the government. Syed Ahmed Khan was knighted by the British government in 1888 and in the following year he received an LL.D. honoris causa from the Edinburgh University.[7]

    The university he founded remains one of India's most prominent institutions. Prominent alumni of Aligarh include Muslim political leaders Maulana Mohammad Ali, Abdur Rab Nishtar, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulvi Abdul Haq, who is hailed in Pakistan as Baba-e-Urdu (Father of Urdu). The first two Prime Ministers of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan and Khawaja Nazimuddin, as well as the late Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, are amongst Aligarh's most famous graduates. In India, Sir Syed is commemorated as a pioneer who worked for the socio-political upliftment of Indian Muslims, though his views on Hindu-Muslim issues are a subject of controversy. Sir Syed is also hailed as a founding father of Pakistan for his role in developing a Muslim political class independent of Hindu-majority organisations. The Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology was established in honour of Sir Syed in Karachi and is a leading technical institution in Pakistan. Furthermore, Sir Syed Government Girls College in Karachi, Pakistan is also named in the honour of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.


    He is criticized for supporting British Imperialists during the War of Independence (1857) in which Indian masses rose up against the foreign rule. He also worked as government’s spy and was indirectly responsible for the hangings of several freedom fighters. He always used the term ‘revolt’ for this uprising and at one place in his book on the uprising he went even further and called it a ‘haramzadgi’ [a vulgar deed].[citation needed]

    Supporters of Sir Syed contend that his political vision gave an independent political expression to the Muslim community, which aided its goal of securing political power in India.[17] His philosophy guided the creation of the All India Muslim League in 1906, as a political party separate from the Congress. Sir Syed's ideas inspired both the liberal, pro-British politicians of the Muslim League and the religious ideologues of the Khilafat struggle. The Muslim League remained at odds with the Congress and continued to advocate the boycott of the Indian independence movement. In the 1940s, the student body of Aligarh committed itself to the establishment of Pakistan and contributed in large measure to the activities of the Muslim League.[citation needed] Sir Syed's patronage of Urdu led to its widespread use amongst Indian Muslim communities and following the Partition of India its adoption as the official language of Pakistan, even though Bengali and Punjabi were more prevalent at the time.

    Any links on Sir syed Ahmad Khan or any links about books written by him are welcome.

  • 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.

    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.

    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.

  • The War of Independence 1857 ended in disaster for the Muslims. The British chose to believe that the Muslims were responsible for the anti-British uprising; therefore they made them the subject of ruthless punishments and merciless vengeance. The British had always looked upon the Muslims as their adversaries because they had ousted them from power. With the rebellion of 1857, this feeling was intensified and every attempt was made to ruin and suppress the Muslims forever. Their efforts resulted in the liquidation of the Mughal rule and the Sub-continent came directly under the British crown.

    After dislodging the Muslim rulers from the throne, the new rulers, the British, implemented a new educational policy with drastic changes. The policy banned Arabic, Persian and religious education in schools and made English not only the medium of instruction but also the official language in 1835. This spawned a negative attitude amongst the Muslims towards everything modern and western, and a disinclination to make use of the opportunities available under the new regime. This tendency, had it continued for long, would have proven disastrous for the Muslim community.

    Seeing this atmosphere of despair and despondency, Sir Syed launched his attempts to revive the spirit of progress within the Muslim community of India. He was convinced that the Muslims in their attempt to regenerate themselves, had failed to realize the fact that mankind had entered a very important phase of its existence, i.e., an era of science and learning. He knew that the realization of the very fact was the source of progress and prosperity for the British. Therefore, modern education became the pivot of his movement for regeneration of the Indian Muslims. He tried to transform the Muslim outlook from a medieval one to a modern one.

    Sir Syed's first and foremost objective was to acquaint the British with the Indian mind; his next goal was to open the minds of his countrymen to European literature, science and technology.

    Therefore, in order to attain these goals, Sir Syed launched the Aligarh Movement of which Aligarh was the center. He had two immediate objectives in mind: to remove the state of misunderstanding and tension between the Muslims and the new British government, and to induce them to go after the opportunities available under the new regime without deviating in any way from the

    Keeping education and social reform as the two planks of his program, he launched the Aligarh Movement with the following objectives:

    1. To create an atmosphere of mutual understanding between the British government and the Muslims.

    2. To persuade Muslims to learn English education.

    3. To persuade Muslims to abstain from politics of agitation.

    4. To produce an intellectual class from amongst the Muslim community.

    Fortunately, Syed Ahmad Khan was able to attract into his orbit a number of sincere friends who shared his views and helped him. Among them were well-known figures like Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, Hali, Shibli, Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, Chiragh Ali, Mohammad Hayat, and Zakaullah. Above all, his gifted son Syed Mahmud, a renowned scholar, jurist and educationist, was a great source of help to him.

    Syed Ahmad also succeeded in enlisting the services of a number of distinguished English professors like Bech, Morison, Raleigh and Arnold who gave their best in building up the Aligarh College into a first-rate institution.

    Besides his prominent role in the educational uplift of the Muslims, Syed Ahmad Khan's writings played an important role in popularizing the ideals for which the Aligarh stood. His essay on "The Causes of Indian Revolt in 1858", and other writings such as "Loyal Muhammadans of India", Tabyin-ul-Kalam and "A Series of Essays on the Life of Muhammad and Subjects Subsidiary Therein" helped to create cordial relations between the British Government and the Indian Muslims. They also helped to remove misunderstandings about Islam and Christianity.

    It was from this platform that Syed Ahmad Khan strongly advised the Muslims against joining the Hindu dominated Congress. He was in favor of reserved seats for Muslims and also promoted the idea that Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nations. This idea led to the Two-Nation Theory.

    Syed Ahmad Khan's Aligarh Movement played a significant role in bringing about an intellectual revolution among the Indian Muslims. Thus it succeeded in achieving its major objectives, i.e. educational progress and social reform. His efforts earned Sir Syed the title "Prophet of Education".


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  • "had he not been convincing indian muslims to get modern education instead of stone age madrissas, the nation still would be sweeping streats under hindu masters"

    A fact many modern Pakistanis don't understand and accept! They think Hindus are not our enemy! They would have kept us in 'good shape' if Pakistan had not been created!

    Anyhow this thread is not for this discussion. Sir Syed was the first light that Muslims of sub-continent saw in those dark ages. Mughal era before that had been blind to what was happening in Europe during that time. They were inventing new methods of having s**, new kushtas and Europe was empowering their people, armies and economies. Yes had it not been Sir Syed, people like me would have been in entirely different condition. I see a direct effect of Sir Syed's effort on my life. I wish we have some modern time/new version/autar/naya janam of Sir Syed. We miss him!

  • He was also instrumental urging people to learn English. Learning English was shunned by the clergy during those days, under a pretext of English being a language of the 'enemy'. He managed a breakthrough by turning the tide saying 'You wan't to know and fight your enemy, than learn his language'.



    Ibrahim Kalin

    Islamic modernism, of which the Aligarh movement is a part, represents one of the most active and colourful periods of Islamic history. The subject, that is Islamic modernism and the courses of the Islamic thought in the modern period, has its problems and ambiguities. It is still not clear what meanings the term ‘modernism’ conveys in Western and Islamic contexts; alongside modernism, what meanings the terms ‘modernity’ and ‘modernization’ have; whether the contemporary Islamic thought is a product of its own tradition or of the Western modernism or a mixture of the two and so and so froth. These questions which can be multiplied point to the necessity of a proper method and set of definitions for the study of modern Islam. With out a convenient methodology and contextualization, evaluation of the ideas and movements right from the attempts in the Ottoman state down to the intellectual modernism and Westernization in the subcontinent would remain incomplete.

    As agreed upon, it is methodologically impossible to separate the life and work of Syed Ahmad Khan from the history of Aligarh due to two main reasons. Firstly, it was Syed who first thought, planned and carried out the Aligarh educational reform movement together with its sub-institutions such as M. A. O. College, M. A. O. College Educational Congress and Aligarh. Secondly, the passing away of Syed in 1898 signifies the beginning of the process of fading away of the most radical modernist and rationalist ideas of Syed from Aligarh. Furthermore, the educational and reformist ideas of Syed’s colleagues who had been intimate supporters of him through out his life have never been as much radical as Syed envisaged with a few exceptions. Finally, the moment Aligarh was taken over by a traditional scholar points to the end of Syed’s period whose influence was to appear time to time in the posterity down to Iqbal.

    The Mutiny of 1857 was a turning point not only in the modern history of Indian Islam but also in the course of Syed’s life. His dormant or at least latent feelings of being loyal to the British Rule became explicit after the Mutiny. He denounced the Mutiny as a justified Muslim reaction and considered it as one of the worst events Indian Muslims could ever suffer from. He wrote a book, Asbab-i Baghawat-i Hind, to explain the conditions and reasons of the Mutiny wherein he accused the both sides. This reaction was the starting point of Syed’s intellectual and political loyalty to the British Rule and culture which was to result in repudiation of and kind of resistance or counter-movement whatsoever coming either from Muslims or from Hindus. Considering the political favouritism of the British for the Hindus and the decadent situation of the Muslims[1], Syed tried to bring about a modus vivendi between the rulers and the Muslims in order to improve the political, cultural and educational level of the Muslim population. In line with this out and out loyalty, Syed rejected and acted even against the moderate opposition movements such as the Indian National Congress (founded in 1885) and the National Muhammadan Association (founded by Amir Ali in 1887) both of which were meant to be an official forum to express the demands of the Muslims for the Government. His loyalism led him to the extreme of depicting the British Rule in India as the most wonderful phenomenon the world has even seen. This was justified in his mind by the fact that loyalty to the British Rule springs not from servile submission to a foreign rule, but form genuine appreciation of the blessings of a good government.[2] This staunch political loyalism sent Syed to the point of denouncing the leadership of the Ottoman state over Muslims as the Caliphate. He even went further and reacted against Pan-Islamist ideas and attempts issuing either from inside or outside India. At this point Syed’s stance concerning the leadership of the Caliphate was really unique and syncretic, because, historically speaking, the reign of Abdul al-Hamid II was marked by an all-inclusive Pan-Islamist foreign policy which was in line with the common sentiment of the ummah at that time. Such rigid attitudes of Syed and its repercussions on the Muslim community of India and other regions were to be one of the main reasons of the severe reaction of the ulama and their declaration of Syed as ‘kafir’.[3]

    What Syed was bearing in his mind was not a mere political activity devoid of intellectual and theological basis –a point common to all modern reform attempts and movements with in the Islamic world. Equivalent of Syed’s loyalism in political domain was an uncompromising modernism in intellectual sphere. He urged the Muslims to reinterpret the old traditions and religious beliefs in the light of the eighteenth century empiricism and of the latest developments in natural sciences. He set out to bring about a rationalist/empiricist theology based solely on positivistic understanding of science and this was really a new phenomenon in the Islamic world. Syed’s rationalism, though similar in some respects, differed from the Mu‘tazilites’ in its emphasize on empirical and methodological principles of science.[4] Philosophically speaking, to give a rational foundation to religion by appealing to the empirical findings and principle of natural sciences was something novel and to a certain extent peculiar to Syed’s modernism.

    Having based his whole speculative studies on a purely rationalist theology, Syed declared that religion and science are in full agreement in every respect. The word of God, that is the Revelation and religion cannot contradict the work of God, that is nature. It is not possible that what He declares be opposed to what He has created, or vice versa. “In some places we have called the speech of God word âf gâd and have called what He has created vark âf gâd and have said that agreement between the word and work is essential. If the word is not according to the work, then such word cannot be the word of God.”[5] By the work of God, Syed understood what the positivists and scientists of his time understood by it: Nature and natural laws which, being unchangeable, constitute the firm basis of all epistemological and theological claims. Laws of nature are as prefect and firm as religion in its structure and function. Its ‘perfection’ is guaranteed by the perfection of God. …the violation of that law of nature, so long as that law exists, is impossible. If it does occur then it implies defect of the perfect attributes of God, the creating essence. Making these promises and setting up a universe a law of nature cannot be contrary to the absoluteness and infinitude of his power.[6]

    Looking from within, Syed’s views on the nature of revelation, prophecy, angels (‘divine moral support’), jins (‘savage tribes’), devils (‘dark passions’), prayer, etc. and other religious matters such as the transmission of the sayings of the Prophet and abrogation in the Qur’an could be explained as an extension of the ideas of the Mu‘tazilites. But his intellectual modernism was something more. Alongside other modernist movements in Egypt and Turkey, Syed and his generation shared or rather suffered from a common point that is the loss of self-confidence stemming from civilization-identity and consciousness. The fact that Islamic world was the ‘defeated side’ in this confrontation explains one of the reasons of the rise of apologetic literature of the time. Like his counterparts such as Namik Kemal in Turkey and Abduh in Egypt, Syed too involved in some apologetic and polemical disputes with the Orientalists.

    Second and more essential characteristics of the modernist Muslims was their conviction that the same principles which had brought the Islamic civilization to its pinnacle were lost to Muslims but discovered by and transmitted to the West. The import and incorporation of these principles were believed to be neither an estrangement nor an acculturation. Appropriation of these principles was regarded the urgent need of the Islamic world for its re-birth. The notorious distinction between ‘Western science and technology’ and ‘Western culture’ was the common strategy of this feeling. But this point discloses also one of the weakest sides of the modernist thinkers, that is their knowledge of West and Islam. Those thinkers who initiated and followed the modernist line did not know either the Western world or the Islamic tradition properly. This was very clear in Syed’s case. According to the information provided by his close friend and official biographer, Hali, Syed knew neither English which was necessary for the ‘establishment of a new theology’. If it is true that to live in an environment (say in the Islamic world) does not necessarily mean to know it, Syed can safely be said to have had no necessary and sufficient knowledge of both the traditions. This lack of proper knowledge of the both worlds led them to an over simplification of the confrontation between the old and the new, or better said, oversimplification of the transition from an old and deep-rooted sphere to a totally new and alien area. This simplification and relegation of the confrontation of the two civilizations to a simple and steady modernization (Westernization) kept them away from grasping the real nature of the clash and the importance of the period they went through.

    Syed’s denouncement of the Islamic tradition as unsatisfactory for the needs of the modern times was a natural consequence of his rationalism. This negative attitude towards history and tradition, however, is not peculiar to his modernism but common to almost all rationalisms, Western or Islamic. In a sense every rationalism has to break away with the sense of time as history and tradition. Because, as far as the basic principles of reason and inferences from it are concerned, history in the broadest sense of the word is not a necessary constituent of the ‘rational constructions’ of reason. Point of reference in rationalism is a closed-system having no necessary link with tradition which is, for the rationalist, a redundant burden over reason. Within this context, the present (the ‘modern’) as Habermas points out, ‘enjoys a prominent position as contemporary history.’[7] This lack of the sense of time and history can be observed in almost all modernist thinkers and in their religious and philosophical ideas.[8] As a matter of fact, modernist’s references to history and their seemingly connection with the tradition (Syed’s references to and quotations from Shah Waliullah, for instance) are not an essential part of their way of thinking but rather something emotional and necessary for some other reasons.[9]

    Alongside all these political and theological ideas and stances, education was Syed’s real field of struggle. He was emphatic that education was the underlying ground of all reforms for improvement and rehabilitation of the Muslim community. Having this firm conviction in his concrete educational endeavours. Aligarh College and M. A. O. Educational Congress were established in 1881 and 1886 respectively. Aligarh was open to all, Muslim or non-Muslim. Syed tried to attract the Muslim population to the College. But since the general discourse of the school was shaped by Syed’s political and ideological stance which we summarized above, attitude of the Muslim community was not affirmative towards the school. Syed (that is, in a sense, the Aligarh itself) faced a formidable reaction. Muslims saw the college as a place aiming at, or at least leading to, the conversion of the Muslim pupils to Christianity under the name of Western culture and customs.[10] They believed that ‘the philosophy and logic taught in the English language was at variance with the tenets of Islam and they looked upon ‘the study of English by a Musalman as a little than the embracing of Christianity’.[11] Syed’s diagnosis for this reaction was conservatism and bigotry despite the fact that the reaction of the deemed it to be true.

    As stated earlier, Syed had many colleagues who have supported him in his intellectual and educational reforms. The generation of Syed which was deeply influenced by him included such names as Chirag Ali, Sayyid Mahdi Ali (known rather as Muhsin al-Mulk), Zakaullah, Nazir Ahmad and for a certain period of time, M. Shibli Nu‘mani. These figures of the Aligarh movement as the considerable disciples of Syed contributed to the spreading of his ideas either by writing in the Tahdhib al-Akhlaq, the official journal of the movement or composing some other distinct treatise and books in defense of their modernist ideas. They were not creative and original in disclosing and finding out new more comprehensive and feasible solutions other than what Syed has already proposed. They were rather instrumental in the exposition and consolidation of these ideas. Like their master, their preoccupation were mainly social, political and educational reforms As a leitmotif of the modernist movement, they are insisted on the reform and renovation of the classical juridical system through which the usual practice about slavery, women, polygamy, authority of the classical ulama, adjustment to the new condition, etc. would be revisited and extensively modified. Chirag Ali, the ardent follower and propagandist of Syed’s ideas, wrote a book titled Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms in the Ottoman Empire (1883) with such a feeling as that ‘I have endeavoured to show in this book that Mohammedanism as taught by Mohammad, the Arabian Prophet, possesses sufficient elasticity to enable it to adopt itself to the social and political revolutions going on around it’.[12] In line with this mood he conceived of the classical Islamic law, that is fiqh, not as canonical but as common law.[13] This construal of fiqh was strategically necessary in order to pave the way for reformation and modernization in this field. Corollary of this stance was his denouncing hadith literature as distorted and unreliable. He followed Syed in the idea that the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) were transmitted not literally, this was impossible, but as meaning, that is to say by the words and rearrangements of the transmitter. It can be seen in this effort that the main propose was to open a way and to justify the reformation of all juridical and hadith literature.

    Muhsin al-Mulk, the other close friend and advocator of Syed, held a more moderate attitude towards traditional ideas. He was not in full agreement with Syed on the principles of exegesis, the nature of supernatural beings cited in the Qur’an and the absolute status of the natural laws. Syed had stuck to the laws of nature for the verification of the religious belief at the expense of this belief itself. Unlike Syed’s radicalism, Muhsin al-Mulk developed a more modest approach and did not take the laws of nature as immutable, absolute and immune of any explained by having reference to these exceptions. Moreover, he added, laws of nature didn’t have any clear-cut definition in the West. Therefore complete dependence on the laws of nature had to be faced critically.[14] Alongside his intellectual position, Muhsin al-Mulk appeared in the political area as one of the forerunners of the Muslim separatism in the Subcontinent. He publicly rejected the political and religious leadership of the Ottoman State as the Caliphate and considered India as a separate region. Needless to say that this was to prepare the way for independent Muslim Pakistan in 1947.

    Altaf Husain Hali, the official biographer of Syed, assumed an another stance towards the decadent situation of the Muslim community and contrasted it not with the ‘glorious and enlightened’ Western civilization but with the brilliant history of Islam. In comparison with the uncompromising ideas of modernism of the time, his path of thinking was inward and from within. He described the misery of the community in his famous poem Musaddas in a beautiful way. His book on Syed’s life, Hayat-i-Javid, and his other literary works were the main contributions to the Aligarh as well as to the modern Urdu literature.

    Aligrarh Muslim college was given the status of university in 1920. As stated earlier, it was taken over by a traditional (ist) scholar from Deoband, Shibli Nu‘mani who taught in the college during the lifetime of Syed too. But since be had almost no appeal to Syed’s modernist ideas, his rule gave a new (or old!) shape to the college which was drastically different from what Syed has thought. As Fazlur Rahman points out, this resulted in that ‘the modern never really met with the traditional, which remained extremely peripheral to the academic life of the institution… Concerning the dream of Syed Ahmad Khan…to re-fertilize Islamic thought and create a new science of theology vibrant with a new and potent Islamic message, Aligarh was doomed to failure from the very start.’[15] Nevertheless Aligarh, apart from the intellectual in the Islamic world, was to have a considerable share in the creation of Pakistan.


    As stated before, the term ‘modernism’ has different connotations when used for Islamic and Western contexts. The same principle holds true for the terms ‘modernity’ and ‘modernization’. In the west, the general discourse of the Enlightenment has provided the intellectual background and basis of modernism. The roots of the modern way of thinking go back to Descartes and reach at its peak in Kant and Hegel. Philosophical and intellectual establishment of the discourse of modernism was preceded by the scholastic age and in that sense it was, as its advocators tend to believe, unique. An absolute subject-centred epistemology, establishment of the ontological reality on the basis of epistemological principles and results of reason and science, ‘oblivion of Being’ over against beings as Heidegger says, formation of the external world as a perfection (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy’), reduction of the continuity of the march of time to a new ‘start’ and ‘renaissance’ etc. were the basic parameters of modernism as an intellectual discourse. The so-called all-encompassing project of modernism was brought into practice by such historical events as the French revolution, formation of the nation-states, industrialization, colonialism, etc. In the intellectual sphere the process of modernization was accompanied by the disenchantment of nature and secularization[16] whereby the abstract imaginations of modernism are realized and made manifest in its all possible forms. Therefore modernity’s project of reality, life and society presents itself as a blend of these three dimensions.

    Unlike the western transformation which we just outlined very roughly, the rise of Islamic modernism followed a different course. Islamic modernism was an outcome of Islam’s encounter with modernity. What modernity meant to the Islamic world was not a mood or state imbued with the psychology of modernism but was an encounter and confrontation with a new violent power, with colonialism, with ideological attacks on values and beliefs. At this juncture the Indian subcontinent was the first part of Islamdom to encounter with ‘modernity’: Coming of the East India Company, disintegration of the Mughul empire, campaigns of the missionaries and the establishment of the British rule in India as the mighty power. Ottoman state, that is the centre of the Caliphate, was not exception. What it saw for the first time as ‘modern’ were western imperialism, loss and destruction of the Islamic lands, missionaries, Pan-Slavism, the rise of nationalism in Muslim lands, etc. All these encounters brought the Islamic world to ‘modernization’, that is reform attempts in social, political, economic and military matters. This can easily be seen in the reform proposals (layiha) in the Ottoman state and in the case of Muhammad Ali in Egypt. What the Islamic world has understood from modernization was neither the realization of modernism nor the internalization of modernization was neither the realization of modernism nor the internalization of modernity; it was a slow, presumably clumsy but at least careful move to face up to modernity. Islamic modernism appeared after this process of transformation.

    This last point tells us something about one of the basic parameters of Islamic modernism. Unlike the western modernism flourished from the Enlightenment, Islamic modernism was a response to the encounter with modernity. In that sense Islamic world in general Islamic modernism in particular did not produce a discourse of ‘Enlightenment’ to bring about its ‘historical self-grounding’. Expect some thinkers who were completely westernized, Muslim intelligentsia of the time never came face to face with the intellectual discourse of modernity. What was essential for them was what they needed for the modernization of the Islamic world: Western science and technology. As is clear from the examples of the Ottoman state and Egypt, first Muslim response to the encounter with modernity was not modernism but modernization. This means that modernism was not modernism but modernization. This means that modernism in the Islamic world was not an unavoidable outcome of the intellectual and civilizational crisis of the Islamdom, if there was such a thing at all, whereas Western modernism was to bring about a very substantial as well as catastrophic transformation within Christendom. The raison d’etre of modernism in the Islamic world was to pave the way to modernization and reform movements. As we see in Aligarh generation, main problems of modernism were and still are such social issues as the law of inheritance, polygamy, cutting off the hand, manners of dress, lifestyle, etc., which, when translated into the language of Islam, fall within the confines of jurisprudence (fiqh). But the transformation which modernism created in the west was so substantial and irreversible that the basic premises of modernity have become the distinctive elements of Western ‘subconscious’ mind. As one can see from Foucault’s analysis of power and will to power, Western civilization can no longer strip itself of the underlying categories of modernity for any past or future scheme even if it is accepted as an ‘unfinished project’.

    As for modernism in the Islamic world, the difference between ‘modernism’ and ‘modernization’ and modernism as a ‘modernization movement’ points to the fact that modernism was and is not an intrinsic part of the Islamic welthenschauung and that it has the potential and possibility to confront with and face up to the so-called universal values of modernity have become the common and indispensable ground of the consciousness of the modern world and that no escape is possible from this destiny.

    By way of conclusion, one can say that modernism is essentially devoid of a philosophical content. Modernism’s concern with its intellectual foundations is to be carried out. Granted that the tradition has always underlined the opposite of this strategy, the tension between the modernist’s project of reality and tradition’s commitment to the principles becomes clear. This was apparent in the Aligarh generation. Their starting point has always been the legal issues for whose justification they had to formulate some theological principles. Nevertheless the Aligarh has been a remarkable experience in Islam’s path of overcoming modernity


    [1] Disadvantageous situation of the Muslims of India over against the Hindu community became clearer, as Fazlur Rahman mentions, when some Hindus demanded the replacement of Hindu language with Urdu as the official vernacular after the Mutiny. See F. Rahman, “Muslim Modernism In the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent” in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. XXI, 1958, p. 86.

    [2] Speeches and Addresses relating to Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (Aligarh, 1888), pp. 24-31; quoted in A. Ahamd, Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan (1857-1964), p. 33.

    [3] Apart from Jamaluddin Afghani’s verdict about him as ‘dahri’ (materialist), Indian ulama under the leadership of Moulve Imdad-ul-Ali and Moulve Ali Bukhsh got afatwa from the ulama of Mecca declaring Syed as ‘kafir’. The style of expression in the fatwa is worth quoting. ‘This man is misguided and misleads others; in fact he is the Khalifa of Satan for he intends to mislead the Muslims and his mischief is worse than that of Christians and Jews. May God punish him. The (Muslim) ruler of the place should punish him. Hali, Hayat-i Javid, p.254; quoted in Shan Muhammad, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, 1969, p.72. Strange enough, Syed’s reaction to this verdict was very smooth.

    [4] Syed’s own statement of this combination (infact misleading oversimplification) reads as follows: Philosophy will be in our right hand, natural science in our left, and the crown of ‘There is no deity save God, Muhammad is the messenger o f God’ on our head !’ Troll, Sayyid Ahammd, p. 218.

    [5] Principles of Exegesis, The Fourteenth Principle, p.34; in A. Ahmad & von Grunebaum Muslim Self-statement in India and Pakistan, Wiesbaden, 1970.

    [6] Ibid., p. 29 The resemblance between Syed’s description of nature and the Enlightenment’s notion of the ‘perfect nature’ is striking here. Perfection of God has been replaced with this perfection of nature in the Enlightenment thinkers. For an account of the Enlightenment’s construal of the perfection of nature and God, see E. Cassier, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, pp. 37-92. Both in western and Muslim modernist thinkers, natural sciences and their methodologies derive their firmness and exactitude from this notion of the perfection of nature. Unchangeable and permanent structure of nature and natural laws is a consequence of this perfection. To state as a note, since then the idea of perfection of nature has gone through a substantial change.

    [7] The philosophical Discourse of Modernity, tr. by F. Lawrence (The MIT Press Cambridge, 1992), p. 6. In fact the literature of ‘the end of history’ goes back to this construal of time and present. Hegel, for instance, declared his time ‘as the last stage in History’ due to the completion of the self-grounding of reason in its historical track. The Philosophy of History (New York, 1956), p. 442. The reflection of this on Muslim modernism would be to denounce the tradition on the basis of the tacit claim that the present movement has come closer than ever to the ‘real authentic understanding’ of the religion since the first generation.

    [8] Although it is the subject of an another investigation, we can point very briefly to some similarities between modernity’s consciousness of time in the west and the sense of history in modernist Muslim thinkers. In both schools tradition has been seen as a burden and obstacle on the new creation and reconstruction of the philosophical and religious credo. Both have seen their emergence as unique and incomparable in their history to the extent that most of the enlightenment thinkers have depicted their allergy to such words. The ‘light of the reason’ could not arise out of the reason. Lastly and most importantly, modernity (in the west) and modernism (in the Islamic world) had to bring about its ‘self –grounding’ without having any recourse to the experience and tradition of the past. What Hegel believed as the duty of Philosophy apart from its classical connotations was the justification of this ‘modernity’. Among others, Hegel’s below description of the ‘new age’ is a specimen of this attitude: ‘It is surely not difficult to see that our time is a birth and transition to a new period. The Spirit has broken with what was hitherto he world of its existence and imagination and is about to submerge all this in the past; it is at work giving itself a new form. ‘Phenomenology of Mind, preface. Syed explains the principles of Aligarh college on a different fashion but with a similar mood: ‘The object of the college was to impart liberal education to the Muslims, so that they may appreciate the blessings of the British rule, ‘to dispel those illusory traditions of the past which have hindered our (Muslims’) progress; to remove those prejudices which have hitherto exercised a baneful influence of our race; to reconcile oriental learning with Western literature and science; to inspire in the dreamy minds of the dreamy minds of the people of the East the practical energy which belongs to those of the West … ‘S. Muhammad, op., cit., p. 67.

    [9] Importance of the ‘lebenswelt’ (life-world) of culture and civilization should be recalled here. As is clear from the writings and activities of the Young Turks and nationalists in Turkey, those who were passionately in favour of reform and modernization, either by affirming or denouncing the tradition, had to use the same language with the tradition due to the determinative power of the life-world. As happened at Aligarh in India, when a Muslim student was converted to Christianity in an American college in Bursa around 1925 or so, the college was immediately closed for ever by the order of the secular republican government of Mustafa Kemal despite the historical fact that at that time all gates of Turkey were open to western culture at the expense of the deep-rooted Islamic tradition.

    [10] This identification of western culture with the religion of Christianity is remarkable characteristic of the Muslim community of that time. In Turkey as well as in the Subcontinent, there was no such a thing as, ‘western culture and civilization’ distinct from the Christianity. Such Islamist thinkers in Turkey as Ahmed Cuvdet Pasha, Said Halim Pasha, and Mehmed Akif and the traditionalist muslims of India have never accepted western values as universal, all-encompassing and applicable to the Muslim communities. Until the rise of modernism in the Muslim world, modernism and Christianity were the same thing going back to the same source.

    [11] S. Muhammad, op. cit., p.57.

    [12] Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms in the Ottoman Empire and Other Muhammadan States, Bombay, 1883, p. ii; quoted in W. C. Smith, Modern Islam in India, London, 1946, p.29.

    [13] A. Ahmad, Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan 1857-1964, Oxford Uni. Press, 1967, p.61.

    [14] Disagreement between the two can be seen from their correspondence around 1892. See, Muslim Self-Statement in India and Pakistan, pp.39-42

    [15] Islam and Modernity, The University of Chicago Press, 1982, p,74.

    [16] This transformation and shift to modernity can ve followed from Weber, The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York, 1985), p. 25; for a succinct account of this process see S. M. N. al-Attas, Islam and Secularism (Kuala Lumpur, 1978), pp.13-47.

    Journal of the Iqbal Academy Pakistan

    April 2003 – Volume: 44 – Number: 2

  • east india company and her employees have gone long ago...modernists failed long time ago because they had to take refuge in the call of Islam.

  • jjkhan sir syed was labeled a kafir like Iqbal and Jinnah by people with closed minds. I understand and respect where you are coming from.

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