Sunday, October 19, 2008

Importance of being Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

by Badruddin khan

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the greatest Muslim reformer and statesman of the 19th Century, was born in Delhi on October 17, 1817. His family, though progressive, was highly regarded by the dying Mughal dynasty and had close contacts with the Mughal court on both the maternal and the paternal sides. While 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. Moreover his father, Mir Muttaqi, who received an allowance from the Mughal administration, had been close to Akbar Shah since the days of his prince-hood and his maternal grand father had twice served as prime minister of the Mughal emperor of his time and had also held positions of trust under the East India Company. Syed’s brother, Syed Muhammad, established one of the first printing presses at Delhi and started one of the earlier newspapers in Urdu, the principal language of the then Muslims of northern India.

Though 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 indicate that he belonged to a highly connected family and was different from other local boys of the time, although 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. Syed Ahmad's mother, Aziz-un-Nisa, took a great interest in the education and upbringing of her son. As admitted by Sir Syed himself, his mother imposed a rigid discipline and kept strict supervision on him which counted for much in the formation of his character. Sir Syed received his education under the prevalent traditional 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 male 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.
The death of Syed’s father left the family in financial difficulties, and after a limited education Syed had no option but to work for livelihood of his family. Thus at the age of 18 or 19 his formal education came to an end but he continued his studies privately and started taking a keen interest in the literary gatherings and cultural activities of the city. The young Syed started looking for a career at the early age of 21 and decided to enter the service of the East India Company. Starting 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 and in 1867 he was promoted and posted as the judge of the Small Causes Court.

Syed Ahmed had a versatile personality, and his position in the judicial department provided him ample time to be active in many fields. His career as an author (in Urdu) started at the age of 23 with religious tracts. In 1847 he brought out a noteworthy book, Asarussanadid ("Monuments of the Great"), on the antiquities of Delhi. Even more important was his pamphlet "The Causes of the Indian Revolt" in which he had explained the weakness and errors of the British administration that had led to dissatisfaction among masses and countrywide mutiny. However, during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 he had not only taken the side of the British government but also had saved lives of his immediate British officers. Widely read by British officials, the said pamphlet imparted considerable influence on British Policy. His interest in religion was also active and lifelong. He began a sympathetic interpretation of the Bible, wrote Essay on the Life of Muhammad (PBUH) (translated into English by his son), and founded time to write several volumes of a modernist commentary on the Quran. In these works he sought to harmonize the Islamic faith with scientific and politically progressive ideas of his time.
Sir Syed's greatest achievement was his Aligarh Movement, which was primarily an educational venture. At Muradabad, he established Gulshan School in 1859 and at Ghazipur he founded Victoria School 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 to home he started establishing 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. His institution played a big role in the awareness of the Muslims of South Asia first in the form of M. A. O. High School, then the College and ultimately as the Muslim University.

Unlike other Muslim leaders of his time, Sir Syed was of the view that Muslims should have friendship with the British government if they want to take their due rights. To achieve this he did a lot at his ends. At on hand he tried his level best to convince the Britishers that Muslims were not against them and on the other hand, he tried to convince his community that they could not achieve their goals unless they acquired friendly approach towards the British government. Moreover Sir Syed advised the Muslims of his time not to participate in politics unless and until they equip them with the dire need of the time, the modern education. He was of the firm opinion that Muslims could not succeed in any field without knowing the details of the field. When he was invited to attend the first session of the Indian National Congress and to join the organization, he declined the offer not for any other intention or reason except the fact that he wanted to keep himself spared only for the cause that was dearest to him and a must for his brethren. He also asked the Muslims to keep themselves away from the Congress and its political efforts arguing that, in a country where communal divisions were more important than any thing else and education and political organizations were confined to a few classes, parliamentary democracy would serve no fruitful purpose except working only inequitably. While many Muslims followed his advice and abstained from politics, several prominent Muslim personalities and groups could not control their burning desires to sacrifice even their lives for the cause of their nation and preferred to play leading and decisive role in the freedom movement. In order to provide Muslims with a platform on which they could discuss their political problems, Sir Syed established the Muhammadan Educational Conference. Unfortunately, the impulses and intentions of Sir Syed have been misunderstood and ill-taken by some bigots.

After having worked continuously and endlessly for decades Sir Syed started feeling departing signals from his health and body. In the beginning of 1898 he started keeping abnormally quiet and would not utter a word for hours together even to his friends who loved to visit him. So much so all medical aid proved to be ineffective. His condition became critical on 24th of March and on the morning of March 27; a severe headache further worsened it. This great scholar and leader died the same evening at Aligarh, in the house of his friend and well-wisher, Haji Ismail Khan, who had got him shifted to his place only some days earlier. He was buried the following afternoon in the compound of the Mosque of the then M.A.O. College and now the largest residential hall of the Muslim University, the Sir Syed Hall. Whereas He was mourned by a large number of friends and admirers both within and his community, the workers with whom he loved to remain entangled throughout the day even in scorching sun and his intimate associates with whom he had nothing to share except his feelings and valuable efforts for the cause of the community and nation in general and those of the suffering individuals who had become poor and made their offspring hungry due to their ignorance and arrogance under false claims of superiority and aristocracy.

May Allah Subhanahu-Wa-Ta-ala bless the departed soul with His the best blessings and place him in Jannat-al-Firdous.( Ameen Ya Rabbal-Alameen)


शहरोज़ said...

masha allah deenirujhan k logon ke liye achchi maaloomat fraham kara rahe hain aap.

Sania said...

Yes sar syed was a great person. i like his work.

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