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Biographical Data :

Name :Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
Period :1817 - 1898
Biographical detail : Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, an educational, political and religious reformer was the major formulator of the concept of the "Two-Nation Theory" among Muslims of India in the latter half of the 19th century. As founder of the Muhammdan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh and leader of the Aligarh movement, he attempted to acquaint the British with the Indian mind, next anxiety was to open the minds of his countrymen to European literature, science and technology.

Syed Ahmad’s conviction was that the lethargy, which had crept over the Muslims mind in India owing to its loss of political power, could only be cured by modern education, and the most effective form of modern education was through the medium of the English language and sciences. The stagnation of religious ideals in the peculiar conditions, which prevailed in Muslims India, then could only be removed by a re-interpretation or re-examination of many of the fundamental assumptions of the religious philosophy. That such re-interpretation and re-examination could not ignore the advances of modern Western science, and should in fact welcome that new light as being the logical result of the labours of our own Muslim scientists and philosophers of the golden age of Islam and side by side with an increase in knowledge there should be a development of social life and social institutions on lines that have been tried and found to be successful in the West.

During the 1857 Revolt, Syed Ahmad remained a staunch supporter of the British rule, but afterwards published a sharp critique of British policies and attitudes. The most significant of his literary works of this period were his pamphlets “Loyal Mohammadans of India” and “cause of Indian Revolt.” Syed Ahmad urged the Muslims to avoid `seditious' political activity and, in order to overcome their relative backwardness in education and employment, must win the confidence of the British because that was the only realistic option.

During the 1860s, Syed Ahmad became an active public leader, journalist and orator as well as the founder of a series of schools and associations – all aimed at a cultural renaissance and a moral and social regeneration through adherence to the real Islamic values and reawakening the Muslims to modern thinking and education. His work in Urdu includes Essay on the life of Muhammad and Commentaries on the Bible and on the Qur’an. His book on the antiquities of Delhi Asar-as-sanadid followed, in 1855, by his version of Ain-I-Akbari, the 16th-century work of Akbar’s minister, Abul Fazl, put him among the scholars of the world. His motto was: Educate, educate, educate. Hence he established Gulshan School at Muradabad (1859), Victoria School at Gazipur (1863), a scientific society (1864) and Aligarh Institute Gazette (1866). Following a trip to England in 1869 – 70, Syed Ahmad determined to establish an autonomous Indian Muslim educational system which would prepare a new intellectual leadership grounded in Western knowledge as well as in a reformed Islam. Thus, the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, founded in 1857, and Mohammadan Educational Conference in 1886, became centres of communal unity of Indian Muslims.

Those institutions were established for Muslims, in particular, and other communities of India to acquire an English education without prejudice to their religion. Many Muslims of the time believed that the schools and colleges run by the British were meant for the spread of Christianity and even the study of English by Muslims came close to embracing of Christianity. Syed Ahmad was “the first Indian Muslim to react to the modern age,” according to Muhammad Iqbal.

Sir Syed, as he came to be known, was a man of massive build, oozing with determination and energy, was born in a leading family of Syeds in Delhi and was raised in the religious and cultural style of the Mughal literati and scholastic tradition associated with Shah Waliullah. In defiance of the wishes of his elders, he took service as a subordinate official of the British regime in 1836 and spent next forty years of his life posted in a series of small North Indian towns. At the same time, he took seriously to writing books and pamphlets, which established his reputation as a writer and thinker. Apart from his concept of the “Two Nation Theory” he also believed in Hindu-Muslim unity in India and said: “I have frequently said that India is a beautiful bride and Hindus and Muslims are her two eyes….If one of them is lost, this beautiful bride will become ugly….” Syed Ahmad Khan had left an indelible stamp on the ideology and life of Indian Muslims.
 (Compiler : M N Khan/Ghulam Mohiuddin/Funeela)

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