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Sir Syed needs no recognition

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) a Muslim educator, jurist, political analyst, prolific writer and the first and foremost Muslim educational reformer, was the founder of Aligarh Muslim University.  His seminal works include Essays on the Life of Mohammed (1870), Aasaar-e-Sanadid (Monuments of the Great), The Causes of Indian Mutiny (Asbab-e Baghawat-e Hind), and commentaries on the Bible(Tabyeen al-Kalam) and on the Qur’an (Tafseer-ul Qur’an).

The ultimate aim of Sir Syed’s life, however, was education. Education for the downtrodden and backward. Education for those who feared education. Education for those too who opposed him. Education for the generations to come. He started it by establishing schools at Moradabad (1858) and Ghazipur (1863). A more motivated undertaking was the formation of the Scientific Society, which published translations of many educational texts and published a bilingual journal in Urdu and English. These institutions were for the use of all citizens and were jointly run by the Hindus and Muslims.

During a visit to England (1869-70) he prepared his plans for a great educational institution for Muslims of India, modelled on the Cambridge University.  On his return he set up a committee for this purpose and also started a persuasive journal, Tahzeeb ul Akhlaq for the uplift and rectification of the Muslim community.

A Muslim school was established at Aligarh in May 1875. After his retirement in 1876, Sir Syed devoted himself to turning it into a college. In January 1877, the foundation stone of the college was laid by the viceroy. In spite of conservative opposition to his projects, the college (Mohammaden Anglo Oriental College), which later became Aligarh Muslim University, made a speedy progress. In 1886, he organised the All-India Mohammadan Educational Conference, which would meet annually at different places to promote education.

Sir Syed was knighted by the British government in 1888 and in the following year he received an LL.D. honoris causa from the Edinburgh University.

The university he founded remains one of India’s most prominent educational institutions. It has been accredited A Grade recently by NAAC. Prominent alumni of Aligarh Muslim University include Muslim political leaders Maulana Mohammad Ali, Abdur Rab Nishtar, Maulana Shaukat Ali, and Maulvi Abdul Haq(Considered Father of Urdu in Pakistan), the first two prime ministers of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan and Khawaja Nazimuddin, as well as the Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Today we have the horrid spectacle of some misguided souls asking for ‘Barat Ratna’ for Sir Syed. Such demands are an affront to the memory of this stalwart.

 His dream is aptly articulated in his saying, “ Sons (of AMU) shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the message of free enquiry, of large hearted toleration and of pure morality”. In one of his messages for the students of the MAO College wherein he says “Oh My dear children, You have reached a particular stage and remember one thing that when I undertook the task, there was criticism all around against me, abuses were hurled upon me, life had become so difficult for me that I aged before my age, I lost my hair, my eyesight, but not my vision. My vision never dimmed, my determination never failed, I built this institution for you and I am sure, you will carry the light of this institution far and wide, darkness will disappear from all around.”

According to him “The first requisite for the progress of a nation is the brotherhood and unity amongst sections of the society”. He further said that “We (Hindus and Muslims) eat the same crop, drink water from the same rivers and breathe the same air. As a matter of fact Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan. Weakness of any one of them will spoil the beauty of the bride”.

Undoubtedly, he was not only a champion of education but one of peace and human brotherhood too. His memory must never be dragged through dirt with petty demands.

Mujahid Ul Islam
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2015 on page no. 2

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