Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s Contributions to India’s Renaissance

by October 17, 2018 0 comments

Syed Ahmad Khan

Even as India celebrates the 201st birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmad, we should take a moment’s pause and reflect upon his valuable contributions towards empowering India through education and other measures.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was born to a noble Syed family in Delhi on October 17, 1817, and gradually earned the reputation of a distinguished scholar at that time. By the second half of the 19th century, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan became one of the most charismatic and far-sighted person who realised the need to educate the Indians in general and the Indian Muslims in particular. He felt that empowerment came only with knowledge, awareness, character and social identity.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was a dynamic person, a versatile genius, a scholar, social reformer, educationist, historian, archaeologist and linguist who was gifted with a rare vision and intellect. He was one of those pioneering and revolutionary figures of history who shaped the destiny of the nation and also changed the course of history. Sir Syed, a great doyen of education in India, devoted his entire life for the educational upliftment of a community which was despondent, dejected and was socially, economically deplorable after the fall of the Mughal empire.

The aftermath of the tragic events of the mutiny of 1857 had made him ponder deeply about the morass of degradation and chaos into which the Indian Muslims had plunged. Eventually, Sir Syed became the man whom destiny had chosen to play the role of a messiah for the community.  Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was very intelligent and a dedicated person. Even as he had differences of opinion for the opening of a college, he convinced the community that this was the only way to go forward and become successful.

The movement started by him, commonly known as the Aligarh Movement, heralded the era of an intellectual and cultural renaissance for the Indian Muslims. His movement was an offshoot of this and laid the foundation for Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1877 which was later converted to the Aligarh Muslim University in 1920.

Sir Syed’s liberalism and educational thinking found full manifestation in the ideals of the MAO college which were eloquently stated as “free enquiry, pure morality and large-hearted tolerance” at the time when the foundation stone was being laid by the Viceroy, Lord Lytton on January 8, 1877.

Sir Syed was probably the first intellectual who presented the meaning of “culture” as prevalent in the West in the 19th century. He comprehensively defined and also reviewed its element and dynamics which was one of the objectives of his journal Tahzeeb-ul-Akhlaq.  He began with an emphasis on the foundation of Muslim cultural thought on scientific lines and for this purpose, set up the scientific society. It was due to the strong personality and intellectual steadfastness of Sir Syed that educated people began to follow him. Sir Syed Khan in his writings through Tahzeeb-ul-Akhlaq emphasised two things on which the educational vision should be based: Adoption of modern education and moral education.

Sir Syed was a great intellectual, an enlightened and forward-looking educationist, an outstanding literary genius, an erudite theologian, a versatile writer, a fearless journalist, a pragmatic social reformer, an apostle of secularism and Hindu-Muslim unity, and a very distinguished architect for modern India. He was a farsighted and practical man and, hence, realised that India is a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual country. He was, therefore, convinced that the Muslims of our country could not make any worthwhile progress in any sphere of life unless they learn to live in a society which had so many divergent elements in it. Unity in diversity is India’s distinguishing feature. He was not only aware of it but also felt proud of it.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan once said, “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. The weakness of any one of them will spoil the beauty of the bride (dulhan)”.

“We believe in inspiring minds, improving their intellectual capacity and building characters which our students will treasure for their lifetime. We also endeavour to inculcate social values and principles of personal excellence and care for others, said the Vice-Chancellor Professor Tariq Mansoor of Aligarh Muslim University, who is also one of the prominent surgeons of this country”. He further expressed his feeling that “AMU doesn’t only focus on education but it works in a manner by developing personal qualities such as leadership, teamwork, determination, flexibility, confidence, self -belief, respect etc, in all to mould a versatile person and become successful in their career. AMU focuses on creating a holistic learning environment”.

Professor M Sufyan Beg, principal, Zakir Hussain College of Engineering and Technology, also serving as the Chairperson of the Alumni Affairs Committee said that the message, teachings, philosophy, vision and ideology of Sir Syed have become more relevant today than ever before not only for the Muslims but for the entire community. Despite popular belief, Sir Syed was a firm believer in the importance of Hindu-Muslim unity for India to prosper. He realised that together, we can achieve more and he strived for a united country until his last breath.

The most important first contributions to Sir Syed for the construction of building came from Hindus like Choudhary Sher Singh, Kunwar Lekhraj Singh, Raja Shiv Narain Singh, Raja Ghanshyam Singh, Raja Uday Pratap Singh, Lala Phul Chand, Lala Vasudeo Sahai and others. Their name continues to adorn old buildings of AMU. And what better tribute could have been paid to Sir Syed’s idea of Hindu-Muslim unity and the idea of a cosmopolitan, modern India he championed than this — the first student to pass out of MAO college (AMU) was Mr Ishwari Prasad, was a Hindu not a Muslim.

As a tribute to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the Government of India should expand the horizon of AMU in the country and increase the grant to enrich the existing infrastructure of the university. Keeping the sentiment of the people of this nation, it would also be a welcome gesture by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to declare October 17 as Sir Syed Day. To carry the legacy of this great noble soul, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor Tariq Mansoor has clearly said that he will continue with Sir Syed’s vision of imparting modern education.

Writer: MJ Warsi

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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