He had witnessed with his own eyes the devastation, death and destruction – the untrammeled fire of vengeance and hate; and he had seen his own community being trampled underfoot by the White rulers.
SIR SYED Ahmed Khan was a legend in his life time; a rebel with a cause; a social reformer with a transparent and clear vision; a leader who changed the destiny of his community. He was born in Delhi on 17 October 1817. He was brought up in the finest of ’Elite Indian Muslim Traditions’.
He had witnessed with his own eyes the devastation, death and destruction – the untrammeled fire of vengeance and hate; and he had seen his own community being trampled underfoot by the White rulers. He had realized that animosity between British and Muslims, in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny 1857, had not only marginalized the Indian Muslims but pushed them into an unenviable abyss of poverty, ignorance and shame. They had been relegated to the backwardness of many many centuries. He also felt that the socio-economic future of Indian Muslims had been put into jeopardy by their aversion to modern science and technology.
In that dusky gloom that was soured by the defeat of the last Moughal Emperor Bhahdur Shah Zafar he rose with a hope; trudged on the graveled road with a roadmap that is still a floating light-house in the sea of darkness.
Illusions, willfulness, cruelty, pride and illiteracy were the curious elements that comprised the Muslim society and feudalism persisted despite the horrific apocalypse it brought to ordinary Muslims. He tried to solve this jigsaw puzzle with all the resources or the scarcity of resources at his disposal. He wrote stinging articles and books rebuking the dogmas and practices which were prevalent in Muslim society. He was blunt, honest and straight and never demonstrated the indulgent savity of a fashionable healer. He was an assured and competent surgeon with an ability to overcome the fate of his community with his scissors of reforms.
He advised them to concentrate on education; he was against the involvement of his community into politics. He was great advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity and it is worth remembering that the first graduate of Aligarh was a Hindu.
Sir Syed challenged the orthodox Muslim clergy of his time and propagated a liberal and rational ideology based on modern concepts in the light of Holy Quran and Hadees (the traditions of Prophet Mohd P.B.U.H). His views were rejected by Muslim clergy and he was condemned as KAFIR by them. As he was personally affected by the Indian Mutiny he wrote the famous historical book – ‘Asbab-e-Baghawate- Hind’ (The Causes of Indian Mutiny) in which he audaciously criticized the British rulers and their policies. He did boldly and explicitly blamed the British for the causes of revolt.
During a visit to England (1869-70) he prepared plans for a great educational institution -”a Muslim Cambridge.” On his return he set up a committee for this purpose and also started an influential journal, Tahdhib al-Akhlaq “Social Reform”, for the uplift and reform of the Muslims. He founded the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh, U.P. in 1875 which later bloomed as the A.M.U.
Sir Syed was an individual with exceptional qualities of leadership and he was a modern priest, a great tribune of Muslim society who, with a mighty grasp, shook it free from the shackles of sloth; ignorance and vermin that fed upon it.
His career as an author (in Urdu) started at the age of 23 with religious tracts. In 1847 he brought out a noteworthy book, “Assar Assanadid“- Monuments Seen Through His Eyes, on the antiquities of Delhi.
This great statesman, reformer and visionary man died on 27 March, 1898, in Aligarh.
‘Hazaron Saal Nargis apni be-noori pa roti hai,
Bari mushkil se hota hai chaman men deedawar paida.’