Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

  • Born in Delhi. Educated in Quran and sciences & had a law degree from University of Edinburgh.
  • Worked as a clerk with East India Company.
  • During the 1857 revolt, he was affected by the defeat of the Mughal Empire. As a result, he wrote a profound booklet Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind’ (Reasons for Indian Revolt of 1857) which cited British ignorance, aggressive expansion policies and non-admission of Indians into the Legislative Council of India as a prime cause of antagonism. This was one of the motivations behind the inclusion of non-official Indian members to the Viceroy’s Council in 1861.
  • He was a scholar of Christianity & advocated interfaith understanding and wrote ‘Commentary on Holy Bible.’ He advocated the learning of English.
  • Educational contribution
    • Stressed modern scientific education for Muslims to advance their conditions as he was against superstition and evil customs prevalent in society then. He believed that Muslim society could move ahead only if rigid orthodoxy was abandoned and pragmatism was adopted.
    • Set up many educational institutes to propagate education, the most significant being the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (MAOC), which later became Aligarh Muslim University. The MAOC was instrumental in the Aligarh Movement of the 19th century which was an important movement of a renaissance among Indian Muslims.
    • He founded the Scientific Society of Aligarh modelling it on the Royal Society of England. This society held annual conferences and published and distributed scientific material in English and Urdu.
  • Political career:
    • Nominated to Viceroy’s Legislative Council in 1878.
    • Supported Dadabhai Naoroji and Surendra Nath Banerjee in obtaining representation for Indians in the government and the civil services.
    • Received Order of Star of India from British government, in 1869.
    • Was knighted by the British in 1888.
  • Controversy:
    • Was wary of rising Indian nationalism as he thought power would pass into the hands of Hindus alone. He advocated for Muslims to have loyalty towards British rule in India. In his own words, “We do not want to become subjects of Hindus instead of the subjects of people of Book.”
    • Due to such ideologies, he is sometimes called the originator of the Two Nation Theory. However, this is a wrong interpretation of his ideas as his prime aim was reform, rationalism, and modernisation among Muslims.
Free UPSC MasterClass
This is default text for notification bar