SPECIAL: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan- ‘Prophet of Education’

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“Hamari Baatein Hi Batein Hain, Syed Kaam Karta Tha
Na Bhulo Farq Jo, Hai Kehne Wale Karne Wale Mein”
(Akbar Allahabadi)

Today, Aligarian across globe are celebrating the 203rd Birth Anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (17th Oct 1817 – 27th March 1898). This year also marks the Centenary of Aligarh Muslim University. School founded by him on 24th May 1875 was transformed into MAO College on 8th Jan. 1877 and finally into AMU on 1st Dec. 1920. “From the seed which we sow today there may spring up a mighty tree, whose branches, like those of into the earth, and themselves send forth new and vigorous saplings; that this college may expend into a university, whose sons shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration, and of pure morality”, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan on the occasion of MAO foundation.

                      Atif Hanif, an Aligarian and key associate of AMU Old Boys Association, Lucknow has informed that “Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was an educationist with a vision, social reformer with a mission, journalist with insights into practical aspects, historian with a passion for heritage &archaeology, political thinker with rational approach, scientific temperament with an open mind, theologian with modern interpretation, intellectual with institution builder initiatives, advocate of communal harmony and nation building,and much much more. He has written books, articles, essays, and letters. Lot of translations and editing was also undertaken by him. Newspapers were his passion to spread the message to masses. His lectures are also part of the rich treasure! Although he was in government job, but his passion and understanding about Islamic and other subjects were well reflected in many of his writings. Medical dispensary established by him at Benares and other charitable work are still unparallel. Scientific Society established by him in Ghazipur, UP, which was later shifted to Aligarh, worked for the translations of important literature. Various other institutions by him, inspired people and other organizations. His school at Moradabad, Ghazipur and finally at Aligarh which is now Aligarh Muslim University is an intellectual and cultural centre of learning! Sir Syed Ahmed Khan worked for the building of Modern India”.

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His school of thought and efforts are termed as Aligarh Movement. It is not restricted to AMU only and inspired generations irrespective of religion and region. Aligarh Movement stands primarily for three aspects

(1) Educational Upliftment : The education to be at top of every agenda; without the same no progress is possible. Scientific education along with Traditional education is must for everyone, people should learn English also with the other languages

(2) Social Reformation : Moral character (Akhlaq) should be focused. People should conduct high intellectual aspects and it should be made popular. Charity is key element of humanity

(3) Religious Awakening : Religion should be observed with full awakening and reasoning. There should be no space for illogical rituals which shift the individual to senselessness. Peaceful Co-existence must be observed and no rigidity in observing religions.

“Sir Syed was the Prophet of Education”, Mahatma Gandhi. Interesting to note that he did not aligned him with Muslim Education alone. The reason is the vision of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan for the education. He advocated education above everything else and it inspired generations of every community. He believed in communal harmony and make it popular with every possible tool. It was clearly evident in his speeches and actions. His literary and social contributions represent people from every religion. He was of the opinion that, “Hindus and Muslims are like eyes of a bride”. He was so smart and having magnetic personality that scholars from Oxford & Cambridge joined him in MAO College & Aligarh Movement. It sometimes happen that people are expert in delivering lectures but weak in execution. However Sir Syed first implemented and then advocated the same. He named his grandson as Ross on name of a Christian. Rasm-e Bismillah of Ross Masood was observed by the small child in sitting at lap of Raja Jai Kishan. Even after 100 years, such aspects are not possible for to execute.

“The real greatness of Sir Syed consists in the fact that he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it”, Allama Iqbal. This statement clearly explains the personality of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his contributions to India and subsequently to entire Globe. The rise of Muslims as an empire since 7th century after the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a legendary phase in medieval history. It reached its zenith under Ottoman Empire and thanks to the recent web-series that people are atleast now aware about the same. However, one of the biggest problem with the Ulemas is that they never think behind times. They were never with the times and not to mention about thinking beyond times. It is important to mention one incident here to understand the problem in depth. Johannes Gutenberg from Germany, introduced printing to Europe with the introduction of printing press in 1450’s. It soon spread in entire Europe, however printing press was banned by the majestic Ulemas of Ottoman Empire in 1515. For more than two centuries, it was not allowed to use printing press and it was dark age for Muslims and the most important reason for their decline in moving ahead with the times. West was developing rapidly with every discovery, invention, revolution, reformation and much more. Unfortunately the East was busy prominently in rituals and in raising monuments.

“From childhood, I was taught to respect the opinions and the teachings of the white bearded Syed of Aligarh. Your Social Reformer (Tahzib-ulAkhlaq) was constantly read to me by my fond father, who looked uponyou as no less than a Prophet of 19th century. Your writings in the Aligarh Institute Gazette and your speeches in Council and other public meetings, were constantly studied by me and preserved as a sacred trust by me and by my revered parent. It was thus that I came to know that you once approved the contents of John Stuart Mill’s book on Libertyand Jeremy Bentham’s on Utility”, Lala Lajpat Rai. Since 19th century onwards, almost every leader has praised the efforts of Sir Syed in developing the concept of Aligarh Movement.

“The inscription which has been carvedon the walls of your Strachey Hall may fade with passage of time, but the inscription which Aligarh has written on the modern period of Indian history can never fade. Future historians will discover in Aligarh one of the main sources which has contributed to the evolution of modern India”, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. The essence and implications of all his works are still very much valid in 21st century and there is ardent need to extensively explore and implement the same. AMU Alumni Association Lucknow is passionately working for Aligarh Movement. Sir Syed Day across everywhere is happening on Digital platforms and it is expected that program will be organized post normalization of Covid-19. In view of the Centenary Celebrations of AMU, “Atif Hanif” is coming up with a book on the subject is schedule to be released in coming few weeks. It’s time to re-discover and re-implement Aligarh Movement in this century and always!

Hazaro’n Saal Nargis Apni Be-noori Pe Roti Hai,
Badi Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman Mein Deedawar Paida
(Allama Iqbal)