Pakistan Studies 2059

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan


Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

Key Question 5: How important was the work of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to the development of the Pakistan Movement during the 19th century.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan


• He was born in October 1817 at Delhi.

• His family has a long history of serving the Mughal Empire.

• He was very intrigued by the Muslim culture and history.

• In 1838, after the death of his father, responsibilities fell on his shoulders and he accepted a Job in court as Sarishtedar.

• He is considered as the greatest statement, reformer, a thinker and Muslim writer of the nineteenth century.


• Sir Syed Ahmed believed that Muslims shouldn't be reluctant to accept the good things that the British brought with them.

• He also wanted the relations between the British and Muslims to improve by respecting Muslim’s culture and religion.

• He realized that Hindus and Muslims are to separate nations and introduced his famous Two-Nation Theory.

• He believed that Muslims will be left behind if they do not start contributing and working with the British like the Hindus. He feared that, if this happens then Hindus will also dominate the Muslims.

Contributions of Sir Syed Ahmed

Educational Services:

• Sir Syed's role in education at that time is the highlight of his services.

• He has a keen sense that Muslims cannot progress without accepting western education.

• In 1859, he established a Persian school at Muradabad.

• In 1863, he established a scientific society in Gazipur for the translation of scientific work written in English to languages that the Muslims can understand including Arabic, Urdu, and Persian.

• Translating the books helped Muslims better understand British. It allowed Muslims to see them as more than invaders and learn from their advanced and modern knowledge.

• In 1877, he established Mohammad Anglo-Oriental College that was based on the English public-school system and offered western education along with Islamic.

• Anglo-Oriental College helped Muslims get better knowledge and allowed them to bag better Government jobs after graduation, improving the British-Muslim relationship.

Political Services:

• Sir Syed Ahmed also considered the involvement of Muslims in politics very important. However, he advised Muslims to not involve in politics until they acquire modern education and understand English.

• He also wanted to form a better relationship between Muslims and Hindus, but he soon realized both couldn't live together.

• Sir Syed was invited to attend and join the Indian National Congress, but he refused the invitation and warned the Muslims to do the same. He predicted that Congress will soon become the party to speak for the Hindus only.

• To discuss Muslims problems, he provided them with a program by establishing Muhammad Educational Conference that later became an integral platform for discussing political issues of Muslims.

• Later a full-fledged Muslim party, The All India Muslim League started from the platform Muhammad Educational Conference after the death of Sir Syed.

• Sir Syed Ahmed believed that there should be reserved seats for Muslims.

Religious Services:

• Sir Syed started writing, ‘Commentary on the Holy Bible’ a pamphlet that discussed the similarities between Christianity and Islam.

• ‘Jila’al- Qulub bi Zikr al- Mahbub’, was the first religious writing of Sir Syed, it contained a biography of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

• By his writing, he also tried to guide Muslims that they shouldn’t perform Bid’dah and Shirk.

• He also wrote, Tuhfa-i-Hasan, that was a translation of a Persian book's two chapters written by Shah Abdul Aziz. In this book, Sir Syed shared his views on Shiism.

• He started writing another pamphlet, named ‘Food laws of people of The Book'. In this pamphlet, he explained to Muslims that Islam doesn't forbid them from eating with Christians.

The Aligarh Movement


• The unsuccessful 1857 War, that was fought for Independence from the British rule made the British believed that Muslims were responsible for the uprising.

• After 1857, the War of Independence the British started treating Muslims brutally with vengeful and merciless punishments.

Consequences of the War of Independence

• The Mughal Empire liquidated, and Religious Education, Persian, and Arabic were banned from schools.

• English became the official language and medium of instructions in institutions.

• The brutality of British, and new school system made Muslims furious. They started despising everything western and modern as a result missing the opportunities too. 

Goals of the Aligarh Movement

• At that time Sir Syed Ahmed realized that the acceptance of modern knowledge is the only thing that can pretend Muslims from further worsening their situations.

• Therefore, modern education and changing the mind of Indian Muslims became the central point of his movement.

• With an idea to bring social reforms and education reforms, he launched the Aligarh Movement with the following goals:

- To build a relationship of understanding between Muslims and the British.

- To persuade Muslims to learn English.

- To motivate Muslims to get scientific knowledge. 

- To produce educated Muslims that can work side by side with British.

To persuade Muslims to refrain from agitating politics.

The Outcome:

• Sir Syed's Aligarh Movement became a success, he did receive criticism by some Muslims due to his modern opinions but some people shared his view including Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Chiragh Ali.

• Some English professors also helped him with their services in setting up the Aligarh College including Arnold, Bech, and Raleigh.

Hindu-Urdu Controversy

• Urdu was the language used in North-Western India during the Muslim rule.

• It was declared the official language and all record-keeping was also done it.

• In 1867, Hindus in Banaras demanded the replacement of Urdu with Hindi.

• The Hindus also wanted to replace the Persian script with Deva Nagri.

• The main reason for Hindus hatred towards the Urdu language is, it follows Persian script that is like Arabic – the language of the Holy Quran.

• The movement to replace Urdu, gain momentum among the Hindus and they formed a headquarter at Allahabad.

• This enraged the Muslims and they came out to protect the language as they considered it a unified force.

• Sir Syed also supported Urdu and it became base for the ‘Two Nation Theory’.

• The Hindu-Urdu controversy made Sir Syed saw things in a different light.

• Before it, Sir Syed believed in Hindu-Muslim harmony.

Two-Nation Theory


• In the starting years, Sir Syed wanted Muslims to have good relations with Hindus too.

• However, the Hindus’ intention seemed otherwise.

• In 1884, British men started to vote and by 1888 women also allowed to cast their vote. 

• He realized that democracy is coming to Britain and it will soon reach to India too because some local councils were elected there.

• Hindus are in majority, and in case if the British ever leave India then every election will be won by them.

• He believed that to solve this problem the British must treat Hindus and Muslims separately.

• For his idea to be considered, he also explained why Muslims and Hindus are two different nations:

Religious Differences:

• Hinduism supports the concept of multiple Gods while Islam is based on Tauheed i.e. the Oneness of Allah.

Cultural Differences:

• Muslims bury their dead bodies while Hindus burnt their bodies.

• Hindus consider ‘Cow’ a sacred animal while Muslims slaughter and eat it.

Language Differences:

• The Hindi-Urdu Controversy is proof that Muslims and Hindus cannot work and live side by side.

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