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Since 1857, the Indian Muslim community floated in the minatory
atmosphere of suspicion, suffering and impotence at the hands of
British oppression. They had not yet reconciled themselves to the
changed political conditions, not yet convinced that their innings was
played out. They were not very friendly with the Hindus, whom they
considered beneath equal privilege. They were distrusted by the new
masters, secretly and at times openly humiliated by the Hindus, and
disowned by both. They lost their moorings, their confidence, their
hope. And, for the first time, they realized with the anguish of
bitterness that they were nothing but a weak, powerless, supine
minority. This was the first casting of the seeds of nationalism, the first
kindling of a feeling of loneliness and prostration, the first awakening
to the need of solidarity. Every political phenomenon is caused by two
agents: circumstances and personalities. The circumstances experienced
by the Muslim were imbued with sentiments that resonated nationhood.
The man who molded the circumstances, or acted with the tide of
events (for in fact both are the same things), was Sir Syed Ahmad
The Mughals were succeeded by the British and one imperialist sat in
the seat of another. With the advent of the British, and particularly after
the Mutiny of 1857, the Muslims awoke to the realization of their true
position in India. So far they had either ruled the country or 'enjoyed'
the illusion of doing so. The exit of the last Mughal monarch from the
throne of Delhi was not only a symbol of their downfall, but also an
end to their existence as a separate and dominant group in Indian
political life. The British believed that the 1857 uprising had been
staged by the Muslims, and this added the discomfiture of retaliation to
the humiliation of defeat.
Sir Syed’s services to his community may be summarized in three terse
phrases : loyalty to the British, devotion to education, aloofness from
He based his pro- British attitude on three strong foundations. First, the
only way of wiping off the stigma of Muslim instigation of the Mutiny
was to make friends with the British and thus to make them disabuse
their minds of the idea that Muslims were their traditional enemies.
In the second place, his sense of loyalty sprang from his reading of the
Hindu-Muslim problem. Hindus and Muslims were two unequal
'nations', and the latter would ever remain a minority in India. Every
advance towards democracy would mean the depression of the Muslims
under the rule of the Hindu majority. Therefore he opposed the
introduction of parliamentary institutions as well as the increase in the
recruitment of Indians to public service by open competition.
In the third place, he was sincerely convinced of the infinite superiority
of the British (and European) way of life to the Indian or Oriental. Such
sentiments, expressed with frank vehemence, dispose of the suspicion
that he advocated a Muslim-British rapprochement for purely political
and strategic reasons. His call to the Muslims to cultivate the British
and to be faithful to them was not just a matter of making amends for
the Mutiny or of protecting the Muslim minority against Hindu
His second slogan was: 'devote yourself to education; this is your only
salvation.' He saw that now that the Muslims had lost their imperial
sway over India they must compete with other Indians for jobs and
preferments. Good education was the only key to political and
economic progress. In 1875 he established the Muhammadan Anglo-
Oriental College at Aligarh with money collected through mendicant
tours, begging letters and supplicant speeches.
For Sir Syed, politics was an unnecessary and undesirable
encumbrance. The Muslims were under a cloud. The British frowned
upon them. The Hindus were fast inheriting the intellectual and
material superiority which not so long ago be longed to the Muslims.
They were poorly equipped for political adventure. Educationally and
economically they had reached their nadir. “They must keep
themselves completely aloof from all political movements and devote
themselves to educational uplift”. When the Indian National Congress
was founded in 1885 Sir Syed used every ounce of his influence, prestige
and reputation in keeping the Muslims away from it.
• 1859: Built Gulshan School in Muradabad.
• 1863: Set up Victoria School in Ghazipur.
• 1864: Set up the Scientific Society in Aligarh. This society was
involved in the translation of English works into the native language.
• 1866: Aligarh Institute Gazette. This imparted information on
history; ancient and modern science of agriculture, natural and physical
sciences and advanced mathematics.
• 1870: Committee Striving for the Educational Progress of Muslims.
• 1875: Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental School (M. A. O.), Aligarh,
setup on the pattern of English public schools. Later raised to the level
of college in 1877 and university in 1920.
• 1886: Muhammadan Educational Conference. This conference met
every year to take stock of the educational problems of the Muslims
and to persuade them to get modern education and abstain from
politics. It later became the political mouthpiece of the Indian Muslims
and was the forerunner of the Muslim League.
• MAO College Aligarh to Muslim University


• To protect Islam against the onslaught of Orientalists and to prove
that it was the one true religion;
• To remove the bitter enmity which had arisen between the Muslim
and the British for religious or political reasons and to establish friendly
relations between them;
• To reinterpret the teaching of Islam and bring them in harmony with
modern science and philosophy so that educated Muslims while
holding on to their religion, might take a rational and enlightened view
of life and meet the demands of the new age;
• To persuade Muslims to learn the English language and Western
sciences so that they might secure a substantial share in the
administration of the country.
• To maintain Urdu along with English as an associate official language
and to develop it through translations and original writings


• Development of Western Education
• Establishment of Islamic Educational Institutes
• Economic Development of Muslims
• Political Leadership – Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar, Maulana
Shokat Ali, Nawab Mehdi Khan (Mohsin-ul-Mulk), Nawab Wiqarul-
Mulk and Nawab Ishaq Khan, Liaquat Ali, Nazimuddin
• Development of Urdu Language
• Role in Pakistan Movement

 Political Aspect
 The causes of the Indian Revolt (Admission of Indians to Legislative
 Loyal Muhammadans of India
 Opposition to the Muslim participation in the politics (Badruddin
 Muhammadan Educational Conference
 Two Nation Theory (Hindi-Urdu Controversy, Larger community
will over ride the smaller community)

 Educational Aspects
 Establishment of Schools
 Scientific Society
 Establishment of M.A.O School
 Establishment of M.A.O College
 Publication of Tahzeeb-ul-Akhlaq

 Social Aspects
 Western Rationalism
 Preaching the Western Civilization
 Superstitions outlook
 Ahkam-e-Taam-e-Ahle-Kitab
 Muslim Orphan Houses
 Tafsir al Jinn Wal Jan ala mafi al Quran (1891), Urdu

Comparison of Dar ul uloom deoband with Aligarh Movement

• Maulana Rasheed Gangoohi and Sir Syed
• Western vs. Orthodox education
• Educational Consciousness
• Political Philosophies
• Ideas on Two Nation Theory
• Role in Pakistan Movement

There are three myths about the Aligarh movement: it was simply a
movement for education, Aligarh Muslim University resonates a
nationalist movement, and that the movement is long dead. Syed
Ahmed Khan’s concerns, visions, and efforts for the Indian Muslims
came to be later known as the Aligarh Movement but it was not simply
a movement to make Muslims learn Western education or even the
establishment of a university. It was a movement to give mission to a
community that seemed to have lost its bearing in the fast-changing
world, to prepare them for new challenges, and give them new tools to
connect back to their religion and history. Incredibly, Muslims of India
still face these issues and the need for Aligarh movement is still alive.

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