The War of Independence 1857 left the Muslims of Indian in a wretched sate as the British put the sole responsibility of the War on their shoulders and started avenging and revenging them. They were proscribed from their basic rights of employments and education along with other social and cultural freedoms. In such conditions Sir Syed Ahmad Khan stepped forward to brush off the image of the Muslims.
He wrote “The Causes of the Indian Revolt” to clarify their position. Apart from this, he initiated an educational plan to educate the Muslims who lagged behind in every sphere of life only because of their lack of knowledge and especially the Western knowledge. It was Muslim response to the British policies of banning Persian, Arabic and Urdu languages in the educational institutes and replacing them with English. Consequently, the Muslims abstained from English as a symbol of their hatred (it went against them in the long run). They were squeezed to such a minority which was unable to shoulder any responsibility in the society. The Hindus grabbed the occasion and outshined in all walks of life only with the help of their extended support to the British and English language. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan took the heavy task of streamlining the Muslims and started Aligarh Movement.
The Aligarh Movement focused the educational backwardness of the Muslims and schools and colleges were established for the Muslims to aid them with contemporary knowledge and skills in English along with Persian and Arabic. School, Scientific Society (1863), Aligarh Institute (1866), M.A.O. School (1875), Ghazipur School, and Muradabad School were the series of the educational chained envisioned to enlighten the Muslims. Sir Syed visited the Great Britain with a view to establish a college on the same footings of the English colleges and universities. His valor did not stagger in the face of the opposition by the staunch and orthodox Muslims when he issued “Tehzib-ul-Akhlaq”, the journal. Aligarh University was the result of deep thoughts and future-orientation which produced graduates who fought on the political, religious, cultural, and social grounds later on and succeeded to attain a separate state for the Muslims of India. The objectives of the Aligarh Movement were as follows:
- Being on good terms with the British government instead of adopting an antagonistic approach.
- To convince the British Government that the Muslims alone were not behind the War of Independence and that the War was justified on the part of Indians.
- To protect Islam from the orthodox hands and minds.
- To introduce a new version of Islam embraced with the scientific knowledge and other contemporary skills.
- To have cordial liaison with the British bringing the enmity between the two to an end.
- To urge the Muslims to learn English language to accompany the pace of the day.
- To make Urdu the official language along with English to maintain the Muslim identity and inheritance
Rightly he was called “a prophet of education” by Mahatma Gandhi. Jawahar Lal Nehru paid a tribute to the services rendered by Sir Syed by saying that he “was an ardent reformer and he wanted to reconcile modern scientific thought with religion by rationalistic interpretations and not by attacking basic belief. Sir Syed was anxious to push new education. Sir Syed was in no way communally separatist repeated Syed emphasized that religious differences should have no political and national significance.” Allama Iqbal admitted his high position in these words, “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—his sensitive nature was the first to react to modern age”.
Aligarh Movement ultimately became the message of Pakistan as the people who graduated from the educational institutes of Sir Syed, proved to be the marvelous fighters for freedom. Pakistan owes a lot to the Aligarh Movement without which the dream of Pakistan could not have been materialized. Hats off to Sir syed Ahmad Khan, his peers, the teachers teaching in his institutes, and the graduates therein who sacrificed their present for a better future of the coming generations.