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As a background we have to understand that after 1857 Muslims were passing through a very difficult period, a period of degeneration and decay but the roots of this decay can be traced back to the earlier period. In fact, the decay of the Muslims started with the degeneration of the Mughal Empire and in that context Europeans started coming to India. The British being last of them and ultimately they controlled most of India. It was a beginning of the 17th century that in 1608 that the first British ship belonging to East India Company led by Captain Hawkins landed on the western coast of India, Surat was the name of the place.
Domination of East India Company
The objective was to start a trade to and from India. When the first batch of the British traders landed as the representatives of East India Company. They had to compete the other Europeans who were there in this region. Then in 1613 Captain Hawkins and others who succeeded him were able to get a formal permission for starting trade from there to Mughal Emperor Jahangir and in this way a group regularly trading here, but ultimately they were able to establish their rule. East India Company ruled India until 1858 and from 1858 the British Crown directly ruled India.
Policies of British
The policies of the East India Company were discriminatory towards Muslim and after the British Crown took over India that is when it replaced East India Company in 1858 there was more discrimination towards Muslims, in fact there was hostility because the British thought that the Muslims were mainly responsible for the uprising that aroused against the British colonial authority in 1857.After this incident they adopted a deliberate policy of discrimination towards the Muslims. It was in this context that SS and some of his colleagues came forward to enable the Muslims to deal with the situation.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (SSAK)
SSAK was born in Delhi in 1817; his family served the Mughals and then the East India Company. When he entered in practical life he also joined the East India Company and was posted 1st at Agra and ultimately transferred to Aligarh from where he started his movement and efforts to change the conditions of the Muslims.SS, s basic argument was that instead of living in the past, instead of thinking about the past glory the Muslims of India should recognized the reality of the time. They should accept the changed conditions and circumstances. The condition was that the British had established themselves in India and the Muslims will have to deal with these people who were the govt now.
Focusing on Education
He thought that the Muslims must have modern education; they should learn English and equip themselves with the modern knowledge and techniques to adjust in the changed conditions. What he was talking about was self improvement; Muslims should improve themselves to deal with the current circumstances. A proposal for an internal change amongst the Muslims a change of attitude, a change of disposition that is of what he was talking about. And the important thing from his point of view was that the pattern of relationship that has developed between the Muslims and the British has to be changed in such a manner that Muslims do not suffer and in order to achieve this objective SSAk took a no. of steps adopted a no. of measures to promote understanding between the British and the Muslims.
Contribution of SSAK
In this connection we will be discussing 6 broad themes.
•1st we will talk about Background, what was the context in which SSAK and his colleagues were working. •2nd what kind of efforts they made towards the promotion of understanding between the Muslims and the British. What were the methods they adopted for the removal of biases which had developed in both the communities? That is Muslims and the Britishers who had become rulers at that time. •3rd Encouragement to Muslims to learn Western knowledge and English language. •4th Educational movements based essentially and primarily in the city of Aligarh. •5th Avoidance of active role in politics at that time.
•6th We will also talk about the contributions and impact of the Aligarh Movement on the Muslims of this region and how that contributed ultimately to the establishment of Pakistan. RASAL-I-ASBAB-I-BAGHAWAT-I-HIND
The first effort made by SSAK for promotion of understanding was the publication of a Booklet or a pamphlet entitled as RASAL-I-ASBAB-I-BAGHAWAT-I-HIND in 1858.This was a factual analysis of the causes of the Indian mutiny as it was known at that time by the British. This booklet was translated in English by Sis’s friends because the objective was that the British should read it. This study not only talked about the Muslims, their problems but also the policies of the British that had led to this unfortunate development of 1857.
Causes of Revolt
This is such an important document that uptill now the text of this booklet is available in the document of pre-independence history of Pakistan. In this book SSAK identified the causes that led to the uprising in 1857 and gave examples to prove his points. So it was not merely a presentation of causes but there was enough evidence which he has pulled together to substantiate his case. He identified the several causes but we will mention a few of those causes here. •Threat to religion; the British wanted to convert the people of India to Christianity and he gave examples that why this perception developed in India to show that some of the policy decisions were responsible for that. •Second, many laws which the British Indian govt adopted did not suit the needs of the people of this land and the govt never bothered about that.
•Third, factor which he talked about was the between the ruler and the ruled. He argued that the British and their govt in India was not able to communicate the objective and intentions of the law and different administrative measures to the people of India. In the same way there no arrangements whereby the Indians let the administration know their reaction to the policies the govt had adopted. So there was a lack of communication which in SS, s view was the mainly responsible for the situation that developed there.
•Then he also talked about number of other factors like mismanagement of the military number affairs the govt was not really sensitive about the sentivities of soldiers regarding many things and he gave examples to prove that point one example was common cooking facilities for all Indian soldiers Muslims Hindus various castes among Hindus and common cooking facilities were cause of irritation and he identified several other reasons for that. It was widely read because its English translation was available and the British read it and one important consequence of this publication was that when the British govt announced the govt of India Act 1861. It provided for representation for the Indian in the administration. So in a way the principle of representation at a very limited scale was introduced in 1861 in British administration and it was one consequence of what SS had emphasized the issue of lack of communication.
LOYAL MUHAMMADANS OF INDIA
In addition to this, he also wrote a number of other books in order to remove distrust between the Indians and the British and also to remove biases against Muslims. One series of publication was LOYAL MUHAMMADANS OF INDIA. At that time the term Mohammedans was used by the Britishers for the Muslims and SSAK had used the same term THE MUHAMMADANS in order to communicate with the Britishers.The idea of publication of this series to show to the British that the MUSLIMS were not inherently opposed to the British.
In this series he identified the contributions the Muslims made toward helping the British or saving the lives of the British during the 1857 uprising. He also emphasize that the uprising of 1857 was not a jihad but an expression and manifestation of the grievances, complaints and misunderstanding that had developed at that time which he identified in the earlier work RISAL-I-ASBAB-I-BAGHAWAT-I-HIND.
A COMMENTARY ON BIBLE
In addition to these publications he also did lot of other things in the form of publication.SSAK brought out several publications to dispel an idea or a misperception that there is an inherent conflict between Islam and Christianity, his argument was that this is not the case, so the 1st thing which he published was A COMMENTARY ON BIBLE. In this commentary he tried to identify the commonalities and the shared points between Islam and the Christianity just to show that both have certain things in common, both are different religious systems but they have certain common things.
Another publication was TEHQIQ-I-LAFZ-I-NASARA nasara was the word being used at that time for Christians, he argued in this publication that the use of this word nasara does not mean that Muslims are showing some contempt toward Christians or they view them in negative term but it is a positive word and they are expressing positive sentiment. The interpretation given by the Europeans, by the British is not what is reality. So this was another effort to remove the misunderstandings that were developing between the Christians and the Muslims of that time.
AHKAM-I-QAWAM AHLIL KITAAB
Another publication was AHKAM-I-QAWAM AHLIL KITAAB that means what are the principles what are the injunctions for eating with the people who follow any book of God in this case BIBLE and SSAK argued that Muslims and Christians can eat together because both are AHLUL KITAAB therefore the Muslims and the Christians can interact more smoothly and they could work together harmoniously.
Name of Book?
Another publication was a rebuttal to the book written by William Word on the life of the prophet MUHAMMAD (PBUH) in which he made some critical comments and SSAK wrote a rebuttal outlining the deficiencies in that publication. In other words while trying to promote understanding and goodwill between the two communities he was also prepare to defend what was right in Islam.
Another publication by SSAK was a review or commentary on W W W HUNTERS book” THE INDIA MUSALMAN”this is an important book because it outlines the difficult situation the Muslims were in after 1857 but there were some inaccuracies in this book and SSAK took up himself to remove some of misunderstandings and some of the points about Muslims which SSAK thought were not correct. So this was also an important effort on his part to remove misperception and misinterpretation of Muslims in this region.
In addition to working for promotion of understanding between the Muslims and the British because the British were the rulers at that time he also focused on Muslims, what Muslims should do. It was one part of his efforts that Muslims should accept the changed conditions and changed circumstances. They should also rise to meet the challenges of the changed time. In order to achieve that objective SSAK emphasized that Muslims must acquire modern knowledge and they should learn English language which was the language of the rulers.
Visit of England
In 1869 SSAK went to England with his son and spent several months there. During his stay in England he visited different universities specially the famous Oxford University, Cambridge University and other important institutions. The objective was to understand their education system and also to see to it what can he learn from there for introducing in India. He was impressed by education, by quest for knowledge and technological advancement initiatives that was quite apparent at that time in the UK.
He returned to India towards the end of 1870 and focus on the improvement of education and how Muslims could acquire western knowledge and learn English so that the Muslims have the requisite qualifications have the capability to deal with the situation. In order to promote modern knowledge and English he established a SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY. This society used to hold meetings from time to time where concerned people would come and discuss affairs but this society also saw to it that good articles in English are translated into Urdu and published so that those people who do not know English can also learn. At that time only a limited no. of Muslims had sufficient knowledge of English and not many Muslims at that time know English to benefit from articles in that language, therefore translation was very important to transfer knowledge from English to Urdu.
ALIIGARH INSTITUE GAZETTE
Another important venture undertaken by SSAK was the publication of ALIIGARH INSTITUE GAZETTE which was published in English as well as in Urdu and published important articles which SSAK and his colleagues thought must be circulated amongst the Muslims. This gazette played useful role in inculcating modern knowledge and modern ideas amongst the Muslims.
The other publication by SSAK was a magazine TEHZIB-UL-AKHLAQ published in Urdu and this magazine continued to publish for a long time. This magazine used to focus on social and cultural issues and was publishing unconventional articles in the sense emphasizing the Muslims about the problems which they face, about some of their practices social and cultural habits and how to improve these, therefore this magazine became very popular among those who were interested in reading these kinds of things. Educational movements based essentially and primarily in the city of Aligarh: Education – Panacea for all problems
In addition to these efforts to promote modern ideas modern knowledge in India amongst the Muslims SSAK devoted directly directly to promotion of Education what is often describe as the education movement. This was launched in the city of ALIGARH the reason why SSAK attached importance to this was that he thought the Muslims must have modern education. Unless, they go through the educational process whereby they learn modern education they will not be able to play a role under the administrative and the political system the British colonial authority had established and they will be left behind and pushed to the periphery of the system. Unless they equip themselves and qualify they will not be able to seek govt jobs and they will not be able to compete with the other communities.
Modern and Islamic Education
In 1872, a decision was made to set up a Muslim school system that would give modern education as well as Islamic education. One major bias amongst Muslims regarding the education which the British introduced in India was that their western education was alienating them from Islam. The British had established universities in India on the lines of British system of education and only a small no. of Muslims were going to these institutions so SS was very much aware of this problem, therefore when he began to work for establishing the educational institutions he combined he two types of education systems western knowledge learning English plus Islamic education about Islamic subjects. So he was trying to combine o do away with that perception that if you had modern education then you are alienated from Islam and if you try to get modern education you can’t have Islamic education.
So the ALIGARH educational movement essentially combined the two and this is what a major achievement by SSAK. So, after deciding in 1872, to set up educational institutions in June 1875 he and his colleagues started a college at Aligarh and 2 years later in June 1877 this college or you could say this educational project was formally inaugurated and launched by Lord Lyten.The British were supportive of this effort because they thought that in this way Muslims would have modern education and with the passage of time this college called MUHAMMADN ANGLO ORIENTAL COLLEGE
MUHAMMADN ANGLO ORIENTAL COLLEGE at Aligarh became a focal point where Muslims came from different parts of India for getting modern education. The main features and qualities of this college:
The two types of education
•This college was combining the two types of education where the Muslims were getting modern knowledge, they were learning English but they were also learning Islam so that the product of this college when go outside in the field will not only have the modern knowledge but he is not de-linked from his roots that is Islam, Islamic identity, heritage and culture.
•The second characteristic of this college was that it was a residential college; students were living on the campus and the college authorities SS and his colleagues were paying attention to the lives of the students 24 hours not merely during college working hours but even later on.
•Third, the staff included the British and the Indians, so they had British and the Indian teachers.
•The most significant feature of this college which most of us did not know was that the college right from the early years also had Non-Muslim students. It was not hundred percent Muslim student bodies, although majority of them was Muslim but some Hindus were also the students of this college. The Non-Muslims were not obliged to study Islamic Study. So that point had to be recognized that college at Aligarh there were some Non-Muslim students who were also getting education like any other student.
•The general disposition of the college was the loyalty to the British not encouraging ideas that would promote discord or conflict with the British.
MUSLIM UNIVERSITY ALIGARH
With the passage of time this college developed into a bigger institution because contributions were coming from the Muslims and the British govt was also helping to strengthen this institution.SSAK wanted this college to become a university. This did not happen during his life time.SSAK died in 1898 two years before the turn of the century and his dream that this college become a university did not materialized. However, in 1920 this college was given the status of a university by the British Indian govt and this was known as MUSLIM UNIVERSITY ALIGARH and this university is still functioning in India.
MUHAMMADAN EDUCATIONAL CONFERENCE (1886)
Now the problem with this college was that this was located in one place that is Aligarh.SSAK and his colleagues wanted that the message of Aligarh should spread all over India and hey should focus on Muslim education all over India and he also wanted that Muslims from different parts of India should come together to discuss the problems which the Muslims are facing. Therefore an organization MUHAMMADAN EDUCATIONAL CONFERENCE was set up. This was an organization which used to hold its meetings in different parts of India; Muslim would come there and discuss the issues. An important goal of this organization was to think together and to pull their resources for improving education amongst Muslims. Another goal was how to improve the madrassa education that is the traditional Islamic education because they were not ignoring that too and how to encourage Muslims to establish similar institution else where.
The declared purpose of MEC was to promote the cause of education but actually MEC became a very important forum for the Muslims before the ML was established in 1906.In this conference they discussed in addition to education other issues of significance and importance for Muslims trade agriculture and other related issues were also discussed. We have discussed the conditions and circumstances in which SSAK and his spirited and dedicated colleagues began their work. We also identified the goals and objectives which they had in their mind and the strategies which they adopted and in the next lecture we will discuss his contributions.