Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) was a great visionary, statesman and Muslim reformer of the 19th century, the like of whom is rare. He wanted to make the community and country progressive and take them forward on modern lines. His supreme interest was intellectual development of the people through modern education. He was the first Indian Muslim to contribute to the intellectual and institutional foundation of Muslim modernization in Southern Asia. Interest of community and country was dearer to him rather than anything else. He was successful in making the Muslims understand the importance of modern education and endeavour their best to achieve it in order to stand on their own legs and live a dignified life in accordance with Islamic thoughts.
Dr. Allama Mohammed Iqbal says:
‘’Mubtalaayay dard koi azu ho roti hai aankh
Kis qadar hamdard saray jism ki hoti hai aankh’’
(The eye weeps for the suffering of any and every part of the body, How sympathetic it is to the entire organism)
To the Muslim community Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was and is like the eye which weeps for the suffering of any and every part of the body. The sufferings of the community worried him. He took an oath to reform, educate and empower the Muslim community and was successful to a great extent in implementing it despite strong opposition from a section of the Muslim community which hated the British and their language. Today we can see the products of the Aligarh Muslim University adoring in every field of activity in India and neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. They have earned a name for the community and country, thanks to the Aligarh movement.
Sir Syed’s educational caravan reached everywhere including Tamil Nadu from where I hail. It inspired and encouraged people to take to modern education by establishing educational institutions.
BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD
Sir Syed was born on 17 October 1817 in Delhi. His family was highly regarded by the Mughal dynasty. His maternal grandfather Khwajah Farid was a ‘wazir’ (minister) in the court of Akbar Shah II. His paternal grandfather Syed Hadi held a ‘mansab’ of the title of Jawwad Ali Khan in the court of Alamgir II. Syed Ahmed’s father, Mir Muttaqi was also close to Akbar Shah but rejected the position and titles offered to him due to his interest in mysticism. Perhaps he abhorred the way the materialistic world functioned. He died when Syed Ahmed was about 21 years of age. Mother, Azizunnissa Begum was, however, a strong willed woman of clearly defined principles. She showed extraordinary interest in the education, character building and upbringing of her son. She was a strict and God fearing lady.
Sir Syed received his education under the old system prevailing at that time. He learnt to read the holy Quran under a female teacher at his home. After this, Maulvi Hamidud Din, became his private tutor. He completed a course in Persian and Arabic, and later took to the study of mathematics, which was a favourite subject of the maternal side of his family. He later took interest in medicine and studied some well-known books on the subject. At the age of 19 his formal education came to an end but he continued his studies privately. He started taking a keen interest in the literary gatherings and cultural activities of the city.
The passing away of his father left the family in financial difficulties, and after a limited education he had no option but to work for his livelihood. Starting as a clerk with the East India Company in 1938, he qualified three years later as a sub-judge and served in the judicial department at various places.
The supreme interest of Sir Syed’s life was education in its widest sense. He wanted to create a scientific temperament among the Muslims of India and to make the modern knowledge of Science available to them. He championed the cause of modern education at...