Remembering a Reformer: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

Posted on October 17, 2008
Filed Under >Saad Qaisar, Education, History, People
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Saad Qaisar

Today (October 17, 2008) marks the 191st birthday of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898).

In the history of Indian Sub-Continent, the role Syed Sahib played for Muslims of India deserves golden words. Sir Syed was the most influential leader and social reformer of his time. He felt that the socio-economic future of Muslims was threatened by their orthodox aversions to modern science and technology. He made significant contributions in this regard that had long term implications for the Muslims of India that eventually lead to creation of state of Pakistan.

Either it be his advocacy for Urdu to be recognized by British empire as second language of India & a symbol of Muslim heritage or establishment of a ‘Muslim Cambridge’ in form of MAO college at Aligarh, he is seen as a most vocal figure for the rights of Indian Muslims in the second half of 19th century under British Raj. At Aligarh, Sir Syed formed Scientific Society of Aligarh, the first scientific society of its kind in India that assembled Muslim scholars from across India, held annual conferences, disbursed funds for educational causes and regularly published a journal on scientific subjects in English & Urdu.

His views, at times, challenged orthodox clergy who appeared averse to his message of ‘change’.

Today, as we find our nation amidst divergent schools of thought, when one segment of society is bent towards ultra-liberalism & appear to blindly follow western civilization, more of its bad than good and on other end, there are those who are hell bent to stick to age-old orthodox philosophy, do we await another Syed Sahib that would channelize our energies to the middle path. Or can we revive spirit of Syed Sahib’s life as a guideline in all the issues that confront us as a nation? Men like Syed Sahib are born once in decades, or perhaps, centuries! Are we ready to wait centuries for that to happen or reformulate our thought in-line with modern demands, choice is ours!

As Iqbal rightly put it:

aaen-e-nau say darna, tarz-e Kuhan pe aRna
manzil ye hi katthan hai, qaumoN kee zindagi meiN

‘To be afraid of modern ways, to get stuck on age old patterns, is the biggest hurdle in the life of Nations’.

Photo Credits: Khurram Ali Shafique and

49 responses to “Remembering a Reformer: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    Free and public education with formal classroom structures of one to many, with many being the same age or even gender, was formulated in mid 19th century. By the start of 20th century, this has been the standard model of education across the world.

    However, this model, as good as it to being the fast food of education ignores a core problem; that it may not be pertinent nor appropriate. In US, Free Appropriate Public Education is associated with children with disabilities. In my humble opinion, this concept also lacks the basic understanding that

  2. Rashad says:

    “Rashad Sahab:

  3. PMA says:

    Dear Rashad: Allow me to repeat my earlier words: “Those educated in English-medium schools, as a group have greater opportunities in life compared to those educated in Urdu-medium schools and Madrassas. These are simple facts of life in Pakistan.” If you disagree with me then we could simply move on.

  4. PMA says:

    Rashad Sahab:

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