Sir Syed’s idea of modernizing education

He saw far ahead of his times

Saadat Bilal Khaki
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 16 2018 11:31PM | Updated Date: Oct 16 2018 11:31PM
Sir Syed’s idea of modernizing educationFile Photo

Sir Syed Day is being celebrated every year on 17th October by millions across the globe, specially by Aligarians (Students and Old Boys’ of Aligarh Muslim University) who find it a matter of great pride to celebrate it as a day of the founding father of their alma mater, Aligarh Muslim University. It is the day when 201 years ago a great educationist, philosopher, thinker and visionary - Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was born to a very pious and humble family and who later in his life changed the educational as well as political scenario of the millions Muslims living in the South Asia and became one of the important and inseparable chapters in the modern history of India. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan with his great vision laid the foundation stone in the educational infrastructure of the Muslims of South Asia and this educational set up beautifully carved a niche in the consciousness and changed the political landscape. 

He was highly disappointed by the political situations in the aftermath of the Revolt of 1857 with pathetic conditions of Muslims and felt deeply pained to see the educational backwardness dominating among the masses. It was the time when the British imperialism had firmly gripped the India and fall of Mughal Empire had an impact on the Muslims as they were suspected of masterminding the 1857 Revolt, hence subjected to ill treatments and other harsh punishments as the community itself was downtrodden due to educational backwardness.  By careful analysis of the situation at the backdrop of this revolt and British at the helm of affairs, he foresaw that the modern education was the only tool to uplift the condition of educationally backward masses and to uplift their social, political, economic sphere of life. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan felt that the need of an hour was to instill Muslims with modern education so that they can meet the standards of their counterparts as the Muslim community was torn by multiple forces and educational deprivation being the main reason. With this vision of imparting modern education, he established a School at Muradabad in 1858, where he was posted on a very good position in Court and thereafter established another school in Ghazipur in year 1863. He founded the “Scientific Society” in year 1864 at Aligarh where scholars from different parts of country were assembled and they undertook a herculean task of translating the Scientific book of English and other European Countries into Hindi and Urdu languages. The motive behind this society was to minimize the gap of science and religion for promotion of scientific and modern education among the Muslims as he believed that “Acquisition knowledge of science and technology is the only solution for the problems of Muslims.” The Scientific Society proved to be an important landmark in the educational as well as political history as this society laid the foundations of “Aligarh Movement”. The main objectives and purpose of the Aligarh Movement was establishment of modern system of education with the establishment of Mohammaden Anglo Oriental College (MAO) at Aligarh in year 1875. Sir Syed’s speech which he made on the foundation day of MAO College said: “from the seed which we sow today, there may spring up a mighty tree, whose branches, like those of the banyan of the soil, shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth, and themselves send forth new and vigorous saplings”. Truly so, the MAO became the soul of the Aligarh Movement and this MAO College was upgraded to full-fledged University in 1920 as Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). So, AMU in itself became a movement rather University and that Movement synchronized with the Indian Freedom Movement and played very important and crucial role in the freedom of India from the British Imperialism becoming important and inseparable chapters in the history of India pertaining to Indian National Movement. Thus, the philosophy of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his idea of imparting modern education to masses played an important in the changing the course of history. British government acknowledged his selfless services and was awarded with the Order of the Star of India in 1869. In 1888 he was knighted and given title of “Sir” and was bestowed with the suffix of 'Khan Bahadur' and next year he received an LL.D. honoris causa from the Edinburgh University. These titles and awards were all in recognition of his efforts for the promotion of education among the backward masses. 

He strongly believed in knowledge of science for greater development and growth of an individual to keep pace with the modern technology resulting into growth of civilization on modern scientific approach and overall development of the country. He believed that religious and scientific teachings going together can make wonders as Islam being way of life for Muslims and learning modern education mainly science can make a perfect human being and then only he can fit in the society as an individual and as community. Learned and educated communities can understand the political developments more accurately and can be on the dominating positions rather downtrodden and ignored one. His teachings proved very instrumental in the course of history as many great leaders and philosophers of the Pre-partitioned India had applied his teachings and taken cue from his writings which completely changed the political landscape of the Country. Muslims which were looked upon as backward and downtrodden got new identities and nationalities and new era of civilization started where Muslims had an important role in leading fields of Science, atomic energy, inventions, discoveries and their acceptances, acknowledgments in the field of Science. 

Today, on his 201 birthday, we Kashmiri Aligs pay tributes to this great visionary, thinker, philosopher and educationist.

Sham darr sham jalaingay teray yadou ki Chirag

Nasal darr nasal tera dard numaya hoga.



(The author has studied Geology from Aligarh Muslim University.)


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