Aligarh Movement (Urdu: تحریک علی گڑھ) was the movement led by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, to educate the Muslims of the South Asia after the defeat of the rebels in the Indian rebellion of 1857. Its most significant achievement was the establishment of Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, which later became Aligarh Muslim University. Activists in the Aligarh Movement became leaders of the Pakistan Movement and Indian Independence Movement, demanding a greater voice for Muslims in the British Raj.
The Mutiny of 1857 soured relations between the British and the Muslim community. The British Raj implemented a new educational policy that banned Arabic, Persian and religious education in schools and made English not only the medium of instruction but also the official language. This spawned a negative attitude amongst the Muslims towards everything modern and western, and a disinclination to make use of the opportunities available under the new regime.
Syed Ahmad Khan (1817–98) was primarily responsible for the educational proposals and political activism that inspired Muslim elites. Ahmad Khan originally founded the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference in 1886 in order to promote modern Western education, especially science and literature, among India's Muslims. The conference, in addition to generating funds for Ahmad Khan's Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, motivated Muslim elites to propose expansion of educational uplift elsewhere, known as the Aligarh Movement. In turn this new awareness of Muslim needs helped stimulate a political consciousness among Muslim elites who helped form the All-India Muslim League (AIML).
Seeing this atmosphere of despair and despondency, Sir Syed launched his attempts to revive the spirit of progress within the Muslim community of India. He was convinced that the Muslims in their attempt to regenerate themselves, had failed to realize the fact that mankind had entered a very important phase of its existence, i.e., an era of science and learning. He knew that the realization of the very fact was the source of progress and prosperity for the British. Therefore, modern education became the pivot of his movement for regeneration of the Indian Muslims. He tried to transform the Muslim outlook from a medieval one to a modern one.
Sir Syed's first and foremost objective was to acquaint the British with the Indian mind; his next goal was to open the minds of his countrymen to European literature, science and technology.
Therefore, in order to attain these goals, Sir Syed launched the Aligarh Movement of which Aligarh was the center. He had two immediate objectives in mind: to remove the state of misunderstanding and tension between the Muslims and the new British government, and to induce them to go after the opportunities available under the new regime without deviating in any way from the fundamentals of their faith. Keeping education and social reform as the two planks of his program, he launched the Aligarh Movement.
Efforts made by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
Fortunately, Syed Ahmad Khan was able to attract into his orbit a number of sincere friends who shared his views and helped him. Among them were well-known figures like Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, Hali, Shibli, Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, Chiragh Ali, Mohammad Hayat, and Zakaullah. Above all, his gifted son Syed Mahmood, a renowned scholar, jurist and educationist, was a great source of help to him.
Syed Ahmad also succeeded in enlisting the services of a number of distinguished English professors like Bech, Morison, Raleigh and Arnold who gave their best in building up the Aligarh College into a first-rate institution.
A brief chronology of Syed Ahmad's efforts is given below:
1859: Built Gulshan School in Muradabad.
1863: Set up Victoria School in Ghazipur.
1864: Set up the Scientific Society in Aligarh. This society was involved in the translation of English works into the native language.
1866: Aligarh Institute Gazette. This imparted information on history; ancient and modern science of agriculture, natural and physical sciences and advanced mathematics. This journal was published until 1926.
1870: Committee Striving for the Educational Progress of Muslims.
1875: Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental School (M. A. O.), Aligarh, setup on the pattern of English public schools. Later raised to the level of college in 1877 and university in 1920.
1886: Muhammadan Educational Conference. This conference met every year to take stock of the educational problems of the Muslims and to persuade them to get modern education and abstain from politics. It later became the political mouthpiece of the Indian Muslims and was the forerunner of the Muslim League.
In 1888 Deoband Ulema issued a religious decree against Syed Ahmad Khans Organisations.
Writings of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
Besides his prominent role in the educational uplift of the Muslims, Syed Ahmad Khan's writings played an important role in popularizing the ideals for which the Aligarh stood. His essay on "The Causes of Indian Revolt in 1858", and other writings such as "Loyal Muhammadans of India", Tabyin-ul-Kalam and "A Series of Essays on the Life of Muhammad and Subjects Subsidiary Therein" helped to create cordial relations between the British Government and the Indian Muslims. They also helped to remove misunderstandings about Islam and Christianity. It was from this platform that Syed Ahmad Khan strongly advised the Muslims against joining the Hindu dominated Congress. He was in favor of reserved seats for Muslims and also promoted the idea that Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nations. This idea led to the Two-Nation Theory.
Syed Ahmad Khan's Aligarh Movement played a significant role in bringing about an intellectual revolution among the Indian Muslims. Thus it succeeded in achieving its major objectives, i.e. educational progress and social reform. His efforts earned Sir Syed the title "Prophet of Education".
Sir Syed held the view that acquisition of modern education would help in the progress and development of Muslim so he set up a scientific study at Ghazipur in 1862 which established many educational institution at different places. Due to this, application of modern scientific knowledge became easy. They helped the development of the Urdu language because modern subjects were translated into it.
- Abdul Rashid Kahn, "All India Muhammadan Educational Conference and the Foundation of the All India Muslim League," Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society (2007) Vol. 55 Issue 1/2, pp 65-83.
- Comprehensive detail about Aligarh Movement
- Tehrik Aligarh at Pakistan Movement
- Aligarh movement at Story of Pakistan page
- Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Website
- Sir Syed Ahmad Khan - The War of Independence (1857)
- Aligarh movement at MeraChaman
- Muslim Students'Organization of India AMU Unit