top of page

Syed Ahmed Khan


Syed Ahmed Khan's political ideas can be split into two phases: the first phase, which lasted until 1887, and the second phase, which began after 1887.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan advocated for Hindu-Muslim harmony during the first phase. Expressing the need for Hindu-Muslim unity he said that for "centuries we have been living on the same soil, eating the same fruit on the same land..... breathing the air of the same country."

In 1873, he declared that religion should not be an impediment for nationalism. He pushed for the separation of religion and political issues. Religious and spiritual things, he said, were unrelated to worldly matters. As a member of the Viceroy's legislative council he strove for the welfare of both Hindus and Muslims. In 1884, he made it clear that "by the word qaum, he meant both Hindus and Muslims.

From the above it seems he didn't really let the religious differences to come in way to emancipation and spoke for Hindu and Muslim alike. However, we can see that opinions soon changed and shifted in favour of the Muslim populace.

He was concerned that, as a minority, Muslims would be left behind under a representative system of governance, thus leading to Hindu dominance. He said that in a nation like India, which was complex and diverse in terms of castes, religions, and races, a representative form of governance would not meet the ideals of equality. Democracy believes in the majority's rule. Another issue of contention was his fear that Muslims who were too reluctant to change would miss out on the possibilities that British rule provided, which led him to work exclusively for the Muslim population.

What could have led to shift in thoughts

Historians have felt that owing to the influence of British officials on him, he changed his mind. He needed the government's assistance to establish the college . British authorities used Sir Syed Ahmeld Khan's vulnerability. They influenced his beliefs to the point that he became a man with ideals that were diametrically opposed to those he had previously held.

Muslim craftsmen lost their patronage when the social fabric of our society was ripped apart by British colonisation. After the First War of Independence in 1857, Muslims became the main target of the British who felt that the Muslims were their real enemies and most dangerous rivals. As a result of the administration's policy shift and the introduction of western culture and civilisation in India, they lost employment and advantages of their language, literature, and culture.

Sir Syed responded to this challenge by attempting to reorient Islamic ideals via a liberal, rational and scientific interpretation of the Holy Quran. He was against religious fanaticism and narrow mindedness. He urged Muslims to be tolerant and open.

Aligarh Movement

Sir Syed liberalised Indian Islam and took on the threefold job of theological reinterpretation, social change, and educational reform. He came to the conclusion that Western education was the only way for Muslims to break free of their religious dogma.

The Aligarh movement was launched by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. This movement aimed at spreading modern education and creating political consciousness among the Indian Muslims. It exemplified the first national awakening among Muslims. In 1875, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan founded Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College in Aligarh. In 1890, this institution became Aligarh University.

He founded the United Indian Patriotic Association in 1888 mainly with a view to oppose the Congress. He also urged Muslims not to get involved in Congress led politics.

The Aligarh movement sought to disseminate Western education among Muslims without undermining their adherence to Islam. It sought to implement social changes among Indian Muslims. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan spoke out against polygamy and the societal prohibition on widow remarriage and advocated removal of purdah system.It was based on the liberal interpretation of Quran. It attempted to reconcile Islam with contemporary liberal society.


bottom of page