DMPQ: Write a short note on Sayyid Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh movement.

  • He said that religion should be adaptable with time or else it would become fossilised, and that religious tenets were not immutable.
  • He advocated a critical approach and freedom of thought and no dependence on tradition or custom.
  • He was also a zealous educationist—as an official, he opened schools in towns, got books translated into Urdu and started the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh in 1875.
  • He also struggled to bring about an improvement in the position of women through better education by opposing purdah and polygamy, advocating easy divorce, and condemning the system of piri and muridi.
  • He believed in the fundamental underlying unity of religions or ‘practical morality’. He also preached the basic commonality of Hindu and Muslim interests.
  • He argued that Muslims should first concentrate on education and jobs and tries to catch up with their Hindu counterparts who had gained the advantage of an early start.
  • Active participation in politics at that point, he felt, would invite hostility of the Government towards the Muslim masses.
  • Therefore, he opposed political activity by the Muslims. Unfortunately, in his enthusiasm to promote the educational and employment interests of the Muslims, he allowed himself to be used by the colonial government in its obnoxious policy of divide and rule and, in later years, started propagating divergence of interests of Hindus and Muslims.
  • The Aligarh Movement emerged as a liberal, modern trend among the Muslim intelligentsia based in Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh.
  • It aimed at spreading
  1. Modern education among Indian Muslims without weakening their allegiance to Islam;
  2. Social reforms among Muslims relating to purdah, polygamy, widow remarriage, women’s education, slavery, divorce, etc.
  • The ideology of the followers of the movement was based on a liberal interpretation of the Quran and they sought to harmonise Islam with modern liberal culture.
  • They wanted to impart a distinct socio-cultural identity to Muslims on modern lines. Soon, Aligarh became the centre of religious and cultural revival of the Muslim community.
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