The Aligarh School - Partition & Beyond





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The Aligarh School - Partition & Beyond

Sir Syed Ahmed initiated what was ostensibly an educational movement but in effect it was a political movement which led to widening the wedge between the Hindus and Muslims in the Bharatiya subcontinent. This weakened our freedom movement and led to the creation of Pakistan.

Sir Syed Ahmed was a determined unique and powerful personality. He was a great orator. He is regarded an educationist, a visionary, a reformist and a politician by those in Pakistan who believe that creation of Pakistan is an unalloyed achievement and a section of Indian Muslims who think Aligarh empowered them and helped them in gaining a separate identity. He is held in high esteem also by the students, faculty and alumnus of Aligarh. The most noteworthy feature of the Pakistan movement is that its leadership came almost entirely from the Western-educated Muslim professionals such that were produced in Aligarh.  For this reason sir Syed is hailed, and assailed, as the founder of Muslim separatism on the subcontinent. 1 Tufail Ahmed rightly reminds that it was from the campus of Aligarh Muslim University that the Pakistan Movement originated. 2

Helpless State of Musliom Aritocracy since Mid 18th Century: After the Muslim political power began to wane and came almost to end in the middle of 18th century, the Muslim aristocracy found itself in a helpless state and reverted to medievalism for regaining power. It was thought that shift from puritanical Islam was the cause of woes of the Muslims. 3 Since 1857 a bifurcation resulted as to the method to be adopted for retaining and refurbishing power of the Muslim community now bereft of political and economic backing. The ulema had mostly not been in consonance with intelligentsia Since 1857.


The Conservatives Looked for Safety in the Cocoon but Syed Wanted Modern Education and Friendship With the British: there was a spree of activism among the traditionalist Muslims and they founded Dar-ul-Ulum Deoband in 1866 led by Muhammad Qasim Nanotawi. Nanotawi was the leader of those 34 maulanas who had issued Fatwa against the British in 1857.4 Deobandis followed the Wahabis in most matters of rituals, ceremonies and ideology.5 The Deobandis and other ulemas were strongly opposed to the British and to Sir Syed for opting for befriending the British and adopting modern English education in place of Dars Nizami curriculum that, in their view, united the Muslims. They understood Islam as sharia law created centuries ago by jurists like Imam Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf. They wanted prolongation of Turkish Empire for their Pan Islamic propensities. For these reasons they opposed Sir Syed tooth and nail. He was dubbed a kafir (non-believer) by a section of Ulema. Calumny was heaped on him. But he refused to be browbeaten. Now this was left to Sir Syed to convince the British that the Muslims were not prime participants in killings of the British and fomenting troubles for them.


In order to cultivate friendship with the British Sir Syed had to disprove the British Perception about Muslim participation. Contrarily he had to impress upon them that Islam was essentially a progressive and modern religion. He condemned the militancy of men like Shariatullah6 and Syed Ahmad Barelvi 7, and he was also critical of the 1857 uprising. He rebutted the British assessment that it had been the Muslims alone who instigated the 1857 mutiny. Significantly, he asserted in his a Sabab Baghawat e Hind that the mutiny had been triggered by reckless British actions based on their ill-informed conceptions about Indian society.


But he was convinced of the efficacy and merit of his project and did not budge from his resolve in spite of all brickbats thrown at him. Firm backing of the British was a factor that sustained him through all difficulties and vehement opposition.


The ulema would not give up their old policy. But they soon found that the Muslim community had begun slipping out of their hands in substance after the war of 1857. They found themselves alienated from the community, except for the efficacy of the fatwas against those who did not toe their line. The Muslim elite followed by and large the political lead of Sir Syed Ahmad, in the nineteenth century and rejected the ulema. But in religion even now they followed the ulema mostly and rejected Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The circumspect Sir Syed had to compromise and mend his ways later to keep the ulema in good humour for the clout they possessed.

Those of the Muslim community who mattered would cling not just to the ostensible defenders of their faith, culture and existence by the conservatives. They rejected their advice and followed the likes of Syed in political matters who promised them success in mundane life through modern education.


Yet the ulema attempted to stick to their ground. When Syed set out to establish the MAO (Mohammadan Anglo Oriental) College, which later became Aligarh Muslim University, he had to fight against the conservative element of his community.  All the Maulvis of the day ganged up against him in the leadership of Maulana Abdul Hai Firangi Mahli (1848-1886) of Lucknow, and declared him as Kharij az Islam(out of Islamic fold) for his modernist religious views and educational plan. They sent emissaries to Mecca to secure fatwa against him. They felt threatened by his advocacy of modern education for Muslims, which in their perception was going to destroy the Islamic beliefs and traditions for all times to come.


Deobandis also rose against him. Nearly a hundred of them, that included Hanafi jurist and leading figure of Deoband, Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (1826-1905), ruled that it was unlawful to join the Patriotic Association founded by him (in 1888). However, the Muslim community proved wiser than the religious elite and did not budge from support to Sir Syed Ahmad, although fatwas of the Deobandis continued to be sought after.


Upbringing and Aristocratic Background of Syed that Made all the  Difference when Compared to Other leaders of the Community: He belonged to Mughal royal aristocracy. He was oriented to befriend the British because of his upbringing in a family close to royal Mughals whose members came to have an experience of British power from close quarters. His maternal grandfather Khwaja Farid greatly influenced the mental makeup of Sir Syed. Farid was the most distinguished and well-known figure of the eighteenth century Delhi. He served the British at their capital in Calcutta. For his capability and loyalty he was sent by the British to Iran and Burma on Political Mission. His realization that the British are going to stay influenced young Syed. Farid remained Wazeer of the then Mughal Emperor Akbarshah for eight years. Syed was raised in large mansion of his Nana in Delhi, for his father Muttaqui had become a faqir. An ancestor of Muttaqui had been an officer during the regime of Aurangzeb. His paternal grandfather Sayyid Hadi got the title of Jawad Ahmed Khan and became the Commander of 1,000 foot and 5,000 horsemen in 1754. But Muttaqui refused to serve Akbarshah. His mother was an intensely religious lady. She also impacted Sir Syed in his formative years. Farid inculcated class consciousness of Ashrafism in Syed very firmly. As a result Syed cared mainly for the upper strata of Muslim families, thought to be foreign origin. Syed did not avail facility of learning English by joining Anglo Arabic Delhi College. When the grant that his family was receiving stopped at his fathers death, he had to find a job. He worked as a Reader in the court and then as a Munsif. He did not have formal education but he was an adept writer in the Urdu and wrote several tracts at an early age. When he was 25, new emperor Bahadurshah bestowed honorific titles on him with a salary. He wrote a survey of archaeological sites of Delhi, Asar-al-Sanadid (The Remnant Signs of Ancient Heroes) at the age of 30 wherein the Mosque in Qutub complex built by demolishing 27 temples was named Quvvat-ul-Islam (power of Islam), signifying narrow sectarian mind set of young Syed. 8

Befriending the British an Imperative to Save the Muslim Aristocracy from  a Certain Doom: During the freedom struggle of 1857, he felt that there was much antagonism on the part of the British against the Muslims. He feared that the British holding the Muslim more responsible for the war of 1857 might resort to greater reprisal against his Qaum (Muslims) in the post 1858 period. As a result he made it his mission to bring the Muslims close to the British for pragmatic considerations. He had been legated a  firm belief that the British are going to remain in India for long. Being a practical politician, he decided to bring about rapprochement between the British and, what he called, his Qaum .


With this aim he authored Asabab Baghawat e Hind(Causes of the Indian Revolt) and The Loyal Mohamadans of India in 1958 and 1960-61 respectively. To the chagrin of some British officers, he plainly put forth that certain policies of the British and not the Indians were responsible for the Baghawat (the Mutiny). He wrote the English Government has existed for more than a century and to the present hour has not secured peoples affection. 9 This work of Syed was perused carefully by the British authorities and convinced them of sincerity of Sir Syed. In the second tract he presented instances galore of the Muslims coming to rescue of the British men, women and children during the freedom struggle at great risk to themselves.


A marriage de Convenience: The British needed widening of fault line between the Hindus and the Muslims for the success of the policy of divide et imperia (divide and rule). Remarked Lieutenant-Colonel John Coke (18061897), Commandant of Moradabad during the middle of the nineteenth century, soon after the fierce freedom struggle at Muradabad had been suppressed, Our endeavour should be to uphold in full force the (for us fortunate) separation which exists between the different religions and races, not to endeavour to amalgamate them. Divide et imperia should be the principle of Indian government. 10 Lord Elphinstone, Governer of Bombay, also wrote to the home government in similar vein Divide et imperia was the old Romon motto, and it should be ours. 11


Syed was an activist. He translated his desire to cultivate friendship for the British and need for modern English education into action with greatest alacrity. In reality,  he had tremendous interest in political leveraging of his community and sincerely believed that that the ulema were not capable of giving a correct lead in politics to the Muslims because of their exclusively traditional education and complete ignorance of the complexities of modern life.  So soon as 1858, a school was started by him in Moradabad following his transfer there. Another was started at Ghazipur a few years later. In 1864 he launched a translation society, which was soon renamed Scientific Society.


Rajmohan Gandhi argues in his apologetic work Understaning theMuslim Mind that till 1867 for Sir Syed there was no difference between the Hindus and Muslims but the demand of Hindus of Benaras for the substitution of Hindi for Urdu in courts changed his attitude.12 In the 1860s there was contradictory language policy in North India. Although the then government encouraged both Hindi and Urdu as a medium of education in school, it discouraged Hindi or Nagari script for official purposes. This policy gave rise to conflict between students educated in Hindi or Urdu for the competition in government jobs, which eventually took on a communal form. But Paradigm shift in attitude of Syed on such an issue does not seem a reality. This does not stand to reason that this was really the cause for his volte face. Fact of the matter is that he had expressed separatist views long before the language controversy developed and there are several instances of his using of the word Qaum to denote Muslims only.


About a decade earlier, in 1858, he had decided to migrate to Egypt but changed his mind looking to the plight of Muslim crowd that had gathered at Moradabad for mourning their dead caused by British reprisal. This is to be remembered that over half the population of Muradabad comprised of Muslims. People of Muradabad district had fought fiercely in the war of 1857. The struggle was led by Maulvi Mannu and Nabab Majju Khan. The later had remained ruler of Muradabad for about eight months ending in April 1858. Freedom struggle that raged here for about a year was cruelly suppressed by the chagrined British during April 25-30, 1858. About this incident Rajmohan Gandhi remarks that before this Syed cared only for his own pleasure and success but since then he started to focus on the communitys (Qaums) condition13. The term Qaum needs certainly mean Muslim community of India and not also Hindu community as Rahmohan Gandhi would have us believe. The Gandhi writes in his urdu the word Qaum at times meant the Muslims of India, at other times Hindus and Muslims together14 The word Qaum was used by him very frequently to mean exclusively Muslim community of India. This also needs to be stressed that he had concern only for the Muslim community of India and he was not concerned, like many others, of which Jamaluddin Afghani (1838-1897) was a glaring example, with the pan Islamic Umma, because of which a large section of Muslim Indian leaders became overly concerned for the continuance of Turkish Empire.


As already mentioned, there were obvious reasons for the conservative Muslim leaders to oppose Sir Syed. One was the old mind set of powerfully entrenched ulema. The second was his advocacy of Muslim Qaum within the subcontinent as opposed to concept of pan Islamic Umma spread across large swathes of the globe.


But he had a clear conception of what he was doing and had the capacity to face criticism and swim against the current. He went ahead with his plan to in spite of all opposition to launch the college for modern English education and befriend the British.


The British also needed a pliant tool in pursuance of the policy of divide et imperia. But it was Syed who had made first move in 1858 and broken the ice. He was sure that divide et imperia was not inimical to the Muslim interests and he did not care for national interest. There was bonhomie between the astute British high-ups and the astute Sir Syed. After the bond of marriage de convenience strengthened, Syed was showered with many benefits by the British.


Sojourn to England a Landmark Event: Sayyid Mahmood the elder son of Sir Syed got a scholarship for studying in Britain. In 1869, Sir Sayyid also accompanied him when he proceeded to England. During his 17months stay in England he met highest British dignitaries. Here he was awarded the Order of the Star of India. Traveling across England, he visited its colleges and was inspired by the culture of learning. Leave salary and financial benefits were given to meet his sojourn in England.


Project for the College: After returning from England Sir Syed lost no time in furtherance of his educational project. A Committee known as the Committee of Supporters of Advancement of Muslim Education was formed. It prepared a report that contained a scheme for setting up a "Muslim Cambridge."


A journal Tahjeeb ul Akhlaq (Social Reformer) was launched in December, 1870 to spread awareness and knowledge on modern subjects and promote reforms in Muslim society. Early in 1871 the committee appointed to make preparation for beginning the Aligarh College began to work in all earnest. Sir Syed described his vision of the institution in an article written sometime in 1872. It was to be based on the pattern of Oxford and Cambridge. But for pacifying the hard liners and conservatives it was stated that the residential institution will have a grand mosque where five times prayer will be compulsory. The dress of the college will be a Turkish red Fez and Muslim heritage apparel Sherwani. Moreover women were not admitted in the college and religious education of the boys was allowed be handled by a committee of orthodox Muslims.

British Governor of N W Provinces Sir Willianm Mure gave 75 acres of land for the college.  The British had such a need for cajoling Muslims that Lord Lytton came to lay foundation stone of the Aligarh College on January 8, 1877. Sir Syed declared during the foundation laying ceremony: 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. The mighty venomous tree really sprung up.

Sir Syed worked to promote reinterpretation of Muslim ideology in order to reconcile Muslim tradition with Western education. He argued in several books on Islam that the Qur'an rested on an appreciation of reason and natural law, thus making scientific inquiry important to being a good Muslim. He openly identified himself to some extent with the early liberal rationalists of Islam, the Mu'tazalites, who laid stress on reason in place of revelation. The Mu'tazalites are an anathema to the Sunnis the world over for they do not subscribe to the orthodox view that the Quran is uncreated.

Pampering of Syed Continued: the British continued to pamper the elite Muslims by honouring Sir Syed. In 1878, he was nominated to the Viceroy's Legislative Council. He was appointed to the Education commission under the Chairmanship of Sir William Hunter but resigned in 1882. Sir Syed was nominated as a member of the Civil Service Commission in 1887 by Lord Dufferin.

Opposition to Congress: When the Congress was launched in 1885, at the instance of A O Hume, Syed opposed it, prognosticating that it would become a Hindu-majority organization,


In 1886, he organized the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Aligarh, which worked mainly for the political unity for Muslims. It was during its twentieth session in 1906 that the Muslim league took birth. The greatest achievement of the Conference, says Dr. M.S. Jain, was that of generating among Muslims sentiments of solidarity.15

Sir Syed was also averse to the prospect of democratic self-government, which would give control of government to the Hindu-majority population.

An avowed loyalist of the British Empire, in 1888, he established the United Patriotic Association at Aligarh to promote political co-operation with the British , scuttle Muslim participation in the congress session and ensure more jobs for the Muslims in the Government. Syed Ahmed Khan was knighted by the British government the same year.


He is identified by historians as one of the earliest advocates of the Two-Nation Theory. But reality in fact separatism of Muslims is is a legacy of 16th century. The polarization of society into Hindus and Muslims resulted from fear of the Muslims of being swamped by the Hindu philosophy and culture. This was was the nightmare of separatists Since Baqi Billa 16 of Nakshbandi tariqa (1564-1603)  and his Murid Sheikh Sarhindi (1564-1624)17. They played an important role in isolating the Muslims from rest of the society. Allama iqbal, the most influential divisive political thinker of the 20th century and an iconic figure of Aligarh was a devotee of Sarhindi. Iqbal wrote a poem entitled Punjab kay Peerzadun kay Naam extolling him. The poem is the symbolic expression of Shaykh Ahmads divisive attitude. Iqbal describes him as the guardian of the Muslim millah in India: Whom Allah awakened at the right time. 18 Miyan Masum 19 the son of Shaykh Ahmad and chief of the Naqshbandis was the mentor of Aurangzeb. His son, later successor, Sheikh Saifuddin20 remained in the court of

Aurangzeb advised him. The Naqshbandis influenced Mughal administrative and military officers and the ulema.

Sir Syed  was not an obscurantist like the naqshbandis but he also like them, feared that Hindu culture would engulf the Perso-Arabic Muslim culture, which had enjoyed a dominant status under Muslim rulers for centuries. For this reason he wanted to steer clear of the Congress. He opposed Democratic institutions based on election as early as 1883 after Lord Ripon granted the Indians first taste of freedom by introducing the Local Self Government in 1882. He vehemently opposed joining of Congress by the Muslims in 1887 at Madras Session when to his annoyance Badruddin Tayyabji presided over it.  His speeches of Lucknow and Meerut of 28 December 1887 and 16 march respectively are phenomenal. The first was meant to bar the prospective Muslim likely to board train for madras and the second was delivered as a reaction to success of the madras Session. The Tarachand lays communalizing of Aligarh at the door steps of Theodore beck 1859-1899). This is an apologetic travesty of truth. Beck was only 24 when he was picked by mature Sir Syed, 32 years his senior for Principalship. He was only 27 at the time of Madras Congress when Sir Syed made harsh historic speeches against the Congress at Lucknow and Meerut in December 1887 and march 1888 respectively. The Meerut speech was delivered with great verve. It contains 23 paragraphs and about 6,800 words. Its paragraph that came after long preface 7 is worth quoting. He spoke :-


After this long preface I wish to explain what method my nation  nay, rather the whole people of this country (note the use of my nation as contrasted to the whole people of this country)  ought to pursue in political matters. I will treat in regular sequence of the political questions of India, in order that you may have full opportunity of giving your attention to them. The first of all is this  In whose hands shall the administration and the Empire of India rest? Now, suppose that all English, and the whole English army, were to leave India, taking with them all their cannon and their splendid weapons and everything, then who would be rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations  the Mahomedans and the Hindus  could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable. At the same time you must remember that although the number of Mahomedans is less than that of the Hindus, and although they contain far fewer people who have received a high English education, yet they must not be thought insignificant or weak. Probably they would be by themselves enough to maintain their own position. But suppose they were not. Then our Mussalman brothers, the Pathans, would come out as a swarm of locusts from their mountain valleys, and make rivers of blood to flow from their frontier in the north to the extreme end of Bengal. This thing  who, after the departure of the English, would be conquerors  would rest on the will of God. But until one nation had conquered the other and made it obedient, peace could not reign in the land. This conclusion is based on proofs so absolute that no one can deny it.

His philosophy as mentioned above, guided the creation of the All India Muslim League in a session of Muslim Education Conference in1906 by those who had been made to keep away from the Congress by him. Before launching of the League there was meeting with the Viceroy with Muslim leaders through the good offices of Aligarh Principal Archibald.

Later pro and anti Khilafat followers of Sir Syed: Sir Syed's followers later branched into two - the liberal, pro-British politicians, who were anti Congress continued to remain opposed to Khilafat but many in the Muslim League (his brain child) subscribed to pan Islamic Khilafat movement supported by Gandhiji and the Congress. League remained at odds with the Congress except for a brief stint that ended without rhyme or reason with the declaration of republic by the Turkish parliament for itself in 1923 and continued to advocate the boycott of the Indian independence movement till end. In the 1940s after beginning of the war early in September 1939, the student body of Aligarh committed itself to the establishment of Pakistan and contributed in a large measure in the activities of the Muslim League.

Achievement of Syed Appreciated by Separatists: By creating Aligarh Muslim College in his desired mold, he sowed the seed which led to the creation of Pakistan. He diagnosed the weakness of the Muslim society of his period imaginarily and found a questionable cure for it in his own way. Besides creation of Pakistan, and later Bangladesh, his success has embittered relations between the Muslims and rest of the society pertmanantly. This is regarded great achievement by a section in Pakistan and of course in India also. But his great achievement has done a great harm to the unity of the nation and solidarity of the society in the Indian sub-continent the harm caused to this region cannot be calculated.  

The Aga Khan III clearly boasted in his 'Memoirs' We may claim with pride that Aligarh was the product of our own efforts and of no outside benevolence and surely it may also be claimed that the independent sovereign nation of Pakistan was born in the Muslim University of Aligarh. 21 (Aga Khan III had immensely contributed in the growth of Aligarh College and University since 1896).

Allama Iqbal an Iconomic Figure for Aligarh: Long after the demise of Sir Syed, Allama Iqbal entered into his mantle and envisioned a Muslim state. In the religious and materialistic spheres he was a revivalist, anxious to recover what his community had lost. He made his first visit to the College in 1910 that got enshrined in the memory of Aligarhians. It is for this reason that Iqbal is still so much revered in the Aligarh Universiy. There is a mosque a school and a hostel in Iqbal Hall in the University premises. As opposed to Sir syed he was a believer in pan-Islamism. In his view all world was land for the Muslims.22 A woman member of the Muslim Students Federation summarized it paying tribute to the We worked for Pakistan and played our part in making Allama Iqbals dream a reality under the guidance of Quaid Azam23 AIMSF was created at the initiative of Aligarh University. Its Union passed a resolution to that effect in 193724 This organization was soon affiliated with the Muslim League.

Jinna made Aligarh Arsenal of the League: Liyaqat Ali Khan, an alumni of AMU urged Jinna to take charge of politic in 1934. The later was elected to the Central Legislative Council late in 1934. Election results of 1937 greatly distressed him. The Congress formed Governments in provinces except for Bengal where a coalition Government was formed. Poor election results in 1937 caused Jinna to think of new strategy. Now he took to underhand methods for arousing the Muslims to come into the fold of Muslim League. Stories of perpetration of atrocities were circulated to embitter Muslim minds. Muslim demand for inclusion of two ministers in the UP Government became the factor that caused much bitterness among the Muslim elite. This gave a handle to Jinna which he utilized to the full. In October 1939 the AMU Students Union passed a resolution condemning the fascist policies of the congress Governments thus supporting the unfounded League charge that the Congress Governments were committing atrocities on Muslims and imposing Hindu culture on them. 25 Aligarh Students and its faculty were drawn into the vortex of politics through the machinations of Jinna after this. When the World War started, India was embroiled in the war, the Congress opposed it and decided not to co-operate in war effort and the Congress provincial ministries resigned in November 1939. The League observed this day as the day of deliverance and co-operated with the Government. During this period Aligarh students remained thoroughly politicized.

The Indian Muslims followed the political lead given to them by Jinnah (who could have been a knight like Sir Syed but he resolutely refused both title and office during the British rule) who had no pretensions to leadership in the sphere of religion.


Beginning from 1939 Jinna made at least one visit annually in the university and became an idol of the Students. Soon after the Lahore resolution of the League of March 1940, the Students Union of Aligarh passed a resolution endorsing the resolve of League. Now Aligarh students completely owned the league Movement and Jinna came to have such a rapport with the students that he called Aligarh University arsenal of the League in a speech in 1941.26 In 1941 the AMU Students Union passed a Resolution demanding independent states in Hindu and Muslim majority provinces. Now the Union openly declared The Union is the centre to train Muslim youth to play their role worthily in the Muslim national movement27. On 31 August 1941, Liyaqat Ali Khan told the AMU students in a speech We look to you for every kind of ammunition to win the battle of independence of the Muslim nation28. The students of Aligarh declared it there official creed to fight for independent Muslim state.29 UP MSF issued Pakistan Manifesto in 1941 declaring that Hindus and Muslims were not one nation, Muslims were not a minority but a nation, and Pakistan was their only demand.

In October 1944 Raja of Mahmudabad, an important leader of the League, organized a League camp at Aligarh. 30 For Aligarh the elections of 1945-46 became a question of life and death.31  In 1945 elections the AMU students along with the students from other educational institutions spread out to Punjab, Sindh, Bengal etc. In the words of Zia ul Hasan Faruqi Aligarh became the training center of Muzahidin-i-Pakistan.32 In 1941 and 1942 Maulana Azad was physically assaulted while passing through Aligarh 33. Azad in his convocation address to the A M U in 1949 traced the anti Indian and separatist trend in AMU to Sir Syed.34 There was Complicity of the Aligarh students in Hindu Muslim riots of 1946 in Aligarh according to Deputy Commissioner Jonston and DIG Police.35

In 1945-46 Aligarh students were engaged in Spreading two nation theory, mobilizing mass support for the Muslim League and wean away Muslims of the rural areas of Punjab, Sindh and Bengal. Teachers enthused the students to devote themselves for the (Muslim) national cause. Credit for the Leagues victory in the Muslim constituencies in Provincial and Central elections of the winter of 1945-46 to a great measure goes to the AMU students and this victory virtually cleared the decks for the creation of Pakistan. In the run up to the 1946 elections, Quaid-i-Azam had announced on 10 October 1945, Our demand of Pakistan is quite clear. Those parts of India, where Muslims are in majority should be amalgamated to form a free and sovereign state. If the Muslims voted against Pakistan, I shall accept my defeat. 36

After independence its vice Chancellar Zahid Husain who was appointed by the Court of the University dominated by Jinna on 24.4.1947 left for Pakistan on  7.8.1947 on being appointed High Commissioner of Pakistan in India. Before leaving Aligarh he had been working as a stooge of the League.


This is very strange that paeans of praise are sung to celebrate the anniversary of creator of Pakistan by our leaders. Pranab Mukherjee delivered the commemoration address at AMU's Athletics Ground on 17 October, 2017. Terming Sir Syed as a "visionary leader of India", Mr Mukherjee heaped unstinted praise on his creation, AMU, calling it as a "perfect example of Indian nationalism and ethos". 37 Such honour is showered in our country also on Allama Iqbal, national poet and another creator of Pakistan who remains one of the most honoured figured in AMU. There is an Iqbal Hall Mosque and vast Boarding House for Secondary School in the University. Its foundation stone was laid by most renowned and respected Islamic thinker and author, Maulana Abul Hasan Nadvi in 1984. He was praised by our former Vice President, while he was sitting Vice President, on the occasion of launching of a book on him on 15 September, 2014 as a philosopher, patriot and poet in one. 38

About these personalities Pervez Hoodbhoy, a noted Pakistan nuclear physicist and educationist, frankly wrote In an article in Express Tribune, a multi-edition English daily of Pakistan, entitled Iqbal and Sir Syed: Syed Ahmad Khan (18171898) and Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) are described in Pakistani schoolbooks as the first Muslim leaders who stressed Hindu-Muslim separateness. Revered as the spiritual founders of Pakistan, They share many commonalities. Both were knighted for services to the British Empire, both advocated purdah and had strongly traditional religious backgrounds.39 He brought about the Two-nation theory and is hence known as "The Father of The Pakistan Movement"

Mahatma Gandhi calls him prophet of education. Sir Syed is praised as an educationist and a visionary. His vision was creating division between Hindus and Muslims and serving interests of the Ashraf Muslims at the cost of national interest. He got Altaf Husain Hali to write his Musaddas (1979) with a view to awaken Muslim to a frenzy. Sir Syed was so proud of having Hali write it that once he joked: "When Allah asks me on the day of judgment what I did in the world, I will tell Him that I got Hali to write Musaddas." Some scholars of Pakistani nationalism consider the Mussadas an important text for the articulation of a future Muslim nation Pakistan, which eventually was created in 1947.40 The Musaddas inspired writing of Bharat Bharati by Methili sharan Gupta (1912-13). As for his being an educationist, Dr MS Jain and Yuvraj Krishn have given a strong rebuttal to it in detail.

An eminent Prof A L Shrivastva writes The object of the Aligarh movement was not merely to bring about the modernization of the Musalmans of India. Its main object was to make them, as a community, play a dominant role in the religious, political, economic and cultural life of the country, as their forefather had played for several centuries in the past. 41

Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (1914-1999, an Indian, Islamic scholar, and author of over fifty books in various languages) referring to his meeting with Iqbal, on November 22, 1937 had said Talking about the resurgence of Islam in India, he (Allama Iqbal) praised the efforts of Sheikh Ahmed Sarhindi, Shah Waliyullah Dehlavi and Emperor Aurangazeb. But for them and their endeavors, Indian philosophy and culture would have swamped Islam 42


The same fear engulfed Sir Syed. He was also smitten by the prospect of Indian philosophy and culture swamping Islam. Therefore he brought forward the "Two Nations Theory" coming down from Sheikh Sarhindi and later espoused by the All-India Muslim League. Sir Syed espoused the views of Sheikh Sarhindi, Shah Waliullah,  Shaheed Syed Ahmed Barelwi, and Shah Ismail Shaheed. Sir Syed Ahmed was a great admirer of Shah Ismail Shaheed (author of Taqviyat ul Iman, which was meant to protect the purity of Islam from biddat).


Prof M S Jain holds that A study of the Aligarh movement .provides the answer for our not developing into a homogenous nation. 43 Prof Jain further asserts that a study of this movement is important for a correct understanding of the history of modern India. 44 According to Prof Jain Sir Syed opposed the Indian National Congress on his own initiative. It is incorrect to accuse either Beck or sir Auckland Colvin for this opposition to the Congress as many historians have done. 45 In the light of the fact of authoring of books by Sir Syed immediately after the War of Independence, professing loyalty to the British, assertion of Prof. Jain holds water. Prof. Jain writes that the separatist movement of Sir Syed led incourse of time to the demand for Pakistan 45

It is wrong to say that Muslims were behind the Hindus in education which led to the creation of MAO by Sir Syed. Prof Jain has quoted statistics to prove that this claim has no basis. 46 The question really was imparting education in a different environment and for making the Muslim boys aware of their historic role47. Syed was opposed to opening a number of Schools and colleges for this very reason 48. The aim of the Aligarh College was not to churn out careerist book worms. Real aim was to bring out students who would work for society.49. He wanted them to become players, debaters, speakers and adventurous Musalmans. 50 The Siddons Union Club, a debating club named after first Principal of the College was founded after Cambridge University Union Club.

It was emphasized in the University that Hindu Muslim unity was a snare and a farce, provision for religious education implied that the school was meant only for the Muslims.51 Residential character of the College, with effort to bring students from all parts of the country, was aimed at creating a bond of unity among the Muslim elite. His vision was confined only to Muslim feudal classes. It was Passport to higher Government service and leadership of the society.52

Immediately after independence there was a fear that Government might reduce assistance to this University for its sins. In1948 Dr. Zakir Husain was appointed VC of AMU to rescue the University. Nabab Muhammad Islmail Khan tendered resignation and University court unanimously chose Zakir Husain. In 1951 he was appointed again for six years. He was able to rescue his Alma Mater because of his proximity with Maulana Azad, Pandit Nehru and others holding important position in the party in power.

In 1951 Vinoba Bhave visited the University and was accorded unprecedented welcome. 53 In December 1951 Dr Rajendra Prasad who had earlier declined to accept the invitation to visit the AMU was made to visit it for Convocation. 54


The AMU governing body (Court) has been dominated since the beginning by Muslims. Composition of the AMU Court was changed by a bill in 1951 during the period of interim Government. Minority character was restored in 1981. It was again revoked in 1985. There is resentment among the Muslim court members dominated by Muslim element. Yet Court of the University wanted its minority character to continue.

The facts about Sir Syed and the AMU must be stated and publicized. K M Munshi referred to the persistent demand for the rewriting of history (by the secular historians) to foster communal unity and writes suppressions and distortion of evidence, leading to false conclusions about the past, is hardly the way to improve the present situation or build up a better future.

This assetion of Irfan Ahmed Shaikh, Bashir Ahmed Jatoi and Syed Faisal Hyder Shah of Sindh University It would not be a wrong idea to say that the free and independent nation of Pakistan wholly for the Muslim community was born from the posthumous victory of Syed Ahmad Khan. 55


A reviewer to Peter Hardys The Muslims of British India concludes A people who were not yet a community when the British displaced the Mughals achieved a high degree of political unification in a few decades and built up a formidable political movement witch in collaboration with the British forced the partition of India on the basis of a questionable doctrine of Muslim Nationalism. 56


The spade should be called a spade. This fact is incontrovertibly proved that Sir Syeds Aligarh movement was primarily a political movement that led to sharpening of polarization in the country and creation of Pakistan. Sir Syeds hob-nobing with the British harmed our society in many ways. It certainly delayed our freedom and when freedom came it did with division of the country with much bloodshed. His legacy survives in the division of Bharat into three segments with concomitant harm. The AMU campus still lives to its tradition. Its professors are making demand for reservation. Making mention of seminars in Aligarh campus where venom is spewed Tufail Ahmed concludes it is clear that seminars like these will birth another Pakistan movement on the AMU campus in near-future for the Muslims 57

Notes and References:

1.   Raj Mohan Gandhi, Understanding Muslim Mind, Penguin books Australia, 2008 p. 19.

2.  .

3.   Shah Ismail Shaheed Taqwiyatul  Iman , (written in 1826).

4.   Z A Rahman, Islam 21 C the Indian Revolt: the Role of the Ulama 160 Years on, 31/5/2017. Maulana nanotwi, Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi and Hafiz Zamin Shaheed who fought the imperial army under the leadership of Haji lmdadullah at Shamli Field.

5.   Barbara D. Metcalf, 10 Years after September 11, A Social Science Research Council Essay Forum, Traditionalist Islamic Activism.

6.   Syed Ahmad Barelvi launched Jihad against the sikh state of Ranjeetsingh and got killed at Balakot in 1831. Allama Iqbal has high regard for him for his impact on posterity.

7.   Shariatullah, after visiting Mecca Medina in mid 19th century he started a movement in Bengal for radicalizing the people.

8.   Shashank Shekhar Sinha How Delhis First Friday Mosque Went From Being a 'Sanctuary of Islam' to the Might of Islam in Wire, February 25, 2017.

9.   Quoted by Rajmohan Gandhi in Understanding Muslim Mind, p. 25.

10. R. Palme Dutt, The Problem of India, International Publishers, New York, 1943, p. 98.

11. ibid

12. Rajmohan Gandhi in Understanding Muslim Mind, p. 27.

13. Rajmohan Gandhi in Understanding Muslim Mind, p. 24

14. Rajmohan Gandhi in Understanding Muslim Mind, p. 26.

15. Prof M.S Jain, The Aligarh Movement Agra,: Sri Ram. Mehra & Co 1965.

16. Baqi Billa was the planter of Nakshbandi silsila in Punjab whose chain is mainly responsible for polarization of society in the subcontinent.

17. Sheikh Sarhindi wrote 536 letters (Maqtibat) to Mughal grandees advocating such things as cow killing and imposition Jajiya.

18. Iqbal, Kulliyat-i Iqbal, Markazi Maktaba Islami, Delhi, 1993, p. 375.

19.  Miyan Masum was son of Sarhindi and the mentor of Aurangzeb.

20. Sheikh Saifuddin, son of Miyan Masum. He was deputed to Remained with Auranzeb and advice him in religious and administrative matters.

21. Aga Khan III, Memoirs , London, 1954, p. 36.

22. He wrote Muslim hain ham watan hain sara jehan hamara in Tarana-e-Milli (we are Muslims and all world is ours).

23. Tanzeem Faridi of the All India Muslim Students Federation (AIMSF cited in Zaman, Mukhtar, Students Role in the Pakistan Movement, Karachi, Series Historical studies, Pakistan ; 1.1978, p. 58.

24. Zaman, Mukhtar op cit, p, 18

25. Zaman, Mukhtar op cit, p. 49. 

26. Ahmed, Jamal Uddin (ed) Speeches and Writings of Mr Jinna, Lahore vol I, 1968, p. 243.

27.  Zaman, Mukhtar op cit, o, 50.

28.  Zaman, Mukhtar op cit ,p. 50,

29. Balbeer Punj, The Pioneer, 22 October, 2018.  

30. Mushirul Hasan, The Local roots of Pakistan Movement. p 125, in debates in Indian History ed. Kaushik Roy Oxford.

31. Ibid.

32. Sharma, Naval Krishna Speech in Rajya Sabha, June 2nd, 1972, Rajya Sabha proceedings VBol. LXXX, No 21-22, Co. 88.

33. Moj, Mohammad, The Deoband Madrassah Movement, Anthem Press, UK and USA, 1915, p. 84.

34. Krishn, Yuvraj, Understanding Partition, Bhavans Book University, Bhartiya vidya Bhavan, 2002, p 132

35. ibid.

36. Ahmad, Jameeluddin, The Writings & Speeches of Mr. Jinnah, Vol.II Lahore: United Publishers, 1960, p.164.

37. The Pioneer, Octobet 23, 2017

38. The Hindu, New Delhi September 16, 2014.

39. The Express Tribune. 9 February, 2013. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Express Tribume, feb. 9, 2013

40. Raja, Masood Ashraf, Constructing Pakistan: Foundational Texts and the Rise of Muslim National Identity, 18571947. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2010).

41. Shrivastava, A L, in foreword to The Aligarh Movement of Prof. M. S. Jain, Sri Ram Mehra & Company: Agra, 1965).

42. JAIHOON.COM, 31 October, 2007. Aside from these three and, Iqbal and Nadwi were also obsessed by the same fear of Indian philosophy and culture

43.  Jain M S, The AligarhMovement, Sri Ram Mehra & Co, Introduction.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid.

46. ibid

47.  Jain, M S op cit.pp. 39-41

48. Jain, M S op cit p 43. MSJ has quoted a large number of speeches of Sir Syed delivered between 1874 and 1893 available in AIG, G p. 43

49. Jain, M S op cit, p. 44.

50. Ibid.

51. Jain, M S, op cit, p. 45.

52. Jain, M S, op cit, p. 50

53. Faruqi Ziaul Hasan, Dr Zkir Hussain, A.P.H.Publication Corporation, New Delhi 1999, p. 240.

54. Ibid.

55. Shaikh, Irfan Ahmed , Jatoi, Bashir Ahmed , Shah, Syed Faisal Hyder, Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898): An Educationist And Reformer Of South Asia, (JPUHS, Journal of Punjab University Historical Society-Published by Department of History and Pakistan Studies- Vol.29, No.2, July - December, 2016, p. 114).

56. Peter Hardy, The Muslims of British India, Cambridge University Press, 1972 (a book review).

57. Tufail Ahmed op cit. 


Selected Bibliography:

1.   Aga Khan III, Memoirs , London, 1954.

2.   Ahmed, Jamal Uddin (ed) Speeches and Writings of Mr Jinna, Lahore vol I, 1968

3.   Faruqi Ziaul Hasan, Dr Zkir Hussain, A.P.H.Publication Corporation, New Delhi 1999.

4.   Krishna, Yuvraj, Understanding Partition, Bhartiya vidyabgavan, Mumbai, 2002.

5.   Jain M S, The AligarhMovement, Sri Ram Mehra & Co.1965.

6.   Raja, Masood Ashraf . Constructing Pakistan: Foundational Texts and the Rise of Muslim National Identity, 18571947. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2010).

7.   Zaman, Mukhtar, Students Role in the Pakistan Movement, Karachi, Series Historical studies, Pakistan.

8.   Shaikh, Irfan Ahmed , Jatoi, Bashir Ahmed , Shah, Syed Faisal Hyder, Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898): An Educationist And Reformer Of South Asia, (JPUHS, Journal of Punjab University Historical Society-Published by Department of History and Pakistan Studies- Vol.29, No.2, July - December, 2016

9.   Raj Mohan Gandhi, Understanding Muslim Mind, Penguin books Australia, 2008

10. Shah Ismail Shaheed Taqwiyatul Iman , (written in 1826).

11. R. Palme Dutt, The Problem of India, International Publishers, New York, 1943, p. 98.

12. Barbara D. Metcalf, 10 Years after September 11, A Social Science Research Council Essay Forum, Traditionalist Islamic Activism.

13. Iqbal, Kulliyat-i Iqbal, Markazi Maktaba Islami, Delhi, 1993

14. Ahmed, Jamal Uddin (ed) Speeches and Writings of Mr Jinna, Lahore vol I, 1968,

15. Mushirul Hasan, The Local roots of Pakistan Movement., in debates in Indian History ed. Kaushik Roy Oxford

16. Moj, Mohammad, The Deoband Madrassah Movement, Anthem Press, UK and USA, 1915.

17. Krishn, Yuvraj, Understanding Partition, Bhavans Book University, Bhartiya vidya Bhavan, 2002,

18. Raja, Masood Ashraf, Constructing Pakistan: Foundational Texts and the Rise of Muslim National Identity, 18571947. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2010).

19. Faruqi Ziaul Hasan, Dr Zkir Hussain, A.P.H.Publication Corporation, New Delhi 1999,

20. Shaikh, Irfan Ahmed , Jatoi, Bashir Ahmed , Shah, Syed Faisal Hyder, Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898): An Educationist And Reformer Of South Asia, (JPUHS, Journal of Punjab University Historical Society-Published by Department of History and Pakistan Studies- Vol.29, No.2, July - December, 2016.

21. , Rajendra Prasad, Indian divided.

22. Great Personalitied of Islam: compiled by Badr Azimabadi. Adam Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 2007.

23. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, A political Biography, Shan Muhammad.

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