Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh Movement
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) was the single most important Muslim social reformer in the subcontinent. His radical thinking on Muslim identity, education and social cohesion fuelled transformative change in the Muslim community eventually leading to a political push for a separate homeland for them.
Colonial rule shattered the remnants of Mughal rule in India. The violent shift from kingship to a minority- that was excluded from economic, cultural and political life- had left Muslims reeling. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s demands for educational advancement among young people rather than bemoaning the shift in fortunes was a bracing tonic. The creation of the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh in 1875 was a concrete validation of his views. The college eventually became the Aligarh Muslim University in 1920 – a remarkable academic institution. The driving force behind these institutions was the Aligarh Movement. Galvanised by Sir Syed’s thinking and the efforts of his associates and like-minded thinkers, the Aligarh Movement promoted education as the key to progress and development while emphasising the necessity of social and cultural cohesion among Muslims. Holistic in its approach the Aligarh Movement valued both scholastic prowess and a singular political identity among Muslims.
Pakistan, in some respects, owes its existence to one iteration of a nationalist framework that emerged from the Aligarh Movement. The political impetus behind the Pakistan Movement was rooted in the thinking embodied by the Aligarh Movement. After 1947, students educated at the Aligarh Muslim University were at the forefront of leadership in Pakistan. As many as five former Heads of State and Prime Ministers of Pakistan were graduates of Aligarh Muslim University and were members of the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys’ Association.
The Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys’ Association of Pakistan continues to serve the next generation of its community. Members of the association successfully established:
- ALIGARH INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (AIT), Karachi
- SIR SYED UNIVERSITY OF ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY (SSUET), KARACHI
And, more recently, AMUOBA has started the construction of Sir Syed Tower to provide space for more educational facilities in the heart of Karachi city- in line with efforts of moving forward with the spirit of Sir Syed- likewise, both the University and AIT are dedicated to providing rigorous educational opportunities to young people in Pakistan.