Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: The Legend of History

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is one of the most prominent figures in the movement for the Muslims. He was the man who enlightens the Muslim society by his educational, ethical, and reformative crusades. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan AKA “Khan Bahadur” was a philosopher, Muslim reformer, jurist, writer and political leader. His works for a better understanding between Muslims and British rulers, welfare for Muslims are the landmark. Moreover, the foundation of Anglo-Oriental College and scholarly services has influenced Muslims greatly. His instructions towards Islamic society, adoption of western-style education, and radical reinterpretation of the Quran have advanced the Muslim civilization. 

Sir Syed illuminated Urdu language and literature from the ground to the highest peaks of the sky. He established many schools in Gazipur and Muradabad for Muslims.

Intellectual personality

The well educated and intellectual personality of Syed shines in his books. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Books were: 

  • The Causes of Indian Revolt
  • Answer to the book: Life of Muhammad S.A.W 
  • A Voyage to Modernism 
  • Monuments of Delhi: Historical Study

However, Syed is also the author of many Urdu novels and lectures on Islamic Perspective. He also wrote Tafseer of Quran in seven volumes. He endeavours the logical and scientific analysis of the Islamic Teaching in Tafseer-e-Quran. 

Sir Syed has a paramount role in engendering the self-confidence in Muslims, influencing scientific society. Therefore, he built political ideas and educational aim. That is why Aligarh is one of the visible emblems of Muslim desires.

Here we will briefly discuss the life of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his utmost role in history.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan History

Let us discuss here the history of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in English.

Early Life Stage

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was born on 17th October in 1817 in Delhi. His father name was Syed Muhammad Mutaqqi was also an Islamic preacher. He was born in a respectable family, as his grandfather served as Wazir in the court of Emperor Akbar Shah. Syed’s mother Aziz-un-Nisa was a virtuous lady. She played a significant role in the upbringing of Sir Syed. Her strong beliefs for Islam, discipline, and values were the guideline for Sir Syed. Emperor Akber Shah also accorded him by the titles of Jawad-ul-Daula and Arif Jung. From the history of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, it is clear that he has an intellectual personality. He was a man of good character and pious man since childhood.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: Education

Sir Syed received his early education from his grandfather- Khwaja Fariduddin about Quran and Islam. He then went to school for his early education. He was also taught for understanding Quran by Female teacher. Thus, his teaching also emphasizes the learning of Persian and Arabic. Syed completed the studying of Quran, Hadith and Sunnah at the age of 18. Therefore, he also received education for mathematics and astronomy by an instructor. He then joined the East India Company College which later became Delhi College. Sir Syed than later joined the services of East India Company and went to become a judge at small causes court in 1876. In 1889, he received his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. Moreover, in the 19th Century, he saved the lives of many British rulers and given a title of “Sir”

The teachings of Rumi and Mirza Galib influenced Sir Syed. Hence, he also approached Galib to write Taqriz.


After completing early education, Syed was appointed a little clerk at the court of laws in Agra. He was accountable for the case records and managing court affairs. However, at the beginning of his career, he also served as an assistant clerk in Mianpuri and Fatehpuri Sikri. Sir Syed then joined the services of the East India Company and became a small scale judge. He had a keen interest in writing. From a very early age, Sir Syed began to write to initiate his author career by the age of 23. Moreover, he wrote books on religious texts.

Syed also wrote a commentary on the Bible in which he tried to explain the closeness Between Christianity and Islam. He then set up many Madrassa and schools in Gazipur and Muradabad as Anglo-Oriental College also initiated in 1875. During his career, he began criticizing Indian National congress and began promoting the Urdu language. Sir Syed Ahmed khan began to focus on Muslim Society and the adoption of Western Culture and Scientific Society. He also starts acquiring close knowledge about British men during his service at court. Receiving a high acknowledgement of Islam and disciplined values assist Sir Syed towards the betterment of Muslims and his career. From his very early career, he aimed to work for the welfare of Muslims.

Services of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

Political Services

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Political services have rendered the Muslims society significantly. He dominated the educational commission to set up for the promotion of more school and colleges across India. As for his valuable efforts for the education, he appointed for the viceroy legislative Council in 1879. He was one of the active Muslim leaders and advised Muslims to keep a pace from politics. He knew the backwardness of Muslims in India and their uncertain education for politics. But he strongly presented the ideas of Muslims and was aware of the consequences.

Syed removes the mistrust about Muslims in the mind of British men. He was the first Muslim leader who realized the gravity of the situation after the war of independence. For this purpose, he wrote “Risala-e-Asbab-Baghawat-e-Hind” (The Causes of Indian revolt). Risala-e-Asbab-Baghawat-e-Hind tried to prove many factors which led to the uprising of 1857 as Muslims were not only responsible for it. Furthermore, he also wrote “Loyal Muhammadans of India” which defended the Muslims against the charges of disloyalty. 

Congress suggests that appointments in the government services must be held by competitive examination. Since Muslims were not much educated and was not receiving compatible education than Hindus. Sir Syed commented that only if equal educational opportunities will provide than such an idea could work.

Muhammadan Foundation

Syed also founded the Muhammadan Foundation to promote political cooperation among Indian Muslims. He was a large-hearted man and open-minded person, who leadingly prefer promoting rights for education. As for this vision, he organized All Indian Muhammadan Educational Conference in Aligarh for the promotion of modern education system.

Sir Syed was one of the head of the Two-Nation Theory. He was the first Muslim thinker in India who spoke for Muslims, declaring them a separate nation.

Syed’s Political works for the welfare of Muslims, promotion of education and understanding the rights of Muslims in the Subcontinent has been a milestone in history. Sir Syed was one of the most influential and prominent Muslim leaders. 

Religious Services

Sir Syed was a loyal believer of western education besides he also urges Muslims to keep firm belief in Islam. He knew that Muslims only succeed if they rely upon the teachings of Islam. As he said,

Muslims should hold their religion in their right hand and worldly pursuit in their left hand

Syed motives towards Islam were clear and revere. He devoted his life to the cause of welfare for Muslims, indicating straight guideline to Muslims about the Quran. As being a faithful believer, he wrote the Tafseer-e-Quran in seven volumes. He tried to give a strapping logical and scientific analysis of the Islam teachings through Islamic verses and deeds. He also laid down the foundation of Farsi Madrassa in 1859, which emphasize to build a strong point of Islam. Moreover, Muslims and Hindus both were taught Persian, Arabic, English and Urdu in Madrassa.

As for the goodness of Students, the Madrassa also raise fund for Muslims and Hindus. To bridge the gap between the British and Muslims Sir Syed wrote the commentary on the bible “Tabyin-ul-Kalam”. He gave brief orthodox in his books Jila-ul-Qulub bi Zikr-il Mahbub, Tuhfa-i-Hasan, along with the Tahsil fi jar-i-Saqil. He answered to the Book of William Muirs “The life of the Muhammad” which indicate the negative picture about Islam and the life of Muhammad S.A.W. Sir Syed writes “Khutubat-e-Ahmadia” as an answer to the Book of William Muirs. His other expositions on Islam such as Loyal Muhammadans of India and A Series of Essays on the Life of Muhammad S.A.W and Subjects Subsidiary Therein, bridge the differences between Muslims, Hindus and British men.

His religious works were:
  1. Ahkam Tu’am Ahl-Kitab
  2. Al-Du’a Wa’l Istajaba
  3. Al-Nazar Fi Ba’z Masa’il
  4. Imam Al-Ghazzali
  5. Tafsir-a-Samawat
  6. Tahrir fi Usul al-Tafsir
  7. Tarjama fawa’id al-afkar fi Amal al-farjar
  8. Syed-ul-Akbar
  9. Qaul-i-Matin dar Ibtal-i-Harkat I Zamin
  10. Tashil fi Jar-a-Saqil
  11. Ik Nadan Khuda Parast aur Dana dunyadar Ki Kahani
  12. Kalamat-ul-Haqq

Sir Syed Ahmed khan religious services for the unity of Muslims substantially impact Muslim society. His works for the betterment of Muslims urge Muslims to understand the divine teachings of the Quran. His instructions for Muslim unity are continuously influencing Islam global reformation.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Contribution towards Education

Sir Syed Ahmed was among the Muslim leaders who realize the urgent need to come up with a plan for modernizing as well as to energize the Muslim Community. For this perception, he launched much vigorous reformist movement which prompts Muslim society. He realizes the plight of Muslims cannot improve without a revolution in their attitude towards education. Thus, modern schooling became the pivot of Syed’s movement for the regeneration of Indian Muslims. From the very beginning, he worked for the betterment of education for Muslims. The encouragement of Sir Syed towards Education is the most illustrious.

Foundation of Institutions

Sir Syed educational struggle begins when he establishes a Maddarsa at Muradabad entitled “Farsi Madrassa” in 1859. It was the starting point for the betterment of Muslim education. Therefore, in 1864 he also established the first modern Victoria School in Ghazipur. In this school, students were taught the five modern languages along with English, Urdu, and Arabic along with Sanskrit. Moreover, another ambitious step towards education was the foundation of the Scientific Society in 1863 at Gazipur. This foundation came forward for the translation of many educational texts and issued a bilingual general in Urdu and English. However, he also publishes a weekly Gazette called Aligarh Institute Gazette during his stay in Aligarh.

The most prominent step of Syed to advance the education was the establishment of M.A.O College in 1877(Aligarh University now). Thus, the Modammadan Educational Conference was also laid by Sir Syed to promote education and social reforms among the Muslims. This conference also tried to bring recent teaching more in line with the needs of the community. He believes that modern education for Muslims is the only key to step for success. Sir Syed was one of the alternatives that Subcontinent Muslims got familiarized with Modern Arts and Sciences.

Learn English Language

Sir Syed accentuates the Subcontinent Muslims to learn the English language as it was the language of British Rulers. He believes that if Muslims continue to stay aloof from the English language it will result in the decline of community. As he told them:

“Today there is no Muslim rulers to patronize those who are well versed in the old Arabic and Persian leaning. If Muslims do not take to the system of education introduced by the British, they will not only remain a backward community so will sink lower and lower until there is no hope of recovery left to them

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: Literary Services

Sir Syed literary services contribution played a significant role in improving the social setup of Muslim society. His many magazines help forward the Muslims in uplifting the social-political conditions besides broadening their religious bounds.

Risala Tehzibul Akhlaq was a journal published by Sir Syed between 1871 and 1897. Syed wants to communicate the Social reformation of Muslims, also discusses his plans with his close friend Nawab Mohsin Mulk. He came along with the idea of publishing a journal “Risala Tehzibul Akhlaq”. It was one of the remarkable work by Sir Syed that advanced the Muslims towards Independence. However, along with Mohsin Mulk, Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain, Shamsul Ulema Maulvi Zakaullah, Maulvi Muhammad Chiragh Ali Khan, Maulana Altaf Hussain Haali, and Shamsul Ulema Allama Shibli Nomani also wrote many articles on religious and political reforms. This magazine published weekly and had a price of Rs.200 at the time.

While another notable work by Sir Syed was the magazine published entitle “Aligarh Institute Gazette”. This magazine also published many research essays which played a vital role in uplifting the social-political conditions of Muslims.

Illumination of Urdu Language

Sir Syed as Urdu Writer 

Sir Syed as Urdu Writer firmly enlightens the Urdu language and never had opposition for the Urdu language. Moreover, he wanted Urdu to be an official language and sought the British for the formal declaration of Urdu.

In the 19th Century, the Urdu language was fill up with only poetic nature and unnecessary troubles. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan liberated the Urdu language from the gatherings of Emperors from them to publicly. As Sir Syed was a man of Strong attitude towards his nation, he wanted his state to step in advancements. Moreover, his prodigious research in his books has attracted the reader’s head.

Almost every connoisseur appreciates the work of Sir Syed as Urdu Writer. His device and encouragement through books have always been an indicator for Muslims.

Hindi Urdu Controversy

The Hindi Urdu has impacted the life of Sir Syed incredibly. Before this event, he has been a great advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity as his opinion regarding this was, 

“Two nations are like two eyes of the Beautiful bride, India “

But after imparting the consequences of the two nations he completely altered his point of view. He put forward the Two-Nation Theory, predicting that the differences between the two groups would increase with time. He also organized an Urdu Defence association along with his companions

History of the Aligarh Movement

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was truly among those leaders who successfully gave rise to a big chunk of Humanity for Muslims. As for his kindness to Muslims, he started a great movement named “Aligarh Movement”. Aligarh movement considers being the visible emblem of Muslim hopes and Desires. This movement came closer towards the regeneration of Muslims who were facing the rage of the British government. The main aim of this movement was to implant scientific temper and censorious reasoning among Muslims through Western Education. The history of Aligarh movement main objectives that impart Sir Syed for the foundation were:

  • Menace to the religion-traditional recognition of Muslims in the wake of propagandas by other Communities.
  • The backwardness of Muslims as compared to Hindus.
  • The decline in the power structures and unity of Muslims after the fall of Mughal empires.

Foundation of M.A.O College

Sir Syed dreamed of setting up a university for Muslims in the Subcontinent. As for this purpose, he travelled to England to see University System there. Sir Syed could not start a university straight away. So instead of this, he came forward to originate with a school as he established Madrasatul Uloom Musalmanan-e-Hind (Aligarh School) on 24th May 1875. After two years, on 8th January 1877 when Lord Lytton (Viceroy of India), and the Governor-General Of India inaugurated the Muhammadan Anglo College (M.A.O).

Aligarh University

Aligarh University

Soon After the Establishment of M.A.O College, the founders wanted the college to convert into University. Several years later afterwards the death of Sir Syed, the followers and companions of Syed collected 3 million rupees. They deposited them to the government to get the status of Aligarh University Muslim University by the act of 1920. Hence, Aligarh University has tremendous importance for Subcontinent Muslims. Allama Iqbal acknowledges the importance of University by addressing Muslims:

“Few Institutions in the history of modern Islam have had such deep and far-reaching impact on the intellectual and cultural lives of the Muslims as the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental-College founded by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in 1875 and raised to the status of University in 1920. It heralded a new era of an intellectual and cultural renaissance for Muslims not only in India but the whole of Asia”

The M.A.O college for open for the advancements of all communities without a threat to religion-cultural identity. Sir Syed also establish the department of Theology. Therefore, Shia Sunni both were studying there. Dr Maulvi Abdul Haque said,

People say Sir Syed set up a college; nay, he made a nation”

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: Death 

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan died on 27th March 1898. But the works he had done for the betterment and welfare of society make him immortal. His funeral was attempted by thousands of Muslims and British men too. His tomb is in Sir Syed Masjid inside Aligarh University. Thousands of people in alumni, and in independence, defence ceremonies play tribute for his tolerance and notable works. Historian Tara Chand appreciates the valuable efforts by saying,

“Sir Syed Ahmed Khan lived a long and strenuous life which was singularly devoted to the causes of Muslims”


Some people are God appoints for the amelioration and improvement of society. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was one of them. A man who neither headed a large army nor fought a heroic battle, but his true faith in Islam always motivated him to achieve goals. Syed Ahmed struggles for enhancing the community and achievements for education are the remarkable guideline for Muslims. Moreover, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan thorough his religious, political, and scholarly services are continuously elevating the Islamic civilization.

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