Re-Reading Sir Syed: A Larger Vision

Re-Reading Sir Syed: A Larger Vision
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As we celebrated the 201th birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan on 17 October 2018—the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, when the whole debate around the nationalism and hyper-nationalism is round the corner. In fact, we are living in strange times where false narratives are constructed by none other than ruling establishment to push their political project. There is intense work going to erase the past and set new versions of past on falsehoods and lies. The past lies are now accepted as gossip truths because powers that be don’t like to hear and digest the truth.
There is every attempt to divide the already fragile society to fulfill the political wishes. The divisive politics of right-wing parties is only accepted norm. It is here that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the pioneer of the Aligarh Movement is needed t be o re-read once again. His mission of scientific education about society needs special attention to come out of the present challenges.
Sir Syed realized the importance of modern education and he believed that it is the education alone that would help to achieve the much needed cherished goals of development, peace, harmony and political stability of people. As the great man said, “Look forward, learn modern knowledge; do not waste time in studies of old subjects of no value.” On the one hand, Sir Syed stood for reformation and transformation of society on modern lines especially Muslims but on the other he never make any compromise when it come the question of larger identity of Muslims. What Sir Syed wrote about society and human culture 150 years ago continues to hold true today. In fact , the thinking of Syed on many critical issues can still provide us some significant insights to overcome from the challenges we are in, because Syed was the firm believer of dialogue and discussion.
There is no denying the fact that Sir Syed was a reformist and progressive thinker of his times. His main contribution and relevance at present is Syed was the firm believer of multiculturalism, where all communities irrespective of any discrimination must be allowed to equal status under state. Here it is really a great pleasure and satisfaction that the founding institute [AMU] of Sir Syed has always adhered to the vision of this great soul. Though, the institution has always remained in news sometimes about its Minority issue, Muslim Name, Jinnah portrait and so on.
However, the main concern and focus of our academicians, scholars, thinkers and writers , civil society and even political class should to reconsider, rethink, and reanalyze the past glory of humanism and brotherhood. With that we must bring the blurred contours of history and contextualize his [Sir Syed’s] vision to the present day and honest efforts must be made to end the hate and disparity on mare name of religion. Without his mission and without the contribution of AMU, this mission of multicultural society is only a distant dream. It is AMU alone that has the power to serve society than ever before. This great son of the South Asia, Sir Syed had indeed a renaissance potential and vision. He has a permanent place in the history of the subcontinent.
Happy 201th Birthday, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan! May your soul rest in peace!

The author is a Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at:, and he tweets at: @1947Ahanger