What if Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had not existed?[1]

The Aligarh Movement was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s legacy. Its roots were in the dispatch Sir Syed sent to the British government on the causes of the 1857 revolt.[2] In less than twenty years, he ignited the flame of modernity among Indian Muslims by his crusade for education and social reform. The school he founded at Aligarh was a political enterprise, a symbol of Muslim awakening in India. The second step Sir Syed took was to establish the Muhammadan Educational Congress (MEC) in 1886. Its purpose was two-fold: to spread education among Muslims in all parts of India and to protect the political rights of Muslims as a minority community. Sir Syed used the MEC platform to defend the cause of Urdu — he established Anjuman-i-Tarraqi-i-Urdu in 1893 — and to respond to the Hindu revivalist movement of Arya Samaj and the “democratic” agenda of the All-India National Congress (AINC). In less than a decade after the death of Sir Syed, the Aligarh elders and its first generation of students (the Old Boys) used the MEC to form the All-India Muslim League (AIML). Could all of this have happened without Sir Syed Ahmed Khan?

Let me set the historical context. Muslims in India were by no means homogenous by ethnicity or class, but they had a separate cultural identity from Hindus for centuries.[3] More importantly, they had possessed political power over much of India for at least 200 years. The decline of Muslim power in India began soon after the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (b.1618) in 1707. In the next half century, the Mughal empire disintegrated by wars of succession and regional revolts. The British East India Company (BEIC) took advantage of the circumstances: it captured Bengal in 1756, took over the province’s Diwani (revenue) rights in 1765, and moved west into Awadh and Rohilkhand. The Company was in control of Delhi in 1803 with the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II (1728–1806) as its ward. By 1850 the whole of India was a British Colony.

In less than one hundred years, Muslims found themselves powerless, a minority without power, and relatively more backward than the Hindus, excluding Dalits. They lost not only the positions of power in the government but also landed estates. Hindus, at least the upper caste and merchants, took advantage of the policies adopted by the new rulers. The Muslim elite were frustrated and most of them either rejected or resisted the new political dispensation. This was particularly true of the ulama and those who had suffered economic losses and positions. Most of them were against Western education. But Western education had become necessary for professions and government employment. While Muslims were in resistance and rejection, Hindus, particularly the upper caste reformists, embraced the education policy of the BEIC.

The education policy of the BEIC went through three stages from the time of acquiring the Diwani rights of Bengal in 1765 to 1854 when the whole of India was under its rule. Until 1813, the Company focussed on Oriental education for its own staff and the people from the upper and middles classes of Hindus and Muslims.[4] It did not allow British missionaries to educate or convert Indians — there were some Danish missionary schools in Madras. But in 1813 the Company was forced to allow the missionaries to open schools for boys and girls in India. These schools became the nucleus for education and conversion, particularly of the low-caste Hindus. In 1817 Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833), a Bengali modernist, and David Hare (1775–1842), a Scottish philanthropist, established the Hindu (Presidency) College as the first English medium institution in Calcutta. The third stage started in the mid 1830s when English replaced Persian as the official language and the English-language schools were given financial support. The aim of education in India was to form a class “Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinion, in morals and in intellect.” Public funds were to be spent “in imparting to the native population knowledge of English literature and science through the medium of the English language.”

Th new education policy was premised on the principle of “downward-filtration”. The “rich, the learned and the men of business”, once they are trained, “could act as teachers and through them elementary education would percolate in the vernacular at a low cost.” The emphasis was on English education concentrating on higher education for the rich and upper middle class; then let the educated elite promote mass education. Until then it was advised to shelve the proposal to use the vernacular languages. However, by 1853, in Bombay, the North-Western Province, Bengal and Bihar, it was decided to retain the vernacular in the primary and secondary schools and use English as the medium of instruction in colleges. By the late 1840s, English education had become the passport to appointments in respectable positions available to Indians, hence its popularity and adoption.

There were several problems associated with this approach. English education at the top ignored the education of the masses through vernacular schools, especially in Bengal. The advantages of English education were reaped by the upwardly mobile middle-class Hindus with very little participation by the Hindu aristocracy and the Muslim community. The curricula were biased in favour of literature and not science. Also, they were secular to avoid religious controversy. Missionaries and the local private educators, most of them Hindus, were the major sources of education for boys and girls in both English and the vernacular. But many indigenous private schools were not well organised and systematised. Generally, Muslims kept away from Western education until 1854. Maktab and madrassah remained the only institutions of learning and knowledge, most of which was about religion and languages, Urdu, Persian and Arabic.

In 1854, the Company’s education policy took a major turn away from the downward-filtration approach to expand school education in the vernacular. The change was based on the recommendations of Charles Wood (1800–1885), President of the Board of Control in London. He recommended a uniform educational system from the primary-school level to the university level throughout India. His “Education Dispatch” became the foundation stone of the educational system for British India. Following the Dispatch, three universities, one each in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, were established in 1857; provincial Education Departments were created; grants-in-aid were introduced; primary and secondary education was promoted; and training of teachers was started. The grants-in-aid programme greatly facilitated the growth of private schools and colleges, including secondary schools using English as the medium of instruction. By 1859 the number of schools and colleges had grown rapidly, some financed entirely by the government and others by private entities and individuals with or without grants-in-aid.

By the end of the 1860s, it was clear that the working-class poor communities, especially in rural areas, were not sending their children to school. Poverty was the major reason. But for some the idea of mixing children of different ethnicity and class was also a barrier. The urban rich and middle-class families were the major beneficiaries. Also, there was great disparity between boys and girls. By and large Muslims were far behind the Hindus in accepting modern education for their children, especially girls. But this was not unform in all parts of India. In Punjab, North-Western Province, Awadh, and Bombay the participation of Muslim boys was equal to their proportion in the population. This was not the case in Bengal, Bihar, and Sindh. At the college and university levels, Muslim participation was far behind that of the Hindus. The major reason was not poverty but resistance to Western education. This stemmed from the notion that English education will corrupt the true faith. Overall, the Muslim community was still resisting and rejecting the new rulers.[5] They were also frustrated by the fact that they could not compete with the Hindus for government positions and professions. The 1857 revolt and its aftermath made the gulf wider between the Muslim community and the British administration in India given its awfully vindictive treatment of Muslims. The year !857 was the watershed.

Enter Sir Syed Ahmed Khan! He took two steps that would radically transform the Muslim community in India and India itself. First, he presented to the British government a comprehensive report, in which he analysed the causes of the 1857 revolt and suggested changes in its policy towards Indians and Muslims in particular. While some in the British administration did not look at his report favourably, others took serious note of it. A major outcome of Sir Syed’s report was the Indian Councils Act of 1861, allowing Indians to be included in the Viceroy’s Legislative Council. The second step of Sir Syed was far more audacious and daunting: changing the attitudes of his own community. To do this he focused his attention on three fronts.

First, Sir Syed argued that his community should accept the legitimacy of the British rule in India for two reasons. Rejection of and resistance to it have produced nothing but suffering, poverty, and backwardness. You have fallen behind. He added that these rulers are far better than the despots you had before them. You must reconcile with the British rule in India. On the second front, Sir Syed focused on social (religious) reforms. Muslims should move away from taqlid and use tajdid in matters of religion. Think for yourself and not follow others blindly. Go to the Qur’an itself and follow its commandments.[6] The third front, and perhaps the most important for Sir Syed, was about education. He stressed that modern education was the key to progress: knowledge of science and technology will equip you to live a good life in the modern age. You have fallen behind the Hindu community, and you can see the impact it has had on your position in British India. Sir Syed was a relentless publicist. He used two platforms to spread his word. One was his speeches. The other was his writings, particularly in his two magazines: The Aligarh Institute Gazette (1866) and Tehzib ul Akhlaq (1870). He used these magazines to articulate his point of view on issues about which he felt strongly.

On the education front, Sir Syed’s first step was to establish the Translation (Scientific) Society in 1864. The purpose of the Society was to translate literature about science, technology, languages, and history. Its membership grew with time and included representatives from the Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities. It was under the aegis of the Society that Sir Syed had started the Aligarh Institute Gazette. By the end of the 1860s, he was not happy with the government’s education policy and was deeply disappointed by the lack of involvement of Muslims in modern (Western) education. He was determined to establish a model that the Muslim community could adopt throughout India. For that purpose, he travelled to England at a great personal cost. There he stayed for seventeen months and spent most of his time looking at the workings of the private schools at Eton and Harrow and the universities at Oxford and Cambridge.

By the time Sir Syed returned home in the fall of 1870, he was sure of one thing: that he must establish a privately funded residential school for mostly Muslim boys from the middle-class. Students would live in a cultural milieu familiar to them while learning languages, science, and technology. Living, learning, and playing sports together, with emphasis on moral discipline and cooperative behaviour, were meant to build a communal identity, brotherhood, inspire self development, and acquire knowledge of the world beyond. The academic programme was intended to equip the students with knowledge and skills necessary to build professional careers in government and outside. Money for the school was raised through donations, lotteries, entertainment fairs and poetry recitation. Hindus were some of the large donors. The faculty consisted of well-known scholars, Muslims most of them but also Hindus and British. The school was not for Muslims only. In the first twenty years, Hindus made up over one-fifth of the student population. One-third of the students received financial assistance.

The Aligarh School started in 1875. Two years later it became a post-secondary institution called Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College. This was the beginning of the Aligarh Movement. The first impact of the MAO College outside Aligarh was that individuals and communities started to establish committees and societies (anjumans) to raise funds and build schools and colleges, stretching from Punjab to Sindh in the west, Bihar and Bengal in the east, and from Bombay to Madras in the south. By the early 1880s, Muslim educational societies and individuals were engaged in building educational institutions from the primary school level to colleges all over India. In the meantime, Sir Syed with his devoted friends and supporters focused their attention on improving the workings of the MAO College in Aligarh. The College would soon emerge as a symbol of Muslim identity and a political enterprise. It attracted boys and young men from all over India to go though a tranformational experience in their life.

Until the mid-1880s, Sir Syed’s politics focused on four issues: loyalty to the British rule in India; greater representation of Indians in the decision-making bodies of the government; Hindu-Muslim unity since they belonged to the same territory, or they had one nationality; and protection of the rights of Muslims as a minority in India. It is worth adding that he was with the Hindu community on the issue of cow-slaughter but was vigorously against the proposal of some Hindu leaders that Hindi should replace Urdu in the offices and schools. The Hindu revivalist movement of Arya Samaj was a new development, putting a wedge between Hindus and Muslims in several parts of India. In 1885, the founders of the All-India National Congress (AINC) claimed that they had created a platform for both Hindus and Muslims to demand greater representation of Indians in the government. The principle of representation in the decision-making bodies would be democratic and the selection of Indians for government jobs would be based on merit through competitive examinations. Sir Syed initially remained aloof from it. Few Muslims joined the AINC.

In 1886, Sir Syed founded the Muhammadan Educational Congress (MEC) — its name was changed to Muhammadan Educational Conference in 1890 — to educate and reform the Indian Muslims. The Conference became an annual event held in different cities of India. In its fifty years of history, the MEC held forty-five sessions in all parts of India. In each meeting, the participants exchanged views on issues of concern to the Muslim community mostly about education but not excluding other issues. At the second session of the MEC at Lucknow in 1887, Sir Syed let the world know his opposition to the agenda of the AINC. Democratic elections and the merit-based principle for government employment would threaten the rights of Muslims as a minority that had fallen behind the Hindus in education, jobs, professions, and business. Thus, MEC became not only an instrument for spreading education among Muslims but also a political platform for the protection of their rights in India. In 1893, to defend the cause of Urdu against the Hindu onslaught, the MEC created Anjuman-i-Tarraqi-i-Urdu, an entity to promote Urdu. While the MAO College became a factory for producing self-conscious and educated Muslims, the MEC was emerging as the sole political platform for Muslims in India. In fact, it became the driving force for the Aligarh Movement.

It is important to remember that after the revolt of 1857 Indians wanted representation in the governance of India. In the 1880s, neither the AINC nor the MEC saw India as an independent state on the horizon. The goal was to expand opportunities for Indians to participate in the decision-making bodies of the government and to get better jobs in the administration. The difference between the MEC and the AINC was about the principle for representation. The AINC demanded democratic elections for the Legislative and Executive Councils and competitive examinations for government jobs. Sir Syed argued that in the democratic system the majority could use its power to the detriment of the Muslim minority. Separate electorate and proportional representation were therefore necessary for the system to function fairly. [Separate electorate means that a specific (say Muslim) community is assigned constituencies in proportion to the community’s share in the total population. And in each of the designated constituency, only the members of that community are allowed to vote.] He added that the government should fix a quota for Muslims to get government jobs. Eventually the government would accept the principle of separate electorate, but it rejected a quota system for employment in the government.

In the 1880s and 1890s, the British government was moving towards greater participation of Indians in the governing Councils. The Local Council Act of 1882 was a major concession for local self-government in India: elected members would dominate the local (municipal) committees. The Indian Councils Act of 1892 gave more representation to Indians through election in the Viceroy’s and Provincial Councils. These Councils could discuss the budget and other issues. It raised the power of the elected representatives and increased the patronage appointments in government service. In the meantime, the tide of Hindu revivalism and chauvinism was rising even within the AINC. The Hindu-Muslim riots on the issue of cow slaughter — about which the AINC was silent — made the Hindu-Muslim division sharper.

Soon after the turn of the century two political events proved to be transformative for the Indian Muslims. The first event was the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon (1859–1925), the Viceroy, in 1905: the eastern part of Bengal with Muslim majority and Assam were made a separate province. It unleashed fierce Hindu opposition under the cover of the Swadeshi movement. In the summer of 1906, John Morley (1838–1923), Secretary of State for India, increased the number of elected representatives in the government. The announcement came at a time when the Hindus and Muslims were sharply divided because of the pestering Urdu-Hindi conflict, the cow-slaughter riots, and the Hindu agitation against the division of Bengal. Muslims had to take a bold step to protect their rights as a minority in India. That led to the second event. Here again the Aligarh Movement was in the front.

Three Aligarh elders and close associates of Sir Syed, Syed Mahdi Ali (1837–1907), Mushtaq Husain Zuberi (1844–1917) and Sayyid Husain Bilgrami (1844–1926),with the strong backing of the Aligarh Old Boys — Sahibzada Aftab Ahmed Khan (1867–1930) and others — organised a 35-member deputation under the leadership of Aga Khan III (1877–1957) to meet the Viceroy, Lord Minto (1845–1914), at Simla in October of 1906. The members were prominent Muslims from all parts of India except the North-West Frontier Province. The most important outcome of the meeting was Lord Minto’s acceptance of the principle of separate electorate and proportional representation. Following the meeting with the Viceroy, the leaders of the Aligarh Movement asked Nawab Khwaja Salimullah (1871–1915) to host the twentieth session of the MEC in Dacca, for which he agreed to pay the cost. Two thousand delegates from all over India gathered for three days, 27–30 December 1906, and founded the All-India Muslim League (AIML) with Aga Khan III as its first President and Nawab Salimullah as Vice-President. This was perhaps the most important political development for the Muslims of India: a single political platform to fight for their rights.[7]

Lord Morley (1838–1923), Secretary of State for India, and Lord Minto, the Viceroy, introduced the Indian Council Act of 1909. This Act enlarged the size of the Legislative and Executive Councils and increased the proportion of elected members in each Council to allow more Indians to participate in the government. The Act also introduced the principle of separate electorate and weighted representation of Muslims in the Councils. These provisions gave legitimacy to the political identity of Muslims as a protected minority in India. It was an achievement for which the Aligarh Movement and the AIML could take genuine credit. Sadly, the British government annulled the partition of Bengal in 1911 as a concession to the Hindu agitation in Bengal and to arrest the acts of terror by some extremists. However, despite the Hindu-Muslim divide in India, the AINC and AIML agreed at Lucknow in 1916 on (i) the principle of separate electorate, (ii) a weighting system for Muslim representation — they would get more than proportionate seats in the Muslim-minority provinces and some what reduced proportion in Punjab and Bengal — and (iii) collective decisions will be made with the consent of at least two-thirds of the members of each party. This was another milestone for the Aligarh Movement and the AIML.

Indian politicians were not satisfied with the Act of 1909. They had however supported Britain in World War I. During the War, they renewed their demands to expand the power of Indians in the government. In response, Edwin Montague (1879–1924), Secretary of Stat for India, made a statement in the British Parliament in August 1917: “The British government in London and in India wished to increase the involvement of Indians in every branch of administration and foster the growth of self-governing institutions for progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.” Montague came to India in 1918 and with Viscount Chelmsford (1868–1933), the Viceroy, published their joint report on the Indian Constitutional Reforms. That became the basis of the India Act of 1919 which came into effect in 1921. The reforms expanded the participation of Indians and the power of the elected representatives. The Act maintained the principles of separate electorate and the weightage system for Muslim representation. The problem was that the Indian political elite and their followers had moved beyond the idea of self-government within the British Empire. For some, especially in the AINC, complete independence (Swaraj) was now the goal.

In 1920 the MAO College was made a degree-granting institution and changed its name to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). In the same year, some of its alumni, including Mohammad Ali Jauhar (1878–1931) and Zakir Husain (1897–1969), supported by M.K Gandhi (1869–1948) and Hakim Ajmal Khan (1868–1927), founded a “national” university called Jamia Milli Islamia — it was shifted from Aligarh to Delhi in 1925. In fact, it was the beginning of the division of the Aligarh Movement. While a vast majority of the Aligarh alumni and students stayed with the AIML, a minority went over to the AINC as “nationalists”. Gandhi and Mohammad Ali were in a joint movement of non-cooperation against the British government. Gandhi was for self-rule (Swaraj) in India and Mohammad Ali was for the Khilafat (Caliphate) in Turkey. Neither was able to make much headway in their pursuit, certainly not Mohammad Ali.

The Aligarh Movement was the brainchild of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: to awaken the Muslims of India by social reform and education and to protect the rights of Muslims as a minority in British India. After Sir Syed, the Aligarh Movement gained momentum through the annual meetings of the MEC and the AIML after it was formed in 1906.[8] Had Sir Syed not been there, then what? Of course, the world would have moved on! But how differently for the Muslims in India? By the end of 1857, three things were clear. First that the Muslim resistance to and rejection of the British rule had failed. Second, Muslims had fallen far behind the Hindu majority in almost every respect. Third, the British rulers were not sympathetic to the cause of Muslims as a minority in India.

The process of education and modernisation of Muslims in India without Sir Syed and his Aligarh Movement would have been uncertain and longer for three reasons. First Muslims had to persuade the British administration after the 1857 revolt that they were not against their rule. They had to show that they were loyal subjects. The British attitude towards Muslims was never sympathetic and had become hostile after the 1857 revolt.[9] Second, Muslims had to be persuaded to get out of the depression and accept Western education to move forward. Third, how could Muslims have persuaded the Hindu majority to respect their rights as a minority community? They had to build a common political platform to change the British policy on the one hand and the majoritarian inclinations of the Hindu majority on the other.

The way out of the morass was not clear or easy to navigate. Yes, there were some enlightened individuals, but none of them rose to the challenge. In Bengal, the Anjuman-i-Islami, formed in 1855, encouraged Muslims to be loyal to the British rule and to organise for education through local anjumans. Their activities were reinforced by Nawab Abdul Latif (1828–1893) and Syed Ameer Ali (1849–1928) in the 1860s and 1870s. These men were on the same platform for Muslim rights but differed in their approach to education. Later Nawab Salimullah and his compatriots were able to persuade the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, to partition Bengal so that Muslims could govern themselves without being dominated by Hindus. However, in less than six years, the British government yielded to the well organised and violent agitation by the Bengali Hindus to reunite Bengal.

Outside Bengal, except for the Anjuman-i-Punjab (1865) in Lahore — its goal was to build a university in Lahore for all communities (Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs) — all other anjumans for Muslim education were inspired by Sir Syed and supported by the Aligarh Movement. Would these anjumans have emerged autonomously? Perhaps but not at that time. There were several enlightened men around Sir Syed in the North-Western Province who were younger than him.[10] Could any of them individually or some as a group have lighted the torch and carried it forward? Probably. I am not sure. Look at Badruddin Tayabji (1844–1906). He had followed Sir Syed in his educational programme for Muslims in Bombay through Anjuman-i-Islam (1874). Then he joined the AINC in 1885 but not too many Muslims followed him.

It is worth remembering that from 1756 to 1857 the Muslim elite were either in a state of war and resistance or indifferent to the British rule in India. No individual or group came forward to preach the message of modernity through education to Muslims. The ashraf passively accepted the British rule and were quite content with the oriental education that the British offered until the mid-1830s. There was no one who drew the attention of Muslims about the value of Western education even at the primary school level. Until the 1860s, Muslim boys had fallen far behind the Hindus at every level — girls more so. And no one except Sir Syed stood up and spoke about the causes of the 1857 revolt and its consequences and beseeched his own community to wake up. In less than a generation, he showed the way and its results started to emerge in his lifetime.

If Sir Syed was not there, who would have singly or collectively ignited the flame for social and educational reform among Muslims in India? Who could have built a common platform and how? The history of the Muslim elite until the time of Sir Syed was not inspiring. My guess is that the gap between Hindus and Muslims would have kept widening because of polarisation. For Muslims the process of change would have been more uncertain, painful, and costly. Or worse. The Hindu-Muslim conflict would have grown more violent, making India ungovernable. I think the British administration, even if willing, was not capable of acting as an impartial arbiter between the belligerent communities. Its treatment of Muslims during and after the 1857 revolt and its decision to annul the division of Bengal in 1911 are well documented.

[1]During my search of the literature about Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817–1898) and the Aligarh Movement, I came across an article by Professor Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), India. He says, “It is difficult to visualise the condition of the Muslims of the Subcontinent had there not been Sir Syed and his Aligarh Movement.” In this essay I have used the same references as in my last essay about Sir Syed’s life.

[2] Until 1857 Sir Syed was known as a keen student of history and a respected writer in Urdu and Persian. He came to the notice of his British superiors first in Bijnor during the 1857 revolt because of his administrative skills. Then in Moradabad, during the famine, his devoted work to provide relief to victims, be they Hindu or Muslim, was much appreciated. It was from Moradabad that he dispatched his report to the British government on the causes of the 1857 revolt. By 1859 Sir Syed was a man with a mission. It is also possible that he was inspired by Mirza Asad Ullah Khan Ghalib in 1855 when the great poet told Sir Syed to look at what the British had to offer in administration, laws, science, and technology and not look back at the laws of Akbar (Ain-i-Akbari).

[3] There were significant overlaps of culture between the two communities, especially among the working class and peasants.

[4] Initially the BEIC promoted oriental education in India and established three oriental institutions. In !781 Warren Hastings (1732–1818) established the Calcutta Madrassah for Persian, Arabic, and Islamic law. The Sanskrit College at Benares was built in 1795 for the study of Sanskrit literature and history. The Delhi College was created in 1824 for the study of Persian and Arabic. Previously it was a madrassah founded by Ghazi ud Din Khan, the Vizier of Emperor Aurangzeb, in the late seventeenth century.

[5] In 1884, in the Indian Education Commission’s report, William W. Hunter (1840–1900) reviewed the progress of education since 1854. He was not satisfied with the system and proposed that (i) primary education should be expanded and its quality improved; (ii) the Municipal and District Boards should have the primary responsibility for primary education under the supervision and control of the provincial government; and (iii) private initiative in education should be encouraged at all levels through grants-in-aid and the government should withdraw from competition. Lord Curzon (1859–1925), the Viceroy, did not agree with the idea of reducing government involvement in education. Sir Syed and his colleagues were critical of Hunter’s analysis and recommendations.

[6] Some of Sir Syed’s theological views were controversial and created opposition in the community led by some well-known ulama. This controversy distracted attention of Muslims from Sir Syed’s appeal for modern education.

[7] Also In 1906, one of the Aligarh old boys, Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah (1875–1965), and his wife Waheed Jahan (1874–1939), with the financial support from the Begum of Bhopal, Sultan Jahan (1858–1930), started a school for girls at Aligarh. This school grew with time and inspired others to promote girls’ education among Muslims throughout India.

[8] We should refrain from saying that Sir Syed had posited the “two-nation” theory. For one thing, he used the term quom in at least three different ways. He did say that Hindus and Muslims shared India as two culturally different communities. The other point is that Sir Syed saw India as a British colony. He focused his energy on awakening Muslims through education and social reform and to protect their rights as a minority in India, be it a colony of Britain or an independent state. I think the Aligarh Movement did not have Pakistan as its goal. Pakistan came into being because of the failure of the AINC and AIML leaders to make compromises at critical junctures, e.g., during 1937 and 1939 and in 1946 about the recommendations of the three-member Commission led by Sir Stafford Cripps (1889–1952). India’s partition was not inevitable but became unavoidable in 1947. It is bad history to hold Sir Syed responsible for the partition of India.

[9] In 1871, William W. Hunter published a controversial book about Muslims and their loyalty to the British Crown in India. The book’s title was The Indian Musalmans: Are They Bound in Conscience to Rebel Against the Queen? The book was not well received by Sir Syed and other Muslims. Even some British officials and scholars did not agree with Hunter’s arguments.

[10] Maulvi Sami Ullah Khan (1834–1908); Viqar ul Mulk Mushtaq Husain Zuberi (1844–1917); Mohsin ul Mulk Syed Mahdi Ali (1837–1907); Syed Husain Bilgrami (1844–1926); Maulana Chiragh Ali (1844–1895); Muhammad Shibli Naumani (1857–1914); Khwaja Altaf Husain Hali (1837–1914) Maulvi Nazeer Ahmed (1830–1912); and Syed Akbar Husain aka Akbar Allahabadi (1846–1921).

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Mahmood Hasan Khan

Mahmood Hasan Khan

Retired professor of Economics, Simon Fraser University, Canada