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The Need To Reintroduce Sir Syed Ahmed Khan And His Thought

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Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (17 October 1817—27 March 1898) was founder of the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College which became Aligarh Muslim University in 1920 (First Muslim University in South Asia).

All his life, Sir Syed strived to enlighten Muslims on the need for education through his literary works.

Like many other great reformers of his time, Sir Syed urged his countrymen not to be slaves to meaningless customs and traditions. In one of his public lectures at Mirzapur, he emphasised that people had to base their actions on reason.

“A brave and true well-wisher of his nation should himself enter the field, break the strong chains, so that others may also gather courage to come out of this captivity.”

Giving examples from religious and historic events — Abraham, Christ, Prophet Muhammad, Martin Luther and Socrates — he praised the efforts of his contemporaries who stood by him.

This included Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Babu Keshav Chandra Sen and Iswar Chandra Viddya Sagar. He tried to convince Muslims to study the English language because knowledge of modern arts and sciences was available only in English. Not surprisingly, he encountered stiff opposition from religious scholars of his time for his adoption of modern science.

Sir Syed convincingly argued that if, in the past, Muslims could study Greek and Persian language, there was no reason for them not to take up Western education in English. He is known to have stated, “Persian, at its early stage, was the language of fire-worshippers. But the Muslims have adopted it in such a manner that it has now become their language. How can religious prejudice come in the way of learning English language, in the light of these facts?”

Sir Syed believed that nothing in Islam and its belief is against reason and science. He exhorted Islamic scholars to face the challenges of modern philosophy.

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More importantly, it is baffling how one single person could combine the roles of an administrator, reformer, thinker, educationalist, journalist, writer, religious scholar, devoted family man and humanist with as much success as Sir Syed.

Unfortunately, we Pakistanis have failed to preserve the contributions and achievements of Sir Syed, who worked day and night for the Muslims of the Subcontinent. There is still time to pay our full attentions towards shaping a syllabus of all schools, be they governmental or private schools.

By the help of a proper syllabus we can make our youth aware of Sir Syed’s contributions in promoting peace and prosperity, as a lawyer and as a politician.

In fact, most of the syllabus in our schools consists of the biographies and autobiographies of other historical figures. Then can’t we shape a syllabus on the life of a man who worked to free Muslims?

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