Aligarh Movement is, in fact, the name of continuous struggle of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan that he launched for the betterment of Muslims. This movement performed the educational, social, religious and literary services for the Muslims, so Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Aligarh Movement are the two names of one and the same thing.
1:- Educational Services
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan opened educational institutions for Muslims so that new paths of progress might open for them, for they had become literally backward. The English introduced English as an official language in place of Persian. Hindus by getting English education got the jobs but Muslims remained behind terrified. Sir Syed made it clear that it was quite wrong to think that English education would keep them away from religion. Our religion did not forbid to learn English language and Western sciences. Where he put emphasis on the learning of English language there he did not ignore Urdu. He gave full attention to it. He also shifted the Society of Scientific Knowledge to Aligarh. He constituted the committee for the progress of Muslims. The aim of it was the acquisition of the knowledge of the reasons of low strength of Muslims in government’s colleges and schools; and why they gone behind in learning the new sciences. The research showed that the Muslims wanted to have their own institutions for the education of the Muslims. For this purpose Muhammadan College Fund Committee was established. In May 1875 MuhammadanAngloOrientalHigh School was established in Aligarh, and after two years the school was upgraded to a college. In a short time it became the important educational institution of Muslims. The reason of it was the availability of the boarding facilities for the students alongwith the modern and religious education. Sir Syed desired that the college be given the status of a University, but this did not happen in his life time. Twenty years after his death AligarhCollege was made a University in 1920.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan realized that the AligarhCollege even after becoming a University would not be able to meet the educational needs of all the Muslims of India. Therefore, he made a way out to spread the message of Aligarh in all the parts of India. For this, he established Muhammadan Educational Conference. The meetings of it were held every year in different cities, and attempts were made to solve the educational and other problems of the Muslims.
2:- Social Services
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan wrote many books and magazines for the social involvement of Muslims. He brought out the magazine ‘Tehzeeb-ul-Akhlaq’ in 1870, in which he narrated the rules and principles to make the Muslims dynamic and effective. He established an orphanage in Muradabad. Sir Syed wanted to bring Muslims socially closer to the English. Therefore he taught new ways of living to the Muslims; coat, pantaloon, modern designing of houses and use of knife and fork in eating. All that was done to curtail the distance among the Muslims and the English. Sir Syed published a pamphlet ‘Loyal Muhammadans of India’ and mentioned the services rendered by the Muslims in saving the lives of the English, so the English should not ignore this aspect of Muslims, and forget the enmity with them.
3:- Religious Services
The Aligarh Movement did not ignore religion, but put great emphasis on it, and negated the superfluous rites. Sir Syed published the Commentary of the Holy Quran in which he tried to prove the Quranic Verses logically and scientifically true, but it was disliked by the religious scholars. He wrote ‘Tabayen-ul-Kalam’ a book on Bible and put more emphasis on the things common in Islam and Christianity. Besides this he wrote an article “Tehqeeq Lufze-Nasara” to remove the misunderstanding from the minds of the English. The English believed that Muslim ‘Nasara’ was a distorted form of ‘Nasarath’, a birth place of Christ, hence they had ridiculed them. He made it clear that there was no truth in that, but the fact was that the word ‘Nasara’ was derived from the Arabic word ‘Nasir’ that means helper of friend. He further clarified that Islam and not forbidden the Muslims from the friendship and eating with Christians provided wine and unlawful things were not served. Therefore he wrote a booklet ‘Ahkam-e-Tuam-e-Ahle-Kitab’. It changed the attitude of many of the Muslims and the English. The publication of these books and pamphlets did not actually mean that he honoured the English in all respects, and wanted to ignore the Islamic rules. He took a firm stand in matters of religion. When an English writer, William Meore, wrote a book “The Life of Muhammad” in which he disgraced the Prophet (PBUH). Sir Syed could not tolerate it and refuted him by writing a book “Khutabat-e-Ahmadiya”
4:- Political Services
After the war of independence of 1857 the British Government wanted to punish the Muslims by declaring them the real accused of the rebellion. But Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in his magazine “Causes of Indian Revolt” made it clear that Hindus, Muslims and the English were equally responsible for that revolt.
Sir Syed attributed the following reasons to the outbreak of the war of Independence:
1. Non-representation of the Indians in the legislative councils.
2. Forcible conversion of Indians to Christianity.
3. Mismanagement of Indian army.
4. Many other ill-advised measures of the Government which created large scale dissatisfaction among the various sections of society.
On the other hand he advised the Muslims to keep away from politics for the time being because they were far behind in education and the English saw them with suspicious eyes. In 1867, with the rise of Hindi-Urdu controversy, Sir Syed became suspicious of Hindus and said that it was not now possible for Hindus and Muslims to go along together. He said that Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations and could not live together. He also believed that the British parliamentary form of government could not succeed in India because there was not a single nation here. Even by the implementation of the separate electorate the Muslims would not gain a considerable amount of representation. Similarly the Muslims would not get jobs through competitive examination because they were far behind in education. Therefore a quota in jobs might be fixed for Muslims so that they could also have government jobs.
5:- Literary Services
Sir Syed worked very hard for the protection and progress of Urdu language. Hindi Urdu conflict made it clear that Hindus wanted to damage the cultural, social, and literary heritage of the Muslims. He established Urdu Defence Society and defended Urdu language. Due to the opposition of Aligarh, Hindi could not become the official language. He also wrote a book “History of Revolt of Bejnour” in which he mentioned the circumstances and events of war of Independence. “Asaar-Alsanadeed” was the famous book of Sir Syed. It provided the information of old buildings, ruins and historical places. A copy of it was presented to Royal Asiatic Society London, and Sir Syed was awarded the honour of fellowship. Besides this he wrote many other articles.
Effects of Aligarh Movement
Aligarh Movement trained the Muslims how to deal with the prevailing new circumstances. It guided the Muslims in every field of life.
1:- English-Muslim Reconciliation
Due to Aligarh Movement, the feelings of hatred against Muslims started diminishing from the hearts of the English. The English started coming closer to the Muslims.
2:- Protection of Rights
Aligarh Movement created an awareness of the protection of rights among the Muslims. Sir Syed spent the whole of his life in improving the educational, social, economic and political affairs of the Muslims. Aligarh college was the biggest educational institution of the Muslims. It’s educated persons presented the problems of the masses before the government that considered from favorably. In 1906 the demand for separate electorate forwarded through the Simla Deputation was accepted.
3:- Supply of Political Leadership
The Muslims got education from Aligarh Movement and made themselves capable to face Hindus and the English. Muslim League was established by the educated political leadership that also owed to Aligarh Movement. Political awareness was created among the masses by Aligarh Movement. In fact the struggle for the establishment was originated from this movement.
4:- Concept of Separate Nation
Aligarh Movement made the Muslims realized that they were a separate nation having a glorious past, and also made it clear that Hindus and Muslims were two nations and could not unite together. Moreover, Hindus were not the well-wishers of Muslims. This two nation theory was made the basis of Pakistan Movement by Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who got a separate homeland for Muslims.
5:- Acquisition of Western Education
Muslims were afraid of western education that they could not make progress without it. As the source of modern sciences was the English language so it was necessary for them to learn it. Therefore arrangements of western sciences side by side with Islamic education were made in AligarhCollege that motivated a large number of Muslims to get an education. Aligarh Movement also persuaded other affluent Muslims to start educational institutions, and in a short time the Muslims became prominent in the fields of English and modern education.
6:- Economic Progress
Aligarh Movement attracted the Muslims towards education and made them enabled to improve their economic conditions. By getting the share in government jobs, the Muslims rose to the higher positions, and in this way the economic condition of the Muslims improved a lot.
7:- Muslim Unity
Aligarh Movement created a sense of Muslims nationality. A Muslim wherever he lives in the world is a member of Muslim ‘Nation’. In 1919 the educated youth of Aligarh college launched Khilafat Movement for the Muslims of Turkey. They created a sense of unity among the Muslims. Hence feelings of union, relationship, and brotherhood were developed among them.
The Aligarh Movement injected a life in the dormant body of the Muslim nation and helped them to regain their lost position of eminence and glory. It revived confidence among the Muslims to fight for their economic and social rights. The Aligarh Movement was a broad movement which left its impact on every phase of the Muslim life. The actions taken by Sir Syed left a far-reaching impact on the social, economic, religious, political and cultural aspects of the Muslims. His precepts and examples revived hope and self-confidence, showed new ways to progress and opened doors for the Muslims to modern education and economic prosperity.