Recently Aligarh Muslim University celebrated the 200th birth anniversary of its founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who is widely known as a renaissance man responsible for the emancipation of the Muslims of subcontinent from the hornet's nest to an ambiance where they held their heads high with pride. The people of subcontinent especially Muslims owe Sir Syed a lot. According to a Kashmiri proverb if they would wash his feet and then drink that water, even that won't be enough to pay off for the struggle that Sir Syed did for the Muslims of subcontinent.
After the Revolt of 1857, Muslim community was worst hit. They were killed in large numbers, their house were looted and burnt down and their property was ransacked. Sir Syed's house in New Delhi was one of them. The Muslims of Indian subcontinent got economically weak, politically shattered, socially segregated and educationally backward. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was very much disappointed about the condition of the Muslims. They were limping waywardly towards darkness and it was he who grabbed the hand of this downtrodden community and brought them towards the light. He felt a need of revival so as to rescue them and to bring them back on track. He took this great onus on his own shoulders and started a movement in the name of 'Aligarh Movement' which was the first step towards the social, political, economic and educational upliftment of the Muslims of subcontinent.
Through Aligarh Movement, he was more concerned and focused on implementing modern and scientific education on Muslims. In 1864 he laid the foundation of Scientific Society in Aligarh. Since science was not a prevalent course of study among Muslims. So his idea was very tough to implement. Initially he was branded as a British agent and declared as non-Muslim by his own community. He was of the stance that if you have to implement the modern education in India, you have to work in collaboration with the British. When asked about the rivalry with British he asserted that while living in a river you can't fight with the crocodile. No doubt you have to tackle her as she is your biggest huddle but you need to follow a strategy. And when you have your own interests, you need to develope a close acquaintanceship with her.
In 1861 Sir William Muir wrote 'Life of Mahomet' and criticized Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) in it which enraged the Muslims of subcontinent . Amid this cold unrest, a delegation met Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and sought permission to fight the British with swords and canes. At that crucial juncture what Sir Syed told them is still written in golden words and is considered as an intellectual and mature answer. He told them, "You can't succeed in defeating a book with a sword. You have to fight the book with a book. Even if you succeed in defeating it, that would definitely be a temporary success. You have to reply with a book to seek the permanent success."
Now the question was, who would write a book? There was always a danger hovering over their heads and the job was never easy. Moreover Muslim community was not in a position to take this onus. Sir Syed again came forward and was succeeded in writing about it which was later compiled in a book named 'Khutbaat-e-Ahmadiya' for which he had to undertake the journey of England. In England he got the opportunity to visit the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and was very impressed by the sophistication of their education system. That is where the idea of setting up of a college in India stuck his mind. After coming back, he started campaigning for the college. He was opposed and criticised by his own community for whom he was taking all these pains. Amid all this, he was adamant and didn't budge from his cause. He was finally successful in setting up of M.A.O college at Aligarh in 1875.
Shortly after his death, the college was made into a full fledged university known as the great Aligarh Muslim University and today the fruit of this university is being reaped not only by Indian society but by the whole world. This was all possible because of the hard work, dedication and the commitment of this renaissance man, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.
Aligarh Muslim University is not only an educational institute but a movement. A movement for the upliftment of the Muslims of subcontinent. It also played a major role in the freedom movement of Indian. It was the vision of Sir Syed who sought the solution of every problem through education and was succeeded. His vision had an association with the vision of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) who says, "Knowledge is the biggest tool". Sir Syed was of the view that this tool has the power to tackle any huddle in your way. Knowledge makes you well-off and when you are economically sound, you can raise your voice against the atrocities, asperities and austerities around you. Otherwise your belly is never in a position to support your cause. He never braced violence and termed non-violence, the key spirit to success. He gave pen in the hands of his youth to fight the problems when they were enraged enough to consume themselves for a mere cause. Had he given the sword in their hands, the condition of the Muslims of the subcontinent would have been something else. They would have been dwindling somewhere.
We in Kashmir are in desperate need of this renaissance man and the movement he started to overcome the dogma we are going through. We are in one or the other way facing the same problems. Be it the burning of schools, daily upheavals or the chaos all around, we verily need to follow Sir Syed and his ideology of education non-violently. We have to give pen in the hands of our youth who of course are angry at this time, but it would be better for them in the long run. We have to encourage them for higher education outside the state or abroad, if possible. Only then can they realise their stand that where they are. Unless you see the light, you can't imagine about the darkness you are in. You are like a frog in the pond who has no idea about the rivers and oceans.
Education is the only way out through which we can atleast anticipate the things to change automatically in a well cognizant and non-violent way. The violence is leading us nowhere, we are only consuming without a fruitful result. Moreover, we don't have to strive that much as Sir Syed did. Our job is much easier than him. Our society is far more literate and intelligent than his. Only a direction is needed to this intellectual but downtrodden society. Our land is fertile enough to germinate the seed of Sir Syed's ideology but only a little bit of moisture is needed. As Dr. Iqbal (r.a) says:
"Of his barren acres, Iqbal is not despair"
"Need of a little rain and the fertility emanates".
Author is working on his debut novel 'The Ensnared Childhood'. He is presently pursuing bachelors in English literature at Aligarh Muslim University and hails from Frisal Kulgam Kashmir. He can be reached at [email protected]