Introduction

The charisma of Sir
Syed Ahmad Khan’s personality was that he was a great visionary, statesman,
social reformer, jurist, educator, author, politician and many more to count and
he proved his versatility in every sphere of his life. Sir Syed was a person
who always thought beyond his times. Some people may have different views about
him but he was the one who make an effort throughout his life for a single
purpose that was the “liberation of the Muslims” in all ways of life while
living in Indian sub-continent. As Allama Iqbal have said about him that “the
real greatness of Sir Syed consists in the fact that he was the first Indian
Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it, his
sensitive nature was the first to react to modern age”. Sir Syed’s passion and
determination for the social improvement of his community makes him the most
significant Muslim social reformer of all times. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was also a
great critique, who convinced others with his atomistic, realistic and straight
forward way of thinking and it can be proved as history of social and
educational reforms in Indian sub-continent was not possible without Sir Syed
Ahmad Khan. He is such a great thinker, philosopher and revolutionaries who had
dedicated his complete life for his nation and especially for his community. He
worked tirelessly for the promotion of education for the masses with all his
heart. Beside this he was  a highly knowledgeable
man and a realistic writer who wrote on a number of subjects including history,
politics, archaeology, journalism, literature, religion and science. He
advocated interfaith relation between Islam and Christianity in his religious
work  but due to the pressure from Muslim
community he seized his writings on this topic and mainly focused on education
and devoted his life to provide education to the masses, the major and
strong  reason behind becoming a social
reformer for Muslims.

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Family
Background

Syed Ahmad Taqvi known
as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was born on 17 October 1817 in a noble family of Delhi,
which was capital of Mughal Empire. This renowned sir name was a ‘Syed’, the
word is the indication about his belonging with Prophet Mohamed’s descendant in
the 36th generation.  His family
ancestral roots are from Arabia and then they migrated to sub continent when there
was rule of emperor Akbar-I (1556-1605) therefore, they were protected by the
royal Mughal court. They were highly connected with the administrative
position in
Mughal Empires generation by generation. His maternal grandfather
Khwaja Fariduddin served as vazir in Mughal Empire. His
 paternal grandfather  Syed  Hadi  held
 a mansab, was on a high-ranking
administrative position and had honorary name in the court of Emperor Alamgir II.
 He was among the closest associates of
Emperor Akbar II and that’s why he was allowed to sit with honor in the royal
presence.
 Sir Syed’s father Mir Muhammad Muttaqi
was personally close to Emperor Akbar–II and served
a job as his personal adviser. He was a pious man and devoted
his life to the court of Akbar II (1806-1837). He had refused the offer of
Emperor Akbar II to become his prime minister because of his believe in sufism.
He was thankful for the respect God had given him. He married a pious lady
Aziz-un-Nisa who devoted her life according to the Islamic rules. God had
blessed both of them with two sons Syed Muhammad khan and Syed Ahmad Khan. However,
Siir Syed  married a lady named as Parsa
Begum in 1836, and was blessed with three children Syed Hamid, Syed Mahmood and
Amina.

In short, Sir Syed was
from honorable, educated, respectful and religious family who devoted his life
in the service of Mughal Empires for people. These family emotions for the
people of sub-continent led Sir Syed for a serious action.

 

Early Life

Sir Syed with
his elder brother Syed Muhammad Khan, was raised in a large house in a wealthy area of the city. They were raised in
strict environment according to Mughal noble traditions and politics.  His
father died when he was just twenty-one years old. After the death of his
father Syed Ahmad went under the care of his mother. As Dr. Arshad Islam
quoted:

Sir
Syed Ahmed Khan began his primary education under the guidance of his  mother Azizun Nisa Begum. She hailed from an
elite family of Delhi and was highly educated. She shared a revolutionary
temperament and questioned and opposed all kinds of superstitions shared by the
Muslim society of her times. In shaping the personality of Sir  Syed Ahmad, she played a predominant role.(Islalm,1997)       

These lines show that their mother Aziz-un-Nisa played
an essential role in Sir Syed’s
early life as she brought up him with absolute discipline. Along with
religious learning she focused on his modern education as well. Further about his
education Dr. Arshad Islam also stated:

As
Syed Ahmed was enjoying his schooling, he too was being trained to recite Quran
under the tutelage of Shah Ghulam Ali. Later Syed Ahmed was admitted to a
maktab to learn Arabic, Persian and mathematics. In addition, there were other
tutors who taught him the other regular subjects. His family physician Hakim
Ghulam Haider khan gave him some lessons in medicines too.(Islam,1997)

 He
was trained in Persian, Arabic, Urdu and other religious subjects. He was also
taught mathematics and astronomy. He was an active student who never given up
to learning but also participated in sports like swimming and wrestling. He
began his study of medicine but did not complete the course. After the death of
his father, he had to end up his formal education due to financial problems. The
death of his father struck him badly and 
brought a new turn in his life. The dilemma of financial condition was that  his father had some differences of opinion
with a court person called Raja Sohan Lal, who revenged with reducing of
pension given to his family by the royal court. Even this was completely
stopped after some time of his father’s death. To cope out these crises he supported
his family and decided to join the services of East India Company instead of
joining Mughal court and treated his life in a realistic way. During his early
life, education was not access to him but he tended towards education as he
grew up and mainly showed his interest in science because according to him
science was only a way for advancement of society as well as for their better
future what he was looking for. In those days, the Mughal Emperor had become a
puppet in the hands of the perpetrators. He was only enjoying a royal life of pomp
and show but were doing nothing for people like being responsible ruler. He
observed this unhealthy attitude for Mughal empires and decided to move towards
English for job. That was the reason he favored and always admired British
administration. In fact he had always wanted to draw the attention of the
public and the British rulers to the laudable merits of the Mughal
administration so that it could help refine the contemporary approach to the
statecraft.

Talking about the
situations that shaped his life there should be mentioned that  how the death of his dear elder brother
effected him. His brother was more than a companion for him and after losing him
he was in the state of agony for some time. He was totally anguish for this
incident of his life and caused that he did not even care much about his
appearance and clothing. He had totally finished his all fun and sport in his
life and got a serious mourn inside the depths of his heart. Discussing the
factors that steered the break of the revolt and the effects it caused will let
us understand the stand that Syed Ahmad took regarding the situation. As Zobairi
observed:

The
first phase of Syed Ahmad’s life and activities ended with the coming of the
mutiny in 1857. The catastrophe and its after-effects suddenly brought him face
to face with the harsh realities of his age and brought a consequent change in
his entire outlook. After having witnessed large-scale suffering and misery
among his fellow countrymen and, particularly, on a much large scale, among his
co-religionists, Syed Ahmad was forced to abandon his dreamy visions of the
past and narrow sectarian controversies. “The Mutiny showed him, as by a flash
of lightening, the frightful danger in which his community stood.”(Zobairi,1999)

According to Zobairi,
he ended up his activities of early life and become a mature person enough to
face the harsh realities of his life. After these all a determined personality
built and in result he thought about community’s bitter reality and tried his
best to give them a enlightened future. For this purpose he started efforts to
fulfill his dream and stressed on education as there was only way he perceive a
better solution for the situation of that time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

It is no doubt, not an
easy job to describe all his qualities, capabilities, achievements and efforts.
What is presented here is just an overview of what he could achieve during his early
life time after all crises. Thus, rest of his life Syed Ahmad lived with a
mission to restore the honor and dignity of his co-religionists and tried his best
to guide them to live according to the changing needs of the world.

He died on 27 March
1898, at the age of 80. His funeral was attended by thousands of people,
including British officials, Muslim leaders, and his students. To the Muslim
community Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was and is like the eye which weeps for the
suffering of any and every part of the body. The sufferings of the community
worried him. He took an oath to reform, educate and empower the Muslim
community and was successful to a great extent in implementing it despite
strong opposition from innumerable sources.