For O Level Pakistan Studies History students, when it comes to learning more about the different initiatives that played a pivotal role in the development of Muslims within the subcontinent, the Aligarh Movement has to be at the top of the list.
Considered one of the most significant educational and social reform movements in British India during the late 19th and 20th centuries, the Aligarh Movement was not only responsible for spearheading the moral and social uplift of Muslims living in the subcontinent but also for laying the foundation for the formation of the Muslim League, which went on to play a key role in the creation of Pakistan.
In this article, we will be talking about the key objectives of the Aligarh Movement and the vision that its founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, had for Muslims residing in British India.
Who was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan?
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) was a well-known Muslim reformer, scholar and educator who founded the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, India. Throughout his life, he maintained a great interest in education, often engaging in the construction of schools in Muradabad, Ghazipur and even forming the Scientific Society which was responsible for publishing translations of many educational texts in both Urdu and English. At the time, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan launched such initiatives keeping in mind the needs of both Hindus and Muslims. However, certain events taking place during the late 1860s ultimately led him to alter the course of his activities.
Background to the Aligarh Movement
In 1867, Benares – a place close to the Ganges that carried great religious significance for Hindus – became the center stage for a movement that aimed to replace Urdu (the language used by Muslims) with Hindi. This development, combined with attempts to convert the language of publications brought forward by the Scientific Society from Urdu to Hindi, ultimately convinced Sir Syed Ahmed Khan that Hindus and Muslims could not coexist. During a visit to England between 1869 and 1870, he developed a plan for the construction of an educational institution or a ‘Muslim Cambridge’ and upon his return, set up a committee to work on the objective. Once the school was established at Aligarh in May 1875, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, following his retirement a year later, worked towards enlarging it into a college with the sole objective of uplifting and reforming the Muslim community.
What were the main points of the Aligarh Movement:
The Aligarh Movement’s main points include the following:
Promotion of Modern Education:
One of the primary objectives of the movement was to promote modern and progressive education amongst all, especially Muslims. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan strongly believed that through effective learning in the fields of Science and Technology and other aspects of Western knowledge, Muslims would be able to attain the skills, perspectives and outlook needed to get ahead.
Western Scientific and Technical Knowledge:
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan always emphasized the importance of educating oneself in the areas of Science and Technology alongside religious education. He believed that this was the way to ensure that Muslims kept up with changing times as well as fully empowered themselves to make a difference.
Through the Aligarh Movement, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan sought to introduce rational and logical thinking while simultaneously encouraging Muslims to dispel outdated thinking methods, superstitions and unscientific practices.
Promotion of Urdu Language:
Although Sir Syed Ahmed Khan insisted on attaining a proper education first before engaging in politics, he still understood the need for Muslims to learn and understand their rights as citizens of their country. By encouraging Muslims to engage in discussions related to politics and governance, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan helped lay the foundation for future Muslim participation in Indian politics.
As mentioned above, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s many contributions towards education in the form of schools and, most importantly, the Aligarh Muslim University, came from his desire to see Muslims benefit from state-of-the-art education and become empowered enough to make a difference.
In the end, the Aligarh Movement played an integral role in ensuring Muslims benefited from social and political awareness, and high-quality education revolving around modern subject material such as Science and Technology. Later, the movement became instrumental in paving the way for a separate homeland for Muslims.
Q. Aligarh Movement started in which year?
The Aligarh movement was formed in 1875 by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan for the Muslims of the subcontinent. The purpose of the Aligarh movement was to establish a modern education for the Muslims.
Q. Were languages one of the main points for the Aligarh Movement?
Yes, languages were one of the main points as attempts to convert the language of publications brought forward by the Scientific Society from Urdu to Hindi, ultimately convinced Sir Syed Ahmed Khan that Hindus and Muslims could not coexist.