By Naz Asghar
Aug 19, 2018
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan Aur Unke Muasereen'(Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his contemporaries)
Amidst the continuing debate on the threat
to tolerance and dissidence in our society, a book authored by prolific writer Dr
Rahat Abrar brings out an interesting account of how Sir Syed Ahmad Khan,
the architect and pioneer of modern education among Muslims , and towering
non-Muslim social and political leaders of 19th century India engaged in a
democratic discourse despite their sharp differences over various issues.
More than Hindus, Sir Syed had to face
extreme opposition from the orthodox elements in his community itself. All the
Maulvis of the day in the leadership of Maulana Abdul Hai, Firangi Mahli ganged
up against him, and declared him as ”Kharij az Islam”( out of Islamic
fold). They sent emissaries to to Mecca to secure fatwa against him.
They felt threatened by his advocacy of
modern education for Muslims, which in their perception was going to destroy
the Islamic beliefs and traditions for all times to come.
Sir Syed had to face an uphill task in
establishing the college in Aligarh that was later to take shape of the Muslim
University. Most of the religious leaders of the day, including Maulana Abdul
Hai did all to ensure that no funds were contributed for the establishment of
the college. The difficulties faced by him in establishing modern institutions
for Muslim are well brought out in the book.
The book written in Urdu and titled ‘Sir
Syed Ahmad Khan Aur Unke Muasereen'(Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his
contemporaries) is perhaps unique in the sense that it is for the first time
that anything on Sir Syed’s engagement with his eminent contemporaries has been
written with such a focus.
Dr Abrar is a keen scholar of the Aligarh
movement and the history of the Aligarh Muslim University, and has served the
public relations department of the University for a long time.
The work deals with engagement of Sir Syed
with 16, eminent personalities of his day. And ten out of them are non-Muslims
whose impact on the society and politics of India was tremendous. They are Raja
Ram Mohan, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Bhartendu Harish Chandra, Dadabhai Noroji
, Sir Surendra nath bannerji, Keshab Chandra Sen, Lala Lajpat Rai, Raja Shiv
Prasad, Raja Shambhi Narain, Raja jai Kishan Das and famous French orientalist
The leading social, religious and literary
personalities from Sir Syed’s own community who figure in the book are poets
Ghalib and Akbar Ilahabadi, and religious scholars Maulana Mohammad Qasim
Nanotvi, Maulana Abdul Hai Firangi Mahli, and founder of the Ahmadya sect Mirza
Ghulam Ahmad Qadyani.
There are interesting accounts of how Sir
Syed held an all faith gathering and invited Swami Dayanan Saraswati for talk
aimed a better understanding of Vedas. Swami and Sir Syed both had to face of
the wrath of leaders of the Sanatan Dharm sect, including Raja Shiv Prasad and
Bhartendu Harish Chandra for holding the event.
Sir Syed had strong differences with Raja
Shiv Prasad and Bhartendu Harish Chandra over the issue of Urdu-Hindi. He
strongly opposed the Raja’s book on history ‘Etihaas Timirnashak’ ,
which he said written with a bias against Muslims.
However, Sir Syed fully recognised and
respected the intellect and contribution of Raja Shiv Prasad to Hindi
literature and language. Same was his attitude towards Bhartendu, whom he once
wanted to join Aligarh College for teaching Hindi and Sanskrit, an offer which
was for some reasons not accepted by the Hindi litterateur.
Sir Syed also took in a very cool manner
the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani to be the messenger of God, which had
outraged the Muslim world.
The founder of the Ahmadia movement was
declared a heretic as he questioned the finality of Quranic revelations.
”Let him be happy with his claimed
revelations, if they do not cause any harm to us. What should matter to you is
that he is a gentle, god fearing man. Debating on his claims of divine
revelations is futile,” was Sir Syed’s reaction to the raging debate among
Muslims of the times.
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