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Significance and contribution of the Aligarh Movement:

Updated on January 27, 2011

Significance and contribution of the Aligarh Movement:

The contribution and significance of Aligarh Movement for the revival and regeneration of the Muslims of Sub-Continent are commendable. Aligarh developed as the most important centre of the intellectual development for the Muslims of South Asia and its students those who studied at Aligarh College came from all over India from different parts of India; they were coming from Punjab, Bengal Frontier and were also from South India. In a way it had become a focal point for the Muslims of South Asia for their education.

In addition to this there were a lot of intellectual activities going on for example publication of different books and the activities of Scientific Society and through these activities there was a lot of intellectual stimulation which was provided by the Aligarh Movement.

Then this movement created students who were combined to different traditions. The students learned modern knowledge English language, modern western philosophy and they also acquired Islamic knowledge and this was a significant feature of this Aligarh College that while giving modern education to the students they should not be de-linked from their roots and if you are de-linked from your roots you become rootless. In order to deal with the criticism that western education would alienate our young people from its teachings and principles Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his colleagues proved that modern education and Islamic education can be brought together.

The 3rd major achievement of the Aligarh Education System was that it brought forward a group of students who were very conscious of what was happening in India and outside India. This educated class that developed in India was instrumental in promoting Muslim identity and also advocating the Muslim demands to the govt and to others because on the one hand this educated class could communicated with the rulers because they knew the language and modern knowledge philosophy and the thinking that had developed there.

So, they were able to communicate with the rulers. On the other hand they held their roots in culture therefore they could also communicate with the ordinary people for mobilization and make them conscious of what made them different from others.

Another, important contribution of this movement was that it inspired educational movements in India. And the last major contribution of this movement was that the Mohammedan Educational Conference that was created by these Muslim leaders had become a kind of a forum where Muslims from different parts of India would come together and they would discuss not only education but all those issues which were of great concern to Muslims and since the meetings of Mohammedan Educational Conference were being held in different places it was able to communicate the message of the Aligarh Movement all over India.

It also brought together like minded Muslims to pursue the goals and ideals of promotion of education and improvement of Muslims all over India. We can say that the Aligarh Movement played a pivotal role in generating the Muslims who were facing a serious psychological depression and economic setback after 1857.

Sir Syed advice to the Muslims to avoid active politics:

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his colleagues advised the Muslims to avoid joining active politics. He was of the opinion that at that stage Muslims should not get involved in active politics. He was not inherently opposed to politics. The point he was presenting was that at that stage and given the problems and conditions of the Muslims at that time, they should stay away from active politics and concentrate on education.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan used to say that at that time Muslim needed education, education and education. If, we look at the facts and the data that was available at that time about the education of Muslims and others in India then we can understand why Sir Syed was so particular about education. From 1859 to 1875 only 20 Muslims were able to get graduation degree from the educational institutions which the British colonial administration had set up in India. Against this during the same period 715 Hindus got the graduation degrees, so you can compare the figure 20 verses 715.

The concern at that time was that if they get involved in active politics and they don’t pay attention to acquiring modern education they will be left behind and the gap between the Muslims and others will widen and ultimately the Muslims would suffer. He wanted that over a period of time, there should be a group of Muslims who had modern education and who could fit into the modern system which the British had introduced, “The Modern State System” the administration which was set up by the British and you can only fit in this system if you get jobs and you had an interaction with this system only if you could get modern education and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan thought that if Muslims have an education then they become relevant to the changed conditions and they will be able to meet with the challenges of the time.

There was another reason why he was emphasizing on education at that much. He thought that if Muslims get too much involved in active politics then the perception that Muslims are against the British will be reinforced and the misunderstandings that had developed between the Muslims and the British would increase but if they have education, they get the requisite qualification that misunderstanding will be removed and they will be among those people who could be playing important role under the British.

A number of other developments during the same period influenced the advice which Sir Syed and his colleagues were giving that is advice to acquire modern knowledge,

Aligarh Movement was a religio-political Movement which contributed a lot for the regeneration and revival of the Muslims of the Sub-Continent. Sir Syed and his colleagues by their combined efforts tried to equip the Muslims community of Sub-Continent with modern knowledge and English language. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a visionary leader and he envisioned that without acquiring modern knowledge the Muslims cannot compete with the Hindus. That’s why he advised the Muslims to acquire modern language to regain their lost glory in the Sub-Continent.


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