تاریخMay 29, 2020

Was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan a Pro-British or Pro-Muslim?

There is a debate going now on various forums whether Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a pro-British or not. This is an ancient debate, and people on both sides have the evidence to back it up. After analyzing the points of both sides, it is clear that the allegations on Sir Syed for being a pro-British are false. He dedicated his life to the welfare of Muslims. He was not an agent of the British but a Massiah for the Indian Muslims, that were suppressed and deprived of their rights in the society. Sir Syed worked hard to revive the lost glory of Muslims post-1857 war. Some critics assert on the point that Sir Syed never opposed the colonial rule by British and awarded the title “Sir”, which the Britishers always rewarded to their faithful servants. To an extent, this is true that Sir Syed served the Britishers for quite a long time but after that, he used his experience and knowledge about the Britishers to help Muslims. He was also labeled as pro-British by various religious sects for introducing the latest scientific education for Muslims.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is considered a pioneer for introducing scientific education in the Muslim society of the Indian subcontinent. He was a reformer in the field of education that was imparted to the Muslims. He opposed the Fatwa issued in the Mughal era in which Sheikh Sirhandi and many other Muslim Scholars forbade the secular scientific education for Muslims. This was considered as one of the biggest blunders in history that resulted in the downfall of Muslims while other nations gained prosperity. Sir Syed was on the point that the world has changed and Muslims must adopt the latest curriculum of science, otherwise, it will destroy the Muslim nation. He realized that Muslims lost their glory because they are not enlightened with modern education, especially in the field of science and technology. So, to fulfill the gap, Muslims must learn a foreign language -English- to retain their lost status. This is another point that critics highlight that Sir Syed was pro-British because he propagated the English language among the Muslim youth. This is not a valid critique because the scientific literature of that time was mostly written in the English language, and without learning a language how can one grasp the depth of its knowledge. In that regard, Sir Syed established Gulshan School Muradabad in 1859. This school upgraded to college and then to university in 1920 that gave birth to many politicians, writers, and others who contributed in getting independence from the British. Another school was established in Ghazipur by the name Victoria School in 1863, and also developed a scientific society in 1964. This modern school at Gazipur, where, besides modern education, five languages (English, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit) were also taught. He used English as a language to communicate between Muslims and Colonial masters to minimize the gap and bring opportunities for Muslims. It does not show that he was a pro-British, but a manifestation of pro-Muslim approach to uplift the oppressed and deprived Muslim-nation.

On 24 December 1870, Sir Syed launched Tehzeeb-ul-Ikhlaq magazine in which various scholars wrote many articles on social and religious reforms. That work was a protective layer against British missionaries in the Subcontinent. This shows the dedication of Sir Syed in rooting out the evils, that were prevailing in Muslim society.

The Loyal Muhammadans of India contains all those events that happened during the 1857 war with the name of British families, whose lives were saved by Muslims. Through it, he wants reconciliation between British and Muslims. To bridge the gap between Muslims and Britishers, he conveyed the message to Britishers that not every Muslim is against them.

In Rasala Asbab e Baghawat e Hind, he advocated for Muslims that they were not the sole party who revolted against the Britishers. He stated that it was the British attitude that compelled Muslims to resist against them as a religious obligation. Sir Syed didn’t resist against the British because he was aware of the situation that the British were a great power and Muslims were not ready to confront the Britishers. He neither opposed nor accepted British rule but remained neutral.

During the Urdu-Hindi conflict in 1867, he supported Urdu and showed his concerns to his English friends, which showed how sensitive he was to save the cultural value of Muslims. This exhibits that he was not a pro-British but a true spokesperson for Muslims.

In the political dimension, he considered that Muslims should not take part in political activities because they cannot compete with the Hindus. He thought that Muslims are not ready to be involved in the political sphere, so he stressed that Muslims should only focus on their education and make themselves competent to participate in politics.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was not a big fan of the Western democratic system because the democratic system of western countries might create distress for the Muslims, since, in western countries, the majority has the authority but that rule cannot be applicable in the Indian continent, because Muslims were in minority and Hindus were in majority, that will create permanent dominance of Hindus over the Indian Muslims. It meant that Hindus would have enslaved the Indian Muslims. So, he rejected the western democratic system for India and demanded a separate electorate where Muslims can be represented by their proportion.

All the above-mentioned points showed that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was the true representative of Muslims of that era and all the allegations of being a pro-British contain no weigh.

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