A Society with Scientific Temper was the Vision of Sir Syed


Lucknow: Raja Ram Mohan Roy, known as the "Maker of Modern India", advocated the study of English, Science, Western Medicine and Technology. For this objective he established the Hindu College in Kolkata in 1817.  His progressive views were bitterly opposed by the orthodox Hindus. However, after some years his "unorthodox" views of advocating Westernized education prevailed and helped India become modernized.

Syed Ahmad Khan, born on 17th October, 1817 (the year of the establishment of Hindu College), founded the Muslim School in 1875 with the same ideas and objectives as that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Sir Syed was also bitterly opposed by a section of Muslims. Both Syed and Roy, the great reformers of their times, were abused by religious bigots but undeterred, they did not surrender to them. In all his actions and beliefs of modernism, pluralism, religious unity and scientific temper, Sir Syed was a true follower of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Both hated bigotry and intolerance and fought hard against the social and religious decadence, ignorance and superstition. Both wanted to modernize India intellectually and spiritually. Yes they are the Symbols of Indian Renaissance and Makers of Modern India.

       Sir Syed Ahmed championed the cause of modern education at a time when all the Indians in general and Indian Muslims in particular, considered it a sin to get modern education through English language. It was in this context that Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru described Sir Syed as "an ardent reformer who wanted to reconcile modern scientific thought with religion by rationalistic interpretations and not by attacking the basic belief. He was anxious to push new education. He was in no way communally separatist. Repeatedly he emphasized that religious differences should have no political and national significance."(Discovery of India).

Similar views were expressed by Mr. I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India, when he stated "Sir Syed's vision and his laborious efforts to meet the demands of challenging times are highly commendable. The dark post-1857 era was indeed hopeless and only men like Raja Mohan Roy and Sir Syed could penetrate through its thick veil to visualize the Nation's destinies. They rightly believed that the past had its merits and its legacies were valuable but it was the future that a society was called upon to cope with. I offer my homage to Sir Syed for his vision and courage that withstood all obstructions both from the friends and the foes". (Message to Sir Syed Scientific Society, Lucknow).

Mr. Somnath Chatterjee also made the observation that "Sir Syed wanted the College (now transformed into this University), to act as a bridge between the old and the new and the East and the West. He actively advocated the necessity of modern and scientific education. He wanted that the students of the college should preach the gospel of free enquiry, of large-hearted toleration and of pure morality. (Address to Aligarh students, 2001).

       India was passing through a very difficult period after the failure of so-called 1857 Mutiny. British Rulers became more confident of their Raj over the country as they had planned meticulously to divide the Indians on the basis of their religion. But Sir Syed cautioned people, particularly Muslims, against their designs. Thus highly secular in his approach, he pleaded to Muslims to be more practical, rational and aware of the changing society. Old values of education had become outdated in his opinion. He wanted Muslims to have scientific temper and modern attitude in life and for this he asked them to learn Science and Engineering, the subjects which unfortunately became alien to them.

Undaunted and unconcerned with the obstacles he faced, Sir Syed dedicated himself towards the cause of education. His voice ultimately made a dent in the Indian social structure and Hindus and Muslims of the country helped him in large numbers to further his cause.

A Society with Scientific Temper  was the Vision of Sir Syed
(Some of his Quotes)

  •                Sons (of MAO college later AMU)) shall go forth throughout the length and breath  of  the  land  to  preach  the  message  of  free  inquiry,  of  large  hearted toleration and of pure morality.
  •                Acquisition  knowledge  of  science  and  technology  is  the  only  solution  for all  the problems.
  •                Get rid of old and useless rituals. These rituals hinder human progress.
  •                Superstition cannot be the part of iman (faith).
  •                Islam is no barrier to scientific inquiry and social progress.
  •                Superstitious beliefs and the aversion to Western education are the main causes for the backwardness of the Indian Muslims.
  •                The first requisite for the progress of a nation is the brotherhood and unity amongst sections of the society.
  •                Yes the main purpose of this college (MAO) is to impart modern education to Muslims who are suffering because of lack of it but this institution is for all Hindus and Muslims alike. Both of them need education.
  •                We (Hindus and Muslims) eat the same crop, drink water from the same rivers and breath the same air. As a matter of fact Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan. Weakness of any one of them will spoil the beauty of the bride (dulhan).
  •                I  wish  that  youth  of  India  should  follow  the  example  of  young  men  and women  of  England who  are  religiously  engaged in  the  hard  work  of  industrial development of their country (Sir Syed during his stay in England from 1869 to 1871).
  •                Look forward, learn modern knowledge, and do not waste time in studies of old subjects of no value.
  •                Show  your  face  as  the  follower  of  true  religion  representing  character, knowledge, tolerance and piety.
  •                We should not (by remaining ignorant and illiterate) tarnish the image of our able elders.
  •                All human beings are our brother and sisters. Working for their welfare is obligatory for all.
  •                Remember that the words Hindu and Muslim are only meant for religious distinction: otherwise all persons who reside in this country belong to one and the same nation.
  • (The writer id Retired Scientist (Deputy Director), National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow)



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