A Leader Reassessed
Reviewed by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Life and Works of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
By B. Sheik Ali
Sultan Shaheed Education Trust Publication,
59 III cross, 7th Main, Saraswathipuram, Mysore 570009
Pages 399, Price Rs 250
The book is the outcome of Dr. Sheik Ali’s love and devotion for social reformer and founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and the burning desire he harbours to emulate his ideals. Having been vice chancellor of universities of Mangalore and Goa and himself founding and guiding a string of educational institutions in Mysore, Dr. Sheik Ali has lucidly driven home the ideas followed by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He captures in detail the twilight era of 19th century when the Muslims were licking the wounds of loss of power and British hostility in the wake of Mutiny of 1857. Hindus had achieved greater socio-economic progress due to their flexibility towards the English education and pliable attitude towards British colonial masters while Muslims were descending into ignorance, orthodoxy and backwardness due to their antiquated ways, hatred for English which had become the language of administration and higher education, Muslim elite’s love for luxury, sloth, wasteful habits and Brahmanical attitude. Sir Syed drank deep at the fountains of British scholarship at Oxford and Cambridge, observed their efficiency, punctuality, respect for rule of law, forward planning, methodical mind, institutional strength and quality of leadership. On his return to India, he established the Muslim Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh and launched the Aligurh Institute Gazette and Tahzeebul Ikhlaq in order to propagate his views on modernism. The college adopted a syllabus blending literature, religion, natural sciences and humanities. Against the pattern then, MAO was a totally residential institution in order to mould the complete character of the students, put them into a rigorous schedule, and to completely overhaul their selves. The author provides ample explanation for Sir Syed’s vision and fills the lacunae a questioning Muslim mind might detect. Thus “Aligarh boys who hailed from milieu which excelled in riding, hunting, shooting and enjoying life to the lees could do very well on the cricket field, on hockey ground, in debating societies and poetic competition where bookish knowledge was not required.”
Dr. Sheik Ali generally skips the criticism levelled by Sir Syed’s contemporaries but at places ably fills the void by dealing with compulsions of the times and society he was living in. He says Sir Syed defended Islam against onslaughts from the West. His Westernism never permitted him to plead for alteration of the Shariah. Thirdly he devised the technique of judging faith on the basis of reason. Sir Syed’s aloofness with the freedom movement despite his love for the nation, adoption of English ways while pleading for Islamic manners and faith with equal vehemence, promoting English education even as he conceived a varsity for Urdu medium education, support for women’s education while keeping the MAO’s door open only for boys are a few such aspects that receive satisfactory focus. Amid all this explaining what ultimately gets highlighted is Sir Syed’s single-minded devotion toward promotion of modern education and social reform among Muslims. His determination, grit, use of all sources to push forward his agenda thus forms the crux of the book under review. Sir Syed brooked no diversion and distraction. One would agree with Dr Sheik Ali when he says that politics was a heady stuff and Muslims were an excitable lot, hence Sir Syed scrupulously spurned politics, be it the freedom movement or anything else. Opening the doors for girls’ education would have encountered insurmountable difficulties from the ulema and Sir Syed steered clear of controversy, lest the primary objective of educating the Muslim menfolk be in jeopardy.
Contributions of Sir Syed’s close associates, his use of Urdu for explaining modern social, economic and civilisational aspects and thereby imparting a modern idiom to the language heretofore confined to poetic use also gets fulsome exposure at the hands of Dr. Sheik Ali.
A Leader Reassessed captures the multi-hued splendour of the lava of energy that kept pouring out of this human dynamo called Sir Syed Ahmed Khan that strutted the great Indo-Gangetic basin all through the latter half of the last century and in its wake caused a renaissance among the Indian Muslims and their thought process. The book is a must for all those social workers whose focus is social reform and spread of modern education among Muslims but feel harassed by distracting issues.
Allah Nurus Samawat wal Ardh (Urdu)
By Mohammad Yunus Saleem
Farid Book Depot, 422 Matia Mahal, New Delhi-110002
Pages 340 Price Rs 250
Former Governor of Bihar, member of Parliament and minister Mohammad Yunus Saleem, has selected and compiled together Qur’anic verses pertaining to Allah’s attributes in a book in Urdu entitled Allah Nurus Samawat wal Ardh. The 340-page book provides an insight into Islam’s concept of Allah, His functions and the divine names derived out of them. The Urdu is simple and lucidly deciphers a wealth of information from words that one comes across frequently in the Islamic literature. This is useful for those who would like to seek out details on the Islamic concept of divinity with a concentrated focus. A 24-page prologue besides providing biographical details, talks about the author’s involvement with the study of the Qur’an. Maulana Abdul Kareem Parekh has written the muqaddimah while Maulana Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi has contributed the foreword. Two more books from the author in the series compiling verses on the persona of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the Qur’an’s description about its own divine nature, are lined up for publication. The book under review is indeed a useful addition to the already vast reservoir of commentaries on the holy Qur’an. It would have been better if the author had been introduced on the back flap of the jacket of the book. One needs to dig deeper into the prologue to get to know about him. MAS
NEW JOURNAL: The Hyderabad based Islamic Academy of Sciences has launched its monthly journal Qur’an and Hadees. So far two issues have come out. These deal with Qur’an, Hadees and Seerath of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Though the journal claims its objective as imparting of authentic Islamic knowledge to younger generation whose medium of instruction is English, it seems to be serialising knowledge fit for books. The Qur’anic commentary is excerpted from A Simple Translation of the Holy Qur’an by scientist Dr. Mir Anisuddin who extensively dealt with scientific aspects of the various verses of the Qur’an. The language of the journal is indeed very simple and is priced at Rs. 20. According to Secretary of the Academy and Editor of the Journal Syed Tameem, the translation of the Qur’an had two print runs so far since 1993. The journal can be subscribed to from The Islamic Academy of Sciences, 5-9-271, John’s Lane Abid Road, Hyderabad-500001.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org