Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, one of the architects of modern India was born on October 17, 1817 in Delhi and
started his career as a civil servant.
The 1857 revolt was one of the turning points in Syed Ahmed's life. He clearly foresaw the imperative
need for the Muslims to acquire proficiency in the English language and modern sciences, if the
community were to maintain its social and political clout, particularly in Northern India.
He was one of those early pioneers who recognized the critical role of education in the empowerment
of the poor and backward Muslim community. In more than one ways, Sir Syed was one of the greatest
social reformers and a great national builder of modern India. He began to prepare the road map for
the formation of a Muslim University by starting various schools. He instituted Scientific Society
in 1863 to instill a scientific temperament into the Muslims and to make the Western knowledge
available to Indians in their own language.
The Aligarh Institute Gazette, an organ of the Scientific Society, was launched in March 1866 and
succeeded in agitating the minds in the traditional Muslim society. Anyone with a poor level of
commitment would have backed off in theface of strong opposition but Sir Syed responded by bringing
out another journal, Tehzibul Akhlaq which was rightly named in English as 'Mohammedan Social
In 1875, Sir Syed founded the Madarsatul Uloom in Aligarh and patterned the MAO College after
Oxford and Cambridge universities that he went on a trip to London. His objective was to build
a college in line with the British education system but without compromising its Islamic values.
He wanted this College to act as a bridge between the old andthe new, the East and the West. While
he fully appreciated the need and urgency of imparting instruction based on Western learning, he
was not oblivious to thevalue of oriental learning and wanted to preserve and transmit to posterity
therich legacy of the past. Dr. Sir Mohammad Iqbal observes: "The real greatness of Sir Syed consists
in the fact that he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and
worked for it -- his sensitive nature was the first to react to modern age".
The aim of Sir Syed was not merely restricted to establishing a college at Aligarh but at spreading a
network of Muslim Managed educational institutions throughout the length and breadth of the country
keeping in view this end, he instituted All India Muslim Educational Conference that revived the
spirit of Muslims at national level. The Aligarh Movement motivated the Muslims to help open a number
of educational institutions. It was the first of its kind of such Muslim NGO in India, which awakened
the Muslims from their deep slumber and infused social and political sensibility into them.
Sir Syed contributed many essential elements to the development of the modern society of the
subcontinent. During Sir Syed's own lifetime, 'The Englishman', a renowned British magazine of the
19th century remarked in a commentary on November 17, 1885: 'Sir Syed's life "strikingly illustrated
one of the best phases of modern history". He died on March 27, 1898 and lies buried next to the
main mosque at AMU.