Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: Need Second reform within Muslim Communty

File photo of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan | Commons
 Today is the birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He was one of the great thinkers, educationists, reformists, and philosophers of the 19th century. His contribution to creating space for education for the Muslims and his efforts for reforms within the community. That was far ahead of time in his thinking for education and establishing institutions of learning.

There are many criticisms of him by the various groups and academicians. There is nothing wrong with analyzing his life and contribution through critical analysis. Aligarh community should learn to listen to the criticism instead of showing irresponsible. People should learn the action of Sir Syed, what was his conduct, when he had faced odd questions or disruptive conduct by his opponents, at the time of building the university.

Contributions for Higher Education of the AMU are unparalleled for the community. One can also say, AMU created an elite amongst the Muslim community. But, still, you cannot denigrate Sir Syed’s contribution to educational development in the country and particularly for the Muslims.

The AMU was the kind of mission for educational development of the community as Khan Sb dreams of. He had done, whatever he can do during his lifetime. Over the period, the community did not succeed in achieving higher education or putting reforms within the community. There are various issues still lingering for reforms. One such example I can place, the issues of Triple talaq, at last initiative, were taken by the court and executive, which were bitter in the test for many Muslims. But, one cannot escape the fact that there were issues in the Triple talaq. In the 21st century, we should also have to walk the talk, as far as Gender justice is concerned for Muslim women. The largely Indian feminist movement also did not give much attention to the issues related to Muslim women.

In 2006, the Sachar commission revealed the stark reality of the overall situation of the Muslims, the socio-economic indicators were very low in comparison to the others. The education condition was worse among the community as Sachar report suggests, only 4% of the population from Muslim are graduates or hold a diploma. The Committee Report notes that the gap between Muslims and other Socio-Religious Categories (SRCs) increases as the level of education increases, and that unemployment rates among Muslim graduates are the highest among SRCs both among the poor and the non-poor.

The Muslims face fairly high levels of poverty. The actuation conditions are slightly better than those of SCs/STs. As per NSSO data, overall 22.7% of India’s population was poor in 2004-2005(251 million people) with SC/STs together as worst off (at 35%), followed by Muslims at 31%.

Here I am not mentioning the entire process, which is working to isolate the community by design, there was pertinent evidence on the surface. One can just see, what is the situation of Mulsims' representation in the Parliament, only 27 MPs are in the lower house out of 542 seats across the county.

What happened during COVID 19, has been devastating for the entire humanity, but Muslim populations had suffered on two fronts in India, one with the Coronavirus and second with the Islamophobia. The media is stigmatizing Muslims for spreading the virus after there were cases of the Coronavirus linked to the members of one sect of Muslims. After this, the entire community was being targeted by hate campaigns, which happened on social media. Now people started boycotting the Muslims in their localities.

This hatred is not new in India. The far-right groups, associates of The Hindu nationalist party Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), have been in power for the last 7years at the national level, they have been pushing their agenda aggressively, which is based on Majoritarian idea of government. The vigilante groups that targeted Muslims on there have been active for quite some time, targeting Muslims based on their identity. In March 2019, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, said in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. “We are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalized groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis,”

In India, Muslim masses are mostly engaged with the informal sectors or particularly depend on the self-employed. Many incidents are coming into the media, where people are asking the name of mobile street vendors, who sell vegetables or fruits.  If they found Muslim vendors, people are asking to leave that locality, in many cases, vendors are being physically harassed by the people. In some cases, Muslim vendors had started mentioning Hindu names to sell their goods. So, they can sustain their livelihood. But, then people are asking for Identity cards from those vendors, which is certainly against the law of the nation. In some places, vendors have complained about these kinds of harassment. but ultimately marginalized groups are being pushed towards the more vulnerable situation. 

People from the Muslim community are also engaged with meat business at different levels, mostly they who do cutting of animals, many people were doing small business of selling of meats, once the cases of coronavirus detected in India, there was fake news circulated through social media, to stop eating meat, because one can get the virus through the meat. People stopped buying meat. As a result, the livelihood of the Muslims being stopped before our country went into complete lockdown. The entire value chain is being affected by this, silent boycott of Muslims.

There was some noise within Muslim intellectuals after the Sachar report but without any sustainable plan or vision, it did not make any results. Here I am specifically talking about the community's initiatives.

Another point Muslims should also have look urgently to first acknowledge the existing caste inequalities within. And, try to look at the data carefully, I am least interested in the theological interpretation of Islam. There are discrimination and disparities. Even the Sachar report also looked at some of the aspects and recommended for more inclusive policy for such people, there are people from Muslims, who are not yet listed as OBCs and thus do not qualify for reservation with Muslim OBCs. According to the report, “the abysmally low representation of Muslim OBCs suggests that the benefits of entitlements meant for the backward classes are yet to reach them.”

There is some hope of change in the status quo of community leadership, where many leaders from below coming forward in recent times, to raise the voice for justice and equality under the ambit of the Indian constitution. The women/ girls from the community are at the forefront. These women are not from the elite Muslims instead they are young university youth, taking charge as a leader.

This is high time for Muslims, to analyze the situation of contemporary challenges, for preparing reforms within the community. And work for the quality education for the youth of the community, one must consider creating equal opportunities for the marginalized section of the society as well. Muslims should also practice the social justice framework for becoming more inclusive and building solidarity with others. The birth anniversary of Sir Syed should go beyond tokenism of dinner night or day. Instead learn to receive criticism with good sprite, build solidarity outside of religious identity, understand the pain and difficulties of other marginalized group within Muslim community or Elsewhere.


  1. the issue is how would they analyse? what are the platforms? and how would one put humanity at first?


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