By Dr. Jasim Mohammad,
Presently Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is of the top educational institution not only in country but also on international level which has its flag bearer Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College (MAO College) founded by great doyen of education and social reformer, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan on 8 January 1877. Sir Syed was very perturbed to develop Muslim society in India after failure of First War of Independence in 1857. He had drawn conclusion that without English and scientific education the Muslims will not be able to progress at all .Before founding MAO College Sir Syed went to England where he himself studied the functioning of Cambridge and Oxford Universities closely. Hence to get educated Indian Muslims Sir Syed decided to establish an educational institution on the same pattern of Cambridge and Oxford and so to realize his dreams Sir Syed founded MAO College on 8 January 1877 in Aligarh.
It may be recalled that though Sir Syed had founded MAO College for educationally empowering Muslims but he opened its doors for students of all religious segments .On 03 Febrauy 1884, Sir Syed said in a speech at Lahore (now in Pakistan) that, “It will be a sorrow for me if anyone thinks that I have founded MAO College for educating Muslims alone which will be a discrimination between Hindus and Muslims. The main purpose of establishing this institution is no doubt to educate Muslims because they have to be taken out from their present wretched conditions. I hope that you will all agree that the status of Muslims is continuously falling. Their religious orthodoxy has kept them far away from scientific education and they have failed to take the advantages of government schools and colleges and so it became necessary that special arrangements should be made for their education .He said that all Hindu and Muslim students will equally receive education in the College and there will be no discrimination at all “. Carrying on Sir Syed legacy even today the doors of AMU are wide open for students belonging to all religious groups.
Sir Syed had not founded MAO College just to provide conventional education. He founded MAO College as first residential college in the country. In respect of residential education there were many misunderstandings at that time .Sir Syed said that, “often people question me that how the young boys will be taught and brought up in boarding houses? In the Cambridge and Oxford the students go to Church and just like that the students of MAO College will have to attend prayers in mosque daily. They will have a particular dress so that they may be recognized among hoard of youths .There will be fixed time for all daily activities like time to study , lunch and dinner and so on . Not only this will they be provided facilities of sports and games. The students will be at liberty to choose the game according to their interest. (Tahzeeb-ul-akhlaq, 01 Rajab 1289 Hijri ) In short it can be said that Sir Syed evolved a complete boarding life to produce better and responsible citizens.
It should be kept in mind that the educational policy of Sir Syed was not aimed to produce only government clerks but responsible citizen. Sir Syed also took interest in launching social reforms in Muslim society. He was in favor of mental independence and had always opposed evil practices among Muslims like making heavy expenditure on marriages. He opposed those traditions which were not part of Islam but were being practiced by Indian Muslims .Sir Syed did not initiated not only educational revolution but also social reforms which made deep impact on Muslim society in years to come .He had said that, “students of MAO College will fan out in every nook and corner of world and will give massage of brotherhood and humanism and open mildness. Sir Syed had emphasized upon the scientific and technical education. He said, ‘you may call me by any name but please have mercy on your children (meaning send them to school) so that you may not feel ashamed later on “. Sir Syed opined that if we did not adopt science then we will always behind others.”
When Sir Syed started collecting funds for MAO College he approached Hindus as well as Muslims both. He did not even left Queen of England and also appealed to her for funds. In the founding of MAO College Sir Syed`s friend Maulvi Samiullah Khan had also played vital role which cannot be forgotten at all.
The establishment of MAO College was a very important event in the history of country which introduced Muslims with modernism and gave a positive direction to them to come out of age old shackles. In the beginning MAO College was affiliated with Calcutta University but in 1885 it was affiliated with Allahabad University and later was incorporated into Aligarh Muslim University by an Act of Parliament. AMU is still serving the country without any bias and discrimination to every section of citizenry.
Founding of MAO College is such a step of Sir Syed which did not only changed economic, social and political status of Muslims in country but has left its imprints on intentional level .Presently the students of the AMU are scattered all over the world which confirms the lines of AMU Tarana, “ Jo abr yha se uthega wo sare jahan par barsega “ and also fulfils Sir Syed `s comment that ,” the students of MAO College will go throughout breath and length of world and will spread massage of tolerance and humanism “.
But today in this globalised world Sir Syed lovers and particularly AMU fraternity should ponder over that, has they carried on Sir Syed Mission? Today on the Foundation Day of MAO College, AMU community must pledge itself to carry on his massage and philosophy in far off corners of the country.
(The writer is former Media Adviser of the AMU. He may be contacted at Email : firstname.lastname@example.org)