Aligarh Movement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Aligarh Movement was the push to establish a modern system of Western-style scientific education for the Muslim population of British India, during the later decades of the 19th century.[1] The movement's name derives from the fact that its core and origins lay in the city of Aligarh in Central India and, in particular, with the foundation of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875.[2] The founder of the oriental college, and the other educational institutions that developed from it, was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He became the leading light of the wider Aligarh Movement.

The education reform established a base, and an impetus, for the wider Movement: an Indian Muslim renaissance that had profound implications for the religion, the politics, the culture and society of the Indian subcontinent.


The failure of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 saw the end of the Mughal empire and the succession of the British. The Muslim society during the post mutiny period was in a deteriorating state. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan found the Muslim society to be educationally, socially and culturally backward. He blamed the prevailing education system for the degrading state of the Muslim society.[3] This led Sir Syed to initiate a movement for the intellectual, educational, social and cultural regeneration of the Muslim society. This movement came to be known as the Aligarh movement after Sir Syed established his school at Aligarh which later became the center of the movement.[4]

The Aligarh Movement introduced a new trend in Urdu literature. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his association left the old style of writing in the Urdu language, which was rhetorical and academic, and started a simple style which helped Muslims to understand the main purpose of the movement. Sir Syed Ahmed was the central figure behind this awakening.


  • In 1859, Sir Syed established Gulshan School at Muradabad. In 1862 he founded the Victoria School at Ghazipur.[5]
  • Sir Syed founded the Translation Society in Ghazipur in 1863 to translate major works in the field of sciences and modern arts into Urdu.[6] It was later renamed as the Scientific Society and moved to Aligarh. The Society released two journals – The Aligarh Institute Gazette and the Tehzeeb-ul-Akhlaq, known as the Mohammedan Social Reformer in English.[7]
  • In 1866 the British Indian Association was established at Aligarh with the intention of addressing the political needs of the people.[8]
  • The Bihar Scientific Society was established by Syed Imdad Ali in Muzaffarpur in 1868. The society also launched a fortnightly newspaper, Akhbarul Akhyar.[9]
  • The Bihar Scientific Society and Bhumihar Brahman Sabha together established a college in Muzaffarpur on July 3, 1899. This is now known as Langat Singh College.[10]
  • In 1875 Sir Syed and Moulvi Samiullah Khan established a madarsa Madrasatul Uloom Musalmanan-e-Hind in Aligarh in his bungalow. [11] The school had a primary section and a senior section known as Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental Collegiate School.[12]
  • Two years later, in 1877, the school was converted into the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College.[13]
  • In 1877 the foundation of Lytton Library was laid by Lord Lytton for the students of MAO College. It was renamed as the Maulana Azad Library after Independence.[14]
  • A debating club was founded at MAO College by Sir Syed in 1884. It was renamed Siddons Union Club after its first principal Henry George Siddons.[15] It came to be known as Muslim University Union after the college became a university.[16]
  • In 1886 Sir Syed founded the Muhammedan Educational Congress, an organisation to reform and educate Indian Muslims. Its name was changed to All India Muhammadan Educational Conference in 1890.[17]
  • Sir Syed founded the United Patriotic Association in 1888 along with Raja Sivaprasad of Beneras to promote political co-operation with the British and ensure Muslim participation in the British Indian Government.[18][19]
  • In 1889 Sahabzada Aftab Ahmad Khan established Duty Society or Anjuman-Al-Farz to support the poor and needy students of the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College.[20]
  • In 1890 Mohsin-ul-Mulk founded Urdu Defence Central Committee later renamed to Urdu Defence Association for the advocacy of Urdu.[8]
  • To promote the political interests of the Muslims before the British Government, the Muhammedan Anglo-Oriental Defense Association was established in 1893.[21]
  • In 1893 the Muhammedan Educational Conference established Anjuman-i Taraqqi-i Urdu for the promotion of Urdu. The first anjuman was held in Delhi with Thomas Walker Arnold as its president and Shibli Nomani its secretary.[8]
  • After the death of Sir Syed in 1899, the Old Boys Association was formed at Aligarh to generate support for the Aligarh Movement. Maulvi Bahadur Ali was the founding secretary of the association.[22]
  • Sir Syed Memorial Fund was established by Sahabzada Aftab Ahmad Khan in 1899 to raise MAO College to a university.[23]
  • In 1901 Mohammadan Political Organisation was founded by Nawab Waqar-ul-Mulk to present Muslim grievances before the government.[24][page needed]
  • Sheikh Abdullah launched the Urdu monthly magazine Khatoon in 1904 to promote education of girls.[25]
  • In 1906 the All India Muslim League was founded to safeguard the rights of Indian Muslims.[26]
  • In 1906 Sheikh Abdullah and his wife Wahid Jahan Begum established a small school for girls known as Aligarh Zenana Madarsa in Aligarh.[27]
  • In 1914 Begum Sultan Jahan founded the All India Muslim Ladies Conference at Aligarh. The Begum served as President of the Conference, while Nafis Dulhan Begum from Aligarh was its Secretary.[28]
  • On October 29, 1920 Jamia Millia Islamia was established at Aligarh. It was later moved to Delhi.[29]
  • On December 17, 1920, MAO College was granted the status of university and Aligarh Muslim University was established. The Raja of Mahmudabad Mohammad Ali Mohammad Khan was appointed the vice-chancellor.[30]
  • In 1929, Zenana Madarsa became an Intermediate College and In 1930 the girl's college was converted into a Women’s College under the affiliation of Aligarh Muslim University.[31]
  • A new constitution was drafted for the Muslim University Union in 1952 and it came to be known as the Aligarh Muslim University Students' Union[16]


The prominent members involved with the movement have included.


The chief detractors of the Aligarh Movement were the conservative Ulemas of the time who blamed Sir Syed for promoting Western ethics and customs among the Muslims.[3] The Deoband school was also opposed to the Aligarh Movement.[73] Sir Syed and the movement was ridiculed in the Awadh Punch by his detractors like Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar, Munshi Sajjad Hussain and Akbar Allahabadi. He was also opposed by Pan-Islamist thinker and activist Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī.[74]


The Aligarh Movement has made a weighty and lasting contribution to the political emancipation of Indian Muslims.[75] The movement had a profound impact on the Indian society, particularly on the Muslim society compared to the other powerful but less adaptable movements of the 19th century. It influenced a number of other contemporary movements to a great extent that it caused the emergence of other socio-religious movements during the 19th century. The impact of Aligarh Movement was not confined to the Northern India only, but its expansion could be seen on the other regions of the Indian sub-continent during the 20th century.[76] The annual Educational Conferences held in different parts of the country played an effective role in the promotion of education among Muslims and directly or indirectly influenced the growth of institutes like Aligarh Muslim University, Osmania University, Dacca University, Anjuman-i-Tarqqi Urdu, Jamia Millia Islamia, Dar-ul-Uloom Nadva, Lucknow, and Dar-ul-Musannfafin, Azamgarh.[77] By the early 1900 Aligarh Movement became the progenitor to a number of socio-religious movements like the Urdu movement,[78] the Khilafat Movement[79] and the Pakistan Movement.[80]


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