Sayyid Ahmad Khan

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sayyid Ahmad Khan


Born Oct. 7, 1817, in Delhi; died 1898. Public figure, religious reformer, and founder of the Muslim enlightenment movement in India.

Ahmad Khan came from a Muslim aristocratic feudal family. His efforts in the cause of enlightenment were centered chiefly on the weekly journal Tahdhib al-Akhlaq (Social Reform), which he founded in 1870, and the Muslim Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, which he founded in 1878. The basis of his ideology, which was progressive for its day, was the doctrine of “self-help”—man’s service for the social good and “national solidarity.” He criticized reactionary feudal institutions and called upon Muslims to familiarize themselves with European culture. He urged the modernization of Islam and religious tolerance. While criticizing certain aspects of British colonial policy, however, Ahmad Khan retained his loyalty to the British authorities. He shared the illusions of part of the intelligentsia of British India that colonial domination was inevitable and necessary for a certain period of time. He laid the foundations for the Muslim communal movement, first in the area of enlightenment and later in the realm of politics.

Ahmad Khan’s ideology combined features of progressive enlightenment with religious-communal aspects. Its internal contradictions reflected the contradictory nature of the Muslim communal movement and the ambiguous position of the Muslim bourgeoisie in colonial India. These ambiguities also showed how the Muslim intelligentsia, which emerged in the second half of the 19th century, was tied to the feudal landowning class.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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