Was the attempt to achieve a better understanding with the British the most important contribution that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan made to the Muslim cause during the nineteenth century? Explain your answer. 
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan can be credited for lot many services he rendered to uplift the status of Muslims in British India. Some worth mentioning contributions such as sensitizing Muslims to Western education and his work linked to increasing political awareness among Muslims all required to enhance understanding between the rulers and the subjects. This enhanced understanding led to further political concessions for Muslims and particularly getting rid of the blame of being sole aggressors in the Indians revolt of 1857.
Sir Syed suggested that the British should try to understand Muslims better. Sir Syed believed that the position of the Muslims in the Sub-Continent could only be improved if the relations with the British were improved. Hence Sir Syed made a two pronged effort to bring the British and Muslims closer. On one side he advised the Muslims not to think of armed struggle because the British were too strong. He was aware that the British knew very little about Islam. Indeed, on a visit to England he was so offended by an English Book on the life of Holy Prophet (PBUH) that he immediately wrote his own work correcting many errors. It was also true, however, that Muslims in India knew very little about Christianity. He tried to overcome this by writing Tabyin-ul-Kalam, in which he pointed out the similarities between Islam and Christianity and stated not to hate Christianity because to sit and eat with Christians was not forbidden in Islam. On the other side, Sir Syed explained to the British that the Muslims were not solely responsible for the war of Independence 1857. In the book he wrote for this purpose (called the Causes of Indian Revolt), Sir Syed explained that the wrong British policies were the cause of uprising. He further explained that the British did not understand the needs and desires of Indian people while making laws and policies because there were no Indian members in Viceroy’s legislative council. He also explained that the British Indian army was mismanaged and solders rose up against their officers. In another book Sir Syed described at length the loyalty of the Muslims to the British. Sir Syed also founded the “British Indian association” to bring the British and Muslims closer. He also tried to clear up the misunderstanding among the British who resented being called “Nadarath” by Muslims. The Britain thought it was an insult, but Sir Syed pointed out that the word came from “Nasir” an Arabic word, meaning Helper. So the term was the reflection of the positive image Muslims had of the British, not an insult. Sir Syed was successful in his effort and the misunderstanding was greatly removed.
Removal of misunderstanding between the British and the Muslims was very important service rendered by Sir Syed as it helped revive the social and economic conditions of the Muslim. Muslims were sidelined because of the mistrust and suspicion which had developed. They became natural enemies, the Muslims disliked everything linked to the British, including modern and English education. Sir Syed’s work was able to reduce this deep-seated resentment which prevailed against the British among the Muslims. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan took steps to change Muslims attitude towards receiving British education. He opened schools at several places and started the scientific society at Ghazipore in 1863. Its main purpose was to make scientific writings available to a wider market by translating them from English, Persian or Arabic to Urdu. He also started publishing a magazine called the Aligarh institute Gazette in 1866. This was to introduce modern sciences among the Muslim public. Sir Syed went to England in 1869. He stayed there for 17 months and observed the system of the British universities so that a university could be established on the same lines. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan opened the school at Aligarh which became M.A.O (Mohammaden-Anglo Oriental) school in 1875 where English, Modern sciences and as well as Islamic teachings were taught. It was later raised to the status of university in 1920. Following the lead for Sir Syed Ahmad many Muslim high schools and Islamia colleges were opened in many big cities of India for Muslim students. Sir Syed established ‘Mohammaden Educational Conference’ which was an organization to discuss the problems of the Muslims education in India. This greatly helped the Muslims who started getting good jobs, improved their economic condition and improve their status in the society. In fact the propagation of modern education among Muslims also became a big factor in achieving an understanding between the British and Muslims and bringing them closer.
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan guided the Muslims in political sphere as well. He advised the Muslims to keep away from congress. He opposed Western type of democracy because it meant that the Muslims will always be in minority and will be at the mercy of Hindus. He believed that Muslims would never win any election because of the Hindu Majority. He, therefore, advocated the separate seats and separate electorates which was the forerunner of the future demand for a separate homeland. Sir Syed also strongly opposed the replacement of Urdu by Hindu in 1867 and gave his Two Nations Theory. He always kept the interests of Muslim supreme in his mind
Therefore it can be said that Sir Syed’s contributions in education, political development of Muslims and social betterment of Muslims had very beneficial effect, however his contributions towards improving the relationship between the Muslims and the British was a task which impacted the betterment of Muslims the most. In fact his contributions in politics and education were not only supported by the improved relations between the British and the Muslims, they got further directed because of the improvement in the relationship.
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