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October 23rd, 2009

How the clergy wanted Sir Syed Ahmad Khan beheaded

Submitted by Rashid Jahangiri.


How the clergy wanted Sir Syed beheaded

A must read for young members of Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement and our opponents.
This article will help readers get a glimpse of decaying condition of Muslims, in every sphere of life, in Indian subcontinent preceding and during times of PM-HMGA.
Copied from ‘Pak Tea House’ blog.
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How the clergy wanted Sir Syed beheaded

Published in The Times of India

Arif Mohammed Khan is a former Union minister

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was the first Muslim voice of reform in India. He emerged on the scene at a time when Indian Muslim society was sunk in obscurantism and inertia and showed no desire to struggle out of its medieval grooves. The unwholesome influence of clergy had made them view modern education as incompatible with and hostile to religion.

The abortive uprising of 1857 and the cleric call to jihad made Muslims target of British wrath and reprisals. Sir Syed as a judicial officer served the government during the crisis but the aftermath of disturbances deeply impacted him.

He wrote: “I reflected about the decadence of the Muslim community, and came to the conclusion that modern education alone is the remedy of the ills they are suffering from. I decided on a strategy to disabuse their minds of strong communal belief that the study of European literature and science is anti-religion and promotes disbelief”.

The objectives of Sir Syed, born in early 19th century (October 17, 1817), were educational and social reforms; he had no desire to dabble in religion. But all his initiatives were opposed in the name of religion.

Describing his dilemma, Sir Syed said: “We were keen to avoid any discussion of religion, but the problem is that our behaviours, social practices and religious beliefs are so mixed up that no discussion of social reform is possible without provoking a religious controversy”. Frustrated with the clergy, he added, “When urged to give up something harmful, they say it has religious merit and when asked to do something positive they assert it is prohibited by religion. So we have no options but discuss the religious context to push our agenda forward”

With this objective, he launched the Mohammedan Social Reformer journal in July 1884. To use his own words, the journal “played crucial role in fighting the fanaticism that has pushed the community into abyss of ignorance”. The journal focused on modern education and social and religious reforms.

The school at Aligarh was launched in 1875. For its success, this project depended wholly on public donations. Sir Syed made notable personal contributions and went overboard in his fund collection drive. He organized lotteries, staged drama and felt no hesitation to visit any place, including red light areas, to collect money. He gratefully acknowledged the help he received and made special mention of Hindus who gave money and material support and did a great favour to the whole (Muslim) community.

The college finally emerged as a University in 1920, 22 years after Sir Syed had breathed his last in 1898. It was a living testimony of the success of Aligarh movement. However, the story shall remain incomplete if no mention is made of the hostility and opposition of the Muslim clergy that Sir Syed faced till he died and still persists in certain quarters.

The intensity of opposition can be understood from the comments of Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi in his book “Islamiat aur Maghribiat ki Kashmakash”written more than 60 years after Sir Syed’s death. Maulana says: “The education mission of Sir Syed and his advocacy of Western civilization became correlatives and caused apprehensions and doubts in the minds of people. A wave of opposition took hold of the religious circles and his movement met with a simultaneous call for its boycott”

First Sir Syed was targeted when he shared food with the British and defended his action in a signed article. The opposition became fierce during his stay in London. Sir Syed responded through a memorandum saying: “The terrifying call of Kanpur, the lyrical satire of Lucknow, the idle tattle of Agra and Allahabad, the fatwas of Rampur and Bareilly and the snide remarks of holy men of Delhi grieve me not. My heart is overflowing with the idea of welfare of my people and there is no room in it for any anger or rancor”

Conscious of cleric hostility Sir Syed offered not to have any role in matters of religious instruction in the college and invited leading clerics to prepare the syllabus. Maulana Qasim Nanotvi and Maulana Yaqoob of Deoband shot down the proposal saying they cannot associate with an institution which will have Shia students on the campus.

Maulana Hali in his biography of Sir Syed says that 60 maulvis and alims had signed fatwas accusing Sir Syed of disbelief and apostasy. There was total consensus among the Indian clerics, only divine approval was missing. Maulvi Ali Bakhsh did the needful and travelled to Mecca and Medina on the pretext of pilgrimage and secured a fatwa calling for beheading of Sir Syed if he repented not and persisted with his plan to establish the college.

Sir Syed was a visionary who pursued his dream ignoring all opposition and aptly remarked, “I know what they know not and I understand what they understand not”. History has proved that he was right and the clergy, as always, utterly wrong.

12 Responses to “How the clergy wanted Sir Syed Ahmad Khan beheaded”

  1. I read in a book some years ago that after Shah Waliullah (d. 1763) translated the Quran into Persian, which was the first translation of the Quran available in India, the Ulama turned against him and tried to have him killed. He had to go on the run for fear of his life. The Ulama actually stated that because of his translation people will no longer need to turn to us because they will be able to understand the Quran themselves!


  2. HMGA shared many views with sir syed:

    1. jihad is not applicable

    2. Jesus died a natural death

    3. Mansukh never happened

    4. the miraaj of Muhammad was a vision, not reality

    I understand why the muslims had such problems with HMGA. Anytime any muslim changed the interpretation of koranic verses, THAT WAS A PROBLEM.

    This is why muslims were so mad with Wali-ullah when he translated the Koran into persian, they were worried that the Koran would be interpreted differently. There concerns are valid.

    Here is a relevant hadith that I read:

    Volume 6, Book 61, Number 581:
    Narrated Jundub:

    The Prophet said, “Recite (and study) the Quran as long as you agree about its interpretation, but when you have any difference of opinion (as regards its interpretation and meaning) then you should stop reciting it (for the time being)’


  3. So the Quran should never be translated because more people will be able to read it than before. Moreover, even Arabs shouldn’t read it because, quite obviously, when several people read something they are bound to differ over some point or other.

    Is your advice then that according to Islam we should all stop reading the Quran, unless we appoint some authority over us whose interpretation we submit to without question on each and every point?


  4. I advice was that Allah should have made sure that Muhammad fully explained the Koran before closing off the Wahy NUbuwwat forever. This would have been best case scenario. Obviously allah doesnt do things according to my standards. Similarily HMGA should have explained to his sons that he appointed an anjuman to succeed his community.

    ^these are just my personal frustrations with religion in general.

    I only wrote that I understood the concern of the muslims who were afraid that by translating the koran into other languages the interpretation might change. Similarily, the qadianis have translated khatam to mean best or chief. This is my example of when translations go wrong.

    Another qadiani mis-translation is 2:5. I am sure you know as to what they did.

    This is worst case scenario!!


  5. If Bashir doesn’t believe in Islam, such that he thinks he must advise Allah and the Holy Prophet since God doesn’t uphold his standards, then what’s his obsession with Ahmadiyyat?


  6. For Omar:  I believe in Islam!  I am a muslim like Abu Bakr was a muslim.  I believe that there are no sects in Islam. 

    I started researching religion about 5 years ago.  I studied ahmadiyyat first. The split was a major HOLE that I looked into.  My results were not favorable to my religous stability.  I read almost every book on ahmadiyyat ever written, which was available in english.  I read Griswold’s book, I read DARD. 

    Mostly I read about ahmadiyyat and Islam through the books of M. ali.  I am impressed by M. ali more than any other writer on Islam/Ahmadiyyat to date. 

    I moved on to Islam, now I am studying Islam in my spare time.  I started with Ibn Hisham, the Koran and the sahih hadith books.  I have learned so much through discussion.  ZA had helped me so much in understanding Islam.

    Sometimes I think out-loud, I pose my thoughts as they come out of my mind.  I dont go back and proofread my writings.  I am currently a PHD student, my area of concentration is philosophy.  I am intrigued by Islam.

    I must say that I very much frustrated with lots of things in Islam and ahmadiyyat.  I envision Allah as a perfect creator.  I am frustrated with the methods of allah. 

    I hope I clarified as to who I am. 


  7. “I envision Allah as a perfect creator.  I am frustrated with the methods of allah.”

    We try to guess the mind of god and expect god and his system to work as we expect it; as if man designed it all i.e. man tries to create Him in his own image rather than vice versa. This is a paradox in the human thought.


  8. Bashir wrote:

    “Sometimes I think out-loud, I pose my thoughts as they come out of my mind.  I dont go back and proofread my writings.”

    If you put half-baked ideas out there and expect others to do the heavy lifting for you, then you abuse the generosity of the people who interact on this blog, especially the moderator.


  9. I thought that all muslims would welcome critical thought.  I thought that especially members of the AAIIL would be open to listening to the other side of coin type of arguments.  What other way to learn about Islam then debate. 

    I thought that members of the AAIIL would like to learn more about the controversial issues in Islam. 

    I study controversial issues in religous thought process.  Obviously, my contributions havent been accepted as positive.  I can take  a hint.


  10. @Bashir…really your contributions are welcome (scholars like youself are rare as ppl now a days do not bother studying religion in depth); and I personally have gained a lot of knowledge from Dr. ZA’s lengthy replies to interesting questions posed by you…but when you by your own admission admit to not giving much second thought to what you write..its only fair to ask that you do; especially as at times you tend to be repetitive, which is not fair to the persons interacting regularly with you (and I am not one of them!)

    And if members of the AAIIL were not open to listening to the “other side of coin”, then would the moderator have been consistently and patiently answering all your queries?


  11. Thanks Uthman, I have also learned lots of arguments as well as an in-depth look into AAIIL thought process through my engagements with ZA.

    His counter arguements are well written and well appreciated. In the future I will amend my behavior keeping in consideration the fact that I am a guest here.

    You are correct, the aaiil have been very open to the critical thinking that I have presented.


  12. I read in a biography of Shah Waliullah that two of his sons also translated the Quran. His eldest Shah Abdul Aziz translated more than three paras of the Quran and another Shah Abdul Qadir (d1815) translated the whole of the Quran into Urdu (with some brief commentary) called Mudih-i-Quran. It would be interesting to be able to track down this translation from that era.

    Btw, his grandson was Shah Ismail (Shaheed), who was killed while fighting alongside the Mujaddid of the next century Syed Ahmad Barelvi in Balakot.


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