Symposium held on Sir Syed and modernity in AMU

Aligarh: A symposium on "Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Modernity" was held at the Centre for Advanced Study, Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University, marking the 205th birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, a great social reformer of the nineteenth century and founder of the Aligarh Muslim University.

Speaking on the journalistic aspect of Sir Syed’s scholarship, Prof. Shafey Kidwai, Department of Mass Communication, said that Sir Syed was the first Muslim public intellectual who addressed the issues faced by Indians in general and Muslims in particular.

"His basic aim was to create an awakening in society and to attain this goal he published two journals, namely Aligarh Institute Gazette and Tahzibul Akhlaq, which played a big role in reforming Indian society," said Prof. Shafey.

He said Sir Syed’s model of journalism was based on the revelation of truth and he always contested common notions on the basis of logic and rationalism.

"This is why, instead of joining the mindless protest against the blasphemous book on the Prophet of Islam by William Muir, Sir Syed chose to visit England and write a rejoinder against it, which was later published as the Khutbat-e-Ahmadiya," he added.

Prof. Mohammad Asim Siddiqui, Chairman of the Department of English, emphasized that Sir Syed embodied all the virtues of modernity and always stressed the use of rationalism, logic, scepticism and freedom of expression.

"In all his writings Sir Syed was guided by logic and orientalism played a great role in his rationality. Influenced by the Delhi renaissance, Sir Syed always worked for every kind of emancipation. He was not an apologist or blind supporter of the British, for sure," reiterated Prof Mohammad Asim.

In his address on "Sir Syed’s juristic ideas and legal thoughts", Prof. Mohammad Zafar Mahfooz Nomani, Department of Law, said that Sir Syed’s juristic ideas germinated through Banaras Education Committee Report and during Sir Syed’s long association with legal services.

"Sir Syed authored a book on law and his major contributions include the enactment of the Qazi Act, the Indian Waqf Act, etc. His notions of federalism and fundamental rights and fundamental duties were far ahead of modern constitutionalists of those times. He was instrumental in developing the health consciousness among people and pleaded for the enactment of public health laws," pointed out Prof Zafar.

In her presidential remarks, Prof. Gulfishan Khan, Chairperson, the Department of History, said that Sir Syed was essentially a religious thinker, a great scholar and a good researcher. He wrote the rebuttal of William Muir’s book after going through original sources.

Prof. Perwez Nazir, Convener of the programme, proposed a vote of thanks. Dr Mohammad Nazrul Bari conducted the programme.

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