This book presents a nuanced narrative on Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s (1817–1898) life and his invaluable contribution to the democratic consciousness in India. Based on extensive archival research and a close study of his writings, speeches, and addresses, it explores the life and works of Sir Syed in the broader context of socio-political debates in nineteenth-century India.
A seminal figure who shaped modern India, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is known as the pioneer of modern education among the Muslims in India. Reconciling faith with demonstrable truths, he contributed immensely as a member of the several apex bodies such as Vice-Regal Legislative Council, Royal Public Service Commission, Royal Education Commission, and Legislative Council of North West Provinces. The volume also explores the reformer’s views on issues like colonial law and administration, the concept of blasphemy, conversion, female education, religious beliefs, freedom of press, emancipation of women, Hindu–Muslim unity, Urdu–Hindi controversy, and reservation for Muslims.
Thoughtfully and incisively written, this volume will be of great interest to scholars and researchers of modern India, Indian political thought, political philosophy, education, political science, colonial history, Islamic Studies, religious studies, Islamic law, biography, and South Asian studies.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Irfan Habib. Foreword by Sukrita Paul Kumar. Foreword by Anisur Rahman. Preface. Introduction. 1. Biographical Narrative 2. Administrative Receptivity 3. Unravelling Sir Syed 4. Female Education 5. A Dialogic Affair 6. Intellectual Awakening through Periodicals. Bibliography
Shafey Kidwai is a reputed scholar, well-known literary critic and columnist, and recipient of India’s highest literary award, Sahitya Academy Award for Urdu (2019). He is also the recipient of the prestigious literary award Iqbal Samman (2017), Government of Madhya Pradesh and Amir Khusro Award (2018), UP Urdu Academy.
Professor Kidwai has been teaching communication studies for more than 35 years at the Aligarh Muslim University, India. His fortnightly column on Urdu literature, culture and media appears in the Friday Review, The Hindu, and his articles frequently appear in reputed Urdu journals and periodicals. He has published 13 books in Urdu and English, and his book Urdu Literature and Journalism: Critical Perspectives, published in 2014, has received wide critical acclaim.
“I am sure readers interested in Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s life and work would find Professor Shafey Kidwai’s work a mine of well-arranged information, objectively and competently interpreted. For this we should all be grateful to him.” — Irfan Habib, Professor Emeritus, Aligarh Muslim University, India
“By far the best biography written of Sayyid Ahmad Khan, this is a beautifully detailed and nuanced account of one of the makers of modern India as well as Islam.” — Faisal Devji, Professor of History, University of Oxford, UK
“Fresh perspectives on Sir Syed, especially as a reformist, have a definite appeal in today’s context. The author puts his finger on the pulse of our times in revitalizing the image of Sir Syed as someone who tried to awaken pragmatic awareness rather than propagating authoritarian dictates. Kidwai’s book can be seen as a call for that same spirit of renaissance via Sir Syed.” — Sukrita Paul Kumar, Noted Scholar and Poet
“Drawing upon a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, Kidwai has been able to offer a probing study that would stay as a companion and a guide to anyone interested in Sir Syed studies.”— Anisur Rahman, Noted Scholar and Critic
“Shafey Kidwai’s book adds to the conversation on Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the nineteenth century reformer of India. Kidwai’s book reiterates the story of Sir Syed’s contributions to education, inter-faith understanding, anti-colonial politics, and Muslim cosmopolitanism that improved the Muslim condition in colonial India and continue to inspire Muslims in the postcolonial present. This is a rare achievement accomplished by a single individual who struggled against all odds, which Kidwai’s book documents and demonstrates.” — Yasmin Saikia, Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies and Professor of History, Arizona State University, USA
“Professor Shafey Kidwai has in his deeply thoughtful and analytical account of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan opened a new vista for students of Modern Indian History. A rationalist who attributed miracles of prophets to the plausible realm of human psychology, to leader of an informed debate on social, cultural, religious and political dynamics of relationship between Hindus Muslims and British, Sir Syed is presented by the author through the lens of reason. His 'anti girls education' stand is not papered over by Professor Shafey who has also dwelt on why his liberal values were interpreted as communal by scholars in India and Pakistan. The book is a must read for lay persons as well as specialists both for its content and candour.” — Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, Noted author; Former Member, Planning Commission of India; Former Chancellor, Maulana National Urdu University