Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, one of the renowned activists of British India, is often regarded as a man of reason and compassion.

In a way much similar to 16th century’s Francis Bacon, 19th century’s Sir Syed Ahmad developed the importance of scientific reasoning in his respective realm.

Bacon developed English prose. Likewise, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan developed Urdu prose on rational terms and introduced the indigenous culture of Urdu writing with empiricism. He wanted to use Urdu prose for some instructive purposes. His writing of Tehzeeb-ul-Ikhlaq speaks of instructive and moral dimensions of his prose writing.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan believed in the conformity of religious dogmas and scientific inventions. He used to analyse religion in scientific terms. He was of the view that every religious belief and every natural law must conform to scientific materiality. On this ground, it is said that he denounced certain religious dogmas because he couldn’t develop the conformity between the scientific principles and his religious beliefs. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s way of analysing religion on rational grounds drew much criticism in his life and his rational views are still a subject of criticism for many historians and religious figures.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s deep political insight in his propagating of anti-colonial thought against the British Theory of Enlightenment stands unique. The theory was based on portraying British people as superior ones, superior ones in cultural and in educational sense. British people in persuasion of their devised theory considered it their divine right to control the world.

Sir Syed Ahmad in his rebuttal to this very instrument of colonialism propagated very distinct anti-colonial thought. He didn’t criticise British colonial policies directly but in a subtle way he constructed an educated class of Muslims in opposition to the British colonial class.

Similarly, he was also concerned with the position of Muslims against Hindus in a colonial India because Hindus were trying to subjugate Muslims tactfully. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan worked considerably for Urdu language. Against Hindi, Sir Syed advocated for the survival of Urdu language. His successful advocacy of a separate language for Muslims helped his successors develop a separate identity of Muslims. He wanted to elevate the status of Muslims in the Sub-continent and Aligarh Institution was based on this very motive. This institution produced most of the 20th century Muslim leaders. Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam also strolled on Sir Syed Ahmad’s path in order to gain for the rights of Muslims. Iqbal’s Two-Nation Theory was largely inspired by Sir Syed Ahmad’s political philosophy.

The best way to commemorate the works of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is to learn the art of disagreement from his life. The way Sir Syed Ahmad fought for the rights of Muslims instructs the contemporary world leaders, the leaders who are fighting for the rights of their people. Sir Syed Ahmad showed his pupil an amiable way of disagreeing with the opposition. Sir Syed led a specific group of people but he never tried to oppose, snub or muffle the voices of his opponents through negative and brutal meanings. He always tried to bridge the gap between different groups of people.

His writing of The Mohamedan commentary on Holy Bible aimed at reducing the differences between Christians and Muslims.

After the War of 1857, he wrote, Asbab-e-Bagawat-e-Hind in order to change the skeptic minds of British people against Muslims. He on the one hand propagated the case of Muslims and on the other hand reduced the gap between Muslims and their colonial masters. So on this day, the followers of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan should vow to carry on his legacy of tolerance, compassion and humility.