Sir Syed Ahmad Khan


Introduction

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was a contemporary of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and at least two of the latter's most trusted disciples, Abdul Kareem Sialkoti and Hakeem Nooruddinfollowed Sir Syed's rational theology.

Sir Syed published an exegesis of the Holy Quran, Tafseerul Quran, around 1880, in which he provides a narration of the of the crucifixion of Jesus and its aftermath. This narration formed the basis of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's 'divine knowledge' about the death of Jesus almost a decade later, and portions of Sir Syed's book are copied into a book written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the late 1890s.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad also wrote a book, named Barakaat-ud-Dua, which was in direct refutation of Sir Syed's rational explanation of dua .

Link to books of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.

Correspondence with Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

(by Munir D. Ahmed)
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote a letter to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan while the former was still living in Sialkot. This was long before he embarked on his publishing venture. (reference from Tareekh-e-Ahmadiyyat Vol. II.)

The more interesting fact is that he wrote in his book Al-Balaagh that Syed Ahmad Khan seconded him in three matters:
  • about the death of Hazrat Isa.
  • when I wrote that we are more obliged to the British Government than to the Sultan-e-Room (Caliph of Turkey).
  • when I said that we should write a rebuttal to the book "Ummahaat al-Mu'minin" by a converted Christian. (Tareekh-e-Ahmadiyyat Vol II. p. 13).

He conveniently forgot to mention that it was Syed Ahmad Khan, who wrote about the death of Prophet Isa almost a decade before Mirza Ghulam Ahmad realized the potential of this belief for his own mission.

Publications

Sir Syed's Opinion about the Imam Mahdi : In addition to saying that Jesus had died, Sir Syed did not even believe in the concept of Imam Mahdi. Here is his article on the subject:

Historical and Factual Perspective on the Mahdi of the Last Age

Among the wrong stories famous among the Muslims is the story of the appearance of the Imam Mahdi of the Last Age. Many Ahadith pertaining to this story are mentioned in the books of Ahadith, but there is no doubt that all are false and fabricated. When a researcher ponders over them with reference to historical events and with reference to their narrators, their falsehood and lack of authority and fabricated natuure is clear like the sun - and the need for the manufacture of such Ahadith also becomes apparent also.

. . . to be continued. . .Pages 120-121, 122-123, 124-125, 126-127, 128-129, 130-131, 132-133, 134-135, 136-137, 138-139, 140-141, 142-143, 143-145, 146-147, 148-149, 150-151, 152-153, 154-155, 156-157, 158-159

Khutbat-e-Ahmadiyya

This is a collection of articles published as 'sermons'.  Note that the author's given name was 'Ahmad', hence the name 'Ahmadiyya'.  It is thought by some that Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya was inspired by the success of this publication, especially as followers of Sir Syed had joined the fold of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.  Link to Book (9 MB PDF).

Summary of Views on Jihad and Blasphemy


In times when the freedom to offend is getting muzzled and the meaning of Jihad is being distorted, let’s look back at the interpretation of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.

Everlasting answer to a book, containing profanities, lies in writing back, not clamouring for bounty hunt. Boisterous protest, burning books and unleashing mindless violence is completely at variance with the canons of Islam. This is exactly what has been preached more than one century ago by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), one of the most prodigious thinkers of the nineteenth century, who is better known as the founder of Aligarh Muslim University.

Much before setting up on educational institution at Aligarh, Sir Syed took up pen to articulate Islam’s moral and social commitment to a rational and human society. His Islam is not a world of religious bigotry, intolerance and clairvoyance and he explored the possibilities of the modernity for the Muslims and worked assiduously for the cultivation of modern approach to deal with ever-changing social realities.

He vouched for the spirit of the enquiry by deploring traditionalism and obscurantism. A prominent British officer and author, William Muir wrote a highly controversial book “The Life of Mohammad” and its blasphemous content led to widespread protest. 

Sir Syed was very close to the British government as later on he was nominated as the member of the Vice Regal Legislature Council twice, the highest official position a native could hold. This aside, Sir Syed was the editor of the Aligarh Institute Gazette, the first multilingual newspaper of the country, which was read widely across the country. Sir Syed, instead of getting the book banned or launching a public campaign through his newspaper, decided to jot down a point by point rebuttal of the book. 

He asked his co-religionist not to be swayed by the sentimental and demagogic arguments of those who want Islam to be known as the faith of the illiterate, intolerant and savage people. He perceptively reminded the readers of the vast schism between the Islamic concept of blasphemy and the brutal violence unleashed by the mischief mongers. In order to acquaint himself with the sources frequently quoted by William Muir, Sir Syed decided to undertake the journey of England as various books and references quoted by the author were only available at the British Museum. Having sifted through the sources, Sir Syed wrote more than a dozen rejoinders and got them published in the Pioneer and other periodicals in 1870, and later he got them published in a book titled, “Khutbat-e-Ahmadiya.”

Discussing the capital punishment for sacrilege, Sir Syed pointed out it was the legal provision implemented by some Islamic governments and if one is proved guilty of blasphemy by the court he can get the maximum punishment but no one has the right to kill a person who is said to be the guilty of profanity. The publication of “Khutbat-Ahmadiya” went a long way in dispelling the misunderstanding propagated by the Orientalist. 

He frequently deviated from the widely accepted notions of religious postulates and even attempted an unorthodox exegesis of the Quran. He wielded pen in an era characterised by frequent acrimonious confrontations with the British and the bruised psyche of Muslim took refuge in the distorted notion of Jihad. He alluded to two indispensable conditions for jihad. First, there must not be any protection for the people of faith and second there should not be a treaty between the protected and protector. 

According to the Islamic tenets, Jihad cannot be waged against a government that provides protection and religious freedom to its citizens. He asked the Muslims to make a difference between Jihad and rebellion as Islam never gives license to produce cruelty and violence. For him violence did not have the remotest connection with Jihad. His perceptive and pertinent views on blasphemy and Jihad seem more valid in an era where the term Islamic terrorism has gained tremendous currency. 

He also made it clear that the sense of victimhood or persecution is the biggest obstacle in coming in terms with the modern world. Besides, Sir Syed, another prominent Islamic thinker Maulana Abul Kalam Azad also turned attention to the similar topic. In a time when Islam is erroneously linked to terrorism, it looks relevant to end up with a quotation of Azad. “Everlasting answer to a book, containing profanities, lies in writing back, not burning book and unleashing mindless violence”.

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