Maulana Khawaja Altaf Hussain Hali

Maulana Khawaja Altaf Hussain Hali
Born: 1837, Panipat (Haryana)
Died: 30th September 1914 in Panipat (Haryana)
Auto-Biography: Hayat-e-Hali

Literary works/Books:

Musaddas e-Madd o-Jazr e-Islam, better known as Musaddas-e-Hali
(An elegaic poem on the Ebb and Tide of Islam)

Hayat-i-Javed, is the biography of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan,
(Now among one of the classics of Urdu language)

Yadgar-e-Ghalib, Mirza Ghalib's life, and a commentator of his poetry

Heyat-e-Saadi, life of great Persian scholar, Shaikh Saadi

Muqaddama-e-Sher-o-Shayari, (A book of literary criticism in Urdu)

Hayaat-e-Hali, Autobiography

Divaan-e-Hali, Collection of Hali’s Poetry

Maulana Khawaja Altaf Hussain Hali (1837-1914) was an Urdu poet, and the last pupil of Mirza Ghalib. He is also one of the most well-regarded biographers of Ghalib's life, and a commentator of his poetry. He also wrote the biography of the Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College (MAO) which later on became Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 1920.

To Hali also goes the credit of being the first to introduce the genre of biography in Urdu and all in total he authored three biographies, Heyat-e-Saadi, life of great Persian scholar, Shaikh Saadi, Heyat-e-Javed, life of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of AMU Aligarh, and his famous Yadgar-e-Ghalib.
Hali also wrote one of the earliest works of literary criticism in Urdu ''"Muqaddamah-i Shi'r-o-Sha'iri".''
Khwaja Altaf Hussain Hali, one of the greatest social reformers of India was born in Panipat in 1837, Altaf Hussain was educated in the same city and later went to Delhi where he wished to gain further education in the Indo-Islamic poetic tradition. It was here he chose the cognomen of "Khastah" (The Spent One, or The Tired One). He was forced to return home, and pursued a government job until displaced by the Mutiny of 1857. After this turning point in his life, he drifted from job to job for several years, arriving eventually in Lahore in the mid 1870s, where he began to compose his epic poem on the request of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the Musaddas e-Madd o-Jazr e-Islam (An elegaic poem on the Ebb and Tide of Islam) under the new poetic pseudonym of "Hali" (The Contemporary). The Musaddas, or Musaddas-e-Hali, as it is often known, was published in 1879 to critical acclaim, and considered to herald the modern age of Urdu poetry. On request of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan he wrote the famous Mussadas that was published in 1879. Halis' Mussadas was about the rise and fall of the Muslims. Hali reviled “the rich for their selfishness, the aristocracy for their degeneracy, religious leaders for their bigoted ignorance, poets for their foolish triviality.” Mussadas took Muslim India by storm. Its extracts are still being taught in Muslim schools and recited in religious and educational functions. It created a wide spread awakening amongst the Muslims of India. Apart from his poetic achievements, Hali was a pioneer in Urdu literature. Hali was the first major poet to put forward “the theory that literature should be harnessed into the service of the community, and made to advance the cause of social welfare and betterment.” His poems brought back to life the society of their time far better than any scholarly construction could.
Altaf Hussain Hali, until his death in 1914, served the Aligarh movement with considerable dedication, validating Sir Syed Ahmad's call for change among Muslims. Like Sir Syed Ahmad, Hali found the existing Muslim society to be decadent and static, but he arrived at that view not by comparing it with the modern western civilization, but with the history of Islam. Indeed, by presenting Islam as a modern religion, in accord with science and rationalism.
Hali was for a new start in politics and society as much as in literature. He believed in the irreversible movement of modern civilisation, arguing that only by contact with the West could life and vigour flow back into India. His simple and deeply moving poetry inspired millions and awakened a decadent people to revive their lost glory and look to the future with renewed hope. Hali’s construction of Islam, his understanding of himself as a Muslim, and as an Indian living in British India, are crucial in tracing the historical development of Islam in South Asia. He shared a political heritage and language, which helped reconstruct Muslim identity in the 19th century. Hali came into prominence during one of the darkest hours of Indian Muslim history. The Muslims had taken lead in India's first war of independence against the British in 1857, and after losing the war had to face the brunt of the victor's revenge. Muslim mutineers and their supporters were murdered in the thousands by the British and a policy of systematic discrimination was instituted against the Muslims.
Hali used his pen to bring about social and educational reforms among Muslims. He heralded a new movement in Urdu prose and poetry free from jargon and verbiage. He wrote the famous "Musaddas-e-Hali", a narrative on the rise and fall of Muslims that was published in 1879.
Hali reviled "the rich for their selfishness, the aristocracy for their degeneracy, religious leaders for their bigoted ignorance, and poets for their foolish triviality."
Extracts from Musaddas are still being taught to Indian Muslims in schools and in religious and educational functions. Hali blazed a new trail and used the poetic genre of the long Urdu nazm as an instrument of social and moral reform. Maulana Hali's ghazals reflect his command over the form of poetry but later on in life, he focused more on nazm as a means of expression. Hali also used the nazm for interpreting the beauties of nature, a theme that was more or less neglected, or treated marginally by the poets of classical ghazal.
In his prose treatise, "Muqaddam-e-Shair-o-Shairi", one of the earliest texts in Urdu literary criticism, Hali underscored the limitations of the classical ghazal and pointed out the hollowness of its hackneyed themes, thus putting the nazm on a surer path of progress.
The ghazal has been primarily used as an instrument of aesthetic and intellectual pleasure, and a source of courtly entertainment, while a nazm combines pleasure with purpose, in service of society. It is a more earthbound form of poetry, with a moral and a message. His patriotic nazm like Hubbe Watan went a long way in fostering Hindu-Muslim unity that was being undermined by the British.

In his novel, Majalis-un Nisan (Assemblies of Women), Hali, emphasizes the need of educating women. The heroine, Zubaida Khatun, is taught the Qur'an, Arabic, Persian and Urdu as well as mathematics, geography and history by her father. This was at a time, when studying "British" subjects such as geography and mathematics was a taboo even for Indian Muslim men.
Hali passed away on 30th September 1914 in Panipat, but the movement for reformation and renaissance he helped start continues to this day.

Compiled by:
Afzal Usmani

Nawab Muhammad Ishaaq Khan

Nawab Muhammad Ishaaq Khan
Born: 1860, Delhi
Died: October 28, 1918, Jehangirabad-Meerut(UP)
Secretary of MAO College Board: Jan. 1913- October 28, 1918
President All India Muslim Educational Conference

A compossionate follower & Pillar of Aligarh Movement, son of Nawab Shefta (a great poet and contemporary of Mirza Ghalib), father of EX-Vice Chancelllor, Nawab Ismail Khan, deciple of Maulana Altaf Hussain Haali and an architect by hobby is a small introduction of Nawab Ishaaq Khan, 3rd Secretary of MAO College Management and President of All India Muslim Educational Conference.

Nawab Ishaaq Khan was born in reputed Delhi family and his father was Nawab Mustafa Khan of Jahangirabad, popularly known as Nawab Shefta [1804-1869], a famous friend of Mirza Asadullah Khan, Ghalib. In 1861 Nawab Mustafa Khan (Nawab Shefta) employed Maulana Altaf Hussain Haali to teach his son. The Nawab was himself a skilled poet and critic of Urdu & Persian and wrote under the name of Shefta.

He was district and session Judge at Muradabad when was elected as Secretary of MAO College Management in the last week of January 1913. His term was to expire on July 21, 1915. In March 1915 he announce that owing to his failing health he would not like to continue Secretary any longr. However, later he agreed to br re-elected for next 3 years, till january 1919. But his health broke down and did not completed his term.

Nawab Ishaaq Khan was district & session Judge in Allahabad. During his tenure of MAO College Secretaryship, he invited Sarojni Naidu to MAO College. To commemorate her visit, he, announced an annual donation of a collection of books in the Students’ Union Library, to be known as ‘Mrs. Sarojni Naidu Collection’.

During his job as district and session Judge in Allahbad, he was greatly impressed by the eminence of Pundit Moti Lal Nehru as a lawyer. When his son Nawab Ismail Khan returned from England after becoming a barrister at law, Nawab Ishaaq Khan made him start his legal practice as assistant lawyer to Pundit Moti Lal Nehru who prevailed upon Nawab Ishaaq Khan to let his son stay with him as his guest. So he stayed in Anand Bhawan for a couple of years. He had a life long friendship with Pundit Jawaher Lal Nehru and Mrs. Vijay Lakshmi Pundit.
Nawab Ishaaq Khan was a very good architect also. He himself designed a building with the help of some assistants who had experience of building barracks for the British army. The building is in Meerut (UP) and named after his father, Mustafa Castle. He amalgamated many styles of architecture in building Mustafa Castle. It has all the facilities which British bungalows provide. It has prominent features of the buildings of Rajasthan and Oudh area, mainly Lucknow. But as result of this amalgam the facade of Mustafa Castle is absolutely unique. This building was completed in 1900. Nawab Mustafa Khan's mother (grand mother of Nawab Ishaaq Khan) was the daughter of the Commander in Chief of the Mughal army, Ismail Baig Hamadani. Even after the surrender of the Mughal army he continued his fight against the British and finally retreated to Nepal. Nawab Mustafa Khan was tried for supposedly supporting the uprising which had emanated from Meerut. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. He was confined in a cell of the military jail of Meerut cantonment which had been improvised for the convicts of the 1857 uprising and was later abandoned.

This small jail happened to be right in the centre of the area which comprises Mustafa Castle. It was purchased by Nawab Ishaq Khan along with the adjoining area comprising nearly 30 acres of land. He then built Mustafa Castle as his homage to the memory and honor of his father Mustafa Khan. The cell in which he was imprisoned was retained in its original shape in the building he constructed.

The following outstanding persons have visited and stayed in Mustafa Castle.
Mahatma Gandhi. Three days during the Khilafat Movement
Jawaher Lal Nehru. Three days during the Khilafat Movement
Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Twice during the Pakistan Movement
Mrs. Naidu. Many times over a period of 30 years
Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. Two or three times
Maulana Mohammad Ali. Many times
Maulana Hasrat Mohani. Many times
Bahadur Yar Jang of Hyderabad. Once
Mrs. Vijay Lakshmi Pundit, Many Times
Vitthal Bhai Patel. Elder brother of Vallabh Bhai Patel. Twice
Bhula Bhai Desai. Twice.
Govind Vallabh Pant. Twice
Liaquat Ali Khan. Many, many times

Nawab Viqarul Mulk

Mushtaq Hussain, Nawab Viqarul-Mulk

Born: 24th March, 1841, Amroha (UP)
Died: 27th January, 1917, Amroha (UP)

Secretary of MAO College Board:
15th Dec-1907 to July-1912

Biography: Viqar-i-Hayat

Muhammad Ikramullah Khan

Aligarh: Muslim University, 1925.

The association of Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain known as Viqarul Mulk with Sir Syed began from his early career when he worked under him for some time. Sir Syed was highly impressed by his capabilities.
Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk was born in Amroha (UP) and started his education at a maktab and later on became a pupil of Maulvi Rahat Ali Amrohi, under whom he learned advanced Arabic, Hadith and Fiqh. He later joined government services where he came in contact with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1861 in the United Provinces (UP).
In 1866, he started his career as a humble worker of the Aligarh Movement. He also became a member of the Scientific Society. In 1870, he was awarded second prize in an essay competition arranged by the Society for the Promotion of Education among Muslims. The subject of his essay focused on bringing about an educational renaissance among the Muslims.
In 1875, he was invited to serve in Hyderabad State under the British. He continued to serve for 17 years and as a result of his meritorious services, he was elevated to the rank of a Nawab, his full title being Nawab Mushtaq Hussain Viqar-ul-Mulk. He served the state of Hyderabad from 1875 to 1892.
Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk was a member of the Shimla Deputation in 1906. He wanted the Muslims to organize themselves politically and to safeguard their political rights. Starting his political career with the Aligarh Movement, he represented and guarded the Indian Muslim cause at few significant events which includes the Shimla Deputation.
Viqarul Mulk was one of the most ardent followers of Sir Syed and a very active worker of his camp. For the Scientific Society he translated a book ‘French Revolution and Napoleon’. When the College Fund Committee was formed, he became one of its members and worked ceaselessly for popularizing the movement of Sir Syed. He raised a huge amount of Rs. Seven Lakhs and 50 thousand for the establishment of the M. A. O. College.
After the death of Mohsinul Mulk he was elected unanimously Secretary by the Board of Trustees and took over charge in January 1908 when he was 67. He had sharp differences with the European staff of Aligarh College but Sir Syed and Mohsin-ul-Mulk believed in Anglo Muslim alliance. He, therefore, tried to put the necessary checks on the unquestionable authority of the Principal, which led to a serious clash between him and the European staff resulting in the resignation of Principal Archbold. The matter became so serious that it went to the level of Lt. Governor. However, Viqarul Mulk did not yield on the question of autonomy of the Institution. From a political point of view, his secretary ship was hard and stormy but he worked with courage.
Viqarul-Mulk had strong religious bent of mind and did not wish the students to grow up without a full share of religious training. He made it clear that those who did not say their prayers were liable to be turned out of College. This pleased the Ulemas who were opposed to English education (like Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi). They now supported the College and like Maulana Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal chose the Aligarh College for education of their own children. Viqarul Mulk was primarily a leader of the Muslim community and he was one of the founders of the Muslim League in 1907 in Dhaka. It was during his Secretary ship of the M.A.O. College that intense efforts were made to set up a Muslim University at Aligarh. He succeeded in collecting donations for this purpose. Thus it may be said that after Sir Syed he was the most eminent figure behind the Aligarh Movement.

During the life of Sir Saiyad Ahmad, the Aligarh Movement was confined to the upper and middle class muslim society. Mohsinul Mulk widened its activities and Viqarul Mulk made it a mass movement creating Aligarh a Centre of Muslim intelligentia.

By 1915, he was paralyzed by a stroke. He passed away on January 27, 1917, and was buried in his family graveyard at Amroha.

Humanism of an Ultraconservative:
Viqar-ul-Mulk- has carved a niche for himself in the history of the Aligarh movement as Sir Syed's close confidante and the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the MAO College from 1907 to 1914 during a very turbulent phase of the history of the institution. He also played a role in shaping far-reaching political developments as one of the founders of the All India Muslim League of which he was the first Joint Secretary. By all accounts he was a very stern, uncompromising person not given to levity and humor so characteristic of the Muslim elite of the age. Someone writes of him as a person "who commanded respect and fear rather than affection." Without going into his biographical details it will be sufficient to note that Mushtaq Hussain resigned his position as Tehsildar in UP as his Collector was not agreeable to his taking a few minutes off for the Zuhr prayers. It was after this confrontation that Sir Saiyad helped him get employment in Hyderabad here he made long-lasting contribution to Revenue administration and was instrumental in making Urdu-instead of Persian- as the official language of the largest princely state in the British India. We shall see an extraordinarily `human' Viqar-ul-Mulk in the following account which is based on "Khutoot-i-Viqar- ul-Mulk" compiled by his youngest son Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed and published by the AMU in 1974.His eldest son, Mohammed Ahmed (1868-1896), went to England to qualify as Barrister. There, he married a young lady, "Shelly". The couple settled down in Bangalore while Viqar-ul-Mulk was still serving in Hyderabad. Mohammed Ahmed died in Bangalore at the age of 28 after a brief illness leaving a young widow and one year old daughter called "Hameeda". By then, Viqar-ul-Mulk had left Hyderabad, and returned to his native Amroha in UP. The widowed daughter-in- law and the grand daughter joined him there. The misfortunes of the family did not end; Hameeda was claimed by cholera at the age of five. Following the death of the daughter Shelly decided to return to her native England and Viqar-ul-Mulk, despite financial difficulties- after all he was only the 'title holder' of Nawab, but was otherwise a pensioner-ensured that the daughter-in- law received regular remittances for her upkeep. This arrangement went on for a number of years until she wrote to him on 6th January 1906 informing that she had received an inheritance of more than 10000 pounds and requested him to stop the financial assistance rather quaintly called "Pin Money". The following excerpt from her letter is worth quoting; " Let me in the fullness of my heart again express my loving gratitude to you for the fatherly care you have taken of me ever since you knew of me and during my widow-hood. I am thankful beyond words to you and especially now that you are relieved from the extra expense which you have so generously given and continued un-interruptedly. In reply, Viqar-ul-Mulk wrote to her a letter reproduced at pp 44-46 of the compilation. That being in Urdu is not being reproduced. It may be explained that the Nawab knew no English- he wrote to the daughter-in- law in Urdu; the originals were translated in English by his son-in-law Mr. Sibghatullah. We may only note the substance of what he wrote. The Nawab saheb mentioned that for long he wanted to tell something to Shelley but had so far refrained from doing so lest she misconstrued that as being intended to relieve his financial burden. Now that the situation has changed, he would suggest that she should give a serious thought to getting remarried. I venture to translate the relevant part of the letter as under; "Let me assure you that if one of my daughters had faced a similar situation, I would not only give her a similar advice but would have also tried to see that my advice was acted upon. … If you heed this advice, let me assure you that our relations will continue as before. If God (the Nawab uses `khuda') blesses you with an issue (from the second marriage), my affection for that off-spring will be the same as with the child of my own daughter. My hand of friendship will extend towards any family with whom you may choose to establish such relations. All this is on account of the affection which I have naturally for you and which shall always remain thus. My greatest satisfaction, if you act on this advice, will be that when my time comes I can leave this world unencumbered with the painful thought of your troubled life". The reply of the doting daughter-in- law is as interesting and its relevant portion (p-47) deserves to be quoted; "It is an extremely kind one and shows great delicacy in that you never mentioned the subject of my re-marriage whilst I depended on you for support.”My dear Mian, to be perfectly candid with you, I have no wish to marry again- there is no man who can take my dear husband's place. Probably, there are plenty of men who would not object to having me now that I have some money, and those I would scarcely marry. But under any circumstances I would prefer to die the widow of Mohammed Ahmed." To this the father-in-law replied (17th May 1906) "I realize that it is not appropriate on my part to write further in the matter; Nevertheless with apologies, I would like to submit that the matter will bear reconsideration at a future date. "The last word on the matter was said by the daughter-in-law who wrote; "I shall always think with loving gratitude of your care of me during all these long years of my widowhood. No English woman ever had a better father-in-law than I, although some are very good indeed."
The editor of `Khutoot-i-Viqarul Mulk” mentions that Shelly did not remarry and passed away at a fairly advanced age.This brief write-up do not admit of any rigorous analysis of the pognanant episode. It will be sufficient to note here the unreliability of stereotyping personalities. It was Sir Saiyad who wrote of Viqar-ul-Mulk, “I believe that Mushtaq Hussain would not change his opinion even if God revealed Himself against it" (quoted by Francis Robinson in "Separatism among Indian Muslims" pp 399-400; Oxford 1993). We need not question the judgment of Sir Saiyad but take note of the multi-layered nature of human personality. At an altogether different plain, the facts mentioned here invite the serious scholar to examine the human side of `Muslim orthodoxy' and whether it holds certain lessons- or at least provides `points to ponder'-for the current, self righteous orthodoxies with their rigid world views. In any case, the episode deserves to be widely publicized as providing new insights in the social life of the Muslim gentry.
(Source: AMUNetwork: by Mr. Naved Masood)

Viqarul Mulk Hall:
During the Vice Chancellor ship of Sir Ross Masood, Aligarh Muslim University honored Viqarul Mulk with naming the first Hall of residence outside of original MAO College campus after him in 1932. Viqarul Mulk Hall have four hostels: Jubilee Hostel, Marris Hostel, Muzammil Hostel and Nasrullah Hostel .

Compiled by:
Afzal Usmani

Nawab Mohsinul Mulk

Saiyad Mehdi Ali, Nawab Mohsinul-Mulk

Born: 9th December, 1837 Etawah (UP)

Died: 16th October, 1907, Shimla (H.P.)

Father’s Name: Saiyad Mir Zaamin Ali,

Biography: Hayat-e-Mohsin (By Mr. Amin Zuberi : 1934)

Secretary of MAO College Board: 1899-1907

Very few friendships have been as stable and strong as that of Sir Saiyad Ahmed Khan and Mohsin-ul-Mulk. Such a high level of respect for difference of opinion was possible in those days only. Saiyad Mehdi Ali, popularly known as Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, was one of the strongest supporters of Sir Saiyad’s mission and Aligarh Movement. He was born in Etawah(UP) and received the best of early education in and around Etawah. He was given a thorough basic education, both in Persian and Arabic. During his posting as Tahsildar in Etawah, he met Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan. This meeting resulted in a long lasting companionship and Nawab Mohsinul Mulk became a staunch supporter of Sir Saiyad’s vision and Mission. He became member of the Scientific Society from its starting dates in 1864. He wrote passionate articles in Tahzeebul Akhlaq to support Sir Saiyad’s vision and spread his mission and became a spokesperson of Sir Saiyad’s social thoughts and Aligarh Movement. Regarding Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan’s visit to England, Nawab Mohsinul Mulk wrote a letter to Honorable Haji Ismail Khan: Saiyad Ahmad Khan went to England to see with his own eyes the nation which is respected all over the world, and to see the people in their own homes and in their own country. Whatever he observed, he made known to his own people when he returned. When people go to Britain from this country, they usually go for the sights, the theaters, the parks and the museums. But this great friend of Islamic faith went there and sat down in a library to write the Khutbat-e-Ahmadiya and to visit colleges and Universities. He went there for the sake of his people, he stayed there for the sake of his people and he came back for the sake of his people.”

When Sir Saiyad formed THE COMMITTEE OF THE SUPPORTERS OF THE ADVANCEMENT OF MUSLIM EDUCATION, Nawab Mohsinul Mulk was on his side and started collecting donations for the cause of the newly formed committee.

In 1867, he sat for the Provincial Civil Service examination and topped the list of successful candidates. He was appointed as Deputy Collector in U. P. In 1874, Mehdi Ali proceeded to Hyderabad and for his meritorious services, he was conferred the titles of Munir Nawaz Jang and Nawab Mohsin-ud-Daula by the Nizam of Hyderabad.

In 1893, he retired from Hyderabad and came to Aligarh and offered his services to Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan to assist him in spreading the message of Aligarh Movement. Upon the death of Sir Saiyad, he was appointed as the Secretary of the Muslim Educational Conference in 1899. Towards the beginning of 20th century, the Hindi-Urdu controversy arose in the United Provinces. Mohsin-ul-Mulk took up the pen in defense of Urdu in collaboration with the Urdu Defense Association. He authored following books;

Mazaameen-e-Tahzeebul Akhlaq (Collection of his articles published in Tahzeebul Akhlaq)


Kitabul Muhabbat-o-Shauq Makaateeb

Musalmano(n) ki Tahzeeb


Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, being a farsighted and politically conscious leader, carried on correspondence with the private secretary of the Viceroy to give his point-of-view on the necessity of separate representation for the Muslims in all legislatures and local bodies. He presided the 9th session of Muslim Educational Conference which was held in Aligarh in 1894 and proposed a resolution to help and support Nadwatul-Uloom, the newly formed religious school in Lucknow. His impressive Presidential remarks soften the hearts of modern educationist to support the cause of Nadwatul-Uloom.

After Sir Saiyad’s death in 1898, he became Secretary of the MAO College management and took Sir Saiyad’s burden on his own shoulders and is regarded with as much respect as his forerunner. He continued the mission of Sir Saiyad; at the same time he gave some special attention to bring religious and oriental stream scholars closer to AMO College so that the students can benefited from the scholars to have a proper understanding of religion also. He appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Maulana Habibur Rahman Khan Sherwani to improve the religious studies courses in MAO College. Maulana Shibli Nomani was also a member of that committee. He played a key role in renewing Allama Shibli Nomani’s relationship with Aligarh and in result Allama Shibli again re-attached himself with Aligarh.

In 1906, he, along with Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, became Secretary of Muslim League and were asked to draft the constitution of the Muslim League. On 16th October, 1907, he died in Shimla (HP).

The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) honored him by naming a Hall of residence after him. The foundation stone of the Hall was laid by the then Vice Chancellor, Mr. Badruddin Tyabji on November 4, 1963. It started with an initial strength of 400 and is now one of the largest residential Halls both in size and strength, having 900 students and six different hostels: Allama Shibli Hostel (Previously this was Sir Ziauddin Hostel), Ameen Hostel, Majaz Hostel, Maulana Hali Hostel, Maulana Mohd. Ali Johar Hostel, and Saifi Hostel

Compiled by:

Afzal Usmani

Amir-e-Karwaa(n) : Sir Saiyad Ahmad, Khan Bahadur

Sir Saiyad Ahmad, Khan Bahadur, L.L.D, K.C.S.I.

Born : 17th October 1817 Delhi

Died : 27th March 1898, Aligarh

Father’s Name: Saiyad Muhammad Muttaqi,

Mother’s Name : Azizun Nisa Begum

Wife’s Name : Parsa Begum(Mubarak) Married : 1836

Son/Daughter: Saiyad Hamid, Saiyad Mahmud and Amina.

Biography: Hayat-e-Javed (By Maulana Altaf Husain Hali)

“ Hai Dileri daste-arbab-e-siyaasat ka Aasa`

“The real greatness of the man (Sir Saiyad) consists in the fact that he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it’’ (Sir Allama Iqbal)

Sir Saiyad was a prophet of education “. (Mahatma Gandhi)

“Sir Saiyad was an ardent reformer and he wanted to reconcile modern scientific thought with religion by rationalistic interpretations and not by attacking basic belief. He was anxious to push new education. He was in no way communally separatist. Repeatedly he emphasized that religious differences should have no political and national significance”.

( Jawaharlal Nehru, Founder Prime Minister of India)

“Sir Saiyad’s vision and his laborious efforts to meet the demands of challenging times are highly commendable. The dark post 1857 era was indeed hopeless and only men like Raja Mohan Roy and Sir Saiyad could penetrate through its thick veil to visualize the Nation’s destinies. They rightly believed that the past had its merits and its legacies were valuable but it was the future that a society was called upon to cope with. I offer my homage to Sir Saiyad for his vision and courage that withstood all obstructions both from the friends and the foes” (Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral, Former Prime Minister of India).

An Architect of Modern India

History of social and educational reforms in Indian sub-continent can not be completed without Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan. He is one of the great thinker, philosopher and revolutionaries who had dedicated his complete life for his nation and especially for his community. Nineteenth century was a hard time for the nation of India and especially for Muslims in the aftermath of 1857 revolt against British colonialism. Sir Saiyad tried and motivated Indian Muslim. In the history of India’s transition from medievalism to modernism, Sir Saiyad stand out prominently as a dynamic force pitted against conservatism, superstitions, inertia and ignorance. He contributed many of the essential elements to the development of modern India and paved the growth of a healthy scientific attitude of mind which is sine qua non for advancement, both material and intellectual.

Sir Saiyad said : After the Revolt of 1857, I was grieved neither on account of the plunder of my house nor on account of the loss of property that I had suffered. What saddened my heart was the misery and destruction of people. When Mr. Shakespeare offered to me the Taluqa of Jehanabad, which originally belonged to a distinguished Saiyad family, and yielded an annual rental of more than a lac rupees, as a reward of my services, my heart was deeply hurt. I said to myself, how can I accept this jagir and become the Taluqdar while all the people are in distress. I refused to accept it.

Sir Saiyad was born on 17th October 1817 in Delhi in a respectable family of Saiyad Mohammad Muttaqi & Azizun Nisa Begum . Sir Saiyad and Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (Founder of Darul-Uloom, Deoband) studied together under the able guidance of Maulana Mamlook Ali in Delhi. Sir Saiyad studied mathematics, Geology and Medicine from his uncle, Saiyad Zainul Abedin. He also studied Arabic literature, Tafseer-e-Quran, Hadith, and Fiqah from Maulana Makhsusullah (s/o Maulana Shah Rafiuddin Dahlwi ), Maulana Nawazish Ali and Maulana Faizul Hasan Saharanpuri.

In 1836 Sir Saiyad got married to Parsa Begum (Mubarak) and had two sons, Hamid (born in 1849) and Mahmood (born in 1850) and a daughter Amina. His elder brother Saiyad Muhammad started a weekly newspaper in 1837 and out of love of his younger brother Saiyad Ahmad (also known as Saiyad in his youth), named the newspaper Saiyadul-Akhbar . After Saiyad Muhammad’s death in 1845, Sir Saiyad Ahmad started managing Saiyadul-Akhbar.

Sir Saiyad was a great champion of Hindu-Muslim Unity. Addressing a big gathering at Gurudaspur on Jan. 27, 1884 He said: “ Hindus and Muslims ! Do you belong to a country other than India ? Don’t you live on this soil and are you not buried under it or cremated on its Ghats ? If you live and die on this land, then bear in mind, that Hindus and Muslims is but a religious word; all the Hindus, Muslims and Christians who live in this country are one nation.”

Father of Aligarh movement

This most respected and important educational centre for Indian Muslims was initially founded as Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College (MAOC) at Aligarh in 1875 by Sir Saiyad Ahmed Khan and subsequently raised to the status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 1920. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), known more as a movement than an academic institution is one of the most important chapters of Indian history as far as the sociology of Hindu-Muslim relation is concerned. Sir Saiyad said: “This is the first time in the history of Mohammedans of India, that a college owes it nor to the charity or love of learning of an individual, nor to the spending patronage of a monarch, but to the combined wishes and the united efforts of a whole community. It has its own origin in course which the history of this county has never witnessed before. It is based on principles of toleration and progress such as find no parallel in the annals of the east.” Sir Saiyad’ famous speech which he made while foundation of MAO College was laid down by Lord Lytton on 18th January, 1877 is the soul of Aligarh Movement. Sir Saiyad said: “from the seed which we sow today, there may spring up a mighty tree, whose branches, like those of the banyan of the soil, shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth, and themselves send forth new and vigorous saplings”.

It’s a common misconception that Sir Saiyad and Aligarh Movement is anti-oriental studies (Islamic and Eastern studies) and MAO College was started in a reactionary movement to counter the religious school, Darul-Uloom Deoband, started by Maulana Qasim Nanotvi (another student of Sir Saiyad’s teacher Maulana Mamlook Ali Nanotvi). In fact Sir Saiyad had a broader vision and had put forward the need of the hour to get equipped with the modern education to improve the social and economical conditions of Muslims of India. He never discouraged or denied the importance of religious and oriental studies. By his individual means and with the help of Muslim Educational Conference, he always tried to modernize the Madarasas, update their syllabus as per the need of the hour. He wrote a lot about these things in Tahzeebul-akhlaq. Sir Saiyad’s educational vision has two strong points;

  1. Adoption of Modern education 2. Moral Education

From the beginning, Madarsatul-Uloom, later MAO College was equipped with the above philosophy. Tarbiyat of the students living in Hostels were part of the duties of Principal and Manager of Hostels. For Islamic and moral education, Sir Saiyad created a position of Nazim-e-Diniyaat for MAO College who was responsible for Islamic and moral education of the students. Dars-e-Quran was part of curriculum of the college and every morning before the start of the class, Allama Shibli Nomani used to give Dars-e-Quran for about half hour from 1887 to 1895 and later on the responsibility was handed over to Maulana Abdullah Ansari, the founder Nazim-e-Diniyaat.

Sir Saiyad breathed his last on Sunday, 27th March 1898. The funeral took place on Monday, 28th March 1898. The Janazah prayers were offered in the cricket field lead by the founder Nazim-e-Diniyaat, Maulana Abdullah Ansari (son in law of Maulana Qasim Nanotwi and grandson of Sir Saiyad’s teacher Maulana Mamlook Ali). The burial took place in College Jama Masjid.

“After Sir Saiyad’s death, it was not only by words but also by actions that the people proved their love and respect for his high ideals. Almost at once, some people began to press for the foundation of Muslim University. The movement spread all over India and abroad and people started raising money for Sir Saiyad’s finest memorial.. Even in England students raised money for the Muslim University. People were surprised to see the interest of Englishmen and their efforts to collect money to fulfill the dream of Sir Saiyad to make MAO College as Muslim University.

There is an old saying that a good friend is like a leafy tree. For when a tree is in full bloom one has the pleasure of its shade and the enjoyment of its fruits, and when it withers, its wood is put to many uses. Sir Saiyad was such a friend to the Muslims. When he was alive, he laboured for them with his body, his words, his pen and his money. When he died he left the memory of his love and work imprinted on their hearts so that they might come together and build on the foundations he has laid. (Maulana Altaf Hussain Haali- writer of Sir Saiyad’s biography, HAYAAT-E-JAVED)

Life Chronology of Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan

  • 1817 Birth at Delhi, October 17.
  • 1828 Death of Khawaja Fariduddin, maternal grandfather.
  • 1836 Married to Parsa Begum(Mubarak)
  • 1837 Sayyid-ul-Akhbar started by Sayyid Muhammad Khan.
  • 1838 Death of his father, Sayyid Muhammad Muttaqi.
  • 1839 Appointed Naib Munshi at Agra.
  • 1841 Appointed Munsif at Mainpuri, December 24.
  • 1842 Transferred from Mainpuri to Fatehpur Sikri, January 10.
  • 1842 Received the title of Jawad-ud-Daula Arif Jung from the Mughal court.
  • 1842 Completed Jila-ul-Qulub bi Zikr il Mahbub.
  • 1844 Completed Tuhfa-i-Hasan and Tashil fi jar-i-Saqil.
  • 1845 Death of Sayyid Muhammad Khan, his brother.
  • 1847 First edition of Asar-us-Sanadid appeared.
  • 1849 Completed Kalamat-ul-Haqq.
  • 1850 Completed Risala Sunnat dar radi bid'at.
  • 1852 Completed Namiqa dar bayan masala tasawwur-i-Shaikh and Silsilat ul-Mulk.
  • 1854 Second edition of Asar-us-Sanadid.
  • 1855 Appointed permanent Sadr Amin at Bijnor, January 13.
  • 1855 Edited A'in-i-Akbari.
  • 1857 Revolt breaks out, May 10.
  • 1857 Death of his mother at Meerut.
  • 1858 Appointed Sadr us Sadur, Moradabad.
  • 1858 Published Tarikh Sarkashi-i-Zilla Bijnor.
  • 1859 Nominated member of special commission for hearing appeals about confiscated property.
  • 1859 Published Causes of the Indian Revolt.
  • 1859 Established a Madrasa at Moradabad.
  • 1860 Published Loyal Muhammadans of India.
  • 1860 Famine in N.W. Frontier Provinces and relief work by Sayyid Ahmad Khan.
  • 1861 French translation of Asar-us-Sanadid by Garcin de Tassy.
  • 1861 Death of his wife.
  • 1862 Transferred to Ghazipur, May 12.
  • 1862 Edited Tarikh-i-Feroz Shahi.
  • 1863 Published a pamphlet on education.
  • 1864 Laid the foundation of a Madrasa at Ghazipur but with some time Transferred to Aligarh.
  • 1864 Elected Honorary Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, July 4.
  • 1865 Sends a memorandum to the Government about the intention of the Scientific Society to publish books on agriculture, December 30.
  • 1866 Aligarh Institute Gazette started.
  • 1867 Sends a memorandum to the Viceroy for establishment of a vernacular university, August 1.
  • 1867 Transferred to Benares, August 15.
  • 1867 Started homeopathic dispensary and hospital at Benares, September 25.
  • 1869 Leaves Benares for England, April 1.
  • 1869 Receives the insignia of C.S.I, August 6.
  • 1870 Left London for India, September 4.
  • 1870 Reached Bombay, October 2.
  • 1870 Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq started, December 24.
  • 1870 Established the Committee for the Better Diffusion and Advancement of Learning among Muslims of India, December 26 .
  • 1873 Scheme for establishing a college presented.
  • 1875 Inauguration of the college, May 24.
  • 1875 Regular teaching starts at M.A.O. College, June 1.
  • 1876 Retired from service.
  • 1876 Starts writing commentary on the Quran.
  • 1877 Lord Lytton's visit to Aligarh, January 8 .
  • 1878 Nominated member of the Viceroy's Legislative Council.
  • 1882 Appears before the Education Commission.
  • 1883 Founded Muhammadan Civil Service Fund Association.
  • 1883 Established Muhammadan Association, Aligarh.
  • 1886 Established Muhammadan Educational Conference.
  • 1887 Nominated member of the Civil Service Commission by Lord Dufferin.
  • 1888 Established Patriotic Association at Aligarh. 1888 Received K.C.S.I.
  • 1889 Received the degree of LL.D. honoris causa from Edinburgh. Circulates the Trustee Bill.
  • 1898 Death at Aligarh, March 27

Institutions named after Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan:

  • Sir Saiyad College Taliparamba, Kannur, Kerala, India

  • Sir Saiyad University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi Pakistan

  • Sir Saiyad College of Medical Sciences for Girls, Karachi Pakistan

(Affiliated to SSUET, Karachi Pakistan)

  • Sir Syed Ahmad Khan Foundation, Pune, Maharashtra (INDIA)


The Mall Rawalpindi Cantt, Pakistan

  • Sir Saiyad College, Muzaffarabad, Kashmir (Azad Kashmir/ POK)
  • Sir Saiyad Girls College, Bahraich (UP) India
  • Sir Saiyad College Of Commerce Muzaffarabad, Kashmir (Azad Kashmir/ POK)
  • Sir Saiyad Institute Of Technology Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Sir Saiyad College of Education Kotli, Pakistan
  • Sir Saiyad Govt. Girls College, Karachi, Pakistan
  • Sir Saiyad Science College For Boys Tipu Road Rawalpindi, Pakistan
  • Sir Saiyad Science College For Girls Tipu Road Rawalpindi, Pakistan
  • Sir Saiyad College of Education Mardan, Pakistan (Affiliated to Peshawar University)
  • Sir Saiyad College of Education Kohat, Pakistan (Affiliated to Peshawar University)
  • Sir Saiyad Girls Degree College Haripur, Pakistan (Affiliated to Peshawar University)

Compiled by:

Afzal Usmani