Syed Ahmed Khan

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Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (17 October 181727 March 1898), also known as Sir Syed and also Sayed Ahmad Khan, was an Indian educator and politician, and an Islamic reformer and modernist.


  • It is a great mistake that the country can only be either a Dar-ul-Islam or a Dar-ul-Harb in the primary signification of the words, and that there is no intermediate position. A true Dar-ul-Islam is a country which under no circumstances can be termed a Dar-ul-Harb and vice versa. There are, however, certain countries which, with reference to certain circumstances, can be termed Dar-ul-Islam, and with reference to others Dar-ul-Harb. Such a country is India at the present moment... If you have power, jihad is incumbent upon you. If you do not have power, it is unlawful.
    • quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • ...then will one glorious fact stand out in prominent relief and become patent to the universe... if in Hindustan there was one class of people above any other, who from the principles of their religion, from habits and associations, and from kindred disposition, were fast bound with Christians, in their dread hour of trial and danger, in the bonds of amity and friendship, those people were the Mohammedans, and they alone... I really do not see that any class besides the Mohammedans displayed so much single-minded and earnest devotion to the interests of government or so willingly sacrificed reputation and status, life and property, in their cause... It is to the Mohammedans alone that the credit belongs of having stood as the staunch and unshaken friends of the government amidst that fearful tornado that devastated the country, and shook the Empire to its centre; and who were ever ready, heart in hand, to render their aid to the utmost extremity, or cheerfully to perish in the attempt, regardless of home and kindred, of life and its enjoyments...
    • quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • Be it known however that I am no advocate of those Mohammedans who behaved undutifully, and joined in the Rebellion: on the contrary I hold their conduct in utter abhorrence, as being in the highest degree criminal, and wholly inexcusable; because at that momentous crisis it was imperatively their duty, a duty enjoined by the precepts of our religion, to identify themselves heartily with the Christians and to espouse their cause; seeing that they have, like ourselves, been favoured with a revelation from Heaven, and believe in the Prophets, and hold sacred the word of God in His holy book, which is also an object of faith with us. It was therefore needful and proper, that where the blood of Christians was spilt, there should also have mingled with it that of Mohammedans; and those who shrunk from manifesting such devotedness, and sided with the rebels wilfully disobeyed the injunctions of religion, besides proving themselves ungrateful to their salt, and thereby incurring the severe displeasure of Government, a fact that is patent to every peasant...
    • quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • Among the scum of the people who were upheaved to the surface amidst the convulsions into which the country was thrown, it is remarkable how many there were who were styled Moulvies; and yet they were merely ignorant and besotted scoundrels, who had no just claim to the appellation, which may have been given to them by courtesy only, because some of their ancestors may have been Moulvies. The fellows were alluded to in the public prints as really what they professed to be, and, having assumed high-sounding and inflated names to give themselves the prestige of learned Moulvies and holy Fuqeers, it was natural that the authorities should be misled into the belief that men of note and influence were implicated in the rebellion, as its promoters and leaders. The fact is, however, that not one of these individuals was looked up to as a Pastor or spiritual guide; on the contrary, they were of no repute whatever, and were heartily despised by all good Mohammedans, who had penetrated the character of these lowbred pseudo-Moulvies. Those who were really learned and pious Moulvies and Durveshes kept aloof, and did not pollute themselves by the smallest degree of complicity in the rebellion, which they utterly denounced and condemned as infamous and criminal in the extreme. With one solitary exception I do not find that any learned and influential Moulvie took any part in the rebellion. I know not what possessed him to act in the way he did, but his understanding must have been warped; and we know that ‘to err is human’
    • quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • "At this time our nation is in a bad state in regards education and wealth, but God has given us the light of religion and the Quran is present for our guidance, which has ordained them and us to be friends. Now God has made them rulers over us. Therefore we should cultivate friendship with them, and should adopt that method by which their rule may remain permanent and firm in India, and may not pass into the hands of the Bengalis... If we join the political movement of the Bengalis our nation will reap a loss, for we do not want to become subjects of the Hindus instead of the subjects of the "people of the Book..."
    • KUMAR, S (2000). Educational Philosophy in Modern India. Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 60.
  • In whose hands shall the administration and the Empire of India rest? Now, suppose that all English, and the whole English army, were to leave India, taking with them all their cannon and their splendid weapons and everything, then who would be rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations—the Mahomedans and the Hindus—could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable.
    • quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • Let us imagine the Viceroy’s Council made in this manner. And let us suppose, first of all, that we have universal suffrage, as in America, and that all have votes. And let us also suppose that all Mohammadan electors vote for a Mohammadan and all Hindu electors for a Hindu member, and now count how many votes the Mohammadan member will have and how many the Hindu. It is certain that the Hindu member will have four times as many, because their population is four times numerous . . . and now how can the Mohammadan guard his interests?
    • quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • Now, suppose that the English community and the army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannons and their splendid weapons and all else, who then would be the rulers of India?.... Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations—the Mohammedans and the Hindus—could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable... But until one nation has conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land.
    • Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817–1898), Speech in March 1888, Quoted by Dilip Hiro, "The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan" [1]
  • “Would our aristocracy like that a man of low caste or insignificant origin, though he be a B.A. or M.A., and have the requisite ability, should be in a position of authority above them and have power in making laws that affect their lives and property? Never! Nobody would like it.”
  • “I believe that the Bengalis have never at any period held sway over a particle of land. They are altogether ignorant of the method by which a foreign race can maintain its rule over other races.”
  • “Oh! my brother Musalmans! I again remind you that you have ruled nations, and have for centuries held different countries in your grasp. For seven hundred years in India you have had Imperial sway. You know what it is to rule.” ... “Our nation is of the blood of those who made not only Arabia, but Asia and Europe, to tremble. It is our nation which conquered with its sword the whole of India, although its peoples were all of one religion.”


  • Iron Pillar: “…In our opinion this pillar was made in the ninth century before (the birth of) Lord Jesus… When Rai Pithora built a fort and an idol-house near this pillar, it stood in the courtyard of the idol-house. And when Qutbu’d-Din Aibak constructed a mosque after demolishing the idol-house, this pillar stood in the courtyard of the mosque…
    ”Idol-house of Rai Pithora: “There was an idol-house near the fort of Rai Pithora. It was very famous… It was built along with the fort in 1200 Bikarmi [Vikrama SaMvat] corresponding to AD 1143 and AH 538. The building of this temple was very unusual, and the work done on it by stone-cutters is such that nothing better can be conceived. The beautiful carvings on every stone in it defy description… The eastern and northern portions of this idol-house have survived intact. The fact that the Iron Pillar, which belongs to the Vaishnava faith, was kept inside it, as also the fact that sculptures of Kirshan avatar and Mahadev and Ganesh and Hanuman were carved on its walls, leads us to believe that this temple belonged to the Vaishnava faith. Although all sculptures were mutilated in the times of Muslims, even so a close scrutiny can identify as to which sculpture was what. In our opinion there was a red-stone building in this idol-house, and it was demolished. For, this sort of old stones with sculptures carved on them are still found.
    ”Quwwat al-Islam Masjid: “When Qutbu’d-Din, the commander-in-chief of Muizzu’d-Din Sam alias Shihabu’d-Din Ghuri, conquered Delhi in AH 587 corresponding to AD 1191 corresponding to 1248 Bikarmi, this idol-house (of Rai Pithora) was converted into a mosque. The idol was taken out of the temple. Some of the images sculptured on walls or doors or pillars were effaced completely, some were defaced. But the structure of the idol-house kept standing as before. Materials from twenty-seven temples, which were worth five crores and forty lakhs of Dilwals, were used in the mosque, and an inscription giving the date of conquest and his own name was installed on the eastern gate…“When Malwah and Ujjain were conquered by Sultan Shamsu’d-Din in AH 631 corresponding to AD 1233, then the idol-house of Mahakal was demolished and its idols as well as the statue of Raja Bikramajit were brought to Delhi, they were strewn in front of the door of the mosque…”“In books of history, this mosque has been described as Masjid-i-Adinah and Jama‘ Masjid Delhi, but Masjid Quwwat al-Islam is mentioned nowhere. It is not known as to when this name was adopted. Obviously, it seems that when this idol-house was captured, and the mosque constructed, it was named Quwwat al-Islam…”
    • About antiquities of Delhi. Translated from the Urdu of Asaru’s-Sanadid, edited by Khaleeq Anjum, New Delhi, 1990. Vol. I, p. 305-16


  • To the Muslim community Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was and is like the eye which weeps for the suffering of any and every part of the body.
  • “As is well-known, he secured donations for Aligarh from Hindus of his own feudal class. When canvassing for their support he expressed such exemplary sentiments as that Hindus and Muslims were the ‘two eyes of the beautiful Indian bride.’ But when addressing exclusively Muslim audiences, especially political meetings, he was militant enough to threaten civil war.”
    • M.R.A. Baig, The Muslim Dilemma in India, Delhi, 1974, p. 52.

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