Movement for religious and social reforms started rather late among the Muslims of India.
The religious and social reform movements among the Muslims commenced only after the Great Revolt of 1857. And the leader of this movement was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who was born 1817 in Delhi.
b. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan:
The Revolt of 1857 and its failure had a profound reaction in the mind of Sir Syed Ahmed.
He was convinced that the Muslims now devoted themselves solely to educational pursuits keeping themselves away from any anti-British activities.
Sir Syed Ahmed sought to modernize the outlook of the Muslims by affecting a synthesis between Islam and the modern Western thought. In fact, he interpreted Quoran in the light of rationalism and scientific thought of the West.
c. Sir Syed Ahmed as a Social Reformer :
Sir Syed Ahmed also tried to reform the social abuses prevalent in the Muslim community. He urged upon the Muslims to give up their medieval ways of life and thought.
He also protested against the Purdah system prevalent among the Muslim women and stressed on educating the womenfolk.
Sir Syed Ahmed considered the Muslim practices of polygamy and easy divorce (talaq) as impediments to progress.
d. The Aligarh Movement :
For the spread of Western scientific knowledge among the Muslims Sir Syed Ahmed Khan founded the ‘Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College’ at Aligarh in 1875.
He also convened the Muhammadan Educational Conference in 1886 to encourage the Muslims in educating themselves.
The movement for the regeneration of the Muslims that had begun centring round the institution in Aligarh came to be known as the ‘Aligarh Movement’.
e. Main Features of the Aligarh Movement: It’s Emergence as a Political Platform:
The characteristic features of the Aligarh movement may be expressed in the following words: a. it considered the Hindus and Muslims to form two separate entities with conflicting interests,
b. It was opposed to representative institutions as detrimental to the interest of the Muslims of India.
c. It favoured a policy of collaboration with the British which would safeguard the Muslim interests. Indeed the Aligarh College became the centre of the Aligarh Movement and propagated the above principles.
Theodore Beck, the first principal of the Aligarh College, was a great exponent of the new attitude that nurtured a feeling of hatred towards the Hindu; and loyalty towards the British.
It is mention worthy here that the Aligarh College gradually emerged more as a political platfrom rather than an academic institution imparting education to the students whom it admitted.