university grew out of the work of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the great
Muslim reformer and statesman, who in the aftermath of the Indian War of
Independence of 1857 felt that it was important for Muslims to gain
education and become involved in the public life and government services
in India. Raja Jai Kishan helped Sir Syed in establishing the
The British decision
to replace the use of Persian in 1842 for government employment and as
the language of Courts of Law caused deep anxiety among Muslims of the
sub-continent. Sir Syed saw a need for Muslims to acquire proficiency in
the English language and Western sciences if the community were to
maintain its social and political clout, particularly in Northern India.
He began to prepare foundation for the formation of a Muslim University
by starting schools at Moradabad (1858) and Ghazipur (1863).His purpose
for the establishment of the Scientific Society in 1864, in Aligarh was
to translate Western works into Indian languages as a prelude to
prepare the community to accept Western education and to inculcate
scientific temperament among the Muslims. The intense desire to
ameliorate the social conditions of Indian Muslims led Sir Syed to
publish the periodical, 'Tehzibul Akhlaq' in 1870.
In 1877, Sir Syed
founded the Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College in Aligarh and patterned
the college after Oxford and Cambridge universities that he had visited
on a trip to England. His objective was to build a college in tune with
the British education system but without compromising its Islamic
values. Sir Syed's son, Syed Mahmood, who was an alumnus of Cambridge
prepared a proposal for an independent university to the ‘Muhammadan
Anglo-Oriental College Fund Committee’ upon his return from England in
1872. This proposal was adopted and subsequently modified. Syed Mahmood
continued to work along with his father in founding the college.
It was one of the
first purely residential educational institutions set up either by the
government or the public in India. Over the years it gave rise to a new
educated class of Indian Muslims who were active in the political system
of the British Raj. When viceroy to India Lord Curzon visited the
college in 1901, he praised the work which was carried on and called it
of "sovereign importance".
The college was
originally affiliated with the University of Calcutta and subsequently
got affiliated with the university of Allahabad in 1885. Near the turn
of the century, the college began publishing its own magazine, The
Aligarian, and established a Law School.
It was also around
this time that a movement began to have it develop into a university. To
achieve this goal, expansions were made and more academic programs
added to the curriculum of the college. A school for girls was
established in 1907. By 1920 the college was transformed into the
Aligarh Muslim University.
Sir Syed breathed
his last on March 27, 1898 and was buried in the premises of the
university mosque in the Sir Syed Hall, AMU.