ISSUES OF HINDU-MUSLIM RELATIONS IN THE WORKS OF SYED AHMAD KHAN
Keywords:Hindu-Muslim relations, education, national unity, British India, Indian National Congress and Syed Ahmad Khan
Syed Ahmad Khan Bahadur (1817-1898) was a controversial Muslim figure in nineteenth-century India. In the first half of his life (pre-1857 Mutiny), he appeared to be an advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity in India, but in the second half of it he was more concerned with Muslim religious and educational reforms and the promotion of Indian Muslim unity. His position such as on the Urdu-Hindi controversy raised issues about his views on Hindu-Muslim relations. The aspect of his life and thought that has bearing on Hindu-Muslim relations has received less attention from scholars compared to his reformist and modernist thought and agenda in the religious and educational sphere. Although he worked hard to promote Muslim unity, he sought to emphasize the approach of common religious and cultural values as a means of embracing ‘others’ in a spirit of fellowship and unity. He presented his unity message against a backdrop of troubled Hindu-Muslim relations and recurring communal riots during his time. The present study investigates Syed Ahmad Khan’s inclusive vision of Hindu-Muslim unity and intercultural dialogue as a means to its realization as reflected in some of his literary works. It seeks to explain why he has espoused such a bold vision and how he intended to achieve the goal of Hindu-Muslim unity while acknowledging their religious and cultural differences. Highlighted in this discussion are the salient features of Hindu-Muslim relations prior to and during his time that influenced their later developments. This article also discusses the significance and relevance of his thoughts and ideas on Hindu-Muslims for contemporary India.