ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Characterising Sayyid Ahmad Khan

The Cambridge Companion to Sayyid Ahmad Khan edited by Yasmin Saikia and M Raisur Rahman,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019; pp xiv + 292,₹ 595.


The task of compiling and summarising the life, works and contribution of Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–96) is a difficult one. His written work alone comprises about 6,000 pages produced over five decades and covers a vast range of issues concerning Muslim social and political life in 19th-century colonial India. The Cambridge Companion to Sayyid Ahmad Khan, published on the occasion of his 200th birth anniversary is a timely and useful inclusion to the vast scholarship that already exists on Sayyid Ahmad.

As the founder of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Sayyid Ahmad left behind a long-lasting legacy that continues to animate Muslim intellectual and political activities in postcolonial India. As is the case with larger-than-life figures as “Sir Syed” was and continues to be, his scholarship and writings have been appropriated and characterised by scholars according to their own ideologies and methods. Thus, he has been regarded as the representative of varied tendencies, some of which have been a source of conflict and polemics. During his own times and over the course of the 20th century, Sayyid Ahmad was painted through labels such as “modern,” “cosmopolitan” or “rational,” “communal” or “separatist,” and “a progressive reformer” or “a reactionary revivalist.” While many of these labels could be discerned through a selective reading of his writings, these labels could also be challenged and critiqued by another reading of the same writings.

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Updated On : 13th Mar, 2020
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