Anglo-Indian Muslim philosopher Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a social activist in 19th-century India. His work toward social reform included working to end conflict between Muslims and the British Raj by bringing Islam more in line with modern science and philosophy. To this end, he founded the Aligarh Muslim University.
A widely published scholar, Syed Ahmed Khan studied religion, politics and history closely. In his most famous work, “The Causes of the Indian Revolt,” he rejected the theory that the Muslim elite conspired to subvert the Raj because of the diminishing influence of Islam. He blamed instead the British East India Company’s policy of aggressive expansion and its purposeful ignorance of Indian culture. A supporter of the Raj in the main, Khan worked to ease societal tensions, seeking to reform Islam by introducing modern science and philosophy. Accordingly in 1862, he founded the Scientific Society of Aligarh, the first of its kind in India, to translate and publish scientific works in Urdu so that Muslims could learn about modern science.
A strong proponent of Urdu, Khan regarded it the lingua franca of Muslims and promoted its use in his publications. In other attempts to foster unity among India’s Muslims, he helped form the All-India Muslim League and the Muhammadan Association. In 1886, he founded the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference devoted to promote Western education, particularly in science and literature. He regarded his crowning achievement the founding of the Aligarh Muslim University in 1875.