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Theology and Society


Girish Mathur

SAYYID AHMAD KHAN: A REINTERPRETATION OF MUSLIM THEOLOGY
By Christian W. Troll
Vikas, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 384, Rs. 75.00

FREEDOM MOVEMENT AND INDIAN MUSLIMS
By Shantimoy Roy
People's Publishing House, 1979, pp. 157, Rs. 25.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 6 May/June 1979

The appearance of the two books in the market at a time when communalism has been given a new respectability and revivalist trends have become active once again, should be welcomed by all those who have faith in the future of Indians as a nation. For, despite the claim of some of Sayyid Ahmad Khan's admirers as well as detractors that he was the father of Muslim separatism in this coun­try, most of his life was devoted to the promotion of a consciousness among Muslim and Hindu gentry in North India which alone could provide the basis of a common nationhood. In any case, and whatever the diffe­rences in the assessment of his position in the later years of his life, Sayyid Ahmad Khan cannot be denied the credit for being probably the first Indian to raise the question of representation of Indians in the governance of their country, and that was at a time when the 1857 revolt had not yet been fully suppressed—in his book Asbab-e-baghawat-e-Hind (The Causes of the Indian Revolt) which was first published in 1858. For a subordinate judge in the British administration in the 1850s, it needed courage of conviction to say that lack of communication between the rulers and the ruled was the root cause of the 1857 revolt and to make out a case for giving the ruled a say in their governance—and he said this not for his Indian audience, but to the rulers, which should be evident from the fact that he got his tract trans­lated into English. But Sayyid Ahmad Khan was nothing if not a man of guts and a man of convictions. Indeed it was to his convictions that he owed his courage which he demons­trated quite early in life in the debates then going on in Delhi on questions of theology which governed not only the religious but even more the social life of a gentry deprived of power with the advent of the British; these theological debates were an expression of the process of self-introspection which had begun with the decline of the Mughal empire and owed its origin to Shah Waliullah who was born about the time Aurangzeb died and was witness to the gradual crumbling of the empire founded by Babar and Humayun. This process of introspection culminated in what C.F. Andrews has described as the Delhi renaissance. Sayyid ...


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