Aligarh, January 20: Noted scholar and author of ‘Aligarh’s First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India’, Prof David Lelyveld of the William Paterson University, USA was in Aligarh Muslim University to deliver an Extension Lecture on ‘Sir Syed and Women’s Education’ at the University Polytechnic Auditorium.
In the lecture organized by Centre of Advanced Study, Department of History, Prof Lelyveld said that it was in the 1860’s that the Aligarh Muslim University founder, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan started taking interest in the liberal ideology of his time and wrote articles arguing about the necessity of women’s education.
“A number of articles by Sir Syed appeared in the Aligarh Institute Gazette on the subject of women’s rights, insisting that women’s education should not violate the rules of Parda (Veil of Muslim women),” said Prof Lelyveld.He also pointed out that on his ship trip to England in 1869, Sir Syed encountered Mary Carpenter, who had travelled to India for women’s education. “The encounter is recounted in his Safarnama (Travelogue) and also in an article by Avril Powel, which reproduces the page that Sir Syed contributed to Ms Carpenter’s notebook in which Sir Syed expressed his admiration for her efforts,” said Prof Lelyveld.
“At the same time, Sir Syed was noticing that women of Egypt and Ottoman Turkey were attending school and he was impressed by the general level of literacy among the women he countered in England,” added Prof Lelyveld. He further said that Sir Syed in an article also urged Indian women to give up old customs, superstition and other irrational actions and beliefs.“When Sir Syed was nearing his death, he spoke warmly and intimately about women—that is, in a moving rich account of his mother,” said Prof Lelyveld. He also said that Sir Syed lived at a time when male ideology was dominant in Hindus and Muslims of India. He pointed out that even women of the Nehru Family, were in Parda till the early years of the twentieth century.
Prof Lelyveld also said that during Sir Syed’s lifetime, many of his followers including Mumtaz Ali and the first generation of Aligarh students, such as Shiekh Abdullah were brave enough to take up the cause of women’s education. “In 1930, the then Vice chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed’s grandson, Sayyid Ross Masood, delivered the presidential address to the Muslim Educational Conference in Benaras in which he spoke eloquently against Parda and in favour of women’s education,” said Prof Lelyveld.
Presiding over the lecture, the Aligarh Muslim University, Vice Chancellor, Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah (retd) thanked Prof Lelyveld for sharing his research. He said, “Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was very cautious and moved slowly and gradually to establish foundations of this university where Sheikh Abdullah later founded a women’s college. While, the event was conducted Prof Ali Athar (Coordinator and Chairman, Centre of Advanced Study, Department of History), Prof Nazim Ali (Department of West Asian Studies) proposed the vote of thanks.