Ahmad Riza Khan (Makers of the Muslim World) by Usha Sanyal

By Usha Sanyal

Introduces the mythical chief of the nice 20th-century Sunni flow.

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Additional info for Ahmad Riza Khan (Makers of the Muslim World)

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044 10/12/2004 5:11 PM Page 43 THE MUSLIM RESPONSE 43 This formulation led some ‘ulama, the Ahl-e Sunnat among them, to allege that Sayyid Ahmad Khan worshiped nature rather than God, an allegation he vehemently denied. In keeping with his modernist, rationalist thinking Sayyid Ahmad Khan denied the possibility of miracles, interpreting the miracles surrounding the Prophet as later fabrications. He also interpreted belief in angels metaphorically rather than literally, as a quality possessed by prophets.

Over the years, as David Lelyveld (1978) eloquently demonstrates, the school fostered a strong sense of belonging – even brotherhood – among the students, many of whom had come from outside the immediate geographical area. Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s goal of training a generation of Muslims who would become part of the new government structure was also partially realized, to the extent that three-quarters of school graduates got government positions. But there could be no sense of equality between the British and Aligarh’s Muslims: “however skilled in Western culture some Indians might become, the pall of arrogant racism, inherent in the colonial situation, meant that full acceptance of Indians as equals never happened” (Metcalf, 1982: 334).

His father, Shaikh ‘Abd ur-Rahim (1644–1718), had established a seminary or madrasa, the Madrasa-i Rahimiyya, in Delhi, and this was where he spent his lifetime – as director of the school, as teacher, and as thinker and writer. 044 10/12/2004 5:11 PM Page 23 THE MUSLIM RESPONSE 23 hadith (pronounced hadis in Urdu), the traditions of the Prophet, and to argue that the ‘ulama had an obligation to study the original sources (the Qur’an and hadith) and draw on all four Sunni schools of law (madhhab, pl.

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