By Usha Sanyal
Introduces the mythical chief of the good 20th-century Sunni flow.
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Extra info for Ahmad Riza Khan (Makers of the Muslim World)
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). Sayyid Ahmad Khan had to concede defeat on the religious front as well. So controversial a figure was he on account of his reformist ideas that the Muslims of Aligarh and elsewhere were initially reluctant to support his new institution.
His message was an insistence on the unity of God (tawhid), which meant that all forms of superstition (the veneration of saints’ tombs, holy objects, and the like) were contrary to the worship of the one God. He believed that the first generation of Muslims, namely, the Prophet and his companions, were the models of true Islamic practice. He therefore rejected later developments in the history of Islam, particularly sufism and what he viewed as its excesses. 044 10/12/2004 5:11 PM Page 22 22 AHMAD RIZA KHAN BARELWI Quran; against the excessive cult of Muhammad as perfect man and intercessor with God (although great reverence was paid to him as Prophet); against the worship of saints and reverence for their shrines; and against the return into Islam of the customs and practices of the [pre-Islamic age].
Annual meetings were planned at which all members would convene and decide on future action. As originally conceived, its membership was to have consisted not only of Sunni and Shi‘i ‘ulama, but also of wealthy and powerful patrons such as Muslim “princes, government servants, traders, and lawyers” (Metcalf, 1982: 345). It actively sought British recognition of its school,the Dar al-‘Ulum, founded in 1898. 044 10/12/2004 5:11 PM Page 40 40 AHMAD RIZA KHAN BARELWI contributed land for the fine building subsequently built in Lucknow, and in 1908 laid the foundation stone.