Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was born at Delhi on October 17, 1817 in a renowned and well reputed family of considerable distinction on both sides - paternal and maternal, both of which had direct association with Mughal Darbar. The greatness and respectability of his family descended from the fact that it traced its genealogy from Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the 36th generation. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan lived more than four score years but the last 20 years of his life were the years of real achievements which left his foot prints on the sands of time.
These years speak of his experience and zeal for the edification of the Muslims in India whose fortunes were sinking to low ebb. Sir Syed acted with vigour and courage to uplift the Muslims and redeem them of their miserable existence.
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan,
Founder, MAO College
(1817 - 1898)
To achieve these activities, he came to the conclusion that cooperation rather than conflict with the British Government would be the need of the hour. In 1869, Sir Syed visited England where he studied the pattern of education and its civic institutions. This enterprise was fully justified by the results he achieved in England. He received encouraging response from lot of Britishers particularly 'Stanley of Alderly' who was known to be keenly interested in the welfare of Muslims. In 1876 he retired from judicial services and devoted his entire life for the development of MAO College which was his dream objective to pursue the education of Muslims. The foundation stone of the college was laid on Jan. 8, 1877, by Lord Lytton. The speech which Sir Syed delivered on this occasion is thought provoking and he said, 'The seed that we sow today may grow up a mighty tree whose branches like the Banyan of the soil may take firm roots in the ground and in their turn, themselves send forth fresh vigorous saplings and its alumni may go forth to the length and breadth of the land, preaching the gospel of truth, honesty, piety and large hearted tolerance".
Sir Syed's philosophy of life was influenced by the philosophy of the Quran and Hadith. He stated that the Muslims should behave and act according to the philosophy of Quran. His greatest contribution to the Muslims philosophy is the reinterpretation of Islam. (Ijtihad). His main motive was the progress and development of Muslims education. His ideas about the education of Muslims and their social backwardness appeared in "Tahzeebul-Akhlaq". He established so many institutions such as- Panchayti Madrsa, Moradabad, (1859), English High School Ghazipur (1864), AMU Collegiate School (1875), MAO College (1877), Mohammedan Educational Conference (1886). Altaf Husain Hali in 'Hayat-e-Jawed', 1939 described the greatness of Sir Syed's personality as, "The biography of this extraordinary man is not the kind of work that can be duly affected just by one or two authors. Sir Syed's achievements will be more and more closely scrutinized, numerous people will take the pen to write his biography and for centuries to come, the praises of this hero, will be sung in Hindustan.