“Sir” Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898)
By reading Syed Ahmed Khan’s view on Quran and Shariah one can easily conclude that he did not receive proper education in Shariah and he based his views mainly on his personal opinions and surrounding political environment in Indian subcontinent and his own personal political objectives. He openly rejected hadith (حديث) and Tafsir (تفسير). Instead he made Taweel (تعويل) and created his own interpretation of various Nus as he sees fit, often to please the British Masters. But as Allah (swt) says in Quran that if book written by Human you will find contradictions in it, hence, we find many huge contradictions in writing of Syed Ahmed Khan.
Ironically, while he blamed Ulema to make mockery of Hadith and Tafsir by mentioning mysterious things, but Syed Ahmed himself is biggest guilty of this act. His opinions are perhaps worst than any other, and his taweelat is a reminder of Batania sect (فرقة باطنية).
He openly made Taweel (create hidden meaning) to prove his wild opinions. In matters related to Iman and Ghaib (غيب) he denied most of it on pretext that it can’t be proven. He defined Angels as Quwat-Malakuti (قوى ملكوتي) and Devils as Quwat-Bahimi (قوى بهيمي) and denied their physical existence. He stated that true religion has nothing to do with Worldly affairs. Strangely, this unique Ilham (ااـهام) was only given to Syed Ahmed, and Allah (swt) forgot to mention all this wisdom to Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). He denied miracles, and hence denied all miracles associated to various Prophets, like Ibrahim was never put inside fire, and he termed Musa’s stick turning into snake as illusion. He denied that Isa (Jesus) was born without a father.
It was very typical of Syed Ahmed Khan that when he couldn’t explain Quran based on his own presumed Usool (rules), then he will declare that this is رويا (dream) and if it doesn’t fit into dream, then he make Taweel and change the meaning of original word to anything else to make his point. He denied that Jesus was given healing powers and when he gave live to death then death here means Kufr (كفر) and live here mean Iman (ايمان), so Jesus brought them from Kufr to Iman. Or when Allah (swt) showed Ibrahim how he brings dead birds back to live, it was Ibrahim’s dream, and Mohammad (pbuh) was taken to Mairaj (معراج) during his dream etc. He denied that army of Abraha (ابراهه) died after being attacked by birds, rather they died due to smallpox disease. He denied that in Badr Battle Allah swt sent angles to help the Prophet (pbuh). He also denied returning of Jesus.
One would like to ask Syed Ahmed that if for the sake of argument we take his opinion, then we have right to ask that what was stopping Allah (swt) to explain these historical events in same light as Syed Ahmed explains? If Syed Ahmed can explain it then so as Allah (swt). If Jesus was born with father, why would Allah (swt) not say it so in Quran, If Ibrahim was day dreaming, why would Allah (swt) not say so?, if Army of Abraha died of smallpox why would Allah mention that birds (أبابيل) stroked them with stone of hard clay.
Syed Ahmed had his own version of Tawheed. He declared that those who do not believe in God at all are not mushrik (مشرك) and will still go to paradise. He stated that those who do not have religion also have a religion and that is also Islam.
Similarly, he created his own version of fiqh. He denied Nasih and Mansookh (ناسخ و منسوخ) and also denied hadith. He claimed that joining salah (جمع بين الصلاتين) means we can do three daily prayers instead of five. He claimed that facing towards Kaba is not necessary. He considered Ahram (احرام) a barbaric dress of uncivilized times that Mohammad (pbuh) continued in their remembrance. He also denied magic and said word Sahr (سحر) in Quran means jahiliya (جاهليه) of Arabs as they use to believe in magic and such belief was jahiliya (جاهليه). He denied that religion (deen) has any role in worldly affairs. He stated that Haram Riba (ربا) is only when taken from poor people, and stated that taking Riba from riches or well off is not haram, neither it is haram to taken Riba in affairs of state and society, and in general trade.
In Indian subcontinents, there are many opinions about Syed Ahmed Khan. Some in Pakistan considers him pioneer of two nation theory, while other in India considers him pioneer of universalism or global nation. Main reason for such vast variety of opinion on his personality is that his writing that span over sixty or more years contains his personal opinions at a point in time and he continuously changed with time.
This is also true that in Indian sub continents various religions segments were involved in extreme Bidda (بدعات) and they had strange mysterious habits and cultures in various religious circles that have no roots in Islamic teaching. While Syed Ahmed Khan rightfully pointed out many of such mystic activities, he himself fell into other extreme. We acknowledge that many religious circles openly practice mysticism and have large blind following, but this is not a justification of mutilating the meaning and understanding of Quran and join the other extreme. Syed Ahmed justified his Taweelat (تعويلات) by presenting Bidda (بدعات) of various religious segments. Ironically, his own Taweelat are quiet a match to those of mystics.
Syed Ahmed Khan’s allegiance to British is no hidden secret. He openly declared them his master and often counted their Ahsan (احسانات) on betterment of Muslim society. He stated that it’s the will of Allah that British became masters over us, and since they give us religious freedom and rule with justice, we must action their rule and become loyal and obedient to them. He stated that British rule in India is mercy of Allah on Muslims for which they must thank Allah. It is our religious obligation that we accept obedience of Hon Queen with our heart and lives, and pray for their longevity their government and wealth (1897). He stated that British rule is in our best interest, and British government can keep as much military in India as it needs to sustain its rule. And it is my wish that British rule in India is not temporary but eternal. He declared that is its haram to make fight (jihad) with British rule. When he establish Aligarh University he added as main goal and objective of university is to “prepare Muslims of India for good services of British Empire and sincere citizen by creating such sincerity in their nature that is achieved by being grateful of excellent services provided by government rather than being obedient of Occupied State by external empire.”
Syed Ahmed eventually created a new religious philosophy and called it Naturalist, and rejected anything that goes against his definition of Human Nature, and he used god’s will to propagate obedience and sincerity for invading masters. For his loyalty and services for British Empire, Syed Ahmed Khan was knighted in 1888.