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VIII Further Alternatives: Aligarh and Nadwah An illuminated heart is Deoband; And Nadwah is a clever tongue; You seek to know what Aligarh is like? A distinguished stomach, call it right. A stomach does take precedence, my friend, But the main point is thought about our end. —Akbar Ilahabadi (1846-1921)1 IT IS with the schools at Aligarh and Nadwah that the continuities among the new educational institutions of the late nineteenth century become clear. The emphasis in comparison of the Nadwatu'l-'Ulama, the Muhammedan Anglo -Oriental College, and Deoband has been on their differences , though some opponents saw what they had in common, and even the metaphor in Akbar's verse makes clear that all three were indeed members of a common body. All contributed to the substantial religious self-consciousness of the period; all reflected and encouraged the growing sense that Muslims resident in British India were tied together in a separate community; and all fostered the use of Urdu among educated Muslims. Aligarh and Nadwah were, however, notable in seeking an active political role in relation to the colonial government, a role that most 'ulama in the late nineteenth century either shunned or ignored. Aligarh was a private college, opened in 1875, designed to provide English education and inculcate a European 1. I am grateful to C. M. Nairn for sending me—from memory—the text of this poem. It may be spurious, but is so widely known (and attributed to Akbar), that I felt justified in including it. 315 Other Movements style of behavior in the scions of well-born Muslim families.2 It was, explicitly, an attempt to protect the interests of those Muslim families who had long had a role in governing institutions and who saw now that new skills were required to preserve that role. It was assumed that graduates would secure a trusted place in the administration, full partners with the British who now held the country in firm control. The cost, initially, seemed great. Indeed, the school's founder, Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), seemed to measure a correct understanding of Islam by the degree of acceptance of a British cultural style and by participation in British institutions. This orientation of the school accounts for Akbar 's choice of "stomach" as fit metaphor. Nadwah, "the clever tongue," sought a political role but of quite different sort from that of Aligarh. An association of 'ulama based in Lucknow, its objective was to consolidate a single leadership for all Muslims, guiding them in religious matters and mediating between them and the government . Founded in 1893, it was influenced by the political strategy of Sayyid Ahmad as well as by the popular position of the 'ulama. It opposed the educational institutions of both.3 Its political goal unrealized, Nadwah operated as a Sunni religious academy, seeking its legitimacy by its cultivation of a high standard of scholarship in Arabic language and literature and its sense of a larger Muslim world, both historically and in the present. Aligarh and Nadwah thus represented different accommodations to the changed political circumstances of the late nineteenth century from that of the inward-looking, politically aloof revitalization of the 'ulama. Yet along with them they both participated in the growing self-consciousness 2. This comment and much of what follows draws on David Lelyveld, Aligarh's First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India (Princeton, 1978). 3. Ikram suggests that Nadwah's opposition to both these institutions rested in part on the differences between the eastern and western United Provinces. The east, he wrote, is characterized by emphasis on external form and structure, a style in literature known as lakhnawiyyat (that is, the style of Lucknow), but one that has influenced religion and cultural habits as well. Shaikh Muhammad Ikram, Mauj-i Kausar (Lahore, 1968), p. 212. 316 Aligarh and Nadwah and religious renewal that was the salient feature of Muslim history in this period. Aligarh The Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College and the Aligarh movement associated with it both bore, above all, the imprint of the personality of Sayyid Ahmad Khan. That personality was decisively shaped by the same milieu, with its dual currents of religious reform and exposure to British institutions, that influenced the 'ulama in the decades before the Mutiny. Sayyid Ahmad's family, especially on his mother's side, had deep ties to the line of the Naqshbandi Mujaddidi that was represented in Delhi by Shah Ghulam 'AIi (d. 1824). This line had been known...


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