Tehzib-ul Ikhlaque: Ameliorating the Social Conditions of Indian Muslims

By Areeba Shabbir, TwoCircles.net

An exhaustive audit of Sir Syed Ahmad’s scholarly services laid the foundation of responsible journalism in India. He was the first Muslim reformer who emphasized the need for modern education, persuaded Indian Muslims to strive for civilization and adopt a meaningful culture. One of his noteworthy intellectual contributions was “Tehzib-ul Akhlaq” which started in 1870 aimed at eradicating injustice, prejudice, delusion, and darkness among Indian Muslim Society. The journal “Tehzib-ul Akhlaque” was propelled from the “Spectator” and the “Tatler”, the two British journals introduced to Sir Syed during his visit to Cambridge. The journal was founded with an effort to enlighten the people by raising social and political issues. It focused on advancing a judicious standpoint, promoting the reason for educating and helping Muslims, remembering their magnificent history, and spreading social qualities among the citizens of India.

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Indian Muslims were discontented with the instructive framework imposed by the British Government. From the early time of the British regime, the building of the educational institutions of Indians, particularly Muslims, started to fall. For the majority of the Indian Muslims, studying in English School was a self-destructive idea. The British Government by its schools began to educate servants for itself. However, Muslims had contradicted English education from the very beginning. Their main issue was that the British education system could debilitate the confidence of Indian youth from their religion. Many people viciously contradicted that the Britishers wanted to keep their youngsters uninformed instead of facilitating education in English schools. During those challenging times, they preferred sending their children to Madrasas (Theological Schools) over English educational institutions. They opposed the European management of education, yet a few individuals from the Muslim community sent their youngsters to English Universities like the Delhi College and the Fort William College at Calcutta. Subsequently, from Calcutta to Delhi, a few individuals of Muslim youth were taught under the western framework during the nineteenth century. However, the majority of the Muslim network stood reserved.

Sir Syed was one of the fortunate fellows who embarked his journey to England in 1869. During that time, the “Tatler” was closed more than 150 years ago. Sir Richard Steele expressed that the “Tatler” was introduced to make people understand that human life should be free from the loopholes that get tainted by pretentious and affected attitudes. Later, in 1711, Sir Steele and Joseph Addison initiated another journal the “Spectator” containing write-ups on moral responsibilities and fundamentals of social behaviour. These two journals had stimulated Sir Syed’s desire to launch a journal aimed at educating people on fundamental responsibilities, value, and purpose of education and wiping out bigotry, prejudices, and superstitions among Indians. During his stay in England, he wrote a letter to his close friend Nawab Mohsin Ul Mulk-

“I have resolved to launch a journal exclusively for the betterment of the Muslims. Its name will be Tehzib-ul Akhlaq in Persian and Mahomedans Social Reformer in English. I got a beautiful masthead (title) engraved here and have bought the paper for one year. I have sent these by ship, but it will take time to reach India. The monthly expense of the journal will be Rs. 100. We, twenty friends, will contribute Rs. 5 per month towards its general cost and will distribute it free. The Journal will be sold at a price too. It will contain articles exclusively for the worldly and religious well being of the Muslims and nothing else. I and you will write for it, and if agreed, we will invite Munshi Zakaullah and Munshi Najamuddin, Deputy Inspector to contribute articles”.

Sir Syed had chosen education and reformation to revitalize society. He realized that modern education could uplift Muslims and restore their welfare. He emphasized that if Muslims could not move with the time, all their efforts would be faded and overthrown by the western challenges. However, before launching the “Tehzib-ul Akhlaque”, he had started two periodicals “The Loyal Muhammadans of India” and “The Aligarh Institute Gazette” which were published in Urdu and English. After returning from England on October 2, 1870, Sir Syed started preparations for launching the “Tehzib-ul Akhlaque”. His visionary efforts were accomplished and the first issue appeared on December 24, 1870. Maulana Altaf Husain Hali, a close friend of Sir Syed described “Tehzib-ul Ikhlaque” as-

“The Journal was started merely for the good of the Muslim Community and since there was never any intention of mailing money out of the project, all profits were ploughed back into it”. The journal articulated its motto which was originally borrowed from a newspaper “Alrayid Al Tanisi”. The Arabic motto appeared on the first page of each issue: The Love of one’s own nation is an article of faith. Whoever strives to ennoble his nation also ennobles his religion”.

While making significant changes, Sir Syed replaced the word ‘Watan’ with ‘Qaum’, asserting that ‘Qaum’ and ‘Watan’ are interchangeable. Through this journal, he intended to enlighten and educate the Muslim community. Therefore, he used ‘Qaum’ in place of ‘watan’ to address the Muslim community.

Sir Syed not only stewarded the journal but also contributed in the form of many articles. For instance, the second issue of the “Tehzib-ul Akhlaq” contained four articles authored by him. The articles of the journal were compiled to instigate dialogue on education, courtesy, moral etiquette, and social responsibilities accompanied by feature reports. Interestingly, the visionary proposal and the official letters related to the establishment of Mohammadein Anglo-Oriental College which is now the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, were also appeared in its issues. The journal included some of the extract articles of English newspapers of the country. At whatever point the British Government stretched out its help to the Committee, the journal communicated its appreciation by publishing editorial notes. It also contained a review of Sir Syed on the book “The Preaching of Islam” authored by Professor T.W. Arnold. Articles, travelogues, reports, letters, book reviews, speeches, advertisements strove for the welfare of society. The journal often utilized Arabic phraseology and the Quranic verses to gain the attention of Muslims who were reluctant to accept that education was the need of the hour. In this way, “Tahzib-ul Akhlaaq” launched a campaign against bigotry, superstitions, and outdated beliefs.

The “Tehzib-ul Akhlaq” had confronted strong opposition. During the reformative mission of educating people in science and religion, fourteen journals and books were published against it. Unfortunately, “Tehzib-ul Akhlaque” was discontinued in 1897. In fact, from the inception till 1881, “Tehzeeb-ul Akhlaq” had defuncted twice. In 1881, it was merged with Aligarh Institute Gazette. In 1981, it was revived during the tenure of Mr Hamid Ansari as Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. Since then, the journal has been published regularly.

The “Tehzib-ul Akhlaq” publishes articles on the significance of education; the idea of education, the progress of education, advantages of education, and the vital function of education which are essential for the betterment and welfare of any society. The establishment of Mahomedans Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh was one of the major focuses of this journal. Sir Syed attempted to utilize the “Tehzib-ul Akhlaq” as the vehicle for motivating people towards his vision. In the history of India, he is remembered for his social reformation. Not only, he made efforts for Indian Muslims but also promoted the idea and relevance of sovereignty, integrity and modesty among all Indian citizens.