Bihar Anjuman believes in self-help rather than charity

Sir Syed’s Movement for Modern Education in Muzaffarpur (Bihar)

... ... Dr. Mohammad Sajjad, Lecturer, Deptt. of History, AMU, Aligarh.

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Published Paper reference
: Mohammad Sajjad, “Sir Syed’s Movement for Modern Education in Muzaffarpur (Bihar)”, in Sir Syed Ahmad Khan: Vision and Mission, Manohar, Delhi, 2008, pp. 181- 197, also in Islam and Modern Age, vol.37, No.1, Feb. 2006, pp. 86-99


It has assumed a proportion of truism, and rightly so, that Sir Syed Ahmad (1817-98) was the first and foremost person to have  persuaded the north Indian Muslims for obtaining modern education. From Lahore  to  Calcutta,  many  places   witnessed   the  emergence  of  various  Associations,  Societies, educational institutions to accomplish the task of spreading modern education and obtaining government jobs in the colonial administration of India1 . The entire movement is known in India’s history as the Aligarh Movement, simply because, the town of Aligarh happened to have become the centre of  Sir Syed’s unforgettable efforts towards modern education for the Indian Muslims. Moreover, his efforts fructified (in  1920) into the most enduring and ever expanding institution called the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
However, there were other places too, where significant impact and replication of the Aligarh movement took place. Muzaffarpur2,  in northern Bihar, was one such place, where probably the strongest impact of the Aligarh Movement could be seen.3
Acknowledgement: I am thankful to Prof. Mushirul Hasan, who advised me to write on this aspect. I am also thankful to my teacher Prof R.K. Trivedi for his invaluable comments. Prof. Iftikhar Malik’s queries also proved to be of immense help.

1  For example Nawab Abdul Lateef founded the Mohammedan Literary and Scientific Society, Calcutta in 1863. Syed Ameer Ali founded the Central National Mohammedan Association, Calcutta in 1877. Ghulam Md Munshi and Md Ali Roonje founded the Anjuman-e- Islamia, Bombay in 1876. Barkaat Ali founded Anjuman e Islamia, Lahore in 1869.

2  The town/city of Muzaffarpur, is said to have been founded by Nawab Syed Reza Khan Muzaffar Jang, the Amil of Chakla Nai. “Many years before, the East India Company’s accession to Diwani (1765)”, says W. W. Hunter. Muzaffar Jang, “selected 75 bighas of land from the villages of Sikandarpur, on the north, Kanhauli on the east, Saiyadpura on the South, and Saraiyaganj on the west, and called the land after his own name. In 1817, it only contained 667 houses, of which 408 paid no rent, the total assessment amounting to �3918s. In 1871 it suffered greatly from an inundation of the Little Gandak”. (W. W. Hunter, A Statistical Account of Bengal. Vol. XIII, Trubner & Co, London, 1877, p. 52.) In 1872, “the total population of the town was 38223, out of which, 10671 were Muslims. A good deal of trade was carried through the Little Gandak. (See Ibid. p.51). The town is clear and streets in many cases broad and well kept”. (Also see Iqbal Husain’s Daastaan Meri’ Urdu Autobiography, Patna, 1989). A good deal of details about Nawab Reza Khan Muzaffar Jang is contained in Karam Ali’s Muzaffarnama. (Also see Qurratul Ain Haidar’s Urdu short story, “Dareen Gard Sawaar-e- Baashad, in her collection, Jugnuon ki Duniya, Delhi, 2001). Qurratul Ain Haider, says that Lord Clive had dismissed Muzaffar Jang in 1772 and his son Dilawar Jang was given pension of Rs 1.5 lac per annum by Warren Hastings in 1782, after he seized the ‘Jagir’ of Tirhut (Muzaffarpur).  Muzaffar Jang was the Naib (Deputy) Diwan and Naib Nazim of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. Before it, he was the Chakladar of Chittagong, he was also the Raja of Chaitpur. See her autobiographical novel (Family Saga), Kaar e Jahaan Daraaz Hai, vol. I, Educational Publishing House (EPH), Delhi, 2003, p.180, Surprisingly, one of the most authoritative biography of the Nawab, (Abdul Majed Khan, Transition in Bengal, 1756-75: A Study of Saiyid Md. Reza Khan, Cambridge, 1969) does not mention his role in developing the urban centre of Muzaffarpur. It is also said that the town is named after Muzaffar Khan Turbati, a general of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar (1556-1605), who, in early 1570s, had erected a cantonment here, to take care of the Afghan rebels taking shelter in the foothills (tarai) of Nepal. This cantonment led to the emergence of a market which was developed into a town in 18th   century by the Nawab, Reza Khan Muzaffar Jung. In 1782, it was made the district headquarters of Tirhut, which then included the present-day districts of Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur. In 1875, the last three were separated  to become Darbhanga district whereas  the  city  of  Muzaffarpur  remained the headquarters of the district of Muzaffarpur. In 1907, new commissioner’s division was created, headquartered at Muzaffarpur, which included the districts of Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Saran and Champaran. After Independence, Saran and Darbhanga became other headquarters of Commissioner’s Division. Presently it is also the headquarters of the Division Tirhut consisting of the districts of East Champaran, West Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Vaishali, and Muzaffarpur.
3  Taqi Raheem, Tehreek-e- Aazadi Mein Bihar key Musalman ka Hissa, khuda Bakhsh Library (KBL), Patna, 1998.


The moving spirit behind this movement, in Muzaffarpur, was Syed Imdad Ali (died, August 1886). Quite a lot of details about him have been given by Dr. B.K. Sinha4  and Ashfaq Ahmad Arfi5. Yet, there are many significant aspects which remain unexplored. It has been said that there is “no direct evidence of the fact that Syed Imdad Ali of Muzaffarpur had  any connection with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan”6. Whereas, way back in 1960, great Urdu scholar and the freedom fighter of Patna, Qazi Abdul Wadood, had published an essay giving evidences of correspondences between Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Syed Imdad Ali7.  Moreover, the French Professor, Garcin de Tassey (1794-1878), provides us with a lot of detailed  information  about  the  accomplishments  of  Syed  Imdad  Ali’s  Bihar  Scientific  Society  of Muzaffarpur8.
Syed Imdad Ali had started his career as an employee of the revenue department in 1829 and reached up to the post of the Deputy Collector9.  He, subsequently, switched over to the judicial services and became Munsif in 1848, reached up to the post of Sub-ordinate Judge (Sadar Amin) and retired as such in 1875. Like Sir Syed Ahmad, Imdad Ali was also an eye witness to the upsurge of 1857, when he was posted at Arrah (Shahabad) in Bihar.
In 1863, the then Sub-judge of Ghazipur, Sir Syed Ahmad (1817-1898) established his Scientific Society with the objective of disseminating European knowledge and modern education. Similarly Syed Imdad Ali also founded “Bihar Scientific Society” at Muzaffarpur, on 24 May 1868. He was then posted there as the Sub-judge. He advocated that education of the European sciences should be given to the Indians, in their own language. His tremendous faith in the efficacy of the vernacular languages is testified by his letter to S.W. Fallon, (Inspector of Schools, North-West Division, Dinapore, Patna). He wrote:

England, France and Germany would never have attained that exalted degree of  Civilization which they now enjoy if the works of sciences originally imported from Rome and Greece, in Latin and Greek, were not disseminated among the people by means of their own vernacular10.

4   B.K.Sinha “Syed Imdad Ali: An Eminent Educationist of 19th   Century Bihar”, Journal of Historical Research, Vol. 13,
1970 (Ranchi).
5    Ashfaq Ahmad Arfi, “Sir Syed Tehreek Aur Subah-e-Bihar” Fikro Nazar, Urdu quarterly, Aligarh, 1992 (Sir Syed
6  K. K. Datta & J. S. Jha (eds.) A Comprehensive History of Bihar, Vol. III, part, ii, Patna, 1976, p. 449.
7  Qazi Abdul Wadood. “Akhbar ul Akhyaar, Muzaffarpur Aur Sir Syed” Fikro Nazar, Urdu quarterly, Aligarh. July 1960.
8  Maqalaat-e-Garcin de Tassey, Vol. I, Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu, Delhi, 1943.
9  Imdad Ali’s ancestors had distinguished themselves for political and religious wisdom and had rendered important services to the Mughal and British rulers of India. His eleventh forefather, Syed Wajihuddin, came to India in 1468 and later settled in Bihar complying with the request of Nasib Shah, the ruler of Bengal. He had a spiritual standing and Imdad Ali himself had many religious disciples, was considered Pir over greater parts of Bengal, Bihar and what is now UP. (BK Sinha, op.cit.). The family history of Imdad Ali claims that the paternal pedigree of him reached Prophet Mohammad by 33 steps through Syed Ahmad Wali of Turkistan. His maternal pedigree reached the Prophet by 31 steps through Syed Mohiuddin Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad. Syed Ahmad Wali was said to be universally acknowledged as a ruler and a spiritual leader of Turkistan. (A Brief History and Genealogical Tree or Pedigree of Moulvi Syed Imdad Ali, Khan Bahadur and His Descendents, Calcutta, 1916, cf. B. K. Sinha, Op cit.)
10  B.K. Sinha cites it from the Proceedings of the 3rd  Annual general meeting of the Scientific Society held on 24 May 1871, at Muzaffarpur.


He expressed his enthusiasm to welcome the Government of India’s Resolution (No.2296 dated 31
March 1870) aimed at diffusion of general education in the language of the people throughout British
Thus, to actualise the purposes of spreading European scientific knowledge through Indian languages, Imdad Ali  founded  the Bihar Scientific Society. W.W. Hunter, (the then Director General, Statistics, Govt. of India) informs us,
….The Behar Scientific Society, is primarily made up of Mohammedans, and was founded in 1868, under the title of the, ‘British Indian Association, with the object of criticizing the proceedings of the Government and defending the people from oppression by conveying their true complaint to the Government. In 1872, it assumed its present title (i.e. Bihar Scientific  Society). Among its objects are spreading the knowledge of European sciences through the  vernacular and the establishment of Schools, printing presses, and a newspaper. …… Arabic  and Persian works are to be collected and lectures to be delivered. This Society, in 1871, had 511 members (8 of whom were females), contributing a monthly sum of � 39.2s. It also supports a school at Muzaffarpur and a smaller one at Paroo, both being funded by Syed Imdad Ali, some years ago, when he was Subordinate judge. The school at Muzaffarpur had 119  boys on the roll in March 1873, 99 being  Mohammedans,  20  Hindus,  the  majority  of  the  Hindus  are  Kayasthas. Persian, Sanskrit, Hindustani and Hindi are taught11.

Imdad Ali, in his letter to the viceroy Lord Northbrook, explained,

….the deplorable  state  of  ignorance  in  which  greater  portion  of  my countrymen  have for many years immersed excited my deepest sympathies and actuated by the desire of ameliorating as a as lay in my power their unenlightened condition, I took active and principal part in founding the Scientific Society12.

The Society launched its fortnightly Urdu newspaper, Akhbar ul Akhyar, from September 1868. It published essays aimed at “improving moral, intellectual and social condition of the people”13;  it was edited by Babu Ajodhya Prasad  ‘Bahar’14,   who was a scholar of Persian and Urdu and author of, “Gulzar-e-Bahar or Reyaz-e Tirhut”. The editorship was succeeded by Munshi Qurban Ali.
Qazi Abdul Wadood had read some 31 issues of the newspaper (from 10 April 1869 to 10 December
1870). These newspapers were sent to Patna (for an exhibition, held by Qazi Abdul Wadoods’s Idara-e- Tehqeeqaat-e-Urdu in November 1959)15 , by Prof. Maqbool Ahmad of the Central College, Calcutta. One of these issues had reprinted a letter sent by Sir Syed Ahmad to Imdad Ali, while the former’s stay in London during 1869-70. The issues  of the newspaper, Akhbarul Akhyar inform that the founding

11  W.W. Hunter, A Statistical Account of Bengal, Vol. 13 , Trubner & Co., London, 1877, p. 164
12 B. K. Sinha cites the letter from the Proceedings of the general meeting of the Bihar Scientific Society, held at Muzaffarpur on 1st  February, 1872.
13 As recorded in the proceedings of its meeting held on 1 February, 1872, and corroborated by Garcien de Tassey, vol. I, p. 4.
14 The ancestors of Munshi Ajodhya Prasad ‘Bahaar’ belonged to the qasba Maner, Patna. (Syed Badruddin Ahmed, Haqeeqat Bhi, Kahaani Bhi, Urdu autobiography, Patna, 1988, 2003, p. 456). His father, Gopal Lal Khatri was a thanedar in Tirhut (See Bihari Lal ‘Fitrat’, Aina e Tirhut, Matba Bahaar-e-Kashmir, Lucknow, 1883, p. 193). Another Ajodhya Prasad Khatri (1857-1905) was also there in Muzaffarpur, who, in 1880s-1890s emerged as a great protagonist of the Khari Boli Hindi.
15  Syed Badruddin Ahmed, Haqeeqat Bhi Kahaani Bhi, pp. 475-78


President of the Society was Nawab Syed Mohd. Taqi, the Secretary was Syed Imdad Ali and the Life
Honorary Secretary was Sir Syed Ahmad16. The Awadh Akhbar, dated 10th November, 1876 reports:

The  headquarters of the Behar Scientific Society is Muzaffarpur. The founder of this Society is a learned Muslim. There are 318 members of the Society, presently. Of them, 128 are Muslims, 162 are Hindus and 20 Europeans…. There is a proposal that the Society will open a college for the education of Western Sciences and will perform the task of publishing Western knowledges17.

Imdad Ali’s Society, therefore, established a school at Muzaffarpur to impart scientific knowledge through the  vernacular or Anglo-Vernacular medium18. The success of the school was recorded in praiseworthy  words  of  the  then  officiating  Joint  Magistrate  of  Muzaffarpur,  J.D.  Hodgkisnon.  He communicated to Imdad Ali,

I visited the Bihar Scientific Society’s school yesterday morning, and examined  the  two  upper  classes  in  Euclids,  and  the  fourth  class  in Arithmetic… The boys seemed generally to have a clear knowledge of the propositions of Euclid which I set  them and had apparently been well taught.
In appreciation of the good standard of teaching in that school, S.C Bailey, the Officiating judge, offered a silver medal for the boy who displayed the highest general  efficiency in all subjects. F.M. Halliday, the officiating Collector also awarded a silver medal19.

The ongoing success of the ambitious efforts of Syed Imdad Ali resulted in the opening up of many vernacular schools for teaching European science in the vicinity of Muzaffarpur. Under his inspiration, schools  were  set  up,  besides  the  town  of  Muzaffarpur,  in  Saran,  Narhan,  Jaintpur,  Hardi,  Paroo, Sitamarhi etc20.  He mobilized many influential  persons to collect funds and donations. Parmeshwari Prasad Narian Singh of Narhan, offered a sum of Rs. 5000/- for construction of the school building in

16  Qazi Abdul Wadood, op.cit.
17Cited by Ashfaq Arfi, op.cit, p. 204. The membership increased to 500 in 1872, (Garcien de Tassey, op.cit, p. 168).
18   The school, till early 20th   century was known by the inhabitants of the town as the ‘Society School’, but later on it was named after Chapman, a 19th   century British official of the Education Department See Naseem-e-Shemaal, Urdu Monthly, Muzaffarpur, January 1946. Presently, this is a prestigious Government school for girls.
19  B.K. Sinha, op. cit, p. 3.
20  For a brief profile of Qazi Syed Abdur Rahman (died 1889) of Paroo, see Maulana Abul Kalam Qasmi Shamsi, Tazkera-e- Ulema-e-Bihar, p. 142. Also see Bihari Lal ‘Fitrat’, Aina e Tirhut, Lucknow, 1883, p. 111. The freedom fighter, Begum Zubaida Daudi, wife of the great freedom fighter, Shafi Daudi (1875-1949), belonged to this family of Paroo, (See, Abida Samiuddin, Tehreek-e-Azaadi mein Muslim Khwateen ka Hissa, Patna, 1990) Syed Sulaiman Nadvi’s second marriage took place in this family of Paroo. See Syed Arshad Aslam, comp. Mataa-e-Gum Gushta, Madiha Publications, Paroo, Muzaffarpur, 2002. The author, Syed Arshad Aslam claims that, influenced by the movement of Shah Waliullah (1702-60) and Syed Ahmed of Rae Bareilly (d.1831), one Nadir Ali moved towards north Bihar and went upto the village Chandi Dhanki, Lalganj, Vaishali after the mutiny of 1857, when the Muslim community was hopeless. His sons Qazi Abdul Waahid settled at Syedani, near Saraiya, Qazi Abdul Nasir settled at Churihar and Qazi Syed Abdur Rehman (d.1889) settled at Paroo. Supposedly, they settled in the villages to help the Muslims overcome the post mutiny frustration. He was also the founder of the office of the Registrar for sale and purchase of lands at Paroo. Qazi Syed Abdur Rehman’s son, Syed Abul Fateh was also the Hony. Registrar of Paroo.


his village, apart from this lump sum of amount, he earmarked an amount of Rs 150 every month to run the school. Mahanth Raja Ram Das of Jaintpur offered a sum of Rs. 2000/- for another school to be established in his village21.  At Paroo, Qazi Syed Abdur Rahman and Babu Raghunandan Prasad started a school. The later provided house for the school,  subsequently it was shifted to its own building22. Garcien de Tassey, in his annual lecture of 1870, reports:

The Society intends to establish a big college and also to provide agrarian and technical  education and training to the poor students. Presently, as many as 5 schools are run  by the Society, in which, without religious discriminations, Hindu and Muslims participate23.

Garcin de Tassey was extremely surprised about this. He continues, “…it appears that Indians don’t have any objection  against letting their children obtain education together with followers of another religion. This is unlike many people in France and Ireland where many people refrain from allowing their children to have education with the children of different faith”24.
He further informs that, “of the 5 schools, one had made particularly greater progress, where, through Urdu medium, the students were taught not only European sciences but also religious things. With this purpose, a pundit to teach Sanskrit and a Moulvi to teach Arabic were appointed”25. Garcin de Tassey, in his subsequent lecture of 1872, says, “…the Society has established many schools in Tirhut and other districts. If the government extends its cooperation to the Society then it is expected that, very soon, it will establish few more schools. Thus far, the Society’s total asset has been coming from  donations provided by the zamindars and other rich people. The address of Imdad Ali to the Lt. Governor of Bengal contains the list of the donors”26.
Sir Syed Ahmad, Syed Imdad Ali, Syed Amir Ali and many other people from different parts of the country  were   demanding  from  the  government  to  provide  for  vernacular  medium  education. Consequently, the Calcutta University Senate, on 12 May 1871, adopted a resolution allowing that the Middle Class Examinations could be written in vernaculars e.g. Hindustani, Bengali, Oriya, Assamese etc. Garcin de Tassey testifies that this was largely because of the efforts of Syed Imdad Ali that this could be provided by the University and that this had paved the way for government jobs to the Indians27. As a matter of fact, Imdad Ali had come to command a great respect in the intellectual circles and was considered as an expert  on educational matters. Therefore the Calcutta University Senate, before taking the decision, on 12 May 1871, had requested Imdad Ali to send his considered opinion on the subject.
Imdad Ali was quite grateful to the Vice-Chancellor and the Syndicate of the Calcutta University. He had suggested that ‘the standard prescribed for the University examination be adopted for the vernacular Examination and the science be  taught  in Urdu or Hindee’28.  He further demanded that the schools

21  Proceedings of the 3rd  general meeting of the Society held at Muzaffarpur, on 24 May 1871, cited B. K. Sinha, op.cit.
22  W.W. Hunter, A Statistical Account of Bengal, Vol. 13, London, 1877.
23  Garcin de Tassey, op. cit. p. 5.
24  Ibid, p. 171.
25  Ibid, p. 171.
26 Ibid. pp. 167-169
27  Proceedings of the 3rd  annual general meeting of the Society held at Muzaffarpur on 24 May 1871, cited by B.K. Sinha. op.cit.
28  ibid.


should be set up in every district of Bihar; a college (for the students of the Zilla schools having passed the Entrance  examination) should also be opened for higher education. He also suggested that these students should be given preference over others, in the matters of employment in government services, which, he felt, would encourage the students to acquire European education29.
By that time, the Society had enhanced its membership to 500; therefore, it established a college on 7th
November 1871.

The foundation of the Central College of Muzaffarpur was laid by the Lt. Governor of Bengal, G. Campbell, on 7th  November 1871. This college is situated in the centre of  the town in a mango orchard. On the occasion, right since the morning, thousands of people had gathered.
Imdad Ali addressed the people in Hindustani, whereas Campbell and S.W. Fallon  addressed in English. Campbell told that even though the government    has    allowed    the    vernaculars    uptill    the    Middle    class examinations, it would be better to learn English, so that they could obtain university degrees of higher courses30.

Thus, we see that the movement of Syed Imdad Ali was ahead of the movement of Sir Syed Ahmad in three ways: (a) Imdad Ali’s ‘Central College’ (or collegiate school) of Muzaffarpur was founded on 7
November 1871, i.e., 6 years earlier than Sir Syed’s M.A.O. College of Aligarh (in 1877). (b) The Muzaffarpur’s  Bihar  Scientific Society had several schools, in different districts, including many in villages e.g. Paroo, Jaintpur,  Hardi,  Narhan etc31.   That way it was less elitist in character, having relatively wider reach among the people. (c)  Compared to Aligarh, the participation of non-Muslims (particularly Hindus) was far much more in the Society of Muzaffarpur32.
Imdad Ali had realized that only the introduction of vernacular medium of instruction in Schools was not enough. He expressed, “The best way and means of diffusing among the people, of this country the Western Arts and Sciences, which  are treated of in works composed in English or in some other language into the native tongue i.e. into Urdu and to publish and sell them”33.  Therefore he started a translation  department  of  the  Society  to  make  available  books  on  Western  sciences  in  vernacular
languages, on the following subjects:
Trigonometry, Material Medica, Optics, Animal Physiology, Chemistry, Dyeing, Geography, Botany, Physical History, Mechanics, Algebra, History of Philosophy, Agriculture, Zoology, Arithmetic, Law of Hospitals, Mineralogy and Masonry.
For this purpose a team of translators was appointed at an expense of Rs. 200/ per month.34 The Society also had its own  printing press for the publications. The press was called Chashma-e- Ilm. He also

29  Garcien de Tassey, op.cit, p. 173.
30  Ibid. It may be noted that, it was this very address of Campbell, in which, an unambiguous colonial exposition against Urdu was done for the first time, giving rise to a sharp Hindi - Urdu divide in India.
31  In these villages, schools and colleges are still running to provide a quality education to the people of the area. The High School at Hardi happens to be one of the oldest rural High School of Western part of the district of Muzaffarpur. Similarly the  government  degree  college  at  Jaintpur  is  one  of  the  oldest  degree  college  of  rural  Bihar,  with  relatively  good infrastructure, including hostels
32  Taqi Raheem, Tehreek-e-Azaadi Mein Bihar ke Musalmanon Ka Hissa, (KBL, Patna, 1998), and Muzaffar Imam. Role of
Muslims  in  the  National  Movement,  Bihar,  1912-30,  (Mittal,  Delhi,  1987)  are  of  the  view  that  this  Hindu–Muslim cooperation was one of the few factors leading to lesser degree of communal confrontation in Bihar compared to the colonial Bengal and U.P.
33  Proceedings of the general meeting of the Scientific Society Muzaffarpur, dated 24 May 1871.
34  A Brief History and Genealogical Tree or Pedigree of Syed Imdad Ali & His Descendents. Garcin de Tassey, says that the Deptt. of translation got Rs. 300/- per month.


established a library. Sir Syed’s letter to Imdad Ali reveals that he (i.e., Imdad Ali) had sent Rs. One thousand to Sir Syed, (while his stay in London for 17 months during 1869-70) to purchase books for the library. The text of the letter informs us that on the request of Imdad Ali, Sir Syed had got prepared a book list and the courses of study    with the help of the scholars of the Oxford and the Cambridge and that Sir Syed had sent the books to the library of Muzaffarpur35.  Garcien de Tassey also corroborates it. He says:

“…with the  collaboration  of  the  Aligarh  Scientific  Society,  the  Bihar Scientific Society has published 5 books and 12 more are being translated. Its library has added,  two more books in Arabic, published from Egypt, 130  more   books   in   English   pertaining   to   different   subjects.   The protagonist  of  the Society has brought these books on the advice of the British Scholars36.

While his stay in London during 1869-70, Sir Syed Ahmad kept making queries about the developments of  the  Bihar   Scientific  Society,  Muzaffarpur  and  kept  giving  advices  on  educational  matters37.
Meanwhile, on,  1  February,  1872,  a  general  meeting  of  the  Bihar  Scientific  Society  was  held  at Muzaffarpur,  about thousands people had attended the meeting. Prizes were distributed among the students of the schools, managed by the Society. Afterwards, Imdad Ali delivered a brief but categorical speech, explaining about the accomplishments of the Society and its objectives were re-emphasized. In the address, he specifically told the Muslims that they should not apprehend the scientific knowledge being against their religion. He also insisted on acquiring English education, as it  was key to the treasures of modern knowledge.    Then he gave the details of the books already translated or to be translated. He gave the details of the schools, managed by the Society; he admired the students who had performed well in  English and in the Calcutta University Examinations. Finally, he presented the account of the income and expenses of the Society38.  This was the last address of Imdad Ali, because, after it, he was transferred to the district of Gaya, where  he established another branch of the Bihar Scientific Society and established a school there as well, imparting education to a number of students39.
The Society at Muzaffarpur had set up another body called Anjuman-e-Tehzeeb in 1869. It established an orphanage and  organizing seminars, debates, conferences, educational publication, social reforms etc. were its major objectives. Within 6  months of its existence, it earned the laurels of the then Deputy Inspector of Schools. He reported that ‘the papers read under the auspices of the Society bore evidences of research and scientific analysis’40.   Its branch was opened at  Hajipur, called Refaah-e-Aam (lit. Common welfare); its specific objective was to subscribe the Indian newspapers for its members41.
In 1877, the Anjuman-e-Tahzeeb succeeded in accomplishing one of the objectives42   of the Bihar
Scientific Society viz. establishing a school of agricultural and technical training. Accordingly, on the

35  Qazi Abdul Wadood. op.cit.
36  Garcin de Tassey, op.cit,  p. 170.
37  Ashfaq Arfi, op.cit p. 208, cf. Qazi Abdul Wadood op.cit.
38  Garien de Tassey op.cit. pp.267 268, cf. Akhbar-e-Anjuman-e-Punjab, 1st  March. 1872.
39  Garien de Tassy op.cit, vol. 2. p. 176. (Annual Lecture of 1875).
40  Datta & Jha, op.cit. p. 449.
41  Garcien de Tassey, op.cit, vol. 2, p. 283.
42 Syed Badruddin Ahmed, in his Urdu autobiography, Haqeeqat bhi, kahaani bhi, Bihar Urdu Academy, Patna, 1988, 2003 (Reprint). p.456, informs us that the Bihar Scientific Society had also wished to establish an Urdu University. The movement
and the scheme, however, could not accomplish this particular objective.


occasion of the visit of the Princes of Wales, the college was opened at Muzaffarpur and it was named after  the  Prince  of  Wales.  Garcin  de  Tassey,  himself  was  one  of  the  members  of  the  managing committee of the college43.
In September 1873, a branch of the Anjuman-e-Tehzeeb was opened in Patna whose president was Syed Wazir Ali Khan44.  Thus, the contributions of Imdad Ali were duly acknowledged by the government of Bengal in its resolution dated 9 May 1873. It said, “….. in all Behar, the most active and successful promoter of Education is a Mohammedan…” Bailey also noted, “…the thanks are due to Syed Imdad Ali ….the Lt. Governor fully believers that the society is doing a great work’45.  In the “Delhi Durbar” of
1878 the Government of India invited Imdad Ali as its guest and conferred upon him the title of “Khan Bahadur”. On his return from Delhi, he got a paralytic stroke and died of it in August 188646.  He had already retired from the services in 1875.
In the efforts of Syed Imdad Ali, his closest companion was, Nawab Syed Mohammad Taqi. It would be worthwhile if we could give a brief introduction of him; as he was also the founding President of the Bihar Scientific Society of Muzaffarpur. Syed Mohd. Taqi’s grandfather, Mir Ghulam Haidar Khan, was the Amil of pargana Baruraj (Muzaffarpur), who was murdered at Baruraj, by a member of the Phalsahi zamindar family, while performing his government services (the dispute was probably around a temple). While imparting justice to this murder, in the form of wergeld (Khoon-Bahaa), his two sons (viz. Mir Yusuf Ali Khan i.e. father of Syed Mohd. Taqi and Mir Mehdi Ali Khan) were given the zamindari of
1356 villages (yielding revenue of about Rs 1 lakh per annum), besides sentencing the killer to death and auctioning the sons and wife of the killer47. Thus, Taqi came to be called “Nawab”. In 1845, he had donated land for the  foundation/maintenance of the ‘Zilla School’ of Muzaffarpur, and in 1852, “an important event in the history of this  institution took place. The local authorities, feeling that the introduction of teaching of Persian and Arabic might make the institution popular among the inhabitants; they induced the local zamindars to organize funds for the purpose. Syed Md Taqi Khan, a respectable zamindar came forward with a gift of entire village of Jogiara, Pargana Nan(d)pur, (now in the district of Darbhanga) which was valued at Rs. 20,000 with an annual rental of more than Rs. 2000, for the
purpose of maintaining an Arabic and Persian teacher in the Government School at Muzaffarpur, and for
such other purposes in connection with that school, as its managing committee and the council of Education may determine”48. He also donated land to the college or Collegiate School that was founded on 7th  November 187149. (Garcin de Tassey calls it ‘Central College’, Muzaffarpur). Syed Md. Taqi was also the founding President of the managing committee of the Muzaffarpur Central College (Collegiate School)50.
Syed Amir Ali (1849-1928) started Central National Mohammedan Association (CNMA) of Calcutta in
1877 and launched an all-India campaign to enhance the proportion of the Muslims in the Indian Civil
Services (ICS). Its branch at Muzaffarpur was opened in 1887. The first President of the branch was

43 ibid.
44 ibid. p. 276, cf. Ashfaq Arfi, op.cit, p. 206.
45 A Brief History and Genealogical Tree or Pedigree of Syed Imdad Ali & His Descendents, cited by B.K. Sinha, op.cit.
46  Ibid.
47  Bihari Lal Fitrat, Aina e Tirhut, Lucknow, 1883, p. 262.
48    Jata Shankar Jha, Education in Bihar, KP Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna, 1979, p.204, cf. General  Department, Educational O.C. No. 20, dated 30 September 1852.
49  I owe this information to Dr. Syed Mehdi Ahmad Rizvi, Reader, Deptt. Of Urdu, LNT College, Muzaffarpur. He claims to be a descendent of Nawab Taqi. (Interview on 5 June 2005).
50  The text of the inscription of the foundation stone of the college, now known as the Bhumihar-Brahman Collegiate School, contains this information.


none but Nawab Syed Mohd. Taqi. It was one of the most vibrant branches, as it had 88 members, mostly barristers51.   After Syed Imdad Ali was transferred to Gaya in 1872, it was Nawab Taqi who sustained the (movement for modern  education), and continued the activities of the Bihar Scientific Society, Muzaffarpur. Yet, it remains to be explored as to what happened to the Bihar Scientific Society in subsequent days (i.e. after 1872). It remains intriguing that compared to the MAO College at Aligarh, the movement for modern education in Muzaffarpur went in oblivion within a rather short period. Sir Syed strengthened and consolidated his movement through extremely strong vehicle called the All India Muslim  Educational Conference (AIMEC, started from 1886). Through this agency, ‘Syed Ahmad extended the scope of Aligarh’s influence to Muslims throughout India’. Both Sir Syed and Morison (the Principal of the M.A.O. College, Aligarh) insisted on the need of higher education for Muslims and to fulfill the task, they opposed establishment of small English  schools in various parts of India. They rather preached that all such funds should be pooled together to concentrate on  development of one institution, i.e. the MAO College, Aligarh, which had to be developed into a university for Muslims. Endorsing Sir Syed’s view, Morison said, “…the logical way out is that (the M.A.O. College, Aligarh) be extended and efforts to establish colleges in other regions or districts would be futile…We should make  it  attractive  for  all  the  Muslims  of different  provinces  to  receive  education here…”52. This persuasion might have been one of the reasons for abandonment of the idea of establishing and running schools in different parts of India and concentrating upon developing the Aligarh College. Small wonder then, that all the important leaders of Bihar associated themselves with the AIMEC.  Maulana Md Sulaiman Phulwarwi (1857-1935) joined the AIMEC after Sir Syed’s death and being a powerful orator, his speeches in the annual meetings of the AIMEC helped mobilize great funds, while campaigning for a Muslim university. One Syed Muzaffar Husain acted as the permanent safeer i.e. paid agent (from 1905 to 1945) of the AIMEC’s Bihar branch and Muzaffarpur was a promising centre of his campaign. Sir Ali Imam  (1869-1932)  and  Mazharul  Haq  (1866-1930)  joined   the  AIMEC’s  campaign  for  Muslim University. Dr Syed Mahmud (1889-1971), arranged the AIMEC session at Patna in 1938, when he was the Minister of Education in the Govt. of Bihar during 1937-39. With such kind of powerful mass movement of the AIMEC (particularly in its 1895 session at Agra), the Aligarh College was projected toemerge as a University with power to affiliate the schools/colleges run by Muslims in different parts of India53. This mass movement of ‘Muslim solidarity in British India’, financed by the Muslim princely states and landed elites, put enough political pressure on the colonial state to enhance grants, provide lands and ultimately in 1920 giving it the status of a  university54. This shift in the priority of the Muslims  might  have  been  the  reasons  for  the  eclipse  or  decline  of  the  Bihar  Scientific  Society, Muzaffarpur55.

51    M.Yusuf Abbasi (ed.) Annals of the Central National Mohammedan Association, Islamabad, 1992. This mentions the names of all 88 members of the Muzaffarpur branch of the Association.
52    AIMEC Report, 1893, pp. 129-30, cited by Abdul Rashid Khan, The All India Muslim Educational Conference: Its Contribution to the Cultural Development of Indian Muslims, 1886-1947, OUP, Karachi, 2001, p.62 . For Sir Syed’s views against  establishment  of  educational  institutions  in  different  parts  of  India,  see  Syed  Ahmad  Khan,  Khitab  Ba  Tarif Musalmanan e Hind in 1893 (Agra, 1894, pp.4-5), cf. Ibid.
53    The Select Committee of MAO College, Aligarh, since its foundation, always nursed the ambition of emerging as a University with power to affiliate the Muslim managed schools and colleges running in different parts of India. (See, David Lelyveld, Aligarh’s First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India, OUP, Delhi, p.135).
54    See Abdul Rashid Khan, op cit, pp. 63-64. Also see, Gail Minault and David Lelyveld, “Campaign for a Muslim University, 1898-1920”, in Modern Asian Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, 1974, pp. 145-89.
55   After 1895, the AIMEC became more vocal about Muslim University at Aligarh, with affiliating jurisdiction in whole of India. It is interesting to note that from 1898 a vigorous campaign for Muslim University at Aligarh started and the Bihar Scientific Society also practically ceased to exist after 1899 when it established the college at Muzaffarpur, in collaboration with the Bhumihar Brahman Sabha. It may probably be conjectured that after the campaign for the Muslim university started, the Muslims from all over India, mainly concentrated on Aligarh, rather than diverting the funds in scattered institutions. This seems more probable because, with the turn of the 20th   century, Bengal emerged as one of the most popular destination of fund raising for Muslim university at Aligarh. In December 1899, Calcutta hosted the AIMEC, presided over by Syed Ameer Ali. After it, a number of branches of the AIMEC came up in Bengal. In 1904, at Rajshahi (in eastern Bengal), a huge meeting of the AIMEC was held for Muslim university at Aligarh. In fact, Bengal (Bihar included) responded to this campaign only when the proposed Muslim university at Aligarh promised to obtain affiliating jurisdiction in whole of India. Otherwise, the Bengal Muslims were not very enthusiastic about a Muslim university at Aligarh. G. Minault and D. Lelyveld, in their essay clearly show that, during the entire period of campaign for Muslim university (1898-1920), whenever the prospect for affiliating authority looked bleak, the fund raising of the movement plummeted down.


Nevertheless, two significant informations, which could be obtained, are given below:
1. Sir Syed Ahmad visited Patna twice, on 26 May 1873 and again on 27th  January 1883. It was probably in 1883, he also visited Muzaffarpur. He was given hospitality by Hafiz Shah Rahmatuallah
‘Ahqar’ (died, 1927), the founder of the Madarsa Jamial Uloom (founded in 1880s or 1307 A.H.). This madrasa was  meant to impart education, not only in Islamic theology but also in poetic literature, modern criticism and History. Ahqar was a good poet, used to host poetic assemblies (musharia) and had presented a versified welcome speech (Sepaas Naama) to Sir Syed. This poem (Sepaas Naama) is included in Ahqar’s unpublished collection of Ghazals, (Deewan). Ahqar was much influenced by the anti colonial ideology of the so called ‘Wahabi’ Movement of Syed Ahmad of Rai Bareilly56. Ahqar was one of the greatest freedom fighter of Muzaffarpur during the Non Cooperation/ Khilafat Movement. He also started “Urdu Sahityik Sabha” for Urdu-Hindi friendship in 191457. Ahqar died in 1927, after him, the Sabha was run by Syed Shah Qari Abdul Majeed ‘Muztar’, a famous poet. The Sabha continued up till 1940.
Ahqar, was the grand son of Moulvi Shah Ahmadullah58, and his great grandfather was a qazi in the district of  Murshidabad (Bengal) from there, he was sent by his ‘pir’ to Muzaffarpur, possibly for missionary purpose. Shah Ahmadullah constructed a mosque in the Chhaata Bazar (literally Umbrella market) of the town of Muzaffarpur. Then  he  purchased some land near Chandwara, where, Ahqar established the Madarsa Jamial Uloom.
Ahqar’s son Hafiz Nematullah (died 1944), was a poet with nom de plum, ‘Razi’. He was one of the leading freedom  fighters during the civil disobedience movement, of 1930-32.59    Ahqar’s grandson, Ghulam Mohammad has also established the Urdu Girls High School, Muzaffarpur, in 1975.
2. Another significant information about the ‘movement’ of the Bihar Scientific Society comes from the Bengal District Gazetteers of Muzaffarpur written by L.S.S. O’ Mally, who says that in 1899, the Society started a college with a  ‘trust fund of Rs.50, 000 contributed by the Bhumihar Brahman Sabha, affiliated to the Calcutta University’.60

56 I owe this information to Syed Ehtesham sb. of Chandwara, Muzaffarpur, (Interview on 13 June 2005), he is the Social Security Officer of the District. He claims to have read the poem (Sepaas Naama) written by Ahqar. He also claims to be descendent of a branch of the family of Ahqar.

57    Prof. Sita Ram, Singh, “Muzaffarpur: Itihaas ke Darpan Mein” in Smarika: Bihar Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh. 43rd
Adhiveshan, Muzaffarpur. 1992.
58   He belonged to the tradition of Syed Ahmad Shaheed of Rae Bareilly. See Bihari Lal ‘Fitrat’, Aina e Tirhut, Lucknow,
1883, p. 104.
59  Muzaffar Imam op.cit, p. 223.
60 LSS O Mally, Bengal District Gazetteers, Muzaffarpur, Calcutta, 1907, p. 134. This is also testified by other accounts which say that the Society, handed over its ‘Collegiate’ school to Langat Singh in 1899 to start a college there. (See Muzaffar Imam op.cit p. 21, Dr. Shamim Ahmad, “Scientific Society, Muzaffarpur” in 4th   All India Muslim Educational Conference, Patna, 1973, Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna, pp. 69-73.
Mr. Naved Masood, IAS, has informed me that the ‘Societies Registration Act of 1860’ did not allow a sectarian organization like the Bhumihar Brahman Sabha to open an educational institution. The Bhumihar Brahman Sabha, therefore, deposited Rs. 50 thousand to the trust of the Bihar Scientific Society to deposit it into the Senate of the Calcutta University to open the College in 1899, at Muzaffarpur. This policy envisaged by the Act, was however, revised subsequently to grant university status to BHU in 1915 and to AMU in 1920. But by late 19th   and early 20th   century, there started a sort of movement in favour of establishing educational institutions ‘which should reflect heritage’ of different communities. ‘Colleges such as Annie Besant’s Central Hindu College, the Arya Samaj’s (D.A.V Colleges), the Khalsa College of the Sikhs and the Aligarh Muslim College were all part of a general movement by Indians to create an education that would reflect their heritage’ (See, Leah Renold, A Hindu Education: Early Years of the Banaras Hindu University, OUP, Delhi, 2005, p. 47). Harcourt Butler, in 1911, persuaded the colonial government that in the face of the rise of the sectarian schools, the government must increase its control and that, ‘it is necessary that the government should lead the educational movement’. (See Ibid.)


The college  was  named  as,  “Bhumihar  Brahman  College”.  In  1915,  it  was  re-named  as  Grierson Bhumihar Brahman  College and again in 1949/1951, it was named after Langat Singh61. In 1952, responding to a strong public demand, the Bihar University was also established (in fact, it was shifted from Patna) in the ‘premises’ of the L.S. College. Maghfur Ahmad Aijazi (died 1967), a valiant freedom fighter of Muzaffarpur, was one of the leaders who launched a successful campaign for the university62. It is probably an irony of historic proportion that the contributions of the Bihar Scientific  Society of Imdad Ali remain absolutely un-acknowledged by the College and its organs. Can one hope the retrieval of the history of the Bihar Scientific Society, Muzaffarpur? Must not we listen to the cry of Syed Imdad Ali?
Hamara naam andheron mein kho gaya lekin
Kabhi charaagh jalaaye the shahar mein ham ney (Ameer Imam)

Note: This paper was presented in the international seminar on “Sir Syed Ahmad Khan: Vision and Mission”, at Aligarh Muslim University, November 2006 and subsequently published as chapter 18 of an edited volume with the same title, by Manohar, Delhi, 2008, pp.181-197.

61   The Bhumihar Brahaman Sabha was founded by the Raja of Banaras, at Patna, in 1889. See Prasanna K. Chaudhry and Shrikant, Bihar Mein Samajik Parivartan Ke Kuch Aayaam, Vaani, Delhi, 2001. Langat Singh, a railway contractor, was associated with the Sabha, and from 1899 to 1909, he remained the greatest donor of the college (For a profile of Langat Singh, see Mark Tully, No Full Stops in India, Viking, Delhi, 1991). Rambriksha Benipuri (d. 1968) has also written a Hindi biography of Langat Singh, but that’s no longer available in print.
62  For details, see Aijazi Papers, NMML, New Delhi, and my essay in Tehzeebul Akhlaq, Urdu monthly, Aligarh, February, 2004. Also see my forthcoming monograph, Against Colonialism and Separatism: Muslims of Muzaffarpur since 1857.