Widely regarded as the face of social reform within British India, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was unarguably the most important figure in the educational movement for Muslims of India in the 19th century. Born in 1817, Sir Syed realized the importance of education early on and envisaged how Muslims could overcome their disadvantage in society and climb up its social and political rungs, much like the rapidly progressing Hindus; by taking up western education. Often labeled as a British sympathizer, he openly advocated for democratic principles and freedom of speech, a concept alien to the region's Muslims.
Perhaps his magnum opus was his brainchild, “The Aligarh Movement”. It was a movement that looked to improve the Muslim Community in the social, political, and economic spheres of life. He also pioneered a Scientific Society in 1863 to translate renowned works of science and literature into Urdu. For this purpose, he published two journals, namely, the Aligarh Institute Gazette and the Tehzibul Akhlaq. Moreover, he established the Madrasatul Uloom in Aligarh in 1875, later known as the Aligarh Muslim University, a leading institute in the region. In 1886, he also created the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Education Congress to create a network of education and culture.
Thus, in light of all his significant contributions, Sir Syed Ahmad was regarded as a visionary who was well ahead of his time. Given that the Muslims had suffered a huge setback in the War of Independence in 1857, an event that was largely associated with them and caused them to slip further down the social echelons in British India, he embarked on an arduous journey of ensuring that this was no longer the case and that Muslims were able to reclaim their lost esteem by gaining an education.