Social and Religious Reform Movements of the 19th century in India:
“outlining perspectives on caste and gender that emerged in both Hinduism and Islam”
From the late 19th century, a number of European and Indian scholars started the study of ancient India’s history, philosophy, science, religious and literature. This growing knowledge of India’s past glory provided to the Indian people a sense of pride in their civilization. It also helped the reforms in their work of religious and social reform for their struggle against all type of inhuman practices, superstitions, etc. Since, they had become associated with religious beliefs. Therefore most of the movements of social reforms were of a religious character.
These social and religious reform movements arose among all communities of the Indian people. They attacked bigotry. Superstition and the hold of the priestly class. They worked for abolition of castes and untouchability, purdah system, sati, child marriage, social inequalities and illiteracy. Some of the reformers were supported directly or indirectly by the British officials and some of the reformers were supported reformative stops and regulations framed by the British Government.
Hindus Reformers’ View
In India, the first reformer was Raja Rammohan Roy. He is known as the father of Indian Renaissance. Rammohan Roy fought relentlessly against the social evils like sati, polygamy, child marriage, female infanticide and caste discrimination. He organized a movement against the inhuman custom of sati and helped William Bentinck to pass a law banning the practice. Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was also a great humanist and had deep sympathy for the poor and the oppressed. Vidyasagar’s greatest contribution lies in the improvement of the condition of widows. Despite opposition, he openly advocated widow remarriage. At last, after prolonged struggle the Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1856. He also spoke vehemently against child marriage and polygamy.
Islamist Reformer Views
Similarly, reform movement was also falling plane within Islam. The Muslim upper classes had tended to avoid contact with Western education and culture and it was only after the revolt of 1857 that modern ideas of religious reforms began to appear. The beginning was made by the Muhammedan literary society founded in Calcutta in 1863 by Nawab Abdul Latif. It promoted discussion of religious, social and political questions in the light of modern ideas and encouraged upper and middle class Muslims to adopt Western education.
The Muslim masses were also influenced by movements carried on by the Chishti Sufis who preached not only submission to God but also promoted the veneration of saints. Another movement is associated with Shah Waliullah in Delhi, who opposed the unorthodox religious practices and revived the shia sect that strict monotheism. The philosophical and learned tradition of the Firangi Mahal in Lucknow was incorporated into the new educational syllabus and propagated throughout India during 19th century.
Shariatullah of Bengal was the leader of the Faraizi Movement Bengal which took up the cause of the peasants and even spoke against the caste system among the Muslims.
The most notable of the Muslim reformers was Syed Ahmed of Rai Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. He realized that unless the Muslims adapted themselves to the changed circumstances of British rule they would be deprived of all new opportunities for status and prosperity.
Syed Ahmed Khan was also reformer he did his best to create a link with the progressive cultural forces of the outside world. He started the Muhammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875 at Aligarh. It aimed to promote modern education among Muslims without weakening the ties with Islam. Syed Ahmed’s efforts extended to the social sphere as well he worked for social reforms. He wanted women to be educated and advocated the removal of the purdah. He was also against the polygamy.
Both the religion have many problems so that at the time these social and religious problems would be solved. As in 1883, Syed Ahmed said: Now both of us Hindus and Muslims live on the air of India, drink the holy waters of the Ganga and Jamuna. We both feed upon the products of the Indian soil. We are a nation and the progress and welfare of the country, and both of us, depend on our unity, mutual sympathy and love while our mutual disagreement, obstinacy and opposition and ill feeling are sure to destroy us. Muhammad Eqbal also argued that the younger generation of Muslims as well as of Hindus. He urged the adoption of a dynamic outlook that would help change the world.
Team Aspirant Forum