Sir Syed Ahmed Khan believed that the religious and social life of the Muslims could be improved only by imbibing modern western scientific knowledge and culture. His major concern was the removal of social and educational backwardness among the Muslims. He worked hard to raise the status of the Muslim women.
He was against the purdah system, polygamy, easy divorce and lack of education among the girls. Though he was opposed by the orthodox Muslims, he made commendable efforts in promote women’s education.
He tried to interpret the Quran in the light of reason and spoke out against fanaticism and ignorance. He also initiated social reforms for the upliftment of Muslim society.
Throughout his early life, he advocated the study of English language even against the opposition of the orthodox Muslims. He considered that only modern education could lead Muslims towards progress. He established an English school in Ghazipur (present day Uttar Pradesh) in 1864.
He started the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College (M.A.O.) at Aligarh in 1875 which later developed into the Aligarh Muslim University. It provided education in humanities and science through English medium.
He also established a scientific society for translating English books. He also published a journal for spreading awareness among the Muslims towards social reforms especially towards modern education. He started the Mohammadan educational conference for spreading liberal ideas among the Muslims. The movement for reform started by him is known as the Aligarh Movement which proved to be an important step towards social and political awakening among the Muslims.