The origin of the Zakir Husain Delhi College can be traced to the closing years of the 17th Century, with the founding of a Madrasa by Ghaziuddin Khan, one of the Emperor Aurangzeb’s leading Deccan commanders and the father of the first Nizam of Hyderabad. The complex containing his tomb, a mosque and a Madrasa, can be visited today outside the Ajmeri Gate near the Dargah of the 13th century Sufi, Hazrat Hafiz Sadullah.
The upheavals that weakened the Mughal empire during the 18th century, resulted in the closure of the Madrasa in the early 1790’s, but, with the support of the wealthy citizens of Delhi, an oriental college for literature, science and art, was established at the site in 1792. Instruction was provided in prose, literature, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, jurisprudence, astrology and medicine.
In 1824, Delhi College was engrafted onto this institution by the British East India Company’s government. Nawab Itmad udduala, the Oudh Vazir, provided an endowment of Rs. 1,70,000 in 1829 for the promotion of oriental learning. Instruction was imparted chiefly in Persian and Arabic, and there was also a Sanskrit department.