By Aamir Hussain Shah, New Age Islam
March 21, 2013
Why is it that Muslim societies today are in such a weak and pitiful position, being divided by sectarianism, destroyed by wars and firmly controlled by industrialized nations which impose on them their own views and will, exploiting the resources of Muslim people and deriving their power from the weakness and division of Muslim nations? In one word the answer is lack of proper education. Today Muslim youth is torn between different tendencies and assailed by doubts and uncertainties from all sides. They hear that western civilization is bankrupt, but at the same time they see its potency in economic and political hegemony. Our youth have no choice but to acknowledge certain fundamental qualities of the West such as its scientific development, its technological supremacy, its administrative efficiency and its political cohesion. At the same time they see completely the opposite of it in the East.
The community which was supposed to be the community of ‘Iqra’ has become a community of ‘Isma’. If we look at the top 200 universities of the world, you will not find a single Muslim university in the list. What has happened to this community of knowledge and learning? We are the people who are related in our faith to Al Beruni, Al khurazmi, Ibn Sina, Al Razi, Ibn Haytam and many others. Arts and humanities, social sciences, engineering and technology, medicine and natural sciences are the faculties where Muslims are not even in top 50. If we pray five times a day, fast, do Hajj we do this for ourselves but if we gain knowledge, we not only benefit ourselves but also our children, our entire household and entire society. Where is that community of learning? We are nothing and not even a shadow of past. The moment Muslim ummah deviated from the path of knowledge, science and research, it fell prey in the hands of the West. It is true and unfortunate that most of the Muslim nations don’t have the kind of education system which would enable Muslim youth to develop the broad vision and compete with the west in the field of research. No nation or community could progress unless it adopted the modern education system. We are lagging behind because we are not willing to give up the traditional and conventional way of education. Muslims have to modernize the ‘Madras’s’. Only then they will be able to prosper. The children who study in Madras’s are confined to just religious education. Memorization of Quran is central to the curriculum of Madras’s. But little attempt is made to analyze and discuss the meaning of text. Modern analysts usually criticize two areas of its pedagogy; the limited range of subjects taught and the exclusive reliance on memorization. This usually finds its effect on the students when they enter into the formal education offered by modern state. While these students can memorize copious volumes and texts, they often lack competence in critical analysis and independent thinking.
Muslims were not always merely Maulvis. During the golden age of Islamic empire (usually between 10th and 13th century), the Islamic world flourished and they were regarded as the masters of science, art and even literature. It was the period when they made most of its contribution to scientific and artistic world. Contributions were made in chemistry, botany, physics, medicine, mathematics and astronomy as many Muslims regarded scientific truth as tools for accessing the divine. It was also the period when Western Europe was intellectually backward and stagnant.
Knowledge occupies a place of prominence within Islam, so much so that it is said that only knowledgeable people fear God and salvation is linked to intelligence. (This knowledge is fundamentally the knowledge of God the Reality and thus subsumes all knowledge including secular one if it is linked to awakening divine consciousness. In fact there is no such thing as profane knowledge in a worldview where God is the Alpha and the Omega and the subject and object of all knowledge). In fact God is the real or only Knower and whatever we know is really by participating in divine knowledge. There are more than 800 references in holy Quran which place a high premium on education. The very first revelation was the revelation of knowledge (Iqra). This was the challenge to illiteracy. Islamic movement starts with the message of knowledge. The importance of education is repeatedly emphasized in the Quran such as “God will exalt those of you who believe and have knowledge to high degrees” (58:11), “O’ my Lord – increase me in knowledge” (20:114) and “as God has taught him, so let him write” (2:282). It not only stops here but what happened in the very first battle of Islamic history that is ‘the Battle of Badr’. Each war prisoner who was not able to pay ransom was asked to educate ten Muslims for his freedom. We do not find such a unique punishment in any history. But what is important is that Islam has never laid a stress on a particular subject. The first message of Allah to Prophet S.A.W was ‘Read’. Reading/Contemplating the Creator, creation, universe, humankind, science, subject of pen, subject of research and exploration were revealed in only first five verses. This goes on to show the importance of modern education and science in Islam.
Jamal- u- din Afghani once said that “it is science which has made the west powerful and great and the west is dominating Islamic world because it has this power in its pocket. Science came originally from the Islamic world and therefore Islamic science responsible for west’s possession of science and west’s domination over the Islamic world itself. Therefore, all the Muslims have to do is to reclaim this science for themselves in order to reach the glories of past and become a powerful civilization”. But generality of Muslims have yet to do the needful. Turkey and Malaysia have made some progress and are the good examples to copy for advancing science.
During Islamic rule, Sisley alone contained 600 primary schools. In Damascus, only one city had 130 law colleges, every hospital had a library which contained a vast number of books on medicine. Nizam-ul- Mulk (education minister of Seljuk Empire) during the rule of Alap Arsalan had a vast amazing education system. Every single village under him had a primary and secondary school. Attendants were not allowed to enter hospitals in Baghdad and once a patient was admitted, its clothes were changed and every care was taken by the hospital officials until he was dispatched to home by hospital management.
The Ummah, need to understand the challenge and launch such an educational set-up that will enable new generation to win the battle of faith, morals and science. We need to spread the message of knowledge with which Gabriel began the mission of revelation among people so that we can live with peace, dignity and honor.
Aamir Hussain Shah is a college student from Jammu & Kashmir.