by: Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi
Education, in present age, being the most important and modern age whereas eventually it is only necessary thing for the people, is considered to be a gift of this the holy Quran to which goes the credit of education's foundation and its advancement. Before I go to describe the details about the topic, let's have a comparative look on the religions and civilisations that existed prior to Islam.
The Greece and China are said to make extraordinary progress, in past, in the field of education and art but they also did not favour the education for all. Plato has dreamt of democracy and equality but he also could not go beyond education for some particular segments of the society.1
Education in India, before he advent of Islam, was considered to be the monopoly of Brahmins. They excluded the lower class people from acquiring knowledge. They thought themselves to be superior and believed that educating them is “casting pearl before swine” as an English proverb says. The Indian society was divided into four categories; Brahmin, Chatri, Weshu and Shwudr. Only the Brahmins, among them, had right to get education even when their civilization was on its full swing. Though there were mass revolts against the notion and later took the shape of Buddhism and Jainism, but soon these religions grew weaker the previous condition returned. None can deny the glory of Nalanda and Takshila universities, but after all, the fact is that the common people were always deprived of education in Hindu periods. The lower caste person was not even allowed to hear the scriptures. If sometimes a lower-caste person happens to gain a hearing by steal used to be put melted lead in his ears. As if it was a heinous crime for him to listen the Vedic verses.2
Likewise, the Europe, those days, was passing through dark ages of history. The churches owned the ins and outs of the citizens. The scientists, artists and men of learning were tortured and sometimes even were torched to death. Galileo was sentenced to death because he came up with the idea that the earth evolves round the sun. Bruno was burned alive for he was of the opinion that the universe has some other planets like earth.3
An European writer describes the situation as: "When Europe was immersed in darkness of ignorance the Caliphs of Baghdad and Qurtuba had spread the light of culture and civilisation in Islamic world. When the leaders of Europe did not know even how to write their names the children of Islamic countries were accustomed to reading and writing"4
Similarly, ignorance was prevailing all over Arabia. There was neither a school nor a college and library. Not only the entire tribes were illiterate but also some of them used to feel proud of being unlettered. Allama Bilazari has asserted that Quraish, the head of all tribes, had only 17 persons who knew writing. Those who were assigned to write the revelation of the Prophet (PBUH) they also were 43 out of all Ansar and Muhajireen.5
It is an established truth that Islam has attached much emphasis on education. It is only Islam, which occupies this distinguished position of being the messenger of knowledge and leader of an educational revolution. According to Islamic viewpoint the humanity set out for its journey in the light of knowledge, not in the darkness of ignorance as modern people say that man is a developed form of animals. The other systems have put the education in the category of necessities of life but Islam has regarded it the utmost necessity of human life. There is neither a religion nor a civilisation that has termed education as basic right of every individual in the society.
In fact, in the 6th century, when the sun of Islam rose from the horizon of Arabian Peninsula in its fullest blaze the entire world was shrouded by darkness. People all around were steeped in ignorance and long slumber. The first slogan that Islam chanted in this horrible atmosphere was about 'education'. The earliest verses that revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) invited people to education:
“Read in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, who created. Created man out of a (mere clot of congealed blood. Read and thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He who taught (the use of) the pen. Taught man that which he knew not”. 6
These five verses of the holy Quran along with many others are the fountainhead of education in post-Islam history. They created a remarkable eagerness toward education and filled the followers of Islam with a tremendous spirit that carved a new history. The holy Quran and Hadith encouraged this spirit and gave it a good push by repeated mentioning of education's virtues and greatness:
“Allah will raise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you believe and who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is well acquainted with all ye do”7
“Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?”8
“Ulama are the heirs of the prophets”
An A’alim is the trustee of Allah on this earth”10
One who covers a way in search of knowledge Allah will lead him to the paradise”11
Apart from this we find that the Holy Quran & Hadith have repeatedly asked Muslims to deliberate in the signs of the heavens and the earth. They encouraged the human spirit of curiosity and regarded mankind the supreme creature. There were many things in the universe, which people used to worship, but Islam asserted that every thing on the world has been created for the service of men. As the Quran says: "it is He who has created all things that are on earth"12
These were the reasons that the Arabs who were quite uncivilized and ignorant turned into the leader of the world in all section of life. They acquired the knowledge of philosophy, medical science, pharmacy, botany, surgery, geography, astronomy, agriculture and so on. In no less than hundred years they became experts in all these fields. They not only followed the previous theories but also they discovered countless facts and invented new things. The Islamic cities were the centres of education and science attracting students from all across Europe, Asia and Africa. Today's modern science and technology has been developed on the theories and philosophies of Muslims. An orientalist admits: "The Arabs have opened the door of arts and sciences, literature and philosophy for Europe. The Arabs taught Europe for six hundred years"13
Maulana Ali Miyan Nadvi writes: “The historians admit that the Loather’s reformation was profoundly impressed by Islamic teachings, and not only the Christianity but also the European life and culture has been influenced by Islam.
Robert Briffault writes in his book ‘The Making of Humanity’: “There is not even a part of Europe’s advancement which is not impressed by Islamic civilisation. Not only the natural sciences, for which we are obliged to the Arabs, have facilitated life in Europe but the Islamic culture also has influenced on various fields”14
There is another French writer who states: “As the Arabs have impressed the East they have impressed the west too. In 9th and 10th centuries when the muslims’ civilisation was onfull swing that European cities were like prisons where our leadres lived wildly. They used to boost of their ignorance, untill some personalities dared to break the ice and folded their knees before Arabs who were the teachers of that age”.15
In this situation, imagine, whatever Islam has done is nothing short of a miracle. In a short period of time the Arabs turned in to the most civilized nation, and whenever they went left their deep impressions on life, culture and language. The entire cultural and lingual structure of Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and other countries…
It is extremely tragic that Muslims, today, with their past glory and bright history are lagging behind from contemporary communities in every field. The European and others have marched ahead while Muslims failed to treasure their elders' heritage and advance it to coming generations. Recalling the bygone era I do not wish you to feel proud of the past but regain that amazing grandeur and dazzling splendour by stepping forward in to the field of education and modern science.
1. Islami Nizam-e-Zindagi, p. 241, Pro. Sayyid Ata'ullah Hussaini, Taj Compony Delhi
2. Ibid., Taleem Hindustan ke Muslim ahd-e-Hukumat mein, pp. 17,18, SM Jaffar, Traqqi Urdu Bureau Delhi, 2nd ad. 1984
3. Insani Dnya par Musalmanon ke Uruj o Zawal ka Asar, pp. 220-21, M. Ali Miyan Nadvi, Lucknow 1422 AH/2001AC
4. Riyaz-ul-Janna, Riyaz-ul-Uloom Guraini Jaunpur, May & June 2000, p. 53
5. Islami Nizam-e-Zindagi, p. 240, Pro. Sayyid Ata'ullah Hussaini, Taj Compony Delhi
6. Sura Alaq 96/1,2,3,4,5
7. Sura Mujadila 58/11
8. Sura Zumur 39/9
9. Abudaud & Tirmizi, referred by Ihya-ul-uloom Urdu translation, 30
10. Ihya-ul-Uloom 34, Ibn-e-Abdulbarr
11. Muslim, Ihya-ul-Uloom 35
12. Sura Baqra, 2/29
13. Riyaz-ul-Janna, Riyaz-ul-Uloom Guraini Jaunpur, May & June 2000, p. 53
14. Insani Dnya par Musalmanon ke Uruj o Zawal ka Asar, p.154, M. Ali Miyan Nadvi, Lucknow 1422 AH/2001AC
15. Tamaddun-e-Arab, G Lebon, Translated in Urdu by Sayyid Ali Belgrami, p. 599,
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