Reconstructing the Muslim Vision towards education


By S.M.Anwar Hussain

There is an all India sort of movement going on, being organized by numerous platforms and NGOs ,to create educational awakening among Muslim masses, and attract them towards education. In the North India, the former Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University Janab Late Syed Hamid sb launched a Talimi Karawan and travelled in the length and breadth of Hindi states of Northern India.He also established Hamdard Public School in Hamdard Nagar, New Delhi and supervised and monitored it till his last breadth. Now the command of the Talimi Karwan has been taken by Brother Amanullah Khan and he has recently been seen touring some districts of North Bihar and Jharkhand spreading message of the importance and need of education among Muslims. He is also credited with establishing an orphanage “ Bachchon ka ghar” at Aligarh. My younger brother S. M. Tayyab Asghar has floated his own platform Bihar Educational Conference from where he keeps on demonstrating his oratory skills and harping on the importance of education in villages of district Jamui and adjoining Nawada. The Sachar Committee‘s report has been successful in creating a kind of tremor, but of low intensity on the Ritcher scale, among the intellectual and educated class of Muslims (although government of a secular and democratic India seemed least disturbed by such damaging report for itself). However, many worried faces can be observed among the community members. Many new banners of Muslim’s education have come up. In West Bengal Al-Ameen Mission is successfully providing coaching and guidance for All India Medical and Engineering Admission Tests. Rahmani 30 has already left good imprint of its performance . In South, there are many organisations which are working for opening new avenues and opportunities for the education of Muslim children specially in the field of technology and medical sciences. Many engineering colleges and some Medical colleges have come up recently which are trying to accommodate more Muslim students although on heavy donations and often un-affordable fees for the middle class Muslims.

Among all these efforts and endeavors what is most significantly and glaringly missing is the search for a comprehensive vision of education and its direction. Education is of paramount importance for Muslims, no doubt, but it can’t be a blind race.

My quest here is an attempt on the reconstruction of Muslim vision towards education. Actually, there are two visions towards education running parallel among the intellectuals of the community. One School of thought advocates the pure religious education imparted in Madrasas. And when they quote Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Hadeeth” طلب العلم فريضة على كل مسلم” they mean the memorising of the Holy Quran, learning of Ahadeeth, Tafseer of Quran, and Islamic jurisprudence. Learning the temporal and spatial wisdom that is contemporary trades, skills, science, technology and researches are almost out of bounds from their purview. They are primarily interested in producing lakhs of Huffaaz, thousands of Qurras, thousands of Ulamas of mediocre level, hundreds of Muftis and hundreds of Islamic scholars every year. Their whole educational vision and syllabus for the community is lacking one thing that there is no attempt to connect their graduates to the job market which could provide them dignified jobs, and a dignified salary and with that they work for the community on religious lines.The result is that we see a mushrooming of sub-standard Madrasas in every nook and corner of the Muslim populated localities. When our such graduates, although qualified and learned, do not find a suitable and respectable placement for themselves, they start looking for other pastures. And many of them see no choice except to find someone to donate a piece of land in the name of Sadaqa e Jaaria and establish a Madrasah in localities irrespective of the consideration whether there is a need or not. Now this Qasmi, or Mazahri or Nadwi or Misbahi or Razavi becomes the Mohtamim of that Madrsa, and starts traveling in the length and the breadth of the country to collect zakat and other forms of charity. Soon a concrete building comes up , unqualified teachers with low educational talents, with no experience in the art and skills of teaching are appointed on a very meager salary, and the children of the very poor families or someone who has lost his father or mother or both becomes their easy ‘prey.’ Most of our zakat fund goes to these poor quality Madrasas where the poor children are poorly fed, shabbily dressed and miserably made to sleep and even are forced to do some menial jobs related to Madrasa. In hot summer, they pass their nights without proper ventilation and fans. In chilly winter they don’t have proper arrangements to warm themselves up and have proper sleep. Many of such Mohtamims take it as an affront on their dignity and insult to their integrity if ever someone from the locality tries to peep into their non- existing account books.Most of the children studying in such Madrasas graduate as Huffaz but often lacking in very basics of the Islamic knowledge including the important aspects of Prophet’s life- and as an end result, they have no means for a basic minimum Akl- e-Halal. For the well to do section of our community, even one lakh per month income is never enough for themselves, but for the Imams and Muazzins of our Masaajid, and the teachers of these small Madrasas, Rs 5000 is considered more than enough. I am not denying or denigrating the need and positive role of our Madrasas. In fact, these Madrasas are citadels of Islam. What I am trying to convey is that such Mushrooming of non-quality Madrasas should be discouraged and checked. Organisations like Amaarat -e-Sharia, Jamiatul Ulma e Hind, Jamia Ashrafia, Mubarakpur, Madrasa Misbah Ul Oloom and the likes must take on this responsibility to closely scrutinize and verify every aspect of these Madrasas, and only then issue Tasdeeque Naamas(Verification Certificates). Otherwise people will be very soon compelled to understand that these Madrasas in collaboration with big banners mentioned above have become a disservice centres to the community. Any product, from such institutions, without self-esteem can’t be an asset for the community. Who else can better understand this secret than our own respectable ‘Ulamas’.The second school of thought, followed and pursued by our “educated members” of the community, believes in an education system which can bring an immense material gain to their children and make them fit for international job market. They are least concerned about moral and ethical bankruptcy that the products of such institutions suffer from. These advocates of a purely secular education and so-called quality English medium schools are least bothered about Quranic vision of life, about their language, culture and civilisation, about their conventional wisdom and the rich literary ethos that the community developed in centuries. West has become their model.Western culture, western civilization, western vision and ideas have become their ideals. They look at the West as the benchmark of development, ease of life and ultimate solace for human kind, and want Islam to be remolded and modified to enable it to be compatible with the new vision of world order. Unfortunately, this is the dominant vision of our intellectual class that is not only blurring the vision of our commoners, but even those who appear to have an Islamic bent of mind.

For such vision of education, all the credit is given to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and tremendous and generous tribute is showered upon him. This is actually falsifying, defaming and misrepresenting Sir Syed’s vision of education. What he did was the need of the time. But his vision of education was never bereft of Islamic moralities and faith. He emphasised on an education system which can keep the community abreast with time but not devoid of Islamic and Quranic vision. In his own words, “he wanted science in one hand, and philosophy on the other hand and the crown of لا الہ الا اللہ محمدالرسول اللہ on the head of the students of his Madrasat Ul Oloom.” This quote sufficiently explains that he wanted Quran and Islam as the fountainhead of all sciences and enlightenment.Actually both the visions- pure religious education and modern education – were direct result of the failure of 1857 revolt.The vision of a Madrasa  that imparts nothing beyond pure religious learning based on the Holy Quran, Ahaadith, and Fiqh was produced and promoted by Maulana Quasim Nanutvi the founder of the great centre of Islamic learning, Daar Ul Olum Deoband, and other contemporary Ulama. Actually after losing their last political battle in the battle ground of Shamli in the aftermath of the 1857, revolt against the British rule, these Ulama visualised the impending danger against Islam itself because of the simultaneous onslaught of Christian missionaries working under the direct patronage of British rule. These Ulama and their Madrasas played an important role in protecting Muslims from conversions to Christianity. Islam survived under the British wrath and missionary attacks only because of the role played by these Ulama and the Madrasas.Sir Syed’s vision of modern education, scientific temperament and adoption of English language as a medium of education was also a reaction of the fall of Mughal Empire in 1857. When he saw that only Muslim elites are being held responsible for the revolt and in retaliation they are being hanged, persecuted in thousands and their properties are being confiscated, and in contrast Hindu elites were getting closer to the alien government, he decided to come forward in defence of Muslims and wrote his famous book Asbaab e Baghawat e Hind. He also wanted to bridge the gap between Muslims and the new ruling establishment. He wanted to bring back Muslims in the corridor of power and for this he chose the path of modern education and scientific temperament. He founded Scientific Society, published Tahzeeb Ul Akhlaque and finally established Anglo Arabic Madrasatul Olum at Aligarh which after a few years became the Aligarh Muslim University. If we minutely observe the germination and progress of both the schools of thought- one represented by Maulana Qasim Nanautvi and other by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, we don’t see any conflict or contradiction between them. Both of them chose seemingly two different approaches, but the goal was one- the emancipation of Muslims of India. One wanted to rescue Islam in India and save Muslims from any religious depression; the other wanted the empowerment for Muslims of India. In fact, both the approaches were complementary to each other.The discussion here will remain incomplete and even fruitless if we don’t bring women’s education under our purview. Prophet (BPUH) said “طلب العلم فريضته على كل مسلم (gaining knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim. Here the term ‘Muslim’ is inclusive of both man and Woman. Although prophet’s saying is considered to be clearly emphasising on the need of education for both men and women, I don’t understand why throughout the Muslim history (except the early periods of Islam) women’s education appears to be neglected and ignored. We don’t see any educational infrastructure developed for females. There we see many religious scholars, and literary genius among Muslim women here and there, but that were the result of their personal efforts or family environment and traditions. Zainab bint Ali ibn Abu Talib is the most towering figure among them. However, a collective vision and policy for women’s education on the part of Muslim society and the Muslim governments was missing. And it is all the more amazing to find that in a large section of the Muslim world educating women (except making them know some fundamentals of Islam and how to read or recite the holy Quran) was even considered contrary to Divine will and wisdom. How this kind of thinking crept among Muslims should itself be a matter of research.However, until recently female education remained highly neglected in the Muslim community except for the ‘enlightened few.’ Now suddenly the community has taken a U- turn towards female education and there is a blind race among the community members, and people are going mad to see that their daughters reach the peak of any science or skill or knowledge (except family making and child raising) through any means and through any modes, through any institutions and by sacrificing all the social, cultural, and religious values at the altar of the new goddess of education. New vision has come up. Nobody wants an educated house wife, an obedient daughter, a good mother, a caring and loving sister, a home maker daughter in law. Every parents now wants to force and push them to job market knowingly or unknowingly where they know it well that their so- beloved daughter will be forced to done up a gender appealing dress, and wear a sensuous smile on her already made-up face to please the lecherous eyes of her boss in order to get quick promotions and better perks.
Co-education has become the mantra of success for every body whether he is a Tahreeki, or Tableeghi, or Soofi or Munkar e Tasauaf or self- styled salafis. No body wants to listen to Quran and Handith in this regard inspite of the claim that they are the only true believers. The easiest escape goat for our new Murshids and Haadis of the Qaum is to put blame on MAULVIS for whatever comes in the way of their own likings and dislikings. Islam believes in the segregation of genders, and we, the new prophets of Islam are the champions of free mixing. Islam observes that Haya (shyness and concealment of herself and her beauty is her real beauty and adornment and ornament. Our prophet Mohammad (BPUH) said that Haya (a female habit of concealing herself and pulling her back) is the strongest weapon in the hands of women. Our new reformers say “Bold is beautiful.” And Bold is one who is ready to reveal herself according to the demands of the situation. In our new cultural dictionary ‘Female Education’ means rejecting the Eastern ethos and adopting the Western ethos where the first mantra learnt by our teenagers is to
jump over every barrier whether social, ethical or religious.

If we are not ignorant of what is happening in the West and the nations that are blindly following the West in every walk of their lives, if we don’t want to see that our family structure collapses for our future generations, if we don’t want to see our grand and grand grand children living with single parent, if we dread to think that our future children don’t know the name of their father, we must stop this blind race and restructure our own vision of education. We need to revisit it thoroughly and coolly. We still see two visions and approaches now in the community. One section sees no place for women except the kitchen. Thankfully, this section of the community is no more the leading force. The other section is the votary of keeping the women away from her home, the children and husband for at least 16 hours a day. Our solution and salvation lies in following Quran and Sunnah, and nothing else. These two should be our torch bearers in every aspect of life whether, politics or economy or education. Ignoring them as our guide will push us to complete self-destruction and nothing else.Let us go back to our Mdarsa base education system. When Maulana Qasim Nanautvi , Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan and their other contemporary Ulama decided to confine the realm of Madrasa education to pure religious or theological education in response to the need and demand of the time and situation, was really their knowledge confined to Tafseer e Quran, Sihah Sitta and some Ilmul Kalam or Mantiq? Was Shah Waliullah’s realm of knowledge confined to only pure religious sciences? The answer is of course a big NO. Their scholarship covered almost all the contemporary sciences. In my student life when the most developed world in the field of science was just speculating the possibility of aliens visiting this earth, I was surprised to read an essay written by Maulana Qasim Nanautvi in the year around 1857 where he had discussed the possibility of the presence of other human type creatures in other parts of universe. Was Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan not the leading mathematician of his time? If Madrasa syllabus was ever limited to pure Islamic knowledge based on Quran, Hadeeth and Fiqha (Islamic jurisprudence, how did Islamic world once excelled in all the contemporary fields of science and technology whether it was algebra, mathematics, geometry, trigonometry, architecture, geography, chemistry, medical sciences, marine science, warfare technology, knowledge of longitude and latitude, sea-routes, fixing the times of five time prayers wherever they put their feet on the surface of the earth? Even today the calendar that they prepared more than thousand years ago is relevant and followed. When entire Europe was sunk deep into the darkness of ignorance, Islamic world was producing scholars and genius of not only contemporary sciences and arts of that era, but they were digging out the knowledge and wisdom buried in the ancient Greek and Latin. And all these scholars were well versed in pure theology alongside their specializations. Let us come back to Sir Syed’s School of Thought. It is beyond doubt that Sir Syed was the tallest torch bearer and candlelight burner of modern education, but with the passage of the time, the vision of education promoted by Sir Syed somehow got blurred among his followers. Sir Syed never advocated a policy of an education devoid or bereft of Islamic knowledge and wisdom. He clearly pronounced that he would like to see the crown of لا الہ الا اللہ محمد الرسول اللہ on the heads of the products of his Madrasas Olum and keeping in mind he established the department of Theology and brought Maulana Abdullah, the son in law of Maulana Quasim Nanautvi. This Maulana Abdullah was a genius among Islamic scholars of his time. Also, the ardent supporters and comrades of Sir Syed in his mission were the great religious scholars of his time like, Mohsinul Mulk, Viquarul Mulk, Maulana Hali etc. Later generation of Sir Syed’s School of thought ignored this part of the Sir Syed’s Vision of Education. Arabic and Islamic Studies departments are there but they are not flourishing because of pure AMU graduates. It is the products of Nadwat ul Ulama Lucknow, Darul Olum Deoband, Jamiatul Falah, and Madrasatul Islah, Azamgarh who have been holding the flags high in the fields of academic research and teaching. Worst is the condition of theology department. Hardly any prominent name has come up in last 100 years. It is compulsory to study theology from school to the bachelor degrees. The entire syllabus is academically so poor that they hardly serve any purpose. After Sir Syed and his immediate descendants, AMU community appear to have made a huge drift. The focus on Islamic knowledge and Islamic culture appears taking a back seat. Instead of gradually emerging as a seat of excellence in the fields of all learning and sciences, it becomes a centre for the continuation of Indian Muslims’ elitist etiquette and manners imbibing and amalgamating the Western ethos, too. Departments of Islamic Studies, Arabic and Philosophy developed more as an ardent supporters of Orientalist’s school for understanding Islam, its philosophy and history. After the partition, AMU saw such a decadence that her 70 percent graduates today do not know how to read and write Urdu, forget about drawing inspiration and aesthetic stimulation from the poetry of Rumi, Jaami, Mir, Dabeer, Daagh, Momin, Iqbal, Ghalib, Faiz , Majaz etc.

To conclude, there is a need to revisit, reassess, and reevaluate our education policy that emerged after the fall of Mughal Empire in 1857. What our religious scholars and protagonists of modern education saw and practiced as a protective measure after our downfall can’t be a final stop on our journey and endeavors for education. In the words of my young friend Mr Ekram Rizvi, a director at Prime Minister’s office, “our learning curve is never rounded or spherical.” “Knowledge, according to him, “is constantly evolving from simplicity to greater complexity.” Otherwise, why the holy Quran would have invoked its readers again and again and in different words to think and ponder over the whole evolution of the Universe and the mechanism involved. The Quran keeps making claim upon claim about Allah’s role in creating and making a perfect universe. Is it only the duty of Jews and Christians to prove true what Allah claims in the Quran,? or it is we the believers whom Allah is urging in different words to discover the hidden truth? One truth is that Allah is the creator of the Universe and that He is one. By confining knowledge to mere memorising and interpreting Allah and His Prophet’s words that too within a very narrow scope is like trying encompassing the Divine wisdom.

Yes, we can’t confine ourselves with the two modes of learning conceived and promoted in the aftermath of 1857 revolt. Those were the reactions of that time. By now lot of water has already flown through Ganges. We need to develop a new approach. Let our Madrasas remain the citadel of ‘Olum-e-Elahia’ and we the protagonists of modern, secular and pure materialistic education start establishing a chain of our own quality schools up to plus two level, with a difference that both the sides should try to bring a kind of amalgamation of learning and knowledge for each other. Both the schools will have to be ready to create a generous space in the matter of syllabus for each other. Let the schools accommodate and teach Islamic sciences to a respectable stage. Vice versa, Madrasas create a scope for their students to learn science, maths and English upto plus two level side by side of their main subjects. This is an era of specializations and super specializations. We can’t and should not pre-impose specializations and super specializations on our young generation when they have not attained even the age of a teen. Producing lot of engineers, business management experts, and doctors without making them know their religious and humanitarian obligations in their own professions is neither a service to the community nor to the humanity, at large. In the same way, spending your 90 percent zakat and other charities just to produce Huffaz, Qurras, Alims, Fazils and mufti’s every year is not the solution. (Most of them are of mediocre level only). Let our top Ulama think whether this approach does not amount to obliterating the vision of Quran towards exploring and gaining the Divine knowledge. Our Ulama shut their eyes or get allergic when somebody mentions the word ‘science’, while, I must mention, a great spiritual authority, a towering and a living name in the realm of Islamic spirituality, Janab Hazrat Hakim Kaleem ullah sb of Aligarh, openly preaches in his ‘Majaalis’ and invokes his followers to study science if one wants to know and understand Allah and wants to be closer to Him.

Today world is talking about black hole in the space. Isn’t it our duty to prove it or disprove it in the light of Quran and in our own research labs? Today medical science is talking about breaking the genetic code. Do we have anything to say? Our Sharia allows marriage between close relatives, not only allows, but perhaps encourages. As we see in the case of Hazrat Fatima being given in the ‘ Nikaah’ of his first cousin Hazrat Ali. And I firmly believe that Prophet ( BPUH) won’t translate anything into action without the Divine sanction. Today’s medical sciences find that this practice is genetically very harmful. Do we have something in our kitty to disprove what others claim? I am sure that tomorrow’s medical researchers will disprove their own theory today. But, I wish there would be some Islamic scholars to disprove it in the light of reason, logic , observation and research not merely as a matter of belief. If we don’t bring a revolutionary approach towards our education and don’t try to establish our own quality schools, don’t design our own syllabus and incorporate a powerful learning of Islamiyat along with the syllabus designed by the government, we will be doomed. Before it is too late, let us redesign our school and Madrasa syllabus in such a way that our schools start producing great Islamic thinkers, and our Madrasas produce physicists, Chemists, Biologists, Mathematicians, Geographers , and Geologists of that caliber and stature that the products of western institutions in these fields find it a matter of pride and scholarship for spending sometime of learning and training under these once Madrasa products. Somebody may argue that the holy Quran is a book of guidance, not a book of science. Well the argument is valid till we think that this greatest holy book has been revealed to us through His Prophet (BPUH) only to make us believe that there is non to be worshiped except Allah. But what about Quranic injections again and again to peep into, to analyze and understand His creation so that we could know that there must be some power who has created such a universe without any iota of a blemish.

For last two or three centuries we as a nation have been always miles and miles far away from every scientific discovery or a turning point. How long shall we continue to fall behind?



The author is ex- president AMU Students’ Union.


  1. Best way to propagate education among Muslim is to control population by ‘hum do humaare do’ policy. I never saw any muslim organization asking society to control population growth. Muslim family have less income but produce many children. Whole life you waste in cutting animals & producing children. This mentality needs to be changed.


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