Re-emergence of education in Islamic world


By Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi

Scientist/Deputy Director, National Botanical Research Institute Lucknow, (Govt. of India)


Education is fundamental for development of any nation and higher education is a powerful tool for the eradication of poverty, boosting shared prosperity and making the society strong enough to face challenges of times. This basic fact was very well known to Muslim Ummah during Middle Ages, a Golden Period in Islamic History. “Seek Knowledge” was the known Commandment of Islam for Muslims and they followed it for almost eight hundred years.

Muslims around the world during the last four century showed great interest in every aspect of life except education. Poetry, music, painting, ceramics, architecture, metal work etc became important activities throughout the Islamic world. But very little interest was shown to the fast developing modern education coming from Europe. Probably the most harmful act was their refusal to allow the use of Printing Press in 15th Century, a turning period for Europe. Through the Printing Presses, scientific revolution was made possible in all the sphere of scientific and industrial activity in Europe.

After a long spell of slumber, Muslims all over the world have started to understand that without modern knowledge and higher literacy their exploitation by the West cannot be checked. This is what Sir Syed told Muslim Ummah in the late 19th century. Fortunately, education is re-emerging in the Islamic World during recent past, say 21st century.

According to the survey by John Miller, 5 Muslim countries namely Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan find places amongst 25 countries with highest literacy rates of 100%.World Bank and UNSECO data for 2018 shows that 25 Muslim Majority countries have achieved average literacy above 90 per cent. These include Saudi Arabia (95%), Indonesia (94%), Malaysia (94%), Iran (90%), Jordan (96%), U.A.E. (94%) and Turkey (95%). Nine countries, including Syria (86%), Tunisia (82 %), Iraq (79%), Egypt (75%) Algeria (73) are and Morocco (72%) were reported to be in the bracket of 70% to 89%. Unfortunately fifteen countries including largely populated countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria still lag behind in literacy (Less than 62%). However, compared to the literacy Data of 1980 (Av. 30%), 2018 data is highly satisfactory.

Global literacy rate (2017) is 82% (Men, 87%; Women 77%).

A redeeming feature is the fact that the Gender Difference (Men and Women) in literacy in many Islamic countries has also fallen sharply. At least 21 countries have the difference only 0 to 7% only.

Tertiary Education (Higher education in all the disciplines of knowledge) in Islamic world needs serious attention. Yes it is true that scientific awakening is under way in Muslim World. Research spending in many countries, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Turkey etc has been raised substantially.

Tertiary Education in Western countries is generally above 40% whereas barring few countries likes Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, it is between 2 to 6%. Research spending in Muslim countries also needs serious attention. Only countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar have substantially raised funds for this purpose. Qatar is reported to have proposed the raise of the Science budget from 0.8% to 2.8% of its GDP.

Many Muslim countries have already established centers of higher learning (Universities) with emphasis on the modern sciences. According to The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018, ninety six universities from Muslim countries have been listed amongst the top 1102 Universities of the world. 22 belong to Turkey followed by Iran 18; Pakistan, 10; Malaysia and Egypt 9 each; Saudi Arabia, 5; U.A.E. and Indonesia 4 each; Jordan and Morocco 3 each; Tunisia 2 and Algeria, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, Oman and Qatar 1 each.

Another redeeming feature in the rankings is the fact that in forty one universities, female students are higher in numbers than male students. Eleven Universities have more than 65:35 female : male ratio with Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (22,257 students) of Saudi Arabia having the highest ratio of 81:19, followed by United Arab Emirates Univ. (7,492 students) 79:21,Qatar Univ., (13,342 students) 73:27 and Kuwait Univ., (37,752 students) with the ratio of 72:28.

)Note: 2019 and 2020 reports have not been taken into account because of uncertain situation around the world)

The following table gives an idea of Re-emergence of Education in the Islamic World.

Literacy in Muslim Majority Countries -UNESCO/World Bank Reports.

Literacy 1980/2018 *** Gender Difference% 2007/2018

Afghanistan: 12/32 ***30/27.9

Albania: NA/98 ***13/1.5

Algeria: 37/73 ***20/14.0

Azerbaijan: NA/100 ***1.3/0.0

Bahrain: 73/96 ***7/0.5

Bangladesh: 26/62 ***22/6.1

Bosnia: NA/99 ***7/2.1

Brunei: 63.2/96 ***5/2.6

Burkina Faso: 12/36 ***20/13.7

Chad: 15/38 ***17/16.6

Comoros: NA/78 ***NA/8.1

Djibouti: 32/67 ***20/20.0

Egypt: 44/75 ***21/16.0

Eritrea : 52.5/74 ***21/15

Gambia: 16/55 ***NA/16.3

Guinea: 25/30 ***27/15.3

Guinea Bissau: NA/60 ***30/23.5

Indonesia: 62/94 ***10/4.7

Iran: 50/89 ***12/8.7

Iraq: 50/79 ***31/11.9

Jordan: 80/96***10/3.0

Kazakhstan: NA/100 ***1.2/0.0

Kosovo: NA/92 ***NA/9.1

Kuwait: 60/78/96 ***4/1.9

Kyrgyzstan: NA/99 ***1.2/0.2

Lebanon: 74/94 ***11/4.1

Libya: 50/91 ***20/11.1

Malaysia: 60/94 ***6/3.0

Maldives: NA//99 ***NA/2.0

Mali: 10/39 ***NA/19.0

Mauritania: 17/52 ***21/21.0

Morocco: 28/72 ***25/20.2

Niger: 8/19 ***17/16.3

Nigeria: NA/59 ***15/19.5

Oman: N.A/94 ***16/6.9

Pakistan: 31/59 ***27/26.2

Palestine: NA/97 ***NA/ 3.7

Qatar: 76/98 ***1/0.6

S. Arabia: 50/95 ***14/5.9

Senegal: l0/56 ***25/24.6

Sierra lone: 15/48 ***20/21.1

Somalia: 20/39 ***25/ 24.4

Sudan: 20/76 ***20/14.6

Syria: 53/86 ***26/10.7

Tajikistan: NA/100 ***0.5/0.0

Tunisia: 55/82 ***18/15.4

Turkey: 60/95 ***17/6.0

Turkmenistan: NA/100 ***1/0.0

U.A.E: 65/94 ***NA/-2.6

Uzbekistan: NA/100 ***0.6/0.0

Yemen: 27/70 ***23/30.1

Source: U.N. Agencies & World Factbook


(Dr. Mohammed Iqtedar Husain Farooqi is a Scientist/Deputy Director, National Botanical Research Institute Lucknow, (Govt. of India)


      • Then why do Islamic countries air their dirty laundry over India and talk paens about secularism ( Islamic countries talking about secularism makes me laugh btw ) ??
        Let them look after themselves and take care of their Muslim brothers and sisters in India as well.

  1. Reason behind is India is not included them self in OIC group and above all data comes from the members states of OIC. That is the only reason behind India is not included in the data Chart.


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