The system of education currently prevalent in Muslim countries is obsolete and decadent which is evident from the fact that these countries have failed to produce scientists of world repute in the contemporary period. They have not made any contribution in the technological revolution which has transformed the global economy and system of mass communication. In contradistinction scientists in Europe and America through their path breaking researches have enormously advanced the frontiers of knowledge and have bagged the Nobel Prizes, the highest award in the field of sciences, in almost every major branch of science.
During the early phase of the rise of Muslim Empires, from 8th. to the 13th.centuries, the system of education was based on the unity of the revealed and rational sources of knowledge. This integrated system of education led to an explosion of knowledge and a phenomenal technological revolution. It produced a galaxy of Muslim scientists who significantly improved upon the Greek sciences and opened new vistas of knowledge in almost every branch of science. This brought about enormous progress and prosperity in the Muslim world. These Muslim scholars besides being eminent scientist were firmly rooted to their religion and were always inspired by the Qur’anic values and vision.
This harmony and synthesis of the revealed and rational sources of knowledge was initially disturbed by two distinguished Muslim scholars, Al-Ghazali (11th. century) and Imam Ibn Taymiah (13th. century). They insisted on the supremacy of the revealed source of knowledge, being divine in origin, as against rational sources. However, the edifice of the integrated system of Islamic education was completely dismantled when most of the Muslim countries came under the rule of colonial powers such as Britain, France, Holland etc after the collapse of the Turkish empire, at the end of the First World War in 1918. These colonial powers imposed on the colonies their system of secular scientific education eliminating completely the link with the revealed sources of knowledge. This delinkage deprived the Muslim scholars of their principal source of inspiration.
The madrasa system of religious education developed simultaneously with the rise of colonialism, particularly in the sub-continent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, in order to save the Muslim community from the corrupting influence of colonial system of education. These madrasas are narrowly focused on religion. Their courses are repetitive in nature teaching the same content repeatedly from generation to generation. They lack creativity. The syllabi are not subject to change and criticism. They follow antiquated text books, produced centuries ago to teach subjects like astronomy and medicine. Hence they produce conservative religious scholars who are dogmatic, resist change and some of them even turn into fanatics.
The organizers of madrasa education fail to realise the strong link between modern sciences and Qur’anic revelations. These madrasas do not train their students in any other skills thus rigidly restricting their field of employment. They also do not teach courses to enlighten their students on social, economic and political changes which are rapidly transforming the Muslim societies all over the world. Consequently students graduating out of the madrasas fail to contribute meaningfully in reforming Muslim societies. Thus, madrasa education in its present form and structure has become obsolete.
In order to put the Muslim countries back on the road to progress in all directions an Integrated System of Modern and Islamic Education needs to be revived which will integrate and synthesise the secular and the Qur’anic based systems of education.There is no justification for running two parallel systems of education, one religious and the other secular and modern, independent of each other. This segmented system of education will vertically split the population into two antagonistic intellectual and ideological factions which will hamper the progress of Muslim societies.
The integration of Qur’anic education with modern scientific education will motivate scholars pursuing the course to acquire knowledge in order to ensure peace, progress and welfare of mankind. The current system of modern education lacks well defined goals to ensure progress and prosperity of mankind in a peaceful environment with equity and justice. This has led to serious distortions in outlook of societies pursuing this system of educaton… It is substantiated by the fact that scientific education which should have built up edifices of peace has instead developed instruments of war, which should have eliminated social and economic inequality has actually magnified them. Modern educational system has promoted excellence at the cost of ethics and morality. Consequently it has been totally derailed, has lost both its bearing and moorings.
In order to put the educational system in the Islamic world on the right track it should be completely overhauled and radically reoriented. It has to be conceived with well defined human goals and reinforced by strong ethical norms. The Model, Figure 1, stresses the point that in order to restore the unity of the sources of knowledge, courses in modern and Qur’anic education ought to be interlinked. It also emphasizes the strong link of some of the Qur’anic revelations with modern sciences.
Figure 1: Integrated System of Modern and Islamic Education: A Model
It may be noted that on completion of this integrated course students will be having a fairly good idea of the achievements of sciences and efficacy of Qur’anic revelations. They will appreciate the close link between the two. If modern education gives us an idea of the heights of scientific achievements, the Qur’anic values will help in directing them to the right course. The scholars, after completing this integrated course, will be better equipped to choose their courses of specialization. They will have wide range of options to choose from including courses on advanced scientific, technological, professional and religious education as illustrated in Figure 2.
Whatever line they choose they will always bear in mind the linkages between the two and will develop a balanced outlook. They will realize the importance of both rational and revealed sources of knowledge in ensuring a balanced, and healthy development of society. Those specializing in religious courses will appreciate the dynamics of social, economic and political forces which the shariah laws ought to take cognizance of. In view of the rapid socio-economic transformation existing shariah laws may be amended and new laws may be framed but the basic object of these changes ought to be to accelerate socio-economic progress and to ensure their compatibility with the changing demands of the Muslim ummah. The only point one has to guard against is that they do not violate the fundament principles of Islam. It is hoped that the proposed integrated course will stimulate harmonious development of society. It will promote freedom of speech, democracy, rule of law and will eliminate extremism. All decisions will be democratically taken in the best interests of the people as a whole including both the poor and the rich.
This unique combination of ethics and academic excellence will make the educational system dynamic and meaningful. It will direct our energies and channelise our thoughts to accomplish peace with harmony and without conflict, progress with honour and dignity and prosperity with equity. The system should internalize Qur’anic idealism which should inspire educated youth to dedicate themselves to serve the cause of humanity, and work relentlessly to eliminate the miseries and sufferings of mankind. It is only through the application of the Qur’anic values that distortions can be rectified, corruption can be eliminated, and human dignity can be restored. These values can provide the orientation and motivation which modern educational system urgently needs to make it responsive to the needs and challenges of the society.
It is a monumental task, most challenging but extremely rewarding. It devolves upon the Muslim intellectuals, the world over, to realise that they have a mission to perform, a commitment to keep, a cause to serve and a point to prove that integrated Modern and Islamic System of Education will Insha Allah convincingly establish the synthesis of Qur’anic and modern scientific education. It can simultaneously inspire scientific excellence, reinforced with impeccable ethical norms to usher in global peace and prosperity. We must mobilise our energies and pool our intellectual resources to transform this thought into action and translate this dream into reality.