The Challenges to Islam by the West are so serious that they cannot be countered without improvement in the quality of education through radical educational reforms in the Muslim countries. The application of the process of Ijtihad is also crucially important to maintain the progressive character of Islam in the contemporary period.
The Western media and intellectuals proclaim loudly and repeatedly that the Muslims are backward because they follow a book which was revealed to guide the tribal Arabs in the 7th century A.D. They refuse to accept the universal relevance of the Message of the Qur’an and state categorically that it cannot be used to guide in technology dominated 21st. Century. The Book argues cogently and convincingly that Muslims are backward because they have deviated from the fundamental principles of Islam and forcefully stresses the universal relevance of the Message of Islam.
Most of the scholars agree that the Madrasa System of education produces conservative, orthodox and dogmatic students who resist change but do not resort to violence. The Taliban and Deobandi Madrasas got radicalised after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and has been intensified since the U.S.-NATO invasion of that country.
This radicalisation of Islam inculcating Jihadi spirit among the Taliban and scholars of Deobandi schools in Pakistan was fully supported by the United States of America at the time of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The Book reveals that most of the Jihadi literature inciting Muslims to Jihad and violence against the Russians was produced in the University of Nebraska in USA by experts on Afghanistan in that country. The Taliban and Deobandi scholars in Pakistan were markedly influenced by the American produced Jihadi literature. They not only adopted it but even practiced it on the Russians. They thus got thoroughly radicalised and resorted to violence.
There is, however, a general consensus among the Muslim intellectuals that Madrasa Education needs to be radically reformed to meet the demands of the contemporary Muslim society. The Modern secular education also needs to be significantly reformed. The educational institutions during the early phase of the rise of Islam promoted unity of the revealed and rational sources of knowledge. They expected scholars to acquire adequate knowledge in both the sources before they completed their early phase of education. This unity of the two basic sources of knowledge was abandoned during colonial during of the Muslim countries.
The Book stresses that during the colonial period when most of the Muslim countries were controlled by foreign powers such as Britain, France, Holland etc., the revealed and the rational sources of knowledge were split and delinked from each other. Since then two parallel but unconnected systems of education, the religious and secular, have been functioning in most of the Muslim countries. The dualism in the system of education must be replaced by a single stream of education combining both the modern scientific education and the Quranic education. This Monograph presents an Integrated System of Modern and Islamic Education as illustrated in Figure 3 in the text. This Model attempts to synthesise the Modern and the Qur’anic streams of education and restores the unity of the revealed and rational sources of knowledge.
The Book concludes with a discussion on the concept of Ijtihad which originated with Maaz bin Jabal, a Companion of the Prophet, and was fully approved by the Prophet. It implies that when the Qur’an and the Sunnah are not able to help a person to arrive at a right, reasonable and just solution to any problem he/she should, in such a situation, use his/her intelligence, critical faculties and discretion to arrive at a decision which will be fair and just to parties concerned. However, the process of Ijtihad should not violate the fundamental principles of Islam. Ijtihad is a powerful tool in Islam. Its appropriate application can sustain the progressive character of Islam in the contemporary period.
We do hope that this Monograph will make the readers realise the seriousness of the Challenges to Islam by the West and enable them to counter them logically and rationally.
Author: Professor Shah Manzoor Alam, a distinguished social scientist