By Khabir Ahmed
There are about 162 Islamic countries in the world. Everybody knows that the things are not going well in most of those countries. Almost every country has become a battlefield of multiple forces, and that too, within the various sects and sections of Muslims. The demands for share of power among the government, orthodox and the terrorists have ravaged the law and order in those countries. Economy is in a doldrums. There are no world class educational institutions, no communication net-work and no modern healthcare system. The fundamentalists have been silencing the scientific voice, freedom of speech and intellectual freedom. The demands for democracy, secularism, and for women’s liberation are still a far cry in those countries.
The lack of modern education, developmental works, civic amenities, lack of jobs create a kind of helplessness which causes frustration and frustration begets militancy. The lack of modern scientific education has created fertile ground for the orthodox groups and they are selling the Islam among the ignorant Muslims to their heart’s content. It has to be accepted that at some point or the other, the so-called Muslim world has failed to cope with the technology driven modern world. The situation is being utilized by the forces against the Muslims; especially the western media have been trying day and night to brand Islam as a religion of violence and bloodshed. No doubt that the moderate Islamic clerics and scholars are also trying hard to disengage Islam from such accusations but they have hardly succeeded. Due to these regressive and insular attitudes of some Muslim organization, the whole Muslim population all over the world is being blamed. Islam phobia is adding and engulfing the world much to the woes of innocent Muslims. In India, the Sachar Committee has proved with facts and figures that the Muslims have become more backward than the Dalits especially with regard to employments.
These days most of the Muslims think that it is due to the Hindus that they are being discriminated. This notion is correct after the rise of Hinduta in India. ‘But Muslims should realize that there was no Hindu rule when the Muslims came to India. Muslims kings and Sultans ruled India for about one thousand years. Then why are the Muslims backward? It is not the question of Hindu or Muslim ruler. It is the policy that matters.’ In fact, it is the faith and the mindset of the Muslims which have been the causes of their backwardness all over the world.
Here we have tried to enumerate some fundamental errors that the Muslims had committed in the course of their long history of one thousand and five hundred years.
1. Theology Based Education System: There is a saying that if you want to destroy a nation, you need not do anything, simply you destroy the education system of that nation. Because, the future of a nation is built within the four walls of a class room. The all pervasive backwardness of the Muslims in the world as well in India are related to their faulty education system. They put in place an education system which was and still is based mainly on theology, religious norms, rules, regulations and rituals. This system of education only revolves round the Quran and hadith and do not encourage the scientific thoughts and temperament. The reason is that during the hey day of the British, most of the Asian and African countries were under the British empire. At certain point of time, these countries were liberated from the colonial subjugation, but the negative mentality of the Muslims against their oppressors remained. When the other communities were accepting the western language and science, the Muslims were waging futile wars against the westerners. The advancement of science meant the advance of technology and the technology brought all round progress in the modern world. But the Muslims kept them cut off from all kinds of scientific information which had brought knowledge to other communities and the knowledge brought power to them.
The noted writer Kuldip Nayar has rightly said that the Muslims are two hundred years behind in education as compared to their Hindu compatriots.
2. Discarding English Language: In the process of opposing the colonial domination, the Muslims could not differentiate between the rulers and their language and science. They could not differentiate between English, the language and English, the nation. The Muslims also could not come out of this mindset because they thought that Arabic is the God’s chosen language and education through English language would lead the Muslims astray from the path of God. They did not send their wards to the educational institutions established by the English and the Hindus. The rumors among the Muslims were that a true Muslim soils or severs ties with his religion whenever he or she goes to the school founded by the English. Many of the Muslim luminaries like Abul Kalam Azad, the first education Minister of free India, and others had to read English clandestinely due to the fear of orthodox Muslims. The orthodox muslim clerics issued fatwa against Sir Seyed Ahmad Khan, who started English teaching in Aligar. During the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, a good number of rich and advanced Muslims were massacred by the British. As a consequence, the Muslims remained isolated from the mainstream of administrations and they boycotted English language. Thus when the other communities in India were embracing and learning English, the Muslims remained complacent with their age old theology based education, with their maktab and madrassas, with their gazal and shayeri, kabab and biriyani, halal and haram. When the whole world reaped the harvest of scientific modern education, the Muslims had regaled recalling their ancestors who remained busy with their wine and women.
This has been the picture of the Muslims communities by far all over the world.
Now, the Muslims are paying the high price of not accepting English language as medium of education at appropriate time. To put in the language of Vikram Seth, English is like a six headed armed god. English is the key to job, key to power. Those who have English are the haves and those who do not, are the have not’s.
3. Opposing Scientific Temperament: The hostility of Islamic laws with the science is also one of the important causes of the backwardness of the Muslims. No doubt that from the 7th to the 12th century, the Muslim countries had given birth to a good number of renowned scientists. The immense contribution of the Muslim scientists towards evolution science and scientific temperament also can’t be denied. But many times we notice that there has been an uneasy relation between science and the Islam. Throughout the history it has been seen that the fanatic Muslims have harassed and punished many great scientists, philosophers and writers who had propagated scientific thoughts and spirits through their writings and ideologies. The distrust and disbelief among the Muslims on the scientific achievements is that even some of the Muslim fanatics still do not believe that the scientists had stepped on the moon and returned safely. In a nutshell, some of the organizations like Boko Haram opposes all that is originated in the West (boko means the west and haram means prohibited) and thereby mislead the common people. A section of the people believes that there can’t be greater science and philosophy than the Quran or the Sharia law.
But the Quran and the history of Islam tell quite the opposite. What is the science after all? It is the study of Nature. There are 705 indications in the holy Quran which point out to the science and scientific enquiry. In the Quran Allah says ‘I have created you from the water (the scientists agree that the origin of life must be waters), that ‘I have created the sky so that the sky can control the seasons’ and that ‘the sun and the moon are running in their own orbit and the moon cant touch the sun’. After exhaustive research, the famous writer Maurice Bucaille has recorded in his famous book, ‘The Bible, The Quran and Science’ that the statements in the Quran are more akin to science than those in the Bible. But the Muslim mullas do not listen to such indications. In fact, the Quran is not only a book which only orders and enjoins but it also arouses original thoughts in men on the mystery of the universe. It arouses intellectualism. We are the people beset by the fatwas, formalities and age old rituals. In the future the world will be ruled by the nations which have Science, Technology, Information technology and the intellectual bank. The industrial revolution had come and gone, I. T. Revolution has made the world a global village; but the Muslims are in the same place as they had been 1500 years before.
4. Adherence to Sharia Law: Most of the Muslims believe that Islam is not only a religion but also a complete way of life. This means that apart from the teaching the rules and rituals to worship, Islam also encompasses the political, social, economical and even the medical solutions within its fold. This concept and the attempt of a section of people to find all kinds of solutions (mundane as well as spiritual) within the religion itself have increased the woes of the Muslims. The Muslim masses believe that the sharia law or the personal law has been sprouted from the Quran and Hadith and hence these are the inherent part of their faith.
But this is not a right approach. In fact, Islam has two aspects: one is the deen and the other is the sharia. The deen consists of faith, sincerity, moral values and worship of God. These teachings of Islam have to be followed by every Muslim in all situations of personal life. On the other hand the sharia laws refer to social laws which have to be followed by the Muslims subject to the conditions of the society they live in. The British had formed the Muslim Personal Law Board in 1937 not for the benefits of Muslims but for their administrative convenience. Since then the Muslim Personal Law Board has been advocating to regulate the social life of the Indian Muslims as per the sharia law. But there are vast difference between the code and conduct of the citizens of a modern, secular, welfare state and those of a theocratic state. This practice has been alienating the Indian Muslims from the larger progressive society in one hand and pushing them back further and further. There are Muslims in most of the countries of the world but in no such country there is the separate personal law board to regulate the social life of a section of people. The sharia law has been one of the strong deterrents for the Muslims in going hand by hand with others.
In fact, sharia law is opposed to democracy and so the Indian Muslims should follow the sharia law as much as the society they live in permits.
5. Women Education & Empowerment: Even at the time of universal education all over the world, the Muslim women folk have not been allowed to obtain modern higher education as it should have been. They have been denied their rights. The conservative Islamic clerics are much more vocal to establish that Islam is very much liberal so far the liberty of women folk is concerned. But Islam’s point of view towards women has to be judged from the practical outlook to women and the weightage they receive in the social system. Keeping almost half of the Muslim population (women) out of the coverage of modern education in addition to another social curse namely child marriage have almost crippled the Muslim women. As a result they remain confined within the four walls of home and can hardly contribute to social and economic life. Over the ages, breeding children, bringing them up and satisfying the wills and whims of the menfolk have been their main business.
Any effort of the Muslim world to combat or to cope up with their compatriots in the contemporary world sans education and empowerment of the women folk is a far cry in the wilderness.
( The writer is a Retired Director of Education, BTR, Assam. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )