There was a time when Islam brought the message of education to India. It opened the doors of knowledge to the downtrodden and deprived majority of the country, which was denied the right to seek education. Casteism and hate for the poor was responsible for overall illiteracy in the majority community.

Islam promoted universal literacy and gave a boost to knowledge all over the world. It was the natural result of the introduction of Islamic teachings because the very first revelation to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was: Read. “Read in the name of Allah Who has created. Created man from a clot of blood.”

When the British took power in the 19th century, they noted and recorded the fact about the Muslim contribution to the field of literacy and general educational conditions of the land due to the stress of Islam on acquisition of knowledge. But today, when there is great importance of education and common people understand its importance, Muslims are lagging behind all other communities in acquisition of knowledge. The 2011 Census figures bring out the fact how the Muslims who are now 14.2 per cent of population and are about 20-21 crore strong, have the lowest literacy rate among religious communities. Let us examine the level of graduation. The Jains have 26% graduates, Christians 9%, Sikhs 8%, Hindus 6%, the national average 5.6% and the Muslims just the lowest 2.76% (all figures rounded off).

Christophe Jaffrelot, an India based French scholar, should be appreciated for his research on the deprivation of the Indian Muslims in the field of education and denial of rights and the resultant deprivation and dwindling representation in legislatures, jobs and almost in every field of national life.

It is a painful fact that we cannot expect justice and fairness from the present ruling dispensation, which has based its policies on bigotry, violation of human rights, hate and prejudice. There are no achche din even for the majority and definitely ‘bure din’ for the Muslims. This situation will not change unless the prevailing atmosphere of hate and prejudice changes.

The need of the hour is redeveloping the educational activities. No doubt, Muslims feel the need and they have improved their educational standards. But much is to be done yet. If the Muslims resolve to avoid extravagant expenditure on a number of less important fields and spend on the education sector, they can come at par with other communities in education within a decade or two. During my recent tour of a part of Karnataka, I have visited Muslim educational institutions and witnessed the educational excellence the Muslims have achieved, especially in women’s education.

Where there is a will there is a way. Heart within and God overhead, with strenuous and seriously organised efforts we can win the battle. It will do away with the backwardness and open the doors of advancements in every field of national life. What we require is not breast-beating but sincere, organised and coordinated efforts.

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