Muslims in the Field of Education

Today, whatever be the general belief, Muslims throughout the world form the third most literate community of the world after the Jews and Christians. Percentage-wise they are even ahead of the Hindus and Buddhists.

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Today, whatever be the general belief, Muslims throughout the world form the third most literate community of the world after the Jews and Christians. Percentage-wise they are even ahead of the Hindus and Buddhists.

Tajikistan with 99.1 per cent is better placed than the United States with 99 per cent literacy. Similarly Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kirgyzia and Kazakhstan have 99 per cent literacy that is equal to other European countries and Japan. They are minerally rich too yet they stand nowhere in the world.

Indonesia, the country with the largest population of Muslims, has the literacy rate of over 86 per cent; so is the position of Malaysia. Similarly, the percentage of literates in all the Gulf countries, Turkey and Iran, etc. is well over 75 per cent. The figure for the so-called conservative Saudi women is 72 per cent while for men 80 per cent, that is, well ahead of their counterparts in India.

It is in the war-torn Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq that the percentage of literacy is worse than India. Egypt, which is not facing any civil strife, presents a great surprise as it has only 58 per cent literacy. But then the situation in many Christian and tribal dominated African countries like Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc. is even worse; so is the case with Laos and a couple of Latin American countries.

Afghanistan, though passing through civil strife for the last about three decades, has the literacy rate of 36 per cent. Apparently the figure may be very poor, but still better than several non-Muslim countries of the world. One thing which we tend to ignore about this country is that it has achieved the rare distinction of educating a whole generation while still in the refugee camps on the foothills of the snowy mountains on the border with Pakistan. This speaks about their dedication to seek knowledge even in the worst of the living conditions. Nowhere in the world has such a development taken place as in the ‘backward’ Afghanistan. One has every right to disagree with or condemn the Taleban’s policy and approach, yet no one can deny the fact that it was––as the name suggests––essentially a students movement, which capitalized on the growing anarchy and vacuum in the country to grab power. Taleban were not just the Arabic and Persian speaking moulvis but, many of them were fluent in English and other foreign languages. The Press briefings by their ministers and spokesmen during the post-9/11 days stand as the testimony to this fact.

The scene in the Indian subcontinent is also bad. Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan are no match to other countries of Asia. The first two are Muslim dominated countries while India and Nepal are Hindu dominated ones.

Be it in India or abroad Muslims will have to first realise where lies the ill. The assertion that education will solve all their problems and that Muslims are a bunch of ignorant people is sheer nonsense and must be out-rightly rejected.

Every Macaulay of the every era will change the definition of education. The West minces no words to claim that they are on a mission to civilize the world; thus they have their own definition of everything. More than a century and a quarter ago a college came up in Aligarh as part of the same civilisational mission. No, the purpose was not to make the Muslims literate. Colleges are not opened to make the people literate. They are for those who are already literate. This work is done by schools or madrasas. Colleges are made for higher education. Even today 93 per cent of our literate drop out by the time they reach the high school – that is, never see any college. The dropout rate 130 years back and that too among the Muslims, was even much more than 93 per cent. In that situation one should have gone for a chain of schools all over the country.

It is the obsession with science and inner desire to work as agents of the great civilization mission that forced our forefathers to open a college and then a university in Aligarh. Muslims continue to suffer from that obsession. One can find engineering, medical and dental colleges run by Muslims dotting the map of the country but very few schools.

The truth is that we even do not know when to start the process of civilizing people. While the Christian missionaries and Arya Samajis, notwithstanding all the wherewithal have many times more schools than colleges, we still aspire to go for higher education than working at the grassroots level.