FROM SUBLIME TO FORLORN! Neglect of education and pursuit for excellence in various walks of life led to Muslim regression
February 24, 2012
The Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), holds the most exalted and distinguished position in the history of human civilization. One has yet to find a person on whom so much has been written by so many. His biographers have described him as a social being of unusual charms, who was an embodiment of fine manners – truthful, honest, kind, brave, courageous, forgiving, helpful, hospitable, gracious, compassionate, neat, clean, eloquent speaker, and keen listener. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a champion of justice and equality, whose style of living was, by choice and design, most austere, but nonetheless he was high-minded and noble in attitude. The personality of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is a perfect role model for leaders, who can draw a lot from his manners, speech, traditions, interaction, directives, etc., for establishing a utopia – a perfect society where each and every member tried to excel others in doing good deeds and contribute to the well-being of the society.
In his book “Sunshine at Madina,” Zakaria Bashier writes: “The style of leadership of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was not that of an overbearing lord, obsessed by promoting his own image and strengthening his personal grip. Nor was it the style of an envious professor irritated if one of his students excelled. Far from trying to dim and lessen the merit of his Companions, he forever sought to exalt and improve them and lead them towards the realization of what was best and most noble in them… Far from attempting to mock them or demoralize them, he would say things which would help them overcome their vices and weaknesses. In this way, he would raise and foster what was best in them, encourage them and make them want to do good deeds. He honoured them with his gracious hospitality. It was always his habit and concern to please and honour his Companions. He would take great care to especially honour those who had merit or were previously honoured by their own people (even before coming to Islam)…In return for his kindness and honouring of them, they remained forever captivated by his love and favour. They loved him more than their own partners, more even than they loved their parents, more even than themselves, ready to do anything to please him, to die if need be in his defence and in defence of the new faith and society.”
One should not be surprised if the faithful have preserved each and every saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for posterity’s benefit, and scholars and eminent people from all faiths have showered him with praise. Thomas Carlyle was not the only one to pay him tribute in his lecture ‘Hero as a Prophet,’ choosing him over all prophets mentioned in the Old Testament, from Adam through Abraham, to Moses and Jesus. George Bernard Shaw held Islam in high esteem and called the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) “the Saviour of Humanity.” Both Bernard Shaw and Napoleon Bonaparte strongly believed that Islam has the potential to bring much-needed peace and happiness in the world. In ‘Bonaparte et Islam,’ Napoleon is quoted as saying: “I hope the time is not far when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of Quran which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness…. Moses revealed the existence of God to his nation. Jesus to the Roman world, Muhammad (PBUH) to the old continent… Arabia was idolatrous when, six centuries after Jesus, Muhammad (PBUH) introduced the worship of the God of Abraham, Ishmael, Moses and Jesus… The Aryans … had disturbed the tranquility of the East by agitating the question of the nature of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Muhammad (PBUH) declared that there was none but one God who had no father, no son.”
According to George Bernard Shaw, “If any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe, within the next hundred years, it could be Islam. I have always held the religion of Muhammad (PBUH) in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to be changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him, the wonderful man, and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity… I believe that if a man like him were to assume the (leadership) of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much-needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad (PBUH) that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.”
One may deduce from the above that intellectuals and men of letters like Carlyle and Bernard Shaw, adored Muhammad (PBUH) and considered him ‘Hero as a Prophet,’ whose faith, they said, “would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.” And rulers, like Napoleon believed that they would “be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of Quran, which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness.” By the eighteenth-nineteenth century, the wise and educated people in Europe had started to believe in the truthfulness of the principles of Quran and that only these can lead men to happiness. If we compare it with the perception of Islam currently prevailing in the West, we find that it has tremendously changed since then! How the change has taken place? This question often agitates the minds of thinking souls in the Muslim world. It had been intriguing me also as it does others until I received an e-mail from a friend – Imtiaz Rastgar – pertaining to a job advertisement, released by the Ottomon Empire during the reign of Sultan (Khaleefah) Suleyman (1520-1566), for the position of Imam of the Grand Mosque in Istanbul. The qualifications laid down for the position were:
To have mastered the languages of Arabic, Latin, Turkish and Persian;- To have mastered the Qur'an, the Bible and the Torah;- To be a scholar in Shari'ah and Fiqh;- To have mastered physics and mathematics up to teaching standard; - To be a master of chivalry, archery, dueling and the arts of Jihad;- To be of handsome countenance; and- To have a strong melodious voice. These qualifications can serve as a pointer to the capacity and capability of the State minions of that period. Generally, all of them were masters and outstanding figures in their respective professions. In the middle ages, the Muslim societies across the globe attached great importance to education. When Ibn Battuta stayed at Delhi (1334 – 1341), he found out that one thousand Madaris were engaged in providing education to the youth in modern subjects in that city alone.
In Dunya TV’s programme “Pya’am-e-Subah” (February 20), anchorperson Dr. Aneeq Ahmed revealed that in Thatta, of late, 400 Madaris imparted education in modern subjects. As far as pursuit for knowledge was concerned, the situation in other major cities of the Muslim world was not much different. With the qualifications mentioned for Imam in Ottoman Empire’s advertisement, perhaps, these days, we may not be able to find a Chief Imam for the country’s grand mosque – nay even the Chief Mufti or the highest judge of a Sharia Court from the entire Muslim world! Apparently, while the Muslims had started to neglect the pursuit for knowledge and mastering the arts of Jihad, the State and the Church joined hands to prevent the spread of the Islamic faith in Europe by adopting and enforcing the principles of Quran, in particular those pertaining to the dignity of man, his rights and obligations as a free citizen, including freedom of speech, assembly, movement, job, vocation, etc. Resultantly, while regression, turmoil and inter-sect strife began to set in the Muslim societies slowly; equipped with knowledge, the Europeans’ embarked on their journey to constant progress, prosperity and peace.