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Study Tour of Mrs. Shaheena Khatib
May/June 2005


In my studies of the Holy Qur’an in its heavenly diction and the traditions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), I did not find any bifurcation between worldly education and religious education. Similarly there is no room for priest-hood in the entire system as established by the Last Messenger. The topic has been debated for more than a century. In fact the terms Secular Education and Religious Education were not in vogue in ancient times. In present times I do feel such division in the school educational system must be avoided.

Logically speaking subjects like science, geography, physics, accountancy are not and cannot be taught on the base of religion. Is there any Islamic, Jewish, Christian or Hindu science or geography? Knowledge knows no boundaries and is a common human heritage and it must be transmitted. I fail to see any logic behind terming a particular banking system as Islamic banking. Of course it is usury which is strongly prohibited in the Qur’an because it exploits a needy person which is indeed a crime, not the modern banking system as a whole. But undue interference by the clergy from all the religions in such matters impedes the natural development of human institutions.

The importance of ‘worldly education’, as the clergy scornfully calls it, can be understood by one narration from the traditions of Prophet Mohammed quoted in Musnad Ahmed Bin Hunbal. The English translation follows:

“Non-believers of Makkah attacked Madinah, the city of the Prophet and Almighty God provided victory to the defending army of the Prophet and there were captives of the war. The Prophet ordered for those infidel captives who knew reading or writing to teach it at least ten Muslims and they will be set free.”

This first educational system ever adopted by the Prophet clearly indicates that education is not essentially related to religion. In one of his well known Hadis stressing the importance of education, he said, “Seek knowledge even if one had to go to China”. Remember that China was and still remains a developed country. It has never been an Islamic country.

In my opinion, modern education, blended with noble human values, should be taught in school education. If someone wants to be a cleric, he can study theology of his own religion at a later stage. It should never be mixed with school education. In my view the quality and reputation of any institution can be judged by the presence of number of students from different faiths other than the group who manages the institution. In my country, no Madarsa has a single non-Muslim student, though millions of students are studying there. So as far as my knowledge is concerned, even in the US, Jews and Muslim educational institutions have a very negligible number of students from other religion. Any education if diluted with a particular religion will only produce narrow-minded citizens who would not be willing to work in the larger interest of humanity. On the contrary, due to isolation, it might churn out hot-headed fundamentalists only.

Therefore every family or religious community should provide religious education to their children in their free hours. There must be no interference in school educational pattern. The west advanced rapidly in the field of science, technology and other branch of human knowledge when they came out of the clutches of the Church and states became secular.

Many instances can be quoted to show the importance of education in earlier Islamic days. I would only like to quote from the Final Testament and a narration from the traditions of Prophet Mohammed which states that imparting education is not only essential but also a religious obligation as important as all other obligations of the religion. It is from the verse 282 of chapter 2:

“O Muslims, whenever you make transactions in credit, so pen it down ….”

(From Holy Qur'an 2/282)

So to pen down such dealings is mandatory, and for it knowledge of writing and documentation seems compulsory. Finally, I wish to say that our educational system must be trustworthy. Here I want to emphasize that the trust be prevailed by others, like non Muslims joining Madarsas in large numbers as Muslims are today seeking education in secular and western institutes of knowledge.