Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Dylan Thomas
There sat the old yet wise, raging against the dying of the light because gleaning from the written page they knew their experiences were better teachers. To the world they look bored with each other but, to each other they are preparing for a conversation that would last a lifetime. Whilst, we would talk without listening, they continue reading liberating their minds. There is purpose in what you read to educate yourself. The purpose of reading is to open the mind. Education then has the purpose to leverage your life goal but, it cannot be that your reading did nothing for you.
Often heard, often quoted, often spoken about is the first revelation: ‘Read, Read in the name of your Lord…’ yet, as often as we have heard it, said it, spoken about it, we have not really unpacked the meaning for its worth when we have to think out of the box. Perhaps the most intriguing of all is that we all know the truth of the first revelation yet, we have become imitators of educational systems and are mesmerised at how liberated we feel. However, are we liberated by our education?
Yes, we all have seen so many of our children exit schools with ‘A s’ and enter higher education institutions but, where are all our engineers, scientists, inventors, economists, professors and the likes to impact on the world so as to illustrate the Islamic model? In an inspirational dialogue with Mirza Yawar Baig an international speaker, trainer, consultant with 16 years in Corporate General Management, 35 years in Training & Organizational Development, said that we have at the turn of the 17 century lost focus.
Indulge yourself in the following interpretation that stems from the dialogue. We all know that the Taj Mahal was constructed as a mausoleum located in Agra, India. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned it as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction began in 1632 and was completed in approximately 1648. When we look at the world in the same time span, we notice that two schools were already in the refined stages of development in the west. The schools were:
Harrow School. The School was founded in 1572 under the Royal Charter granted by Elizabeth I to John Lyon, a local farmer. His new School House was completed in 1615 and his school, beginning with one recorded pupil, settled into its gradual, if not uninterrupted, growth towards fame.
Eton College was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI. The College originally had 70 King’s Scholars or ‘Collegers’ who lived in the College and were educated for free, and a small number of ‘Oppidans’ who lived in the town of Eton and paid for their education.
Already the tune was set to liberate Britain at the time from the shackles of impending economic collapse to becoming the world’s most dominant colonizers through their education system. Think about the fact that these two schools produced twenty six, (26), prime ministers to further the cause of the Queen’s grand imperial plan. Yes, the Roman Empire is history but, the concept and ideal of an empire is still alive! So while the Muslim world at the time began building magnificent mausoleums, palaces and gardens, the west began perfecting schools that would evolve in colleges and universities. In this way we have entombed our greatness of purpose in these magnificent places and mausoleums. In the words of Yawar Baig, “We have built great palaces that have become great ruins.” Therefore, as Muslims we forgot that we have been taken out for the guidance of mankind and the wonder is there for all to see: Once the Muslim ummah, was magnificent and attractive! Now we bask in the past whilst our glory of purpose is still there – awake! Oh Ummah from the slumber and start educating yourself once again to be liberated.
The point made here is that we as Muslims need to look at education more seriously and become the forerunners again. The last three decades in the world saw to the establishment of Muslim schools and the critics, cynics, well-wishes kept the schools from gathering no moss because ‘rolling stones gather no moss’. The institutions now stand on the threshold of metamorphosing into colleges and universities. But, we need to move the centre to make this happen.
Ponder over the fact that the ummah did establish schools and institutions of learning such that they were the hubs of research, experiments, design, innovation and grandeur of educational purposes for the benefit of the whole world – this was in the days when we ruled the world! Today, we as the ummah have so few excellent or good higher institutions of learning that can compare to the likes of what we see around us i.e. the universities that we prefer to send our children to. In all of this, how we became to lampoon Muslim ventures like Muslim Schools is a clear indication of our inferiority complex – what is west is best and what is Muslim is worst than the rest. In effect, our opportunities to develop and grow, become difficult because the ‘enemy’ is within.
When we refer to the ‘enemy’ we are talking about those Muslims who fail to see that we can succeed against the tremendous odds. Enemy above is written in inverted commas because they are not the enemy on the battlefield but the kind who wants the best of both worlds – the world that reflects our glorious Islamic belief and the world that reflects the western ideology. In this situation, the Islamic institutions seem to find more expression in non-Muslim institutions. To illustrate the point – look at how many non-Muslim banks and institutions have turned to ‘Shariah compliant’ finance plans. You see how good our money is but, you do not see how good a system we have that can make us better than all the rest. Our solution is to educate ourselves to be really liberated.
For a start let us ask these critical questions:
- What is the percentage age of Muslims in advanced courses at universities in South Africa?
- How many are studying science & technology?
- How many Muslim professors teach at South African universities? What subjects do they teach?
- How many teach at international universities?
- What is the percentage of them compared to the number of Muslims in the world?
The questions surely make you rumble with discomfort because it shows you that the world is beset with trails and tribulations and there are no respites for those who sit and watch the world pass by. Allah shows us in the Holy Quran about how we should take lesson from those nations who were destroyed. Therefore, we need to know that the idealism of an Islamic empire is what frightens the non-Muslim world therefore; the idealism of a New World Order drives them to make technological progress beyond expectation to the real extent that we, the Muslim ummah, have become dependent on their progress and superior expertise. I mean, we have to buy from them the weapons they designed to fight wars against them! So dependent are we that our systems are seen to have more credibility only if it couched within the domain of non-Muslim institutions e.g. Wesbank Shariah Complaint finance for cars etc.
We have the right answer – Islam. We need to become people who are excellent and professional in what we do. Think about it – when you hear of a Muslim venture, you already imagine a poor production beset with problems from poor turnout to poor output. I would like you to think on which service provider gave you the most headaches – the Muslim or the non-Muslim? What we need to know is that we have to set a standard of excellence that surpasses what we see today. Yes, we can do it because we, the Muslims, hold the Holy Quran which is excellent in verse and message therefore; we cannot do things that are not excellent. In order to achieve this, we have to begin by appreciating each other as Muslims by applauding what we do.
Take the Muslim schools for example – yes they have their fair share of problems but, at least they are not magnificent mausoleums but, are educational institutions which we should have been perfected 500 years ago already. The fact that Muslim schools are established and are opening up all over the world tells you that there is renaissance of the Muslim identity through education. This should spur you on because every revival brings a new horizon. The future of Muslims is not bleak because Allah promises that people will enter Allah’s religion in droves (Surah An-Nasr, 110 verse 002) so, we are either going to be the ones invited to Allah’s deen or we are going to be the inviters. By the current standings, we are in many ways still the race for greatness however, this itself cannot put us on the path of excellence in education without sincere practice such that we liberate ourselves from the shackles of lethargy, imitation and inaction.
We have the religious scholars amongst us, we have professionals amongst us, we have dynamic socialites amongst us and the list can go on but, only with a unified approach we can achieve so much more. Therefore, take the first step to embrace the religious scholars as trusted friends so that you form a link with the Deen (Islam) in a concrete way. However, you must keep in mind that religious scholars, like all human beings have faults and therefore, do not begin your friendship with a self-righteous attitude. This would be a liberating educational experience because you will learn the quality of service. Service is a pre-requisite to learn because you see the big picture and beyond. In effect, you then serve Allah. This benefit we have because Muslims do things for Allah and it should drive us to learn and be educated. Once you learn this, you will not entomb your greatness of being in sand and stone. In fact you will exude such character that would be a beacon of hope. When this hope is established by your mere presence it illustrates a role model.
Allah was pleased with the Sahaba (R.A.) and they were pleased with Allah (see Sura Al-Bayyina 98 verse 008) is potent enough to illustrate the fact that education liberates you from the confines of this worldly existence to the service of Allah. What we have now are the children in our care and the present. We can do one of two things.
One – we can let things be the way they are and do nothing.
Two – we can spur ourselves to continue life-long learning and make it a MUST for our children to continue their studies to levels of professorship, doctorate so on and so forth.
Why? There are more than 8000 Indian professors in American Universities but less than 1% are Muslim.
We need to be there in the thousands but, with unshakable faith and incorruptible belief . In the same vein, we MUST make our children the best ulema/scholars who are independent from the shackles of weak minded and spineless leaders. They must enjoin in good and forbid the evil as leaders will do. In essence we need to train our children to be leaders and not blind followers because Islam encourages leadership and despises blind faith.
We must get our children involved in welfare projects, social projects, toastmasters youth leadership courses and so on and so forth only so that they learn the quality of sacrifice to be educated. In this way, our children will not be empty educated vessels but, they would be human beings who would strive to please Allah. I believe that the possibility exists in the ummah to establish such institutions that will not produce prime ministers that would perpetuate a colonial empire but, vicegerents on earth who will establish the supremacy of Allah’s word. This concern we have because all the bombs thus far have failed to wipe Islam off the face of the earth. This is the choice we have! Are you interested? If you are then go out and congratulate your Muslim brother/sister for a good venture that you saw materialize through his/her efforts or, befriend an aleem for lessons in the deen or, go out and speak to your child on becoming a great leader or say something positive about Muslim schools, the Tabligh Jamaat, the Khanqah, the Darul-ulooms, the various Muslim relief organizations and your neigbourhood.
You see the world does not deny the glorious history of Islam – we gave the world the ZERO but today the question is: “Are we giving ZERO to the world?”
If we showcase Islam by creating positive trends that benefit all humanity, then we would have worked to fulfill the purpose of our creation. Yawar Baig
Education is liberation and more so when it makes you realize the greatness of Allah. The world today is at the apex of education transformation and technological advancement and we have have caused the most loss of lives in the most brutal ways with it. Our education has not stopped us from polluting the oceans or from depleting the ozone layer. In fact, we have intensified pollution to the extent that we have more extinct animal and plant species. This cannot be liberating therefore, we need to become agents of change who will turn the tide by influencing one mind at a time on what education should really do. Education should not be the means for the proliferation superior and more destructive weapons or the destruction of rain forests for resources. No! Education is essence must teach us how to preserve this earth for the generations after us to live in harmony with nature and not in opposition with it. It just cannot work that way.
One day, when you old and out of work having the luxury of health reading the newspaper you must be able to do so in an environment of peace. Here is when you will rage against the dying of the light to make a difference to the world with what you know. This is how education liberates.