By JAWED ANWAR
This is a series of columns for the understanding of the history of centuries old Madrasah and Islamic Education System in South Asian perspective published in Muslims Weekly, New York, USA, in 18 articles of the weekly column “Personal Notes.”
First Published: Muslims Weekly, New York, USA, Issue No. 215, April 16, 2004
WE, the mankind, are the earthly viceroys of Allah. “And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth (Al Quran-2: 30).” So if the viceroy is not well educated and highly knowledgeable and and does not possess wisdom, what will happen to our governance on earth? So, as mentioned in Al Qur’an, everyone should be knowledgeable and educated.
The first man of this world Adam (AS) was created knowledgeable and possessed the necessary wisdom, thus rendering the status of Humans as superior to Angels. “And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: ‘Tell me the names of these if ye are right’” (Al-Qur;an 2:31). This verse of Qur’an clearly exhibits the path, Al-Islam but also taught the names of the elements and all things on the earth, i.e., the knowledge of physical science. With guidance and wisdom, Allah also taught us technology: “We bestowed Grace aforetime on David from ourselves: ‘O ye Mountains! Sing ye back the Praises of Allah with him! And ye birds (also)! And We made the iron soft for him. Commanding,, "Make thou coats of mail, balancing well the rings of chain armor, and work ye righteousness; for be sure I see (clearly) all that ye do’”(Al-Qur’an: 34:10-11).
The first verse of Qur’an (according to the sequence of revelation), revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S.) by angel Gabriel begins with, “Read in the name of your Lord Who created”(Al-Qur’an: 96:1).
The Prophet Muhammad (S.) said, “I have been sent as a prophet to teach the attributes of the utmost best character.” So the main purpose of the Islamic education is to instill unequivocally the “best character” in all followers and, furthermore, humanity.
“Our Lord! And raise up in them a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Thy communications and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them; surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise” (Al-Qur’an 2: 129).
What are the goals of the believers who ultimately hold the best character? “They are those who, if We establish them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid wrong: with Allah rests the end (and decision) of (all) affairs” (Al-Qur’an: 22:41).
Seeking knowledge is the most important obligation for a Muslim. Several Ahadith (Sayings of Prophet Muhammad) confirms this statement over and over. To acquire education in Islam is not just a social requirement; it is spiritual and psychological requirement of every individual.
In the West, education is seen as, not a mandatory requirement, but something additional, sort of a material gain. But in Islam, it is an issue of existence and obligation. Islam has given much respect and dignity to education that no other system of life and thought can reach at that level. Qur’an clearly said that Adam (AS) was superior to the angels because of his knowledge.
The Prophet Muhammad (SW) and his followers initiated an educational movement and, for the first time in history, they established an obligatory, educational system. To convey the message and the guidance of Allah, Islam has depended on “public speaking” social advocacy or Waaz and Nasihah. A regular educational system was developed to produce a people of knowledge and wisdom.
The first Madrasah “Darul Arqam” was established by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Makkah during the earliest period of Islam when he and his companions were facing extreme hardships and were severely victimized because of the message. After the establishment of Islam in Madinah, the educational institution “Suffah” was established. Prophet Muhammad (SW) was the teacher, and Sahabas (companions of the prophet), Muhajireen and Ansar, were the students. After the battle of Badr, Prophet Muhammad (SW) announced that if any educated prisoner of war will teach (reading and writing) ten Muslims, the prisoner would be freed. Several captives were released through this method. The release of the war captives in exchange for educating the people is a unique event in history.
When Omar Farooq (RA) became the Caliph (head of the state), he sent an educator with one governor and one judge to every conquered land and nation. He made sure that the students must be taught with the syllabus and non-syllabus. He also deputed trainers to correct the morality and character of the society in general. The education policy in the period of Umayyad was weak, but when Omar Bin Abdul Aziz became the Caliph, he corrected the education policy by declaring, “Allah has sent Prophet Muhammad (SW), not just as tax collector; he has been sent to us for the guidance of the people.”
The Islamic educational system is universal; it is not to serve any ethnic, racial, national or communal interest. The foundation of this system is based on: 1.unity of the Creator, 2. unity of the creature (human beings), and 3. accountability on the Day of Judgment. This system is beyond and above the communities, nations, countries, and time and space. These concepts provide the Islamic education system a stature and exaltation where education becomes worship. Meaning, during the time of education in the classroom, students and teachers both are worshiping.
With this concept, the purpose of education is no more just for a professional or material gain, it is also for a moral and spiritual gain. These concepts change the environment of the school and the classrooms and also the characters of students, teachers, and all the people that are involved in this system. This education system and the environment provides peace, love, respect, brotherhood, sisterhood, amity, harmony, kindness, helping and complementing each other, open heartedness, unanimity, self control, open mindedness, easy acceptance of truth.
If the purpose of education will be for success on the Day of Judgment in front of Allah, all the hatred, competing and harming others, selfishness, disrespect, racial or ethnic bigotry will disappear and only the peace, love, and respect will prevail. And this is the purpose of Madrasah (Islamic education).