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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Why Present Muslims Are Lagging Behind Education?

They were good speakers, and good speakers are those who possess deep insight and understanding, which is why they don’t speak unnecessarily.

Another important observation in this connection is that a reading of Muslim literature of the last two centuries describes the mindset that Muslims have developed over past several decades. The debates and arguments in this literature are predominantly concerned with the issue of permissibility of nonMuslim teachers for Muslim children. Muslims were extremely wary of sending their children to schools because they would appoint Hindu, Christian or British teachers for instruction. Muslim parents preferred to deprive their children of modern education over allowing them to be schooled by nonMuslim teachers.

It is important to bear in mind that the greatest school of Madinah, instituted by the Prophet himself, had delegated the task of tutoring to polytheist teachers who were stringent in their opposition to Islam. The teachers of the first school in Islam were pagan non-Muslims, while the followers of Islam in the later period have lagged behind in education solely because they didn’t allow their youth to go to schools that employed the services of teachers from among Christians, Hindus, the British and other non-Muslim communities. It was extremely imprudent on the part of Muslims to hamper their children’s educational progress and leave them intellectually unenlightened owing the presence of non-Muslim teachers in educational institutes. These are stark realities of history.

The first school of Islam, established after the Battle of Badr, consisted of teachers who were prisoners of war and hostile to Islam. Regardless of the precariousness of the situation and the high risks involved, the Prophet entered into an agreement with these men according to which they could obtain their freedom in return for educating ten Muslim children. It is ironical that while the first school in Islam set up by the Prophet had opponents of Islam as teachers, Muslims of the later period prevented their children from receiving education because the tutors and lecturers at schools were Hindu, Christian or British. I wonder how this absurd notion came into existence. We can only infer that perhaps these people do not possess deep knowledge of the events from the Prophet’s life and are also unaware about the history of Islam.

There is an incident which has come down in historical records from the time when Abu Bakr was caliph. On being elected as caliph, Abu Bakr had a very important task to perform. Before taking action, he assembled people in the Mosque of the Prophet and addressed them: “Advise me, O people!” Even after listening to Abu Bakr’s request, the Companions who had gathered together remained silent for long. (Hayatus Sahabah v. 1, p. 432) The word used in the tradition to describe the Companions’ response is atarqar, which means to bow one’s head in silence. Compare this with a group of Muslims who converge at a place in any part of the Muslim world today and are similarly requested to put forward their suggestions on the issue under discussion. Every member in the congregation would be eager to voice his opinion. The Companions of the Prophet, on the contrary, were least desirous of speaking. I often say that a person is competent to speak only when he knows how to remain silent.

Why did the Companions choose to remain quiet when asked to speak? It was not because they were at a loss for words, or that they were too unintelligent to have an opinion, or that they had been deprived of their tongues. No, indeed! The truth is that they were a people who were not habitual to excessive talking. They were good speakers, and good speakers are those who possess deep insight and understanding, which is why they don’t speak unnecessarily.

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